I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the best way to travel. You can learn so much in such a short time just by spending time with a local. I love how I can go to a town I know nothing about and have someone tell me the best sights to see, the best places to eat and of course teach me a couple of words in the local language! Usually the experience gives me so much more than I expected.
I started my summer holidays Couchsurfing in Split for two nights. Shortly after settling down at my host’s apartment, he had to go to work and I headed to the city centre.
From Marjan hill, I walked back down to the city centre to experience the old alleyways and marketplaces of Split. And also all the tourists and souvenir shops!
As Split is located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, fish is popular here. I visited Split Fish Market, a lively market square and hall with all the sea food you can imagine. One interesting observation I made: almost every single vendor had a cigarette either in their mouth or in their hand while preparing and selling the fish!
For people not eating animals, there’s really only one vegetarian restaurant in Split. But with Makrovega, one is enough! A big delicious lunch, consisting of a soup and main course, costs less than 10 €.
My Couchsurfing host Mladen had made a joke about the Croatian lifestyle: say one thing, do another and think a third! On my second day in Split I got to experience this on my own. A tour to visit Krka National Park was advertised to leave at 9 am but when I arrived at the travel bureau, the tour had already left at eight! After wandering around Split for a while, I decided to visit the nearby island of Hvar.
From Hvar town I took a bus to Stari Grad (literally “Old Town”). There is a car ferry back to Split from Stari Grad so you don’t have to return to Hvar town unless you want to take the catamaran back to the mainland. The two hour journey from Stari Grad to Split on the car ferry costs 40 kuna.
I preferred Stari Grad over the touristy Hvar. There were almost no people on its picturesque streets, just lots of animals: dogs, cats and even a rooster!
That’s until the following day, when I visited Croatia’s top attraction, Plitvice Lakes, a four hour bus ride from Split. The water was so clear that I almost stepped into the water until I saw the fish swimming in there! Walking a whole day in a national park gives you lots of time to think about things. But with views like the ones below, my main thought was thank you.
Even though I really enjoyed the parks, waterfalls, alleyways, museums and restaurants of Croatia, my fondest memories are of the incredible hospitality and friendliness of the Croatian people.
Do you know the feeling of going somewhere new and having no expectations? And the place turns out to be way better than you could ever imagine? That’s what happened when I travelled to Riga over Easter.
The one great thing about the world being vast is that there are so many places to go. Knowing I would have four days off during Easter, I went onto the website Halvat Lennot and looked where in the world I could travel quite cheaply. With my destination set as anywhere I found roundtrip flights to Riga for 159 € with AirBaltic. Now, this is not a very cheap flight, but it was Easter so I think it was a fair deal, knowing how much the prices go up during the holidays.
Like I said, I had no expectations, just that wonderful feeling of going somewhere new again. I arrived in Riga on Easter Friday around noon. It is easy to travel to Riga from Helsinki since the flight takes less than an hour. From Riga airport you can take bus #22 to the city – the ticket costs 0,60 € if you buy it at the airport and 1,20 € if you buy it from the bus driver. I got off the bus at Stockmann and started walking towards my accommodation, Barons Hostel. The hostel is outside the old town and is not too easy to find since there’s only a small plaque with the hostel’s name next to the door.
After eating, my head was a bit clearer and I found the hostel just 100 metres from Rama! I rang the doorbell and was let into the building. The hostel is situated on the top floor of an old apartment building.
It was so nice to just hang out in the hostel common room, drink tea and talk with other guests and with the hostel’s Australian manager, Eve. It felt like being in someone’s home.
Another hostel guest had told me about a day trip to Sigulda National Park that was organized through Couchsurfing. It’s great going abroad without any big plans what to see and do, because then you can join others for these kinds of trips. On Saturday, seven people parted Riga and took the train for about one hour to beautiful Sigulda.
After the train arrived in Sigulda, we walked through the small village of Sigulda towards Sigulda National Park.
The park was magnificent and the company was the best! People who participate in Couchsurfing are usually the kindest and most open minded people you can possibly meet.
In the evening, some of us went out for dinner, and afterwards the others headed to Ala Folk Bar but I was so tired after walking all day that I headed back to the hostel (okay, truth be told, I was the oldest one in the group but not let in due to my young looks – not the first time that’s happened…).
The next day I participated in a free walking tour. There are two different companies that operate free tours: Tours in Riga, which organizes a 1 ½ h tour in the old town and Yellow Free Tours, which organizes a 2 ½ hour tour outside of the old town. I participated in the first mentioned.
On my last night I joined another hostel guest, Dave, for a walk around town.
My return flight left on Easter Monday but I still had time to visit Riga Central Market in the morning.
Riga is a cozy little city and I loved spending my Easter there. But I know that the best places are made up of great people, and my journey wouldn’t have been half as good if it weren’t for all the wonderful travellers I met during these four days, so thanks to each and every one of you ♥