Normally travellers arrive in Croatia in the summer months after hopping off a plane. However, a few make it to Croatia throughout the winter months, and not all of them travel by plane or even by car. We caught up with a British traveller, Richard Meek, who not only decided to visit the highlights of Croatia in the colder months, but he also travelled by train, and he isn’t alone as his companion is Henry, his dog. And don’t forget he’s also doing this mega journey with the effects of a global pandemic still hanging over travel.
It’s been quite a journey for Meek, the two of them left the UK in September last year, and arrived in Croatia after firstly visiting a good chunk of Europe, including France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and then Croatia. “Dubrovnik is on the radar for a future trip, however its lack of train station means it is not so easy with a dog,” stated Meek. We hope to see him soon in the pearl of the Adriatic. He has however, managed to visit the Croatian capital, Zagreb, and the largest city on the Adriatic, Split.
So you are clearly an experienced traveller, how did Croatia pop-up on your radar as a place to visit, and have you been here before?
I’ve not visited Croatia before this trip, however I had heard many good things about it. Family members and people from the travel blogging community had lots of good things to say about it. Also, hearing about it being dog friendly made it an attractive destination.
You have travelled extensively in the UK and Europe and it seems that travelling by train is your favourite method. How have you found the train service in Croatia?
Trains are by far the easiest method of public transport with a dog and most countries are dog friendly. The trains in Croatia are nice, however they are a bit slow in terms of covering distance. In terms of timing they have all been very reliable.
Travelling by train across Europe - Photo Richard Meek
Has it been challenging travelling in both the off-season and with the pandemic travel restrictions?
Off season travel has not been challenging for us, it’s a lot less crowded and less tourist crowds about. The train and local buses run as normal, so has no impact on getting about. Pandemic travel restrictions have not inconvenienced me other than, habitual checking things before committing to cross a border. The Reopen Europa app has been invaluable for us as it has all the information required from border rules to rules on the ground.
Now, you have a rather beautiful travel companion, your dog, Henry. Just how challenging has it been travelling with your dog? Have you found Croatia a dog-friendly country?
Henry my dog has visited 10 countries in Europe so we have a system to keep things nice for him and us. Croatia has been very dog friendly and very easy to enjoy. Rather than dogs allowed signs, Croatia seems to embrace the no dogs allowed sign which are easy to spot. Accommodation has been easy to find in both Zagreb and Split, and the hosts have all gave henry attention, one even lent him a bed. There are lots of locals with dogs, and have observed these are very well trained and socialised making it a pleasurable experience meeting other dogs.
Henry is a well travelled dog - Photo Richard Meek
What have been the highlights of your Croatian trip?
The stunning destinations, especially the historical buildings of Split. The local seafood has been fantastic too.
You are also a fan of historical cities and UNESCO sites. Does that mean that Dubrovnik will be on your trip schedule?
We love to visit Historical cities and UNESCO sites, especially out of season when there are less people about. Dubrovnik is on the radar for a future trip, however its lack of train station means it is not so easy with a dog and will have to visit when the ferry between Split and Dubrovnik are running. The long distant coaches don't seem to be pet friendly unfortunately.
Zagreb was the first Croatian destination - Photo Richard Meek
Why would you recommend travelling in the winter?
Travelling in winter is great in many ways, most places are much quieter, thus very enjoyable to look around without crowds. I find you can also meet more local people out and about in the winter than when its busy too. Also, there are less concerns about the dog overheating in the warmer weather.