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Apr 30, 2015

Diocletian's Domain: Split, Croatia

After our leisurely morning exploring Krka National Park, we made the hour drive back down to the coast to spend the rest of the day enjoying the ancient city of Split. Just from the short boat ride into the port, we knew we were in for a treat wandering Diocletian's old stomping grounds (a popular UNESCO World Heritage site today). The town is riddled with fluffy palm trees and winding alleyways that open up to marbled squares with quaint outdoor dining. Every ounce of this town holds some piece of history within its walls. The grand columns, missing bricks, and worn walkways tell a story of war, power, and royalty. 

The ruins of Diocletian's Palace can be found in great number throughout the city. The Roman Emperor spent the last years of his life living here after giving up his throne in May of 305. His intent in building this palace? To retire by the sea in peace. To me, the palace is better described as a fortress of sorts, with half the "palace" intended to house Diocletian and the other section used as a protective military garrison (and a place for his military to live). Once Diocletian had passed and the Romans had left, the palace remained empty for many years until it was taken over by local residents seeking the refuge of its walls from invading Slavs. As the world's most complete and well-preseved palace, I'd say Diocletian's placement of his retirement "home" couldn't be more divine. Today, locals (around 3000 of them live here) and tourists alike find wonder and peace within its walls. Hard to beat living among incredible Roman architecture, that's for sure!

We spent our time in Split how I imagine most everyone does. We shopped in the palace markets, we wandered the limestone & marble paved streets, and we snapped dozens of photos of palace ruins (and the adorable weathered shutters!). But my most favorite memory was when we sat at a cafe right alongside the cathedral belfry and enjoyed a glass of local wine. It was so surreal to be sitting beside such history…people watching and trying to imagine what life there would have been like so many years ago. It's in moments like that that I feel so full of love for travel and the places we've been able to see during our time abroad. History books only teach you so much. Experiencing the history firsthand is worth its weight in gold, my friends. Split totally captured my heart and has me itching to see more of Croatia someday!

While there is more from beautiful Croatia to come (hello, Dubrovnik!)…our next port of call was in a country I never thought I'd ever visit. Stay tuned for tales from MONTENEGRO!

Apr 27, 2015

Croatia: Krka National Park

There are so many incredible places to see in Croatia that we had a really hard time narrowing down what we wanted to do while in port in Split. We knew we wanted to wander around Split, but we also wanted to spend some time seeing more of the Croatian landscape. I don't know how many blog post and pins I've seen of Croatia's famed Plitvice Lakes…and while it was something we both wanted to see, the drive from Split would have given us only a day at the lakes and no time for exploring Split itself. So, when we heard there was another beautiful national park just an hour from port, we jumped at the chance to spend the morning there!

Krka National Park, while smaller than Plitvice Lakes, still offers lush green forests, turquoise wading pools, and dozens of rushing waterfalls. Krka is also noted as being less crowded...a quality much appreciated on very tour-heavy vacations. Thankfully we were able to separate ourselves from the tour group and wandered off to explore on our own. After making a quick bathroom stop, we started making our way through the park via the over-water wooden paths that wind through the forest in all directions. The sound of the rushing water was so soothing and the scenery was exactly what we hoped it would be...gorgeous! Since we visited in early May, the temps were cooler, so we weren't pummeled with heat and humidity during our leisurely 4km walk (took us roughly 1 hour to do with lots of photography stops). The walking path above the water was almost always covered by trees making the stroll even more enjoyable.

Throughout the park there were dozens of waterfalls popping up behind every stream, but it wasn't until the end of our walk through the park that the grand finale falls made its appearance. Amidst a giant blue pool was a slurry of beautiful waterfalls, all covered in moss and rushing swiftly under a long footbridge dozens of happy tourists were wandering across. Had it been warmer, I'm sure we'd have seen many of them wading in the pool at the foot of the falls (another slight difference between Plitvice & Krka...you can swim in the waterfalls here!). After enjoying the falls and snapping a gagillion photos, we grabbed a snack at the restaurant near the exit and then hopped the bus back to Split to spend the rest of the day exploring Diocletian's palace. If you can't make it to Plitvice Lakes, I'm here to tell you that Krka National Park is a lovely compromise. I'm so glad we were able to take in one of Croatia's natural wonders!

More from Croatia to come!

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