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Croatia, Slovenia, Salzburg and Prague 3 week Trip Report

Croatia, Slovenia, Salzburg and Prague 3 week Trip Report

Oct 17th, 2014, 01:14 PM
  #1  
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Croatia, Slovenia, Salzburg and Prague 3 week Trip Report

I have read so many reports and comments on this forum in planning our trips for the last few years. The advice on this forum has been extremely invaluable and we have had some great trips because of it! This is a very belated trip report (May/June 2013, lol) but I hope it may provide some use for someone. Below is the itinerary and I will write short descriptions of each day in the next few days.

Leaving from NYC
3 nights in Dubrovnik
1 night in Split
2 nights in Hvar
1 night in Zadar
1 night in Plitvice
3 nights in Rovinj
2 nights in Goriska Brda, Slovenia (visited Skocjan Cave, Predjama Castle)
5 nights in Lake Bled (visited Ljubljana, Bohinj, Logar Valley, etc.)
1 night in Salzburg
1 night in Cesky Krumlov
3 nights in Prague
Returning to NYC

The husband generally does not like one night stays. However, we had a rental car for the majority of the trip and packed pretty light so it was not an issue. No complaint from him

Conclusion: We love Croatia and definitely want to return and explore more. Slovenia is beautiful. Salzburg (my husband's top pick for this trip) and Prague (my pick) are a bit of a letdown. They are both beautiful but we just did not click with them in this trip.
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Oct 17th, 2014, 01:32 PM
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May 23: flying out of NYC in the evening

May 24: arriving at Dubrovnik around 3:40 pm after two flight changes (Munich, Zagreb). We took the shuttle bus from the airport to Pile Gate which was easy and scenic. We saw the city against the Adriatic as we approached. This is definitely one of the most beautiful arrival from the airport we have had.

We got to the Pile Gate around 5 pm and was going against the human traffic when we entered the gate. The cruise crowd was leaving. We made our way to our apartment for the next three nights, met with the apartment owner, freshened up, and made our way to the city walls around 6. The city walls walk was wonderful! We had the whole walls pretty much to ourselves for the next hour or so. The atmosphere cannot be better - the view, late evening light, sea breeze, swallows flying about, church bell, etc.. After the walk, we went to Lady Pi Pi, a restaurant recommended by the apartment owner. We had a delicious meal, sitting outside at the terrace with lovely view. After dinner, we strolled on the Stratun a little before heading back to the apartment for the night.
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Oct 17th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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May 25: We woke up early and went to a cafe on the main drag shortly before 8. The cafe was just getting ready for the day and it took a while for our coffee to come out. We enjoyed sitting there watching the locals going home after their grocery shopping and delivery trucks unloading. There were a few visitors out and about but the Stradun was quiet and peaceful. Around 8:30, the first tour group of the day started appearing. We finished our coffee, explored the back alleys a little and made our way to the cable car station.

We got to the cable station around 9:20 and there was a line but not too bad. We waited about 20 minutes to get on the cable car. The view from the top of Mt. Srd is amazing - Dubrovnik and the sparkling Adriatic. We then visited the war museum and learned more about the siege of Dubrovnik. It was really moving and looking at Dubrovnik today it was hard to imagine that happened only 20 years ago.

After spending a couple hours at Mt. Srd, we decided to walk back to Dubrovnik instead of taking the cable car down. The hike has beautiful ocean views but definitely more enjoyable when the weather is not too hot since there is little shade for the majority of the hike. The temperature was a pleasant 70 degree that day so it was fine for us. There are panels of 14 stations of the Cross along the way. Since we were hiking down, we passed through them backwards.

After getting down the mountain, we walked through the residential area outside the old city to get back to Pile Gate. Hundreds of people had started to line up for the buses to get back to the cruise ships. We went back into the old town, visited the Franciscan and Dominican church and just wondered about the back alleys. Then we came upon Buza II. It was about 3 pm and only a few tables were occupied. We got our drinks and just sat there for an hour. The view is just amazing. What a wonderful experience.

We then wondered about more and came upon a meeting place of neighborhood cats and an older lady selling embroidered tablecloth. She claimed she did all the embroidery. We bought a white tablecloth about 3 feet by 3 feet with some simple embroidery work. It was about $30, not bad even if it was not locally made. Plus, the lady was actually doing some embroidery so we would like to believe her

We had a good but not memorable dinner, walked around more, had some ice cream and then called it a day.
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Oct 18th, 2014, 10:31 AM
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Enjoying this, and thank you for the memories of my times spent in Dubrovnik which you have reminded me of! I love that city. Though when I last visited 5 years ago the cable car hadn't been installed. But the Buza Bar was there - I wonder how many hours I have spent there waiting for the sun to roll down into the sea?

Looking forward to more...
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Oct 18th, 2014, 01:33 PM
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May 26: Did the same morning coffee and people watching routine as the day before, just from the cafe in the opposite side of the street. Afterwards, we went to the open air market and brought some candied orange peels and home made grappa and made our way past the pier to the breakwater. We watched the waves hitting against the rocks and got splashed by the water a little We then took a ferry to Cavtat.

Cavtat was a lovely place. We walked along the coast until we reached what seems to be the residential villa area and walked back towards the town center. We stopped halfway at Hotel Cavtat and had lunch. The food was fresh and delicious. In addition, the outdoor terrace has fantastic views.

We then went back to the center of town, wandered around and saw that the Bukovac house/museum would open in about 10 minutes. We knew nothing about the painter beforehand but thought it would be interesting to see the artist's work in his family home. We really enjoyed it and it did not take very long (less than an hour). We got some desserts from a bakery which seems very popular with both locals and tourists and enjoyed them with coffee.

We took the bus back to Dubrovnik because it would pass the bus station and we wanted to know how long it would take between the old town and the station. After getting back to the old town, we went to the fortress. It has a great view and was really nice to visit. We walked down to some local park, again, beautiful ocean view with no one around. We then walked to Ploce gate and enjoyed the view from there.

We decided to walk the city walls one more time in our last evening here. After the walk, we went to Lady Pi Pi again for dinner, wandered around, got some desserts, and finished the day.
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Oct 18th, 2014, 01:40 PM
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julia_t

Thank you for reading. Dubrovnik is unique and beautiful and there are so many spots with amazing views. We loved sitting at Buza bar just enjoying the moment.

I was so happy to learn that the cable car had returned while researching for the trip and put it in my must-do basket for Dubrovnik.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 06:58 AM
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lovetoroam, really enjoying your report. We are considering a visit to Croatia for 8 days in early april. I know the weather may be a bit cooler but thats the only time that works for the whole family. The places we definitely want to cover are Dubrovnik, Hvar and if possible Plitvice.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 07:04 AM
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May 27: Took the bus to Split. It was a walkable distance to our hotel inside the Diocletian's Palace complex but the hotel staff picked us up with a golf cart. We stayed at Palace Judita. The hotel was great and the staff very friendly and helpful. They bought our ferry tickets to Hvar for us the next morning so we could do some touring instead. Strongly recommend this place.

We visited the basement of the Palace, walked around the narrow streets of the complex and had dinner outside the city wall at a restaurant recommended by the hotel. After dinner, we walked down the Riva doing some people watching, back into the old city, sat on the steps of the central square (Peristyle) and listened to some music performance outside of the bar. Sitting on the cushion means you want to order drinks and a waiter will stop by. We just sat there enjoying the music and the atmosphere. It was great.

May 28: We had breakfast at the hotel and visited the market. The market was quite large and we enjoyed strolling through the stalls. We then walked around the old city, visited some sites and ended up in Ninski Statue. It was really neat.

We then climbed up the Marjan. It was a nice hike and had great view of the harbor. We walked along the Riva one more time, picked up our luggage from the hotel and got on the ferry to Hvar.

Our lodging in Hvar town was about 15 minutes climb up from the harbor. It has a balcony overlooking the ocean and a large kitchen. The apartment is really spacious and of great value. After dropping off the luggage, we went back to the town and just wondered around. We saw a place offering Peka and was willing to forego the 4 person minimum requirement so we pre-ordered our dinner. After a few hours walking along the coast and a quick visit to the fortress, we went back to the restaurant and had a lovely meal. We then got some ice cream, walked around the harbor and called it a day.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 09:33 AM
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May 29: We did an easy coastal walk to Milna, walked along the coastal path from the harbor, visited the Franciscan Monastery, climbed back to the fortress again. It was a pretty relaxing day. In the late afternoon, we picked up some produce from the open air market, some sausages, cheese and a bottle of wine from a small shop. The owner was very friendly, offering multiple samples and put together a nice mix sausages for us. We also picked up a loaf of bread from the bakery next door.

We went back to the apartment, sauteed the vegetables and put together a simple dinner. We had our dinner on the balcony watching the sunset over the Adriatic. It was magical and was one of the highlights of the trip.

May 30: We took the ferry back to Split in the morning and picked up the rental car. Our first stop was Trogir. We walked around the old town, had a mid-morning coffee break, visited the cathedral and climbed up the bell tower. The view from the top of the bell tower was great but I did get a bit scared towards the end of the climb. We then walked along the harbor to visit the fortress. The view from the top was also very nice.

We then returned to our coastal drive north. We saw a town that looked quite nice from the road and decided to take a a quick detour. The town is Primosten. We parked our car in the new town and located the stairs to go down to the beach and the old town. It is a nice stretch of sand beach with a few sunbathers enjoying the sun. We got some ice cream from one of the stores along the boardwalk. The owner was really nice. He made a cute ice cream man with a cone hat with extra scoops of ice cream without charging us extra.

We then got to the old town and walked up the cobble stone street. At the top of the cobbled street, there is a beautiful cemetery with a church looking out to the sea and islands. The view was amazing. We walked back down the cobbled street and walked along the coastal promenade a bit. There are lamp posts along the promenade and at night it probably would be a lovely walk as well. I would recommend a quick visit of this charming town if one is driving on the coastal road.

After Primosten, we made a stop at Sibenik for the UNESCO Cathedral of St. James. The architecture of the cathedral is beautiful and the stone head sculptures along the exterior wall are unique to see. The baptistry inside the church is definitely worth visiting. Walking around the town was a delight - the town has many beautiful buildings and streets and the store owners were friendly.

We made it to Zadar around 5 in the afternoon. After dropping off our luggage in our hotel and freshened up, we walked to the five wells square and the park behind it. We then walked along the promenade, listened to the sea organ, and waited for what Hitchcock described as the most beautiful sunset in the world. The view was indeed incredible and sea organ just added to the atmosphere. Many people set up their camera equipment trying to capture the sunset. The salute to the sun was okay. We were told by our hotel that there was some mechanical issue and the light would not be very bright.

We walked back to the main street. There were rose pedals on the street all the way down to the city gate. Turned out it was Corpus Christi. People were coming out of the church with kids dressed in white. It was such a beautiful night. The restaurant recommended by the hotel had an one hour plus wait so we decided to just have pizza slices. The pizzeria is on the main street next to the main square and seems to be a popular place for local families. We had our pizza and went back to the hotel for the night.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 11:25 AM
  #10  
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May 31: We had coffee on the main street. It was great watching people going about their day and sitting next to locals reading newspapers. We walked down the forum and saw some teenagers just skating around Roman ruins next to the Donat church. Very cool. We then went to the Zadar city market. It was a great market, full of stalls selling fresh produce and home made products. We wondered around Zadar for another hour or two before heading out to Plitvice park.

The drive to Plitvice park was uneventful. It took us maybe a couple hours and we arrived around 2:30 pm. It was pouring rain when we arrived and many tour buses started leaving. We found our hotel about 10 minutes away from the park and checked in. The owner showed us an additional spot outside the park that we can have a view of the park.

The rain started to taper off. We checked out the spot outside the park first. It has a really nice view of the park. We drove to the park entrance and took the bus to the upper lake and hiked down to the lower lake.

The walk was incredible. The boardwalk has no rail so we walked right next to the lakes. The water was crystal clear and we can see the fish. The waterfalls were amazing and the park was green and lush. We were so close to the waterfalls in some spots that we cannot hear each other and can really feel the power of the water. It was cloudy with the sun occasionally peeking through. The view may be more amazing if we have clear sky but we were just thankful that the rain stopped long enough for us to visit the park.

We spent about 3.5 hours in the park. The weather started to turn so we had to leave. We had a great time and hit most of the highlights. Plitvice park is such a beautiful and unique place and accessible for most people. I think it is definitely worth the effort to visit.

We had dinner at Hotel Degenija. The food was simple and delicious. We went back to our hotel and finished the day.

June 1: After breakfast, we drove around the area a little before heading for Rovinj. We arrived at Opatija around 1 pm and decided to check it out. We had desserts and coffee at Cafe Grand. We sat on the terrace and it was quite enjoyable. We then walked around the park and the promenade. The promenade was really lovely. Opatija has some beautiful and ornate buildings, one looks like a wedding cake to me.

We continued on to Rovinj and checked into our apartment which was about 10 minutes walk from the old town. After freshening up, we walked to Rovinj and explored the town. Rovinj feels Italian and that is not surprising considering its history. There are many hilly and winding cobbled streets. We walked to the top of the town and arrived at the St. Euphemia Cathedral. We cannot get into the church because there was a wedding. We walked around the top and just admired the view. The wedding party had a reception outside the church with the blue Adriatic as the backdrop - gorgeous setting for a wedding reception. We went back down to the main square and had dinner by the pier. The food was okay but the setting was gorgeous. We wandered around the town more before heading back to the apartment for the night.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 11:33 AM
  #11  
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mnag:

Thank you for reading. Croatia is great. I am sure you will have a great time if you decide to visit.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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I realize I made a mistake in my itinerary. We only stayed 2 nights in Rovinj. Apologize for the confusion.

June 2: During the day, we explored some of the Istria hill towns - Motovun, Groznjan, Buzet and Hum (smallest village in the world). The towns are really charming and the drive is very scenic. We bought truffles in Motovun and perhaps the best bargain of the trip - a wood plaque. The craftsman was carving flowers/figurines on wood panels with detailed chiseled marks as backgrounds close to the bottom gate. There are many different sizes. We picked one that was about 8 inches by 16 inches and it was around $25. Definitely a unique and inexpensive souvenir.

Istria hill towns reminded us of the small hill towns of Tuscany/Umbria. The towns had tourists but were not overwhelmed. The highway was super smooth and there was little traffic. We had a great time.

We got back to Rovinj in the late afternoon. We walked around the town more and had dinner by the harbor. The view was great and the seafood delicious. We had some desserts before heading back to our apartment.

June 3: Our original plan was to drop off the rental car in Porec, get a taxi/car service directly to Portoroz airport, and pick up our Slovenia rental car there. After dropping off the rental car, We decided to spend some time visiting the UNESCO Euphrasius Basilica and the old town of Porec. We arranged for a car to leave in about 2 hours.

The mosaics in the basilica were amazing and so well preserved. Definitely worth a visit. We then wandered around the old town, got some pastries and ate at the main square while people watching.

The taxi took us to the Portoroz airport. We went in and realized it was a tiny airport. There was no car rental agency in there. In fact, there was only one lady at the information counter. My phone did not work for some reason and the kind lady called the car rental agency for us. After waiting for 40 minutes, the car rental agent picked us up and took us to the rental car - in the parking garage of a hotel. We quickly finished the paperwork and went on our way.

We decided to stop at Piran to have a quick visit. The parking attendant waved us into the old town. We'd have preferred to park outside and walk in. There was no place to park until we saw a spot next to a few cars by the harbor. The sign was in Slovenian, with a slash through P and 30 M underneath. We thought it meant 30 minutes parking.

We walked through the old town quickly, stopped at a painter's studio, and got back to the car in about 1 hour. A policeman was about to write a ticket. It turned out that the sign says no parking within 30 meters. We told him that we thought the sign meant 30 minutes parking and he let us go. It was silly of us but I still think the sign was confusing. The pier was about 15 to 20 meters wide and it would have been easier to simply have a sign with a splash through P. Anyway, all the other illegally parked cars confused us.

We got to our lodging in Goriska Brda in late afternoon and drove around. The countryside is beautiful. We had some simple dinner and went back to the hotel for the night.
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Oct 20th, 2014, 02:55 PM
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June 4: After breakfast at the hotel, we went to visit Skocjan Cave. Before our tour of the cave, we walked about 10 minutes to the viewpoint. This was a great view of the fall and definitely worth checking out.

The underground canyon tour was amazing. There definitely was a "you shall not pass" Lord of the Ring moment. The grand cavern finale of the tour was spectacular. Definitely something to be experienced.

After the underground tour, we continued on the Reka river hike. The extra couple hours walking through the canyon and caves was definitely worthwhile and I will recommend it to people not too pressed for time.

We the drove to Predjama Castle. The castle was indeed impressive looking from the outside. One tour guidebook said that visiting the interior of the castle could be skipped. After touring the castle, we think it is worthwhile to visit the interior. The castle was not heavily furnished, but it did have life size figures depicting castle life during the medieval time. Going up the multiple levels of the castle and entering the large cave meant as the living quarters when the castle was under attack was very neat. There was great view of the countryside below at the top of the castle and we saw sheep grazing in the distance.

We returned to Goriska Brda area and went to Hotel Belica for dinner. We ordered the multi course menu and the food was delicious. In addition, the sunset over the surrounding countryside was tranquil and beautiful. We had a great time.

We then drove back to our hotel. We had driven on this road before during the daytime and knew it was a pretty straight shot. However, we kept ending up in Italy! The road sometimes forked off and in the dark we thought we were staying on the same road. After entering and leaving Italy two times, we managed to get back to our hotel and had a good night's sleep.
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Oct 21st, 2014, 07:47 AM
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We are heading to Rovinj and Slovenia next summer, so I am really enjoying your report!
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Oct 21st, 2014, 08:05 AM
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June 5: We drove through the Julian Alps to Lake Bled. It was a scenic drive. We stopped at various overlooks for photos, visited the Kobarid museum, walked some part of Walk of Peace (very interesting, going through World War I trenches), and visited the Italian Mausoleum and the the Russian Chapel. The turquoise water of the Soca river was beautiful. We dipped our feet in the water and it was freezing cold.

After getting off the mountain, we stopped at a park near Kranjska Gora right off the main road. It was stunning - snow-capped mountains behind a small emerald green lake. We walked around the lake just admiring the views. We then continued on to Lake Bled, checked into the hotel, walked around the lake in the evening, had dinner and finished the day.

June 6 to June 9: We used Lake Bled as the base in visiting the surrounding area. We spent about a day in Ljubljana (lovely city), visited Skofja Loka (walked around the town and visited the castle which also housed the municipal museum), Idrija (charming town, the municipal museum at the beautiful castle/mansion was nice. Idrija lace is a much better deal than the one in Murano), Lake Bohinj (beautiful place, only spent about an hour there due to rain), Logar Valley (We did a 2-3 hour walk here. Beautiful area), and Vintgar Gorge (amazingly beautiful walk, close to Lake Bled).

We visited Bled castle when it happened to have a Medieval Festival. It was really fun. There were performers from Czech, Hungary, etc. View from the castle was really nice. We also enjoyed having the creme cake at cafes/restaurants by the lake.
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Oct 21st, 2014, 08:47 AM
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Great report. Brings back lots of memories. Thanks.

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Oct 21st, 2014, 11:11 AM
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Lovetoroam--which section of the Walk of Peace did you do? Sounds very interesting.
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Oct 21st, 2014, 12:09 PM
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I realized I made another mistake. We stayed in Salzburg for two nights instead of one. Sorry for the confusion.

June 10: To avoid any potential issue, we made a trip to the train station in Lesce (about 10 minutes away) and purchased our tickets to Salzburg the day before. We also scoped out the location and hours of the rental car agency and the bus stop. We left early enough so if we missed the first bus, the second bus would still get us to the station with a few minutes to spare.

We still managed to miss both buses and our train because the car rental agent went to get coffee and did not return for half an hour when we got to the rental office. I knew there was another train from Bled to Salzburg in the afternoon, but that would get us to Salzburg at night, taking away many hours we have for Salzburg. We went to the train station anyway and hoped we can figure something out.

The ticketing agent was helpful. He suggested we take a taxi to Villach and catch a train to Salzburg from there. The taxi ride would be about 120 to 130 euro. We decided to do it because it will get us to Salzburg in the mid afternoon. The agent exchanged our tickets, gave us back the differences and we were on our way.

We arrived at Salzburg, and checked into our hotel which was on the east side of the river close to the main bridge. We crossed the bridge, wandered around the old town west of the river, visited the cathedral, the main square, some stores, had dinner and finished the day.

June 11: We first walked around the town east of the river where we stayed. We then crossed the river and quickly visited the farmer's market. We found a lovely place inside a courtyard and stopped for breakfast. We then went to the St. Peter's cemetery. The cemetery was beautiful. Afterwards, we went to the St. Peter's Abbey bakery. Really tasty bread and it was fun to watch the water mill and how the bread was made.

We then climb up to the fortress and had a really good time. After visiting the fortress, we walked through the Monchsberg and a couple hours later arrived at the Augustiner beer hall. It was about 3:20 pm and the beer hall just opened. The place was lively. We got some food from one of the vendors, got our beers, and just sat outside enjoying the atmosphere. We then walked along the river, went to the Mirabell Garden and strolled around until it was almost dark. Had dinner at an Austrian restaurant and finished our brief visit to Salzburg.

I think the reason we did not love Salzburg in this trip may be because our first impression of the city was walking down Getreidegasse while there were huge crowds. Even though we didn't love Salzburg in this visit, we still had a good time, especially at the beer hall
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Oct 21st, 2014, 12:15 PM
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Digbydog

The section we did was pretty close to Kobarid. We went to the visitor center and asked what may be a good 1-1.5 hour walk and the lady gave us the directions. I will see if I can dig out the map and find the section.
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Oct 21st, 2014, 12:26 PM
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Digbydog

I think we did a section of the Zaprikraj outdoor museum http://issuu.com/potmiru/docs/vodnik_ang_final
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