Sunday, July 18, 2010

Croatia

Years ago, a similar photo was attached in an email and it claimed that the photo of such natural wonder was shot in Nantou township, Taiwan. The email was forwarded rampantly, almost everyone in Taiwan was looking for this dream world that had never been found. After a few months of searching in vain, a media found out that the photo was actually taken in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, and that's how Taiwanese got to know this country: the country of origin of the Dalmatian; Marco Polo might be a Croatian who was born on Korcula island (ref 1); the origin of the tie is actually an accessory of Croatian military frontier and the fact that there are 7 UNESCO heritages (historical complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian (1979), old city of Dubrovnik (1979), Plitvice Lakes National Park (1979), Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the historic centre of Poreč (1997), historic city of Trogir (1997), the Cathedral of St. Jacob in Šibenik (2000) and the Stari Grad Plain in the island of Hvar (2008)) in a land of 1.5 times bigger than Taiwan in size.

One day in April, I got a note from my boss who asked me to paticipate in a hepatocellular carcimona conference that would be held in June in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I registered for the conference and booked the flights immediately, just in case my boss regreted it or something.  One month before my departure, I called my travel agency to remind them that it's about time to prepare visa application and that's when we all realized another common mis-understanding we had about this country: Croatia is a member of the EU.
Croatia applied for European Union membership in 2003, and the European Commission recommended making it an official candidate in early 2004. Candidate country status was granted to Croatia by the European Council in mid-2004. The entry negotiations, while originally set for March 2005, began in October that year together with the screening process.
The accession process of Croatia was derailed several times due to the Irish rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon in a referendum, and then later by the insistence of Slovenia that the two countries' border issues are dealt with prior to Croatia's accession into the EU.
Quote from wikipedia
Dispite the fact that Croatia isn't a member of the EU yet, tourists from most countries don't need a visa to get in, even for people from China as long as they have a valid schengen visa, but that's not the case for Taiwanese (Visa requirements overview). There is no Croatian embassy in Taiwan. Mailing applications for a tourist visa used to work via Japan or Malaysia, isn't applicable anymore. I got 2 options: one was to transit via Vienna and apply for the visa at the embassy in Vienna city, the other option was to have a travel agency send my application to Beijing on my behalf. I couldn't afford the risk of not getting a visa for the conference after flying to Vienna, so I paid a travel agency NT$10,400 (about USD$330, the official price is USD$51) to send my application to Beijing. Four days before my departure (it took 24 days for me to get the visa), based on my itinerary, I finally got the visa that was valid only for 13 days.

Dispite the jarring experience in dealing with Customs (even the Customs officials had difficulty trying to find records of visas issued to Taiwan) I was very happy to meet locals on the street level who recognized that I was from Taiwan, not a provice of China nor a misspelling of "Tailand/Thailand". Maybe it's because we share a "similar" history of changing national status? Nice people, great histories and cultures, glamorous natural wonders, and intoxicating Adriatic ocean, traveling in Croatia was one of the best memories of my backpacking expeciences.

Every year more than 10 million visitors spend their annual holidays in Croatia (the national population of Croatia is about 4.5 million), most of them are German and Italian. In the Asian tourist polulation, Japan definately is the number one of the list. Running into a Japanese tourist group seems inevitable while traveling in Croatia, I got kids greeting to me with "ko ni ji wa" at least 3 times a day. I had a stereotype that western countries were more civilized with etiquettes for scenes such as people who don't line up for a bus or who fight for a spot to take pictures, as this takes place in Asia. Traveling in Croatia, I had the deja vu feeling of being in China. People from every direction swarmed the bus stop, regardless of if there were lines of people waiting when a bus approached; stepping on someone's toes in order to take a photo... then I realized civilization and etiquette go out the window while people are on vacation that applies to all mankind.

Even though I only planned my itinerary in 2 days, it covers 5 out of 7 UNESCO heritages in Croatia and most of the sightseeing hot spots; here are my footsteps: 
  • 4 days in Dubrovnik: conference and old city sightseeing 
  • Ferry to Split via Korcula island and Hvar island (Jadrolinija)
  • 1 day in Split: historical complex with the Palace of Diocletian
  • 1 day in Trogir: historic city and the Cathedral of St Lovro
  • 1 day in Sibenik: the Cathedral of St. Jacob and Krka National Park
  • 1 day in Zadar: historic city and sea organ and sun salutation
  • 3 days in Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • 2 days in Zagreb: upper-town sightseeing and markets


View Croatia in a larger map

Useful websites:
Croatia National Tourist Board, the offical tourist website of Croatia
Wikitravel of Croatia, general info about traveling in Croatia
Croatia traveller,  a former lonely planet author of Croatia
Visit Croatia, a travel guide
Find-Croatia, lots info such as bus map...
Croatia Homepage, hundreds of links to everything you want to know about Croatia
Balkanology, good info on travel in Croatia and southeast Europe
Adriatica. net, allows you to book lighthouses all along the coast
Autotrans, public transportation timetables
Autobusni kolodvor,  Bue lines and routes, timetables...
Hotel Accommodation,  a meta-search engine that works very well with searches and compares prices from most of the hotel booking systems.

2 comments:

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Jim Anderson said...

Korcula is indeed a really cool choice, and the beaches are right around the ramparts of the old town: http://www.korcula-larus.com/medieval-spirit-of-the-city-of-korcula/

korcula apartments