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Croatia Trip Report-Getting there and day one

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Beginning of trip report for our trip to Croatia this year. I have a few days finally chronicled, will post as I have the rest written for this very awesome trip. Warning, it is long and may lack the detail some want.
We left Milwaukee in great spirits on September 3, 2008. It was a trouble free and swift ride to Chicago O'Hare and check in was a breeze (we flew Air India). Our flight was delayed for about an hour or so, but we did get out okay. Since we didn't really have connections to make, being late wasn't a big deal. Lord, the jet we were on had seen its better days! We were at the back, so while it was nice to have the 2x2 seating, the plane shook and rattled and made lots of noise! Bummer since this is the flight we all wanted to sleep on. Food was sort of a I guess not getting a breakfast was okay.

We did not want to check our luggage but we were all over the bag weight limit and had no choice. Our luggage made the flight with us and ended up where we were so it was okay. We walked blocks at Frankfurt to the rental car counter, but found it with no problem. From Frankfurt we were driving to Stuttgart, staying with the Reuchlen's family (Dieter & Renate & Patrick) and then getting a flight out the next day to Zagreb. Got the car, figured out how to get out of there and then headed to Stuttgart. Rollie did the driving and got us all in one piece to the relatives. And of course a huge kuchen, freshly made, was waiting for us. Mmmmmm. That Renate can bake! They of course had dinner plans for the evening. We were off to Keller in downtown Stuttgart. The boys, Stephan & Patrick joined us for dinner, what a pleasant visit. We strolled a bit in the quaint little town. Slept like logs that evening. Next morning we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and then headed to the airport. Those connections were fine and soon we were in Zagreb!

Relatively small airport in Zagreb, but the car rental counter is also not where you collect your luggage (oh well). They "upgraded" us to a van-something the guys should have declined. While we were looking for our rental car (and it is a lousy set-up at this airport for dragging your baggage and locating the vehicle) we ran in to some folks that were from Minnesota. They had family in Croatia and gave us all sorts of tips, etc. as to what to look for in the Zagreb area. We did end up taking their advice on several of the places they suggested. Once we had the vehicle we got the GPS out and began to navigate to our place. Thank goodness we had "Missy" (we changed her name from Jill to Missy) to assist Tom's drive to our first place. The route to Zdenka Madi's was one we would have had a difficult time finding without her. But she got us there. We knew this place was not in the inner city however it turned out it to be on the outskirts (the bus ended at her place, it did a turn around there). This was fine for us. We got to know the bus and the routes quite quickly and that mode of transportation to the downtown area really worked well. We did venture out with the van a few times from this location, mostly because we knew we had a parking space where we were staying.

Our rooms were small but clean and nice. The balcony was what we were attracted to and we really did enjoy it. We had it to ourselves. Right off the balcony was a kitchenette/meeting room. There we could make our coffee and tea and once or twice we put out a little platter filled with finds from the market that day. She had a fridge we could use as well. We mostly did snacks on the balcony, with our wine and beer of course. Also a wonderful area to hang out our clothes to dry or to air them out.

We freshened up a bit and then ventured to the old town of the city. Zagreb is a wonderful and lively town. We strolled around, located the Internet, saw where the market would be and then found some food. We ate at Nocturno-decent drinks and decent food (we were starving, anything would have been fine!). Our waitress, Tajana, was a delightful gal. We roamed around afterwards and the old town center was rocking! Bus ride home (we had to transfer once, but was simple enough to figure out). We lollygagged for a while on our balcony before bedtime. I think all slept like logs that night. What a wonderful first day in Croatia! Stay tuned for the next few days.......

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    Duh, I guess I should have put day 2 with this. I do have it on a separate post also. Should have titled it all differently. Oh well, here it is...
    Trip report continues... Day 2 in Croatia
    After a good night's sleep we all awoke refreshed and ready to explore the city and surrounding area. We started out at the market. The Zagreb market is wonderful. The flowers are beautiful and everywhere. Old ladies hawk their tablecloths, olive oil and hand made crafts while the fruit and vegetable people yell out for you to try their stock. It was going to be another beautiful bright and sunny day. We picked up some prunes (for me) and a few gift items, tablecloths that had been embroidered and a shot glass that said "Zagreb".

    We stopped at a little outside bar, RO & DO, on a side street a ways from the city center. There was an Internet shop down and around the corner that Bon & I utilized while the guys relaxed. Bon did some shopping across from the bar while the rest of us sat and enjoyed a drink. The owner of the place was a character! There were customers there with a few yippee dogs and he kept yelling at her and the dogs, although everyone seemed to take it quite good-natured. He asked where we were from and was so happy to hear we were from America. He loved Americans and, wait for this, he loved our President, George W. Bush. His thoughts on the Middle East were quite clear as well. They say never talk politics; well this was not the case here. The guy was a hoot!! We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with him.

    We decided to go to Medvednica and it made sense time-wise to just take a cab up. Winding road, up and around, up and around, again and again until we were at the top. Tom had his heart set on a cable car ride. When we reached the top (via the cab ride) we discovered the cable car was broken and I believe it has been broken for a very long time. Can't say I was sad as I really don't like cable car rides. Really don't like them when it appears the cable car is rickety and in disrepair. So we had a drink at the place and enjoyed the view. We walked around a little bit but no one was in the mood for a hike. By now the sun was really beating down on us. We decided to catch the bus back down so walked to the bus stop to catch the bus to town.

    While waiting for the bus a young man, Ivan Jurela, came up to us and asked for information about the bus. We told him what we knew and then he walked away. He came back a few minutes later, seemed quite agitated and said to us, "I fought for my country and now not one person will stop to give me a ride...". Clearly a reminder that a war lasts much longer for those that served than for those that were served. He stayed and talked to us (I imagine because I was listening to him). He felt very forgotten and expressed that many times. He was proud he had served his country and just could not get over being utterly disregarded now. We had only been in Croatia a few days at this time but the progress they had made in rebuilding was obvious however what was also obvious was that there still was much to do. He didn't feel a part of this rebuilding, he felt deserted and left behind. This young man was a small snapshot in to what is the aftermath of war. His plight I'm sure is not unlike that of many of the young men and women that serve in the US Military as well. Those of us snug in our beds, free to travel around, could probably never imagine what it is like for them. For this young man he simply wanted to be acknowledged and remembered. I think we all forget what these young people give up when they serve their countries. It isn't just the time.

    We strolled around town once we got back. We rode the little blue train the town has for free (nothing real special) and picked up info at the tourist information shop. We then went back to the area we were in early that day to get something to eat. Since it really wasn't what they consider their dinner hour many of the places weren't open and serving food yet. We went to the place near RO & DO (don’t remember the name of the place). Right off the bat the waiter didn't seem to like us. The first table we sat at had a boom box perched in the window above and the music was a little overwhelming. So we moved to the next table (always sure to annoy a waiter). We were going to have pizza but he said no, no pizza at this time. So we ordered other items. Tom ordered crab pasta but got shrimp pasta. Bon had a green pasta dish, it was supposed to be mushroom and chicken but she said it reminded her of her mother's tuna casserole. All in all a very so-so experience. And the people that sat down and ordered right after us, yeah, they had pizza.

    We picked up a few items at the grocery store and got our bus back to our place. The public transportation was efficient and very easy to figure out in Zagreb. We did have to transfer once but it was not hard to figure out at all. We lingered on our balcony and basked in the freedom one has while on vacation. We laid out plans for the following day and retired for the night. Madi's place was wonderfully quiet at night and in the morning one awoke to the sound of roosters announcing a new day. The construction crew across the street worked clear through the weekend so the scrapping sound of their trowels on the walls echoed in the air as well. Not unpleasant sounds, we found this place to be quite comfortable, even though the plumbing and electrical left much to be desired.

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    Wonderful report. You really dig in to meet the locals and have such a nice way of conveying your experiences and your feelings about them.

    Also nice to see Zagreb get its due in a report on Croatia. We only stayed one night to be in place for our flight out the next morning because we'd never read anything especially compelling about the place. To the contrary we found it quite an interesting city and loved the market as you did.

    I'll be following the rest of this avidly. Thanks.

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    Thanks for the kind words, here is day 3 in Croatia...
    Day Trip to Trakoscan Castle-9/7/08
    A lovely Sunday morning and today we decided to venture out in the van. The folks we had met at the airport highly recommended visiting the Trakoscan Castle so that is where we were off to. The drive to the castle wasn't bad, we found it with little trouble. Missy (the GPS) got us close enough to the town so we simple had to follow the signs to the castle.

    We had a drink before we headed up to the castle. A short trek up the walkway (always up to a castle) and a reading of the brief history of the castle and we were in. The castle was in very good repair having been restored in the first half of the 19th century and occupied for several generations after that. The various collections were well displayed and quite interesting. We found the castle well worth our visit. The countryside surrounding the castle was lovely and the views were simply breathtaking. It is always easy to see what the draw was for the original castle builder. You are up above everyone else with stunning sights and clear view of all who get near.

    After the castle we decided to try navigate the countryside and head toward Koprivnica to find the beer hall Kralus. I had read some good reviews so this seemed like a nice destination. Tom characterizes this particular drive as the drive from hell. We ran in to road construction and detours which sent us in to Slovenia. While we love Slovenia, that was not our destination. Luckily we always carry our passports. We could have had a problem here had we not had them with us. We were all now tired and hungry and this zigging in and out of countries was no longer amusing. We finally did find the town, located a parking space and ventured towards what appeared to be the city center.

    The town was abuzz with families, out with their strollers and children on bicycles. This is a traditional small town sort of thing in this country. Families are out and about on Sunday afternoons, walking along the pedestrian friendly walkways and stopping to chat with friends they meet along the way. We just happened upon the Kralus Beer Hall while walking so stopped to have our meal. Since it was so nice out we did want to eat outside. I think the experience of a beer hall is probably best had on the inside. While I did see the inside when I used the ladies room, we did not have our meal inside and I think that is where the "experience" of Kralus would have been. We did have a decent dinner although the table was so small it was difficult for the waiter to get everything on it. In retrospect we should have eaten inside the beer hall.

    This was the only place we ran in to a child beggar. He came around to all the tables with his sad eyes and hands out. When he approached our table we waived him off, shaking our heads no but he came forward anyway. Another patron, I assumed he was a local, yelled at the boy and told him to scat. Just like that the sad little face turned hateful and the boy flipped the man the bird and trotted off.

    The ride back was much nicer than the ride there. We managed to get back to our place all in one piece and ready for another pleasant wind-down on the balcony. Plans for the next day are the crystal factory.

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    "Kristal Tuk" Crystal Factory in Samobor-9/8/08
    Here we are, our last full day in Zagreb, time is flying by. Our plan for this last day in the area was to travel to Samobor to visit the crystal factory. So again we headed out in the van.

    Samobor was on our original itinerary but we were not aware of the crystal factory when we penciled it in. The people we ran in to at the airport recommended finding the factory and shopping here, among their other recommendations, so we took them up on it. The drive to Samobor was stress free. We found a place to park and walked around the town, stopping for coffee at an outside cafe.

    We had no trouble finding Kristal Tuk, it was located on a side street, off the main drag. There was a small storefront shop where you could see some of there wares and purchase them. Off this little shop was a studio where the artisans were grinding and etching the beautiful crystal. Bon and I could have gone crazy here, prices were very reasonable. Problem of course is carrying this stuff around town and getting it back home in one piece. We could not resist several items as gifts. I took care of my secret pal, a little something for my mother in law's birthday, something for one of my girls and of course a small vase for myself. I would recommend this place for anyone interested in glass.

    After the factory we were going to try to locate the Internet cafe. We left the guys enjoying a drink and headed up the street to find said Internet cafe. We missed the turn to the little bar that actually had the Internet and ended up walking to the next town. Once there we turned around and walked back and of course it was what we thought was an entrance to a hotel was the bridge we should have gone over. Either way, it was a pleasant walk. We took care of our emails, had another drink and then did some more exploring.

    We ran in to a search & rescue team from Canada. They were here for a convention of sorts with other teams from around the world. Dressed in orange with their dogs all decked out in orange they were enjoying some free time to browse the lovely little town. A peek inside the church and we were on our way. Well, not really. When we got back to the van there was a ticket on it. Now we had to figure out where to pay. We found a bank and paid our 100.00 HRK. Now we were on our way.

    Back to Zagreb. We planned on having supper in old town. First we wanted to stop and say good bye to our friend at RO & DO. Alas, the place was closed and he wasn't around. We had a drink at the bar next door and had a nice conversation with a local. He had spent time in the US and said one of his girls was in New York at this time. Always interesting to get another perspective. His English was perfect. Actually we found that almost everyone spoke and understood English quite well. As we were leaving we did run in to Dominik Skoric and he was happy we came to say good bye. He insisted on buying us a shot, we insisted he had one with us and so we had a toast. "Ahh, my great American friends". We were glad we caught up with him. He recommended Pizzeria 2 for dinner and we took his advice. The fare was simple food we all really enjoyed. The server was a pleasant gal and this was a great end to our stay in Zagreb. Back to our balcony for one last time.

    Thoughts on Zagreb: Lively old town, friendly people, easy public transportation, good base point-highly recommend a visit here. We would return in a minute!

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    Plitvice Lakes National Park & Krizmanic Guest House-9/9/08
    Today we pack up, leave Zagreb and head out to the National Park. We are sad to leave the city but looking forward to the serenity of the park area. Additionally we will catch up with our friends at Krizmanic Guest House.

    The ride was a pleasant one although it was very disarming to see land mine signs, warning you not to venture off the road in some areas because they had not completed the sweep for land mines. Another of those reminders of the recent war in this country. Aside from that the area we were heading to was simply beautiful, especially at this time of year. Not quite fall but the start of earlier darkness, cooler evenings and mornings while there were still hot afternoons. We could not have had better weather. We stopped in a small town on our way, had a few drinks, bought a few groceries (wine, beer, fresh fruit & snacks) and then sent off a few cards from the Post Office.

    We found the park with no trouble at all. Krizmanic Guest House is very quaint in a quiet little section. The hostesses was a lovely young woman. Unfortunately she had been stung by a bee on her foot and she limped the entire time we were there. Didn't hamper the service at all. The place was very well kept up. Our rooms were spotless as was the breakfast area. It really seemed as though she was there all by herself. The rooms we had were billed as an adjoining suite but it actually was two separate bedrooms with a little nook that had a refrigerator & sink as well as dishes and glasses, more or less in a hallway, although there was a locked door and a sitting room across from Bon and Rollie's bedroom. The outside space was not directly outside our rooms but it was nice. While it wasn't as we thought it was, based on various pictures we had seen, it worked out for us. She had a picnic table with an umbrella in the front and we enjoyed that area while at her place. We set up the iPod with speakers and enjoyed Patsy Cline and a few other relaxing tunes while we had our before dinner cocktails. Man life is good on vacation.

    We walked over to the Licka Kuca restaurant (and the shortcut there can be quite the challenge in the dark). Truthfully we found it to be just so-so. It was late and maybe that had something to do with it. They were out of what we wanted (both visits as it turned out). The staff was not exceptionally friendly and the place was rather dark. For all the hype prior to our visit we just didn't find it anything special. We are not food snobs either. Our choices are simple places, we like to eat as the locals do and as we do at home. 5 star restaurants are not what we look for but we do like decent food, portioned properly with friendly service. This probably comes from my years in food service.

    Retiring for the evening we knew the Tischer's and Bruechner's were going to be arriving in the middle of the night so we had an ear out for them (well I did, Tom slept like a log that night, never heard them at all). I heard their car creeping down the street, as our room faced the front road. They had two way radios so they could communicate with Bon once they arrived. Safely inside they came upstairs and we sat around in the little sitting room listening to the stories of their trip so far. Certainly we had to get them a beer, after all, they had just had a very long ride. Finally around 3 am we all went to bed. We agreed to meet in the breakfast room and then do the "walk".

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    Plitvice National Park-9/10/08
    Today we awoke to the peacefulness of the lovely park area. We joined our friends Tom & Nancy, Tom & Suellen and Bon & Rollie down in the breakfast room to have our morning meal and plan the day. The breakfast was a simple and pleasant one, cheese, sliced meat, rolls, juice, coffee or tea, yogurt, the standard fare for these kind of places. We decided when to meet to walk the park. This is a must-do when in this area and of course one of the reasons we made the stop here. Tom T tried (again) to get some Kuna and his Tyme card wouldn't work here either. Seems this was an ongoing thing. All the rest of us, as well as his travel group, had no problem accessing our accounts through the local ATM's. He called his bank, a local bank in Wisconsin, North Shore Bank and they told him it was the government that was not letting them let him get his money. Okay, well we all knew that story was a load. He made a little video at the ATM which we urged him to post on YouTube-one of those "Leave home without it..." spoofs (I don't think he ever posted it though). He resolved this when he got home-yes never was able to withdraw while in Croatia-by going in to the bank and closing his account. Talk about your miserable customer service! A good lesson here, always have a back up plan for money. He did notify his bank before he left the states. They knew his destinations, that is probably the scariest part of the story. Lucky for him he was traveling with friends that were spotting him cash until they returned home. He would have had to get cash on a credit card or have someone wire him cash if they had been alone. Wow, that would really tick me off!

    Off to the park. There are numerous trails. Which one you take depends upon what your tolerance is. There are different points that you can catch a bus or a boat. We opted for the one that was in the 2 to 3 hour range if I'm not mistaken. Of course we lolly gagged at the restaurant in the middle of the walk so that added to our time in the park. You also have wait time for the boat and for the bus. One does need to give it a full day even if you are only going to do the "short walk". The trail was spectacular. Waterfalls everywhere pouring in to crystal clear lakes and streams. Mother Nature is what is happening here. Pictures do not do it justice, nor do mere words, although we took pictures of the water and you can actually see the fish swimming around. We were traveling at what is considered almost off season and there still were plenty of tourists. It was a very warm day and I was glad I had my big old straw hat. We made the walk with no problems at all. Everyone enjoyed it, no casualties in our group. There was one lady the heat got to, lucky for her everyone let her get to the front of the line so she could get on the next boat, sit down and get out of the sun.

    After the walk we cleaned up, some rested and some sat outside enjoying the peaceful evening, sharing stories, evening cocktails and music of course. We were all leaving the next day, heading south, each group to a different area with plans to meet up one day in Split. We went to Licka Kuca again and as I noted earlier, it wasn't anything spectacular. They were out of whatever had been the "special" and what we had was just okay. I think those that had fish enjoyed there meals. Plans to meet for breakfast and then off to bed for everyone.

    Thoughts on the park: As they say, certainly a must see. It is serene and breathtaking. The walkways are in very good condition. We are walkers, not hikers but found this to be a wonderful place to just walk. I am quite sure the hikers love the park as well. I'm with everyone else that says this is worth the time and deserves a visit. We would return here as well.

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    Thanks for posting your thoughts on this spectacular country.

    Zagreb is underrated in my opinion. In fact, on our next trip we want to spend more time there. Have you heard about the recent earthquake and car bombings this week? I subscribe to Zagreb's daily e-news. That still would not keep me away. Just love Croatia.

    Isn't Plitvice just amazing? Glad you got to visit.

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    travel2live2, no I did not hear about the earthquake although we did get wind of the car bombings. We did not feel unsafe at all while in Croatia. We were overwhelmed in some areas of destruction though, sad, very sad. Those that wish to terrorize are everywhere, they win when you give in to their terror. Our travel to Europe will continue (we want to do this while we still have legs). We loved Croatia and certainly will return. Working now on the notes for the rest of our vacation that had us on to Trogir and then to the glorious Dubrovnik, hopefully those will be posted by the end of the weekend (this pesky job expects my full attention dayside!).

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    Good for you. You cannot NOT travel because of the slim possibility of situations occuring.

    Glad you loved it so much! My husband is there right now and tells me it is still lush and green and warm and beautiful.

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    Posting to 'bookmark' so this thread comes up under my name when I log in, and so I don't miss your updates!

    Enjoying it very much so far - you have been to parts of Croatia that I haven't yet reached...

    I remember you posting questions back in the summer, and I think we may have been in Dubrovnik around the same time. Keep posting please!

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    LuvToRoam, good question! This is exciting news - DH went to Croatia to purchase a house!!!! One of us had to stay behind to facilitate tons of emails and calls relating to banking, property management, lawyers, etc. - lots of work. It has been tricky trying to do this with the time change - when things are open here, they are closed there. BUT WE HAVE A HOUSE!! It is so lovely and I cannot wait to see it myself. And I so look forward to the different culture, climate, lifestyle, history, food, etc. I'm tickled!!

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    travel2live2, okay, I am offically just red face jealous, how wonderful! Details, details, details, now I have something to look forward to here. I think those great people have been working so hard to rebuild, the more visitors and the more cash that can come their way the faster it will happen. Will look for more from you!

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    Trogir-September 11, 2008
    We left the beautiful park area and had a pleasant drive to Trogir although we sure did see many abandoned and destroyed buildings and homesteads on the ride. We stopped at a roadside stand and bought some local cheese. It was not really cheap but it sure was good. Since this was from her farm, paying a few kuna more seemed like a good deal. We did stop in a little town called Prozor-Vrlika, needed a little potty/drink break. Children were walking around with their back packs on so they were either going or coming I guess. There was a little market (I use the term lightly) so we walked down the street and it wasn't much. Old men with machine parts and old ladies with clothing that didn't look very fashionable. Everyone just sort of sitting there, really kind of weird. We walked back to the main street we had come in on and sat at a table-the bar was actually across the street but there was no area on that side for outside seating-they were utilizing space across the narrow road. We each had a drink and used their facilities (we found every single place we stopped at on the entire trip to be gracious about letting people use the restrooms). We thought maybe we would get a bite to eat while stopped but there was not a restaurant in town. Not one. He said about 10 miles out we might find one. Clearly they are struggling to survive in this town. From this point we really saw lots of damaged buildings. We hit Trogir and getting in to town here is a little tricky. We actually did find our place with little trouble-luckily they (Kasalo) do give you good info on just about where they are and they had a sign on the bottom road which we saw on our first pass through (it is almost like a large U that you travel up, make a sharp turn and then are behind all the properties you were looking up at). We were staying at the family KASALO apartments. We had more trouble turning this huge van in the driveway than we did finding the place! But we made it, our hosts were there and our place was all ready for us. Really nice people and a tiny little guard dog to boot!

    What terrific accommodations. Our balcony overlooked the port and "castle ruins". The yachts are unbelievable here. We were getting close to the land of the rich and famous. There were patio doors that lead out to the balcony, so the view was always there and the central room was nice and bright. The balcony was covered, which was wonderful since it absolutely poured one of the days we were here. They had a rack for hanging clothes out as well as a table and chairs for outside dining. The central room had a large sectional type sofa, coffee table, a TV, a table at a banquette, with a few chairs and then a kitchen "area" that had a sink, fridge, 2 burners and cupboards with dishes and pots and pans. We surely would be utilizing this area. Only drawback here was that there was only one bathroom. Our travel buds are easy going as are we so it worked out just fine for us, never was an issue. There also was a loft here but we never used it at all. There were two bedrooms and each were just fine-clean linens, ample space to hang some clothes, bedside tables and a nice large window for air and light. One room had a double bed and one room had twin beds. They also have the nice outside roller blinds which kept the place nice and cool. For the most part we had pretty warm weather here.

    After settling in we ventured to the city center, which actually was just across the bridge (more or less) from where we were staying. I would say about a 10 minute walk. Internet access was nearby at a tourist shop, although there were only two computers here. As is the case everywhere these days, Internet access or cafes are easy to find. No shortage here either. Had to check out where we would get a bus to Split as we just didn't want to take the van. More about the bus later. The market here is wonderful and the small old town is fun to lose yourself in-narrow walkways that branch off and off and off, with little shops here and there. We strolled through the market, bought a shirt for Tom T, bought some olive oil from a little old lady, marveled at the great old buildings and then went looking for some place to eat. Pasta and pizza night for us-beer of course for the guys and wine for Bon and I so we chose an outdoor setting, K? The sign said Hausgemachte Nudlen-Pizza-Home Made Pasta with a K on either side, so I assumed it was called "K". We found it enjoyable and the waiter entertaining. A little more browsing around, a stop at a local grocery and then we headed back to our place. Great to hang out on the balcony. Night cap and off to bed for everyone. Tomorrow we would catch the bus for Split and see how the old rich and famous used to live.

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    Loving your report with all its great details! I'm living it right with you! :) You stayed in a lovely part of Trogir. What a magical place!

    What part of the country did you enjoy most? Perhaps I should be patient and wait for your next installment...

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    Side trip to Split, September 12
    Awoke to bright sunlight and the prospect of another simply beautiful day. Bon and I had planned on doing our own little breakfast so we walked to the local bakery near the bridge, picked up some fresh bread/rolls, naturally some schnechts (old German saying for bakery-anyone from Milwaukee will know this word) as well as some fresh fruit and then got to cutting and arranging and set a lovely table on the balcony. Our boys were duly impressed. This is the way to live, linger over coffee watching the sail boats waft in and out of the bay. But we did have to get ourselves up and out as we were going to Split today.

    We went to the bus station (based upon our Fodor's research we had decided on the "fast bus", much like a Greyhound) bought tickets (21 Kn each-which at the time we were there was about $4) for the "coach" and then went to the area at the bus station they said the bus would be. We were happy we made this choice. The other buses would have made many stops and it is hard to know what the comfort level would have been on said ride. Several buses came and went where we were waiting before our bus showed up. One only had to show the ticket to the driver and he knew if you belonged on his bus or not. Once on the bus, very nice, comfortable seat and not crowded at all. We just sat where we wanted to on the ride there.

    Once in Split it was quite easy to locate Diocletian's Palace as we were dropped right in front of it. Nice digs. We didn't think about asking where we had to catch the bus back to Trogir. We'd made a plan to meet up with our friends somewhere in the "center", but had telephones in case we could not find one another. The place was hopping, lots of tours groups and waiters bustling back and forth. It is really kind of cool, they have cushions set out on the stone walls and if you sit, the waiter arrives. Of course if you sit you are expected to order, which does seem fair to me. We ordered 4 coffees-what? Okay, coffees for Bon and I and the guys had beer (because when on vacation it is drink time somewhere in the universe). They bring a little board type thing to set your drinks on and you are good to go. We have noticed (and loved) that Europeans don't use plastic cups, they like the real thing. Found our friends and then off to explore.

    This complex is immense. If Tom and I were to go back we would hire a private guide. There are shops all over, it is impossible to get a sense of the history of the place. We knew some of the background because we had done some reading beforehand. The other group of travelers were staying in this complex and they liked their places. We went to see the rooms (to use the facilities) and they were very nice. Narrow walk to the storefront that they were above and up several flights of stairs for one of the apartments. Since it is such close quarters (building-wise) they didn't have much of a view. The rooms were air conditioned though and they were glad for that. There also were computers in their rooms with Internet access. The gal that had the studio below them and ran the place was ready to pop a baby out at any moment!

    We strolled around, witnessed the fish market, which was quite lively and then stopped and had a drink. Compared to off the beaten path places, cocktails were quite expensive here. We are spoiled already, cocktail hour just has not been breaking the bank. A little more strolling and then we went looking for a place that Tom T had scoped out earlier, for something to eat. We walked all the way to Marjan city park. This park offers a spectacular view of the sea and the Split promenade, “The Riva”. We actually had passed the restaurant and ended up at the park. We asked someone for directions to the place and they poo-poo'd the idea of going there. They recommended a place right on the promenade, do not remember the name, but I think it was the pizza place at the hotel right there on the promenade. We ate outdoors, it was the casual of the two restaurants that were there. We all had pizza. A few shared a pizza, the rest of us each had our own. They bill these as individual but they are huge. All were absolutely delicious. It did begin to sprinkle a little bit, but not a big deal. After that it was time to head towards the bus terminal to catch our bus back to Trogir. We had thought we would simply catch the bus back where we were dropped, but that wasn't the case. There were two distinctly different bus terminals so we had to figure that out. We did. Stopped at a gelato stand on the way because obviously an entire pizza was just not enough. Good-byes to our friends, a plan to catch up in Dubrovnik and we were on our way.

    Got the bus with no trouble. Sat down and planned to close our eyes for the ride home. But there was a problem. Seems there were too many people and people were not in their assigned seats. Assigned seats? We didn't know we had assigned seats. I looked at our tickets and sure enough, we were supposed to be in seat 13 and seat 14. Luckily we were at the beginning and the jostling around didn't hamper us getting to our assigned seats and staying in them. Others, not so lucky. Many had to stand for the ride home. After all that we got back to Trogir safe and sound. Took a slow stroll through town, stopped at a grocery store and then headed to the balcony. All in all a very fun day. We were glad to have seen Split but were happy we had chosen to stay in Trogir. It is certainly a much smaller town but that is what we like. The town was lively at night and once back at our place we could hear the music from the harbor side bars. Hang out on the balcony until it is time for bed. Tomorrow we will find a beach....

    Travel2live2-at the very end I will try to sum it all up and maybe come up with a verdict....

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    LuvToRoam, I am loving your report! Makes me long for Croatia again.

    JulieVikmanis, I've posted many times on this board that I was fond of Zagreb. We were there in late 06 and I found it to be quite nice and I'm glad we spent time there.

    Looking forward to more!

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    OMG you are buying a house in Croatia?! I am so green with envy right now! awesome. Can I ask which part of Croatia your house will be in?

    I think Barb on this board was considering a permanent move to Croatia because of her love for the country. I haven't seen anything about it in a little while so I'm wondering what the status is with her as well.

    Croatia is just delightful and to live there really would be a dream come true. Best wishes!!


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    So, Luv, how long was the "fast" bus ride from Trogir to Split? Did it stop at the airport in between? Or is that another bus? We're planning a trip in this area next fall.

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    Mimar, It's only about 12 miles or so between split and Trogir, so depending on traffic it can take as little as 20 minutes. The fast bus (coach) is direct; the city bus (#37) stops at the airport and other places, however they are more frequent than the fast bus.

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    Luv, you are welcome to drop in! Our house is in Istria, totally off the beaten path, in the forest yet only 10 minutes from the Adriatic. It is traditional Istrian stone and darling.

    For the first while (due to foreigner laws and all that, including starting our own company which is another requirement in our situation) we are only able to visit up to 90 days. That is no problem as we are still young and not retired yet. We will go 2-3 times a year, 2-3 weeks at a time. We will do a lot of traveling from there - only two hours' drive from Venice, one hour flight to Glasgow, Frankfurt, Rome, etc. Then we will live there six months of the year, and six months here.

    I am so excited I can hardly bear it. The surrounding villages are lovely. The village that is 3 km away is so real and untouristed. I can hardly wait to go the markets and such there! My husband is already fitting in - he was invited out to meals about 10 times.

    This is our dream and we are actually in the process of living it! We do not want to just talk about it but decided to act. Now is an excellent time to buy there because when Croatia joins the EU home prices are said to double or triple.

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    Luv -- great report. I am reallly enjoying it and missing Croatia so much. I got back the end of Oct. Maybe we were in Dubrovnik at the same time? I arrived there on 10/3.

    OMG I am green with envy too, travel2live2!! If I could swing it financially, I would be doing the same thing. Next year I am thinking of going back for 6 weeks and staying in Gruz, like a local, just to see if being there, not as a total tourist would change my mind about living there. tcreath it is because of my love of the country and a certain handsome guy, wink wink.

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    Well travel2live2 you never know, maybe someday we'll get to your town... How perfectly wonderful. We have so many kids and grandkids here in my heart I know it would be hard for me to leave. And then the money. Retirement looked pretty good a few years ago but this market has to do a big comeback soon to help our "spending" fund. We do have about 7 years yet so we'll see. We did not get to Istria at all. We have tossed around a few scenarios to get us there in the next few years, so we'll see. I can't talk about our next vacation until I get this trip report completed, that was the devils deal I made with myself. I wish we could have 6 weeks, but alas, it just doesn't work out. We have been doing almost 3 weeks at one time and that is a treat. I sure do applaud you living your dreams though, best of luck and health to you and your hubby!
    Barb, glad you are enjoying our notes; we left Dubrovnik on the 21st of September so our paths would not have crossed. How was the weather for you? We found it sort of chilly when we left. We spent a day in Germany after that and it was downright cold.

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    Luv, I was there from 10/3 to 10/24 and I only had one day of rain. Every other day was glorious, warm with a lovely breeze and just needed a light coat or sweater in the evenings. It was perfect.

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    Okay, now I have to admit that after all of this talk about moving to Croatia I found myself researching real esatate! Just daydreaming for now, of course, but I found the perfect little place in Rovinj and could happily see myself there... ;)

    LuvToRoam, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of your report!


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    tc, that's cool! Watch out - dreams can lead to reality! :))

    It is a long and drawn out process (also very involved) but I KNOW it will be so worth it! Just think - we will be able to make daytrips to Rovinj, lots of islands, Venice, and so on. I keep on having to pinch myself! :)

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    Trogir and the beach, September 13, 2008
    This morning we all were lazy. Enjoyed another breakfast out on the balcony and watched as the city across the bay came to life. We decided to browse around the town some more as there were a few things we wanted to pick up (items we should have bought when we first saw them). Also wanted to get some cards off so needed the Post Office.

    We walked around the town, did some shopping and stopped at one of the waterfront bars for a drink. Drinks are expensive in these frontage places compared to what we have been paying. We decided since we had not been to a beach yet that is what we should do. We got information from the tourist office (not to be confused with the TI (tourist information) that all the cities and towns have. This was the same place that had the Internet we had been using. We for some reason do not have the name of the beach or the boat that we took and I can not find any information on it online-it is just lost in our brains somewhere. We think it was Donji Okrug Beach, but really can't say for sure. It was a total "veg out day". We caught the boat almost in front of the ruins in the bay and it traveled around the point of the island we were on. We were the only ones going but on the ride back home there were about 4 other people besides us.

    The boat ride there was very nice. Once docked we walked down a path that led to the beach area. We stopped at a place to rent some chairs and ordered some drinks. Unfortunately they didn't rent towels. We did not have beach towels, it didn't even occur to me we would have to bring our own (don't ask me why). While it was very nice outside I knew if I went in the water and didn't have a towel I would simply freeze to death. Bon and Tom ventured out though and really enjoyed the water. The beach was a pebble beach, not sand and not big boulders (which we ran in to at a later beach). Rollie and I sat on our lounge chairs and enjoyed the peacefulness of it all. There were a few families enjoying the water as well. The little children did not have suits on, truly a European thing. Parents in America wouldn't dream of letting their kids run naked at a beach. All you see at American beaches are babies with sopping wet diapers hanging down to their knees. Our waiter was from Bosnia and he gladly told us how he loved Americans, especially Bill Clinton. We were like slugs on this beach, two ventured out in to the water and two just sat there. We only went exploring to find a potty. They do have very simple little set-ups for changing your clothes, right out there on the sidewalk. It is like two U's together, no door, you just step in and get around the bend and change your clothes. Only Tom used this one. I wasn't wet and Bon dried out on the beach and then just slipped her clothes on over her suit.

    We took the boat back, some time around 6 I believe. We decided to climb up the ruins when we got back, as that is right where the boat dropped us off. Views from the top were very nice. Of course the pigeons have really taken the place over and the stairs in these places, well they certainly wouldn't be OSHA approved. They had a stage set up and chairs across from the area all set up so they must have open air venues there. Nothing was happening while we were there. Behind the ruins looks to be a soccer field. The entire area is really beautiful. That night the moon was big, white and full. Took a few snapshots and then headed back to our place.

    We cleaned up and then headed back out for dinner. We ate at Kamerlengo, tucked inside the old town. We had passed this place several times and the menu looked interesting. I would say we found the waiters here to be a little on the hovering side. I get that whole stroll by the table thing but when there aren't any other tables where you are, it just gets annoying. We had soup and salads before our meals and they were good. All enjoyed the meals except for Tom. He had ordered a pork dish and it was just not good, the meat was very tough. When the waiter came back to take dishes and ask about our meal Tom let him know he didn't enjoy his (and in fact he hadn't eaten it, I shared my meal). The waiter took his meal right off the bill. We were quite surprised. Then he came by with after dinner shots, a shot of Grappa for Tom & Rollie and some kind of fruit schnapps for Bon & I, on the house he said, to make up for the bad meal. That was very nice of him, obviously he wanted to salvage our "dining experience" at this place and he did. A meandering walk back to our place. Tomorrow we have to get up and out early as we are going on a rafting adventure on the Cetina.

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    Adventure on the River Cetina, September 14, 2008
    We awoke to gray and threatening skies. We telephoned the rafting place (it was before 7am) and they said weather was okay in their area and the adventure was still on. So off we went. We managed to get the van out of the parking spot and driveway without taking out any of the stone walls or shrubs lining the area. The ride to the small town of Omiš was a pleasant one, we had no troubles getting here at all. We met the guides and then followed them to a parking spot (a restaurant we would later eat at) and then got in their van and made the ride to the starting point of the adventure.

    The other group heading out at the same time as us were six Russian women. Each raft had one guide and they were very entertaining and certainly seemed to know what they were doing. You get a brief lesson on how to handle the oar and they give you a few key command words. We donned our helmets and life vests and then were off.

    The water was wonderfully clear and quite still when we began. The shores were bursting with greenery, shooting towards the sun in some places and dipping in the drink in other places. We had to duck down to clear branches in a few areas and we did have to guide ourselves with the oars through narrow passages on some parts of the river. There were dips and bends, some sharper than others. At one point they "docked" the rafts and had us all get out, walk (climb) up a rocky hill and then take a path, roughly a quarter of a mile and then down a very rocky slope to the waiting rafts. Wild rapids are what we missed, one guide tied one raft to the other and maneuvered through while the other guide walked us over. After that there were more rushes and dips, but all very manageable. At one point they got us under a waterfall, which was a big laugh for everyone. There was one pretty good size dipity-do and we had to remember one of the commands that had us dropping into the raft (normal position was sitting on the side rowing). Another of the stops was at a huge rock formation (about 3 stories high). They invited anyone adventurous enough to get out and make the climb to jump off the ledge. Only the guides were jumping. At this point there were several other rafts converged and we assumed they were all from the same company. From here it was a nice jaunt to the end point. The sun really only peeked out a few times but the rain stayed away the entire time we were on the water. You work up a pretty good sweat, we were glad to not have had the sun beating down while we were working so hard.

    Once landed we helped carry the raft up and then changed clothes-we were soaked. There was another of those double U type changing areas, but it was off towards the woods so wasn't that disarming to use. There was a restaurant right there so we decided that is where we would lunch. We had left so early we really only had a coffee and a piece of fruit. All were good and hungry.

    Restaurant Radmanove Mlinice obviously has the hoards of tourists arriving all at once down pat. There were several long, long banquet tables all set and ready to go for tour buses that would show up while we were there. Then of course they must get the rafters and since it was Sunday, families were everywhere as this was a park as well. We sat down and ordered our beverages. The table next to us had this huge platter just filled with all sorts of meats, etc. It looked wonderful! Additionally the specialty at this place is bread and it is to die for. Each loaf is about the size of a medium pizza, round with a truly appetizing golden brown crust. They had huge slices of this bread along with the tray of goodies. When the server came back we simply pointed to the table next to us and said "we'll have that". It had pork, sausage, the special little "hamburgers" Croatians make, potatoes, and several other yummy items. We left here thoroughly satisfied.

    This complex used to be a mill that has been converted in to a restaurant. There is a trout stream and you can see them swimming around as you walk over the bridge. The huge brick oven has bread going all the time. After our wonderful lunch we walked over to the gelato stand and had a little treat.

    It began to rain as we were heading back. We sort of settled in and then the rain really came. Several of us decided to nap, Bon settled down with her book. Once the rain stopped we decided to run out and get some snacks. First grocery store was closed and we worried we might not find one open, but the little store across the bridge and down the road was open. We got our stock and enjoyed the brisk air as we walked back. It was a lazy night for us all to kick back, organize the bags and prepare to head out the next day.

    Thoughts on Trogir: We liked that it was a small town. Everything was easy to get to and our accommodations were wonderful. Our place was in the jet path though and they did fly over on a very regular basis but it really didn't bother us. The city itself could be heard but it wasn't an overwhelming blaring kind of noise. Certainly there was very little traffic noise although the road could be quite jammed when trying to get to the bridge to head out of town once everyone was up and moving. The people here were very friendly as well. The dock area was always abuzz with activity. We would return and we did find it a nice base for day trips.

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    Luv, am enjoying this report. Travel really does broaden cultural views, doesn't it? You have so many experiences and adventures to look back and re-live (until you return!). :))

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    travel2live2, your encouragement really helps keep me on track. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked a question that I have run to my "trip-notes" for once we return, even years after the travel. I stick all those things (notes, stubs, torn placemats, etc.) in the photo album I make as soon as we return. I've been really good about that but the actual full report, not so much. I have learned to take pictures of the town signs (most times) and next trip I will be snapping shots of the menus and even the food, even though that drives my hubby crazy at the time. What the heck, it is a digital camera-you hit delete at some point if you don’t want to take up space. He is always happy when I can come up with the answer to one of the travel questions… All those things prompt my memory at a later date. Get ready for the romantic Dubrovnik. I'll be working on that this week.

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    Dubrovnik, September 15, 2008
    Monday, Monday, time to pack up and head out to Dubrovnik. There we will catch up again with our friends and begin the vacation wind down. Grabbed our water bottles and the nice fresh bakery for the ride, maneuvered out of the driveway and did the slow trek out of town. Our ride was going to be a good one, all along the coast.

    It was a very manageable ride, we stopped to stretch our legs once and drank in the beauty of the sea. Sailboats out in the water, small towns built in to the hillside and islands covered in green. It was a taste of what was ahead. Missy, the GPS got us in to town and really quite close to the area of our next place. Believe it or not, we really didn't have city maps to get to our places, considering that, we did pretty good. We ended up stopping and calling the gal that was renting us the place. She gave us directions from where we were and then planned to meet us at the site. We found the address but were unsure about just which doorway was going to take us to the proper rental unit. She showed up and our place was down from the road we parked on. This place did not really have a designated parking spot. Here we were with this big whopping van... We did find a spot-will talk about that later. All forgiven when you got on the balcony and looked out on the Adriatic Sea and saw the beautiful walled city. Breathtaking, no other words, just simply breathtaking.

    Our rooms were very nice, bright and clean, as all of our places have been on this trip. Bon & Rol took the space that had a tiny little kitchen area right in the bedroom, just as you walk in the door (so it wasn't facing the bed), with a very small bathroom off the bedroom. We had the room that had a sitting/dining/kitchen area, separate bedroom and nice size bathroom. Each place had silverware, place mats, glasses, dishes, etc., very well stocked. Additionally there was a washer we could use in a utility room right on our level and a clothesline in the yard. The gate locked so you were quite secure. There was a large porch with two tables, four chairs each. We spent a lot of time out there.

    We got our stuff out of the van and settled in a bit. Wine, beer & snacks out on the porch and we laid out a plan. We popped down to the grocery store and got a few supplies. I had heard many good things about Mea Culpa, a pizza place in the old city, so that is where we were going to head to for supper. It took us awhile, but we found it. We sat at a table outdoors and all had pizza. We enjoyed the meal and took leftovers with us. This would be a part of a later breakfast. Our plan after dinner was to meet up with our other friends and so we did. Strolled around the old town a bit and then of course, had to find the Buza Bar and have a cocktail there. Leave it to Tom T to know the exact route. He got us there and we all enjoyed a nightcap out there on the rocks, facing the Adriatic. The sun was down by now and it was beginning to get a little chilly. This is why one should never travel without a scarf/shawl. A lifesaver when the sun goes down.

    As it turned out our friends were staying in a place that was about 150 steps directly down from our place (and their place was about 150 steps from the bottom road that goes to the old town). Good Lord, old ladies with their bags of groceries do these steps every day! We checked out their rental and then headed back up to ours. There was a grocery store at this street level (the one that was 150 steps down from our place), right next to the Biker Bar. Talk about your unfriendly staff, the chick running this bar was unbelievably unfriendly. We stopped and asked a question once and she was quite rude and another time we just parked the guys for a drink while we did the grocery shopping (needing 4 people to carry groceries-come on beer and wine bottles are heavy). No points for smiling faces here. She had a neck brace on and we surmised someone probably tried to knock her block off (I know, that's mean).

    The four of us had a last nightcap out on the porch. We could see the lights of the cruise ships out in the water and here and there a shot of light from a small boat working its way to the port. There was a huge harvest moon in the sky and it just beckoned one to linger. We laid out a plan for the next day and then settled in. All slept very well that night.

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    Day trip to Lokrum-nightlife in old town-Tuesday, September 16, 2008:
    Waking in this lovely area was a treat. It was relatively quiet where we were, especially in the morning. You could hear the sound of heels on the cement steps as people were heading off to wherever and neighbors saying their good mornings to other neighbors, but you didn't have any street type noise. The sky was bright and blue, it was almost impossible to tell where the sky and sea met. We never tired of this view. Lokrum island was right across from where we were staying and that is what we decided our day trip would be, a swimming excursion on Lokrum. This time we would not hit the beach without towels. Before we headed out lovely piano music drifted out from the place next door. It was something we would enjoy the entire time we were here.

    Tom was up and out early and brought back fresh treats for our morning meal. We had a terrific "European" breakfast on the porch. Bon and I hung a few items out on the line and planned to do wash either later that day or the next morning. We got ourselves ready and walked down to the old town, this is where we would buy some towels and catch the boat to the island. Once on the boat you are on the island in a mere 10 minutes. We walked around a bit and stopped for a drink at the little restaurant/bar that is there. Peacocks are all over the place. Rollie had on a blue shirt and one of the bright blue peacocks jumped up on the back of his chair. We figured he (or she) was hitting on Rollie because he had some good colors. At least it never bit him. After the drink we decided to head back down to the water. We ended up swimming in the area right near where the boat drops visitors off. There were other places on this island that had nicer swimming spots, unfortunately we hadn't done our homework on this island so we swam at the first "swimming hole" we came to and while it was nice, it probably wasn't the nicest they had to offer here. They have a small bathroom, not really a changing room, but we did put our suits on there. There are little ladders going down in to the water and the bottom is huge rocks buried in sand. The salt water almost lifts you up so you float with ease (well they all did, I seem to sink like a rock no matter what). The water was perfect temperature-wise and the air was fresh and warm. We laid in the sun for awhile after swimming and it was very relaxing. We decided to walk the garden area so got dressed and headed out. We purchased the little brochure that had a map, outlined the island, what was there, some history and routes one could take from here to there. This is not a big island. We walked some of the paths, didn't go up the hill to the cross, but did see some very nice swimming areas we wished we had explored before jumping in earlier. The water is just unbelievably clear. The gardens were very nice and we watched some locals fishing on one bluff. We stopped back at the little restaurant, split a small sandwich and had a drink. There was a fellow playing the guitar and he was pretty good. Naturally he had some CD's out in front of him in his guitar case, so we bought one. It turned out to be a very nice CD. After awhile we ventured down to get the boat back. This little island sleeps at night. It is amazing, from our place we can see most of the northeast side of the island and at night there was one sail boat sort of tethered off the shore and we could see the light on that boat, otherwise it was all dark. There were cruise ships and yachts that dotted waters in between the island and the mainland as well. We were now in the land of the rich and famous. The boat got us back to old town in short order. We headed back to our place to freshen up.

    The walk up to our place was beginning to be a drag. I have this problem when I eat and then walk shortly afterward. Yes, I get "seasick" and normally find myself puking alongside the road. So there I was, I had sent everyone else ahead, puking on the side of the road in front of the place the other group was staying and lo and behold, here they come only to find me on the side of the road looking gray. Poor gimpy Rollie is across the street at the crabby chicks bar with Tom and Bon is shopping by herself hoping I will get over what ails me. Sorry, not a pretty story.

    We enjoyed our front porch again for before dinner drinks (not me, only water, I had to walk again) and a gorgeous sunset. It was beginning to get a little chilly out. I took a nice warm shower and then we headed out to find something to eat. We meandered around town, found the Internet and the guys had drinks while Bon and I wrote home. The bartender at this place was from Bosnia. At first he seemed unfriendly but then really opened up and talked with us and about himself. We left there in search of some place to eat and ended up at a little place on the steps side of the center, in one of the pathways heading upwards. I don't remember if we were late and places were filled up or if the menus didn't look right or why we ended up at this place. By now the night air was really chilly but we did eat outside. It was a pasta and pizza place and it was okay. Didn't write down the name of the place. I find it amazing how these restaurants, that have one or two tables on the inside and maybe six or so tables lined up on the sloping walkway, manage to make enough money. Our waiter was friendly though and the area was hopping. Further up the walk was a group of young people enjoying the evening and the music on the outside portion of a bar. We have noted on all our travels to Europe, American music, especially rock and roll is prevalent everywhere. It seems universal and Croatia was no exception. The young people responded wildly to various lyrics to several of the songs that were playing, especially the techno-mix of the Mama's & Papa's singing "California Dreamin". Yelps and clapping, all were having good fun.

    On our walk back home we ran in to Tom & Suellen, they were on a mission for TP. We told them to come back with us, there was TP at our place they could have. So they did. We had a nightcap with them and they were off and we went to bed. Plan for tomorrow is an excursion that boasts a "fish dinner". Cool night and snuggled under the covers, another good nights sleep.

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    Day trip to Cavtat, September 17, 2008
    We all were a little lazy today. Originally we had thought about the fish picnic-boat trip but decided to do it later this week (we should have done it on one of these bright sunny days and not waited). Instead we took a boat down the coast a way to Cavtat. The ride was pleasant and it looked like we had plenty of time to explore the town if we wanted to.

    Right near the boat landing is a nice walk way with benches and tropical looking trees in planters. We parked ourselves at a little place and had a drink. I don't know why we didn't do the Rector's Palace that was here. We sort of walked around, peeked in a few shops (all the wares here were the same that we had seen), picked up a couple of trinkets at the outdoor market and tried to locate the TI. We did find the office, but it was simply an office space and the woman there appeared tied up with someone else. There were no brochures or anything like that. We did find a large map on a wall down the road and it outlined the area. Unfortunately if we wanted to explore more of the area (Konavle and the restaurant Konavoski Dvori -which I had read some nice things about) we would need a car. We had not come in our vehicle because for one, we didn't want to lose our parking space and two, it just was too big for these narrow roads. Unless you are a party of 8 don't accept an upgrade to a van. We would have ventured out differently if we would have had something a little more reasonably sized. In Dubrovnik the parking was a huge issue. We did end up moving the van because someone left a nasty note on it. Our apartment rental (Simply Angelic Apartments) insisted we could park anywhere on the opposite side of the street we were on. I think we sort of doubted this. We wished there were better parking arrangements here. A smaller vehicle would have helped, but honestly, parking for her place was a problem.

    We were sort of bummed to find out we really couldn't venture away from town on this excursion. This is probably a place that is really hopping in high season, it just didn't seem to have any umph while we were here. Maybe our expectations were too high, don't know what it was. We decided to have our lunch here though, right on the main drag and it was pretty good. After that we caught a boat back to Dubrovnik. We weaved ourselves in and around some of the back streets, popping in interesting looking shops before we headed back to our place. We stopped at the grocery store, picked up a fresh batch of goodies and then headed up to our place. Tonight we were going to have the Tischer's and Bruechner's up for a farewell drink.

    This was sort of a regroup day, we did some wash when we got back, had a little personal down time and then got our little spread ready for evening on the patio. We enjoyed another simply breathtaking sunset while listening to music from the iPod. By the time our guests arrived the weather had really taken a chilly turn. We had a drink outside and then moved to our "suite". Baily's and coffee, that will warm you. Even the beer drinking boys enjoyed that. Tomorrow our friends would be taking off for Germany. Our plan for the next day is to walk the wall.

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    Walking Dubronik City Wall-September 18, 2008
    We are quite spoiled by now. We wake to the most beautiful view in the world, accompanied by lovely piano music from next door. We have had breakfast on the patio each morning where we have been able to linger with our coffee. This is what vacation is all about. Our plan for today is to walk the wall and look in to a concert in the old city tonight.

    If you are a walker then the wall is just perfect. Bon and I did get ahead of Tom and Rollie, but you just feel like you want to get in to the walk and make it worth your while. There are many places to stop and take in the view. And while the view of the old town from outside the city walls at our place is magnificent, it is indescribable when peering out from the tall walls that surround and protect the town. Up and down and around, it is a great walk. They have a poster of the war damage when you enter the city but it really isn't until you are up on the wall that you can see the extent of damage that still has not been repaired. There are plots that simply have piles of rocks, destroyed buildings that have not been rebuilt. From a distance you see the town and all the fresh tile roofs, it is a different view in some spots from the wall.

    Bon and I finished the walk long before Tom and Rollie, so we sat and had a drink at the harbor area bar and watched for them to come down. We found one another in a short time. A little browsing at some of the little stands-Bon got her tiny little hand made boat here and then we went to get information on a concert for later that evening. We choose the one that was going to be held at Rector's Palace Atrium, which was right across from the church that had a wedding party celebrating yesterday. We have always run in to beautiful brides on these trips. Weddings aren't only held on the weekends here. Once we had our plans set for that evening we went searching for a place to grab a bite and found ourselves at Arka, just up from the vegetable/fruit market. Pizza and pasta here and it was very good and pleasantly served. The host (the Captain) was very cordial. All of the restaurants have someone with menus hawking their place. It is a lower season now, so everyone is vying for business from smaller crowds. Next door to this place was a small Internet shop. Unfortunately we received bad news from home today while checking email, Tom's co-worker and dear friend (they worked together for over 30 years) had passed away. Needless to say it was a shock and made us quite sad. One of those life is short moments for sure. Kathy had lived a good life but surly died way too young, she was our age. Typically we are very aware of how blessed we are and how short and fragile life is. We don't take anyone or anything for granted, at least we try not too. We would toast our friend this evening.

    Our walk back had us stopping at a statue of Marin Drzic-of course pictures and the "knee rub" for good luck as well as photos on the canon just inside the entry. As we made this walk again we decided we would cab it home tonight. Walking up once a day was enough.

    We walked back down later that night. We stopped at a large outdoor lounge sort of kitty-corner and down the block from the palace hosting the concert. They had just about any drink you wanted-Tom had a Pina Colada and we toasted his friend Kathy. The concert was in the atrium so was actually "outdoors". It was amazing, you walk through the doors and in to the courtyard and once they close those huge doors, no more noise from the busy city outside. This show was presented by the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra. The pianists were Ildous Galioulline and Goran Filipec and they performed Schubert and Schumann. We enjoyed this concert. It was a nice performance and the somewhat intimate setting added to our enjoyment.

    By the time the performance was over (and it was not a real long show) it had really gotten chilly out. We walked out of the walled city and hailed a cab at the cabbie stand just outside that area. He got us home with no trouble and we all hit the sack. Tomorrow would now be our "fish picnic".

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    Thank you so much for a wonderful Croatian trip report. However may I please correct one item which is an not true. While you were walking on the city walls, you did see some ruins. These ruins are not from the last war, they are part of the town prior to the 1667 earthquake which were found years prior to the 1991 war.
    Dubrovnik prides itself on how quickly the war damage was repared. There are only a few motor shells on some of the walks just outside of town which are not repaired.
    Thank you for spending more than just a short period of time here, as there is so much to discover about Dubrovnik.
    The town has begun putting up the Christmas decorations and the very large tree in now standing in Luza square, even with all of our rain it is still lovely sight.

    An American Living in Dubrovnik

    Dobrodosli u Dubrovnik

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    Croatiantravelady, I will correct the report on my blog-unfortunately one cannot correct here :( We were very impressed with the rebuilding and very impressed with the people. I can only imagine how wonderful it must look at Christmas time. All signs of war should probably not be removed; people forget too quickly the ravage of war. How lucky you are to live in such a glorious town and how lucky they are to have such a great spokeswoman! Hopefully I will be wrapping up my report this week. It has been fun reliving the great time we had and putting it down in writing for review years from now.

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    Fish Picnic/Folk Dancing, September 19, 2008
    Today the weather is not as nice as it has been but it isn't raining so we decide to go ahead with the fish picnic excursion. After our morning ritual (and does it get any better than breakfast, beautiful music from next door and stunning views everywhere you look?) on the patio we head on down to the city. The little bay at the old town has a few stands that offer different excursions and we have already decided which one we will take. The pamphlet really doesn't give a name, it simply says Elaphite Islands excursion fish picnic, motor boat Karuzo. It was a small boat and we departed around 10:30 am. I'm quite certain that we got a better deal than is listed but haven't written that info down. This excursion will have us stop at Kolocep for a short time, then to Sipan and final stop Lopud.

    The boat ride was quite pleasant. The first island was a short stop. We strolled a little but there really wasn't much to see. Clearly the season is over here for most and with only a little more than a half hour, one isn't going to venture far from the main drag. We did look through a few of the shops. Once back on the boat the tables were all set and once we took off they served the "fish picnic". I hadn't had high expectations for this but it was quite good. Two whole fish per person, they were falling off the plate. Yes the head and bones were still there but they were easy to eat and tasty. The bread baskets were refilled again and again and wine or soda was plentiful. Everyone on this little cruise was friendly and the boat staff exceptionally cordial. The highlight for many was of course when one of the sailors tossed some fish bones overboard and the gulls converged. Yikes! After that out came the cameras and overboard went bones. Everyone got a big kick out of the birds swooping in for a chance at the booty. They had a big bowl of apples out for dessert and we all took a few which we would enjoy later.

    We walked through some of the shops and I did get several table clothes and gifts from one gal that had an outside stand. She was very happy to have us as customers (Bon also bought several items) and we were glad we bought all of these items from her. (My table cloth looks spectacular on our dining room table and all the kids loved the table runners we got here as well.) We walked up to the church, looked around a bit and then meandered down to the dock. Once back on the boat the crew offered up drinks to everyone so out came the wine bottles and the ride back to Dubrovnik was a gala one.

    Once back to Dubrovnik we checked on the Folk Dance that was to happen that evening and made plans to attend. Back up to our place to refresh and then back down to attend the concert put on by the Folklorni Ansambl Lindo. This was another outdoor venue, just a little ways from one of the entrances to the old town. We lucked out as far as seats go. The seating is quite steep-you enter from the top and then descend. We climbed over a railing once down toward the front and ended up with a row of four seats all to ourselves with a perfect view. The folk dancers were wonderful, very lively and we were quite entertained as was the rest of the crowd. The stone walls and the black sky were the perfect backdrop. After the concert we walked to the city and found a little place to grab a bite. We were very comfortable during the concert but now it was getting quite chilly. We found a place that had some seating on the inside so we grabbed a booth and ordered some late supper. Our meal was quite good and I'm sorry I don't know the name of the place. It was just off the main square, towards the sea, sort of down and around a corner. By now not too many people were eating outside. After our meal we strolled back to the cab stand and caught a cab home. Brisk night, sleeping would be good again.

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    Enjoying the view-Dubrovnik's beauty, September 20, 2008:
    We wake to the last full day we will have in Dubrovnik. Today we have to take care of all the "housekeeping" type chores-properly pack up, empty out the fridge, garbage, etc. and clean out the van. We started out by simply enjoying the gorgeous view for one last time on the patio. Our breakfast was a smorgasbord of what was left in the fridge from our various trips to the grocery store and the leftovers brought back from the meals enjoyed elsewhere. We also still had some apples from the boat trip, so it was a well-rounded meal.

    There were a few items we wanted to get in the old town so we did that walk down the stairs one last time. No rush, just savoring this, our last time in the city. We plopped ourselves at a little cafe next to the "atrium" while Bon did some shopping. The guys had beer and I ordered a wine but it wasn't going down as quickly as their beer. Bon helped polish it off when she returned. We decided to walk around and then stop for a lunch. We popped in and out of shops and I did finally find another black Pashmina to purchase. We settled on the place right next door to Mea Culpa for lunch. It was pretty good. We strolled on back up to our place and began the task of getting ready to leave. We were to fly out the next morning to Stuttgart. Once there we would spend the end of our wonderful vacation with the Lobert's.

    We got that beast of a van closer to where we were staying so we could clean it out and begin to pack it up. This is where Bon ended up breaking her foot (something not officially confirmed until she saw the doctor two days after we returned home). It is a "girlfriend" joke, Bon is always the one cleaning up, always the one pictured with the broom in goofy pictures (we have been friends for years, travel to Door County every year and for years {when we were all younger} traveled to Las Vegas every other year). Well she was sweeping the van out, backing herself out of the van and her foot got caught on one of the door or seat slides and crash, out the wide open side door she went. She said she heard the bone snap. Luckily it would seem the break was a clean one. And thank God she didn’t break her back! She hobbled back to the room and up that foot went with some ice. That is pretty much how she spent her evening. It did help the swelling though and that was the big concern. Tomorrow we would be sitting in a van, walking an airport and then sitting on a plane again. We did just all spend the evening in, no one was hungry, it was rather chilly and Bon sure wasn't going to make the steps in this condition. So we polished off the rest of what was opened, readied everything for a quick getaway and tucked ourselves in to bed in Dubrovnik one final time.

    Thoughts on Dubrovnik: This is simply a must-see. It cannot be described it must be experienced. The scenery, the people and the beautiful walled city offer a unique and wonderful respite from the rest of the world. We were simply enchanted by the city.

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    Stopover in Nurtingen, September 21/22, 2008
    Up and out in the morning, barely a chance to savor one last time out on the patio to drink in the beauty of Dubrovnik. The drive to the airport was an easy one and even though the road was winding and sort of narrow, we got out of town with no problem at all. Once at the airport we found the little strip-mall sort of site for the car drop, dropped the car, checked in and then found our gate. Our flight was uneventful and the luggage arrived safely as did we. In Stuttgart we would get a car, stay over with the Lobert's and then take off the next day for Frankfurt where we would get our flight back to the US.

    We were surprised to see Patrick waiting for us at the gate! The plans they had for us this day was to ride the steam train to Neuffen and enjoy the wine festival and the celebration of 150 years of postal service there. We were sort of in a time crunch, he was there so we could just follow him to the train station once we had our car. We found the rental counter and got all checked in and they told us where to go get the car. Since Patrick travels extensively he knows the airport like the back of his hand. Even at that it took a long time to find the car and by the time we finally did get out of the garage with our car there was concern we wouldn't make the station in time to get the train. Relief for the family, we made it to the station before the train.

    The Sofazügle ("Sofa Train") are over 100 years old and are listed as protected in Germany. The historical steam train travels between Nürtingen and Neuffen on one Sunday in each of the months of May, July (two Sundays), August, September, October and December (our lucky Sunday). Link- It is a big deal, the conductors were in full regalia, authentic I believe. Many families were on board. Renate had "reserved" a section for us and it was a very pleasant ride through the lovely countryside and through small towns to Neuffen. We took the horse drawn Postal carriage from the train station in to town, Rollie even got to sit up front with the "driver" while the rest of us were in the coach. Full costume here as well. We walked through the building that housed a display of some postal memorabilia and then strolled on down to the wine festival. Tables were set up for folks to sit and enjoy the wine and the delights being cooked up in huge fry pans and kettles. Zwiebelkuchen and sausages along with some wine and beer. Yum. The town was just charming, window boxes overflowing with beautiful flowers, harvest displays on doorsteps and at storefronts. Quaint and lovely as are all these little German towns. It is a shame the day was quite chilly. A little more strolling around and then we caught the train back to Stuttgart.

    Just enough time to freshen up and then it was off to dinner. They took us to Gasthaus Loewen in Unterensigen, a suburb of Nurtingen, about 5 km out of town. Our meal was wonderful. It was a cozy place and the service was great. We each had something different and all of the meals were delicious. Back to their place and of course schnapps, Jagermeister and wine. Bon really needed to put her foot up and Renate had a nice ice bag for her. We could stay up late tonight as we didn't have to get up early. Our flight was later in the day on Monday.

    In the morning Renate once again had a huge fresh breakfast ready for us. Pretzel rolls, fresh from the bakery, they are simply scrumptious! Home made jams, fresh coffee...we are so spoiled. A pleasant and relaxing morning and then we loaded up the car and were off to the airport. Rollie got us there with no problems. Checked luggage, parked ourselves at a little "kiosk" bar and enjoyed a wine and pretzel. We flew Air India again, as we had round trip tickets. Once on board we found a nice fresh airplane compared to the one we came in on and since it wasn't full we were free to move around once in the air. I moved up to a seat just behind first class, two free seats and nothing but wall in front of me. Spent the ride home with my legs swung over the middle seat, blanket on and book light on my book to read the way home. Wonderful flight! We arrived safely in Chicago, were picked up by the parking company, taken to our car and on the road to Milwaukee in nothing flat. We seemed to have missed the traffic so the ride home was very uneventful. And while vacations are wonderful it is great to be home. The next day will have both of us returning to work :(

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