Exploring the world with another person can be exciting, testing and amazing all at once.

 RompWorthy is the result of once such trip, when C. and I romped about London 3 years ago. On that 8-week trip, our friendship was made infinitely stronger because we stepped out of our comfort zone together. We still talk about our travel stories like an old couple. It goes without saying that traveling like that with a significant other can bring a whole new level of closeness. C. put up with my organization OCD and extensive nighttime beauty routine, but could my boyfriend? C. understood my toothpaste-as-a-nighttime-pimple-remedy look, but how would my boyfriend respond with I turned into bed like that? Excited and nervous to find out, Chris – the boyfriend in question – and I set out on our own 2-week romp through Europe, starting in mysterious Croatia.

Located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is nestled between Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia and Slovakia. Although Italy and Greece are quite popular, Croatia seems to be the untapped jewel of the Mediterranean. Chris and I spent one-week exploring Croatia. We started in the capital of Zagreb and then drove to the coastal town of Split, after which we took a ferry to the island of Slatine, Ciovo. Fitting a week of Croatia into one post is a challenge, so I’ll give you the highlights.

Zagreb

Traveling trans-Atlantic separately, Chris and I started our trip by meeting in Zagreb, Croatia’s historic capital located in the mountains. There, we stayed at a fabulous Airbnb on a street called Tkalčića. Teeming with bars, cafés and bistros, I was told by a local that this street is very popular for locals and tourists alike. It’s an excellent place to post up at a café, sip a cappuccino and people watch – which we did a few times. Making the most of our 36 hours in the city, we relied heavily on the New York Times’ ’36 Hours in Zagreb’ guide for recommendations, which didn’t disappoint. Here were some of our favorites:

  • Dolac Market – as a huge fan of open-air markets, I loved exploring Dolac Market. Located towards the end of our street, the market takes place every morning and attracts a mix of locals and tourists. Chocolate croissants in hand, Chris and I made our way through the red umbrellas of the booths and perused the contents for sale.
  • Esplande Zagreb Hotel, 1925 Lounge – it’s comforting to know that a decadent, boozy breakfast transcends international borders, which is what we enjoyed at the 1925 Lounge in the Esplande Zagreb Hotel. With it’s impressive edifice facing the city’s train station, the hotel is clearly a place of old grandeur. Inside, the ceilings are gilded and the walls marble. I felt like an eastern European princess as I dined on fresh fruit and tea in an ornate 100-year old leather armchair as the chandeliers reflected off the marble walls. Anastasia definitely had it made.
Found on the hotel's Facebook page

{{Found on the hotel’s Facebook page}}

 

Found on the hotel's Facebook page

{{Found on the hotel’s Facebook page}}

 

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  • Botanical Gardens & The Green Horseshoe – a long, leisurely walk was needed after overindulging ourselves at the Esplande. Luckily, the city’s quaint Botanical Gardens abut the hotel. Although the gardens are small and pale in comparison to – say – the Royal Gardens in London, the stroll and atmosphere was relaxing. After exhausting the sights in the Botanical Gardens, we passed back by the Esplande to enter the Green Horseshoe, a series of parks. Sprawling from the train station to the main square the parks are lined with shops, restaurants and cafes to explore.

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  • The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – As we walked off our lunch through the parks, we came across one of the main attractions in the city, a beautiful old cathedral. What would a European vacation be without exploring really old churches?
  • Pod Starim Krovovima – one of the oldest pubs in the city, this pub is off the beaten path of Tkalčića on a sleepy street that a tourist would likely not venture. The doorway itself is unremarkable and the inside is but two small rooms. The lack of grandeur is probably why it’s a known place for famous poets, artists, writers and musicians to frequent to share a drink and compare creative works.
  • Melin Café – last but certainly not least, we loved Melin Café. Very close to our street, Melin Café is a jazz club tucked away amongst personal residences and gardens. The Café’s atmosphere is a perfectly orchestrated hodgepodge of odds-and-ends that give an effortlessly cool feel. For example, the bar is lined with old, 1970’s TV sets cleverly carved out to hold liquor bottles. Light installations decorate the walls and set the mood as a jazz band jams on a nearby platform.

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

On our drive to Split from Zagreb, we detoured to Plitvice National Park, which is known for it’s gorgeous lakes with crystal, blue water and natural waterfalls. We wandered around the park with oodles of tourists for about 2 hours then continued on our way. Nonetheless, this is a definite must.

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Split

The drive from cooler Zagreb in the mountains into the Mediterranean climate of Split on the coast is gorgeous. Over the 4-hour period, we cruised through 6,500-meter tunnels under mountains and through winding and flat rural towns. After passing through our final tunnel, the town of Split emerged on the other side of the mountain in the valley next to the sea. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen! Though we only spent one night in Split, here are our recommendations:

  • Diocletian’s Palace – Split is built in and around the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, which is the city’s primary tourist attraction. The palace was built by the Roman emperor, Diocletian, in the 4th century. We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb perfectly located in the heart of the palace. Wandering the narrow palace corridors at night made for one of the most romantic settings, and after enjoying dinner on the steps of a thousand-year-old alley we sipped wine at a livelier bodega until 1am.

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  • Ma Toni – Our friend in Zagreb recommended that we pay her friend’s new restaurant, Ma Toni, a visit. Less than one year old and located off the tourist strip, Ma Toni is tucked away in a converted cellar and is quickly becoming a favorite for locals. While you’ll pay a premium for everything located within the Palace, Ma Toni was insanely well priced for the incredible meal we enjoyed. For a total of 500 Croatian Kuna including tip (or less than 75 US Dollars), we enjoyed a a bottle of Croatian wine, one sizable appetizer, one steak entree and one tuna fillet entree and a decedent desert. Everything from food to the ambiance was amazing.

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Slatine, Ciovo

After one night in Split, we took a 30-minute ferry from Split to Slatine, Ciovo. There we stayed with my friend’s grandparents, who showed us authentic Croatian hospitality. After greeting us with food and showing us to our oceanfront room, they – through hand gestures and broken English – encouraged us to “eat, drink and sleep”. We spent the next three days doing just that next to the Adriatic.

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RW-Croatia

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Croatia was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited. The people were kind, hospitable and eager to assist. With its rich culture, extensive history, range of climates and cheap currency (Kn1 to $0.15!). The first leg of our trip in Croatia set Chris and I up for success. Next up was Austria and Germany!

Cheers,

-A.