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Trip Report Trip Report--Croatia and Rome

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Hi All,
I am back from vacation, and wanted to pay back all the good info gotten here with any help I can give.

Just a little background. My husband and I (late 40's), traveled with our 11 year old daughter. We were originally going to spend this vacation with a Croatian friend and his family who were visiting back home, but due to various family obligations, that didn't pan out. So alot of our destinations etc, were planned with that in mind. So, I guess I am saying that if I had planned it myself from the beginning, I would have done some things differently. Namely, I would have started up north and worked my way down. We ended up spending 10 days in Dubrovnik, 4 in Rome, and 2 in Split. Oh well, here goes:

We left from Cleveland, Friday June 9, and arrived in Split, Saturday afternoon. The owner of the apartment we stayed in, picked us up, and drove us down to Dubrovnik. This as everyone before has said, is a beautiful drive. It took us 3 1/2 hours, but Toni our host, said that it takes longer in peak season. It is a rather winding road right on the edge, so I agree with others who have said that they would have driven slower, and not been able to enjoy the scenery if they had rented a car.

We arrived in Dub, got our luggage to our room, and unpacked, showered and went out to explore. If we had rented a car, we would have had to park outside the walls, which is 1.80/hr. There is a free lot, but it is some distance, so if one rented a Sobe, they would need a pickup from the host to a closer location.
Our apartment, at first was a little odd to us. There were two rooms together with a door to each, and the hallway, then a private bathroom in the hallway, then stairs leading to our part of the balcony. This was a little weird at first, but our friends room had the bathroom outside it also, so perhaps this is common? Anyway, once we got used to it, it was just fine. And the views from the balcony were just INCREDIBLE! THis balcony totally made our stay. We often had lunch, late nite drinks, and coffee there, and that is the best of my memories from Dubrovnik that I will take with me.

We had dinner at a place called Amoret near the Cathedral. It had outside tables, the ambience was wonderful, and the food was pretty good. However the check was 1100 kunas! My husband selected a fish from the cooler, Red Snapper--huge, and that is what padded the bill. It was however delicious, and the site of the waitress carrying it by the gills up the steps into the restaurant to be grilled was a great memory for us. After dinner we walked around and of course had icecream, and went back to go to bed. We already love Dubrovnik!

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    Ah, yes. Buying whole fresh fish in a Croatian restaurant is like buying lobster in New England: you pay the market price per pound, plus whatever markup for sides, cooking, etc. Better ask the market price before ordering!

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    Sunday June 11:
    We got up around 5:30, and had leisurly coffee on the balcony. Later we went to Mass at St. Vlahu, or St Blaise--I guess it goes by both names. THe mass was beautiful, but in Croatian. I tried to follow along, but I think I told the Lord I was not worthy to receive Him about 5 times! Funny how you can know something like the back of your hand, but get so confused when it's not your language! Afterward we stopped at the outdoor produce market, and got some things to take back to our room.

    We dropped the purchases off, and went out to walk the walls. This is a HOT experience, so bring water. THere are little stops along the way, but I always like to have my own! My husband has a fear of heights, so he did not care too much for this! I really enjoyed it, but definately recommend sunscreen, cool clothes, and safe walking shoes. THere were some areas, that I thought could be dangerous if one isn't careful, and I would definately be hesitant to take small children, unless one watches them very closely. Along the way we spied the harbour, with the booths selling boat trips, and decided to go on one to go swimnming.

    We decided on a short ride to the very close island Lokrum. About a 20 min. boat trip. I really liked this island, it has a paved walkway, an abandoned monastery, some beautiful plantings, and peacocks. We swam off the rocks close to the dock, and really enjoyed it. THis however would not be for everyone. There are ladders to get into the sea, but one has to sort of walk from rock to rock to get to them. My Croatian friend advised us to just use cheap flip flops, rather than water shoes, because he said they get lost, float away etc. Well--I strongly disagree! My husband is a diabetic, so very careful with his feet, so he had water shoes, and they worked out much better. The flipflops were nearly impossible to swim with, and kept coming off. Anyway, we walked around to the FKK beach, and were sort of contemplating it on the way, when a fellow passed us and said that one must swim "natural" if one goes to this beach. Now, perhaps I would have gotten into the spirit of things--but this is sort of intimidating to me to make the decision beforehand, so we just gave up on this idea!

    We came home, showered, changed and went out to see the Pile gate, and Onofrio fountain, and get a few souveneirs. We had dinner outside the gate at Tobasco Pizzeria--much more economical than the night before--2 pizzas, 3 beer, sprite--110 kuna.
    When we got home, we had a little party on our balcony with our neighbors from the apartment upstairs. It was a beautiful, but a little chilly night out, with the most gorgeous full moon that I have ever seen in my life.
    I slept a little better this night. The clock tower in town is very loud, and we always slept with the windows open--no air conditioning.



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    Tuesday June 13
    We had another leisurely morning on the balcony, and then were met by our friend, who had travelled up from Knin, to be with us for a few days.

    We all went out to walk around, as he had never been to the old town before. We all then went over to the Banje beach, which is only a short walk from old town. It was wonderful. They have nice lounge chairs to rent, and umbrellas, and the East-West bar serves drinks on the beach. The water was very clean and also the beach. It is a pebble beach, but no problem with water shoe, or really tough feet!

    We had dinner that night at Dominoes steak house, very good food, not cheap, but not too expensive either, I didn't write down the price of the check. Afterward we sort of strolled around town, checking out the soccer game--(Croatia vs. Brazil) on the various screens around town. There was one put up right next to the clock tower, and people were in the cafes, and on the Cathedral steps watching. Fun!! We went to bed listening to the fans cheering.

    Weds June 14:
    This morning, I had breakfast on the balcony, and the boys went over to the Hilton for the breakfast buffet, which they really enjoyed--around 80 kuna/person?

    Afterward, we met up with our driver, and he drove us to Medgjugorie. The drive took about 2 hours, and we arranged it with one of the taxi guys ahead of time for an agreed on flat rate off 150E.
    We took the path to Apparition hill, about 1 mile, and then climbed the hill. This was a very moving experience for us. There were some young people who climbed in their bare feet, and then went to their hands and knees to pray at the top. There were also many people saying the Rosary on the way.
    Our friend told us that when he was young, his village walked three days to get here, and then up the hill climbed on their knees. He said some people take tools up to break up the rocks on the way, to make it easier for others.

    Afterward we got some rosaries, and took the drive back. On the way, was the Trsteno aboretum (sp?) There is a huge tree there that has limbs supported by cables, and a cement pillar supporting one of it's huge limbs. Our driver said this is the largest tree in Europe, and it is 700 years old!

    We came home, showered and went out for pizza at Mea Culpa. Very good, 2 large pizza, and 3 lg beers, sprite, and water, about $20.00 Us dollars.
    We had a little wine on the balcony,(again!) and went to bed.

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    Thurs. June 15
    Today we took the Nova boat shuttle from the Old port to Lopud. We got the tickets at a little booth right at the beginning of the dock.

    The boat stops at another island first, I think Kolocep, and then gets to Lopud in about an hour total. The boat was not large, and was open, so that in itself was enjoyable.

    The island was really nice, lots of cafes along the harbor. Today was a Holy day, so there were flower petal designs put on the sidewalk, which were very festive.

    We took the path to the beach which was about 20 min. A lot of uphill, and hot, so once again--wear good shoes and take some water!

    The beach was just wonderful!! All sand, and again with the chairs and umbrellas to rent. We swam most of the day, and had lunch at the restaurant on the left as you are looking away from the sea. The lunch was great, we had hamburgers and fries, and my husband had fried squid also. I don't remeber the price, but certainly not expensive.

    The water here is so clean, it is unbelievable. You can see right down to the bottom, and see the fish swimming with you! My daughter took a water bottle and filled it to make sandcastles. It looked like she had filled it from the sink, absolutely clear,no sediment at all

    We got home around 6:30, and had dinner that night at Jadran. Beautiful setting, and good food. It's in the cloister by the Pile gate. We had pasta, wine and salad, water, and soda for my daughter--about 300 kuna.

    After dinner we went to a concert at the Rectors' Palace. It was the Dub Symphony, and featured a violin soloist. We really enjoyed this. What a great setting, in the courtyard with open roof. Very talented musicians, and a rather small venue, so very close to the musicians, great experience for my daughter. At home, we have to dress up, buy tickets in advance, find a place to park--lots of planning in otherwords. Here, you just walk up get a ticket and go in!

    I forgot to mention an earlier night we went to a concert at the St Savior Church right next to the big fountain. It was a candlelight concert, with a quartet of violin, flute, piano, and bass. Wow! this was wonderful. The setting was beautiful, and the musicians very talented, in fact, I bought one of their CDs after the concert, I enjoyed it so much.

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    Friday June 16
    Today we walked the walls again--poor husband, he actually said he felt like his body was listing to the left when he got off!

    Afterward we went to the Aquarium. Just a little place. WE enjoyed it.

    After that we went to the Konzum, which is their little supermarket. The one outside the walls has a little bakery next to it, which was great. We got some sort of meat pastry pie, bread, Olive oil, and wine, etc. and had lunch on our balcony, relaxed and read for awhile.

    We then went out to see the Sponza Palace. There was a war memorial there that was very moving. THe running video showed pictures of the damage during the war. Really puts into perspective the awesome job that was done restoring. There are pictures of the Dubrovnik men who died--very haunting.

    WE went to the Dominican Monastery, Franciscan Monastery, and museum--enjoyed both

    We had dinner at Proto, which was very good. We had water, wine, sprite, 2 pasta courses, and 3 meat courses. About 600 kuna.

    Afterward icecream and sitting out on the harbour. If you walk around to just outside the wall, there is a place with benches that is very pleasant.

    Sat June 17:
    We got up and caught the bus to the big port. You can get tickets on the bus, or at the newstands. Then caught the Nona Ana to Mljet. The tickets are purchased right next to the boat in a little building. The boat departed around 9:15 if memory serves, and leaves Mljet at 6:20. It makes about 5 stops before Mljet, so takes about 2 1/2 hours.

    We then got a little van, and then a little boat out to the Monastery. Very easy to do. You get the tickets right near where the boat stops, can't miss it because everyone else is going there too. THis, I must admit was a little disappointing. THe church is a bit in ruins, and the Monastery was under reconstruction. We had lunch right outside the church--Just beers and some sandwiches, pretty unmemorable stuff.

    There is a path around the Monastery that leads to steps down to the water. THis swimming was very enjoyable. It was one of the salt water lakes.

    We got the little boat back, and walked around the lakes a bit, and went swimming off the shore. THis was very peaceful. It was pretty easy to find a spot with noone there. There are bikes to rent at the harbor, and that would have been a lot of fun, but my husband is VERY safety conscious, and didn't want our daughter riding a bike on a road with no rails, and the possibility of oncoming traffic.

    We had supper at the harbor around 5, which was very good, and very peaceful. My husband had the mussels, which they take out of the water right in front of the restaurant. He said they were the best he's ever had. We finished our wine sitting on the dock watching the fish in the water. The restaurant was the Stella Maris. Not expensive, casual, but very good food, and good friendly serice.

    The boat back was kind of fun, because the people were singing, and not just one group. It must have been well known songs, because different people all over the boat were joining in. It made for a much more entertaining ride back. The boat is inclosed, so not otherwise very enjoyable.

    We got home around 9. I would say if you are looking for a peaceful daytrip, this would be good, but with that long of a boatride, it makes for a long day! We were glad we went this day, because there were 7 cruise chips that came into Dubrovnik! I'm not saying that because I am knocking tourists--I am one too! It's just easier to get around with less people. So if you are staying in town, you might want to pick Friday or Saturday for day trips.

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    Sunday June 18:
    TOday we sat at a cafe on Stradun and had cappuchinos, and people watched--very enjoyable! A word about what to wear--we saw everything, so don't stress over wardrobe! The only people we noticed getting some funny looks, were a man wearing his speedo, on his way to the dock, (with nothing else on!). And a woman (late 50's) with very short shorts, and a bit of "doopa" hanging out below. Tee Hee! Oh well, who cares! at least they must be comfortable with themselves!

    We went to noon Mass at St, Ignatius. It was in English, and they plan on having it until end of Sept. THis is the only one in town in English, so we were glad to find it. Afterward, the Priest invited us into the treasury, and then for coffee, so and added tour bonus! He asked my husband to read at the Mass, and an Irish young lady also. THat was a beautiful memory for us.

    We took a boat to Cavtat in the afternoon, and had lunch along the harbor at the "Cavtat Restaurant" Very good food. I had sausages and fries, my husband had lobster salad and lasagna, and my daughter had steak. 1 liter wine, water, and sprite--360 kuna.

    We visited the church and walked up the hill to the Mausoleum and cemetary. Very picturesque.

    We took the boat home, went to a few shops, and the bakery. We went to the Buza bar that everyone talks about. It was everything everyone says it is. We really enjoyed it. If you walk across the gravel lot in front of St. Ignatius Church, and then follow the signs that say "cold drinks", you will find it very easily through a small doorway in the wall.

    Monday June 19:
    We went to Lopud to the beach again. Loved it again! We also this time visited the church, which had some nice paintings inside. THe other parts of the Monastery were closed for reconstruction.

    We had dinner at Toni Spagetteria, which a few quide books recommended. I thought it was just okay, and no bread served with the meal.

    Tuesday June 20:
    Today we had just a lazy day. Some shopping, picnic lunch on the balcony, cappucinos, and people watching on Stradun, and then dinner again at Mea Culpa.

    We really liked Dubronik. We spent more time here than most, but were kind of glad we did, because we needed a restful vacation, and the slow pace we took here really worked for us. We had thought about a day trip to Korcula, but voted against it, not wanting another long transport day. We flew Croatia Air--via Europe by air passes, and spent 4 days in Rome, which I will continue with later. Thanks for reading! Sorry so long--my first report!

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    Akislander you are right! I had read this before our trip, but somehow forgot all about it until that check arrived! Amerena, my daughter says she had a great time. I was pleasantly surprised by how much she liked the history and architecture part of the trip. She was very disappointed at not being allowed on the Scavi tour in Rome. It was however a good teaching moment, because I explained to her that it is a good reminder to be respectful, and well behaved, because they used to allow children over 11, but don't anymore, perhaps because some did not have the right attitude and behavior for such a sacred spot. So they learned from experience that children's visits did not work out.
    We are really feeling more and more, that travel has been a great education for her, so are making sacrifices in other areas to be able to afford more!

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    Okay, continuing on. I will try to be more brief! I did forget a few things about Dubrovnik. Many have said that they didn't find many things to buy there, but I didn't have that experience. There were a few shops selling crafts, and artists works, and we purchased a few pictures, pottery, table linens, Croatian shoes, costume jewelry, books, etc.

    There was a photo exhibit featuring two women, one I had read about in our home newspaper. The exhibit was a human rights oriented one, so some might find it objectionable for children. We did take our daughter, but were very careful explaining things.

    We also visited the cathedral, and the synagogue, both very interesting. The synagogue survived the 1667 earthquake.

    Also, dinner one night by the harbor, was very enjoyable. We tried Lokanda that everyone recommends, but it only serves fish for entrees, which didn't work for us, so we went to the restaurant next door. (I must have forgotten a day in my trip report!)

    Rome I will not break into days, because I know there are many other trip reports here about it.

    I really enjoyed the Scavi tour. I think it was the best tour I have ever been on. Very interesting historically, religiously, and archeologically. Very much worth the trouble, as others have said. I really don't understand the system though, because there were only 6 people on my tour, (to my delight), but the guide said he had 22 the day before. Someone on this forum had much the same experience, so I don't quite understand.

    Also, really enjoyed the Borghese museum. The park was a nice payback for my daughter, a little break from all the intense touring. We rented a tandem bike that fit all 3 of us with a convass cover, that had battery assist. This was really fun. They have little carts all over the park that sell beer, softdrinks, icecream, etc.

    We saw quite a few churches while there. Some of our favorites were St Peter in Chains, St Clemente--this was really interesting, but my daughter thought it was a little spooky in the underground part, St. Andrea al Quirinale, St. Agnes in Agone, and a few more that have been mentioned here.

    We took our own Forum tour with a quide book, which I did not do the last time I was in Rome, so I really liked that. We got tickets for the Coloseum at the Palatine Hill right next to the Forum, no line, and the one at the Col. was HUGE!

    We of course visited the Vatican, much, much more crowded than my last visit a few years ago. I compared the pictures, and it is unbelievable. There was quite a line for Pope John Paul's grave,(I got to go right to it after the Scavi tour) The line for the Vatican museum was almost 2 hours. I had tried to get their tour, which allows you to go in the exit, but never got a response. Our hotel offered to book a tour for 60 EURO APPIECE--Not including entry fee--OUCH!! No thanks!WE had to go in the am due to other reservations, which is supposed to be the worst time to go. We went back to the Vatican on Sunday for the Angelus. We got there too early thinking that the square would be mobbed, what with our experience in St. Peter's but there was plenty of room for everyone. We really wanted to go to the top, but the line for that was REALLY long, so we skipped that.

    We tried the Del Pellaro restaurant which many have recommended, and found it just okay as far as the food. But it was a real value, only 21 Euro. Plus the atmosphere with the family that runs it is really fun.

    We enjoyed Piazza Navone very much. We ate there twice. I know most people don't like to eat in places with a lot of tourists, but the atmosphere was much fun, we just had too. Besides, when I look for a good restaurant at home, I don't worry whether everyone there is local or visiting. I know there is probably better value off the beaten path, but I personally didn't find that huge a difference in price. One restaurant Tocci we liked very much, but the other we tried was just okay, can't remember the name. Loved all the musicians, dancers, and mimes.

    Went to a few other common tourist sites, nothing of note to mention in our experiences there.

    I don't know why, but I noticed the grafitti, and trash alot more on this trip. My last was with a tour a few years ago, and the bus took you to many places. But we walked quite a bit on our own. I don't know if that was the reason, or if more people are visiting Rome since Pope John Paul died. My husband and daughter did not go with me the last time. But they said they liked the sites in Rome, but didn't like the city itself.

    We stayed at the Hotel in Parione. It was a great location. It is located in an alley that is not the cleanest place in the world. But has a great bakery next door, and a coffee place a stones throw away. The air conditioning was pitiful, but the bathroom was great with a non leaking shower and plenty of hot powerful water! The room were clean and nicely decorated with high ceilings, but small, which was okay, and fit the three of us in a double room. The staff was nice, but one day when I asked the desk guy to make a call for me to check on a reservation, he said I could call from my room. Oh well, you have to take the good with the bad! There is a small roof terrace, that we had hoped to use for breakfast in the morning or a nitecap, but the airconditioning units are on it, and it is very hot, so pretty much unusable in the summer, in my opinion.

    We used Stefano, Romecabs, that some have recommended here, but he must be expanding, and we got another driver, who did not give the mentioned tour on the way to the hotel, but was pleasant on time, the car was clean, met us right outside baggage claim, and 45 euro. The car the hotel arranged for the return trip was 55 flat rate, black Mercedes. We went over to the sister hotel to use the facilities before we left and heard their desk clerk quoting a guest 65 euros!

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    After Rome, we spent 2 days in Split. We stayed at the Hotel Slavija in Diocletians Palace. Loved the ambience of this area, and loved the Hotel SLavija. It was clean, with GREAT AIRCONDITIONING!, a huge bathroom, with a huge shower. Nice staff, and breakfast included. 805 kuna for a double room. Many have said it is noisy, but they must have installed new windows, because our room was right over the aforementioned noisty bars, and we didn't hear a thing unless we got right up to the glass. As the quidebooks we used said, there are surprisingly few places to eat in Split. We liked the cafe in the square, ate there twice. And we also enjoyed the one restaurant on the RIva that serves food. We ate one nite at the Bellvue hotel, it was okay, but not in the best of shape. We liked walking around the town, the underground shops, the cathedral. There were alot of shoe stores, so of course we had to get some. WE really liked Split, but I think 2 days is enough. It is a great launching spot for island stays, and the harbor, and bus station are right at the end of the Riva, so very close.

    Well, that's about all! THank you again to all who post here. I really got a lot of great information, and really appreciate all the help. Happy travels to all! pp

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    Thank you for your lovely trip report pepermintpatti! I enjoy reading about Croatia as I have several friends in Italy that go to Crotia for their vacations and they love it. This is a trip I imagine your daughter will remember forever. Best regards.

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