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Croatia, Slovenia, and a day in Montenegro! Wow!! So Many Beautiful Places!!

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Croatia, Slovenia, and a day in Montenegro! Wow!! So Many Beautiful Places!!

Old Sep 21st, 2019, 05:35 PM
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The Plitvice Lakes are amazing, IMO! I'm glad the walking didn't prove too strenuous for you.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
It sounds fantastic, KarenWoo, and lots of great tips in your report.
Thank you for your compliments! And I am happy to know that you find my report helpful. I know that I found planning how to best approach Plitvice and to avoid the crowds difficult. So that is why I gave a lot of details, which I hope are not boring to people, but helpful instead.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by kja View Post
The Plitvice Lakes are amazing, IMO! I'm glad the walking didn't prove too strenuous for you.
I agree absolutely! Plitvice Lakes is amazing and stunning!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 04:11 PM
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September 13: SIGHTSEEING IN ZAGREB

After having our breakfast in the lovely courtyard, we walked to the Zagreb train station to purchase our train tickets for our journey to Ljubljana on the 14th. The train station is small and easy to navigate. The tickets to Ljubljana cannot be purchased online; you have to go to the train station to buy them. And if you buy them a day or two before your departure date, the price is cheaper. Our tickets cost 95 kuna per person one way. They gave us seat reservations when we bought our tickets.

The weather in Zagreb is in the low 80ís, so still warm but cooler than on the coast. Some people were wearing shorts, but I would say the majority wore long pants. Itís weird; I donít recall seeing any ice cream places, but we did see street vendors selling roasted corn on the cob, which I donít think Iíve ever seen anywhere before.

So, after buying our train tickets, we wandered over to Jelacic Square, which is the main square, lined with cafes, and very busy with lots of pedestrians; itís also the biggest tram stop. We then went to the market (dolac). Itís very colorful and festive looking with lots of red umbrellas and cafes lining the market. There are all kinds of colorful fresh produce, clothes, toys, etc. We walked through the indoor fish market. The meat and cheese market is underground, but we didnít go there.

Then we walked upstairs and wandered through Gradec and Kaptol. These were separate medieval communities in the early days, and they merged to form Zagreb. We really enjoyed just wandering around this area. There is interesting street art and graffiti, so I would describe Zagreb as a little bit gritty and artsy. Definitely very different from Dubrovnik and Split. We made our way to Tkalciceva Street, a very pretty, lively, pedestrianized street with tons of restaurants, cafes, and bars. It was time for a light lunch, so we stopped at the Curry Bowl, a Sri Lankan restaurant. I had a delicious vegetable curry with basmati rice, and my husband surprisingly ordered dessert Ė a rich chocolate cake. He is not normally a big dessert eater but the cake was delicious with whipped cream and strawberry sauce.

After lunch, we visited the Museum of NaÔve Art. This place is awesome!!! The expressionistic paintings are by untrained peasant artists. They are so unique and memorable. Some of them are very pretty, and some are scary and bizarre. This is a small museum, and we spent about an hour here. Zagreb has many small museums, but this was the only one we visited. The weather was so nice, and we enjoyed just aimlessly walking around this area, so we didnít visit any more museums. We continued on our walk, and stopped in to visit the Cathedral, and browsed in some nice boutiques and bought a few more gifts.

We headed back to our hotel room to rest and freshen up for dinner. My husband has to eat in at least one Asian restaurant when we travel, so we had dinner at a restaurant called Asia. The food was mediocre. The restaurant is near the train station, so while walking there, we walked through some parks, and noticed several festivals going on. There was a food and film festival; there was a movie screen set up outdoors with people sitting on the grass waiting for the film to start. There was a Zagreb Burger festival, and earlier in the day, we noticed people setting up a stage for a Red Bull festival. So this weekend must be a busy festival weekend. This is definitely a lively city!

Last edited by KarenWoo; Sep 22nd, 2019 at 04:14 PM.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 04:18 PM
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Photo of Dolac (Market)


Colorful market in Zagreb
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 04:27 PM
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Photos of Zagreb Street Art


Zagreb Street Art

Zagreb Street Art
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 05:46 PM
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September 14: GOOD-BYE TO ZAGREB AND HELLO TO LJUBLJANA

After breakfast, we had time for about a one-hour stroll around the neighborhood before taking a taxi to the train station. The train station is only a 15-minute walk from our hotel, but we opted for the taxi because of our luggage. We had tickets for the 12:36PM train. (I think there are 3 trains per day from Zagreb to Ljubljana.) This is an older train, similar to the one we took in 2003 from Prague to Krakow, and very different from the newer trains we used in Spain in 2017. This train has compartments, with 6 seats to a compartment. There were only the 2 of us in our compartment. The train was definitely not full.

The scenery was very pretty, following the Sava River. We passed lots of cornfields, some sunflower fields, lots of churches, valleys and mountains. At the Slovenian border crossing, first the Croatian police checked our passports and stamped them, and then the Slovenian police came by and did the same. This took about 20 minutes. All in all, the train ride was about 2.5 hours.

When we reached Ljubljana, we walked from the train station to our hotel using Google maps on our phone. It was about a 10-minute walk, I think. We stayed at City Hotel, Dalmatinova Street 15. When we were supposed to go in April, I booked the Urban Hotel, recommended by someone on Fodors. When I had to re-schedule for September, the Urban was full. Our friends stayed at the City Hotel and were happy with their stay, so thatís what I decided to do. Didnít feel like searching for more hotels. The City Hotel is a business hotel and is very well located. It is about a 5-minute walk to Preseren Square, and is basically right around the corner from the Grand Hotel Union. Our room rate included a huge breakfast buffet. Our room was small but clean and adequate. My only complaint is that the rooms do not have refrigerators. I love to have ice cold water or juice to drink in our room. If you need ice, you have to go to the bar for it, and if the bar is closed, you go to the receptionist. The hotel also sells bottled drinks in the lobby.

After getting settled, we walked over to Preseren Square where the very pretty pink church is located. This square is a focal point, crowded with people, and next to the Triple Bridge. There was a group of young men all wearing the same light blue shirts. Come to find out this was the groom-to-be and his friends celebrating his bachelor party. All having some good clean fun!

Ljubljana is a beautiful city! We walked along the riverfront lined with weeping willow trees, cafes, and restaurants. The architecture is beautiful, lots of Baroque and Art Nouveau. And many, many bridges!

While walking along the river, we came upon the Slovenian House Tapas Bar. The menu is interesting, and we just had to sit by the river for awhile. We shared a plate of wild game which included wild boar and venison, and a plate of different cheeses with jam and bread, along with some drinks.

We walked around this lovely city some more, and decided to stop at Altroke Restaurant. We werenít full but not starving, so my husband ordered fish stew, and I ordered tomato soup, which I love, and a Caesar salad with shrimp. My husband really liked his fish stew, and I loved my tomato soup. It was very thick with a large crouton in it. And the salad was huge, fresh, and very filling. All in all, a great start to our 3 nights in Ljubljana!

Last edited by KarenWoo; Sep 22nd, 2019 at 05:50 PM.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 05:55 PM
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Ljubljana, Capital of Slovenia


Ljubljanica River
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Old Sep 22nd, 2019, 06:01 PM
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Photo of Ljubljana


Triple Bridge and Pink Church
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 12:15 PM
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September 15: A SCENIC DRIVE OVER THE MOUNTAINS TO LAKE BLED

Several months earlier, I rented a car from Avant Car for today only, and I made my reservation directly through them. I honestly don’t remember why I didn’t use Kemwel/AutoEurope, who I normally use. And of course I always bring a confirmation print-out for every reservation I make when we travel. We made arrangements to pick up the car at 9AM, but our scenic drive was delayed for several reasons. The customers in front of us thought they had a car reserved when in fact they didn’t. The wholesaler they used confirmed the car rental, but Avant Car never confirmed it. The customers went back and forth with the agent trying to sort things out, and this took awhile, but in the end, they ended up without a car. Luckily, I had my printed confirmation with me, and we didn’t have any issues.

The next delay was caused by our car’s GPS. Since the car came with a GPS, we decided to use it. This was a big mistake! We certainly know how to use a GPS, and we entered our first destination for our scenic drive, (Skofja Loka), and it brought us to an ugly industrialized area, not the pretty old town we were expecting. We entered the next destination, and everything went downhill from there. We ended up on a big highway for some distance. I knew it was wrong and entered other destinations on our route, but to no avail. I have no idea what went wrong. So, we got off the highway, and stopped at a gas station to buy a sim card and cable so we could use our phone instead of the car's GPS. The sim card we had for our other car rental was only for a week, so we needed a new one. About an hour later, we were finally headed in the right direction! Very frustrating.

Here I would like to thank Andrew and His Dudeness for recommending this spectacular route over the mountains to Lake Bled! I have not seen this route described in any of the guidebooks so I wouldn’t have known about it if it weren’t for them. The route we took started in Skofja Loka, and this time we did drive by the Old Town, and wanted to stop, but by this point, we were terribly delayed, so we kept on going. From there our route included Selca, Zelezniki, Rudno, Jamnik, Kropa, and Lipnica, and then somehow we ended up on the main road to Bled.

This is one of the most dramatic and scenic drives I have been on so far. We drove through spectacular scenery with mountains, valleys, small villages, churches, and grazing sheep, cows, and horses. Everything was so green. There were a lot of swithbacks, and I kept saying WOW at every turn!! We did make a short stop in the village of Kropa, known for its ornamental iron works. There weren’t any restaurants open, so we only stayed here for about 20 minutes.

Then we entered the village of Bled, which was incredibly crowded. This was a Sunday; it was sunny and in the 80’s, so everybody was out. People were swimming, sunbathing, and boating. The traffic through Bled was horrendously slow. We couldn’t find parking anywhere. We drove along one side of the lake, which is beautiful, but we couldn’t stop. After we left the lake and town, we turned around to make one more attempt. We saw the sign for the campground and the restaurant by the lake & turned in there. (I think the restaurant belongs to the campground.) We were very hungry at this point and needed to use the bathrooms, and luckily were able to find a parking spot in their parking lot. We ordered pizza for lunch and had a nice view of the lake. When we were finished, we walked on the boardwalk along the lake. Lake Bled is beautiful with the island in the middle with the church and the castle on top of the hill and the Julian Alps in the background. The water is so clean and clear.

It was now about 4:30pm, and we felt it was too late to visit the church or go to the castle. So we headed back to Ljubljana on the highway. As we got closer to Ljubljana, we saw an exit for Skofja Loka, so we decided to get off and wander around the Old Town. A few restaurants and cafes were open, and there were many locals about. Children were riding their bikes and scooters. It’s a nice place to stop for a visit. There is also a castle, but it was closed when we were there.

We had dinner in Ljubljana. We ate at the Slovenian House Restaurant, which is owned by the same family who owns the Slovenian House Tapas Bar we ate at last night. My husband had goulash, which he said was tasty, but not spectacular. I had lamb chops with a poached pear. I don’t remember what my side dish was. I really liked the poached pear, but the lamb chops were tough, not a good cut of meat. So we were a little disappointed in this restaurant, which our hotel recommended. We enjoyed their tapas bar more.

Last edited by KarenWoo; Sep 23rd, 2019 at 12:21 PM.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 12:28 PM
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Scenic drive and Lake Bled


Spectacular vistas on our scenic drive

Lake Bled

Another view of Lake Bled
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 01:43 PM
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September 16: SIGHTSEEING LJUBLJANA

Today we spent the day sightseeing in Ljubljana. We decided to take the ďfree tourĒ with Yellow Umbrella, which weíve never done before. As most people probably know, the guides donít get paid, so they are hopeful, of course, that you will enjoy the tour and give them a tip, which of course we did. So the tour is not really free because they do expect tips, which is understandable.

We met our tour in front of the pink church at 11AM. There were probably about 100 people, so there were 4 guides available, and we were divided up as evenly as possible. Our guide, Nina, was wonderful! She is articulate, animated, knowledgeable, and enjoyable to be with. The tour lasted 2 ľ hours. She discussed the poet Preseren and his unrequited love for Julija, whose house is across the street from Preserenís statue in the square. She went into details about the varied architecture, the bridges, the sculptures, etc. We walked along the riverfront, crossed the Dragonís Bridge, wandered through the market, and crossed the river again to another square where the University is located. IMO, the tour is a good orientation to Ljubljana.

After the tour, we decided to stop for a light lunch at Gujzina (The Soul of Pannonia). Our lunch was not typical lunch fare because we decided to have the Prekmurska Gibanica, the traditional sweet cake from Eastern Slovenia. It is delicious, with layers of apples, nuts, flaky pastry, and poppy seeds. I also ordered cold cucumber soup. I had been craving this soup since I saw it on the menu in Split. The soup is delicious and very filling! The cucumbers are thinly sliced and served in a thick sour cream base. It actually reminded me of a cucumber salad my Polish grandmother used to make (thinly sliced cucumbers in a sour cream dressing). We really like this restaurant a lot, and it would have been nice to have dinner here, but we wanted to try a different place for dinner.

We then did some shopping. Stuffed dragons are very popular (symbol of Ljubljana) so we bought 4 for our grandchildren. We checked out restaurant menus, and then decided to take the funicular to the castle. We did not purchase tickets for the castle because we were getting tired from a long day of walking. So we thought it would be nice to see the view from the castle. But we actually didnít think the views were all that spectacular. We then headed back to our hotel to pack for our flight home the next day.

Dinner tonight was at Julija Restaurant, recommend by our hotel and people on this forum. This was our favorite restaurant in Ljubljana!! I highly recommend making reservations. We did not have reservations, so we were unable to sit outside. However, they did have some tables available inside. We got a table by the window, and the restaurant is very pretty inside, so we didnít mind dining indoors. First we shared a shrimp and mushroom appetizer. For our main meals, my husband had their pig knuckles, which were slowly cooked for 2 days, and I had a pasta dish with asparagus and very flavorful mushrooms. Both meals were excellent!!! The waiter recommended a different red wine for each of us, which paired perfectly with our main meals. Dining here was the perfect way to end our Balkan vacation!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 02:15 PM
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Dinner at Julija's Restaurant


Shrimp and Mushroom appetizer from Julija Restaurant

Pasta with asparagus and mushrooms

Pigs knuckles slowly cooked for 2 days
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 02:33 PM
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Photos from Ljubljana


Slovenian Sweet Cake

Bookstore in Ljubljana

Ljubljana along the riverfront
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 02:52 PM
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You kept busy right to the end. Looks and sounds like Zagreb and Lijubljana were very different from all the other places you visited. Thanks for sharing your trip with me.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 02:54 PM
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September 17: OUR LONG JOURNEY HOME

When I first made our airline reservations, I selected a 1:00PM Adria Airways flight from Ljubljana to Zurich, where we would then get our connecting flight to Boston. We would have a 3 to 4 hour layover. However, a few days before we left Boston, I received an email informing us that our 1:00PM flight was cancelled, and we were put on a 7:15AM combined flight. Our hotel arranged a taxi to pick us up at 5:15AM, which meant that we got up at 4AM!!! Our flight from Ljubljana to Zurich made a “technical stop” in Munich to refuel. This was a very short flight. Passengers going on to Zurich were told to stay on the plane. Other passengers disembarked, and new passengers boarded. The flight to Zurich was very short, too, just under an hour. Then we had an 8-hour layover in Zurich!!! Ugh!!!

So before we left home, we reserved the Aspire Lounge in Zurich. This cost us $35 per person, and was worth every penny. The lounge had comfortable chairs and couches, so we were able to sleep a little. There was food available all day. First, there were breakfast items, then lunch items, and snacks all day. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were available all day, too. We passed the time by reading, eating, and talking to other passengers. By the time we made it home, we had been up for 24 hours.

WOULD I MAKE ANY CHANGES IN OUR ITINERARY:

Overall, we were very happy with our itinerary and the number of nights in each place. However, my husband did suggest one change in hindsight. He thinks we should have stayed in Split 3 nights instead of 4 nights, and spent that extra night in Mostar. I didn’t plan on a daytrip to Mostar from Dubrovnik because I thought the day would be too long, and I would prefer staying overnight in Mostar instead of seeing it as a day trip. In retrospect, we could have driven from Dubrovnik to Mostar, stayed overnight, then drive from Mostar to Split. On the other hand, I did enjoy the 4 nights in Split because it made the trip more relaxing. I like having at least one 4-night stay when we travel. As everyone knows, traveling from place to place can be tiring and takes up a lot of time.

Last edited by KarenWoo; Sep 23rd, 2019 at 02:57 PM.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001 View Post
You kept busy right to the end. Looks and sounds like Zagreb and Lijubljana were very different from all the other places you visited. Thanks for sharing your trip with me.
Tripplanner001, yes, Zagreb and Ljubljana are very different from the other places we visited, and that's why I liked our itinerary so much. We wanted diversity. I initially thought of going to the Istrian Peninsula, but I think perhaps it would be similar to the coastal area we had already seen, so that's why we decided to go inland. And it was so easy driving from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb, and then taking the train from Zagreb to Ljubljana.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 07:03 PM
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Such a great report, Karen, I always like to read about logistics of travel, as well as personal impressions. Getting too old to agree to long, uncomfortable travel days, and as we travel by public transport it is helpful to know how things might ‘fit’ together.
Love your photos, glad you worked it out.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 09:58 PM
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Karen- We're in Slovenia now, we were kinda doing parallel planning as I would see your name pop up on a lot of threads we bookmarked.

Thanks for Plitvice details...we'll be there in a little over a week. Same deal as you, our entry ticket is for 1400 with the next day free as we're staying in the park. A reminder to folks; we had booked for outside the park as it was more expensive, we switched to inside the park 2 weeks back as the price was now cheaper and breakfast is now included. So always check back on rates if you're not 100% sure of the place you've booked.

Second note for anyone who goes to Bled; the spa in the Rikli hotel is really good and for 140E we got a couples bath, 50 minute massage, and 3 hours in the pool/sauna area. Hard to beat an outdoor hot tub with views of the castle all lite up...one of the Finnish saunas has a wall of windows for the same castle view. We could have stayed longer than 3 hours, which I wouldn't have believed.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2019, 10:07 PM
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Adria Air had issues on our flight as well, Vienna to Ljubljana. Supposed to depart at 1030, then 1230, finally at 1415. Pure speculation, but there weren't a lot of people in the boarding area, and it seems they might have 'postponed' our flight so they could combine it with another to save some fuel. Even with the people from the scheduled 1230 flight we weren't full.
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