Matt and I were married on a Saturday and jetted off to Eastern Europe Monday evening for our 10 day honeymoon. Sunday and Monday were spent packing and arranging travel between cities upon arrival. We had our tickets to and from Zagreb and accommodations, but did not purchase our bus tickets between cities until the day we left. Whatever, we still got everywhere just fine! I figured it might be fun to create a post letting you all know what we did in each city. We went from Zagreb, Croatia–>Plitviče Lakes National Park, Croatia–>Rijeka, Croatia–>Krk, Croatia (day trip)–>Ljubljana, Slovenia–>Škocjan Caves, Slovenia (day trip)–>Bled, Slovenia–>Maribor, Slovenia–>Zagreb, Croatia. We were able to easily get to each place by bus (we took one train for the day trip to Škocjan Caves). We tried to spend time relaxing in each place and getting to know the culture, not just spend time in museums. As you’ll see, we spent tons of time eating awesome food, drinking delicious wine/cappuccinos/macchiatos, and seeing beautiful nature! We backpacked and did not get to bring back any souvenirs, but that’s okay. It was an awesome and humbling trip.
We arrived in Zagreb on Tuesday night and spent two nights there. The first night, we went to the grocery store for bread/cheese/wine/toiletries and relaxed on the rooftop terrace of the AirBnB we stayed in. It was a small apartment, but was clean and got the job done! The elevator was also small (see the first picture below). This was clearly a pre-independence/Soviet building (Matt totally geeked out over this).
In Zagreb, we started the day walking around and grabbing baked goods (from Mlinar–we ate here often…seems like the Dunkin Donuts of Croatia/Slovenia but the food is WAY better!). Then we went to the Museum of Broken Relationships, a museum with artifacts from people’s previous relationships accompanied by stories (definitely the most interesting place!) and the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, a museum of art from folks with no formal training (really interesting and well done). See some examples below:
We also went to an outdoor market, Grič Tunnel, Zagreb Botanical Gardens, the large miniature metal version of Zagreb, and generally perused the historic sights. The first place we ate dinner was underwhelming to say the least–it was a brewery, but the beer was meh (craft beer isn’t quite a thing there yet) and the food was also meh. It was close to our AirBnB and we had already walked about 10 miles after traveling. Not even photo worthy. We learned our lesson after that and went places with good reviews/that had lots of people in them:
Zagreb was cool, but it was our least favorite city of the trip. Could have been because it was our first day, we didn’t know the language, and were generally a bit uncomfortable and exhausted. IT GOT BETTER. This was totally a worthwhile trip, it just took a bit to adjust to a new culture. We took the bus to Plitviče Lakes for the next night. This was one of our favorite days in Croatia. Essentially, this is a huge park that is made up of waterfalls. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site and was breathtakingly beautiful. We could have spent another day there if we felt like hiking a million more miles (6ish was enough).
We lucked out and didn’t get hit with rain that was predicted. We were able to thoroughly enjoy the park before going off to our B&B. We stayed at Pansion Krizmanic, which was awesome! There aren’t really hotels near the park and this place had great reviews (particularly for the food). They have a huge grill outside that they use to prepare fresh caught fish. Matt had a whole trout and I had the biggest tuna steak of my life. This, combined with homemade Slivovitz and wine, made for the coziest evening. This was, hands down, the best meal we had in Croatia:
Matt forgot to take a picture before he ate, hence the bones picture. We did have to walk about 1/4 mile from the park to get there on a busy road (see above) but left early enough in the morning that traffic wasn’t an issue. Next, we took a bus 3.5 hours north to Rijeka, Croatia, a little town off the coast of the Adriatic sea. Our AirBnB was super close to the bus stop and was above a bakery. This was an “emergency” switch, as we accidentally booked a place initially that was a 20 minute drive from the bus. Whoops! It all worked out and this place was great! Historic building with modern rehabbed units.
We spent the day walking around and enjoying caffe culture. Caffes are open from about 6am and don’t close until 1-2am. People just kind of go and sit on the comfiest chairs and enjoy espresso based beverages, beer or wine for hours at a time. This is also where we learned that Croatians typically eat their biggest meal at lunch. We missed the memo and were some of the only people eating dinner at 7pm. Either way, we got homemade pasta with truffle sauce and fresh seafood. Also had some awesome pizza (Istria is very close to Italy, you know).
We even were able to see the sunset over the Adriatic at the end of the night. Beautiful!
The next day, we took a day trip to the island of Krk. This was another super awesome day. The weather was perfect, we had gelato, we saw olive trees for the first time in our lives, had some of the best olive oil (dare I say?) in the world, we saw a gorgeous old cathedral, a child spearfishing (he caught one!) and a random seafood plate that was caught next door in the sea:
Krk was awesome and relaxing. This was definitely a contender for best day of the trip. Super relaxing and delicious. And check out this view!
After Rijeka, we said goodbye to Croatia and headed to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We LOVED this country! Seriously, the difference in the people was like night and day. People seemed more friendly in Slovenia and it had more of a central European versus Balkan feel (that Croatia had). Yes, Slovenia was also part of Yugoslavia, but it seems they’ve sort of embraced more European culture than Balkan. Our AirBnB was a bit further this time, about 25 minute walk from the city center, but it was so nice! The separate blankets thing is a thing in both Croatia and Slovenia and was pretty funny to us. The host was phenomenal. He gave us great advice on what to see and gave us a ride to and from the bus station when we got there and when we left. He also gave us homemade Teran, which was super tasty:
We hiked up to the Ljubljana Castle, which had awesome views:
We had roasted chestnuts (so tasty and the cutest thing), hiked up to see the Grajski Vineyard (next to the castle), and walked next to the canals:
We had to try food similar to the food I grew up on, so we had smokies and stew, saw the Butcher’s Bridge (bridge of love–“Are you present?”), went to the market, and admired the graffiti (dudes, so much graffiti in both countries):
Totally was digging the pedestrian only streets in just about every city we visited! After our day in Ljubljana, we went and took a day trip to the Škocjan Caves, which were freaking awesome. Have you ever seen a naturally occurring cave? If not, you totally should. I felt like we were headed to save the ring. Caves are cool. The trip to these caves involved a 45 minute walk, which was primarily through (well marked) woods (pretty neat!):
After Ljubljana and the caves, we went north and visited the infamous Lake Bled. This was another nature day and it, too, was awesome. We stayed in Hotel Ribno, which was about a half hour walk from the town of Bled. I’d love to stay here again. It was right at the edge of the Triglav national forest, which I would have loved to hike in! Unfortunately, after spending the day at the lake, it started raining and we weren’t able to make it into the woods but had a beautiful view of them from our balcony. No matter, relaxing was totally necessary. We ate down the street at a restaurant out of someone’s home that was AMAZING. This was the best meal we had in Slovenia. We ordered the “tavern grilled meat plate” and were not disappointed. This was a great example of Slovenia borrowing food traditions from countries around it. Awesome Cevapcici (traditionally Serbian) and Schnitzel (traditionally German/Austrian). Of course, we also had homemade Slivo here:
We ate Potica on the island (duh, had to try it there!), saw the church, hiked around the lake, and had espresso beverages. We took a Pletna boat out to the island and, sadly, because we had all of our belongings with us, Matt did not carry me up the 99 steps to the church. We also saw lots of no holding hands signs in both countries:
And here is an awesome panoramic of the countryside by Bled!
The next day, we traveled to the cultural center of the eastern part of Slovenia, Maribor. We thought it would be cool to go during the Old Vine Festival. Unfortunately, we weren’t there during any of the street festival portions of the festival, but we did get to drink lots of awesome wine (Maribor’s main economic venture). We stayed at Hotel Orel, which were dorm rooms turned hotel. We got to play student for the night. Maribor is also a college town so it made sense haha:
We spent our time in Maribor walking around, seeing vineyards, drinking cheap but amazing wine. We saw the World’s Oldest Vine that still produces grapes for wine–it’s over 400 years old! And there’s a picture of it below:
We were kind of out of gas by this point and were ready to go home. Our last night was in Zagreb and we went pretty late in the evening. Fun fact, when crossing the border from Croatia to Slovenia by bus and vice versa, you have to get out of the bus twice to go through customs on both sides of the border. When we crossed back, there were two people from India that they LEFT ON THE SLOVENIA SIDE OF THE BORDER. Apparently, you need a visa if coming from India to Croatia. This was a big delay for the bus (and I felt so bad for the couple!). We just had baked goods for dinner and got some sleep at Hotel Nacional.
When we got to the airport, we found out there was a flight delay…of three hours. This meant we missed our connecting flight back to Chicago in Istanbul, Turkey. Turns out, you have to get a visa to stay in Istanbul. Luckily, they put us up in a hotel that was very nice and we got to see a country we wouldn’t have been able to before. Unfortunately, we were too far away to see anything cool and were only there until the next morning. It was a cool experience anyways (now, at the time we were ticked).
Walking ten miles a day was great to balance out the rich foods/drinks we had the whole trip. We were so lucky to be able to take this trip and experience different cultures. Hopefully this is a start to more travel in our marriage! This was a great way to start our next adventure.
Until next time!