Croatia

Beautiful Island, crystal clear water, breath-taking scenery, good food, lots of sunshine. Croatia has been calling for long time..
As we approached the landing and Croatia started emerging from rolling clouds as we looked down upon it, it looked stunning nothing less than heaven: the dream was coming true and it was way more beautiful than I even had imagined or seen in the photos. I was mesmerized by its emerald color sea. My son being 3 year old and first trip which had nature and walk and explore… we were going with least expectation, all we wanted was to get a downtime from routine while keeping up with the kid. Croatia was too kind on us, the experience we bagged was captivated into our heart.

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My two weeks in Croatia gave me the glimpse of the country, that, it is more than its emerald color beaches – it is a combination of immense natural artifacts & landscapes, history and food. Let’s talk about the food first 🙂 Croatia cuisine is a mix of both Italian and Mediterranean. I love sea food on my plate, and I was particularly looking forward to explore local dishes. Based on the variety of sea food I tasted, they have best prawns, octopus and numerous fresh fishes to choose from.

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Each region of Croatia has a unique story, so is their distinct culinary tradition; however one common theme you would notice is – “Truffles”. Be prepared to see “Truffles” a lot on the menu card, being the integral ingredient – you would see dishes designed around it.

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As much for history, until word war 2, Istria was part of Italy, you can see ample Italian influence across its culture, food and language. We spent two weeks in Istria part of Croatia and this time of the year, it was less touristic. We made a road trip to many neighbouring villages and town. I fell in love with Croatia old town, hilltop villages, and raw pebbly coastlines.

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The official currency in Croatia is Kuna but it is best to do the conversation beforehand rather than getting bad exchange rates in restaurants, hotels or while you pay any pity bills. (Tip: We found better exchange in Porec than at the Pula Airport).

During my Travel, I didn’t cover kids’ oriented attractions like peekaboo and theme water parks. This time, we just did things together with little Suri. We went to beach, threw stones into the sea, and watched the sunset while the boats sailed in the peaceful big wide ocean.

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With this trip I was amazed that he learnt to sit down quietly and wait for his food until the waiter serves it and then he ate it peacefully. I can’t wait to continue traveling and showing him the world and widen his horizon about lot of other things which makes living LIFE.

When I was creating itinerary for Croatia, I was already so excited to live my dreams. I booked via Ryan air and flew directly into Pula. I purposely wanted not to visit very touristy area like Split and Dubrovnik. I am sure, they must be heavenly beautiful. This time, I just wanted to be in the nature and in less crowded place while experiencing a new culture and cuisine. There is something about Croatia which is so relaxing and calm, especially when your daily life is squeezed to full of routines reminded by chime of hour – Croatia’s natural beauty envelopes your body and soul… making you forget the passing of hours. Croatia does offer touristic amenities yet has a raw and pureness which does not make it feel like overdone, I can visualize my friends who have visited Croatia and mainstream cities like Paris, Amsterdam or New York nodding.

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With my time there exploring Croatia, I feel like I barely scratched the surface. I still managed to skim best and some untouched places of Istria Part. None the less, it was my only brief introduction to Croatia and left me with a longing feeling to return someday.

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. Plitvice is amazing! It was not so popular destination five years ago but it seems to be catching up. In a conversation with a lady at the info desk, she told us that she now see more Indians to come to see Plitvice and seemed to be very happy about it. She politely thanked us that we included Plitvice lakes in our itinerary.

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If you plan to visit Croatia, I highly recommend Plitvice. It is undeniable piece of nature state of art. I visited Plitvice lakes in the summer of 2016, and I have to say that I’ve never been to a place this beautiful. The sight of turquoise lakes, lush vegetation and rugged cliffs and Roar of the waterfall above me, I have asked myself – is that all for real?

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Plitvice lakes was on top in my bucket list and rightly so. It was a majestic moment to see countless waterfalls forming sixteen cascading lakes. There are some pics available above, but no pic could justify what we saw there! Pilvice lakes are truly the masterpiece of Mother nature.
Tip. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and packs light if possible. Don’t forget to bring your own sandwich and snacks for small breaks. It is also not recommendable to bring the buggy for kids here. If visiting with kids, bring at least 4-5 hours to justify the trip to its beauty.

Rovinj

Rovinj is a popular tourist resort and an active fishing port. It is the most picturesque coastal town with a bell tower standing tall. The first thing that we did was to just wander the cobbled streets through the old town of Rovinj. There is a fantastic view from the bell tower over the city. There were no cars allowed in the old town of Rovinj making it extremely kid friendly. The fisher port is still active and there were many boats parked all over the cost. The city is painted in pastel colors all over making it very romantic and peaceful.

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Bale

Well, how to introduce this pretty town. I never expected Bale to be this pretty… My expectation was very low, when we started for this town but as we approached and run past this town by car on highway. It gives most enchanting medieval town view. I wasn’t ready for this view therefore unfortunately was not ready with the camera. The town was almost empty and hardly could find any other soul on the street.

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The streets in Bale so romantically arched and shiny with texture and artistic doors taking you back in long forgotten times. The area surrounded Bale is prevalent with olive groves and vineyards. Every corner of the area would open a new scenic beauty of hilltop view or a small medieval looking houses or beautiful small cafes on the turn.

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Don’t miss a chance to visit restaurant Kamene Priče, it is cutest restaurant I have ever seen. Even if you don’t want to eat, just come here to stop by. It was the top highlight on our entire visit to Bale.

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Grožnjan

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View of Groznjan

The city – Grožnjan gives you a feeling of being present in a faraway of fairyland village. It is situated on top of the hill and famous for its music festival around summer time. When we arrived, it was raining but lucky for us, it gave us some span to explore a local restaurant to find a shelter. To make use of the best of the time, we decided to visit the local restaurant there for an early lunch that turned out to be the best local restaurant I have ever visited in my current visit. It was very classy and very local & authentic. From French fries to truffle sandwitch to drinks everything was truly homemade style. We really enjoyed our lunch. I didn’t find the city has the touristy feel at all. There were hardly couple of tourist more and absolutely no souvenirs shops nearby where I could not get a Grožnjan city pin for my collection. (Yeah..I collect pins from the place I have travelled so far). The city is a hidden gem which is a blessing in disguise, I feel. In a hope that this place never gets overrun and loose the magical charm.

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Truffle Sandwitch

After rain is stopped, Grožnjan looked so fresh and even more compelling and I could feel the cold breeze against my cheeks. It felt wonderful in weather where the temperature was almost very dry and warm every day. While we were looking all around us and the rolling fields surrounding the hill top town and continue to appreciate heavily beauty of Grožnjan, we took the stroll around the town centre.

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What a feeling to wander around those empty cobbled streets, which walks back you down into the history. Little suri was as much enjoying the free-spirited walk and run.

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It’s no vehicle zone and therefore very safe to come with kids, you could take a long peaceful walk and the toddler could run around yet they won’t be far, as the city circles back from every corner. We took around 20 min (lavishly with a toddler) to see the entire village. Grožnjan is a place where the time seems to be stopped decades ago and the reflection of those time and era can be seen on their old houses. It clearly, tells the tales of the time gone by.

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After been to Bale, I would have declared Bale being the prettiest town of Isteria and then we decided to cover Grožnjan next day and Grožnjan by far takes the cake with cherry on top.
Grožnjan is THE prettiest town of Isteria.

Pula

Mostly you will arrive to pula, if you take Ryan Air. It was our base. I find Pula very commercial with the holiday homes and resorts all around me. But as beautiful as Pula, there is not much to explore other than antitheater and the main attraction of Pula is Arena. It was built at the end of 1 century BC. Entrance fee is 40 Kuna.

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View of our Holiday Appartment swimming pool

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Poreč

Porec is a town on the western part of peninsula in Isteria, Croatia. Porec top destination or say the only landmark that made claim to fame is Euphrasian Basilica. Originally built in 6th century and now a UNESCO heritage. Porec comes alive like any other city during summer. The city is surrounded by tourist, locals all across the city, and that was only city where it was quite difficult for us to find the parking spot.

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Porec is absolutely beautiful and we loved walking into the town. It’s not a quiet town and I loved looking at all the local shops all around us. I found people of Porec specially so kind and polite. You need atleast half a day to scroll around in the city and grab a bite in one of the sea side cafes or bars overlooking cobble stone streets and watch the world go by. For me I would do this may be another time as little suri was looking around and pointing at all the ice crème stands saying mama ice crème. At last I gave in to his wish.We then walked around the sea front of the peninsula is wonderful, surrounded by the historic old town of Porec on one side and encompassed by the clear blue Mediterranean Sea on the other. In case of little time in hand, you don’t want to miss Porec old town, its narrow cobblestone street and old houses gives you the feeling of Venetian style houses.

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Motovun

Motovun is a great wall city and was a much needed break from beaches and cities for us. The city is resting on the top of the mountain and therefore probably you will find this as the one of the prominent gateway for lovers of para-glide and para-glide companies.

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View of Motovun

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I did my first paragliding in the area too and truly had an unforgettable experience. Having been to Gronzan , Bale – this area did not entice me as much. But having said that, you could still go around and look down the vineyards and country side from the city walls encompassed the city.

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Take off

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up in the air

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Kamenjak National Park

We headed to Kamenjak National Park. It is around 9 km from Pula and my most favourite part of the Istrian cost. We went by car to kamenjak and drove inside the park for only 40 kunas and it was a lovely but dusty ride. We handed over a map at the entrance; make sure that it is in your preference language as it will be your bible to navigate rest of your way in and around the park. This national park is mostly famous for two things: a cliff jump and the safari bar. One of the interesting things that we read in our pamphlet about the real dinosaur fossil foot prints that still be could be seen. We walked half a mile or may be more with suri sometime walking hand in hand or carrying him in an excitement to see dinosaur model or dinosaur footprints. But by the time, we reach to the model life size dinosaur…little suri already had slept.

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And, I just could not move my leg any more. Inspite of that, In a hope to see the real dinosaur foot print, I decided to take a haul while puneet went further down to see and get a digital pic for me to look at it. After 20 min, when puneet returned to us. I quickly switch on the camera but to my utter disappointment, I was not able to figure out if it’s a dinosaur footprint or just a crack on the stone. I could not..In case you keep that in your list. It is also okay to give it a miss to save some time and energy.

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Dinosaur fossil footprint

There are also lot of bars for a little break that serves food and drink on the way but saved the visit for last one- The safari BAR.

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I have never seen something like this in my life. Everything in this bar is handmade by nature. Lot of slides and swings made of natural materials. It is a place treat for the kids as well for grown-ups.

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You don’t get a variety of food and drinks but whatever it is , it has heavily goodness of taste. A smiley thumbs up for this place.

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The Beaches are too accessible by car but walking to the shore requires really good shoes with good grip. We decided to walk to the beach with not so good shoes so there I am walking on the rough road less travelled, hot flaming sun above and rocky mosaic uninsured ground below… balancing our each footing, totally unnerving among the jangling of reptiles, somehow staying on top of my heavy breathing.

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For a moment it did make me rethink on the decision: was I better off chilling in the pool shade, enjoying my favourite novel while sipping montage of spirits… hmm I kept myself going. For what seemed like a thrilling walk for an eternity I was welcomed by ecstatic oceanic breeze, my steps gained strength and sweat drifted way making way for smile on the face.

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This is not easy trip with kids, I will be honest. But it is worth it.

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Standing on a rock, seeing ocean and sun, It was nothing less than a paradise on the earth. This is the place, where you feel the time has come to a standstill and there has been no past and no future: Just the tranquillity of this moment and absolute unity with nature. The fragrance and music of the nature when water hits the rocks is a majestic view and feel and something words cannot describe. Just in awe and mesmerised by the rhythm of the waves- The nature in its full glory.

Soaking the feet in that water gave me much satisfaction. Infusion of poolside alcohol with artificial tastes meant meaningless ahead of food for the soul.

We embarked our journey with open mind without knowing what to expect and we were blown away. Our two weeks in Croatia disappeared in no time.

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