Browsing Tag

croatia

Family Travel, Thrifty

Flea Markets in Secondhand Split

7 October, 2013

Ah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking- I needed to find the Flea Market in Split, Croatia, like I needed a punch in the face. We’ve sold a house full of stuff, pared down to just a few belongings for our travels round Europe, why WHY would I need to go thrifting in Croatia?

Welllll… My shoes really broke for the final time after much DIY repairing so I popped them in the bin and was one pair down. Also, we are flying back to England on Tuesday and have to somehow cart all our gear onto the plane… so we are keeping our eyes peeled for a suitcase or massive bag or two… But, really, honestly? I just love rummaging through people’s old stuff.

Especially if there’s a chance it could be retro communisty Iron Curtain style old stuff.

The Green Markets in Split sprawl out from the harbour up to the edge of the Old Town. On a Sunday they are packed with mountains of fruit and veggies and, tucked at the back, as you walk away from the harbour, was a vision of beauty to my eyeballs- a small but perfectly haphazard array of stalls selling old stuff. The ideal mixture – plastic tat, vintage fabrics, clothing, records, filthy things piled in boxes: YES, YES, YES!

We arrived at 11am and it was in full flow, but over by the time we passed again at 1pm. We had a quick mosey but I didn’t torture myself by searching too hard through all the things I couldn’t take back with me. I did score this SWEET pair of treads though, for about £1.20. Are these what you call brothel creepers? I’m sorry to womankind if so… But aren’t they The Business? I promise to be extra feminist whilst wearing them.Flea Market Split

(Communists don’t worry about matching laces.)

We then wandered through the old town and unexpectedly began to love Split. There are some astonishing Roman structures, the magnificence of which rivalling Dubrovnik, but with a massive dose of proper, gritty, city living. 20131007-080135.jpg
Ramona having a snooze on Tim’s back as we bask in the antiquity.

We then, outside the overawing Golden Gate, came across another glorious sight- another market of old stuff! Wheee! Sound the Trumpet of Joy! It was a bit more official, and featured almost solely antique stuff but for fairly good prices and still with the delight of rummaging through boxes and bowls.Flea Markets in Split

Walking past this rocking horse realising it would never be mine was probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life (possibly rivalled by child birth.)

Secondhand Split, I found you, you stealthy beast, and I loved you.

Linking up for the first time in YONKS with all the secondhand loving beauties over at Me and My Shadow.

Family Travel

Croatia’s Islands and Coastline: Camping, Calamari and Compulsive Swimming

4 October, 2013

We came to Croatia primarily because someone told me once that National Geographic had voted it the “most beautiful country in the world” – oh yeah, I thought… You sure? Because I have seen quite a few beaut things in my life, and like, who are YOU, some kind of AUTHORITY on countries and landscapes and geography and that?

Within the first hour of crossing the border from Slovenia we were muttering at the mountains and coastline “Wow. Yep, it is alright this place.” After our first full day we were hyperventilating with all the stunning scenes making our lungs compress and eyeballs water. A week in and we were saying to each other “That National Geographic most beautiful country in the world thing? Hello, UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR.”

Turns out those kids (actually I imagine them to be Teva-toting bespectacled old fellas) Know Stuff.

Our 25 days camping through Croatia are very nearly up. We weren’t sure how we were going to cope, spending all that time with a toddler and a baby in a tent, but we are so SO glad we pushed through after the catastrophe that hit Betty the Campervan in Italy. The weather has been kind, we have had sunshine, and therefore swum, everyday apart from 2. At least once a day we are gobsmacked by the outrageous postcard perfection of the coves and bays and marinas and the way the oceans just pull you in.

I was on holiday with my folks in New Zealand many years ago when we came across the most breathtaking little waterfall with a plunge pool. We scrambled down to it, like children rushing upon the Turkish Delights in the Snow Queen’s palm. We stepped in to it, up to our ankles. My mum though, she kept stepping. She stepped in up to her knees… her waist… then she dived in, every bit of clothing on including her precious watch. It says a lot about my free-spirited, frolicsome mum. But also about the water. Some rivers, lakes and seas poke a Swimming Button, they unleash an overwhelming urge to jump right on in. Here in Croatia, this water is EVERYWHERE YOU LAY YOUR PEEPERS.

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After visiting the National Parks, Plitvice and Krka, we headed down to Split and jumped on a ferry to the Island Korcula. We resisted the swim compulsion at the port – too chilly at 8 am- resisted it on the beautiful ferry trip – too fatal- and resisted as we drove along the Island shore in search of a campsite – too anxious as campground upon campground seemed to be non-existant or closed. We finally found a little camp in a place called Prizba but the man showed me the sign he was about to erect “CLOSED UNTIL JUNE 2014” Nooooooo! But, pity upon us he took, we built the tent under the olive groves and DASHED down to the sea to finally yield to the tug of clear-as-glass turquoise waters.

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The beach at Prizba is sheltered from any wind, and looks out towards a couple of tiny Islands. There is the funnest slide into the harbour, just a couple of bays along from where we camped. And within half an hours drive there are hidden coves with rocks to clamber, each one clamouring for position as Most Beautiful Beach In Most Beautiful country in the world. (Pupnatska Luka and Bacva were our favourites although the latter at the end of a pretty treachourous windy trail! Vucine on the Peljesac Peninsula then popped along and blew even these two out of the water.)

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Most evenings we’d wander down to the tiny marina and chuck in the lures and line we had foraged from the bottom of the sea, joining the local nuns (honest truth- nuns in full habits- with a daily fishing habit, hoo hoo tee hee) in a dusk calamari search. Apparently they were there, and indeed one morning Ramona came running back from a walk with Tim absolutely bursting with a story about the octopus they spotted in the sea! They had shown a local Grandad who came over! And caught it right there in front of them! And then it got free and tried to use its legs to creep back in the water! But the old man got it back! And octopuses change colour on the rocks so noone can see them! It was pink! Then it was brown! As you can imagine Tim was gutted he didn’t catch the bugger. I was, throughout the telling of this adventure, trying my utmost not to boff. Ugh. Octopuses.

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We felt like we had finally found the swimming idyll that we had secretly been hunting for throughout this whole trip. No wonder we stayed there for a week and then moved to the Peljesac Peninsula for a further 4 days.The campsite owner didn’t think much of my Squatters Rights stance. (Jokes.) We left with resigned reluctance, a bank of memories and a small flock of fleas courtesy of the mangy cats who were part of the Mangy Cat Sanctuary he ran alongside the camp that would rampage through our tent each time we turned our backs.

But back to all this beauticiousness. From almost every point on Croatia’s Islands and Coast you can see other islands; hundreds and thousands of them. Round like blobs of paint dripped perfectly into the sea; scattered like a giant kid blew the candles out on his birthday cake spitting billions of soggy crumbs of crisps everywhere…

Or like “God’s tears” as someone more, er, elegantly put it…

After the peninsula we trucked into Dubrovnik for the day, which hands down must be one of the coolest old cities ever (yeah, in fact UNESCO gave it that award a few decades back, turns out.) An ancient town of beautiful architecture, ruins and cathedrals, inside walls you can walk on (we spent a happy 3 hours doing it!) inside another layer or rocks protecting it from the clean, deep ocean- rocks you can bomb off into, yep, water that just compels you in.

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We had heard terrible things about the crowds; cruise ships that bustle up and take over the town but we must have been there in off season as it felt calm and peaceful and free from those pesky tourists. *cheeky smile*

We are now staying in Campsite Serina outside of a little town called Omis, south of Split. It is on a little peninsula, with lots of little coves for swimming straight into the ocean. It must be one of the best campsites ever, with an acoustic folk duo playing on camp each night and the host family welcoming everyone like kindred souls. But, we probably need to leave soon so we can actually get some sleep- the extreme, noisy winds make it feel like there is a giant trying to blow his birthday candles out all over our tent…

PS Come over to Instagram and check out more of our snaps, I’m @lulasticblog

Family Travel

Croatia’s National Parks: Bears, waterfalls and figs

29 September, 2013

We were soaked to the bone, mother, baby and toddler standing on the corner with an outstretched arm and hopeful thumb. Fortunately the first car responded and picked up this little hitchhiking trio of drowned rats. We had been caught out by both a raging storm and a mythical local bus in the middle of one of Croatia’s National Parks, Plitvice. Our campsite, the beautiful Korana, was six kilometres away along a crazily unwalkable road, but thanks to the two Israeli tourists who picked us up, we we were soon zipped back in to our tent drinking hot chocolate. At one point on the ride home they said “We saw your little family earlier, in the rain, by the waterfalls and thought it was so cruel/cool…” We still don’t know which it was and I guess it could really be either depending on your view of weather/ children/ raincoats. We all enjoyed ourselves a lot more than if we’d opted to sit in our tent exhausting Ramona’s one book of fairytales! (Gah, just admitted we only bought one book with us.) (Also… we all do tend to have a but of fun when things go awry… I think it’s a part of my personality – the more dire a situation is the more cheerful I become; you know we are in a right pickle if you hear me belting out “You’re never fully dressed without a …. SMIIIIILE” in a broad American accent and busting out a bit of tap dancing.)

The fact that we first encountered Plitvice in a torrential downpour, while squished between tour bus group after tour bus group of tourists, and still found it to be singly the most beautiful place on earth, attests to its flipping awesomeness. (I originally had “breathtaking wonder” but then remembered I wasn’t David Attenborough.)

It is a series of lakes connected by waterfalls, lakes that are so clear that when you are standing on the shore the ducks appear to be floating in mid air, and when you are standing on a cliff looking from above there is a perfect mirror image of the waterfalls reflected on its surface. A wooden path weaves over and alongside the waterfalls, making you feel almost a part of it. As you trace the lake’s shoreline from one waterfall to another the sound fades until you are left with simply the chorus of crickets… Then you approach the next connecting fall and the sound builds gradually until you are right amongst the cascades, it’s ferocious noise causing you to shout.

“SHALL WE TAKE A PICTURE?” “NAH, LET’S KEEP GOING SO WE CAN GAIN TIME ON THIS TOUR GROUP!” “BUT WE’LL WISH WE HAD MORE PHOTOS!” “WE’LL GOOGLE IMAGE IT!”

We were so pleased we got the two day pass (about £15 per person) as the next day was bright and sunny and we explored the upper lakes at leisure. The upper lakes seem to be free from the cumbersome tour groups but are just as spectacular.

Someone we met later on in our trip told us they skipped Plitvice because of all the tourism and “Seen one waterfall, seen ’em all right?!” We nodded, not wanting to break it to him. But the answer in this case is really Heck No. The falls of Plitvice are gobsmacking in their seeming endlessness; everywhere you look there is cascading water, their scope; enormous, tiny, wide like someone busted up a damn, gentle trickles, and the water; like every Evian advert ever made melted together, like the water all water on earth would be like if we actually lived in heaven.

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It was water that lured… Tempting throatily like the serpent… “Come in, splash here, dive down in my divine depths… OH COME ON YOU BORING OLD TOAD AT LEAST DIP A TOE”

But alas, Plitvice’s only bad point (apart from an unreliable bus service and crowds) – you can’t swim! Honest! It is a travesty that there isn’t even a tiny little designated area. Croatia, please sort this out. We won’t even wee in it, PROMISE.

(Also, another major downer: you probably won’t actually see a bear here. Even if you read about Plitvice and bears on the Internet and that was the main reason you came, really, that still doesn’t make it likely that you’ll see a bear because, hello?! They are so right in the middle of All The Nature not hanging out with all the tourists on the paths, okay, hahahaha SILLY! *weeps for self and lack of bear viewing*)

Back to the swimming thing… You can’t swim at Plitvice but swimming in other Croatian National Parks is ALL ON. Which is why we pootled a couple of hours south down to Krka (pronounced Krka) for more waterfalls.
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Krka National Park was a fair bit less crowded and seemed to be loads more family friendly. Something about being able to swim there made it all feel as if everyone was there to participate in outdoorsy activity rather than just take photos of the outdoors. Like Plitvice, it was fall after fall. Any single one of them would have done the country proud but yet again there they were gushing all over the place. A bit showy offy there, Croatia, with all this breathtaking wonder.
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The swim was majestic, just as you’d imagine swimming under an enormous waterfall to be. We all went in and all thought it was pretty cool. Ramona calls waterfalls “mountains” – rationally i figure it is because they are like “fountains” but massive and with added grandeur. She still talks about swimming under the mountain, a week later.

The path was lined with fig trees too, so we got to partake in my favourite hobby, and foraged our way from waterfall to waterfall. They were tiny and juicy and we scoffed them like we scoff blackberries on our walks in England.

We spent four days in the Krka region, two of them in the park (a two day pass was £12) as we just really liked it. At the southern end of the National Park, in actual Krka town you can swim in the river and it is the point at which it meets the sea. It is a crazy feeling; the chill of the river water on top, the warm, salty buoyant water below. We found a walnut tree and got about a billion and just sat munching walnuts and figs feeling that beautiful foragey contentedness.

Juno, at five months old, is really swiping at all our food now. You should see her trying to get our figs, she bustles about, purple with determination, pivoting 180 degrees on her rotund belly. She managed to hustle Ramona’s cheese sandwich yesterday, I’m unsure if that’s better or worse than the twigs and dirt she is usually scoffing. And then there is Ramona who is thriving on our “Pick Every Ripe Fruit You Pass” and “Ice Cream Every Other Day” policies.

We have been on an Island for the last few days, can’t wait to tell you about it…

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