After our Lago di Federa hike Jason and I decided we wanted to end our Italian adventures with a little via ferrata. We woke up early and dressed in hiking clothes only to find out from the Cortina hiking office that our chosen via ferrate route was closed due to snow. The only other options that did not involve a very long hike in and out were too easy to be considered an adventure so we decided to head on towards Croatia and find somewhere cool to stop along the way.
On the drive through the Italian countryside I looked up hikes outside of Venice, in Trieste, and in Rijeka because they were all on our way to our hotel on the island of Krk. Nothing really stuck out so I got a little more creative with my googling and eventually found a link to the Škocjan caves in Slovenia. They are a UNESCO World Heritage site and were only a couple kilometers out of the way. Perfect!
After some confusion about the location of the entrance (our GPS took us down a very narrow alley type road in Matavan, Slovenia), we made it to the parking lot and paid our 21 EUR for both a guided tour through the large cave and a self-guided tour along the Reka River (which literally translated means river river). Our tour guide for the guided section was hilarious, making jokes throughout the whole tour while imparting a lot of interesting information. Apparently the people who lived in the surrounding villages knew that the Reka River was on both sides of the cave system, but didn’t know how it connected until the 1900s. After the first person successfully navigated through the caves, they quickly became a tourist attraction, with workers using candles attached to their hats to carve out steps and walkways into the rock walls. A couple of big floods caused serious damage to the original trails through the caves so the locals appealed to UNESCO to name the site a World Heritage site to help protect it and rebuild the infrastructure needed for tourism. More information about the history of the caves can be found here.
After the guided tour most of our group returned to the Visitors Center (after a quick visit to a beautiful waterfall), but we continued on with the self-guided section of the tour. Although the information we had been given at the Visitor’ Center described the sections we were walking through, we decided to just absorb the experience and read about the details in the car. That was a great decision because this section of the park was almost devoid of visitors, allowing us to really soak in the solitude of the area and revel in the magnitude of the caves. After spending a while trying to take pictures in the final cave, we made the quick but steep climb back to the top of the canyon and followed the well marked trail through the village and back to the Visitors Center.
After a couple more hours in the car, we finally arrived at our next destination of the trip: the island of Krk! This part of the trip was our schedule relaxation period, with no plans besides relaxing next to the Mediterranean. We didn’t have anywhere we needed to be for four whole days, when we would head to Plitvice Lakes National Park, but we only booked our hotel for two nights to leave ourselves open to adventure. Upon arriving at our hotel we quickly realized it was actually a resort, complete with a swimming pool and very easy access to the rocky Adriatic Sea shoreline. Our room was simply decorated with an appropriately nautical theme and our view looked out over the old town of Krk. After a quick toe-dip in the Mediterranean, we headed inside for dinner – and what a shock it was!
We had come to expect hotel dinner to be a really nice affair, complete with waiters and delicious food. This hotel was the complete opposite. The “restaurant” was actually more of a cafeteria and resembled a zoo, with crazed vacationers rudely pushing and shoving to the get the “best” food from the cafeteria bar. Needless to say, we were highly disappointed in our meal. The only redeeming part of dinner was the fact that we were never charged for it, so at least we didn’t waste money on gross food. After that experience we decided to do some research and stick with the restaurants in town. After dinner we retired for the night, enjoying a little bit of Croatian Wheel of Fortune before we fell asleep.
The next morning we slept in but still woke up in time for breakfast, assuming that it couldn’t be worse than dinner the night before. We were right, the breakfast was better and significantly less crowded, which helped improve the ambiance. The food still wasn’t good but at least it wasn’t bad. After breakfast we went back to the hotel room for a little more relaxation before heading into town to explore. We walked along the beachfront between our hotel and the city, admiring the sailboats dotting the crystal clear bay. After working up an appetite we decided to stop at one of the waterfront restaurants for an early lunch. The food was delicious and we were finally able to experience the fresh Croatian seafood! Jason ordered a huge bowl of mussels and I ordered a plate of green scampi. Both were delicious and left us intent on following up on our decision to stick to the restaurants in Krk for our meals.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing on the beach, aka a concrete slab that created a flat surface between all the rocks on the shoreline, and swimming in the cold but refreshing water. It was absolutely perfect and was a much needed rest in between all our adventures. After a quick shower, we headed back into the town of Krk for dinner. I had done some research and every website stated that the restaurant Galija had the best food in town, so we pointed our noses and stomachs in that direction. We managed to arrive before the dinnertime rush, which afforded us with a table next to the open patio. Apparently the line for dinner can wrap around the street! Galija is famous for its seafood and its pizza, so Jason ordered a pizza and I ordered the seafood platter. Both were huge and delicious! Mine came with a whole baked sea bass, shrimp, calamari, and mussels. It was the best possible way to end our stay in Krk.
During dinner we debated where we wanted to go next. So many options were presented and discussed but we kept circling back to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik has been on my list of places I want to visit since high school and moved up a couple notches once I started watching Game of Thrones and realized it was the location of Kings Landing. After a little research back at the hotel we decided we were heading south to Dubrovnik the following day and staying within the city walls! But that’s a story for another blog post.