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Annie's fantastic, and surprisingly economical, trip to Croatia and beyond.

Annie's fantastic, and surprisingly economical, trip to Croatia and beyond.

Dec 27th, 2009, 07:21 PM
  #41  
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THE ROAD TO ROVINJ…..OR THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MINNESOTA AND FLORIDA.

We woke up the next morning to sunny skies, a warmer room, and a fairly sparse and cold breakfast. Even when converting currencies, I felt sure that our 10E cold breakfast of bread, lunchmeat and cheeses could have been purchased for about three bucks. But, better breakfasts were ahead since we would be making our own while at the Rovinj apartment.

The weather was warm, but the sun didn’t have enough strength yet to melt the snow. Because of Sessa’s report, we knew the walkways in the Park wouldn’t be cleared. So, we wore extra socks and took a very slow walk down the slippery trails to the lakes and across the icy boardwalks. Some of the steps were very icy, but certainly navigable, and everything was beautiful. We are so glad we spent the morning there and could certainly see how spending a longer period of time would be very nice…but we were in the mood for warmer weather near the sea.

Our drive to Rovinj was uneventful until we neared Rijeka when we drove into a heavy construction zone. Not knowing where to go, we followed the locals who surely must know the way. We felt much happier about this when we saw almost all the cars behind us take the same route. Unfortunately, after several miles, our impromptu caravan came to a chasm that happened to be missing a bridge. Twenty cars trying to turn around in a small construction zone must have been quite a sight for the people living in the apartments above the road. Why is it that at time likes these we always forget to use the camera? After more than an hour wandering and trying to figure out where we were, we finally saw a sign for Porec and were on our way through the heart of Istria.

The public parking near the Old Town is easy to find. The caretaker met us at the apartment building and as she opened an ancient door, she told that Apartment Felicity (43E) had recently experienced some water damage. She then led us up a long set of dimly lit stairs to another apartment (Felix) that was available. Although it was bigger, the owner would let it at the same price. At this point we were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into, since the building had a definite air of “old”.

Inside a set of french doors was a beautiful, large apartment. The bedroom did not have any windows, but the rest of the apartment was bright and airy. If you leaned just a little bit out the windows, you could not only see the market, but a bit of the harbor also. It is in a great central location with a small grocery store on the corner, a bakery across the street, and a butcher shop just below. We felt like we could have stayed there for weeks.

Our first order of business was to stock up on some basic groceries before the store closed and then move the car to a free parking space. We spent the rest of the evening wandering around before finding a quiet place for pizza and a few glasses of wine. Tomorrow we would do some much needed laundry and wander through a few hill towns while we adjusted to our new pace in Istria.
anniemackie is offline  
Jan 1st, 2010, 06:06 AM
  #42  
 
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annie,

Waiting for your reports is like looking forward to reading the next chapter of a good book! How long did the drive to Rovinj take? How did you find the apartment in Rovinj; guidebook? online? Looking forward to the next installment.

Ellen
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Jan 1st, 2010, 01:29 PM
  #43  
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Hi Ellen,

Thanks for sticking with this thread. I've been busy with holiday company so there hasn't been much down time lately. The drive to Rovinj took about 4.5 hours, and that's including the disastrous detour in Rijeka. It is very easy drive and the terrain was beautiful.

As for how we found the apartment, I really can't say. Not because it's any big secret, but because I troll everywhere and start bookmarking possibilities about 18 mounths out of any trip. Unfortunately, for this one, I just can't remember. I think it may have been mentioned in a British travel article....which would jive with the fact that the owner is British. If I were doing a walk-by, I would certainly have given it a miss if only judging by the outside of the building. But then that's often the case when staying in the older sections of these towns.

More later....I promise (or threaten?)

:/0
--Annie
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Jan 4th, 2010, 02:09 PM
  #44  
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ROVINJ......OR WHY WE TRAVEL.

IF I could take one place and zap myself back to live for a month or more, it would be Rovinj. While we loved every inch of Dubrovnik, and I certainly got to know all of Trogir, it is in Rovinj that we felt most at home. Perhaps it's because we are from a smaller town, or perhaps it's because we visited in the off-season, or perhaps it's because Rovinj is really another name for heaven, but whenever we reminisce about Croatia...we always end up remembering Rovinj.

Our next days fell into a gentle rhythm. We would begin with a leisurely breakfast, fresh from the bakery just below, to be followed by a slow meander through the countryside. Our bucket list included almost all the popular hill towns listed in the guidebooks, with an additional desire to see Limski Fjord. (Unfortunately, we didn't see any boat tours, so we drove around it as much as possible, walking a trail along the rim, and sneaking up the closed observation platform.) We would have lunch wherever we happened to land, with a notable lunch at the Hotel Kastel in Motovun. We spent the afternoons wandering back to Rovinj and then walking around town to see what had changed from the day before. We ended our days with a glass of wine before either going out to dinner or making it at the apartment.

I should say that while we aren't shoppers, we certainly didn't have the opportunity to indulge in this area. Many of the smaller towns did not have many (sometimes any) stores or restaurants open at this time of year. In fact, on the one day that we had rain, we had difficulty finding a lunch spot since we were in a more rural location. However, after our endless detour to Plitvice, we now packed a survival kit; "survival" meaning food for those of us who get crabby when they are hungry. This lack of tourists, as well as traffic on the roads, made us feel as if we had many places to ourselves. In a few of the more rural spots, it even felt as if we were in a ghost town since we rarely saw anyone, except for a few lazy cats, stirring around.

On one misty day, we decided to drive to Skocjan Caves in Slovenia. Of course, by the time we got there, the weather was bright and sunny, which made the long walk from the tourist center to the mouth of the cave that much better. There were about 10 people on our tour through the cave which lasted about 90 minutes and was well worth the drive.

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR ROVINJ:

Parking: There is free parking above the Old Town, if you take a left just before the metered parking, you will see two parking lots excavated into the side of the hill. We didn't need a special permit or tag.

Restaurants: We loved Dream, not only because of the great food, but also because we were their only guests at that time, and we started talking recipes. (This is where we got the tip for the Vegeta.) Amfora was expensive…but good. We also ate at Gianinni (sp?) where we had wonderful Italian food. The hot chocolate at the cafe just on the corner from our apartment was to die for!

Best views: Our hangouts were the benches on the walkway below the church...a great romantic spot...and anyplace with a view of the harbor. The best view of all, though, was watching the action from the apartment windows. They overlooked a busy intersection and something was always popping.
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Jan 4th, 2010, 03:23 PM
  #45  
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The Dream sounds like a dream, keep it coming.
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Jan 6th, 2010, 02:27 AM
  #46  
 
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I want to visit Rovinj! It must really be wonderful if it's better than Dubrovnik; I always tell people that Dubrovnik is heaven on earth.
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Jan 6th, 2010, 05:48 AM
  #47  
 
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tagging to read later, looks like a great report.
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Jan 6th, 2010, 06:42 PM
  #48  
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Oh, my, this is getting long! Ellen, I don't know that many people would rate Rovinj over Dubrovnik, but for us at that time, it was our favorite.


OPATIJA BOUND…..OR RATTLED IN RIJEKA (AGAIN).

So, it was adios to Rovinj and hello to Opatija, but just for one night. Because of the season, the car rental difference between a return in Istria or Rijeka was huge, so we agreed to a drop-off in Rijeka. But, figuring out how to get from there to Venice was difficult. We eventually decided that the best bet would be to take a bus from Opatija to Trieste and then train to Venice. This would be the first time we would cross borders by bus and we were a little nervous. Later we would discover that we had good reason to be nervous, but today, we had to return the car to Rijeka and that seemed difficult enough.

Having had experience with getting lost in port towns, I printed off a slew of maps and got explicit directions from the desk clerk in Zagreb. I practically knew the name and color of every building on the Riva. However, the car rental office was not in the building indicated. We circled the area and battled traffic for 30 minutes, until DH finally left me with the car while he went to search on foot. After 45 minutes of looking, he decided to buy our tickets to Trieste at the bus station and see if anyone there knew where the rental agency was located. Luckily, someone remembered that the agency had moved just last week, and gave him the new address.

With this critical information in hand, we quickly returned the car, jumped on a city bus and made our way to Opatija. The bus ride was smooth, with the only difficulty being the usual one of trying to figure out exactly where to get off. We picked a block, jumped off, and walked down the hill to the Hotel Palace Bellevue (56E). We were settled in our room within an hour of finding the rental agency! This hotel has seen better days, although the staff were very friendly. Our room was a bit tired, but all that paled in light of the wonderful balcony with a fantastic view of the harbor…and we still had wine. What luck!

We spent the rest of the day walking around a city that has a definite feel of busy with a faint air of carnival. The trail along the Adriatic was very nice, but in comparison to Rovinj, this place felt as busy as New York. Lots of traffic, lots of people, and a general pace that seemed a much faster than we had enjoyed this last week. We found an affordable, and very forgettable, place to have dinner, scouted out the pickup point for the 6 am bus in the morning, and turned in early.
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Jan 9th, 2010, 11:58 AM
  #49  
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CROSSING BORDERS……OR ANGERING YET ANOTHER POLICEMAN.

The next morning we woke, bleary-eyed, at 4:30 to get ready for our biggest travel day. I kept reminding myself that this was only one day of a vacation that had many days of late and lazy mornings, but that didn’t make the early hour feel any better. We packed up the remaining cheese and fruit and woefully ditched the wine. Since we weren’t sure about bringing wine across borders, we thought we’d leave a little present for the hotel staff. Out the door and literally across the street and we began waiting for the bus.

Now, I’ve read many trip reports where people get up early just to get the feel of a town before everything is bustling, but in the face of leaving a comfy bed, that’s never held any allure. Yet, this morning, when we watched city workers cleaning the streets with handmade brooms made out of brush, and we saw the shoreline without the hordes of traffic or people, I have to say that perhaps we’ve been wrong. It was very pleasant, and I almost regretted leaving Opatija, but Venice was calling….

We boarded a full bus that came right on time. I sat in the midst of a group of older women carrying what seemed like everything under the sun. None of the ladies spoke English. We rode for about an hour and then arrived at the Slovenian border. The driver said something over the speaker, and the entire bus (except clueless us) let out a deep groan. The women began loudly complaining and packing up their belongings. After about 30 minutes, they let us off the bus and began unloading our suitcases.

We apparently had to walk across the border with our luggage and undergo a seriously slow border check. Our group was divided into men and women, with the men’s line being much slower than the women’s. Since I didn’t want to get separated from DH, I kept waving women ahead of me so that we could visit the border agents at the same time. We finally approach the counter together and the other agents immediately take DH off to the side. (In hindsight, I am amazed that at this point I wasn’t worried at all.)

I completed my check and went to wait within sight of DH, but that seemed to cause a problem, so I moved a little more to the side. Someone barked something at me, which I didn’t understand, and then they took DH into another room. I started to go after him and an agent pulled out his gun, pointed it at me, and placed his finger on the trigger. I just about had a heart attack! How could I possibly have angered yet another policeman on the same trip? Now I was getting seriously worried.

I didn’t know what to do. DH was gone, the agents were motioning me to get back into the line of women waiting for the bus, and all I knew was that I wasn’t getting on that bus before I saw my husband. After five long and very tense minutes, with my mind racing through every possible bad scenario, DH sauntered out of the building and wondered why I was upset. What???? We got on the bus and the woman next to me leaned over, patted my knee, and gave me a hug. Some things are just universal.

After that drama, the rest of our ride was thankfully, very uneventful. We arrived in Trieste and looked around for the train station, which is very close to the bus station, bought a ticket, and were on our way to Venice in less than an hour. A little nap, and it seemed like we were off the train, with our first glimpse of that controversial bridge, in record time. Up and over, and a lovely stroll to B&B Al Campaniel (70E w/ bkfst) near the Campo San Toma. Our room was small, with a private bath just across the hall. For Venice (and our budget), this was just about perfect. Al Campaniel is in a great location, they serve wonderful breakfasts, and are very helpful, but do you know what was the best part? The chocolate shop just across the alley. Now, we were back in heaven!
anniemackie is offline  
Jan 10th, 2010, 05:02 AM
  #50  
 
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Annie, did you ever find out why they separated the men from the women and...what did they do with your husband when you were separated? Did you just have to show your passport? Didn't anyone speak English? Did you breeze through the Italian border?

I stressed about crossing from Montenegro into Albania, but aside from the fact that not one person spoke English and of course, we knew not one word of Albanian, it went smoothly. I can't imagine having a gun pointed at me, though - and those guys are serious!

Well, at least yours had a happy ending
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Jan 10th, 2010, 07:57 AM
  #51  
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OMG, I'm still freaking out about when that guy pointed a gun at you!! YIKES!! But thank God it all turned out OK.
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Jan 11th, 2010, 12:53 PM
  #52  
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Ellen, I got the feeling from the way everyone was grumbling that this wasn't a usual thing and we arrived at the terminal over an hour later than expected. No one spoke any English to us, although I had the feeling that the guards understood what we were saying. At this point, I can't even remember crossing into Italy, so it must have been a breeze, or else I was still in shock. I do know that we didn't have to get out of the bus again.

I will have more later. I'm getting lessons in how to manage photos online, so maybe I'll be able to post some here...

--Annie
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Jan 11th, 2010, 01:38 PM
  #53  
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ellen,

Both Slovenia and Italy are part of the EU, perhaps that's why nothing happened at that border. Croatia is not part of the EU, hence the border formalities.
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Jan 11th, 2010, 06:33 PM
  #54  
 
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P_M, you make a good point; that's probably indeed the reason it was clear sailing into Italy. I didn't think of that until I read your post.

Annie, I'd love to see pictures, especially of the northern part of Croatia which I still haven't been to!
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Mar 15th, 2010, 08:40 AM
  #55  
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Hello all, I'm back from my trip and I can now confirm there were no border formalities between Slovenia and Italy, just a sign on the roadside like driving from one state to another. We did go thru checkpoints between Slovenia and Croatia. Going from Slovenia into Croatia not much happened, but coming from Croatia to Slovenia we had to get off the bus and go inside to get our passports checked. In both cases it wasn't bad.

I hope to get a report out soon.
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