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Winging it thru Slovenia and Croatia

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My wife and I had scheduled a 17 day trip to Slovenia and Croatia for last May but had to cancel a week before leaving due to a medical problem. Lufthansa hit us for a $150. per ticket fee for the change. No problem canceling the car thru Auto Europe. When we travel in Europe we use a rental car and wing it for the most part so there were no hotels to cancel. Our trips to Europe are either in May or September. This year I offically became a senior citizen and my wife makes the team next year.

So, now it is September and we are finally on our way. We arrived at Boston's Logan Airport two and half hours before flight time. At check in I find that we do not have the seats that were assigned to us. We booked the flight thru a friend who is a travel agent and she made it very clear to Lufthansa that we needed an aisle seat. We discover that we are in the middle section of four seats across with no aisle seat and in different rows.....what a bummer! The Lufthansa gentleman at check-in made a comment about travel agents not knowing how to assign seats and then making Lufthansa look bad. He also said we shouldn't use a travel agent.....maybe he is right. My wife and I both like to get up a lot during the flight but hate to keep bothering the person next to us....so that made for a long ride. We flew from Boston to Munich and then on to Zagreb.

After arriving in Zagreb we picked up our rental car and as we were driving out of the airport we decided to make a reservation at the Hotel Garny for our final night in Croatia. We had an early morning flight and wanted to be close to the airport. This hotel worked out great but like most airport hotels was a pricey. (double room 762 kunas).

As I do on all our trips, I had worked out a rough itinerary. I say "I" because my wife tells me to make the plans and she will pack the bags. She is easy and I couldn't have a better traveling partner. We usually stick pretty close to the itinerary but sometimes find that I planned on more time in a place than we really need. If that's the case we are able to move on and save the time for a place we like. Our rough itinerary for this trip starts with two nights in Ljubljana, one in Lake Bled, two in the Udine or Trieste, Italy area after a ride thru the Julian Alps, one night in Piran, two nights in Rovinj, one night in Trogir, two nights in Dubrovnik, one in Korcula, two in Hvar, one at Plitvice, one in Zagreb and then the final night at the airport hotel. We ended up sticking pretty close to this schedule but came up a day short and missed Plitvice.

After a two hour drive from the airport we arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia. We didn't bother to get any of their money as Euros were accepted everywhere and we had some left from a previous trip. I'm sure we didn't get the best exchange rate but figured for the short time we were going to be in Slovenia this was the way to go. We looked around the city for a bit and ended up getting a room at the Hotel Slon for 135 euros. I told the receptionist I would take the room for one night and would let her know about a second night in the am. The hotel was nothing special but it was convenient to the old town and had parking right in front. We were tired and didn't want to shop around for a better price. The hotel Emorec, mentioned in the Forum as an inexpensive place to stay, was fully booked.

After we had moved in and taken a hot shower we were ready to do some exploring. There was a shuttle train in the town square so we decided to hop on and ride to the castle overlooking the city. We spent a hour there and then rode the shuttle back to the town center. We found Ljubljana's old town to be very pleasant but also very small. We ate at a place called the Sokol and this was an excellent choice. In fact, as it turned out our first meal and restaurant of the trip was to be the best by far. The waiters were all very friendly and made it a fun place to eat. I had mushroom soup served in a bread bowl, along with tender roast pork, potatoes and a bottle of their homemade beer. My wife had risotto with mushrooms and their homemade wine. The whole meal was great but the mushroom soup was out of sight. I tried it a couple of other times at other restaurants but none could come close to matching it. Oh yes, the bread, it was the best.

Since we had been up all night traveling we were dragging, so it was back to the hotel and we were tucked in by 9 PM. The next morning we had a real good breakfast at the hotel (included) and then left to walk around the lively farmers market and the old town. We decided that we had pretty much seen what we came to see and chose not to spend another night. We left for Lake Bled at noon.

We stopped after about one hour at the pretty town of Skoja Loka and spent some time walking around and taking pictures. After leaving Skoja we got caught up in a traffic jam caused by construction and the weekend travelers heading to the lake and mountains. We arrived at beautiful Lake Bled and found a room at the hotel Jadran (93 euros). Nice room with a great view of the lake. Lake Bled's peacefullness and beauty have been described so much in the Forum that I won't even get into it except to say that it is all true. That evening we ate at Pri Planenca, a restaurant that had been recommended in the Forum. I asked the gal at the reception desk about it and she said it was all right but she didn't consider it anything special. She was right.....or maybe we just caught them on a bad night. The waiter was very impatient and the food was only so so. I had the mixed meat. It was an enormous portion but most of it was too tough to eat. The prices were very reasonable.

I was up and out at 6am and jogged up to the cathedral and around the Lake. Nothing like it, especially in the early morning. We left Lake Bled at 9:30am and headed for the Julian Alps. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky. When planning this trip, I was praying for a clear sunny day for this ride.
It must be the clean living. Had it been rainy or cloudy with poor visibility, we probably would have headed for Istria. The drive thru the Alps with it's fifty hair pin turns is spectacular and is described as Slovenia's most scenic drive. The road is good and actually is pretty tame compared to some of our drives in the Italian and Swiss Alps. My wife finished the ride wearing the same underwear. We made many stops along the way. I don't recall how long the ride took but I would say it was an easy half day trip. We drove into Italy making brief stops in Cividale and Udine. We thought we might spend the night in Udine but then decided to go on to the Trieste area. We arrived in Trieste in the early evening. Thankfully, it was Sunday night so the traffic wasn't too bad. We continued thru Trieste and ended up in the quaint fishing village of Muggia, just across th bay from Trieste. Found a hotel on the side of the hill with a five minute walk to the center of town. After getting settled in our room we walked to town and ate at a seafood restaurant on the dock. We shared a mixed fish platter and mussels. The mussels were great, the mixed fish were very bony. It would be the last time we ordered mixed fish.

Being in Italy reminded me of our first visit several years ago. We were in Siena and my wife asked me what her reply would be in Italian when someone says thank you or grazie. I told her to say prego. She said, "Oh that's easy to remember, just like the spaghetti sauce". The next morning she was in a shop buying a pastry. When the transaction was complete the man behind the counter said grazie. She looked at him and proudly said ragoo. She heard my muffled laugh in the background and asked what was so funny. I told her she did pretty good....she remembered the spaghetti sauce but she had the wrong brand. Fortunately, the salesperson either didn't hear it or thought she said thank you.

After a nice breakfast, we checked out of the hotel but left our car there and took the 10:15 ferry across the bay to Trieste. (3 euros each, 20 minutes). The ferry lands in the old section. After spending a couple of hours walking around the city we were ready to move on and took the ferry back to Muggia, hopped in the car and headed or Piran. (1 hour)

My fingers are getting tired, so if anyone is interested I will continue later....this is getting kind of long and I may be rambling too much.....

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