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Trip Report Hungarian and Croatian adventures in summer 2006

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We posted bits of information along the way on our recent trip to Hungary and Croatia, but here is the complete version, which I hope can be of some help to those who are planning their trips!
A bit of background¡K My husband and I are in our early 50¡¦s and love to travel! We take about 3 trips a year to Europe. We travel light, and look for good places to stay, which aren¡¦t expensive when possible. This way we get to meet many local people, who teach us so much about their countries and way of life. This isn¡¦t always possible. Sometimes we just aren¡¦t comfortable staying in small, homey places, as in when we traveled in Egypt. We have stayed on a cow farm in Northern Italy, a horse ranch in Tuscany, and in family homes all over Europe. It¡¦s part of the fun.
We booked these FF tickets 330 days in advance, as we try to do each year for our summer trip. We had a bit more trouble in doing this trip for some reason. Delta is our airline and their rules and availability have been changing all the time. Ok, now about our 3 week trip!!
June 15-16
I was up very early, why?? I had to book our return flight for next May with Delta, planning our next FF trip. It just so happened this was the day to book that flight! Hummm, they don¡¦t have exactly what we need, so we hold a possibility, and I go back to bedƒº.
Our daughter shows up early to pick us up for the drive to the airport. Their car is packed tight with their 3 children, suitcases and beach buckets. They are on their way to Florida beaches, but squeeze us in, with our 2 suitcases, and 2 carry ons. Actually, we pack carry on size suitcases so we don¡¦t have to check any bags. We always travel this way, no matter how long we are gone. It sure helps in not losing luggage, and being able to easily hop onto that train, boat, bus, or subway!! The kids are so excited, so much energy! We love them so, but are already tired once we arrive at the airport, just 45 minutes awayƒº.

We take our Comair flight to Chicago where they are showing the current World Cup game! Of course, we stop and watch the end of the match before we head for the International Terminal. This is just the first of numerous World Cup games we enjoyed during the next 3 weeks.
We are booked on Alitalia to Milan, scheduled to leave at 3:20. Alitalia has a very different boarding system in Chicago. They start boarding all the families with children first, then work from the back of the plane forward. Business Class boards last. This system wasn¡¦t followed in Venice when we returned, so maybe it¡¦s up to the individual agents. All the flight attendants were men! Another difference. We fly AF often but this is our first trip on Alitalia. 3:20 comes and goes, we don¡¦t move. Finally the pilot tells us there is a ¡§technical difficulty¡¨, doesn¡¦t explain what it is. We sit still, don¡¦t move for the next 2 hours. Humm, finally we back out, no explanation given. As we leave we see fire engines spraying a plane at a gate from both sides. Is this our ¡§technical difficulty¡¨?? It sure is going to be tight making that connection in Milan for our flight to Budapest. The flight was uneventful, thank goodness. The food was pretty poor, the plane not the best, but there was more leg room than the planes Delta flies to Europe.
Our flight lands at 8:50, and our flight to Budapest is at 9:25. How will we make it? We arrive in a long line, going through passport control and rescreening everyone through security. We are stressed, but find that a sweet girl from Hungary is also trying to make our flight. We stick with her and run to the gate, which is already boarding. We enjoy talking about Budapest, her home while we wait on the bus to drive us to the plane. In our seats are French students, flying to Budapest for a game. Seems they just want to sit together, and we work it out. We¡¦re on our way!
After flying over snowcapped mountains, then the flat plains around Budapest, we arrive at Ferihegy airport, terminal 2. We easily find the ATM and get out the local currency. We want to call Taxi 2000 to pick us up. The phone needs coins, so we ask for change at the airport Relay magazine shop in the terminal. We put in a 100FT coin to make the call. They understood English and the taxi arrived within 5 minutes. The trip was 4600 FT to our hotel on the Buda side. The taxi¡¦s waiting at the airport, Tourist Taxi company charge 5800 for the trip. The call is worthwhile to make! You just dial 06-1-2-000-000 or 06-30-2-000-000 from the airport
There is also an airport mini bus which is a good way to go from the airport to your hotel. They take others in the van, so you don¡¦t go directly to your hotel. There was a 40 minute wait time for this service, so we didn¡¦t use them. Their cost is 2300 FT per person, but if you buy a return ticket it¡¦s a bit less.
We booked the Hotel Victoria (www.victoria.hu) on the Buda side, long in advance. We wanted the riverside location with view. We requested and were given the top room, with a balcony. It was room 91. There are only 2 rooms with balconies in this hotel, but all the rooms have large glass windows with a view of the beautiful Pest side of the city and the Danube river. We were very pleased with our room the a/c and balcony, which we enjoyed each evening. The view of the Chain Bridge lit at night, and the fireworks we enjoyed were just wonderful! This hotel is about a 5 minute walk from the Red Metro line. This line is partially closed right now so they are replacing the route with a bus (M2B) which goes to the Deak stop.
We picked up a picnic lunch, excellent grilled chicken and pastries at the grocery store right in front of the Batthyany ter Metro/Bus stop. This is a great grocery store, which we used often. There is also a bank here, where we learned the system, and got change for the large bills which the ATM gave us.

Carrying our lunch, we walked up to Castle Hill. Buda¡¦s main sights are up here and it¡¦s not difficult to walk up, instead of taking the funicular. We arrived at Fishermen¡¦s Bastion, WOW and sat in the shade with a stunning view of Pest and enjoyed our picnic! This was some of the best chicken we¡¦ve ever had! So tasty, and our whole lunch cost $3.50.
We were disappointed to see Matthias Church surrounded by a wooden barrier. They were doing heavy work on the exterior. We were afraid it wasn¡¦t open, and walked into the Hilton instead. (Thankfully we found that it is indeed open, you just have to walk all the way around to the other side for the entrance). The Hilton looked lovely and was decked out with European Soccer Balls in celebration of the World Cup. Ancient ruins are seen around the exterior of the Hilton. From here we walked to the very large Royal Palace and enjoyed the Hungarian National Gallery. It has free admission. Enough for now, there is more to enjoy up here, but we would need to return. We had a date with the opera tonight!
Le nozze di Figaro, The marriage of Figaro was our opera tonight. We booked tickets ahead of time, on the balcony for only $2 each! We booked them on this site:
http://www.jegymester.hu/eventplay.jsp?place=3&lang=ENG&todo=list&playid=228

We took the Metro to the ¡§Opera¡¨ stop, what a small, cute metro they have here. It almost looks like a toy! We picked up our tickets at the window inside, and since it was a bit early we walked down the beautiful Andrassy street and found an ice cream stand. Ice Cream is eaten by almost everyone here. I¡¦ve never seen a city, even in Italy, with so many people walking by enjoying their cone! It¡¦s really cheap, about .80 and delicious!

Time to go inside and enjoy the Opera. People were dressed up. We walked inside, showed our tickets, and were told we had to go outside and find a separate entrance along the left side of the building for ¡§our entrance¡¨. Ok, I know we have the cheap seats, but gosh¡KWe found the door and along with a few others, climbed about 100 sets of stairs, ok, exaggeration, but it seemed like 100 sets of stairs, and exhausted, bought a diet coke at the concession booth! Others had packed their own ¡§snacks¡¨. Smart idea. This is a gorgeous building! I took pictures while I could. No problem. We were in row 2 of the balcony, and even though when I bought the seats, they said the view would be blocked, we could see pretty good. Only 1 man showed up and sat in the row in front of us. After the opera started and it was clear no one else was going to fill those seats (I have no idea why they weren¡¦t available when we bought our tickets) The few of us in the 2nd row all moved into the first row. Now we could see great! We leaned over the rail and enjoyed a wonderful view, for our $2 tickets!! I still had quite a feeling of ¡§movement¡¨ going on in my head from the long travel day, and was exhausted. We decided to leave at intermission, even though we thoroughly enjoyed the opera. The elderly woman posted at the exit was so surprised we left, and lifted a huge metal closure on the door for us to exit. I can¡¦t imagine the danger if there was a fire, on the way this door was blocked shut.

I had tried to reserve a table at the popular Articsoka restaurant for this evening. We made our way to this restaurant, only to find it closed. There was paper over all the windows, and no one inside. How disappointing. Instead we walked to Franz Liszt Square on Andrassy ut and found a very lively, outdoor collection of restaurants. This was such a nice area, and lined with many choices. It¡¦s near the Oktogon metro stop. We walked around the square, finally choosing a good looking table, next to a green area of plants. So charming. It was quite full of people here, so getting a table wasn¡¦t to easy.

I really don¡¦t remember what the name of the restaurant we ate at was, but we had excellent salt encrusted trout and gnocchi, with wine, for $30.
We returned to our hotel and enjoyed a bit of time on our balcony, with the TV on in our room so we could catch the end of the World Cup game. The night view of the Chain Bridge and lights of Pest, made for a romantic setting, and nice end of a long travel day.

I'm off for awhile, will post more later!

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    June 17

    We woke to the Danube Chain Bridge Festival today in Budapest! Each year they close the Chain Bridge on this day, and locals set up craft booths along the bridge. They also have musical entertainment and food! We really enjoyed the large pictures they put on the outside walls of the bridge of people from all over Hungary, on their lawns, by their small, simple homes and farms, posing in front of a backdrop of the Chain Bridge, looking as though they were here! It was precious!

    First we enjoyed the hot breakfast that Hotel Victoria includes in their room rate.(OK, I know this isn’t one of the small, local homes we often stay at!) They had an excellent selection of food ready in the breakfast room, and also offered made to order omelets, fried eggs, bacon, sausage etc. It was very filling.

    After enjoying our walk across the bridge, listening to some local musicians, and enjoying the local crafts, we walked to the highly noted Vaci Utca, the pedestrian street of shops. Humm, I wasn’t to impressed. It really wasn’t to interesting, but the side streets are interesting, admiring the beautiful architecture. Of course we had to take a photo of the first McDonald’s behind the Iron Curtain which is off on a side street. Also don’t miss the Serbian Church on this street. We did enjoy the Folk Art Shop Folkart Kezmuveshaz, 1052 Budapest Regiposta u.12 www.folkartkezmuveshaz.hu Open 10-19:00 every day. We also stopped into the Folk Art shop at #58 Vaci Utca, but I didn’t think it was as nice.

    At the end of this street is the Great Market Hall. We had great fun here taking pictures of the vegetable booths, the red bunches of peppers, and joining with local men and women eating and drinking at the upstairs booths! Beer in the morning? Sure, all the locals were drinking their beers and enjoying some sour cherry strudel, we could too! This was a highlight of the market, but we also haggled a bit for some souvenirs for our kids. They have loads of nice and tacky items upstairs and it’s a great place to shop. Don’t miss the strudel though, it was the best we had in Hungary!

    From here we took the metro a couple of stops into a neighborhood and shopped for some shoes! We overcame the language barrier with hand signals and accomplished our goal!

    Our next stop the House of Terror, right at Metro Vorosmarty utca www.terrorhaza.hu had a well done display in the former headquarters of the Arrowcross. We didn’t think it adequately explained what we were seeing though. We didn’t get the audioguide, but read the English printed explanations, but still, it was not well explained. When you begin your visit, walk to the top of the building and work your way down.

    We wanted to spend some time at Szechenyi Baths and thought it closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday, so we hurried back to our hotel to drop off things, and collect our bathing suits and towels. As it turned out the baths were open until later in the evening. We entered around from the main entrance, but there was quite a long line, which moved very, very slowly. I wanted a “cabin” to change in, where my husband and I could both share a changing area. I asked about the cabins while we were waiting in line, and found that none were available at this location. We were told to go around to the main entrance. We did, and found there were no lines here, but there were also no “cabins” available. They were all filled for the day. We bought our timed tickets, and were given a token to gain us entrance into the separate men’s and women’s changing areas. Even though I had read about the procedure ahead of time, I forgot it all! I had no idea how to get in so the man at the gate, took my token and put it in the machine to read my entry time and got me inside. I walked down the stairs to the women’s locker area, and went to a spot to change. A women who works here came up to me shaking her head no. Ok, I didn’t know what I was doing. She lead me to another room and opened a locker for me, writing the number of my key on a blackboard on the inside of the locker door, and gave me the key which you can wear around your wrist. I changed, and put my clothes into the locker and closed it. You have to remember which locker is yours. Don’t forget, you will need to find the right one when you are finished with the pools.

    I left, found my husband waiting outside, and we had a great time swimming in the two outdoor pools, left and right of the center pool. One is warm and one is cool. One has a fun center area which is a current jet, which carries you around and around. There are also jets, bubbles, waterfalls, to enjoy here. The center pool is for doing laps and you must have a swim cap here. We didn’t go into this pool. There are lounge chairs all around that you can use. There are also signs about not taking pictures. I can’t figure out why, and I did bring a disposable camera with us and took some great pictures here. Don’t bring your good digital camera with you, because there is no secure place outside to store it.

    We then went indoors to the sauna, and the green mineral water pools. We wore our swimsuits everywhere. I never saw anyone who didn’t. We never saw anyone playing chess while in the pools. Guess it wasn’t the day for this! Later, in the park there were many tables of men playing chess on simple paper or cardboard boards.

    After spending a couple of very enjoyable hours here, we changed, (remember where your locker is, the number on your key matches the number on the INSIDE of your locker and the woman will open your locker and check to be sure your number matches) dropped our electronic piece into the slot to leave, and received a receipt with the time recorded that we spent here. We brought this receipt to the ticket window and received a refund of part of our money since we stayed less than the time allowed. This is a great place! Don’t miss it.

    We walked around Vajdahunyad Castle and the parks here. Families were out in the park enjoying the beautiful Saturday evening. Family is very, very important here. We saw it in so many ways. We just loved the atmosphere of this city. Hungry, we bought a large bread pretzel with salt and snacked on it while watching men play chess in the park. We walked around Hero’s Square and took the metro back to our room.

    Budapest has a wonderful, extensive metro, bus and tram system. Problem is, I could never find a bus or tram map of the system. We just couldn’t figure out which tram or bus went where. We asked for maps, but the only map they’d give us was for the substitution of bus for the red metro line which was closed. Look on the web for maps before you go.

    Our adventure to Náncsi Néni Vendégloje, II. Ördögárok út 80 (tel. 1/397-2742), for dinner this evening:

    I had read great things about this restaurant, high in the Buda hills and reserved dinner here. Having no idea how to get here, we ordered a taxi. It was about a 20 minute drive, and we paid good attention to the route, which seemed easy, so we could return by public transportation. The taxi trip there, from Hotel Victoria, Buda side of the river, cost 2700FT + 3000FT for tip which is about $20. That’s a lot in my opinion.

    It was a simple, charming, garden area with many families. They even had play equipment outdoors next to the tables for children to play on. The tables are covered in red and white check tablecloths and you sit in white plastic chairs. We sat under a large tree at a table for 2. Most tables are larger. They told us to sit where we wanted. A man was playing an accordion which was nice, and another was pouring aperitifs out of a wooden barrel with a cup at the end of a long rod. I have no idea what this is, but I went up and requested a drink. It was on the house and quite good!

    I ordered breaded goat cheese, yum and a chicken, cheese, and apples dish. It was ok, not great. My husband had cold strawberry soup and quail. They have a very varied menu, with lots of choices. The plates are very large and we were so full we could order no dessert. We had a great time and really enjoyed the setting. They were extremely friendly here and dinner and wine is reasonably priced.

    Our adventure began here…. We tried to return by bus and tram. It was getting late, and it took a long time to get our check. We just missed one bus. The bus stop was right across the street from this restaurant. We walked around the corner where we saw another bus stop, different #, but going the same direction. We waited here for a long time. 45 minutes later, just before the other bus was to come, a bus arrived (late). We tried to ask if it went downtown, and he said we needed the bus on the other side of the street. Well, it had just come, so we went back to the other stop. (This information turned out to be wrong). A local young man who spoke English was at the stop reading. He told us what to do, so we followed his instruction. We took this bus #167 to the end of the line where the tram was. This was easy! We took Tram #56 to Moszkva ter, which is a large central area. Many buses run from here, but it was so late that our bus M2B had stopped running. What now?? We had no idea where the other buses and trams went, and they were about to stop running for the night. We couldn’t figure out which road to walk down. We knew we weren’t to far, but couldn’t find our way. Finally we were able to flag down a taxi and returned to our hotel. This took 2 hours.

    I suggest you take a taxi both ways, or leave early enough, with bus and tram maps to find your way back to the center of Budapest!!

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    Thank you for posting this informative report about Budapest. I am hoping to be able to go next April... fingers crossed.

    Looking forward to hearing about the the rest of your trip.

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    Thanks Julia,

    You will love Budapest! It was much nicer than we even imagined! It's a beautiful city, and is so friendly. We loved seeing all the families spending so much time together. They saw each other off at the bus, or train. The parks were full of families and kids. We go to Paris often and see so few families together. In Budapest, family is so important.

    There is alot to see and do there. Give it several days. We had 4 days there and couldn't see everything. You don't feel rushed though. The pace is just right, and prices are very affordable.

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    Great report! We were just in Budapest in May and cannot wait to return. What a city! Your report has me all excited again. Just wanted to comment on a couple of things for others planning to go to Budapest.

    Terror Museum - by all means get the audio guide. It really makes the museum and you won't feel like it was not thoroughly explained.

    Your hotel looks lovely. We might consider that when we go back next year. I often read of people having trouble getting maps for subways, etc. We ending up with so many maps I cannot tell you! Everytime we went to the concierge to ask a question, we were given a map. If your hotel does not do this, we stayed at the Sofitel. Just pop in there for a map. They also sell subway tickets (no additional fee) in the business center. All very convenient and helpful.

    We LOVED the Szechenyi Baths. We feel that place alone is worth going to Budapest. We stayed so long we did not have any refund! Good tip to go to the front door. We found that after we left. Lines were non-existant there. We did not try for the private cabin, but I thought the attendent, locker, funny hairdryer - the whole bit - made it so funny/crazy that the locker room was part of the whole experience. 80% of everyone in there was clueless. Locals (and even me after I figured a few things out) helped others figure out what to do.

    Our best day there was subway to zoo, eat at Owl’s Castle (Bagolyvar) and off to the baths, then subway back.

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    Thanks so much for your additions! I never even thought of asking our hotel for the bus/tram maps, so silly of me. We did eat at Bagolyvar. That was the evening after we returned from Eger. Report to come, but we didn't have the best experience. It was so, so hot, and mosquitos too. They need a fan on their outdoor patio. Nice place though.

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    June 18 Father’s Day

    Another hot, beautiful day in Budapest! We enjoyed our hot breakfast at our hotel, then walked down the street to the HEV train, which leaves from Batthyany Ter (same as the metro stop) for our trip to Szentendre. We bought a return ticket and the train took 40 minutes. It wasn’t crowded and was fun seeing the Hungarian families join the train for their Sunday trip out of town. I think most were actually connecting to the bus when we arrived, to go to the Open Air Folk Museum, or Skanzen. The bus left for this park only minutes after we arrived. We didn’t feel we had time for both places so we just stayed in Szentendre. The bus to Skanzen doesn’t run often on Sundays. From the train station we walked through the pedestrian underpass and then followed the road straight ahead for 10 minutes, arriving in town. Being Sunday morning, Szentendre wasn’t crowded at all. This is a small, cute town. We had the shops to ourselves and bought several gifts for our grandchildren then enjoyed the main square and narrow alleys and riverbank area. We saw the Serbian Orthodox cathedral and went into the Margaret Kovacs Museum. This is full of whimsical sculptures based on Hungarian folktales and is just excellent! Don’t miss this wonderful museum. After enjoying some delicious pastries and ice cream here, ok, not a healthy lunch, but yummy, the train back to Budapest arrived. 2 hours was just about the right amount of time to spend here.

    Back in Budapest we went to a small street where we enjoyed watching another World Cup game which they projected onto a large screen at a bar/restaurant. Hungary had no team in the games but really enjoyed watching them never the less. They also had an internet café on this street. It’s just a couple of streets from the Opera, close to the closed Articsoka, which is how we found the street. Internet here is .50 for 20 minutes.

    The Gellert Baths and Hotel were next on our list, as was the Church in the Rock. It was Sunday afternoon so services were over and we were able to go inside the church. It’s very interesting to see this area, but we just peeked into the baths. We took the tram here, easy to do and the route is right along the Danube.

    Sunday’s folk show was the Hungarian state Folk Ensemble at the Budai Vigado theater. We bought Category 3 tickets at http://ticket.info.hu. These seats were in the first 2 rows of the theater. I guess they are supposed to be the worst seats, but we loved them and had a clear view of the stage, so great for taking pictures. They sell tickets to these shows all over town. We didn’t have to pre buy them. Our hotel also pushed them when we arrived. We had the tickets waiting for us at the site, and they took our credit card then. The location of this theater was just behind our hotel. The building was covered in scaffolding and hard to find right away. The entrance is on the side and the interior is really lovely! The show is excellent. It lasts almost 2 hours with an intermission and is great fun!

    The day before we enjoyed watching local young girls and boys perform folk dances on a stage on the Vaci utca. It was almost as fun watching these young children in their beautiful costumes!

    After the show we picked up sandwiches at the small café next door to the theatre, and ask to take them away! They weren’t used to that request, so just wrapped them in napkins and sent us on our way! We had a lovely balcony to enjoy “dinner” on, and it was late. It was a good choice since there were a 2nd night of fireworks over the Pest side, which we enjoyed while also watching another World Cup game!

    Next installment, our trip to Eger!


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    June 19

    Our plans today included a trip to Eger. How to get there?? You can go by train, but I heard the long distance trains weren’t to good, and seeing some on the way in from the airport, we agreed. We decided to go by bus. First we took the metro to Astoria then to Stadion station, and the bus station was next door. The trip took about 2 hours and was very comfortable. Along the way we picked up more people at bus stops. It was so sweet. So many of the people were waiting with other family members, who stayed and waved to them until the bus would leave. You don’t see that in the U.S. The bus was a/c. You can buy your tickets at the ticket window or directly from the bus driver when you board. We took the 9:15 bus and paid about $7 one way. It drops you off right in the center of the town while the train drops you off about a 20 minute walk from town. When we arrived we went to the information window to find out at what times the bus returns to Budapest. They had no idea when we asked at the station in Budapest. There is a board set up outdoors at the Eger bus station, but it only lists the buses that will be leaving soon. It was important for us to know what our choices were for our return trip. You can’t prebuy your return ticket here. You must buy the ticket from the bus driver.

    The Eger Cathedral has an excellent organ concert at 11:30. We hurried to the yellow cathedral which you can easily see from the bus station, just arriving in time. The door will be closed once it starts, and you’ll have to wait until it’s over for entry. It does cost a little to listen to this concert and it’s 30 minutes in length. I loved seeing the new stained glass windows here. They are lovely, and I’m a stained glass artist, so really appreciated the work! I believe an Austrian couple donated them.

    Dobo Square and the Istvan Dobo statue in the middle is a good next stop. The statue depicts the people of Eger and Dobo defending their town against the Turks. Also on this square is the Minorite Church. It’s so beautiful inside and out. Don’t miss the interior!

    We had an excellent lunch at Senator Haz Hotel in their outdoor café in Little Dobo Square very close to the castle. It was time for me to try goulash! It’s a soup, but was quite spicy. The waiter brought me paprika in a jar, but warned me against actually adding any to my soup! My husband had the venison ragu soup which was much better. We also enjoyed a couple of their excellent grilled mozzarella and tomato sandwiches and of course more wine! We found the wines in Hungary excellent.

    Sirens Valley just outside Eger is full of wine cellars. I was hoping we’d have time to visit some, but we weren’t able to. We saw a few of them from the bus, and it would have been nice to explore some of these cellars.

    Instead, Eger Castle called. The castle grounds are spread out a bit, but quite simple. We visited a couple of the small museums here and wandered the grounds. The view of the minaret is excellent here. It was Monday so I realized not much would be open at the Lyceum, but we stopped here anyway. This is the university and trains local teachers. The lyceum contains the library the astronomical tower and the camera obscura.

    Eger is small, and it was enjoyable to get out into the countryside for a day. There is a bath complex here but we didn’t spend any time here. Instead, we returned by bus to Budapest passing numerous vineyards. It was also interesting seeing all the fence posts made from rough tree trunks, hundreds of them.
    .
    .We found our way to Margit Island when we returned to town. You can take the tram, and it’ll stop right in front of the entrance, (if you know the right tram # , it’s tram # 4 or # 6) even though it’s in the middle of a busy street. We didn’t realize this so walked quite a long way. Wow, this is such a nice, large park. The whole island is a park. Large, beautiful trees, swimming pools, places to eat. It was a Monday late afternoon and it was crowded with families enjoying the day together. We took the bus from one end to the other. I wish we would have had time to just sit and relax under the trees, but dinner called.

    We had reservations at Bagolyvar, or Owl’s Castle which is right around the corner from Gundels and is it’s little sister. This is a short walk from the Hero’s Square area. The setting is lovely. We were seated in the outdoor patio, and not many tables were occupied. It was hot. We probably arrived at 8:30. Our appetizers were excellent. We ordered the cold sour cherry soup and marinated cheese and vegetables, sharing both. We were getting hotter and hotter. The mosquitoes were biting…darn. No air was circulating because this area is very enclosed, and there was no fan to help the situation. Our entrees arrived, pork barbeque and roasted duck leg. We can’t recommend either of these dishes. They were so, so dry and had little flavor. Others at the next table had the fish and the chicken and were happier with their choices. I feel bad having to report a bad experience here, but we left, unhappy with our meal and the heat that was unbearable.

    We had one last day in this marvelous city planned. It would be hard for us to leave. Budapest is so far from other cities, I think it’ll be difficult to return to, we’ll see.

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    June 20

    We have a flight on Sky Europe airline late this afternoon for Dubrovnik so we only have a partial day here and still so much to see. President Bush is arriving in Budapest tomorrow so we are happy to leave before things get congested with his visit.

    Arriving at the Parliament building we are disappointed that there is a sign posted that it’s closed today for a “Special Event”. Humm, I believe the special event is actually a security sweep for President Bush’s visit. Well, that frees up some time at least. We did walk around the area and took pictures of the statues and the monument with the Hungarian flag with a hole cut out of the middle. This represents the 1956 revolution when Hungarians removed the seal the Soviets added to their flag.

    The Great Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish museum and beautiful Tree of Life sculpture was our next stop. We took an excellent, but short tour here. When you arrive there is a stand outside selling different tours. It was a good way to appreciate the history of this synagogue. The cemetery outdoors is very moving. This part of town feels very different that the others we had been in and there is a lot of road work going on. It’s not a quiet location.

    Back to “our” grocery store, as we had to feast again on that excellent chicken. The pastries we buy are actually just outside the store. There is a vender there selling a variety of yummy snacks. I also needed a bottle of the paprika we had on our table in Eger. Taking our lunch back to Castle Hill, we lunched back at Fisherman’s Bastion.

    Since we hadn’t gone into Matthias Church yet, we walked to the entrance. The terrace here is so much larger than by the Bastion. There is also a nice looking restaurant here with incredible views. I bet the chicken isn’t as good as what we buy at the grocery store though! Wow, it’s magnificent inside this church. Every surface is covered in artistic motifs and Magyar folk designs. Upstairs is the Loreto Chapel and the 1515 statue of Mary and Jesus and the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art. This is also a great area to get a better look at the walls, and good pictures of the interior.

    A bit more shopping in the streets around this area, and then we did something crazy and spent our last bit of time in the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. This is really weird. It’s really not a necessary stop, but it’s cool and damp. The prehistoric drawings aren’t real, the exhibit’s which trace human history, placed here for show. It’s not that exciting. Oh well, time to catch a plane.

    We had the Airport Minibus Shuttle take us back to the airport. It’s cheaper than getting a taxi back. You really should book this a day of two in advance. We didn’t decide until that morning to take it, so it was a bit tight getting us scheduled on a van. We were the last pick up so went directly to the airport. It’s very important to know, that if you’re flying out on Sky Europe or other budget airlines that they leave from Terminal 1. This is in a different building than Terminal 2. You can’t walk between these terminals since they are several miles apart.

    This was our first experience flying Sky Europe. They were just excellent. You have no seat assignment until you check in. Check in is about 1 ½ hours before your flight. We were the first in line so asked for exit row seats, which they gave us. I booked this flight several months in advance on their web site. It was only $50 per person for our flight to Dubrovnik. If I had waited until Christmas it would have been only $25 since they had a huge Christmas sale and weren’t charging for taxes for several days. The people working for the airline were so friendly. Smiling, helpful, good clean plane and our luggage was very quickly unloaded and waiting in the terminal in Dubrovnik. Delta could learn a few things from them. Terminal 1 is very nice, and the waiting area around the gates was great. We stopped in the expensive café in the terminal for a light dinner and watched a couple at the window, waiting for their family members plane to go by, taxing to the runway. They were waving and waving to him, as the plane rolled out. It was precious!

    Entry into and out of Hungary was interesting. Your passports will be closely checked. We’ve flown to many places in Europe, to Egypt, and entered Russia at a port and have never had such a close going over of our passports. Even when we left it took about 10 minutes each of close inspection before they would let us go by.

    We absolutely loved Budapest and do hope to return someday.

    That's all for awhile. I'll post the Croatian portion on the Croatia board next week. I'm off on another flight to Denver for a family reunion!

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    Another couple of points I forgot...

    We stopped in the New York Restaurant, newly reopened in Budapest. It's location is very central on the Pest side. It looks just excellent. The decor is very chic and the menu looked delicious and not to expensive for the selections.

    We also walked down the Danube on the Pest side towards the Parliment where the shoes representing the Jewish people who perished in the river are. It's quite moving and a good monument to seek out.

    When leaving our hotel, which was excellent, we told them we were on our way to Croatia. The woman's eyes lit up and she exclaimed "You're going on holiday!" Boy, we thought we were already on holiday, but we understood when we arrived in Croatia and so many of the cars were from Hungary. Croatia is a true vacation spot, relaxing and beautiful. Many of the cars on the roads are from Poland, the C.R. and Hungary.

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    Hi Images2 - you ALMOST make me want to try Budapest again! I don't know why, but we just did not get along.

    Of course I am tapping my toes waiting for Croatia - may be a few tidbits there for me, although I loved that you posted from the road and shared some of the day to day experiences already.

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    Happy Cheesehead,

    Oh no, you didn't like Budapest? What didn't you care for? We loved the fact that it was slow paced, relaxing, and just plain "comfortable". We loved that it was a real family city. Paris is our favorite city, we go often, but it can be so fast paced. Budapest was so easy to "do". I think it would be a great city to relax in for several days.

    I'll get to the Croatia half soon. I know you'll love it!! You're right, we posted most of it already, but it's hard to pull together for those who didn't follow it when we were posting along the way.

    We had a close call last night as we landed in Colombus, Ohio. I just posted a little about it on the airline board. All the flying we've done around the world, and we almost have an accident, right here in our own state.

    We had a fantastic long weekend with my extended family, many of whom we haven't seen in over 10 years.

    I'll be back posting the rest soon!

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    I just want to say again thank you for this report.

    Yesterday I booked my flights to Budapest for April (over Easter weekend so I hope all is not closed!) and have provisionally reserved a high-up room at the Marriott, but will do much more research on hotels, including the Victoria (apparently they balcony rooms are on an availability basis and they will not reserve, according to another thread here).

    Am also looking into Segway Tours - did you see them on your visit to Budapest?

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    Hi Julia,

    I think you'll love Budapest! Have a wonderful time.

    Yes, the Victoria told us the balcony room couldn't be promised. When we arrived the woman was very pleased to give us the room that I had requested! This means they do note it, and try to give it to you if possible! I had reserved long in advace so was very pleased that they noted my request!

    No, I didn't see anything about Segway tours. Sorry.

    I'm ready to start posting the Croatia part of this, so if you're interested move over to that board!

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    Hi Images2 - I think I am the only one in Fodors that did not care for Budapest. I guess it was just the way the sun and the moon and the stars all came together. The B&B we we supposed to stay at was horrendous. They took us to a creepy basement room, past some stuffed deer heads and other taxidermy and past the the washer and dryer, off in a corner. The room and bed was full of hair/fur and walls full of books, and what appeared to be a working desk. It was next to a computer room with three computers. I suspect it was the room of some one who worked there, perhaps an owner who may have been gone?

    Any way, we left - QUICK - and went to hotel I knew about on Castle Hill, It was almost impossible to find our way into the walled area, as I wasn't planning on driving it and had no good directions. We were in heavy traffic and were forced over a bridge by a turn only lane we were in and it took half hour to get back - then I didn't really like the second place either - a tour group hotel really. So, that is why I don't like Budapest! Seems immature but thats the way it is, LOL

    Maybe I will try again some day and love it......

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    Well, that certainly explains it! I would have run from that situation, just as you did. I tried finding a B&B there, but just wasn't comfortable with what I was finding. Those are the times you cave in and go for the hotel! I'm sure there must be a good B&B or apartment here, but it sure is a hard city to find one in.

    The city itself was great! We could have used more time there, but sure weren't willing to sacrafice time in Croatia for it.

    See you over on the other board!

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    Loved your Budapest report. We just booked out trip with frequent flyer miles (Continental) for next May 1, and also booked at the Hotel Victoria yesterday. So glad you liked the hotel. Can you give me any info re Vienna transit passes? Do they offer it and are they advantageous? Hope I can ask you other questions as they may arrive. We will spend 5 night in Budapest (it's our first destination) and then on to Vienna and Prague for 4 nights each. Any recommendations in these cities? Thanks again.

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    Sorry, but we didn't go to Vienna so I can't be of any help with that.

    I'm just wondering how the area along the Danube looks today, after the horrible storm that hit yesterday, killing 5. Trees are uprooted, the tram lines are down, such tragedy.

    We will be in Prague in early May 2007 and have booked at Hotel Hastal www.hastal.com which is very near the Old Town Plaza. The rate, if you book on their web site, is €102-€104 for a double room not facing the church. It has some excellent reviews. Their e-mail is info@hastal.com

    Hope this is of help, and I'm glad you got some use out of my review! We loved Budapest and hope to return sometime.

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    weour flights are booked for 9 nights flying into prague and out of budapest. we thought we do also go to vienna. we get bored easily, and do not enjoy museum much- we would rather be outdoors. should we try to fit croatia in also//? any ideas for the nine nights. the first day into prague we land at 11am.

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    I think 9 nights will be perfect for Prague and Budapest. Budapest has many large parks and baths all over the city. You'll find lots to do. Croatia takes too much time to fit into the time you have. Save that for another trip!

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    Ahhh Images, thanks so very much for your detailed and (for me) nostalgic report of your stay in Budapest. I visited both Dubrovnik and Budapest for the first time in September 2004 (9 days in Croatia, 2 days in Budapest) and fell in love with both. I returned to Budapest again in April 2005 for a week and will be returning again this October for another blissful week. It is one of my favourite cities in central Europe.

    I am well familiar with the open-face 'Szendvich' shops (aren't they beautiful to look at ?) and neat little grocery stores with great food, as I love to explore and roam the city on foot. The things one can discover....

    I too also enjoyed the Dohanyi synagogue and Tree of life. How long do you think it will take to fill the leaves on that beautiful willow tree with the names of all the Hungarian holocaust victims and descendants ?
    I also enjoyed the tour of the museum attached to the synagogue.

    I also made it a point to go to several arts events (dance theatre, plays and music events) that are off the beaten path and hope to do more this year, after spending a week and a half discovering Turkey first. There were times when I didn't feel much like a tourist in Budapest even though I was one !

    Your report just gives me more to look forward to.

    Thanks !

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    Hi laartista,

    We were thrilled with Sky Europe! We were at the airport 2 hours before our flight and were the first in line, and I asked for exit row seats and received them! As you check in, you get seat assignments. They were very, very friendly, and had great baggage service. We had our bags in Dubrovnik about 10-15 minutes after we got off the plane. Seemed quicker since we had to go through immigration first, but that was also easy in Croatia. Hungary is another story. They really study your passport there.

    The Sky Europe flight was right on time also. They don't overbook, so you will have a seat if you've purchased one.

    We are booking 2 more flights on Sky Europe for the spring. If you book early or around Christmas, you'll get very low fares!

    Thanks alot Mathieu for your comments. Budapest is a wonderful, easy city to visit.

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    Hope you had a great time! Aren't last minute trips wonderful.

    I just noticed on the SkyEurope page that they now will book seats assignments when you buy your ticket, for an extra charge, of course.

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    Hi Images, no another airline, cuz it was so last minute the prices were really high.But others have also said good things about them. I'll probably use them in January. By the way thanks for the tip on the Folk art store, I did some damage in there.

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    I just found your report. What a hoot!! I need to travel with you next time! We also thought the food at the small places was so, so good. We enjoyed it alot more than the food at the big name restaurants.

    We're going to Prague in early May. Have you been there, any suggestions? We're also going to the Netherlands first, including Amsterdam (our second trip there)and connecting the two on SkyEurope.

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    I was in Prague once for 3 days in 2000. I liked it, liked budapest better. Prague is very picturesque with some intersting sights. The jewish quarter is a must see. I also saw a puppet theatre production of Don Giovanni. I'll see if I could find the info. We stayed at the Domus Henrici up by the castle. Pretty cool hotel.

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    Fabulous and most enjoyable trip reports from both of you, Images and laartista. I've really enjoyed them both.

    Now I want to ask a little advice from you please!

    I have a reservation at the Victoria Hotel (for next April) with my almost 18yo daughter. Actually it will be her birthday trip. But I am finding some really quite nice apartments over in central Pest, for half the price of a room at the Victoria, around 50-80 euros per night for the 2 of us. Staying in an apartment would just about halve my accommodation costs.

    I am just a little concerned that the Victoria is just that bit little out of the way, (maybe not for me, but for her - wanting to be in the buzzing centre of things... close to shops, restaurants, being able to walk out almost on to Vaci Utca first thing for coffee, etc). We're not too worried about breakfast, so would we gain any more from staying at the Victoria apart from the views if we get lucky with a high room?

    If you can offer any thoughts on Buda v Pest I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks in advance...

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    Buda seems to be where a lot of the tourist sights are, but alot of locals live in the Buda hills. Pest I think is where more of the businesses are.my cousins apartment is in central Pest and he is always talking about the good location. I guess it depends what experience your looking for. My hotel was on the pest side, we walked everywhere including to the Buda side. Hope that helps a little.

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    Hi Julia,

    Sorry for the late reply. I've been out of town for awhile.

    We didn't feel out of the way at all at the Victoria, but it's not special enough to stay at if you have a better option. You can tell if the apartment is in a good location once you study where all the sights are in Budapest, and if you feel it's in a good spot, I'd stay there. Everything is spread out, but not over a really large area, so I think there is not one prefered place to stay over another.

    Have a wonderful trip with your daughter! I took my daughter to Paris recently and we had a great time together. These are trips our girls will never forget.

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    Topping because I'm now researching a trip to Croatia in October and every time I search here YOUR report comes up, but without the Croatia part...

    I can't find it under another title either.

    Please post it if you can - I've really enjoyed your Hungarian adventure so far, and found it incredibly useful too. I would love to read the next installment, and not only because it would help my planning but because I enjoy your writing style!

    Waiting to hear from you...

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    At the time I posted the 2 halves of the report on different boards, one on Hungary and one on Croatia. Instead of searching for it, I'll just repost, in sections the Croatian part here. Beware, it's very, very long! Hope it's of some use to you, we had a fabulous time, and I'm sure you will also!!

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    Our SkyEurope flight landed 10 minutes early in Dubrovnik. The approach was quite interesting, passing so closely over the hillside and homes in the Cavtat area. Not much room for error here. Passing through passport control was fast and easy. No scrutinizing of your passport here. The luggage arrived quickly and after getting Kunas at the ATM we boarded the Atlas transfer bus, which usually meets flights, for the trip to the Pile Gate in Dubrovnik. The bus tickets were $6 each and we bought the tickets on the bus. They collect the money after you board. The driver was very helpful, and answered any questions the passengers had. He also dropped a couple of people off along the road into Dubrovnik. At this time of night the public buses are no longer making the trip from the airport.

    Wow, we were in Croatia! The sun had set, but it wasn’t dark yet, the sky was pink and the view spectacular. As we drove the coastal road my husband said it’s a good thing we went to Budapest first, this is so gorgeous!
    We had reserved a sobe ahead of time, which was near the Hilton. Up the steps we climbed with our luggage, along the small alley right in front of the main door into the Hilton Hotel. At the top of the steps we turned left and climbed more steps. These aren’t steep steps, and very wide, so it’s not difficult. Jadranka and Milan Benussi sobe http://www.dubrovnik-online.com/apartments_benussi/ mbenussi@inet.hr was our home in Dubrovnik. We reserved a double room here for 50.40€ per night. Jadranka met us half way up the steps, (her son had passed us on his way up) and kindly took my suitcase and cheerfully welcomed us to her sobe.
    We were so happy with our choice. There was a beautiful terrace with huge pots of hydrangeas and a small view of the sea. We enjoyed wine here several nights of our stay. The Benussi’s have a couple of double rooms, with a small kitchen area built into the rooms with refrigerator, and also rent out a couple of apartments, for families. These are just steps down from the terrace, and all are behind a private, green locked door. The home is built of stone. One even has it’s own private terrace. We had excellent air conditioning, thank goodness. It was in the high 90’s while we were here. The bathroom was spacious and spotless, and beds very comfortable. Satellite TV had several channels and we could enjoy the World Cup games when we turned in. Croatia was still playing in the World Cup while we were there. What fun!

    Jadranka kindly invited us to sit with her and enjoy drinks on the terrace, but it was late, and we wanted to see this beautiful city we had just arrived in. We thanked her and asked to wait until another evening. It’s only a 5 minute walk from our sobe to the Pile Gate. We loved the location since we would take the public bus a few times and they all stopped just outside the gate. There was also an excellent market here, a bakery and restaurant with outdoor tables looking at the city walls and the sea. Atlas travel office is located here, along with an internet café with an excellent information booth inside.

    Wandering up the Stradun Placa, through the tiny alley ways full of shops, and to the old port, we explored briefly. The light sparkled across the smooth, slick stones of the streets. Another World Cup game was playing on TV’s all over town. We chose a café, and enjoyed drinks as we joined with others in cheering for a team. England vs. Sweden 2-2 tie was the outcome. I over hood a conversation between some English women who were so disappointed in the beach they went to earlier in the day. They saw it as filthy and uninviting. I was a bit worried about what we’d find in our coming days at the local beaches. Looking back at it now, it must have been the beach around the East/West Beach area. We found this area crowded, dirty, and not a beach we would enjoy, but the outlying areas were clean and clear.

    We couldn’t end our day without some gelato and found the ice cream shop by the big fountain , just inside the Pile Gate entrance to be our favorite. I loved their chocolate with cherries and enjoyed this flavor each day!

    Just inside the Pile gate there is a plaque which shows where each Serbian bomb dropped on the Old Town. It’s amazing how many bombs were dropped on this city, and for what purpose. We would later hear Jadranka’s story on those frightening weeks.

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    June 21 The first day of summer!!

    The sun rose very early here in Dubrovnik. The sunshine woke us around 4:30 a.m. so we quickly learned to close the shutters the next evening to help block out the bright, early sunshine. No breakfast was included in our room rate and I wasn’t about to cook it myself, so we’d enjoy it overlooking the sea just outside the Pile Gate.

    It was HOT, and it was humid, but that wasn’t going to stop us from walking the walls. We climbed up, up, up the steps, at 9 a.m. We bought the audio so we could appreciate what we were seeing. Looking back, I don’t think it added to much. It was wordy and boring overall, although parts were interesting. That was just my opinion. Others may enjoy it more. We stopped in the little bits of shade we could find, listening to the tape. The views are magnificent. The rooftops are mostly new, and the old tiles are so much more interesting and picture some. We took many, many photos, including some black and white which turned out beautifully. One woman who’s apartment patio opened onto the walls was selling cold drinks, lace and handmade items to those who strolled by.

    The Buza Bar sign was easily seen from the walls, as well as the bar. This helped us place it, as we wanted to enjoy drinks there after our walk along these walls.

    We spent 2 hours walking the whole way around, and came down in the same spot we climbed up. I think there are 3 entrances where you could begin this walk, we began at the Pile gate area. A few cruise ships had arrived this morning, and the passengers were just beginning their climb. We were happy to complete it before the hoards of people arrived. Actually I think an evening walk may be a better idea, to avoid the hot morning sun.

    We needed, really needed a cold drink after this, so of course went on the hunt to find Buza Bar. Even knowing where it is, it’s hard to find the first time. It’s hard to judge at which spot this bar is, as you walk the inner wall. The sign is obvious, once you are there, but the inner wall is long, and you have to walk the right direction to find it.

    Once there though it’s fabulous. The views are incredible, and it was very peaceful around noon. Not many drinks to choose from, but that’s ok. Some people had bathing suits and towels, and walked through the bar area, down the stones, and swam off the rocks to the left. We were content to just sit, drink and soak up the atmosphere, watching boats sail by.

    After looking down on Dubrovnik, I wanted to get a closer look. We started at the Franciscan Monastery and went inside the medieval pharmacy. There is a real, working pharmacy here also, so if you have a need of one, it’ll be easy to find! There are many tour groups which stop here, but we luckily arrived between them and were able to enjoy looking around in peace. Don’t miss the spot which shows where a Serbian missile hit. There is a cloister here also with pillars and portals which were also damaged during the war.

    After visiting the Cathedral and what else, I can’t really remember, we stopped at Mea Culpa for pizza. It’s located at Za Rokom 3, and has excellent pizza. We ordered only one, they are large, shared it, along with a half liter of wine. This area was all in the shade, which was greatly appreciated! Lunch was only $12.

    Needing some R&R we changed and took the boat to Lokrum. Boats leave from the Old Port and the return trip is $6. The boat ride is only about 15 minutes, and arriving we followed the pine tree lined path to the rock beaches to the left of the boat dock. We passed an outdoor terrace with several people enjoying a late lunch and drinks. What a lovely area! A map of the island is on the back of your ticket I seem to remember. You could spend hours here hiking, and exploring, but we just wanted to sun and swim. We found a big, flat rock with a metal staircase for sea access and enjoyed a couple of hours in the sun with a gentle breeze blowing. The views were beautiful. We could have spent so much more time on this island, but after walking across it, to the other side, looking around for a bit, we returned for the short ride back to Dubrovnik.

    We had dinner this evening at Sesame, www.sesame.hr which is outside the Pile Gate, across the road from the Hilton, but a bit further up the street. Their website says you should reserve, but there is no need. We were only one of 3 tables dining here this evening. The atmosphere was excellent, even though it is situated right along the main road, I didn’t find the traffic to be a problem. It is set back a bit, and I wasn’t distracted at all. We sat upstairs on their lovely terrace full of flowers, and they had someone playing soft music. Dinner and wine was $60 and I know we enjoyed it, ordering fish, but it wasn’t the best meal we have had! As in many of the restaurants we ate at on this trip, the starters usually seemed tastier than the mains. Rarely would we order dessert, since the portions were always to large. Service was excellent and they were very friendly. We talked quite a bit with the staff which is always enjoyable. We love hearing about the lives of the people in the countries we are visiting.

    After walking through the old town again, emptied of the hordes of cruise ship passengers we returned to the Benussi home. Jadranka again invited us to share some time together on the terrace, and we accepted. She’s such a friendly woman and truly loves what she does. She once worked in the hotel business, but needed a change and after the war changed jobs. She has put all that knowledge to good use, offering wonderfully clean and comfortable rooms for those of us that want to spend some time in her town.

    I was so curious how her life was, living here during the war. She graciously told us her families story of their time in this home, even enduring a bomb which fell on the church which is right next door to their home. It was very, very frightening, she and her husband had 2 small children at the time, and she had to protect them. For what reason did they bomb this city, she would ask? We all lost someone in this needless war. No one came to help us defend ourselves. After enduring some weeks of the bombings, she also left taking her children to safety. They returned when it was again possible and has turned her home into a haven.

    Don’t be afraid to ask some of the local people of their stories during that time. We did, and they wanted to tell of their experiences. They want people to understand what they have been through. It is still so fresh in their minds. They are also bitter still. Before the war tourism was huge, in a different way than it is today. People came to Dubrovnik and spent time here, spending a lot of money. Staying for weeks, not for hours as they do now. Now the big tourist dollars are gone. The tourists they see today are mostly those from the cruise ships, which wander the shops, spend little, stay on their ships, eat on their ships. They don’t help the people who live there make an acceptable income. They are still suffering a lot. There is no industry. There are few jobs, and those are almost all in tourism. They have high hopes that things will improve, but now, it’s still very, very hard for them to make a decent living. So much hurt still pours out of them when you spend time, really listening to how things are today. This is why, on the surface, they brush you off. They don’t easily open up. They still hurt and have a wall around them. But underneath, if you care, and can really listen, you will find how wonderful they are. They want their lives back to what they had “before”.

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    June 22

    Today was Antifascism Day in Croatia which marks the outbreak of resistance in 1941. This is an official National Holiday. This doesn’t mean much to a tourist, but it just so happened that it did put a bugaboo into our plans for the day.

    We planned on going to Lopud today which is part of the Elaphite Islands. You can go there on the Jadrolinija ferry. We had read enough reports on the day excursions to these 3 islands to know that only Lopud would really interest us. This ferry leaves from Port Gruz which isn’t as convenient as the Old Port in Dubrovnik. We took bus A1 I believe, which leaves from the Pile Gate area to Port Gruz. When you see the big ferries, and small boats, this is where you get off. Later on this route is the “Marina”, but this isn’t where you want to go. (We learned this the hard way, silly us). On the way we asked the bus driver to tell us where to get off for the main bus station. This wasn’t as clear to pick out. We wanted to pre-buy our bus tickets for the trip between Dubrovnik and Split. I thought the buses would be crowded and didn’t want to miss out on getting seats for the following Sunday morning. We were going to connect to the Split-Hvar catamaran and I wanted to be sure to arrive in Split in time.

    Well, as it turns out, the Jadrolinija ferry does daily trips to Lopud but on Sundays or holidays the schedule is changed. We had missed the 9:30 ferry and the next one was at 8:30 p.m. The trip to Lopud on the Jadrolinija ferry costs 32 kuna round trip which is about $6. We asked around, to see if there was another way to Lopud and found that NOVA also goes to Lopud. We found their office and were told the cost was $20 each round trip from Gruz port. Ouch, $40 to go to the beach. We declined. They do this trip several times a day though, so it’s much more convenient than taking the Jadrolinija ferry, which leaves the Gruz port at 10 a.m. Monday-Saturday.

    We took the bus back to Dubrovnik, with new plans to go Lopud on Saturday. When we arrived at the Old Port we noticed that NOVA had boats here also that went to Lopud. If you want to go with NOVA you can leave from this port and it’s about $23 round trip, with several trips there and back a day. If you would rather see all 3 Elaphite Islands, NOVA has a day pass for around $25 which allows you to move between the islands and do 2 or 3 on your own. Just realize you need to keep close attention to their schedules so you can plan the times accordingly. We decided on a trip to Cavtat would be more to our liking. This town is only 12 miles away, but it’s 1 hour by boat, a very slow boat. The cost is $12 round trip. We bought round trip tickets, but maybe I would have enjoyed the bus ride back instead. If you buy a round trip ticket you must use the same boat to return to Dubrovnik. If you buy a one way ticket, then you can chose any boat to return, buying a new ticket for your return. The advantage to this, is that each boat sails on a different schedule, and you can return at a time of your choosing, instead of having to wait for “your” ticketed boat. Hope that’s clear!

    We really enjoyed Cavtat. It’s very laid back. The town doesn’t have a lot to see, but we came planning on some beach time, not needing to “see” the sights. We walked to the left, down the gorgeous pine tree lined pathway. Lots of other people enjoy this area, along the rocks. Yep, it’s rocks again, some large and flat, some pebbly. We walked to a spot just past the wooden beach bar, hanging from the side of the hill overlooking the ocean. Great views of course! Walking down the stairs to this beach we found very easy water access. Families were here enjoying the clear, cool water. The bay was pebbly and we easily walked into the water, wearing water shoes. I needed those shoes, but the locals do just fine without them. There was no climbing down a ladder to get into the water here. It gradually got deep, so it’s a great place for kids and adults. A water mattress would be wonderful here and some of the kids had great fun diving into the water off the rocks. So refreshing, but not so cold that you couldn’t enjoy it. We spent a couple of hours here, then moved down the path a bit further. This area was full of pine trees with lots of shade and you could lay on pine needles, not rocks. Jets fly over since Cavtat is where the airport is, but it didn’t bother us. This might just be the best place for families to vacation in this area. We loved it.

    Returning to the port area, we found a bar/restaurant, showing another World Cup game! What fun this was following the games as the days went by. We did have our favorites. Of course Croatia was our first choice, since we were here, but then, my husband wanted England and I wanted France… Well, I got lucky almost to the end. Who would have thought France would go so far! We enjoyed a bite to eat and drinks, then returned to Dubrovnik by boat.

    This evening was the BIG game. Croatia vs. Australia. We had to be in town for it. We walked all over looking for the best TV and the square with the most atmosphere for the game. We didn’t care what the food was like! We got what we were looking for. Great atmosphere, poor food! Knoba Mediterranean had bad risotto but a lively crowd. 1/3 of the crowd were Australians. They came prepared with the Australian flag and lots of enthusiasm! A TV crew was on hand and they decided this was a great place to record some footage also! Croatia scored early, on a penalty kick, what excitement, and of course the red flares were lit. Then Australia scored… Cheering from their corner. The game went to 2-2, then the final, 3-2 Australia. Poor Croatia. They were out of the World Cup. Everyone had so much fun that evening, and way to much to drink, but fortunately the crowd handled it well, and there was no violence with the loss.

    Returning to the Benussi home, we said goodnight, but knew better than to talk much about the game. Milan and his son are great fans, so their disappointment was obvious.

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    June 23

    Today we had a trip planned to Montenegro with Atlas travel. This was the Montenegro Blue trip. Many of you already know what happened to us that day, so I’m going to cut and paste the experience we had with Atlas here:
    We had a very disturbing morning with Atlas today. I had booked the Montenegro Blue tour on THEIR web site on May 12, and got their voucher with our reference number, date of tour, and number of people,plus where to meet. They charged my credit card. Today when we met the bus they denied us seats because they had no reference of our reservation. This was so disturbing. The driver called the main office, giving them our voucher number and they still denied us seats on the bus. He gave us the phone and my husband and I argued for 15 minutes with them. Finally after we refused to get off the bus,( we had walked on holding their phone) the lady at the main office told me, ok, you can go. She had said there were no seats for us. The tour itself was excellent. Our guide spoke to use in English and Swedish since she was actually a guide for the Swedish tour company, many of the passengers had traveled with. Montenegro is poor, but really worth seeing.

    After the tour, we went to the Atlas office to question them on their practices. We were not pleased. They admitted that the web site has a known problem and frequently loses the reservations, even though the customer is charged. Even knowing this, they denied us seats. This so unacceptable. They know the web site doesn’t work properly but they still take the reservations and your money. They say not to book on their site. They want you to email them directly. I explained that they do not often answer their emails. Yes, this is true, they said, they are to busy with customers walking in. So the solution is to wait until you are here to book the tours, but often they are full, so you must book several days ahead. No good solution to this problem, But they really do not care about this problem. The sad truth is Dubrovnik is beautiful and wonderful at night, but the tour companies are rude, and can’t handle the amount of people they are dealing with.
    Okay, so I was very frustrated when I wrote this. Regardless, I stand by all I wrote. Enjoy Atlas tours, their guides are excellent, just don’t book them ahead of time unless you can reach them by e-mail and do it on a personal basis.
    A bit about our tour…
    After being “collected” at various points in the city, we all met at a central spot and transferred to a large, comfortable, air-conditioned bus. There was more than 1 tour bus since I saw an overflow van. There were more than 2 people in it, ha. Our Swedish guide joined us, along with a guide who spoke English, but the Swedish guide was a much better guide, and just delightful. There are also other tour companies that do this tour, including Kompass and Elite. We saw them in the same areas we toured.
    We approached the border crossing, leaving Croatia and entered no man’s land. Our passports were checked as we left Croatia.
    Our first stop was Perast, which is a town of stone buildings coming down to the sea. We only got a quick peek of the town from the road. Our real purpose of this stop is to take a boat to Lady of the Rock which is an artificial island created by locals placing rocks in the sea every July 22. Later they sunk 87 ships full of rocks here which helped the process along! St.Nicholas church is on this island and it’s an interesting stop. The church is full of icons, silver panels given to the church by thankful sailors and art. There is a small museum here with a beautiful embroidered picture which a woman worked on for years, waiting for her husband who was at sea, to return. He never returned. A nun sells postcards and small items in the small museum. If you are not on a tour, you can still take a small boat to this island. I think it’s worth the time. There is also an hourly minibus from Kotor to this location.
    Our next stop was Kotor. To reach Kotor we are driving all around the long Bay of Kotor which is the largest fjord in southern Europe. Kotor is at the head of this fjord. The fjords in Norway are much more impressive IMO. This is a walled town, and if on your own, you could climb the wall. Being on a tour we have no time for this. Poor children greet us, begging for any handouts we can give them. I give one boy coins worth about 1€. He is thrilled, and politely thanks me. Oh, that reminds me, Montenegro takes Euros. It’s their official currency. You will need them for any purchases you make.
    Our guide tells us to visit St.Tryphon Cathedral. We find it easily and find it worth the small entry fee. It truly is amazing inside. Don’t miss it, but bring some information with you describing what you are seeing, because no guide will explain the interior to you. Walk upstairs to the chapel, more to see here!
    We enjoyed exploring the rest of the town, peeking into other churches and just enjoying this lovely small town. I felt we had just enough time here since I had no interest in walking those walls!
    Our lunch stop on St. Stefaan, the fishing island and resort town was a beautiful area to stop. We enjoyed sharing travel stories with others at our table while being served a quick and filling lunch. It really wasn’t to good, but adequate. You must buy your drink. If you have a swim suit you could dip into the water here, but we chose to walk around the high end hotel here. Entry is free if you are with the Atlas tour. The grounds are lovely, but I have no idea what you would do here! The gardens are well kept, there is a pool and it’s beautiful and very hot.
    Our last stop, Budva was just strange. I know, this is debated but we didn’t care for Budva at all. We walked up to the fortress, looked around a bit, went inside a church that was being restored by an artist (this was pretty interesting), and went into another church were some local people were praying. Ok, this church was really interesting but still, this town was strange. The music blaring over a loud speaker didn’t help the atmosphere. We spent most of our time having a really interesting conversation with another traveler in our group.
    The drive back to Dubrovnik isn’t to bad, because on the return you take a car/bus ferry to cross the fjord. This cuts a lot of time off the return trip, and you can exit the bus and stay outside on the ferry while it crosses. A rain storm decided to open up on us just before this ferry ride so it was a bit slick. We also ran into a car accident just after this rain storm and had a terrible time passing by. The car was horizontal across the road. Even though there really wasn’t enough space to pass by, our bus did it anyhow, and actually tilted when the tires of the bus drove on a drop off of the road. Scary to say the least.
    We returned to Dubrovink at 7:30 p.m. Pick up was at 7:25 a.m. so it was a long day, but enjoyable once we got on our way. Of course our passports were checked again on our way back across the border, but it was not “threatening” as one couple thought.
    After our visit to the Atlas Travel office to see what their explanation was about our morning problems, we cleaned up and went to find some dinner. Lokanda Peskarija, right at the old port was our choice tonight. I had the grilled shrimp my husband had the muscles and we shared a salad and ½ liter of wine and water. We thought it was delicious. The Lokanda was so crowded, it has an excellent reputation. When we sat at our table for 4, I signaled for another couple who was waiting for a table to join us. They were happy with this arrangement, but spoke only Italian so we couldn’t share much but hand signals and smiles! The strange thing was the way the waiter handled this situation. I explained to him that we were actually 2 tables and would need to order separately. He was amazed, and didn’t know how to handle this. After a bit of thought he told us he would take the Italian couples order first, then later come back and take ours. What a shock. He took their complete order, brought them the bread and their drinks. They felt so bad. He pretended we weren’t even there. 15 minutes later he returned and took our order. This solved his problem, but made the Italian couple really uncomfortable since we had invited them to share our table. We let them know the best we could, all was fine, not to worry and enjoy their meal! They ordered much more food than we did and it looked excellent! I see why this restaurant is so popular. Service is very rushed though and if you want a nice, relaxing meal, go elsewhere. The views are great though and our bill came to $26.
    Back at our sobe, Jadranka asked if we wanted to share drinks again on their terrace. We did and shared stories of our day and had an interesting conversation with her and her grown son, who is attending school so he can also work in the tourism field. His dream is to work in the U.S. though. He described their Christmas celebrations and the fun traditions they still follow today. Being a child, growing up in the peaceful Dubrovnik sounded like lots of fun! I’m sure he has many memories he won’t soon forget.

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    June 24 Lopud
    Lopud was our destination today. While reading through the information booklet you can pick up at the TI in Dubrovnik I noticed that another boat makes this trip. I think the name of it is NORA, regardless, it’s the hydrofoil that goes daily to Mljet. On Saturday’s only this very fast hydrofoil also stops at Lopud. It leaves only from Gruz Port at 9 a.m. Tickets are 11 kuna, or $2 US. What a bargain, and it takes 30 minutes. It returns at 8 p.m. though, so instead of buying a round trip ticket, we bought a one way ticket. We decided to take the Jadralinija ferry at 6:50 to return to the Gruz Port. These tickets were 16 kuna one way and took 50 minutes. We bought this ticket in the town area once we were on Lopud. You don’t need to buy them at the Jadralinija office in Gruz port. You could always take the NOVA boat back also, so there are several choices, depending what time you want to return.
    The NORA hydrofoil has 230 seats and it was crowded but not full. You buy your tickets in the building, right at the parking lot, (set back a bit) that says Marina on it.
    Arriving on Lopud we headed for Sunj beach. The walk in about 1 km across the island, and the path begins at the far end of the town. This takes 15-20 minutes to walk. There is a sign marking it, but it faces the opposite direction that you’ll be walking, so unless you turn around and look for it, you’ll miss it. Towards the end of the path, it splits. Take the split to the right. At this point you can almost see the beach.
    What a long, sandy, clean beach this is. It’s a great area for everyone. Most of the beach is textile, but at the far left end there is a large Naturist Beach. Still all sand. There is also a great restaurant on the right side of the beach. The water is very shallow very far out. In fact, we never got into deep water. There are boats anchored out farther, so it gets deep at some point. Many local kids play a game with a small ball, I forget the name of the game, in the shallow water. The point is not to have the ball ever hit the water. They fail in this, but have great fun regardless!
    We rented a thatched umbrella and 2 lounge chairs for the day. It was perfect. We had picked up fruit, bread and cheese plus drinks at the small market by the Pile Gate, so snacked on this during the day. I was afraid that being Saturday, this beach would get really crowded, but it never did. The man we rented the chairs from also cleans the beach. He takes real pride in keeping it spotless. He had a great personality and had fun talking with everyone. The sand here was really hot, so we had to walk quickly to the water, our feet would burn…
    Hours and hours later, we returned to town, found a good bar to watch World Cup!! We had so much fun keeping up with the matches. Drinks and ice cream here while waiting for the ferry and our return to Gruz Port. From here we took bus A1 back to the Pile Gate. Bus tickets are 8 kuna each and are good for one hour. See why I liked staying in this area. We’d return dirty and tired from a long day, and wouldn’t have to walk through town to the Ploce Gate area. We were close to our sobe, and we appreciated this a lot.
    Dinner tonight was back at Lokanda Peskarija. We enjoyed their food here, even though it was so busy. On this evening we had their risotto. I had the seafood risotto, but had to peel the shrimp in it. My husband had the black ink risotto. Both were excellent, but there was so much risotto in one pot, we could have, and should have shared one. No, we didn’t share our table this evening, ha, we learned our lesson.

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    June 25 Dubrovnik – Split – Hvar

    Up early this morning, we had a bus to catch. We had pre-bought our bus tickets from Dubrovnik to Split and were on an Autotrans bus. Many bus companies make this trip each day, some better than others. I don’t know how someone would know which company not to use. We rode the local 1A bus to the main bus station and spoke to a young Norwegian couple on the way. They had taken this same trip, but the bus was really bad. They mentioned the company to us, but I can’t recall it. When you buy your tickets you’ll get a seat assignment. We requested seats on the right side of the bus, behind the driver. This side has the wonderful view as you travel to Split. Once you board the bus though, no one was checking their seats numbers. You were free to sit in any seats. I doubt it is necessary to pre-buy these tickets. There are so many buses doing the trip, you could just buy tickets for the next available bus. We wanted to be sure to get to Split around 12 or 12:30 so I was overly cautious. There were only 10 people on our bus, which left at 8 a.m. Another bus left at 7:45 a.m. and it was almost full. We just got lucky, since most of the people traveling at this time, went on the 7:45 bus.
    Another public bus was leaving at 8 a.m. for Mostar. This bus was full, so if you want to take this trip, I’d suggest pre-buying your tickets.
    Our bus stopped frequently for breaks. It also dropped people off along the way, and picked others up. We stopped for 15 minutes in Bosnia at a little shop, where I bought a souvenir from Bosnia! At tiny bus stations which we stopped at, in other towns we would have about 5 minutes to run to the toilets. A women was usually there, wanting small change to use the toilets, but I had none so I just didn’t pay.
    At the borders our passports were always checked. This bus also had excellent air conditioning. The views were beautiful and I was able to take some pictures along the way. The road was excellent and I don’t think it’d be to hard to drive at all, although others aren’t to fond of the twists and turns.
    We arrived in Split around 12:30. Sobe owners were all over us asking if we needed a room. We declined. After checking our luggage at the bus stations checked luggage area, (very inexpensive) we went looking for the Jadrolinija ticket office so we could buy the catamaran tickets to Hvar. The first office across the street, sold different tickets, but told us to go down to the next Jadrolinija office. This one sold the catamaran tickets. You need to ask for the fast boat, so you don’t get the slow ferry. The catamaran was leaving at 3 p.m. so we had 2 hours to explore the area.
    Since we brought fresh fruit and bread, etc. on the bus with us, we didn’t take time to sit down for lunch although there are places to eat all along the Riva. Actually there are places to drink here, but not much to eat. There is a pizzaera though.
    Diocletian’s Palace sits right on the harbor and the ruins are part of the city. These are free to walk through, but you’ll need a ticket for the cellars and to get into a few small sites. All are interesting and worthwhile to see. We bypassed the produce and fish markets for now, and walked through the Brass gate, into the Palace. Art exhibits are set up here, some to just look at, and other shops where you can buy some very nice pieces. There are several booths selling items inside. We followed the guide in Rick Steves book and saw most everything in the 2 hours we had. I really enjoyed this whole area and think it shouldn’t be missed. When we returned through Split, days later, we spent time at the markets. This was fun, and a great photo opportunity.
    We looked for the Ethnographic Museum, which has art and dresses of Dalmatian villages, but it moved. Once we found the new location, it was closed. We had no time to go to the Mestrovic Gallery and it is located quite a ways from Diocletian’s Palace. It was so hot, the walk would be hard. There is a public bus which goes that direction so that would be a good way to go there.
    Time to catch the catamaran to Hvar!!!! So many families and children were on this catamaran. I was surprised since I had the impression Hvar was very “chic” and full of beautiful people!! I loved it, this was a place everyone vacationed at! There are many “package” hotels here and all kinds of people spend their holidays on the island. Many of these hotels are to the right when you exit the ferry and quite a walk around the bay. The large group which books hotels on Hvar is www.suncanihvar.hr.
    We decided we wanted to stay in an apartment and pre-booked it. I wasn’t to thrilled with the directions I was given though to find this apartment. If I had known what was about to happen, I sure would have taken a taxi, they do meet the catamaran’s and ferries, to the apartment. This would have cost about $23. Looking at our map, and yes, I e-mailed them in advance for better directions, but didn’t realize how poor they were, we set out walking along the beautiful pathway along the water. The walkway alternates between cobbles, asphalt and large potholes. We were pulling our luggage behind us. It was hot, so hot. We walked on and on, and didn’t know how to get up higher to where the apartment was located. We stopped somewhere past Hotel Amphora, past Hotel Croatia, at an ice cream stand along the way. The young man working there actually knew the family where we were staying. He told us we had to climb 2 long, steep, narrow sets of steps to go up to the road we needed. Oh gosh, this family never told us we’d have to climb these steps. Not to happy, exhausted and sweaty, we climbed the steps hauling our luggage behind us. Now, we are in very good shape, despite our 51 years, but this was ridiculous. We still couldn’t find their sobe/home. There was no sign out front. They did tell us there were two large palm trees out front. Well, it was a small help. I actually recognized the awnings over the terraces from the pictures on their web site. After wandering around their small street, we asked a man, sitting on a terrace if this was the Milicic home. He said yes, are you the …….’s. Yes I replied (he had been watching us tromp around and never asked if his home was the one we were looking for) I was not to happy with him. He said his mom was in the shower, and would be out in a bit, we were to wait for her. This wasn’t to nice of a welcome.
    www.apartmentsmilicic.com 2km southwest of the town center on Podstine cove. Apt.2 70€ per night with AC 15 minute walk to Hvar town. Balcony. Close to Hotel Podstein. There are 2 markets within walking distance.

    This was my description of the apartment. Actually Apt 2 was really great despite it is up even more stairs indoors. It is furnished simply, kind of 70’s style, but that was just fine. There were 2 bedrooms, one of which has a door which opened to the terrace, a sitting area with excellent a/c, satellite TV, and a sliding glass door looking out to the sea. A full kitchen with bar, bathroom and small washing machine (which we couldn’t figure out how to use until the last day). The best part was the large, private terrace with table, chairs, umbrella and another chair, plus drying rack for wet clothes. We really enjoyed this full terrace the 5 days we were here, and it has a great view of the sunset. The walk into town is actually at least 20 minutes. This apartment is just a few houses down from Hotel Podstine, in the direction of town. We didn’t know this until later though. 2 markets within walking distance??? Well, we found one up on the road we were on, but closer to town, but it wasn’t to great. Another is the one down on the Riva not far from the Fetish Jewelry shop. The really good grocery shop though is far away, past the town square around towards the bus station. We bought some good food and wine here, but it was a long ways to carry it back to the apartment.

    Would we stay here again, YES! Even though it’s a long walk, we did find a better way to do this walk, by walking up the hill along the side of Hotel Croatia, and then along the road towards Hotel Podstine, we had so much fun here, and loved the space, we would return. You just can’t beat the view, and we even cooked 2 nights in the kitchen and had delicious, long meals, enjoyed our wine, while watching the sunset, and into the night.

    We left the apartment and walked back into town. Hvar town is so lovely, with several cafes around the square. These were great for drinks and watching more World Cup!! When the games were on, a large crowd always gathered. We walked and walked, explored, found the internet, shopped a bit, checked out when and where the small boats would go the next day, then decided to buy dinner supplies and eat at our apartment. It was so wonderful on the terrace we were thrilled with the dinner there.


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    June 26 Hvar

    After breakfast on the terrace, we took the long, but beautiful walk into town. St. Klement island was our destination for today. We took the 50 kuna round trip boat here, which left at 10 a.m., 11, and 12. We took the 10:00 boat. Walking across the island to the “sandy” beach, which wasn’t to great in our opinion, we decided to veer off to the left, yes, across more flat rocks, to a nice shady area, where the rocks were pretty smooth. This was actually a nice area to spend time at because the pine trees provided a lot of shade. What we didn’t expect were the Sea Urchins, Oh No…. Well, we stayed, enjoyed ourselves, reading, sunning, eating, drinking… but we didn’t get into the water. We saw no good way to avoid those nasty creatures.

    Returning across the island, we stopped and had drinks in the bar along the water. What a pleasant spot! The boat taking us back to Hvar was to leave at 4 p.m. Well, it came, it went, at 3:45 – Hey, we didn’t rush to it, because we weren’t finished with our drinks. It just left….We decided to take a shower in the shower house at the other end of this harbor, walked around a bit more, then got on the 5:00 boat, which left at 4:45. Be warned!!

    Dinner was on our terrace again tonight. Don’t miss the outdoor market on Hvar right next to the big grocery store. We were having such a good time here, why change things! The island of Hvar and the islands around it are fantastic for relaxing, sunning, eating fish, enjoying a good bottle of wine. There are no cares here. It’s so easy to carve out some really special days.

    June 27 A drive around Hvar

    We posted this information before, so I’ll just copy it to this report

    We rented our car from Hertz which was located at Pelegrini Travel Agency, which is right by Hotel Riva at the harbor. We went in a day before we wanted the car and told them we would need the car the next day at 9 a.m. This is actually the Hertz rental office. They were ready for us when we arrived, and walked us to the rental car, about 5 minutes away. We didn't need to pay for the rental ahead of time, but we wanted to so it was clear we were using the insurance from our CC. We paid 465 kuna for the car for 1 day. It had no a/c. Hertz gave us no map of Hvar, so we were very happy to have one from the TI. We needed it.


    We drove to Stari Grad first on the new road. It's an excellent road. We spent about an hour looking around, and visiting Tvrdalj, the summer house and walled garden of Petar Hektorovic. We also enjoyed the narrow stone streets and walked to the Dominican monastery. We preferred the atmosphere of Hvar Town but noticed that Stari Grad would be more peaceful. Next we stopped in Jelsa, a town with a maze of alleys, another peaceful town. There is a gas station here if you need one, and none in Stari Grad. From here we drove towards Vrboska. We didn't take the turn off to Vrboska but parked down the road a bit across from the sign to Uvala Rapa. This is a rocky trail down to a beach. The sign says it's 300 meters but we think it's probably a 600 meter walk. The path gets steep and is rocky, red soil. It doesn't look to nice, but when we arrived we walked to the right, over some large, flat rocks and found a small cove, with excellent water access, and a large area perfect to lay in the sun on our towels on the rocks. No sand here. We really enjoyed about 1 1/2 hours here. The water was so refreshing. There was no shade, but a wonderful view of Brac across the water. We were here alone. The hike back up the trail was easier than coming down. This area is not far from the FKK camping area.

    Next we drove to Pitve which is a quaint stone village, with not many people around. There is a small parking area. Park here and walk through the small village. Here you will find Konoba Dvor Dubokovic, a restaurant and winery. What a neat place! Ivica Dubokovic, the owner, met us and invited us to stay for drinks. He doesn't serve lunch, only dinner from 18:00 to 1 or 2:00 depending on which sign is correct! He makes his own red and white wines and showed us the facilities. He had jars of cherries fermenting on the stone walls. He's been working on this property for 3 years. We stayed, sitting on the small terrace at the top, overlooking the grapes growing on a pergaloa and the island of Brac. It was silent, so, so peaceful. Ivica was getting a delivery of langoustines when we left. Oh, did I want to stay for dinner.


    Next we headed through more vineyards to the tunnel that leads for Zavala. The signal works, so you can drive through this very dark, rough, one way tunnel safely. Just wait for the green light! You will drive down the switchbacks to Zavala.


    Parking at the end of the road in Zavala is tight. We found one tiny spot at the bottom and parked. Walking past the tiny outdoor Konoba we walked down the path finding nice beach areas, under a wonderful forest of pine trees. Easy water access also. There is plenty of room here. We had a nice time relaxing here, but the day was getting late, so we couldn't continue onto Sveta Nedjelja.


    It was tempting to stop again in Pitve for dinner at Konaba Dvor Dubokovje, but we didn't want to keep our car overnight.


    On the return trip we stopped in Vrboska and walked around this tiny town, enjoying the small bridges over the inlet. It looked like a canal. We had some ice cream and then returned to Hvar Town, again, on the new road.


    We needed to fill the car with gas, and thankfully, when you reenter town there is a sign of a gas pump. Follow this sign to the one gas station. There was a line of cars waiting and you need to make a U turn to exit the station. The gas was about $1.40 US per liter for gas. We put 6 liters in the car then returned it with no problems.

    We decided to stay in Hvar town for dinner tonight. After exploring the back alleys some more, and talking with a little girl selling sea shells, where I did a bit more shopping, we walked up the stone steps to Macondo. It was still early, maybe 7 p.m. so there were many empty tables. We were seated at one, and within 30 minutes they were quite filled up. We had an excellent fish platter, scampi buzara in white wine, oil, garlic, and parsley sauce, yummmm, boiled potatoes, bread, good wine and good conversation with the men working here. In the middle of dinner a local fisherman approached, got the waiters attention, then slipped into the little alley right across from the door to the inside. He pulled out his canvas bag full of fish. The waiter brought a silver platter where they placed the freshly caught fish. See, they really do serve very fresh fish here! Dinner was only $50.

    Returning “home” we enjoyed the France vs Spain World Cup game. My team, France won!!!

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    June 28 Still on Hvar

    Our plan was to go both to Jerolim and to Stipanska today. I really didn’t know what to expect on these islands. I had read that they may be reserved for naturists, and since we’re not, I didn’t know if we should show up. What the heck, we went anyhow.

    Close to Hotel Amphora there is a small boat dock, which also has boats that goes to these islands. It was perfect for us to leave from here, since the morning walk was much shorter. The round trip cost is 30 kuna and you can take any boat for the return trip. This fare includes the boat ride between the two islands if you want to go to both. Boats leave about every 30 minutes between 9-1 or 2 then take a break and do return trips between 4-6. I thought we’d first go to Jerolim, then later go over to Stipanska, then return to Hvar Town. The man running boats said this was fine. What I didn’t realize was that you had to transfer to Stipanska by 1:00 or 2:00. Once the lunch gap was reached, you could only return to Hvar. We waited until the 4:00 to try and transfer between islands, so we were unable to go to Stipanska. Oh well, Jerolim turned out to be just wonderful.

    Not many of us got off the boat at Jerolim, most went to Stipanska the second stop. It was early in the day, but there were several people already sunning on the rocks, not far from the dock area. There is a large restaurant here also, with great looking food, so it was a popular area to stay. Choosing not to stay here where everyone was enjoying the naturist island environment, we moved onto the left. This island is really gorgeous. It ended up being our favorite spot on our trip for a relaxing day at the “beach”. It is covered in a pine tree forest. There are lounge chairs everywhere, spaced far apart. You can stay in the forest of trees, or go down to the flat rocks. There is room for everyone. Water access is a bit hard, you just don’t walk in, but there are areas that are easier than others for getting into the water. Also, we saw no sea urchins. Someone comes by eventually and collects the small fee for the use of the lounge chairs. They are $2 or $3 each. We enjoyed hours here, and eventually walked to the other side of the island. There is a pebbly beach area here, and everyone, mostly families all wore bathing suits. I think anyone could be comfortable here, no matter how little, or much they choose to wear.

    Later we sat at the bar area, had a drink and great french fries, while waiting for the return boat. The food others were enjoying here looked pretty good, and someone was playing a guitar and singing a variety of songs. There were several families here, lots of kids. I guess they stayed around the dock area, because we saw no children off to the left. The view was incredible, we certainly would love returning to this island someday.

    Returning to Hvar Town, we went to Pelegrini Travel Agency (remember, it’s right at the dock), and signed up for their trip to Bol, on the island of Brac. Several agencies do this trip but all in a bit different way. Look at your possibilities and then decide. One has a lunch onboard the boat once you arrive, I think this is the Atlas tour. They sail the whole way, from Hvar Town. It’s also much more expensive. Our tour bused us to Jelsa, on a private bus, not the public bus, then we got on a boat and sailed to Bol. We were to meet at the bus station. More on this in the next installment.
    We decided it was time to hike to the top of the fortress. It really isn’t to hard, and there is a lot of shade along the way at this time of day. You first go up the stairs through the alleys, by the shops. This staircase is right across from where the TI is, on the other side of the large plaza. The long walkway isn’t steps, but an asphalt path, winding back and forth. The views are unbelievable. You’ll be taking many pictures once you’re up on top. Yes, it was still really hot. I think it was between 95 and 100 degrees every day. We were told this was really unusual for this time of year. I don’t know, we were Italy at the same time last year and it was just as hot. Just 2 weeks earlier it was very chilly in Croatia. We were hoping not to get that weather either. The best thing about the fortress are the views, but it’s interesting seeing the small exhibits here also. There is a restaurant and small shop here also. We probably only spent about 45 minutes here.

    Back down we came, used the internet, I had to keep in touch with all of you, plus my family! I had the bright idea to call Pelegrini Travel and ask them if they did pick ups for the tour tomorrow. They did, so I happily arranged for them to pick us up at the Podstine Hotel, since we were just down the road from that hotel. This way I could sleep in a bit longer and avoid the hike back to town.

    Dinner was once again on our terrace, ahhhh….

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    June 29 Trip to Brac from Hvar

    When planning this trip I knew I wanted to add one other island. I didn’t want to move around anymore than we did though so the only other option was a day trip. I always try to use public transportation for this. If the locals can go by public transportation, usually we can also. Well, this just wasn’t going to work. I checked the public schedules and they were terrible. I wanted to go to Korcula, Vis or Brac. We checked into all these choices while on Hvar. All are possible as day trips. Atlas goes to Korcula and Mljet, all in one day. It’s really pricy, and how much time could you have?? I asked them about only going to Korcula, and you can with them for almost the same price, but I can’t really remember how this worked. Another company goes to Vis, but I think they call this the Blue Lagoon tour or something similar. Our best option was the trip to Bol, on the island of Brac. As I wrote earlier, there are about 3 different ways to do this. After we did the tour I learned of another, but I think our way was perfect. We signed up with the tour Pelegrini Travel Agency offered. Can you tell, I really like this travel agency. They had the best tours, great prices and very friendly staff, and I walked around Hvar the first day and talked to all of the agencies I could find.

    After breakfast on our terrace, we walked to the Podstine Hotel where we were picked up by Pelegrini’s van and dropped off at the bus station. While waiting for our pickup, we walked around this hotel. It has the same view out of it as we do off our terrace. From the outside and lobby area, it looks like it could use a good rehab, but I have no idea what it’s like to stay here. Some rooms had small balconies.

    The Elite Travel Agency bus picked all of us up at the bus station, for the ride to Jelsa. We had a French guide and an English guide. It was fun listening to the French since we can understand some. I guess that meant we were on a tour from Elite Travel! This is a good way to see some of the island if you don’t have a car. It would have been possible to take the public bus to Jelsa and meet the same boat we were going to take over to Bol. Our group had space booked on this boat, but it wasn’t an Elite Travel Agency boat. Anyone could have bought tickets on it, individuals staying in Jelsa, did. I didn’t know this earlier. 2 different boats left Jelsa at 9 a.m. for the ride to Brac Island. If you just bought your tickets in Jelsa for this boat, the cost was 60 kuna. I don’t know the cost of the public bus between Hvar Town and Jelsa. These buses don’t run to frequently so it’s important to check the schedule.

    The boat trip took 1 hour. It was so beautiful sailing between the islands. We were so fortunate to run across a large school of dolphins, jumping high out of the water. Our boat didn’t just sail by this. It actually stopped and lingered, even following them a bit so we could all enjoy the show! We probably spent 15 minutes watching the dolphins. We arrived in Bol at 10:00 and had to meet the return boat at 4:30. Bol town was tiny, but so picture some. There was a great produce market, and a small fish market. We all just wanted to go to Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) beach. This is the famous beach you’ll see on the Croatia signs. Wow, what a beach. The beach is quite a walk from the harbor. We loved walking it. There is a very wide, concrete walkway, most under pine trees, with some venders selling their wares along the way. There are also some outdoor bars, with couches and pillows for seating, along the way. This kind of bar is all over Croatia, in every town we visited. Very nice. Off the coast along this walkway you will see several wind surfers. You can also take great photos of Zlatni Rat beach on this walk. If you don’t want to walk the distance, no worry. There is a little shuttle train that will take you from the harbor to the beach, or take a shuttle boat.

    This is a very long, very sandy beach. It’s also very wide. The center of this pointed area is covered in pine trees, but they don’t come even close to the water. You could spend time lounging under the pine trees, but then it would be a long, hot walk over the sand to get to the water. Many people do stay under the trees though. You can rent lounge chairs and an umbrella here. They go fast, but this is what we did, for 90 kunas for the day. If you walk all the way around the point, or just cut through the middle, under the pine trees, to the very western side of the beach, there is a naturist area. If you have kids, this is a perfect beach. The sand is wonderful, the water clear, but it does get deep quickly. There is a changing area here, and food is available.

    What we saw of Brac was just great. Others will know much more about the island as a whole, it may be a great island to spend a few days on.

    Walking back to the harbor, we decided to stop for a drink while waiting for our boat. We had little time, but I ordered the red house wine. Oh YUCK. I’ve never had such horrible wine. I had to return it. I was told it was made by them, and they gave me a different glass, from a new bottle. It comes with ice cubes also! They asked how many I would like in the wine. Well, this glass was no better, so I can’t recommend the red wine from Brac!

    Our return trip to Jelsa went quickly as we talked with a family from England, and saw no more dolphins.

    We stopped by Pelegrini Travel again when we returned, to buy our catamaran tickets from Hvar Town to Split for the next morning. It sadly was time to move on. The person in front of us bought the last tickets on the main catamaran, the KILO. This catamaran leaves at 9 a.m. Thankfully, we were leaving on a Friday, and another company ran a catamaran at 9 a.m. also. This was owned by Split Tours and is the Blue Line. They have a web site http://www.splittours.hr/voyages/voyages.asp?jezik=EN with their schedules. I had no idea this company was available for boat trips. It’s another great option to use while in Croatia.

    Before we arrived in Hvar I thought our only option was to take the Jadrolinija line between the mainland and Hvar. Now I know there are other options. It’s important to buy your tickets earlier than the evening before you sail though. We almost learned the hard way. These are not for those with cars though. I think the only way to transfer between Hvar and the mainland, if you have a car, is to use the car ferry Jadrolinija operates.

    While in town we visited the Franciscan Monastery, and tried to see the municipal theatre which is above the TI. It’s currently closed though so you can’t see it at this time. If you ask the TI about it they’ll give you a very nice pamphlet about Hvar with pictures of the theatre inside. On our walk back to our apartment, we passed the same little girl selling seashells. I packed a few “gifts” for children when we left home, so I gave her the card game “Fish” and a set of colored pens. She was thrilled!

    I think we had dinner on our terrace again. Four out of five nights. Guess I’m not much help when it comes to the restaurants on Hvar, but we did enjoy the ice cream here! It’s not as good as that in Italy though. We were so sad to leave Hvar. I didn’t feel it was an island only for the yachts, and their owners. Yes, they were here, but so were families of every type, and everyone in between. It’s a fabulous place, and we will return.

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    June 30 Hvar – Trogir

    Waking early today, since we were taking the 9 a.m. Split Tours catamaran to Split. The KILO catamaran which boarded before ours was full. We waited for those passengers to board, then the Split Tours/Blue Line catamaran boarded. It was only about half full. These tickets are 26 kuna each. We decided to stay outside for the crossing. We closed our luggage up in the hold on the deck then enjoyed the stiff breeze as we sailed across the ocean to Split, a 1 hour journey.

    In Split we checked our luggage at the bus station again and walked to the outdoor markets. The produce market was wonderful. So many older women, wearing black, were selling their goods. We bought some things we’d never seen before and had a taste. I also took several great photos here. The fish market was equally entertaining. It was so very hot. We found a take away pizza place on a street jetting off the main road, Riva, bought a couple of pieces and sat on the benches by the sea, in the green park area, and enjoyed the view.

    Time to collect our luggage and try to find the Alamo rental car office. We had a car reserved for a 3:00 pick up, but I thought at the time I reserved it, the only time we could return to Split would be on the 1:00 Jacrolinija catamaran. It was 12:00 when we arrived at Alamo, which is located on the main road obala Kneza Branimira. This is about a 20 minute walk west of the town center. All the rental car locations are along this road, except Hertz, which is in a separate small office, same road, but not as far down. No cars were available for us to rent, since we were early. We had to wait for an hour and a half for a rental car. No other agency along this road had a car available for approximately the same price. It’s important to pre-reserve a car in Split. There just aren’t enough rentals available. We were told they are constantly adding to the inventory, but they all are rented and driven out of the area. Once a car was available, it was in rough shape. There were dents and bruises all over it, and the fuel gage was broken. Well, as long as it drove fine we didn’t really care. We wanted them to mark each and every scratch on the paperwork, but they said only the big ones were important. Well, what could we say?? We made sure they noted the broken fuel gage. After about 45 minutes of paperwork, I have no idea why it was so hard for them to do this, we were off. We exited Split with no problem, drove by the soccer stadium, and onto Solin. These ruins are only 5km northeast of Split, are said to be the most interesting archaeological site in Croatia. Arriving, I noticed my rough guide Croatia book and notes for today were left behind at the Alamo office. Deciding these were important enough to return to Split for, we drove back into the city. This isn’t to easy. There are no good signs pointing the way, and if you miss the tunnel into the city, you will drive into part of the city, but will be blocked from the Riva area. This happened to us, so it took quite a while to finally find our way back to Alamo. Retrieving our book and papers, we drove back to Solin.

    The ruins here are ok, but it was so very hot, we really couldn’t appreciate them. We did walk all the way to the end where the best ruins are. This is about a 1 hour stop.

    We drove to Trogir easily finding the parking along the street. When arriving in Trogir, turn right which leads down a narrow road, which is paid parking. The hotel will stamp your ticket, so you won’t have pay for the parking. There is also a decent sized lot at the end of this road which you can park in if there is space. It’s located right at the fortress.

    We had reservations at Hotel Concordia which is right on the waterfront. They offered a 10% discount for cash at check-out. We could only reserve the room on the top floor, with 2 single beds, on separate sides of the room. The room was pretty cute though. The ceiling slanted so you had to watch your head. The first room was a sitting area, with chairs and a table, and a window which opened and looked down on the harbor and it’s boats. Then the 2nd room was the bedroom with TV and so, so a/c, plus satellite TV. The bathroom, while very small was fine, and off the sitting room. We were fine here for l night, but I don’t know if it would be okay for any longer. The women told us this was the only room offered to us because we were staying just one night.


    Trogir is a small, pleasant town and nice area to spend 1 night in. The approach to Trogir from Solin isn’t to pretty. The promenade is lined with large palm trees and weekly excursion boats which sail through the islands off Croatia, stopping in different places each afternoon. Laundry was hanging from the outside of cabins. We spoke to some people who were on one of the boats for a week. They were having a great time, but said the cabins are extremely small, with tiny bunks. They were Germans, and Germany was playing their World Cup game against Argentina. It was so close, Germany had to kick a penalty kick, they made it and won!! The boat personnel came and told them it was time for dinner, now, not at the end of the World Cup game. The dinner bell would ring, so everyone could go back to their boat for their meal. Arughh, that’s what I hate about cruise ships.

    Exploring town a bit more, there are nice shops here, we looked into the huge cathedral at the town center. It’s quite beautiful.

    The Top Balloon looked nice, they have a large outdoor area set between two rows of buildings. It was in the shade and a nice breeze was blowing. It’s very casual. The pizzas looked fantastic, but we ordered seafood riosotta and lasagna. Both were excellent. They have a large menu and everyone’s food looked excellent. We complimented them on their dinners, they know they have great food here!

    Walking across the bridge to Ciovo Island there are wonderful views back to Trogir. Along the promenade here, which isn’t half as beautiful as Trogir’s, there are more boats, but many are daily excursion boats. We struck up a conversation with a husband and wife team that’s runs one of the boats. We spent an hour listening to stories from their life. She’s Serb and he’s Croatian, and they even sleep together!! I loved that line. They encouraged us to go to Primosten tomorrow on our drive to Krka National Park. We had a long day planned for Saturday, so we called it a day.


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    July 1 Primosten, Krka National Park and the New toll road to Plitvice Lakes National Park


    Hotel Concordia serves an excellent hot breakfast outside in the morning. This is included in your room rate. We were able to move our car from the street parking, into the lot by the fortress to load our luggage. We didn’t even realize this lot was here the previous day.

    The drive along the coast to Primosten was quick. You can spot this island, which is now connected to the mainland by a causeway long before you arrive. We pulled over for photos. It was once a fishing village and has wonderful stone houses and narrow lanes. It was also market day so I replenished our cherries! Parking was a bit difficult. Most of it was barred with a metal barrier at each spot. We drove down the road quite a ways past the entry into the town center, before we could find a spot.

    Krka National Park was a short distance away. There are two entrances into this park and we decided to enter at the Lozovac entrance. Using this entrance you can arrive by car. The Skradin entrance means you arrive by boat. We didn’t have time for that. Being July 1 we didn’t think we could drive directly to the parking area where you begin your walk into the park. We stopped at the large parking area and took the free bus to the park area. You need to buy park entry tickets before boarding the bus. The basic entry fee was 70 kuna. The views from the bus on your way to the park are georgeous. It doesn’t matter which side of the bus you are on, since the road is switchbacks.

    Once you arrive it’s confusing, because you’ll be approached about buying another, longer tour, on boats going into the upriver sections of the park. We didn’t have a lot of time to invest here, so we declined. If you come to this park, do your homework so you can decide how much of the park you want to see.

    We just walked with most of the other people into the park area. There are wooden walkways thorugh the area, as at Plitvice. It starts out with just pretty scenery, no waterfalls to speak of. Continue along, the further you go the more beautiful it is. We loved this area and were so happy we stopped here. At the end, the waterfalls are very large and wide. There is a swimming area at the base of the falls, and many, many people were spending the day here picnicking and swimming. It would be easy to spend your whole day in this park. Our pictures from these falls almost look better than those in Plitvice, although this park isn’t as nice as Plitvice is. We spent 2 hours here. Get off the wooden walkways. Some of the best waterfalls were off on the dirt paths that branched off the boardwalk. Local women have tables set up near the largest falls, selling different products.

    Leaving the park, we found a small pizzeria along the road and stopped for lunch. They were setting up for a wedding reception for Sunday. He told us each weekend they have wedding dinners at this small, outdoor restaurant.

    It was time to get on the new toll road and drive to Plitvice Lakes. This road is excellent. The scenery is wonderful. It’s stark as you begin. This was a Saturday though, and it was July 1. Although traffic was flowing freely, so many cars from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, whizzed by, we hit a traffic jam. The problem is that not all the tunnels through the mountain sides are complete. Some are, and it’s fine if both sides are open. When there is only one tunnel open, traffic in both directions has to merge into one lane each and share the one tunnel. We had very, very slow stop and go traffic for 1 ½ hours because of this situation. The traffic from the north, going south, didn’t have a back up.

    While driving in Croatia we were supplied with the following tips:

    ALWAYS have your HEADLIGHTS turned on, fines are big 500kn (around 90$),
    same fine for not wearing seatbelt,
    also watch for speed limits, for example if it says 60 (km/h) police tolerate if you go 70km/h,
    but 72km/h is NO-NO, over 100km/h speed limit they tolerate 10% over limit!

    and DON'T drive if you had any kind of alcohol drink (here is 0.0‰ alcohol law when driving), fines are up to 500$


    We also found that gas stations aren’t to plentiful. In July and August they are required to stay open 24 hours a day. So many people are vacationing here, and so few gas stations. There was always a line. There is no prepay, so you fill up, then go inside to pay. There were women at the pumps who would wash your car windows for a small fee. We had to stop more often for fuel since our fuel gage was broken and we didn’t want to chance running out of fuel. At one stop a family from France filled their large camper. They had quite a despute about the cost of their fuel. The argument was getting quite heated so we were happy to leave!


    Finally arriving in Plitvice we easily found the sobe we reserved for this evening. Knezevic Guest House for 35€ per night, per room + 5€ each for breakfast. Driving south from the park, take first right turn into Mukinje and you’ll see #57. tel. 053.774-081, mobile 098/168-7576. Web site is www.knezevic.hr and email is nknezevic@gs.t-com.hr or guest_house@vodatel.net


    This is actually a small hotel in the Knezevic home. I think there are 11 rooms. It looks brand new, is spotless and very modern and comfortable. There is no a/c. They have a large yard area. We were personally greeted when we arrived. Mrs. Knezevic left her guests on the terrace and welcomed us. I really didn’t know what to expect before we arrived. What kind of room would 35€ buy. We were thrilled! There is a large breakfast room on the lowest level with a satellite TV.


    Trying to get a room at the park hotels was very difficult. They wouldn’t answer e-mails or faxes. Finally I did reserve a room at Hotel Jezero which would of cost 58€ per person, breakfast included. We cancelled this once I contacted Knezevic Guest House. We did stop by Hotel Jezero, which looked fine. They have an ATM machine here, thankgoodness, and internet which was very cheap.



    Driving to Plitvice’s park entrances 1 and 2, we wanted to get to know the area, since we’d be visiting it in the morning. They have a grocery store at each entrance. Entrance 2 also has a large outdoor grill area, where they cook hamburgers, chicken and sausages. They were almost out of food while we were here, so we just bought food in the market, and had dinner on the picnic tables that are located here. It’s a thick, wooded forest and was beautiful. The weather had cooled, it felt wonderful! There were also several people here trying to rent sobe rooms for close to the price we paid for ours. Many had shared bathrooms, which wouldn’t be a room I’d like.



    Back to Hotel Jezero to finish watching the England vs. Portugal World Cup game. England lost in penalty kicks at the end of the game. Poor English fans, including my husband. We returned to our sobe to watch the BIG game, France vs. Brazil. The only TV was in the basement breakfast room, but the room was nice, and we were able to bring a bottle of wine down and enjoy the match. There were some people from Germany watching some of the game also. I assured them France would beat Brazil. They thought I was crazy!! Boy were they shocked the next morning when I was correct!!!


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    July 2

    Plitvice Lakes National Park - Rovinj


    Rain and cool tempertures greeted us this morning. Maybe not the best circumstances to tour the park. Skipping the 9:00 breakfast at the sobe, we arrived at entrance 1 at Plitvice. Perhaps, not surprisenly, we were the only people entering the park. A day ticket is 100 kuna in July. We needed jackets and umbrellas, but the weather wasn’t to bad yet.


    We were going to hike uphill, from the lower lakes to the upper lakes. It’s a very gradual path, so wasn’t steep at all. I was very happy we had decided on this route because we were walking towards the waterfalls, so the view of them was much better than if we had walked the other direction. Following the G2 trail we walked down a path with several switchbacks to the water level. Boardwalks wind through the park, and for the most part you stay on them. There are places you’ll want to take the dirt paths though. It was getting muddy, with all the rain, so it can be hard on your shoes.


    The water is crystal clear. There are so many fish, so easily seen. No fishing allowed here! It took us maybe 1 ½ hours to see this portion. It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been! We passed no other people in this time. Such peace.


    We arrived at Lake Kozjak where you’ll take a boat ride which connects the Lower and Upper lakes. Again, we were the only ones here, but they still ran the boat just for us. This is a large rest area, with a restaurant, picnic tables, outdoor food booths (if they are open) bathrooms etc. It would be a good place for lunch if the weather was nice and it was later in the day! I think other people started their visit later than this early morning hour, and started at entrance 2 and walked downhill.


    Again, we followed the C and G2 trails up to Gradinsko Lake. We did start meeting other people along the way, coming from the other direction. This was even more beautiful, if that’s possible. We continued up to the top of the Upper Lakes and finished at shuttle bus stop ST4. We took the shuttle from this spot, back down. We spent 4 hours here in total.


    The beauty here is unimaginable. Hundred of waterfalls, all sizes and shapes made me feel as if I was in the Garden of Eden. I think it’s the most beautiful area Croatia has to offer.


    We needed to drive to Rovinj where we were to spend the night. This is a long drive. I had consulted viamichelin.com about the best route to take. I had two possibilities. I also had the Rough Guide map of Croatia. I didn’t really understand where the toll road was open and where it wasn’t completed yet. We wanted to see some of the countryside so we exited the park to the right, and drove down Highway 1 to 52, took it south and connected to 50. This was very scenic and we passed by several women selling honey, lace, cheese and more in small booths along the way. We stopped at one booth and bought some smoked cheese for lunch. She was a great saleswoman and we ended up buying honey also! We also saw a fair amount of war damage along the way, in the villages. My heart really went out to these people.


    Although there is great beauty here, this route was taking a very long time to travel. I knew we’d better pick up the pace. We came to the toll road, and one sign said it went to Rijeka. Great, we needed to go through Rijeka, so we got on the toll road. What we didn’t realize was that this road actually went North towards Zagreb. We drove on this toll road, north, for quite awhile before realizing what we were doing! In the end it probably worked out ok, since we were going so quickly, and eventually it did veer towards Rijeka, but only after going north for many miles. We saw more of Croatia than we planned on!


    Opatija was one town I wanted to see on the way. We drove through, couldn’t find any parking. It is a large, resort town and has beautiful architecture, but was so large and croweded. We were happy we had not decided to stay here.


    Continuing on into Istria where the scenery is very different than in Dalmatia and inland Croatia we continued. Some here love it, but we were disappointed in our approach to Rovinj. The signs were so hard to follow. There are signs everywhere, littering the views. You can’t really spot the place you are looking for. We passed the turn off to Rovinj the first time we drove by. Turning around we followed a road into town, wondering if we had chosen the best place to spend our last few days.


    Parking is very difficult in Rovinj. Luckily we found a spot by some large pink building right on the harbor. It was the only available parking space, but we needed only one! There is an information/ travel office close to this lot, so we walked in and asked where our hotel was. We were staying at the Adriatic Hotel right in the town square.


    Contact: Adriatic@jadran.tdr.hr Phone: 385 52815088 Fax 0038552813573
    €44 per person, per night. Includes breakfast buffet, local tax is additional €1 per person/ night
    Must arrive by 6 p.m. or call +385 52 815088 before 6 p.m..


    The rooms here were sadly decorated. They looked so old and dreary. The location is fabulous, the beds so comfortable and the a/c excellent. There is no elevator, and many stairs. We had to carry our own luggage up these stairs. Oh well, you can’t have it all!


    The town is well preserved and delightful. The stone streets are very steep and very, very slick. We saw more than one person take a tumble. It’s also great for photos. We hiked up to St. Euphemia’s church at the very top of the town.


    Up here, just down from the church is the excellent and beautiful Monte restaurant. This is the finest restaurant in town, but we weren’t aware of this at the time. The menu is large, has many fish plates, of course, but also meat plus they have a wonderful wine list. After the long day we just had, we decided to have dinner here. What a fantastic choice this was. It’s open to the outside, has a large grapevine growing up from the floor, through the roof, and flowers snaking up the walls. It’s very artfully decorated, the food just excellent. The white house wine is supurb! We ended up returning here for a second dinner.

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    July 3 Pula, Motovun, Grozjan, and Piran, Slovenia



    The Adriatic Hotel includes a very large, excellent breakfast buffet. We enjoyed breakfast outside, overlooking the harbor. All types of boats are docked here. There are several small grocery stores, and bakeries in town. There are also several different travel companies, if you want to book day trips. No rental car agencies are located here, but there is a bus station with many destinations. They just don’t run to any one place to often.

    Leaving Rovinj for the day, we drove to Pula. The traffic into Pula is on a one lane road. It backs up terribly. We were so fortunate to arrive early. There still was a traffic back up, but it was so much worse when we left town. GO EARLY, otherwise you’ll wait for more than an hour to get into the center.

    We easily found a parking spot on the street, right across from the amphitheater. You’ll need coins for the parking meter. Buy a card in the machine, and put it inside your windshield. This amphitheater is very large, and quite intact. It’s wonderful to wander around, and there is an excellent, small museum in the underground area.

    Pula has more to offer. We visited the Archaeological museum, and the sculpture garden around it. We also saw the Triumphal Arch of Sergius and the Roman theater and walls.

    We probably spent 2 or 2 ½ hours in Pula.

    Driving onto the hilltown of Motovun in the interior of the Istrian Peninsula, we passed a few sunflower fields. There are several artist shops here, but many were closed. A man was carving wood into nice plaques. We passed by a very small store front, which was actually a factory full of women sewing. How dreary. The views from the top of town were vast. There is a hotel and pretty square at the top where we enjoyed lunch under the plane trees.

    Grozjan was our next destination. This is another hilltop town. We drove up the gravel road, but should have bypassed it, to the paved road further up the road. This is even a tinier town, with artist shops, most closed. We walked around a bit, enjoyed the pretty square, overlooking the valley and snacked on geleto!

    This area was nice enough, but disappointing to us after the incredible beauty we had enjoyed in the rest of Croatia. Istria just seemed, sleepy, and boring, after the other experiences we had in this country. If we had bypassed it, we would not have cared.

    Piran, Slovenia was our last stop for the day. It seemed so bright and modern compared to Istria. We loved it. Unless you are spending the night here, don’t take a ticket and drive into the town. There is nowhere to park. You will regret it. Stop at the large parking lot just before the barred entrance and leave your car here. You can take the small bus to town or walk. We walked. The harbor is so pretty, sailboats, and more sailboats are docked here.

    Stopping at the TI we picked up a bit of information and told them how much we liked this area. The woman here was almost apologetic, saying they try their best, but they are just a small town.
    We were able to use Euros here even though they have their own currency.

    The joy here is just walking through the village, notice the Venitian house here, then walking the promenade around the sea. The waters on the western side of the point were calm. Many people were climbing into the sea here, down chrome ladders. Others just had their towels laid out on the cement walkway and were enjoying the bright sunshine. There are café’s strung all along the coastline.


    As we walked around the point it became incredibly windy. The waves were high and they were crashing over the rocks. You couldn’t swim here. Italy was visable across the sea. We cut back through the center of town, where the wind wasn’t a factor. We did a bit of shopping on the return back to our car.

    Crossing the border into and out of Slovenia is effertless. A quick check of your passport is all it takes. We were hoping to visit the Skocjan caves or the Lipica stud farm nearby, but we had no more time.


    Dinner this evening was at Stella de Mar, right on the sea in Rovinj. The food was fine, but not great. They had a great attitude here though and the view was marvelous. Along this lane there are several nice places you can have drinks, all along the sea. Often the seating is on little couches, or pillows. Walk up to the light house in Rovinj and you’ll see the local children swimming off the rocks. It’s a nice area.


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    July 4 Independence day in the U.S. Returning our rental car, not so easy, and the islands off Rovinj



    We had to get up so early this morning. Our challenge was in returning the car to Alamo/National, in Porec. I had the address of the location and had tried to Goggle it before we left. All I could find was an apartment on the same street. The Split rental office had no map or guidance to where the office in Porec was. They did give me the phone number and mobil number of the office. I asked them about a pick up service of our car in Rovinj. (There is no rental car office of any agency in Rovinj.) They said it would be 35€ to do this. We decided to return it ourselves.



    It takes about 1 hour to drive from Rovinj to Porec because you have to drive around the fjord between the two towns. The public bus schedule between these towns is terrible. There is a 9 a.m. bus, maybe a 9:15 bus, then nothing until 3p.m., another around 6 p.m. The office was to be open from 8-5, but it is actually open from 8-12 and 6-9.


    I stopped into an information office in Rovinj to ask for advise on finding the office. They had a combination Rovinj/Porec map for $6. We bought it and found the street. Without this map, we never would have found the street. There is a large Konzum grocery store on the corner of the street you are to turn at. The major road seems to be nameless We saw that Pulska, the road the office is on, is a one way road. We couldn't find the way onto it in the right direction, so we drove up it the wrong way. The office is actually a rented garage of an apartment where people live. Those people have nothing to do with the rental office, but were nice enough to tell us that the woman working there doesn't usually show up at 8 a.m. and we would have to call her. It took two calls, (phone number on the door) but she arrived at 8:20. She was in horror looking at our car, and not happy at all with the broken fuel gage or the dents and bruises on the car. Only the major ones were recorded since the Split office said the minor ones didn't matter and didn't need to be marked on the paperwork. I knew this didn't sound good at the time. We convinced her that this was the way we received the car, and yes, it was full of gas. When she heard we picked it up in downtown Split, she understood. She has a low opinion of this office and said she would not be keeping this car on her lot! Her cars actually looked very good. It took her at least 30 minutes to check us in, and thankfully drove us to the bus station in Porec for the 9 a.m. bus back to Rovinj. We arrived at 10 a.m. where Hotel Adriatic kindly cooked us some hot eggs, since the breakfast was over at 10 and most of the food was gone! Quite a morning...
    We were happy to not have a car any longer, but we couldn't have seen the wonderful National Parks, and drive through Istria and up into Slovenia without it.


    It was a good day to relax at the beach so we took the Sol Istra boat over to Crveni otok or Red Island. Maskin Island is connected to Red Island by causeway. This boat was packed. People jammed onto it. I know you’re to buy tickets, but noone ever came around collecting money. This area was really much to crowded for us. The huge Sol Istra hotel is on Red Island, and there are people everywhere. We walked over the causeway to Maskin Island which is part FKK and part whatever. There is a restaurant here but it also looked uninviting. We found a quiet place alone and spent a few hours here. There was no shade, so it wasn’t the best place. Later we walked to the closer side of the island where there was a bit of shade, and spent an hour under the scrubby trees, but still along the water.


    This wasn’t the best way to end our time in Croatia, so we had another excellent dinner this evening at Monte, the incredible restaurant up by the cathedral in Rovinj.


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    July 5 Journey to Venice


    We took the SAF (Italian Bus) from Rovinj to Venice this morning. It departed at 5:40 a.m. and arrived in Venice at 10:15. We bought the tickets for this bus 2 days earlier, but there were empty seats on it. The tickets cost $20 one way. We had considered the catamaran between Rovinj and Venice, but it didn’t make the trip on this day. Those tickets are about $50 one way, leaves later, and gets in just a bit later.

    The bus jouney was very comfortable, on an a/c bus. Our luggage was stored under the bus for a small fee. We made plenty of stops on the way. Most of the women on the bus got off in Trieste.

    The other way you can make this connection is to take a later bus to Trieste, then transfer to the train and take it to Venice. The bus station is right next to the train station in Trieste.


    Arriving in Venice so early was fantastic. It gave us almost the entire day in Venice. It was our third trip here, and we spent several days here last year, but no matter, Venice is amazing.

    We bought the one day travel card at the bus station for 12€. It is valid for 24 hours from the time of stamping. A big change here were the ticket checkers at almost every vaporetto stop. Last year they did random checks, this year everyone was checked as the boarded the vaporetto.

    Our room at Pensione Guerrato wasn’t ready yet, but we left our luggage here and went for lunch at our very favorite bar, very close to our pensione. The seats are canal side, on the Grand Canal, but set around the corner from the Rialto Bridge area, and not many people seem to know it’s here. Naranzaria at San Polo 130 www.naranzaria.it is the bar/restaurant.


    Pensione Guerrato 95€ or 90€ if you pay in cash. Phone: 041.5285927 RIALTO BRIDGE AREA
    In order to reach hotel from Venice Train Station: vaporetto #82 direction Rialto –San Marco, and get off at the Rialto stop. Cross over the Rialto bridge and continue walking straight through the market area where you will see on your right. At the “BANCA di ROMA” bank turn to your right and at the end of this street “calle” you will see the sign and the entrance of our Hotel.


    We shopped for a swirled glass vase that I wanted, found one in lovely colors, then returned to our room.

    Dinner at La Zucca, our favorite place to eat in Venice was wonderful. We reserved the canal side table, outdoors ahead of time, and it was waiting for us. There is a tiny canal bridge right next to this table and it’s enjoyable watching the gondolas glide by, under this bridge. Last year the water was higher and the gondolas had quite a time fitting under the bridge. This year the water was lower so it wasn’t a challenge.


    France was having a World Cup Game tonight, but we had to turn in so couldn’t enjoy the game. We had a very early morning wake up call, because of our early flight from Venice to Rome in the morning and had no TV in our room. There was a/c though!



    July 6 Home Venice to Rome to Newark to Cincinnati

    Taking the “night” vaporetto, in the early morning. Vaporetto Line 1 from Rialto to Plazzale Roma, so we could catch the bus at Piazzale Roma to the airport. Yawn, it was so early.

    I asked the bus driver who won the match last night. He had no idea, but another passenger did. France is moving on, to play Italy in the final!! (We now know this ended ugly for me).

    We arrived and they were checking in for an even earlier flight between Venice and Rome.
    We were flying on FF tickets but asked anyhow if we could take this earlier flight. No problem, no fee, they switched our tickets and we were off to Rome. This was so helpful, because it would have been very tight making our connection otherwise.

    We were on a wonderful 777 I think, Alitalia flight from Rome to Newark. Each seat had it’s own individual screen with movies on demand. It’s the first time we had on demand programming. The control was complicated and it took a bit of figuring out, but what a luxury
    in coach on an international flight.

    I loved seeing downtown New York from the airport train in Newark. We had an uneventful Continental Airline flight from Newark back to Cincinnati, where Rachel picked us up at the airport and drove us home.

    This was a fantastic trip, one we’ll not soon forget.


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    Thank you so much!

    What a wonderful holiday you had. I am already looking forward to Budapest in April, and also getting really excited about spending a week in Dalmatia in October.

    The Benussi home in Dubrovnik sounds wonderful, I have put the details into my 'Dubrovnik accomodation' folder, and have copied and pasted lots of your other info such as restaurants and the Montenegro trip.

    Thanks again for adding this part of your report.

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    Your welcome Julia. Both areas are wonderful! I wonder what happened to the Croatia part of my report though. Oh well, thanks for requesting it!

    We're arriving in Prague on May 1 so it's going to be interesting comparing Prague to Budapest. We felt so relaxed in Budapest, it wasn't swarming with people as I hear Prague is. I'm sure you'll have a fantastic trip!

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    Images2 - Wonderfully written - felt as if I was traveling along with you on this adventure! Too bad you weren't able to visit Opatija (our destination in May) as I would have enjoyed your reporting on it, but your comments about Pula will be helpful as we're planning a visit there as well.

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    We tried to go to Opatija and actually got off the highway and drove by, but couldn't find a parking spot. We didn't have time to put alot of effort into it, so were satisfied with our "drive by". It looked very attractive!

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    Thanks for your lovely report.

    We are intrigued by your description of Knezevic Guest House in Plitvice Lakes area. If we arrive by bus, is there any way to get to the Guest House besides walking the 2 km?

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    I don't think there is any way but to walk it. What a beautiful walk that would be though. The trees hug the road. Several people were gathered around the small market in the park, just off the main road, offering rides to their B&B's. You may be able to get a ride with one of them or even find an alternate place to stay. I was so happy with the Knezevic Guest House though, I really wouldn't want to take a chance on another.

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    I just discovered this trip report which I am printing out for my own side trip to Budapest from my Vienna home exchange next summer.

    I especially appreciated the links to the sites for tickets to entertainment.

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    We stayed at Knezevic Guest House last time and did not have a good experience. However, we were in a room located next to the doors/stairs and it was very busy and loud. There was also construction going on near our window.

    It is not a bad place with a nice location but I just caution you to ask for a quiet room. Perhaps we were there during a bad time with groups or something...:) Just a suggestion, that's all.

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    Sorry - I forgot to mention that we were last at Knezevic in October of 2006. The room was so loud we decided to stay at another place the next night and it was so much more charming and pretty and very, very quiet. It does not have a website, unfortunately.

    Again, I do not say this to be negative at all. I can see the place has huge potential. We always stay in B&B's (normally just one or two rooms - maybe that is one reason we were put off by the noise). Just a wee heads up! :)

    Regardless Croatia is spectacular. My husband and I are looking into purchasing a property there because we LOVE it!

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    Our experience at this B&B was wonderful, and it was very quiet. No construction. There are more B&B's in the area and can be booked when you arrive. We like knowing we have have a room though so always book ahead, and were thrilled with our choice there!

    We also walked into the park run hotels and thought they looked horrible. The B&B's in this area are much better than the hotels.

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    Images is right - the B&B's are so much nicer than the hotels! I am glad you had a great experience there. It is a place I would try again. When we were there the guests were extremely loud and obnoxious (partying like crazy for ages) but that could happen ANYWHERE. We just happened to be there at the wrong time, I think...

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    I am waiting for a reply frome b/b in Knezevic Guest House and I have a reservation at hotel Kastel in Split, and I have a reservation at V&P Club Villa Ragusa in dubrovlnik. now waiting for replys from hvar and korcula. Please reccommend a car rental, thanks

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    What a fantastic holiday!!! I've really enjoyed reading your blog. I'm just about to go to Croatia for 2 weeks and will certainly use some of your itinerary for my own trip. The only thing that has worried me slightly is the part about the atlas excursions. We have booked 3 tours. One to Albania, Canoe Safari in Bosnia and Montenegro (The same one you did). We booked them on the internet. Should I phone them to check they have my reservation do you think? It cost a lot of money and I would be very upset if I didn't get to do them.

    Thanks again for the blog!!

    Happy travelling!!

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    We took this trip 3 years ago! I'm glad you're still getting value out of my report. We loved the excitement in Europe during the World Cup games during this time.

    Atlas did a great tour, but yes, verify your reservations. They told us that we should have gone into their office at least a day before our tour to confirm it. I would do it earlier than that so you'll be sure your place is secure. They may have cleaned up their booking process in the last 3 years.

    Your trip sounds wonderful!

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