13 months
Aug 26:
rethink croatia
Sep 1:
stairway to exploding yogurt
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the low down
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(italy)

view of houses from atop the city wall
Dubrovnik, Croatia; Aug 31, 2005

beating the crowds

For the bulk of our trip, we’ve managed to avoid regional high seasons, but alas, here we are in the peak of the European tourist season. We were originally planning to be in Greece this month, but we heard that the tourist hoards there were especially bad, so we decided to visit Croatia instead. Unfortunately, our stay included the specific week in August during which an almost impossible number of Italians descend upon Croatia like paparazzi on Lindsay Lohan. The week before and the week after are crowded, too, but once you get outside those three, it’s not so bad.

the crowded beach in Hvar Town

We had been told to expect the worst for these weeks. The buses would be crowded and stinky, the rooms would be taken, and the ferries would be full. Since we had no hotel or transportation reservations, we had to figure out the best plan. Here’s how we managed:

First we spent a few days in Zagreb, the capital. It was nearly empty since a big percentage of the locals were at the coast on vacation (Zagreb is not on the coast). Ironically, this was one time where we were a bit too successful avoiding the crowds, but we really enjoyed a relaxing few days in Zagreb. When a place is not crowded, not only is it easy to find a room, but you can sometimes get an especially good deal. One downside, however, is that a lot of restaurants were not open.

We further delayed our trip to the coast (and the crowds) by hopping on a train for a short 5-night visit to Ljubljana, Slovenia (see the previous update). Then we returned via Zagreb and headed to the coast and islands. The first island we visited was Hvar, and yes, the main town (Hvar Town) was practically bursting at the seams. Upon our arrival, we managed to find a table to grab lunch (no small feat) and then immediately muscled onto an old bus and headed across the island to the “quiet side,” where we stayed in a small town called Jelsa (which turned out to be one of our favorite places on the whole trip). There were plenty of people there, but it was MUCH less crowded than Hvar Town. By the time we headed back to Hvar Town for a few days, a significant number of Italians had returned home, and it was much easier to find a place to eat (and sleep, for that matter).

one of many not-very-crowded beaches somewhere outside of Vis Town

In the end, we managed to spend only a few days rubbing sunscreened shoulders with an infinite number of incredibly well-dressed, attractive, and fun-loving Italians (sometimes crowds aren’t so bad, right?). So the moral is: it IS possible to avoid the crowds in high season. Of course there’s the age-old wisdom of “plan ahead” (which really is good advice), but if you can’t do that (and we couldn’t), you can just figure out where everyone wants to be and go to the town or country next to that one. Of course there will be other people just as smart as you that have done the same thing, but you can just raise a glass with them and toast your collective smartness.

   
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