At the beginning of July, I didn’t know the summer would end in a wild trip through Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. But when a friend brought up the idea of a small group of us celebrating her 30th on a boat in the Balkans, I couldn’t say no! Within 15 days of deciding to go, I was on a plane bound for Split.
I know renting a boat in Croatia sounds completely absurd, but with the birthday girl working for a decade in yachting, and her boyfriend working as a captain, it seemed like the perfect fit to celebrate the milestone! So we rented a handsome little three cabin boat and spent the week hopping around the islands of Croatia.
Our first marina was in Stari Grad, where we found the tastiest veggie-forward restaurant, Nook. The jetlag had me awake earlier than I ever am, so I spent the morning getting lost in the side streets and checking out the bakeries (I may have gone a little overboard).
After a night sleeping out at sea, we headed to Hvar, the party city on our route. In lieu of partying late into the night, we stuffed our bellies with poached fig flatbread and vegetarian korma at Fig, had a few drinks, then rolled ourselves back to the boat.
We stopped in Vis for a day, where we learned that prickly pear (cactus fruit) is never something you should ever pick barehanded (and why does no one teach us this in school?), then moved onto the town of Komiza.
While there isn’t much sea life in the Adriatic, Komiza has a bunch of old shipwrecks along the shore, so we dove down to explore this 1930s cargo ship that went down in a storm. It was pretty creepy overall, and my goggles fogged so bad I couldn’t see much of the dive, but it got me in the mood for scuba diving again! Now if only I could find some good diving in Colorado…
We had my favorite meal of the trip in Komiza at a cute seaside restaurant called Konoba Bako. They put fun Mediterranean twists on everything, like the sea sponge wine drip catcher, complimentary tuna pâté, and sprinkles of balsamic vinegar “caviar” on the dishes.
Our time in Croatia ended by land in Dubrovnik, where we spent a few days hiking around the walls of the city, exploring Old Town, and sweating.
All of that walking required fuel, and burek was the answer. This Eastern European pastry is basically super thin phyllo dough filled with anything from spinach and feta to leeks and cheese.
But my favorite food in Dubrovnik was out of Old Town right next to the Airbnb we stayed at on Beach Šulić at a cliffside restaurant called Ala Mizerija. You can’t go wrong with chickpea pesto salad, sweet potato fries, and all the flavors of bruschetta you could ever want! Notable mention goes to Sesame, where their gazpacho healed my heat exhaustion.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our weeklong boat rental picked us up and dropped us off up in Split, but our departing flights were from Dubrovnik. So rather than driving along the coast through Croatia, we popped into the neighboring country of Bosnia and Herzegovina to get there (and getting me to my 40th country milestone!)
Our first stop was at Kravice Falls, where I had my introduction to Bosnian food. The food in Bosnia was a lot like my experience with Scottish food…I didn’t expect much from it and was delighted when it turned out to be amazing.
These roasted green bell peppers come as a side with most dishes. And the sandwich is what I soon learned to be the national dish of Bosnia – cevapi. Cevapi is sausage that is usually served with sliced white onions and ajvar (roasted red pepper sauce) on bread. It was at virtually every restaurant we went to (I should definitely make a vegetarian version and post it right?! UPDATE: vegetarian cevapi recipe here!)
I also fell in love with kajmak, a fluffy, creamy cheese that melts in your mouth. I confused it for butter at first!
When we reached our destination, Mostar, the city was absolutely packed. It wasn’t until we spotted the city’s famous Old Bridge that we realized the annual Red Bull Cliff Diving competition was taking place. So we threw our bags in the apartment and hustled down to the river to watch professional divers leap 90 feet off the bridge.
What was supposed to be just 1 night in Mostar turned into 2 when we realized how interesting the city was and wanted to learn more. Being at the heart of a war and genocide in the 90s, you still see signs of it everywhere (like in the damaged building in this photo). For anyone ever planning on going, I highly recommend the Sheva Free Walking Tour to learn more!
I also discovered the mother of all pick-me-ups in the form of Bosnian coffee. This strong coffee is made in a high-necked copper pot, where boiling water is combined with finely ground coffee powder.
In Flight Entertainment
The thing is…there’s no easy way of getting from Croatia to Denver. So we embraced the long layover in Munich and took a train straight to the infamous Hofbräuhaus for big beers and käsespätzle.
And that was 10 days in the Balkans! I’m back in the test kitchen now, figuring out how to make a vegan cevapi and dreaming of kajmak. Thanks for following along!