Monday, August 10, 2009


Slithering into the cool glimmering sapphire Adriatic Sea. Diving into bowls full of fresh whole grilled squid and shrimp. Listening to haunting lullabies from the sea organ in Zadar. Staring back at the beady eyes watching us from the full bowl of fried sardines. Eating the best John Dory we’ve ever tasted. Ok, it‘s the only John Dory we‘ve ever tasted and it was the best! Laughing with family on the rooftops, balconies, promenades, cliff sides, atop walls, within palaces, over pizza and while recounting stories of taking the bus instead of a taxi after flying 15 hours to save ten dollars. Ducking in the back seat while Ryan backed the monstrous van back down the one lane dead end hill that Joe navigated him up. Running for a ferry with all our luggage and jumping from the dock to the ferry as it pulled away from shore. Loving our Croatian adventures!

By now I imagine you’re wondering what pants have to do with anything. Well, pants have a lot to do with everything. There are happy pants as we set out to hike around Plitvice Lakes. Grumpy pants after nearly having heart attacks running for the ferry with our luggage. Have I mentioned running for the ferry before? Anxious pants as we’re not sure our gargantuan van will literally fit between the walls of an alleyway. Crazy pants as five adults pile into a convertible cabriolet to 4WD for an hour and a half to the best swimming spot ever (at least that’s what we tell ourselves). Funny pants as we recount our traveling adventures. But, these are not the pants I’m referring to in the title. Those pants have to do with Rick and Cynde (Ryan’s Dad and Step-Mom) meeting up with the Trio in Croatia and going with the flow and flying by the seat of their pants. Other than a hotel reservation in Zagreb for our first night and a car rental, we had NO plans or reservations for the rest of the trip. Rick and Cynde traveling JJ&R style. And, satisfied energized pants came out of the adventure.

Our Croatian adventures began in Zagreb where Rick, Cynde, Joe, Ryan and I all met. Joe’s luggage decided to go partying without him from South Africa to Spain and who knows where else. While waiting for his luggage to appear in Zagreb we decided to take a day trip, in our rented 12 person “passenger van”/mini bus that was more bus than mini, to Lublijana the capital of Slovenia. The van was easy to maneuver in the wide city streets (little did we know what was to come). The city was beautiful and we enjoyed the best pizza of our trip at a river side cafĂ©.

With only a small hangover, Joe’s luggage found us in Zagreb and we headed out of town. Plitvice Lakes National Park with its numerous crystal clear glowing blue lakes and waterfalls was our next stop. We spent the day hiking through the Unesco World Heritage site. The lakes were like nothing we’d seen before where the mosses and algae absorb calcium carbonate as river water rushes through and the encrusted plants grow on top of each other (called tufa) forming travertine barriers and creating waterfalls. Truly spectacular!

The up and coming city of Zadar was our next stop where the minibus posed the biggest challenge (see photos). Good thing the men are so adept at maneuvering motorized toys! We found a quirky little apartment where we cooked dinner, strung our laundry across the living room to dry and walked a few paces to the Adriatic where Ryan and Rick played. After a couple days there, we packed the minibus and Split (had to get at least one Simms-ism in there :)).

On our way to Split we visited Sibenik, known for its World Heritage site Cathedral of St. James. The cathedral is the sculptor Dalmatinac’s masterpiece with its unusual 71 heads on the exterior walls which are character studies of ordinary 15th century citizens. We also stopped at Krka National Park to see more beautiful waterfalls and lakes with tufa. In Split we landed a fantastic apartment! This place would cost you millions in New York! The apartment along with much of the living thriving population of Split is located within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. The palace itself is has served as a military fortress, imperial residence, fortified town and is another Unesco World Heritage Site with the Roman ruins covering 31,000 sq meters. We said goodbye to the minibus in Split and opted for other modes of transportation.

To the islands by foot and ferry we traveled (good story, you should ask Rick about it). We don’t recommend running down the dock yelling for the ferry crew to hold the ferry and being the last passengers to jump aboard. Do you know that I had visions of jumping from the dock to the ferry boat with my backpack on, not quite making it and being suspended in air wedged between the two until I plummeted to my death below being drowned by the weight of my backpack. Good thing I handed my pack over before I jumped and we all made it on board with about 2.5 seconds to spare. Korchula was our island of choice and where we stumbled upon another fantastic apartment (dirt cheap) with an ocean view run by a sweet family who provided us with flasks of their homemade wine. After more swimming in the Adriatic, dining sea side on fresh mussels, oysters and fish we headed to Dubrovnik.

One more short ferry to the main land (we didn’t have to run for this one) and we made it safely to Dubrovnik. We enjoyed more great food, swimming (see a theme here?) walking the great wall and strolling the Stradun. The 400 steps up to our apartment gave us an incredible view of the city from our balcony, prime viewing of the Maltese Falcon that came into port and nice buns, too.

By going with the flow, having patience and being flexible we were able to have an outstanding trip. We could go where we wanted , when we wanted. Rick could run to the market to retrieve delicious bakery and produce items for our breakfasts. Cynde could stroll and photograph at will. Joe could nap under a shady tree near the sea. And, Ryan and I could do laundry, hanging our clean pants in the sun to bask in the warmth of a beautiful Croatian day.