We decided to take advantage of our 4-day Labor Day weekend with a trip to Croatia! We looked online and found an all-inclusive resort in Medulin, which is located at the southernmost tip of the Istrian peninsula on the Croatian coast. If you're not familiar with where Croatia is, it is across the Adriatic Sea, east of Italy.
We left our apartment in Stuttgart on Thursday evening at 6pm and drove to Salzburg, Austria, where we stayed overnight in a hotel we booked last minute. Salzburg was about 3.5 hours along the way and it was a good way to break up the 9 hour drive. We woke up and had a great European breakfast (eggs, fruit, coffee, bread/pastries, cheese) and hit the road at about 9am. From Salzburg, we chose to drive through Trieste, Italy, for lunch. It isn't the most direct route, but we had noticed that there was lots of traffic on the Austria-Slovenia border, and who doesn't want to "swing by Italy" for lunch if you have the chance?! We made it to Trieste by about 1:30 and found a place that was recommended in several websites for lunch. Ronda and Cooper shared the seafood pasta and I had the Sea Bass in olive oil and salad. It was VERY fresh (the waiter showed us the fish before they cooked it!) and good. We found an ice cream shop and Cooper had strawberry, and Ronda tried the “Buffala" ice cream - she said it was amazing! I had an expresso and we found our car quickly and were off. We left Trieste and drove through a small 15-mile portion of Slovenia before arriving in Croatia.
We got to our destination at about 3:30 pm and checked right in. Our resort was located right on the beach in a cove surrounded by spruce/pine tree forests, a soft rocky coastline, and emerald blue-green water. It was beautiful. Our room was on the sea-side, on the 5th floor. Our view was above the trees and into the bay, where we could see sailboats, tourists on jet skis, and fishermen out in deeper water trying to catch us lunch. It was a great view. For the first afternoon, we decided to get our suits on and just go check out the water. We made our way to the beach and found a couple abandoned deck chairs on the hotel’s portion of the man-made cement sidewalk. We dumped the non-essentials and dove right in. Cooper wasn’t too excited about the water, but he walked in up to his knees the first day. The water wasn’t warm, but the outside temp was around 82 and the breeze was blowing warm and dry, and it made the first dip a good one. The beach was about half full and we swam around without running into anyone and had a good time for about an hour before we decided to head back in for dinner.
We had purchased the “half-board" resort accommodation, which means breakfast and dinner. We weren’t sure what to expect because the price of the place was very inexpensive compared to others we had looked at online. We walked into the restaurant/cafeteria and were completely shocked. It was huge! There was a variety of fruit, vegetables, main dishes, bread/cheese, and sides. It was very good and the wait staff was multi-lingual, everyone spoke English with us. We had to order drinks (paying separately) but they were very affordable. Cooper’s water was the most expensive! After dinner we decided to call it early and went to bed very early - it had been a long day!
Day two (Saturday) started at 8am with a great European breakfast at the resort restaurant. We had eggs, bacon, toast, cereal, and coffee. After breakfast, we went back to the room and got our beach gear and headed to the resort’s private beach. We found two chaise lounges on the same sidewalk as the night before and set up camp. We did have to pay for the chairs - they were $5 each for the whole day. Our beach neighbors were Italian and Slovenian. Everyone was very nice and happy to be at the beach. There were kids everywhere. The weather couldn’t have been better, it was about 84 degrees with a light breeze. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. Cooper got started playing with his beach toys in the water and I took a long swim to soak in the saltwater.
Ronda did some sunbathing and we eventually switched duties with Cooper. It was a great morning. After about 4 hours at the beach, we were starting to get hot and tired and we went back to the room to take a nap (or in my case work on the blog!). At about 5:30pm we left the room and went back to the beach cafe for an afternoon snack and a drink. Cooper has discovered that he loves orange juice, so he had a small bottle of OJ. We took a walk up the beach and saw a sign for a water taxi to an island called Ceja, which we thought might make for a cool adventure on day 3 of our trip…
At 6:30pm, we went back to our resort for dinner. We had local foods including seafood, lamb, and veal. It was all very good and Cooper loved the mixed meat tray. After dinner, we walked back to the room, and on the way discovered an acoustic concert by a couple local guys. They sang some Sting, Beyonce, Jimmy Buffett, and Johnny Cash. It was a cool impromptu stop. We were in bed, sun drenched, by 10:30.
Day three (Sunday) started much like day 2, with a great breakfast and a blue sky. We walked to the pier where the water taxi was waiting to take us to Ceja island. Aboard the taxi was us and another family of three decked out for a day of beach time on the island. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but once we got closer to the island (the map said that it was only 2.8km to the island from the pier) we could see lots of similar soft rocky shoreline and a small cafe with a small pier where there were locals and some tourists moving around their boats and getting a late morning started. We hopped off the taxi at about 11:00am and decided to head south along the shoreline to find a place to put up our day spot. We found a flat rock about 500 meters later and settled in between a kayaker couple and an anchored schooner. No one watched us arrive, and no one cared we were there.
We had 100m of pale, rocky shoreline and emerald water to ourselves. We stayed there for about 2.5 hrs swimming and sunbathing. Then we decided to go check out the cafe for lunch. We walked back to the pier area and found an empty table in the middle of the open-air cafe. We ordered two local beers, which arrived quickly and were very cold and good - it was probably just from being thirsty from the dry air and the swimming, but the beer was good! For lunch, we had Cevapci (grilled mixed meat), Raznici (grilled veal skewers), and Calamari (squid grilled in olive oil). It was all fresh and amazing. We got back on the taxi at 2pm and enjoyed the ride all to ourselves back to the resort. The Croatian boat captain even let Cooper drive! After we got back to the resort, we went to the pool and found a couple chairs in the kids area where Cooper could try his new found bravery in the 2 feet of water. He eventually got in by himself and discovered that splashing strangers will get mom and dad’s attention quickly! We left the pool area about 4pm and went back to the room for a nap and to get ready for dinner!
Dinner was another good one, ironically with lots of the same stuff we had for lunch… grilled meats and veggies. But it was good, and we finished quickly to go check out the sunset on the beach for our last night. We got to the beach right as the sun was setting behind a cloud, which didn’t make for a very good sunset (the sunset the previous night was killer), but we took some photos on the beach walkway and Cooper had a chance to run around and burn off some energy. After our little walk, we decided to go have a night cap at the beach cafe/bar on our resort. We found a table and sat down. As we settled in, some of the resort staff were setting up a small stage area next to the pool, which was near where we were sitting. They were setting up a DJ booth, lights, and a stage. We watched as they got it put up, and then they started playing music. Cooper quickly realized that they were playing kids music, and he wanted to go dance, which we encouraged him to go do! He went over and watched as some other kids got on stage and just played with the staff during their warm up. Lots more people had arrived by this point and filled up the pool/bar area. Then the real party started and we moved tables to get closer to the action. The staff members had prepared a kids dance show to highlight their kids program. So, this was their opportunity to show off their stuff to the families of the school-aged kids who could participate in the program. They started dancing and singing, and Cooper was really excited about it, but nervous to go join in - even though all the rest of the kids in the audience were up on stage. The show went on, and the main staff leader (female) was yelling at everyone to dance and sing in four different languages (Croatian, German, English, and Italian), and Cooper was getting more excited, but not quite brave enough to go on stage. Finally, after about six songs and dances, the show ended and the official party stopped, but they continued to play music and dance on the dance floor that had emerged in front of the stage. Now that everyone had cleared the stage, Cooper decided that it was his time, and he made his way on stage… here’s what happened:
The whole crowd cheered and he was so proud of himself. It really was hilarious, and we spent about 10 minutes afterward talking with folks in the crowd (mostly kids) about Cooper and that he was adopted from China, and the fact that we are American, etc. We stayed around for another 20 minutes and left before the dancing got out of control… it was a great end to an awesome day. Cooper stole the show, and if he wasn’t memorable before just by being either American or ethnic Chinese, then he definitely is popular for being such a dirty dancer. Haha.
Day four (Monday) was rainy and much colder than the previous two days. We got an early start at the resort and had breakfast at 7am in order to get out of town early and on the road with enough time to get home before the traffic really got bad. It rained the whole way home, but we were glad to have the rain on the road instead of during our time at the beach. We made it home by about 6pm and crashed. It was another great trip, and we are already talking about going back! Bye for now!