Ok, so next up was the trip back to Zagreb on that Tuesday morning. Jenna and I took an early train back and it ended up being a gorgeous day outside. We took the chance to explore the city again and walked around. We enjoyed some food samples at the little city festivals that were being held in the city center and had a nice pizza lunch at our go-to place (we ended up eating there 2 or 3 times over the course of the entire trip..) Did I mention that the Croatians love pizza? We walked some more, enjoyed a nice break on the grass in a park, and then actually took some time to sit and study for our impending finals. After feeling like we studied a bit, we went to the movies! This was a treat, and first for me to do in Europe. We got to watch Zac Efron and Dave Franco in Neighbors for a few hours, which was definitely the recipe for a good night. We still had some time after the movies before we were to catch our overnight train to Split, so we ventured a little into the city and found a really cute nighttime show with live music, tents, food, etc. There were a lot of people milling around so we enjoyed a glass of wine before we headed to the train station.
Overnight we went, on a train down south to Split, Croatia. We booked beds on the train (best decision to date after the spring break fiasco) and settled in close to midnight. The idea of beds on a train is really fascinating; there were 3 beds all stacked on top of each other in this TINY little room. Though it wasn’t the best night sleep, we were able to lay down. We arrived to the coast early in the morning on Wednesday. Since we couldn’t check into our hostel until a little later in the afternoon, we grabbed breakfast and went to the beach to catch some rays. The beaches in Croatia are different than any that I’ve been to in the US, but stunning nevertheless. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how blue the water is in that country. After some sunbathing and swimming, we went back to the hostel to check in and then down to the main promenade area in the city to walk and find some lunch. We ate at a little cafe tucked away from the ocean front, those places were a little pricy, and then walked a bit back to the hostel to enjoy a nap. It had been a long day! Once we woke up later in the afternoon, we decided to walk to the path through the park on the edge of the city around the water. This turned out to be a pretty lengthy trek, but it was gorgeous as the sun was setting. People were all around us biking, walking, running.. what a great atmosphere. It was definitely one of my favorite hikes while abroad! That night, we made dinner in the hostel and socialized a bit with some of the other travelers.
On Thursday, we woke up and joined our 2 Australian friends that we had met the night before to do some exploring for the day. We walked into the city center and climbed the tower of the palace to get a panoramic view of Split. Of course, it was jaw droppingly gorgeous– a sight full of clear blue water and the port, next to darker, rocky mountains and red/yellow/orangeish buildings throughout the city. We walked through the rest of the palace area as well before succumbing to the heat and getting to the beach. We immediately went into the water (great use of the gopro here) and had some fun swimming out to the rocks and laying out/doing flips a little away from the shore. Once we had had our fill of that, we went back to the hostel. We played cards and had some drinks, the four of us, plus a few other people who were staying in the place. Pizza was on the menu for dinner down by the water, and we proceeded to spend the night out with the 2 Aussies and 3 Irish sisters that we met as well. A really fun time to meet some interesting people!
On Friday morning, we were up early to get the bus even further south to Dubrovnik. I was especially excited for this leg, we were going to visit Julie! After a scenic bus ride and some public transportation into the old town of Dubrovnik, we met Julie and Marie at a cafe near the bus stop. What a stunning city!! Also known as King’s Landing from GOT, I was in heaven. We made the walk up to Julie and Marie’s apartment, which was basically uphill both ways. A reoccurring theme in this place. After dropping our things off, we explored the area where my friends had been spending their entire semester. They showed us their local beach and favorite food places, classrooms, and all of that. Such a different experience for them compared to what I had in Belgium! For the sunset that night, we hiked up the Srd (pronounced Surge), which houses the fort where the war took place when Croatia split from Yugoslavia in the 90’s. The sunset wasn’t as spectacular as Julie and Marie were used to, but Jenna and I were amazed regardless. It was a strenuous hike to the top, but so worth it! From up high, we could also see landscape over in Bosnia. We spent some time taking in the sights before returning down. For dinner, we went to a really nice seafood place and sat outside. Such a treat to be at a nice restaurant in the middle of this gorgeous city. I really enjoyed myself and was with great company. We wrapped up the night with a few drinks at the girls’ favorite bars around town before calling it quits.
Saturday morning we were up and down into town to catch a ferry over to Lokrum Island, across the way from Old Town. Such a cool island to explore, not only is it part of where they did some more filming for Game of Thrones, but its full of peacocks! Such strange and pretty creatures. They just make their noise and walk around with their feathers. Really entertaining (for me). We swam in the “Dead Sea” and did some further wandering around the rocks on the island overlooking the water. It wasn’t the sunniest of days, but still beautiful. I got to also meet and spend some time with the other students studying with Julie so it was fun doing that as well! When we returned to the mainland, we had a fantastic lunch at a vegetarian place and then went back to the apartment for some much needed relaxation due to food coma. When nighttime rolled around, we got back at it and went down to the harbor with a nice bottle of wine (thank you, Marie!). We were sitting along the harbor near a restaurant, where Marie went to ask if we could use some glasses. Unexpectedly, she comes out with a waiter in tow, holding a tray with glasses and an ice bucket! He served us our wine, and we basically all but melted at the kindness of such a gentleman. We topped off the bottle, it was absolutely delicious, and then joined the others at an apartment before going out again that night.
Sunday was our last day in paradise, and Julie brought Jenna and me to a hidden cliff area where we could lay out, swim, and do some cliff jumping. We joined a few locals who were there already, and had the best time. These kids were running and jumping off this 20 foot cliff without hesitation! Naturally, we all participated as well, and I found myself giddy as I was jumping, swimming, and then getting out for more. Such an adrenaline rush, which is what I love, in one of the most beautiful places imaginable! We enjoyed the sun before walking back downtown and having a good lunch (pizza, duh). Afterwards, we went on the city wall tour. Old Town is sectioned off in Dubrovnik by the walls, and it’s a popular tourist excursion to walk along the tops of the walls around the area. Stunning views at all angles, we spent a few hours walking the walls. Of course words cannot do justice to the beauty of this place, but I cherish the photos I was able to take along the way. After the walls, we spent some downtime on the beach before going back to the apartment for the night. It was a perfect trip to visit my best friend! We were super privileged to have been able to visit one another while in Europe.
Monday morning we were back on the bus to Split, where we took another overnight train back to Zagreb. We flew out of Zagreb and back to Brussels without a hitch. It was an incredible 12 day vacation! Huge shoutout to my travel buddy, Jenna, for this one! We spent so much time planning this trip and it came and went perfectly. Tay, we missed you the whole entire time but we know you had a great time in Turkey with your family. Such world travelers we are 🙂