Travel achievement: unlocked!
With this leg of our European journey, I can now say that I’ve personally visited 30 countries. I’ve been really excited to reach this milestone for quite some time.
Why 30? No reason, it just seemed like a nice round number. Now that it’s done, 40, 50, or even 60 countries seems so possible. There’s still so much to see in this world!
The past week in Croatia and Bosnia was really fun. My wife and I, along with our travel buddy Jennifer Hu, treated this journey more as a vacation. It was less about Airbnb and more about treating ourselves to resorts and cocktails. We can’t afford to do this kind of travel long-term but it’s nice to splurge every once in a while to mix things up.
Croatia and Bosnia offer a lot for the traveler to take in. Here are some of the highlights of our past seven days in Croatia:
The Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is the body of water that separates the Italian and Balkan peninsulas. It is the water that you’ll be swimming in when you visit Croatia; and it’s heavenly.
A few interesting “facts” about the Adriatic Sea:
- It’s super clear
- It’s the perfect temperature
- It’s more salty than usual
Point number three is particularly interesting to me. I happen to be a terrible swimmer. For whatever reason, I never really got that buoyancy thing down.
But because the Adriatic is really salty, floating is easy and thus swimming for long stretches of time is a breeze. I was surprised to find myself swimming and treading for over ninety minutes at a time, which is definitely an all-time best for me.
The Adriatic offers by far the best open water swimming I have ever experienced. It’s worth visiting Croatia just to swim, period.
If you are an HBO Game of Thrones fan, then you will probably get really excited about Dubrovnik. Old town Dubrovnik is a completely walled, picturesque town right on the Adriatic Sea. It is also one of the main film locations for Game of Thrones. Several areas of this town were used to film the “King’s Landing” scenes for this series.
Dubrovnik reminded me a lot of Venice, and for good reason—the original architect of Venice designed Dubrovnik. It’s a romantic city to walk with narrow alleys and tall sun-baked Mediterranean roofs.
This place is freaking gorgeous, but truth be told I didn’t really like it here much. It seems that the secret is out about how awesome this place is and as a result, it’s super touristy.
Definitely worth a visit, but just prepare yourself for a slightly Disneyland-like experience.
We were told that while visiting Dubrovnik, one must take a trip across the border to Bosnia-Herzegovina to visit the town of Mostar.
Croatia, on the whole, appears to be thriving. Bosnia on the other hand is definitely struggling and hasn’t seemed to shake off the effects of the Yugoslavia breakup in the 1990s.
Mostar is unique in that it is somewhat similar to towns you will find in Turkey. In fact, the Ottomans ruled this area of the Balkans for quite some time. The people here are largely Muslim and you’ll find some fun Turkish traditions like drinking copious amounts of black tea at all hours of the day.
While the town is interesting in its own right, I can’t emphasize enough that the Dubrovnik visitor should avoid visiting at all costs. We hired a private driver to take us to the town, in what should have been a 90-minute drive. The journey ended up taking us 5 hours (and 4 hours back). The reason why is that traffic gets bottlenecked right at the border (three immigration checkpoints!) and the immigration staff totally sucks.
Don’t go to Mostar. Instead, go swim in the Adriatic.
The biggest highlight of our Balkan trip was getting some quality time with our old college buddy, Jennifer Hu. Jen definitely knows how to travel like a rockstar. After our time in Dubrovnik/Mostar, we spent the rest of our travels in Split, Croatia, where Jen hooked us up with a sweet Penthouse at the Le Meridien. It sure is nice to have friends who are consultants by profession (with tons of hotel points to blow).
Several massages and private boat charters later, my wife and I are feeling completely pampered and relaxed.
Thanks Jen for classing up our travel!
We’re done…sort of
Two months in Asia. Two months in Europe. After visiting 17 countries during the past four months, my wife and I have completed our international travel. We still have about two more months to go with our self-declared sabbatical, but we’ll spend that time traveling around the United States, mostly visiting family.
It’s been an incredible journey. Actually scratch that, it’s been a life-changing journey. I’ve learned so much about myself and about people in general. In my next write up, I will be sharing some thoughts on what I learned from travel.
Thanks so much for following our journey. By no means is this the end of the blog. There are many adventures that lie ahead, so stick around!