This is my final post from this summer's European road trip adventure and to make it that little bit more exciting I'm combining it with my spot on the blog tour for Caitlin from The Vegan Word's super helpful and informative book The Essential Vegan Travel Guide. I'd feel guilty for not writing about Split and Dubrovnik sooner (how has almost 4 months passed so fast?) but they're not going anywhere and life happens y'know. As I mentioned in my post about Pula and Plitviče, Croatia was one of the countries that inspired my European road trip and Split had been at the top of the Croatia list for some time. It just seemed like the kind of city that'd be right up my street and it was all I'd imagined and more. Nick and I stayed a little way out of town, as is often the way with camping, at a spot called Camping Stobreč. The reason we chose that particular campsite was because there's a bus stop right outside with regular busses taking campers and locals alike into the city centre. Perfect.
Vege was one of our first stops in town as we were starving when we first arrived and we knew that this place served solid fast food. It was a little challenging to find as the Happy Cow map I'd taken a screenshot of was a little off the mark leading me to the main road next to the market that Vege is located in. After a little wandering and asking for directions we ascertained that Vege was in the market, if we'd approached from the port or anywhere on that side of town we'd have easily spotted it because there's a huge sign pointing you in the right direction!
It was all a-ok once we arrived though because Vege were slinging out plates of hot fried food fast. I went with the soy meat plate with rice and it was one of my favourite meals of the summer. It was by no means gourmet and it was prepared with more oil than even I would've used at home meaning that it was extra delicious. The rice was tomatoey and plentiful and the mock meat was truly excellent, crispy, tender and totally dreamy. If you wanted to spice it up there were a plethora of hot sauce options to choose from. I didn't feel like it needed tweaking and I was hungry enough that I almost ordered a second plate!
The sights were calling our names though so instead of eating even more delicious food Nick and I set out to explore Diocletian's Palace and the surrounding areas. Rather than being an actual palace, as both of us had incorrectly assumed, Diocletian's Palace is pretty much the whole historic centre of Split. You get to experience it whilst wandering around, people watching, popping into shops and sitting outside cafes passing the time with a drink. We both adored the winding streets, imposing palace walls and the architecture of buildings like the gothic Belltower that's behind me in this picture.
One foodie spot that I'd bookmarked long before our arrival was the vegan leaning health and whole foods chain Bio & Bio. We hadn't seen a well stocked health food store for a while by this point and we were both dreaming of ice cream, soy yoghurts, chocolate and faux meat slices. Bio & Bio definitely didn't disappoint and we dived into their shelves and fridges and filled up a basket in no time. We were excited to see familiar things like Rapunzel's Rice Milk Chocolate, Nick's favourite European cereal brand, and Sojade yoghurts alongside fave's like smoked tofu, blocks of seitan and margarine.
We also picked up some Soyatoo vegan cheese slices which, when eaten cold, might be the worst vegan cheese slices ever. I'm an equal opportunities kinda gal when it comes to vegan cheese, I believe there's space in the world for Toffuti slices as well as a spot for Daiya and a place for expensive nut cheeses. This one though, I'm not so sure! I'm kinda kidding, once melted it was actually pretty okay but on first taste I think the look of horror on my face told Nick everything he needed to know and he refused to bite into it until it had been grilled! I wish I'd had that foresight! Our favourite finds were all chocolate based and we devoured these Bon Ice rice milk ice cream bars in seconds. They're just like a Magnum but without the cruelty, the dark chocolate is my jam and Nick enjoys the milk style version. They were the perfect treat after a hot day of exploring.
Our other favourite treat was this cake that I'd previously tried when I visited Zagreb in 2013. I raved about how great it was then and nothing's changed now. It's made of layers of pancake held together with an agave sweetened chocolate creme which makes it a totally breakfast appropriate cake, just give it fifteen minutes or so outa the fridge before you dive in.
I adored Split, it's a great place to explore on foot and I enjoyed getting lost in the city's winding streets and alleyways as well as promenading along the Riva Harbour walk. The vegan food scene isn't what you'd call buzzing but you'll get by pretty easily especially if you decide to self cater.
After spending time in Split we skipped the country and took our time exploring Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro before popping back into Croatia to check out Dubrovnik once the heat and hecticness of high season was over. This turned out to be a great decision! Of course the harbour was still jam packed with cruise ships and the streets were busy but it was nothing like the summer crush that I'd heard about from visiting friends. Dubrovnik is a breathtakingly beautiful city, I'm not even going to post pictures from inside the old town walls because my iPhone photography couldn't do it justice at all. Not even a little bit. It's mind-blowing. I think I walked around wow-ing all over the place for about an hour. One thing you must do in Dubrovnik, once you've gotten over how ridiculous it looks at ground level, is walk the city walls.
It's a little pricy but it gives you a great feel of the size and layout of the old town and I loved getting a birds eye view of this part of the city. The only thing I would say is don't do it in mid afternoon in summer because it'll be hot hot hot. It's a further walk than you think, about 2km, and there's no shade to speak of.
Because our campsite was out of town, actually in Mlini not in Dubrovnik itself, we were able to split up our sightseeing days with a beach day which was blissful. We stayed at Camping Kate which is only 8km south of old town Dubrovnik and we took the bus into the city to explore. The beaches are within walking distance of the site, you just take some steps down from the back of the campsite and follow some winding roads down towards the sea. I love the clear, still waters of the Adriatic coast and am really glad we choose to stay just outside the city for this reason.
Dubrovnik is lucky to have a wonderful vegetarian restaurant with plenty of vegan options which makes travelling there a joy. Situated up a staircase off of the main drag, take the third street on the left if you're coming from Pile gate, is Nishta one of the best restaurants I've eaten at this year. The atmosphere is wonderful as is the food and the location is fantastic. On our first visit I ordered a couple of starters as my main, the Zelenilo and the Crusty, and Nick opted for the bean smoked seitan burger which he loved and which you can see was served in an enormous flatbread with sweet potato fries and some fantastic salsa.
Terrible name aside the Crusty was fabulous, a departure from what I'd usually order it was comprised of a flax seed cracker crust spread with a sundried tomato sauce and topped with cherry tomatoes, rocket, avocado, courgette and, the thing that drew me in, vegan almond cheese. This was different than I'd expected and not just because the rocket had been replaced with spinach and the whole thing was topped with some surprise goji berries which were swiftly removed! The cheese was creamy and thick and almost like a dressing and holy wow was this delicious. Despite the fact that it was salad it was interesting, filling and almost unbelievably flavourful. I've ordered many a salad since and some, like this one, have been standouts for sure. My other dish, the zucchini spaghetti topped with a raw avocado and lime dressing was also delicious but nowhere near as much of a standout as my other choice.
On our second visit I re-visited the Crusty because I loved it so much and then opted for the intriguing Hi! Pasta as my main.
The Hi! Pasta piqued both my interest and my tastebuds for two reasons, one, olives and two, motar, a Mediterranean herb that I'd never even heard of up until that moment. It turns out that motar is a herb that only grows on rocky parts of the Mediterranean coast, it's hard to put what it tasted like into words though, mild for sure and complimentary to the olive flavours of the dish but like no other herb I can put my finger on. I wasn't so jazzed on the idea of spelt and hemp flour pasta, I've always been a white pasta kinda gal and spelt is one of the things I try to avoid because it's high fibre content messes with my insides (Tmi? Whatever!). It sounded like the most delicious and intriguing dish though so I gave it a whirl and boy was I glad that I did. It was off the charts delicious just as I'd predicted, the flavours are just the kind that I love and it managed to feature olives in a way that didn't overwhelm everything else, I think that can be an easy line to cross. I'm not sure what Nick ordered, some kinda stir fry flavoured with hoisin that we decided was the least interesting of all of the things we tried at Nishta so don't get that, branch out and try the pasta as you won't find a dish quite like it on any other menu.
If you'd like to check out Nishta at dinner time, which I'd highly recommend, the ambiance outside is wonderful, then pop in at lunchtime a couple of days before or call ahead to book a table. Plenty of people were being turned away whilst we were eating because there was just nowhere to seat them. Dubrovnik is definitely a must visit destination, and not just because of the food. I'm so glad that I went, it's an unforgettable place and I'd highly recommend an off-season visit to anyone.
If, like me, you love to travel vegan style then Caitlin, the blogger behind Barcelona based blog The Vegan Word, just wrote the book for you. The Essential Vegan Travel Guide: 2016 Edition is a guidebook that'll teach you how to find vegan food anywhere.