The beautiful milky turquoise waters stretch around us. We are in awe of the unexpected beauty of the Plitvice Lakes, its pristine forests and waterfalls. One of the most beautiful places we have ever been, as yet unsullied by the hordes of tourists that would characterise this UNESCO World heritage site in later years.
We wandered around, over and through the forest and lakes. The boardwalk trails made easy going leading to a never ending series of beautiful views. There are a choice of 7 trails or programs that criss-cross the park depending on your energy and time. Photography was easy as there were so few people. When just couldn’t take in any more, we took a ferry across the mirror lake and had lunch at Restoran Lička Kuča. We warmed up near the fire and had a cheese platter, sausage and Djuveg and potatoes in the cosy Germanic atmosphere, We were given our first introduction to Karlovačko beer – very nice!
We arrived at Franjo Tudman Airport in Zagreb 24 hours after leaving Johannesburg including 12 hours waiting for the connecting flight in Frankfurt where we had our first Mcdonalds. Wasn’t too bad actually. Our luggage came out well after everybody else’s and by that time rental cars were in short supply and we had to upgrade. It was dark when we set off towards Split in light mist. The road was excellent and wound through the hilly pine forests.This was the first time I had driven a car on the right hand side and needed Nikki to help gauge the width of the car and the side of the cliff. We saw the occasional signs for “Zimmer” – luckily Nikki had done German at school, so we knew these were rooms. Eventually we stopped in the village of Nicksi (seemed like a good omen) and found a pretty but basic hotel with simple “Zimmers” and a restaurant.
The road snaked down to the plains towards the coast. It was well maintained but still single. [The current double highway was still under construction and went a slightly different route and would only be finished in 2005.]
We passed through settlements where some buildings still showed smoke stains and bullet holes although the War of Independence had ended in 1995. Every now and then we came across these roadside barbecues. A much better idea than AutoGrill or Steers.
As we approached the coast, the architecture and food changed from a German to Italian influences.
We had lunch at Galija noted for their outstanding pizzas, but when we saw the pastas going by we couldn’t resist. Two of the best pastas we have ever had before and since: Gnocchi, cream, shrimp, salmon, mushrooms and brandy; spinach tortellini with ham, cream and parmesan.
Grgur Ninski Statue
Sculpted by Ivan Meštrović, this huge statue is one of the defining images of Split. Grgur, a 10th-century Croatian bishop, fought for the right to use old Croatian in liturgical services instead of Latin. Nikki is rubbing his shiny, left big toe as it is said that rubbing the toe brings good luck and guarantees that you’ll come back to Split.
Diocletian’s Palace was built by the Roman emperor who voluntarily gave up the throne and settled here in 304, and has had many additions and restorations over the centuries. Diocletian wanted to step off a ship and into his Palace, so the lower tier of the palace was once submerged with water.
The ancient fortress has become the old town of Split, with numerous shops, cafes, restaurants and also apartments, located in the old buildings on narrow streets of the palace/fortress and around 3000 people live here.The stunning cathedral and underground passages give some glimpse of the history.
We celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary in the dining room of our hotel – The Park. Formal and elegant with a pianist and flower arrangements, we received complimentary champagne and creamy fish paté as we were seated. We started with Fish Soup and Steak Tartare, the latter prepared expertly at our table. Quite a ceremony as he mixed the ingredients with style. We were so impressed with the champagne, we ordered a bottle. For mains we had a fish platter with whole squid, shrimp and fish; and flambéed veal medallions, cream, marsala and mushrooms prepared with much flamboyance at our table. A very romantic evening.
On our final afternoon we went for a passeggiata on the promenade alongside Bačvice Beach the most popular beach in Split. The golden colours a fitting end to a brief but incredible visit to this beautiful country.