"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Croatia by bike, boat and foot

By on December 22, 2019 in Travel with 0 Comments
Fort Lovnienac in Dubrovnik was originally built in the 11th Century to ward off Venetian rule. Now, it is used as a theater/concert hall.

Where people are friendly, food tasty and views right out of The Game of Thrones

By Shelly Kill

We all have bucket lists of things we want to do, places we want to go, and things we want to experience. 

My husband, Jim, and I are fortunate to have traveled and explored many places in the last 20-plus years. 

Jim loves the history and I the relaxing, though both of us enjoy active adventure travel. 

Two years ago, I was re-acquainted with a Cashmere High classmate and friend Diana (Smith) Holt. She was in town visiting family. We caught up with happenings of our lives and she told me she was the owner of Bikes, Boats, & Boots Adventure Travel company. 

Aha! Another trip added to my bucket list — Croatia, she told me, is one of the most beautiful and scenic destinations she offers.

An early morning view from atop the stone walled walkway surrounding the town. Stradun is the main street in 13th Century old town Dubrovnik.

This promised to be a very active adventure trip. In anticipation, we took to extra hiking, walking and biking outings to assure we were in shape for what awaited.

Our trip to Croatia was a 15-day adventure (Sept. 15-30) in this southeastern European country. We arrived a day early in Zagreb, Croatia‚ its capitol, hoping to reset our body clocks from the long flights and nine hour time change. 

Zagreb did not disappoint. 

We loved the hustle and bustle of the public market right outside our window in the city center. The hotel stays were thoughtfully planned by Diana to immerse us in the local culture. 

On a tour of the city, led by an amazing and informative guide, we were approached by other tourists to inform us that our guide was a well-known former professional soccer player on the Croatian national team.

In each city and village we visited, we had opportunity to venture out and explore the history and enjoy the local Croatian cuisine. Part of any travel is creating new friendships with fellow travelers as well as locals, who were more than willing to help with anything. 

Tour organizer Diana Holt, left, and Shelly Kill stand in front of the Church of St. Mark in Zagreb, built in 13th century. Roof tiles depict the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on left side and emblem of Zagreb on right.

Yes, there was a bit of a language barrier and most money transactions were in Kuna, the currency of Croatia, but we adapted, with help from our local guides.

We left Zagreb by motor coach to Plitvice Lakes National Park, where we spent the afternoon hiking the trails and boardwalks that intertwined the parks terraced lakes and waterfalls. 

The next morning we traveled on to the seaside city of Split. Split is home of the Diocletian Palace built in 305 AD. It was originally built as the retirement home for Roman emperor Diocletian. 

I knew I would lose Jim (as he tends to wander off the beaten path) here exploring this old walled palace. 

Our hotel in Split was very modern and sophisticated. A large rooftop lounge offered views of the walled city to the sea, as well as a breakfast of Croatian foods.  

Our excitement grew as we boarded the 32-passenger ship (our floating home for the next seven nights). Biking guides, bikes and crew were waiting for us to explore and cycle the Dalmatian Islands. 

We began our island cycle trip in Brac, with stops on Hvar, Korcula and Mljet to follow. 

Each island biking was unique, some gave us the most stunning views of the Adriatic sea (especially as we descended down from the mountains to return to our boat). 

Cycling the cobblestone back ways towards a late morning coffee stop, in town of Jelsa on island of Hvar. This harbour town is known for its pine forests and picturesque swimming spots.

Other trips took us through olive groves, vineyards and fig trees. We rode through cobblestone streets of fishing villages and along pine forest lined seaside inlets. 

There were plenty of breaks along each route to allow riders to catch up from a mountainous climb, to stop for coffee, gelato or delish pastry, take photos, go on a quick village side trip or take a quick swim in the sea. 

Jim and I are not used to riding on small tight roads with cars zipping by some only inches away. But the locals are used to cyclists. Knowing the biking groups and tourists help their economy, they were mostly patient and courteous with us as we cycled and stopped often for photos. 

We were always well fed with some of the most delicious Croatian style foods. Breakfast on the boat was always hearty, with cured meats and cheeses added to the standard fair. 

Most lunches and dinners were eaten on shore in little restaurants specializing in some of the freshest seafood dishes you could imagine. 

One of the most interesting lunch stops we had followed a long grueling uphill ride to the ancient shepherd village of Gazul where we were served Peka. This is a hearty Dalmatia specialty of lamb, pork and vegetables cooked over an open spit.

Dubrovnik was my most favorite destination. Maybe because the beautiful 5-star resort we stayed in seemed so plush compared to our boat. 

The magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik dates back to the 13th Century. We awoke early to explore the city and walk along the massive stonewalls that completely encircle the city. 

From the walls were breathtaking views of the Adriatic and the red tiled rooftops of the city. The entire city is still paved with original limestone walkways and is home to a great palace, old gothic churches and museums. 

We haven’t ever watched The Game of Thrones, but we were told much of the series was filmed here. Terrific little restaurants and shops are found down the side streets all around this city. 

Our last meal in Dubrovnik came highly recommended from fellow travelers. 

It required a hike up well over 100 limestone steps (which was a bit hard after you have already walked miles and miles for the day) to go to the small restaurant called Lady PePe. Yep, you got that right — in front of the restaurant was a statue of a lady relieving herself. 

But hands down the best last supper seafood grill you could imagine, complete with sharing our recent adventure memories with our new travel friends.

Who knew 44-plus years after graduating high school, I would have an opportunity to join my Cashmere classmate Diana on a Croatian adventure.

As one of my favorite quotes says, “We travel not to escape life, but to ensure life does not escape us.”

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