Croatia is something special. It’s one of those places that I enjoyed in the moment, but afterwards, looking back at the big picture, I realize how wonderful it truly was. Now when people ask about my favorite places, Croatia kind of just slips off my tongue and sneaks into my answer. There are a million reasons to love this diverse country, but I narrowed it down to six small reasons I discovered while traveling through Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the Istrian Peninsula.
Thank goodness my days of picky eating are over, because… TRUFFLE. Croatia is home to some of the best truffle in the world and it was in a small town called Motovun in the Istrian Peninsula where I devoured the best meal of my life. A three-course meal made entirely of, you guessed it, truffle.
As we wandered the streets of Motovun, it was nearly impossible to control the drool as the overwhelming smell of that divine little mushroom invaded my nostrils.
If we had one more day in the Istria area, I defintely would have participated in truffle hunting in the Motovun Forest, one of the best places in the world to find the fungus. Apparently well-trained truffle dogs and pigs are used to track the scent. Once the animal locates a mushroom, it digs it up and wah-lah! They’ve just unburried a little treasure worth quite a chunk of money.
They’re known to be so costly due to their unpredictable growth. No one has been able to domesticate these mushrooms, which grow near the roots of oak trees. If you want a major delicacy… ask for white truffle, which can sell for thousands of dollars per pound.
2. quirky museums
I’ve always loved little opportunities to have a glimpse into stranger’s lives. PostSecret, a platform for people to anonymously share their deepest, most intimate secrets, and Found Magazine, a platform for people to mail in lost letters and notes, both give a glimpse into people’s rawest, most personal stories, which in turn makes me feel more human and more connected to the world. When I heard about Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships, I knew I had to go. A downpour had just begun and we were desperately looking for a place to tuck into, when we turned the corner and found the perfect escape. It’s a small museum filled with spunk and stories. People ship the museum a memorable or significant component of a past relationship. It can be something as small as a paperclip or as big as a floor lamp and they attach a note that provides a small glimpse into his or her very personal story. Some are sad, some are funny, some are disgusting, some are simply tragic. However, I’m always thankful for humbling opportunities like these that provide a chance to connect to humans in a way I’d never though possible.
The obvious reason here is Plitvice Lakes National Park.
We were there just a few weeks before the heavy season started, so we didn’t experience the lines and traffic like most do during the heat of the summer.
We also chose to do the longest route (about 13 miles), which led us into the depths of the park, often providing some of the most stunning views completely void of any other humans.
In addition to some of the most stunning nature I’ve ever seen, it was also an impeccably clean park with the clearest, bluest waters. This place is definitely some kind of paradise.
My second favorite scent in the world (after truffle, duh) is lavender. And no, I didn’t have a favorite scent list until this trip. The Istrian Peninsula is also teeming with lavender and the aroma of the flower floods the moist air, battling the fragrance of the truffle for prime nostril real estate.
I seriously couldn’t get enough as I sniffed and sniffed and sniffed, feeling almost certain that I could spend a completely fulfilled life, forever just inhaling the scents of lavender and truffle around Motovun.
5. hilltop villages
We rented a car on this trip, which gave us the freedom to stop whenever we spotted something pretty. Which was often. Croatia has so many little villages that are poised on hilltops, leading me to exclaim “CAN WE STOP?!” more than what was probably healthy.
Even if it wasn’t practical to stop at every single village, there’s nothing like driving through Croatia with your best friend, windows down, music playing while reflecting on the past two year’s adventures surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery this world has to offer.
6. street art
I’ve recently become very intrigued by street art and murals. Not trashy graffiti, but respectable, meant-to-be-there street art. Zagreb was full of it.
There was a long stretch of wall near the capital’s train station that was covered with interesting artwork. We even found it in Opatija and Motovun, two places that seemed less likely to display such art.
Croatia is simply stunning and offers such a range of beauty. From tiny hill-top villages full of exquisite mushrooms, to lush green forests full of waterfalls, this Eastern European country isn’t to be missed.