Croatia! (and a bit of Bosnia, and a smaller bit of Montenegro...)

Friday, July 14, 2017



Last weekend we got back from a 10-day trip to Croatia with my family, my best friend growing up in England and her family (who all still live in the U.K.). It was such a surreal vacation. On the one hand, I was with friends I've known longer than any other, and it was so fun reminiscing about the things we used to do when we lived in neighboring cities and spent our weekends begging our parents for sleepovers with each other. On the other, my husband was now there! And all the kids have grown up, with things like degrees and jobs! And my brother's in the mix with all the girls. It was a blend of past and present with the most beautiful scenery, and a trip I'll treasure forever. Brian jokes that I have a hard time letting people go from my life, but reunions like this make it so worth it :)




We rented the most beautiful villa in a tiny town (so tiny that none of the locals we met had heard of it, or we were mispronouncing it that much), and I can't say enough nice things about the property and our hosts. They'd bring us snacks from their land every day (all types of vegetables, watermelon, cherries, plums, homemade cheese and bread) and surprises at night, like wine from nearby wineries. One night they hosted the coolest barbecue for us. We couldn't believe their generosity and how beautiful the property was (the only con, lots of animals waking you up before the crack of dawn, oh and the terrifying drive home through lots of windy streets in the dark!).





The first thing we did was go to Sokol Castle, which was up the street from where we were staying and has incredible views and history (parts of it date back to 2300 BC, and Dubrovnik took over possession in 1420). Brian set up our camera carefully on a rail and made this self-timer group pic happen at the top of the castle. So impressive.










Our next stop was a little winery near Gruda, which had beautiful flowers, amazing fruits (pomegranate trees upon pomegranate trees) and the yummiest cheeses. It's owned by a couple, and their teenage son works there, too (funnily, we ran into him in town later on, where he was hanging out with his friends, awkwardly made eye contact and then looked down to avoid us all. Ha!). They had the best dessert wine (a sweet cherry-tasting liquor) and homemade candied orange peels (a big thing in Croatia). We ended up going home with nearly a dozen bottles of assorted favorites and a few bags of orange peels, none of which were wasted during our trip.

Also, they served my brother, who took full advantage during the rest of the trip.


We later went to Molunat beach and had our favorite meal of the trip here (should you go, get dessert, and should you get dessert, get the Duke's Sonata, which comes with a cheese-based ice cream that sounds strange but is delicious). 



Fig trees at a random house! So many different types of fruit and vegetables everywhere you looked, definitely not something we're used to in Chicago.


The house we stayed at had lots of cherry trees, with sour cherries we don't have in the U.S. but are very popular in Iran (in Iran we call them "albaloo"). Since the other family that was with us is also Iranian, we were all crazy about them. My mom would pick a big plate every morning, and they'd be gone by lunch time. 


The villa owners said they get all their fruits and vegetables from their land, and that isn't hard to believe. Everywhere you walked there was something growing. Look at this cute little eggplant! 


Other group favorites were the watermelon that the owners would pick and bring sliced, or for Brian, the plums. He'd have a few for breakfast every morning, but the skin was too bitter for me to get behind. 


There's a reason Dubrovnik's tourism has picked up lately. Every part of  Croatia we saw was really beautiful, but the Old Town in Dubrovnik, as touristy as it is (partially because of things like Game of Thrones and Star Wars being shot there), was so worth visiting. Cobbled streets, little shops, old buildings, lines of laundry out to dry — everything that makes me love Europe in the summer. 



We were all starving one afternoon, and when we finally found a restaurant that could accommodate 10 people we wanted all. the. food. It ended up taking over an hour for our food to come, and when it did, my mom's sandwich was so flat and small, she was sorely disappointed.





Stopping every few steps so half of us could goof off and half could look at a map.





Walking the ancient city walls was definitely a highlight of the trip. It wasn't easy to find the starting point (or, more likely, we were just oblivious), and by the time we did we only had an hour before we had to walk down, but it was enough time and definitely something I'd recommend doing.





He's basically a wine connoisseur now.





One morning my brother and I walked to the neighbor's house (a family with lots and lots of animals cows, horses, goats, chickens, roosters, some animals we'd never seen before) and their little kitten followed my brother home. He named him Mr. Charles and fed him fresh tuna, so obviously Mr. Charles wouldn't go home and had to be carried back.



The tap water everywhere tasted a bit strange to us, but the stream water at our house tasted so good and was so cold and refreshing (and filtered). It's honestly one of the things I miss most about the place!


Cavtat's a town between where we were staying and Dubrovnik, and it quickly became a favorite in the group. We found ourselves back there again and again, and if we were to go back, I think I'd stay there. It felt a lot like the French Riviera (where we went for our honeymoon) and had the best ice cream we had the whole trip, which is reason enough to go back. 





This is the barbecue I was talking about! We came home from Cavtat to this scene and were so in awe. They hosts wouldn't even eat with us, they insisted we enjoy alone! It was so thoughtful and delicious and such a memorable experience.





One day we road tripped to Bosnia to check out the Kravice Waterfalls, which were breathtaking — these blurry, misty pictures don't do them justice. We also had the best fries from a little stand there. Priorities, always.







That afternoon we figured, since we'd already driven four hours, we might as well drive a bit more and check out the town of Mostar, and I'm so glad we did. Such a tourist-friendly city with great restaurants and incredible cobblestone streets. The Stari Most bridge is the reason most people visit (it was more than 400 years old when it was destroyed during the war), and it's incredible, but there's so much more to see. While it wasn't initially on our travel plans, I'm so glad we ended up there.

On the way home we somehow accidentally ended up at the Montenegro border, thinking it was the border to get into Croatia. It was after midnight, and we were all exhausted, but I'll never forget the border official telling us we were lost and how hard we all laughed at the Montenegro stamps in our passports. We kept telling her we were only 10 kilometers away from home, and she said the way the borders worked, that didn't mean anything, that we'd have to go back to the Croatian border.








Of all the beautiful sites, Pasjańća beach wins first place. What an unbelievable spot. Can't even be mad at how much those rocks hurt my feet.


Because Brian told him there's nothing better than pizza and beer on a patio....








Brian and I used to joke that we'll know we've made it when we have an in-unit washer and dryer (check!). Now that that goal has been met, we've changed it to a place where we hang our clothes outside to dry (my idea, since I'm hoping that'll mean we're living in Europe) or double sinks (his idea, obviously).



When did he grow up? :(






I have no idea what's going on here. Out of no where my parents started striding together, and everyone cleared the path and started taking videos of them, ha! Maybe someone else is recapping their vacation on their blog and photos of my parents are on there ;)



Then there was that time we got the car stuck in a ditch (but the guys eventually got it out).




For our last dinner, my parents wanted to order a big, whole grilled fish ( popular in Croatia) to split between the two of them. The waiter (who didn't speak much English) said he understood but later came back and said they didn't have that specific type of fish, that they had another, that it would be prepared a different way. No one quite understood what was going on until he arrived 45 minutes later with a big pot of fish stew (definitely not what they wanted!) that could feed our whole table. We're not sure how it happened, but it was so, so funny.


We've been back almost a week and I can't stop thinking about what a wonderful trip it was. I feel so lucky to enjoy my own family and another so much and that we haven't let the distance drift us apart. What a truly unbelievable week. So grateful for everything, especially my parents for it all. Love you forever, Croatia <3 

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