I was really excited about driving through Slovenia. I guess it sounded exotic. It did not let me down.
When you google Slovenia, Lake Bled is one of the first things that pops up. We were surprised to see tour buses full of Asian tourists in Slovenia of all places, but that didn’t take away from the pristine lake and medieval castle in the background.
From Bled we continued on to Ljubljana, which I still can’t spell without looking it up. Erwann and I are not big on cities, but we were pleasantly shocked at how lovely the Slovenian capital was. It is clean, colorful, lively, and relatively inexpensive. We also appreciated how safe it felt- a stark contrast to Paris, for example.
I said I was excited about Slovenia. But that excitement was nothing compared to how I felt about visiting Slovenia’s Southern neighbor. I have wanted to go to Croatia for a long time. I planned to go during my year abroad, but I wasn’t able to make it happen. I was not going to miss out again. I got really lucky though, because we discovered a few months prior to our trip that you can’t take a French rental car to Croatia. We almost had to cancel. That’s when my mother-in-law saved the day (and saved us a ton on our budget!) and lent us her car for an entire month so we could trek all over the continent. She’s so awesome.
Croatia is part of the EU, but it’s the only place where I got my passport checked. Once through the border, we continued through the Istria region and hopped on a ferry to an island called Cres.
Croatia did. Not. Disappoint. We planned two nights on Cres and one night back on the mainland in a city called Pula. However, Cres was so beautiful and laid back that we cancelled our night in Pula to relax more on the island. We didn’t regret it.
The Adriatic Sea is WARM. All the beaches are pebble, which puts some people off. I think it makes the water look even more clear and beautiful, and the pebbles are no problem as long as you have some water shoes. A yoga mat or some other kind of padding isn’t a bad idea either, although we didn’t spend much time laying out because the water really is that amazing.
Another big plus about Croatia is how cheap it is compared to Western Europe. We ate out every night for about 20 euros, including drinks. We also got to rent a small boat for the day, which is the best way to see the island because most of the beaches are inaccessible via car or foot. Plus, we left in the morning and got a small beach all to ourselves for several hours. The cost? 70 euros for the day, INCLUDING gas. Quite the steal, considering these views:
Croatia reminded me a bit of Portugal, because it feels like the perfect mix between developed and developing. No one cares where you park your boat, but there is running water. The roads are terrifying and people drive like maniacs, but the food is good (not much different from Italian cuisine) and there is a tourism office. On the other hand, Croatians were not warm in my experience, but I chalk that up to their not-so-distant war for independence.
I was sad to leave, but there is no doubt. I will definitely be returning to this beautiful country!
Up next: Italia!