Croatia is part of the European Union but still uses it’s own currency, Kuna, and it is truly hard to get rid of. With an exchange rate of 1:7 it might feel like you are spending a lot, but everything is so cheap it is actually hard to spend all the Kuna you took out of the ATM. So what, you might say. Issue is that a lot of banks around where we live don’t exchange Kuna because of the rate, so if you don’t spend it, I guess you could frame it and hang it on the wall… which we may do since the coins had fish on them and Fil, being Fil, thought it was great that there were tuna on kuna ;).
Cheap is actually an understatement. Our first night out, we took a friend and for the 3 of us to eat fresh seafood, drink, and have desert the conversion ended up costing about $35 USD! The next day I really splurged and spent about $14 USD on an amazing cuttlefish stew over polenta for lunch. YUM.
Hands down, the best part of Croatia is the food. All our meals were AMAZINGLY delicious and SUPER cheap. The second night we were there we enjoyed a group meal that was arranged for us. First course: platters of prosciutto & cheese and cold seafood, second course: green salad, third course: cheese tortellini and beef goulash, fourth course: lamb, veal, and octopus with potatoes from the grill! Did I mention that we also started with Croatian Rakija (brandy) as an aperitif and it was all about $30 per person! One thing is for sure, we ate so good on this trip!
I guess I should back up a bit… Over Labor Day weekend we took an Army MWR bus trip to Pula, Croatia. Fortunately Brock’s car seat didn’t fit in the bus seat so we got to ride in the van that also drove down. We had much more space and shaved about an hour off of the 13 hour trip. We drove down Thursday night and got there around noon which was great. Brock slept most of the way so I didn’t have to worry about him bothering the other people in the van with us. And actually, he did great on our return drive too even though it was all day- 8:30 am to 10 pm. I didn’t see much going down, but coming back was beautiful. The countryside of Croatia was loaded with goat and grape fields. The ground was rocky and dry, but along the inlets there were lush gardens.
Next was Slovenia- also beautiful with rolling fields that led up to the Aps in Austria. We drove through countless tunnels in Austria and along the way had views of at least 5 massive castles perched up high. The last 6 hours brought us across Germany back home. As beautiful as the trip was, if we go again I will fly.
After checking into our retro room, Fil went in search of a fishing license and Brock and I tried out the Adriatic Sea. There wasn’t a beach, but the rocky coast had built in ladders you could use to drop right into the sea. Brock wasn’t a fan. I think the water crashing on the rocks scared him. So after about 30 seconds we got out and tried out the pools at the hotel.
The next day Brock and I rode the bus into town to check out the colosseum and do a little shopping. It is amazing that something built over 2000 years ago is still standing and in such great condition that it is still used as an event venue. Some other people on the trip who had already gone to Rome noted that this colosseum was much better and they are not the only ones to think that. A number of times the Italians (who occupied Croatia for some time) tried to have it dismantled and rebuilt in Italy, but every vote was rejected. For 40 Kuna (about $6) you could wander the grounds of the arena as you wished. There was a small museum about gladiators and a gift shop.
After leaving the arena Brock and I bumbled around Pula. We found a few childrens stores and then hit the mother load! I found an outdoor antique market and was so excited to find this gem (and it works):
We went through a handful of art galleries and shops and did a good job spending Kuna 😉 . I bought a candlestick holder made of the same stones as the arena, preserved local flowers and gifts for close friends with birthdays around the corner. Throughout the town there are other Roman buildings, gates, arches and temples. Here is the Temple of Augustus.
We have experienced Roman remains, ancient castles, and really old buildings but Pula was the first time I felt like we were in the “old” world.
The rest of the afternoon we spent swimming laps in the pool… well I swam laps and Brock got pushed around in his blow up Jet Ski. I was hoping that our next, which was also our last day, would be spent at the pool again but Brock had other plans. Maybe the drive caught up with him, maybe he was just having a special day, but the tantrums lasted from breakfast till 5 pm. The whole day was blown which when added to the long drive really made me feel like the trip was a waste. The highlight of my day was when he took his nap and I cross-stitched.
Oh, and that reminds me. Can you believe the crib the hotel provided?
Obviously he didn’t sleep in it. He slept with me on a bed that was smaller than a twin size in both length and width. In all the hotels we have stayed at so far a “double” bed literally is two individual bed set next to each other. In Germany the beds are longer, and apparently in Croatia they are shorter.
Although that day was pretty rough we had a really fun family evening. When Fil got back from fishing we all went to the Pula Aquarium. The Aquarium is inside the old Fortress Verudela which was built in the late 1800’s. We saw fish from all over the world, and read about how they rescue and release sea turtles. The really cool part was that at the entrance to each room, there was a plaque telling you what the room was used for in the fort. The turtle rescue room once was the boiler room! From the roof of the Fort you could see all of Pula, and it was the perfect ending to the day– and redeemed my attitude about the trip.
All in all I am still a bit torn about the trip. I think if Fil and I had gone without Brock (maybe Grandma can babysit next year) I would feel differently. I know Fil enjoyed his time on the water, but I feel like I missed out since I lost that whole day. I really wanted to get in the water and snorkel and maybe rent a jet-ski, and I just couldn’t do it. The pool was nice, but I really wish I could have spent more time in the Sea. That being said, I loved the food. Loved the shopping (which isn’t really my thing). And loved that it was 25 degrees warmer than it is in Germany. It was definitely an adult trip, but we made the best of it and are glad we ventured to a country that was never even a blip on our radar.