Ten to fifteen years ago, this stretch of the Dalmatian Coast was virtually unknown. Today, the glittering waters of the Adriatic Sea spotted with idyllic islands become overrun with 20-somethings stockpiled on sailing boats during the European summer. Where your bikini becomes your daily uniform and suntanning on deck under a glorious sun helps to wile away the hours hopping from cove to cove. It’s not difficult to understand how the week’s mantra becomes #noregrets and your camera roll fills with photos of Croatia.
The ocean is not our natural habitat and so, we bypassed the boat parties and decided to explore Croatia on our own two feet with the assistance of a rental car. We landed in the capital city, Zagreb, and made tracks to Plitvice National Park where we were unfortunately met with torrential rain. The downpours soaked our clothes and partially dampened our spirits but it certainly did not wash away the natural beauty of this park. Pockets of magic are found everywhere – along the boardwalks between the reeds, amidst the rushing waterfalls cascading over rocks smoothed slick with time and from the mist rising from the lake as the passenger ferry glides silently from one alpine forest to another.
Given our tight schedule, we couldn’t linger long here. Waving goodbye to this turquoise wonderland, we drove south, flirting with glimpses of the coastline before arriving at the seaside port of Split. The rain seemed to follow us incessantly like a detective you can’t throw off your scent. The storm clouds hung low, adding moody undertones to our images. We did our best to navigate the weather, ducking in and out from ancient porticoes. Time spent undercover meant we sampled local olive oil with salty focaccia bread and sipped regional red wines by candlelight, all while taking care not to slip on the smooth marble of Diocletian’s Palace.
With a brief stop in Mostar (crossing the border into Bosnia & Herzegovina) plus a planned few days in Montenegro, our final destination in Croatia was the red-roofed Old Town of Dubrovnik. With its popularity having soared thanks to HBO’s television series, Game of Thrones, we needed to sidestep diehard fans as well as persistent rain during our September visit. Despite the influx of tourists, we spent our time searching for the authentic side of Dubrovnik, woven into the marble and stones of the walled fortress, the local farmers’ markets in Gundulic Square and with a bird’s eye view of the terracotta tiles from the Old City Walls. We wandered under the towering gates at sunrise, posed at the water edge in front of Lazareti and did the ultimate leg workout ascending stairs in search of ice cream shops and coveted wine bars.
Our 25 photos of Croatia merely show a glimpse of our Balkans road trip adventure. While the weather hindered some of our plans to photograph certain scenes or frames, this holiday serves as a reminder that often we need to adapt to the circumstances presented to us and rise to the challenge.