"Happy honeydays!" she exclaimed.
Our honeymoon in Croatia was off to a fantastic start.
The full 11-day journey took us from Zagreb to Split, where we spent three nights at the gorgeous Starwood Le Meridien Hotel (on points!); on the ferry to Hvar and back to Split, where we picked up a rental car and drove to the walled tourist mecca of Dubrovnik. We had a quick stint driving through Bosnia and then a very long day trip to Montenegro to see Kotor, Perast, Centije and the beach at Budva. (I would recommend taking two days. It's worth it.)
The adventure began in Zagreb, where we thought we would spend a day and a half catching up on some sleep before the "real" trip began. But with so much to see, we were quickly out of the hotel and walking the lower and upper town. We took in the many churches, like the must-see Katedral and this, St. Mark's Church, with it's Croatia coat of arms, or tribute to LegoLand, tiled roof.
(I don't know how to pose for photos. It's a problem.)
SPLIT SIDE STORY: The Paper Underwear Lady
We were cooling off with some diet Cokes at a table on the Riva in Split harbor, waiting for the ferry to Hvar, and struck up a conversation with the retired couple at the next table. The woman looked at our luggage, admittedly overpacked and over numbered, and said, "You should get paper underwear."
"Paper underwear." We were too confused to respond. "You can bring a week's worth in a space this big," she said. The tip of her thumb and pointer finger were barely separated. "You throw it out when you're done. It's the best!"
"Did you check out Dioclesian's Palace?" I asked, trying not to imagine the paper underwear that the women was clearly wearing and focusing instead on the 4th century palace-turned-town and UNESCO World Heritage Site a mere hundred feet from our seats.
"Nah." She swatted in the direction of the palace wall as if it were a pesky fly. "I don't care. We're just going to get back on the ship."
Here's a bit of what she missed.
Pay a little extra to go underneath the Cathedral of St. Dominus. It's worth it.
And try to find the Church of St. Martin, a narrow, matchbox of a church that used to be the passageway for watchmen who secured the entrance of Diocletian's Palace.
As with every trip, get away from the crowds. You'll find the best views and make the best discoveries, like Vidilica bar at the top of marjan hill.
While the entire trip was magical, there was something about Hvar that really grabbed us. The H is silent, by the way, though not entirely. It’s more like the H is for hacking, or hawking a loogie. I got by best by just dropping it all together and saying Var. We arrived via fast catamaran ferry from Split to (a beautiful ride if you can manage a window seat) and felt immediately that we could have spent our entire honeymoon there.
We stayed in the "city" of Hvar itself, Hvar town, taking in the bustling marina, enjoying treats and coffee and Ožujsko beer at the port's many cafes and bars.
The walk up to the Spanish Fort will have you huffing and puffing, especially in the August heat when we were there. But the view is spectacular and there are many gems to discover along the way.
Feeling adventurous, we took a water taxi from Hvar town to the island of Stipanska in the Pakleni island group, a place we knew nothing about, just that it was a small island with no homes, a rocky coastline, and one "restaurant." The "restaurant" turned out to be Carpe Diem Beach Bar, a posh, bordering on pretentious but beautiful escape fit for a Roman emperor nestled among pine trees and chirping cicadas.
Then it was time to return to Split, get the rental car and drive to Dubrovnik. The curvy coastal route is dramatic and captivating, like the Pacific Coast Highway in California or Italy's Amalfi Coast. Put the window down and take in the spectacular view.
The August heat and bus loads of tourists made exploring the walled city during the day a taxing venture. So, we struck out on our own and found many rocky coves lining the coast line that were perfect for jumping from into the warm Adriatic waters. Some are for locals only though so be aware. They'll let make sure you know when you've stumbled across one.
At night, Dubrovnik is magic. The tour buses are gone and city breathes once more. There are so many alleyways and hidden cafes and restaurants within the walled city that you never know what you might stumble upon. Perhaps an orchestral concert and light show...
Perhaps our favorite moment in Dubrovnik came when we found the "hidden" entrance to Bar Buza, a bar etched into the rocky ledges of the city walls and some say the sunset capital of Croatia.
When the last sunset fell and it was time to leave we took our final sips of dingac wine, thought about all that we had done in those 11 days, and said, with confidence, that we now loved Croatia more than ever.
If you are interested in a honeymoon, or trip of any kind in Croatia, we found http://www.croatiatraveller.com to be particularly insightful.