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Croatia (Istria and Zagreb) and Slovenia

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Hello,
I posted a few weeks ago about planning a trip that included Prague, Vienna and Zagreb. We've since then decided to keep the trip to Croatia. We will be flying into Zagreb. We will have a car. We'd like to visit Zagreb as well as Northern Croatia, including Trakoscan Castle, Varazdin, Kumrovec and Samobor. Does it make sense to stay in Zagreb the whole time and make day trips or leave zagreb and stay the night in one of the towns we plan on visiting in the Northern area? After the Zagreb/northern Zagreb area, we plan on driving to Ljubljana (Slovenia) and possibly Lake Bled.

We then plan on driving down to Istria, Croatia. I've been on viamichelin to clock driving distance and the towns in Istria are very close to each other. We'd like to see Porec, Rovinj, Pula and Opatija. I'm wondering whether we should base ourselves in one town and make day trips (if so, which town?) or break it up by driving to each town and staying a day or two?

Is there one out of the 4 towns that I listed above (in Istria) that is more charming than the rest? We enjoy quaint, charming, historically old more so than modern, city-like. On our way down from Ljubljana to Istria, we may decide to stop in Trieste, Italy or Piran, Slovenia. I've read great things on these forums about Piran. I have more reading to do as I'm not all that familiar with Istria but thought I would check in with the more experienced travelers to this area and see if we should base somewhere or just drive from town to town.

How many days would one suggest spending in Istria to get a decent 'tour'? As you may tell from my other posts, we tend to travel rather quickly ... we are good with 2, sometimes 3 nights in one place unless using the place as a base for various day trips.

Thank you for your help!

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