5 Reasons to visit Medjimurje

Croatia’s northernmost region, Medjimurje, features a wide array of experiences and beauty. Previously unknown to me before this trip, Medjimurje’s at home feel and charming people make it a lovely place to visit off the main tourist path. 

 

1. Trakoscan Castle

Ok admittedly, the Trakoscan Castle is in the county before Medjimurje, but it makes for a great stop if you are traveling up to Medjimurje from Zagreb. The castle dates back to the 13th century and was built on top of a very isolated hill, giving it a tactful advantage against intruders. The castle costs about 120kn to tour and remains in good condition after many restorations. Having changed hands many times, the decor inside reflects that of several different time periods. Knight’s armor is displayed in one room, showing not only the way that battles were fought but also that the men were very short. The most interesting part, at least for me, was seeing the very short beds in the castle. On top of the people living their being on the shorter side, they believed that laying all the way down was for the dead, so pillows were used to keep the sleeping propped up. The castle also hosts a collection of early photographs and weapons.

2. Neat-ure areas

The Mura and Drava rivers flow through the region Medjimurje making for some stunning nature areas and parks. The Mura Drava regional park is a relaxed park on the Mura river and has various outdoor activities and trails.

3. Local History

Medjimurje boasts a rich local history as well. The first oil well in the world was discovered here in 1858, one year before in Pennsylvania. In the city of Cakovec, there is a memorial for a destroyed synagogue that was destroyed during WWII. One of the more romantic local gems is a fallen tree in the local park that all the couples married in the park have a picture in front of, including our tour guide.

4. “Wait, are we in Slovenia?”

The question, “wait are in Slovenia?” was among the most common asked in our driving tour of Medjimurje. We drove out to the border but didn’t cross, and went up to this hill top where you in three direction you could see three countries expanded along the horizon. Croatia’s Medjimurje borders Slovenia and Hungary

5. Nothing to wine about 

Medjimurje is known for it’s wine. It is one of the top three regions in the world for Sauvignon Blanc and has more than 30 places to try wine. Wine tasting, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to get to know locals and experience a bit more of the local culture and cuisine. The beautiful rolling hills and vineyards in Medjimurje make not only for a picture perfect landscape, but a wonderful view while tasting wine.

 

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5 Reasons to Take a Rafting Trip in Croatia

My group took a rafting trip down the Cetina River in Croatia while staying just outside Spilt in Podstrana. Just a short drive from the city Omis, the mountains hiding the canyon hosting the Cetina River creating a secluded, serene setting for enjoy all the beauty Croatia has to offer. As I love the outdoors, I was expecting to enjoy the trip, however, it ended up being one of the highlights of my two-week trip. The new view of Croatia is one of the many reasons a rafting trip is a must try while visiting. 

  1. Ditch the crowds

With Croatia’s beautiful scenery and friendly people, it is not wonder the number of tourist are growing at a rapid rate. Spilt is a port town and on days that boats unload or during the height of the season, I would love nothing more than to avoid it. I am someone who will admit to wanting to ditch the crowds to find the hidden gems or local thing thing to do, and rafting offered me just that; a beautiful day on a river with maybe two other boats of people.

2. Dashing dalmatians

Spilt is located in the region of Croatia called Dalmatia, and who better to guide Americans down a river than some dashing local river guides? These charming guides not only led us down the river, but offered lively conversation and hospitality. They know the area very well and even know the best places to stop and cliff jump. After our trip, we drank Rakija (the locally made brandy) together and made plans to meet up in Split later in the week. We ended up meeting up Split, and it was really great to meet and connect with new people.

3. Beat the heat

When our group was in Split it was more than a little hot, but while going down the river cooling off was nothing more than dunking your head over the boat or standing under a waterfall. The constant swinging and splashing not only lead to lots of laughter, but to a cool relaxing day.

4. Water, water, everywhere

The water in some areas is fresh spring water so the guides will just pull over and you can drink out of the waterfall. I live in Colorado and used to live near Lake Tahoe in California, so I’ve had some good, clean mountain water in my life, but absolutely nothing compares to this water. It is chilled to perfection and fresh like I couldn’t believe. It was the coolest experience to drink straight out of this waterfall and see all the fresh, clean water around us.

5. You just might find something a little unexpected

I’ll admit, at the beginning of the day, I did not realize we were driving along the coast then heading up into the mountains. While the scenery on the drive there was beautiful the canyon that the river has forged is stunning. However, rafting turned spelunking about halfway through the tour and it could not have been more exciting, or unexpected. There was a part of the river that was too narrow for everyone in a boat to get through so we had to walk around, and our options were to a) take a nice, safe walk around and b) spelunk through a cave. Naturally, the majority of us picked the latter. We climbed through a waterfall, jumped into a pool of water, climbed out to enter the cave, climbed through in mostly pure darkness and running water at our feet, and met the guides at the exit only after climbing over lots and lots of rocks. I couldn’t have been more surprised at the adventure that affirms my life motto, “the journey is the joy.”

 

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Top 5 Things to Do in Dubrovnik

It is no wonder Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s biggest attractions. The Old Town and sea front views are among the best Southern Dalmatia has to offer. With a vivid history dating back to the 7th century, the city has survived countless bombings and reflects the work of many historical periods including buildings in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s biggest cities and offers visitors a wide variety of things to do.

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  1. Scale the walls

The Old Town of Dubrovnik is surrounded by a huge wall that was meant to protect the city and its people from attacks, but today you can walk around the the borders of the Old City. There is a medieval watchtower that has a panoramic view of the city and lots of bird-eye views of inside the city.

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2. Find famous film spots

It is no secret how beautiful Croatia is, and Hollywood has had no problem finding it. The Game of Thrones crew and cast are constants in Dubrovnik as the popular HBO show has been filming their since its first season in 2011, and the most recent appearance Dubrovnik has made on the big screen is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While we were there, we watched the a British show being filmed from the city wall. On a sidenote: there are tons of Game of Thrones and Star Wars souvenirs, but get ready to pay $30 for a mug if that’s on your radar.DSC_0561DSC_0567

3. Rent Kayaks

There are kayak tours around the city that offer a different view of the city and the cursed Love Island. The Adriatic Sea is relatively calm and a perfect temperature, so it’s the perfect activity for a hot day full of adventure.  

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4. Bars and cliff jumping

Just outside the city walls, in the narrow space between the ocean and wall, some bars rest for the enjoyment of tourists. Nestled right on the ocean, it is the perfect spot for a refreshing drink and swim. I decided to get my daily rush of adrenaline by cliff jumping, and I jumped from the highest point, but they have some nice medium and super low rocks so people can hop in the water and swim. If cliff jumping isn’t your thing, you can always just watch, enjoy the view, and get a drink.

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5. Take the gondola

Take the revamped cable car up to Mount Srđ for a panoramic view of Dubrovnik.  The mountain was used as a lookout for much of Dubrovnik’s history, even until the 1990’s, but today it serves as a place to get a breathtaking view of the Adriatic Sea and city.

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5 Things to Know Croatia’s Stone Mason School

Located on the island Brač, Klesarka Škola is the stonemason school of Croatia. Founded in January of 1909, rock has been carved and excavated on Brač and shipped around the world. Klesarka Škola is located right on the sea in Pučišća, and many people stop by to watch students work with and create beautiful pieces of art from stone. It is a trade that is local to Croatia and holds a long history in Europe, so while it might seem weird to visit a school where people carve stone on vacation, it really is worth the visit.  

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  1. Last existing Stone Masonry in Croatia

While the trade used to be very popular, funding for schools like this have diminished and so has the number of applicants. These students show their works throughout Europe, but the number of people applying to this program are dwindling. The school remains in beautiful condition, but this Croatian tradition is threatened by the decreasing funding.

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2. “Croatian brend”

On a tour of Split one of the things our tour guide emphasized was that the stone from Brač could be found at the White House and has been shipped all over the world including the Parliament building in Budapest and locally at the Diocletian Palace in Split. In fact, our group had more than a few people boast that a piece of Croatia can be found right home in the United States.

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3. Every move counts

Once the stone is carved and brought to the school, students begin preparing the rock for their projects and carving, however, if a mistake is made, that entire rock is ruined and must be thrown out. No pressure, right?DSC_0884DSC_0922

4. Students during the year and workshops during the summer

The school system at Klesarka Škola is very similar to that in the United States. Their school year lines up very closely to our fall and spring semesters, leaving the summer free. The doors to the work rooms are open, letting visitors peek inside at the work being done. During the summer while the students are away, people can actually take workshops and classes there, and if you are lucky, they’ll tell you want they are up to and maybe let you take a swing at the stone.

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5. Learn something new

The biggest reason that I travel is to learn. Whether it be the history of the area that I’m in or the local food of the area, I feel as though the purpose of travel is to go outside my comfort zone and experience something I haven’t yet. Before this trip, I knew exactly nothing about how stone was carved, let alone have the chance to watch people do it. This is an experience unique to Brač that offers something new and a little different.

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