Croatia gained its independence in 1991 and is about to become part of the European Union, although it still uses its local currency, the kuna, rather than the euro. The war with the Serbs over who should occupy certain towns and cities ended 17 years ago. Memories still linger, of course. Take a ride through the countryside and see abandoned villages once occupied by Serbs and abandoned homes pock marked with bullet holes. But 21st-century is Croatia not only safe and peaceful, it's a bargain for travelers compared to Western Europe.
Tom and I last visited Croatia about nine years ago, and at that time, visited Dubrovnik as well as spending time in Bosnia. This is a short 10-day trip for us, so we had to make some hard choices: A short visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park, then onto Sibenik, a small town on the Dalmatian coast; the Roman city of Split; and finally Zagreb.
We usually like to start out in a major city, but we decided to save Zagreb until the end this time, and instead head directly from the airport to the bus station and onto a bus for a two-hour ride to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Maybe it was the special Hindu meal we ordered on Delta Airlines, but we arrived surprisingly un-jet-lagged, given the 13 hours of flying time from Seattle via Paris and the nine-hour time difference.
For some reason, the AC wasn't working on the bus, and Croatians consider breathing outside air while in a car or bus unhealthy, so everyone toughed it out with the windows closed. We spotted some nice little guesthouses along the way, but since we don't have a car, we reserved a room at one of the two hotels inside the park. The Hotel Bellevue is a big Communist-era place that looks as if it's set up mostly for tour groups, but it's quiet this time of year and a good value. So quiet, in fact, we could hear birds and frogs from our porch. After a walk and a dinner of fresh lake trout, veggies, salad, strudel and red wine, we were ready to explore.