I'll go ahead and put it out there that the highlight and great accomplishment of my trip to Croatia was surviving it. Ha, but for real. While in Freiburg (waaay back in the day, really just a little over a week ago), I came across info about the Fresh Island Festival at Zrce Beach in Novalja, Croatia and uh yeah, being so close to Croatia, it was a go (given my love for live music performances and, uummm...Black Beatles). And not to fully disclose my "vintage," but the terms that aptly described the environment at Zrce Beach were CRUNK, TURNT or in more contemporary terms LITTY! I mean, these kids nowadays...I was not ready. Nearly a week in a straight party environment almost put a permanent pause on ya girl (read: college was a loooooong time ago)!
Enough about the magic of making it, Novalja itself was absolutely beautiful. The water is that invitingly picturesque turquoise you see on postcards. HOWEVER, don't let the sandy-looking beaches fool ya. What appeared to be sand was pebbles and not massage type pebbles/rocks -- more like, "kick rocks" = bloody toes, so take chairs, towels and anything else that can create a barrier between you and the rocks if you desire to walk or lie on the beach. But that was only a minor setback compared to the lovely weather, hospitable people and how well the festival was organized.
There was a week full of activities between Zrce Beach and the center of Novalja, although the festival itself was three days. City buses transported festivalgoers from the center of Novalja to Zrce Beach (about eight-minute drive) back and forth 24 hours a day (intense partying made easy!). My Airbnb was near the town center, which had its own (pebble) beach, restaurants, bars and a main club. The town center was a cool, vibrant area where many (perhaps most) folks stayed who were in town for the festival. It even had its own clubs, outdoor markets, food vendors and activities (some firsts: I got henna (yaaaay!) and a fish pedicure (more like mmmmkay, interesting)).
Getting to this perfect location near the town center, not soooo cool...
My travel partner and I had some "issues" with our first rental apartment (read: no A/C or reliable wifi, which we paid to have) and were moved to another apartment, which put us within steps of the town center. Shoutout to the lady whose door we knocked on for help when we couldn't locate our first rental apartment (host didn't give us the precise house number) and who graciously let us use her wifi and phone to locate our host! After feeling lost somewhere on Gilligan's Island with the beaming heat, we finally connected with the host's boyfriend (mmmkay??) and made it to our new apartment with AC and reliable internet. The new place also put us super close to a grocery store, where I met some fellow Georgians (Loooooove! Awesome feeling to meet folks with your same, exact dialect (read: country slang: Hello home!)), who were stationed near Croatia and attending the festival. And the craziest part about is that one of them went to my undergraduate college and was really good friends with one of my besties! Bump "small" - can you say itty-bitty, teensy-weensy world?!
♡ “The world is small. We are all connected. Keep connecting.” ♡
Ultimately, Novalja was a real blast from the past (an insane level of fun) and an unforgettable experience! If you have that one little jitter in your leg (or shoulder bone) and want to shake it completely out, I definitely recommend a visit to Croatia during the Fresh Island Festival. Can you relate? Have you been to Croatia for Yacht Week or any other festival? Comment below! I'd love to hear about your experience!
Love, love, love and see yaa soon!
P.S. If you're ever near the center of Novalja, do yourself a favor and visit Tavern No5. The grilled fish (pictured below) is excellent (swipe left to check out those bones!)!