I haven’t done any traveling over the last 4 months, but I finally jumped back in with a brief 9-day road trip through Croatia.
I’ve been to Croatia once before, on a sailing trip around the southern Dalmatian islands back in 2010. It was in mid-August with gorgeous sunny weather and lots of swimming in the sea every day. It was a wonderful trip, though this time around the goal was to have more of a sightseeing trip and less of a summer holiday — and to see much more of Croatia itself.
But I must confess, going to the Croatian coast in March wasn’t the best idea.
I’ve traveled in the off-season in many countries, but along the Croatian coast I had the sense that everything was still totally in hibernation mode, and that most places weren’t quite ready for us yet.
Hostels were closed or empty, museums shut early, and most of the cities felt like ghost towns. When we checked in to a guesthouse in Sibenik, the receptionist showed us a map of the town but stopped describing the places mid-way, saying “actually, there’s no point in telling you this as everything is closed anyway”. Oh… 🙁
I had hoped things would be ever so slightly livelier around this time of year; I would have preferred to have gone in May or June, but my travel buddy could only do March and so that’s what we did. But it was cold, the streets and restaurants were empty, a storm prevented us from reaching Krk island, and it felt like maybe choosing to go here at this time was a mistake.
Fortunately, things did pick up as we went south and got closer to Dubrovnik, which is located in the southernmost tip of Croatia. It was (at last) wonderfully sunny there, and hiking up one of the hills for a view of the city made for a particularly nice day. Dubrovnik has a reputation of being overrun with tourists in summer, but in March it felt unhurried and lovely.
We also lucked out in Dubrovnik as it just so happened that it was being used as a location for the next Star Wars movie that weekend. Being a bit of a movie geek, I didn’t mind this at all.
The houses along the main street all had Star Wars facades attached, the street name plates had been replaced with suitably galactic versions, and some of the windy back-alleys had been cleverly re-dressed with futuristic-looking lamps. All of the filming locations were accessible while they were still setting them up, so it was fun to take pictures, poke around, and watch some stunt people test some of the rigs.
Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we hit up an Irish bar in the evening where we got to mingle with a bunch of people working on the movie. I ending up chatting with some of the costume designers, riggers, and the main cameraman for a sequence they were filming that day. They were all a bit skittish to talk with some randoms at first, as the whole project is surrounded in secrecy, but once they understood we weren’t trying to get them drunk to give us spoilers we had a great time hanging out with some of the crew.
While the weather and timing of my Croatia trip weren’t generally that awesome, one other aspect that I did enjoy hugely was simply driving along the beautiful Dalmatian coast. Some of the views were gorgeous and the last leg of our trip to Dubrovnik was especially satisfying, as there the roads are all fun and windy, with cypress trees dotting the cliffs along the Mediterranean coastline.