BookSinglesHolidays.com chatted with Andreea Năstase, a young assistant professor at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands about what it’s like to be a solo female traveler in Croatia, her love of Game of Thrones as well as her experience tasting Croatian food!
BookSinglesHolidays.com: Was Croatia your first solo travel experience? If so, what did you like and dislike about traveling solo?
Andreea Năstase: I think so, yes, if I don’t count all the solo travelling I’ve done for work. So, let’s say this was my first solo holiday. I’ve loved it – it was really nice to be able to make and keep my own travel schedule and take as much or as little time as I wanted for various activities. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had amazing holidays as part of a group, but sometimes it’s just nice to do things in your own rhythm, no rush. On the dislikes – well, obviously some activities, like going for a night out dancing or so, are best done in a group, so there’s that.
BSH: Can you share with us the places you went to in Croatia along with your experiences?
AN: I’ve spent most of my time in Stari Grad, Hvar Island, which is a pretty amazing place. Oldest town in Croatia and probably in Europe as well, funded by the ancient Greeks in 384 B.C., and anywhere you go in the old town you can see the history. Stari Grad is situated along a bay which goes approximately 5 miles deep inland – this translates into quite a few beaches, all of them lovely. Also, the sea is unusually calm here, with almost no waves, making swimming just ridiculously easy and pleasant. I’ve also spent about two full days in Dubrovnik, the so-called “pearl of the Adriatic”. It’s well deserved praise – the old city of Dubrovnik is incredibly well preserved and large, and so much to see! It’s been part of the UNESCO world heritage and under special protection since 1979. A walk along the city walls is well worth the effort for the breathtaking views.
BSH: What impressed you the most about Croatia?
AN: Hard to pick just one thing, but if I had to, I’d probably say the nature. There’s a lot of it, the Croatian seaside is basically mountains spilling into the sea, with these amazing pine tree forests closely surrounding the beaches. Because it’s rocky and hilly, and so close to the forest, it also somehow rarely gets over-crowded, so that was a welcome change from the more typical sand beaches I was used to, that go on and on with no spot of shade.
BSH: What is one of your favorite memories from this holiday?
AN: A live music concert at one of the bars in Stari Grad, which quickly developed into this impromptu karaoke session with people from the audience taking up the guitar and playing a song or two. It was engaging and a lot of fun.
BSH: They say that the best part about traveling is that we get to enjoy lots of new food. Please share your thoughts about the food in Croatia. What were your favorite dishes?
AN: Croatians eat a lot of fish and sea-food, unsurprisingly. I haven’t sampled so much food frankly, but there was this very interesting picked seaweed that I ate as part of a salad with anchovies. Motar I think it’s called, it had a rather refined combination of sweet and sour. The gelato in Dubrovnik is fantastic. And I’ve also been pleased to discover in Croatia the kremšnita (cream cake), which I’ve loved as a child in Romania and could never find the Netherlands, where I currently live. So perhaps this one is not typically Croatian, but it’s certainly good stuff.
BSH: From the perspective of a solo female traveler, would you say Croatia is a friendly destination? And what advice would you have for solo travelers in the country?
AN: Yes, it’s a safe place, never had any troubles from this perspective. People generally speak or at least understand English, so you can get along fine. I’d probably advise foreign travelers – solo or not – to take a bit of time to familiarize themselves with the recent history of Croatia. The war that broke apart former Yugoslavia was felt heavily in Croatia also, between 1991 and 1995, which is really not that long ago if you think about it. The region is absolutely stable and safe now, and it’s been so for many years, Croatia is a EU member state, but, well, sensitivities remain and it’s good to take some time to understand what went on there so you can avoid embarrassing blunders.
BSH: You mentioned you had a friend who was a local, guiding you. Do you think local guidance is a must to experience a place, or could you have done it alone?
AN: Not a must but really useful to have. My friend, Sanja, grew up in Sari Grad, so it was nice to see the city also though her eyes, and meet some of her childhood friends. I think the recommendations of someone who is a local and knows you will always be a little more on point than whatever you can get on the internet. But with this said, I would have probably enjoyed the holiday without local guidance too, although certainly less.
BSH: You’re a big Game of Thrones fan and Croatia was a filming location. Tell us a bit about your experience from a hardcore GOT fan’s perspective.
AN: Well, it’s certainly the place to visit for Game of Thrones fans! The show creators have shaped King’s Landing after Dubrovnik and once I got there the similarities were really obvious to me. I took a Game of Thrones tour (by the way, there are lots of those available to book just outside the old city gates) and the guide was very precise in linking each location with the GOT scenes where it is featured. I snapped a ridiculous amount of pictures… Amazing how much of the real landscape went into the show – just a few towers and trees, and heraldry, here and there, added with CGI. There was not enough time for me to go to Lokrum or Trsteno Arboretum, both really close to Dubrovnik and also GOT filming locations – for anyone interested in a more comprehensive tour, I’d recommend these two, plus Diocletian’s Palace and the Klis Fortress (both in Split).
BSH: Do you have some tips or advice for other female solo/ single travelers who are planning a trip to Croatia?
AN: Depends what you’re after. This time I was after a relaxed lazy holiday, just sun and sea, good book, plenty of sleep, so staying in Stari Grad for a week was my medicine. But I’m convinced that Croatia has a lot to offer in other ways – you could easily compose a tour of the various islands, staying only a few days in one place and doing a lot more visiting, obviously for someone a lot less lazy than I was this time… It’s also an interesting place for people who are into water sports, kayaking, surfing, that sort of stuff. If you intend to use the ferries, be sure to check the routes and times well beforehand – I’ve discovered with some dismay that while transport to and from the mainland is frequent and reliable, between the islands it’s less so, and therefore requires a bit more forward-looking planning.
BSH: So, what’s next on your solo travel wish list?
AN: Don’t know at the moment, honestly, but definitely also a place with lots of sun and sea - maybe Greece!
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