Ahhh, Croatia!

Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 03:39 PM
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Ahhh, Croatia!

We recently returned from a twelve day visit to Croatia. It was as wonderful as the previous posters on Croatia said and we, too, want to return.

We weren't sure what the weather would be like in November but it was mild and sunny the entire time except for two overcast days.
It turned out to be a great time to go as there were only a few tourists around. Some of the museums were closed and some restaurants as well but there was plenty to see and do.

We arrived at the Hotel Excelsior in Dubrovnik just as the sun was setting (4:30 PM). We noticed several uniformed policija in the lobby and wondered if this was normal. As it turned out, there was a NATO conference at the hotel attended by countries that make up former Yugoslavia. It was a four day conference and during that time the breakfasts were very lavish.

We got to the old town after dark. We walked through the Ploce gate, turned right and saw the Stradun with its pearly streets; we were blown away! I just don't have words to describe the beauty. There were only a few people on the street, mostly tall, thin, attractive University students.

The week that we spent in Dubrovnik went by very quickly.

We discovered a wonderful quiet park overlooking the sea with benches and paths outside the Pile gate and we went there a few times. To get there go to Tovjerna Sesame (which is a good place for lunch), go up the steps and turn left. Continue up the hill and you will see the park on the right. You might find a friendly cat to sit on your lap.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:07 PM
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We hopped the bus one day and took the forty-five minute trip to Cavtat, a pretty little resort town. It would have been a perfect day to take the ferry but unfortunately it doesn't run in the off season.

I read that Montenegro was a nice day trip on Atlas but it doesn't run in the off season either. We talked with the concierge at the Villa Argentina and he set us up with a taxi driver, Miro. We paid him 1000kn to take us to Kotor and Budva.

When we got to the border the border guard took our passports and had a serious discussion with Miro then made him open his trunk where the "TAXI" sign was stashed. Soon a policija car drove up and two men got out and joined the discussion. All this time the man who was holding our passports was slapping them against his other hand. ( I had visions.......). Finally after about twenty minutes Miro got back in the car- with our passports- and drove off. He was very stressed. He said they were insisting to call a taxi from Montenegro to take us into the country. Finally they said he could enter but never again. He said, "They didn't have any trouble crossing our borders to attack us!" He also would not take the ferry back, as Atlas does, as he said the one time he did that he had to wait until all the other cars had gotten on the ferry. Yes, there are still tensions between the countries.

It was a Saturday and Kotor was crowded. We were not very impressed with that town. Budva is a pretty town. We had lunch by the marina at the Old Fisherman's Pub. Miro remarked that it was an "English" pub but our server spoke no English and they only served pizza!

There were some pretty parts to Montenegro but we were very relieved to get back to Croatia.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:12 PM
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I get the impression that you didn't travel much into the Croatian countryside during your trip. Of course there is a lot to see and enjoy in Dubrovnik, but one of the joys of travel in Croatia is to get out to the villages and experience the ambience and the people. Apparently you went somewhere else other than Dubrovnik during your 12 days, but you didn't say where. I hope you were able to travel across the country, either inland or along the coast or both, and enjoy all the entrancing little towns as well as the larger ones like Dubrovnik and Split. Thanks for your report; I'm glad to see you enjoy the country as much as I do.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:16 PM
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Sorry---I didn't see your second message with the info about some of your other travels. Obviously you did get around a bit, and you had a few exciting moments. Unfortunately, it's that way when crossing borders of the former Yugoslavia, except when going to and from Slovenia and Croatia. They seem to get along pretty well.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:31 PM
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After our week in Dubrovnik we hired Miro to take us to Korcula....another 1000kn. The concierge at the Argentina planned our next three nights and as he is from Korcula, he wanted us to go there. He made our reservations for the three nights.

We stayed at the Hotel Korcula which was probably the only hotel open in November. It is an old hotel; the building dates from 1885 an it has been a hotel since 1912. We had a large rather dusty room but the bed was comfy and the shower was good.

The town is small and it appeared that most of the restaurants and shops were closed for the season. We ate at the Marco Polo, a small cute restaurant.

The following day we took the bus to the other end of the island. Vela Luca is a pretty dreary town. Perhaps it looked even more dreary because it was an overcast day.

We looked for a place to eat lunch and found just one place open. We went in, asked for a menu, and were told, "One plate for every body." We said okay and were served one of the best meals that we had in Croatia, falling-off-the-bone pork and risotto covered with gravy. With wine the bill was about $13.

On the bus ride we got to see the central part of the island where there are a lot of vineyards. Korcula is known for its good wine.

On the return trip the bus became a school bus filled with typical high schoolers. The island has three high schools rather like magnet schools, one in Vela Luca, one in Blato and one in Korcula. Students through eighth grade go to school in their own towns.

Korcula is a one night town IMO but we were captive for two nights because of the winter schedule of the Jadrolinija ferry which runs only on Thursdays and Sundays.

We got on the ferry Thursday morning heading for Split.

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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:38 PM
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Judi - that first glimpse of Stradun at night is amazing, I so agree. My week in Dubrovnik flew by also. Tell us more.....
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:38 PM
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Wayne, I don't think Judi's finished yet. I've been lucky enough to get the Readers' Digest version of her trip and she did a good deal of traveling. Hopefully she will share more.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 04:50 PM
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The ferry that we were on was the Liburnija. We met some interesting people on the trip, some Americans and a cute Australian couple who were on their way to Italy. It made the time go faster.

It was dark by the time we arrived in Split. We stayed at the Hotel Bellevue which has a great location overlooking the palm lined sea front and next to the old town. Other than that it was an adequate hotel. We were told breakfast was included but when we returned home we saw on our credit card statement that we were charged about $12 for a meager breakfast.

Split gets mixed reviews but we enjoyed our time there. We had a great dinner at
Varos then walked around the old town. It is a very lively place and the sidewalk cafes were all crowded.

Our bus back to Dubrovnik left at 1PM. It was a comfortable bus and there were just a few passengers so we had plenty of space. The bus stopped twice along the way and it was a very pleasant trip.

As we left Split we saw the sprawling outskirts, not pretty.

There is a little portion of Bosnia that go
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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 05:06 PM
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Oops, I accidently hit reply....

There is a portion of Bosnia that we passed through but only with a wave of the border guard.

It is a beautiful ride along the shore line but unfortunately we passed through the prettiest part after dark. Fortunately, we did see it on our way to Korcula.

We were happy to be back in Dubrovnik. Nothing can compare to that magical city.

We spent our last night at the Villa Argentina. It is a beautiful hotel and we liked it much better than the Excelsior. Besides, we paid 105 Euro for one night and the Excelsior would have been 205 Euro.

We didn't have much time to enjoy our stay at the Argentina as we had a 6:50AM flight out the next morning.

We had a six hour layover in Zagreb so we hopped on the bus and went into the city. We took the tram to the upper town. It was Saturday and the plaza - or whatever it is called in Croatian- became huge market with stalls for flowers, vegetables, fruit, fish, clothing.... It was quite a sight. The upper town, Gornji Grad, is known as the lovliest part of Zagreb and it looks very different from what I saw of the rest of the big city. We were glad that we got to spend a few hours there.

I have more to say but I think I am typed out tonight. I'll get back to this tomorrow......



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Old Nov 23rd, 2003, 08:39 PM
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In the last two years I have crossed frontiers with ease. From Montenegro I took a taxi to the Croatian border, walked over in two minutes, and found a taxi driver waiting who took me to Dubrovnik. Between Croatia and Serbia I was on railway trains, and the frontier crossings were routine.

I have on disc a 70 page note on travel in Serbia, and shall happily copy it by e-mail to anybody who is thinking of going. Serbia is half the price of Croatia, but has nothing as fine as Dubrovnik, Split, or upper Zagreb.

[email protected]

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Old Nov 24th, 2003, 08:29 AM
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That's my point, Ben. Why couldn't the driver from Croatia enter Montenegro without a big hassle. The border guards wanted us to do what you did but Miro was our tour guide as well, not just a driver from point A to point B.

I know that Atlas has no trouble and I would assume other means of public transportation would not as well.

Thank you for your kind offer of the notes for Serbia.
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Old Nov 24th, 2003, 11:29 AM
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Judi-
When does the ferry stop running for the season? If you had to plan a 12 day trip to Croatia again how would you balance your time? Would you skip Split?
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Old Nov 24th, 2003, 12:05 PM
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Hi Ella,

I doubt if the ferry ever stops running; it must just cut back in the off season.

I wouldn't give up my week in Dubrovnik. I would skip Korcula and go to Hvar for two nights. Although I have never been to Hvar, it sounds nice.

Split is good for a day and an overnight. You can fly out of Split or take the 4 1/2 -5 hour bus ride back to Dubrovnik.
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Old Nov 24th, 2003, 05:38 PM
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A few added thoughts:

Of course a "wall walk" is a must if your knees can handle the steps. We rented an audio guide at the Pile Gate entrance and it was well worth the 30kn for the history lessons.

Don't plan to see Dubrovnik on a cruise ship shore excursion; there are too many people and you will only stay a few hours. The magic of Dubrovnik comes out after the day trippers are gone.

A great web site is www.visit-croatia,co.uk/ This is where you can download a Croatian for Travellers vocabulary booklet and listen to their audio file for the pronunciation. There is also a message board.

I won't list restaurants because all that we patronized were good. The breads were uniformly good as were the soups and most of the salads. We ate a lot of fish, fresh but unadorned.

Mark warned us about Atlas Nautika as an overpriced restaurant with average food. Our hotel recommended it and it was just as Mark described. That makes two of us who do not recommend that restaurant.

I will say that Mea Culpa is a great and cheap little pizza restaurant. It is very popular with locals.

Proto was our favorite restaurant and we ate there three times and were never disappointed. The shrimp stuffed mushrooms with cheese sauce were great. Our last night's meal was at Proto and I asked for a glass of their best red wine. I was served Dingac, which is supposed to be one of Croatia's best... it was about $4! I drank a lot of $2 wine while I was there and most of it was pretty good but not like this. We had a bottle of Dingac in Korcula for a very reasonable price as it comes from there. I liked Prosec as well.

There is a street of restaurants above the Stradun and they are not allowed to advertise with signs. Therefore, they hire hawkers on the Stradun to try to get people to go up to their restaurants. One day we had planned to go a particular restaurant and we were approached by its hawker. We said we were headed that way anyway so he walked with us. He was young and personable and we had a nice conversation with him. On following days when we saw him we would stop and talk with him. His name is Ivan and he has a wife and baby. He indicated he was ashamed with his job but he said he was in marketing and joked about his beautiful "office". I look upon them differently now. Unemployment is high and they are fortunate to have jobs.

That's it for now but I will be happy to try to answer questions.
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Old Nov 24th, 2003, 06:09 PM
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Ferry dates and times are at www.tel.hr/jadrolinija/

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Old Nov 24th, 2003, 06:25 PM
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Great report Judi! I would be willing to wager that half a dozen years from now there will be as many posts on this board about Croatia as Italy.

By the way, that was Dingac that we drank on the balcony at Gerre Gambarogno
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Old Nov 25th, 2003, 05:52 AM
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Thanks, Grasshopper. I agree that Croatia is ready to blossom. When my husband says he is finished with Italy after three visits and then says he wants to live in Croatia, that is a heavy endorsement!

Re the wine, was it Orta? I remember the good wine but more importantly the great company and beautiful surroundings.
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Old Nov 25th, 2003, 06:48 AM
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Jadrolinija's coastal service runs only twice weekly in winter, linking Rijeka, Split, Hvar, Korcula and Dubrovnik. However, their local ferries provide more frequent services to the islands. Every day, there is a ferry from Vela Luka on Korcula island to Split, though it does leave at the rather inconvenient time of 0445 on most days. Other connections from Korcula are by bus, using the local ferry to Orebic.
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Old Nov 25th, 2003, 03:04 PM
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Good information, Geoff. The Catamaran was docked at Korcula but was not leaving until Friday; we needed to leave on Thursday.

Vela Luka is a long bus ride from Korcula and at 0445? Yikes!

A couple of things I forgot to mention:

Be sure to visit the Tourist Office in Dubrovnik if only to see the photos on the walls of the 1991 attack. They brought tears to my eyes.

The best caffe bar that we found in Dubrovnik was the Cafe Festival on the Stradun, closer to the Pile gate. Almost every night there is entertainment, usually a pianist.
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Old Nov 25th, 2003, 06:31 PM
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Welcome back Judi! What a great trip!

Add me to the list of those who love Croatia...we're all fortunate that we've gone now, before everyone catches on that Italy isn't the end all!
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