Road Trip to Croatia

I have to admit my naivety about Eastern European countries. I have a lot of it. When I started working at MPI, it seemed like everyone was talking about taking vacations in Croatia. I had no idea where Croatia was… north, east, south? Is Croatia even a country? What happened to Yugoslavia? I was at a geographical disadvantage. To me, it sounded like a second world country (maybe it still is??) and I imagined it being forever cold, dark and rainy. Have you ever seen that thriller movie Hostel? I actually never watched it because someone gave me the synopsis once and I said “Ah hellll no!” But I did see a short clip of it.  The backpackers made it to Slovenia and were searching for their hostel. The movie portrays Slovenia as a very grey, cold, industrial type country with what looked like a lot of run down factories. I imagined crack junkies at every corner, waiting for a drug dealer to stroll on by. This is how I envisioned Croatia before I researched it myself. Turns out Croatia is beautiful. And Slovenia has some of the nicest highways I’ve been on in Europe.

Christian and I decided to take the car to Croatia from Germany instead of flying. We usually fly everywhere but this time we opted to take the car because flight prices were too high and we could pack the car with tons of stuff. Google maps told us it would take about 10 hours of driving time, but you know Google maps lies. We decided on a route through the Czech Republic, around Prague with an overnight stop in Vienna, Austria both ways. Neither of us had ever been to Vienna, so naturally we were curious to explore yet another new place together. Want to know what we did in Vienna? (I’ll add the post here once it’s finished.)

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I wanted Croatia to be a relaxing vacation time, one where we mostly stayed at our hotel and swam all day, so I did a lot of research on places to rent that were very close to the water’s edge. I love staying in smaller towns away from most of the tourists and since we had the car this time the possibilities were numerous. I found that Croatia doesn’t really have sandy beaches, they have more rocky terrain leading out to sea. While using the map search function on AirB&B I found the perfect place in Marušići.  It was about 20 miles from Split and just off the edge of the water. We booked it for an entire week, hoping and anticipating a lot of R&R. We packed the car full of swimsuits, shorts, water shoes, t-shirts, sunglasses, magazines, books, sunblock, snorkel gear and water floats. We were ready for some fun in the sun. Now all we had to do was get there.

The drive from Germany through the Czech Republic on a Friday afternoon is something I never want to do it again. Holy hell. Every 5 miles it seemed a car had broken down. The roads were in horrible shape and there was traffic in both directions. We thought it would take us 5 hours, but in reality we were stuck on the road for 6.5 hours. See Google maps? You don’t know what you’re talking about.

We made it to our overnight stay in Vienna around 10 PM. I was ecstatic to get out of the car and crash in a comfortable bed.

After a good nights rest we used the early morning hours to explore a little bit of the city and then we continued our journey southeast. I learned a new word in preparing for this road trip down south. Vignette. Before we left Germany we had to buy basically a road tax sticker for each country we planned on driving through. So Christian’s car windshield was plastered with vignettes for the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia. Who knew you had to buy these things? Not me. I’m an American. We drive where we want and don’t pay for anything. Toll roads? No thanks. I don’t live in Florida anymore. I’m glad Christian knew where to buy these stickers before we left because otherwise we would’ve had to stop at each border to purchase one. And after driving through the Czech Republic the day before, I was ready to reach our final destination as fast as possible. Road trips are not my favorite.

As we approached the Austrian-Slovenian border Christian and I became a bit anxious. We had already agreed there would be NO STOPPING in Slovenia. Empty bladders in Austria, check. For me this was because of that movie, Hostel. I’m not sure why Christian agreed but when he did, my absurd feelings about Slovenia were confirmed. We drove through without stopping. But as we were driving we noticed the roads where 10 times nicer than any of the roads in the Czech Republic or Austria. And there was hardly any traffic. Slovenia didn’t seem so bad. Since then I’ve learned that Slovenia has some really awesome camping and hiking spots. Have you ever been there? Any traveling tips or pointers are welcome.

By the time we reached Split, Croatia it was dark outside. We drove about 20 more miles along the coast until we reached Mimice. This is where our directions became a bit confusing. We knew the small town we were staying in was called Marušići but I thought it was part of Mimice. We both saw a street sign indicating we needed to turn left in order to get to Mimice. So we turned left, away from water and into a mountain. The GPS told us we were five minutes away from our destination and I was getting excited. But as we continued down, errr up, the road we seemed to be heading further and further away from the water and more into the face of a mountain. Tom-Tom said, “continue straight ahead.” The only thing straight ahead of us by now was a bunch of dirt and rocky terrain on the edge of a mountain cliff. My excitement morphed into fear.

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Picture above: The cliffs we drove through – look high above the blue railing.

What the hell Tom-Tom? Christian’s car was sporting its summer tires and sat so low to the ground that we had to drive 5 mph along the mountain cliff on a dirt road in the middle the night not knowing where we were headed or how to get back down the mountain. There were no road signs and no other cars. Just us and Tom-Tom. Tom-Tom lowered our collective IQ and we became a foolish threesome. We probably creeped along the dirt road cliff for 15 minutes but in my high anxiety state it felt like hours. I kept looking out my window, straight down the side of the cliff while Tom-Tom reassured us we were going the right way. If I looked out a bit further I could see the Adriatic Sea. And I could see us tumbling down the mountain into the sea, trapped in Christian’s low-rider.

“That’s where we need to be babe! How do we get there? Don’t ask Tom-Tom. He knows nothing.” I was freaking out. We contemplated turning around but it seemed impossible with Christian’s car so low to the ground and the rocky road being so narrow. Plus with that idiot Tom-Tom telling us we were almost there, we tossed away a few more brain cells and put our faith in the GPS. Another 15 minutes and Hallelujah! the dirt road ended. We were back on paved ground. I have never been so relieved to see a street light. We ditched Tom-Tom and figured out that we had passed Marušići  overhead while inside the mountain cliff, so we backtracked on the paved road and finally reached our AirB&B twenty-five hellish (or hill-ish) minutes later than expected. Sigh of relief. Let the R&R begin. I just had to sleep through one more night and then I knew we would wake up to the most amazing view of turquoise blue water and sunshine.

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The morning view from our balcony:

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Peace and serenity found in a highly unexpected place (well, unexpected for this naive Westerner!).  Can I stay here forever?

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Our Croation R&R vacation pictures are posted here.  Happy Adventure time!

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