Croatia Trip Report

Dec 1st, 2005, 06:31 AM
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Croatia Trip Report

Three friends and I went to Croatia for a week in mid-October. We are young women who each have approximately five decades of life experiences (do you like the way I put that?!) and have traveled to Europe before, but it was the first time to Eastern Europe for two of us. We stayed in Dubrovnik for four nights, Trogir for one, and Cavtat for two.

Accommodations: The Villa Adriatica in Dubrovnik is the best apartment to rent, no question about it. The location is excellent and the terrace overlooking Old Town is exceptional. We had Room 3 and the Apartment because the two rooms opening directly onto the terrace were supposedly booked (Room 2 seemed vacant the entire time. There was a couple in Room 1 for two nights but they never used the terrace at the same time we did). Having Rooms 1 and 2 would have been a lot more convenient because we had to go outside, through the garden, and up some steps to access the terrace, but it was still worth it. The rooms are simple but clean. The only complaint we had was that the hot water heater had to be turned on 45 minutes prior to taking a shower, and even then provided only enough hot water for one person to shower very quickly. If you want luxury, we would suggest one of the hotels close to the Ploce Gate (Excelsior, Argentina, etc.) because they are still within walking distance of Old Town and have the same view. We would never want to stay in Lapad because it was too far from Old Town. The Dubrovnik Palace had a fantastic setting but seemed way too remote.

In Trogir we stayed in the Hotel Concordia, which was very nice and the most comfortable accommodations we had. Be aware that the rooms on the 4th floor (#14 and 15) are “hobbit rooms” with VERY steeply pitched ceilings! A very nice breakfast is included. We stayed at the Hotel Supetar in Cavtat. The rooms were adequate, but dark and dated. The location, however, was superb and breakfast in included. We visited the new Hotel Croatia up the hill and that appeared to be very nice and classy. Hotel Croatia looks across the bay at the Cavtat waterfront area.

Restaurants: One of the best meals we had was at the Top Balloon in Trogir. Their seafood risotto, sea bass, and lasagna were all fantastic. The proprietor was also very nice. Tied for first place was Taverna Galija in Cavtat. It is around the corner from Hotel Supetar on a side street. Everything we had was excellent, especially the vegetable dishes (stuffed eggplant, grilled mushrooms, vegetable platter). Restaurant Feral in Cavtat and Nautika 2 in Dubrovnik were good, but Proto and Lokanda Peskarija were disappointing. The setting of the Lokanda is very nice (on the harbor) so it’s worth a try but don’t order the seafood risotto. In two places, risotto was black (from squid ink?) and mostly calamari and tiny shrimp with legs and head still attached. The seafood risotto at Top Balloon was made with broth (so it was cream-colored) and filled with good seafood. Twice we had the excellent pizza at the restaurant located right at the Old Port in Dubrovnik. It was great to sit outdoors.

For lunch, we sometimes purchased bread, ham, cheese, fruit, and beer from the market and ate on our terrace or in a park. Our favorite beer was Ojuzko, a full-bodied lager. There were bakeries on every corner and the breads and pastries were wonderful.

Excursions: We all loved our day trip to Montenegro with Atlas. We took the “Montenegro Blue” trip which stopped in Perast and Saint Mary of the Rocks Church (on an island), Kotor, Sveti Stefan, and Budva. The Bay of Kotor is exceptionally beautiful. Because the restaurant in Sveti Stefan was closed, we ate in Budva. It was the only city that we didn’t like at all. While the view is lovely, the Old Town is not cared for. There are few shops and restaurants but lots of graffiti and trash. The new part of town is ugly, in our opinion, but we loved the other stops.

The local buses are easy to navigate and we rode them often, visiting the new harbor area of Dubrovnik, Lapad, and Cavtat. Read the schedules carefully so you know where to get on and off.

After several days in Dubrovnik, we traveled north, planning to visit Split and Trogir. Based on advice from this forum, we opted to take the bus. What an experience! It took almost 5 ½ hours! In addition to picking up/dropping off passengers at various bus stops, we stopped EVERY HOUR for a smoking break. Once, when a little over an hour had lapsed, the driver actually lit up on the bus. Ugh. Some passengers joined the smoking fest at stops and some visited the restrooms, but many just sat on the bus waiting. We learned to have our 2-3 kunas ready for the restroom if we needed to go, because the bus driver started driving away as soon as his cigarette was finished. This grueling ride totally wasted a day. We didn’t even stop in Split (which looked very industrial) and went on to Trogir, pledging to find alternative transportation back to Dubrovnik. Trogir was a nice town and we enjoyed browsing around that afternoon and the next morning. We rented a car for the return home and made it from Trogir to Cavtat in 4 hours! Cavtat is a lovely seaside town, 20 minutes south of Dubrovnik, near the airport. We spent our last two nights there and enjoyed it very much. All of the restaurants and shops are on the waterfront, but the residential streets are just as interesting and beautiful. As in every town, the churches are wonderful.

If we could do it all over again, we would have stayed in Dubrovnik instead of heading north, and used that time to visit Korcula, Mljet, or one of the other islands.

Random thoughts: As others have said, there are not a lot of things to buy as souvenirs. The embroidered linens were expensive but seemed to be the only real “crafts” of the region.

We highly recommend going to the folk dancing performance in a hall outside the Ploce Gate. The audience was packed full and seemed to be a mix of tourists and locals.

We didn’t find Croatian people to be particularly friendly (at least not by southern standards!). As in other Eastern European countries, there is not much emphasis on customer service. Many restaurant workers and store clerks seemed to be “bothered” to wait on us. There were exceptions, of course. The Tomsic family at the Villa Adriatica was very nice, as were several other people we met. Actually, people in Trogir and Cavtat were far friendlier than in Dubrovnik (maybe they had too many bad experiences with tourists!) We were always respectful and tried to communicate a bit in Croatian, but rarely felt any warmth in return. We joked among ourselves that anyone smiling had to be a tourist, but one waiter in Cavtat actually joked with us! Of course, this is typical of many Eastern European cultures, so I just mention it as an FYI. Also, be aware that everyone smokes. A lot.

We highly recommend visiting Dubrovnik and surrounding areas. Now that Matt Lauer of the Today Show has broadcast from there, it may get more crowded. We enjoyed being there in the off-season and the weather was still quite mild, though mornings and evenings were often windy and chilly. Our pictures are beautiful and memories are great. Thanks to many on this forum for good advice. On our next trip to Croatia, we hope to visit Korcula, Hvar, and the other islands.


Lina is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Lina: Thanks for the very informative report. I am thinking of going to Dubrovnik next fall, but I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how to get there the fastest way and the most economical, while also visiting Rome. Where did you fly from? Currently I'm looking at flights for $1,600! which is really not in my budget. I'm also interested in staying right in the Old Town and have contacted a few apartments. Would you recommend this as opposed to being outside the Old Town. Also, would it be easy to do day trips to Hvar and Korcula from Dubrovnik?
Barb is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 05:05 PM
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Lina, Really enjoyed you report, we must have been in some of the same places at the same time. And I agree with you about Dubrovnik - I really wish we would have just stayed there and done more exploring in that area. We went to Hvar (2 nights) and Trogir (1 night) and both were very nice but they weren't worth the agony of getting there (we took the ferry).

CollK is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 07:39 PM
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Thanks for the great report. It was refreshing to hear something other than just the wonderful things.

The bus trip between Dubrovnik and Trogir sounds awful. It would be quicker to fly even with a connection in Zagreb...although I see that there is a non-stop once a week or so in the evening. Did the scenery from the bus help compensate for the ordeal? How was the drive back? I gathered that visiting Togir and Split wasn't worth the effort.
JEFF_ is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 10:22 PM
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Lina,

Strange. Your bus trip from Dubrovnik to Trogir was completely different from ours from Split to Dubrovnik two years ago. The bus was modern, clean, non-smoking, and only stopped to pick up or drop passengers. No "smoke breaks" at all! Perhaps you caught a "local" rather than an "Express" bus. Only took about four hours.

To answer another question; the scenery was so magnificent I would have put up with a cigar smoker. I would suggest you grab seats on the "cliff" side of the bus -- that would be the right side going down the coast -- so you can look down at all the clear blue water and at the tiny villages clinging to the cliffs.

We, too, stayed in room 3 at the Villa Adriatica, and our recommendation is the same as yours -- superb! Also, we found the Croatians both friendly and helpful. I did a much too long trip report two years ago (six parts) that you might want to look up to see out takes on some of the places we both went; like Cavtat, and some we enjoyed, like Korcula and Hvar.

Looking forward to going back someday.

nukesafe is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 06:02 AM
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Barb: the flights were equally expensive when we were planning our trip. We saved about $600 each by booking through Travel Time NY, a consolidator (thanks to a tip from this forum). We flew Lufthansa to Frankfurt and Croatian Airlines from Frankfurt to Dubrovnik. By the way, when we landed in Dubrovnik, the passengers all clapped their hands...which made us wonder if landing safely was an unusual event! However, that just seems to be their custom. Pretty funny.

I've read that there are nice apartments in Old Town, but I would recommend the Villa Adriatica. It is literally steps outside the Ploce Gate and you have a magnificent view of the harbor and Old Town. Old Town is actually very small...it takes about 5 minutes to walk from the Pile Gate to the Ploce Gate, so you aren't missing anything by staying outside the actual walls. As charming as the narrow streets are, I would rather look out the window at the water than a stone wall. If you look at Villa Adriatica's website, you'll see photos of and from the terrace.

There are many day trips through Atlas Travel. They are located right outside the Pile Gate but also have a good website.

Jeff: Renting a car was not expensive or difficult. Since there were four of us, it was slightly more expensive that four bus tickets. We dropped the car at the Dubrovnik airport. There is only one road between Dubrovnik and Split, so there's no way to get lost. We enjoyed the scenery from both the bus and the car, but the car was MUCH more comfortable and a great time-saver. We liked Trogir, but in retrospect, would have preferred to stay south and visit the islands.

Nukesafe: I read your entire report several times before our trip, along with reports by Alyssamma, eurotraveller, Judi, salt777, DCDee, offwego, krystal82004, and JulieVinkmanis. Great stuff.
Lina is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 07:50 AM
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Lina and Nukesafe,
It seems that you both had very different experiences with the buses. Do you remember the name of the bus companies? Maybe that's the difference. I see there are several leaving from Dubrovnik. Or I could tell by their departure times and check the schedule.

http://www.ak-split.hr/EN/vozni.red/...dDolazaka.aspx

And Lina, just curious about how expensive the Villa Adriatica is. There's nothing on their website.

Thanks--Jeff
JEFF_ is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 08:26 AM
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Lina - thanks for the info - I'm curious about the rates at the Adriatica too.
Barb is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 08:49 AM
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Barb,
About your question about day trips from Dubrovnik: the Jadrolinija ferry schedule shows that boats to Korkula take about 3 hours, but going to Hvar takes about 7 hours. And, they don't go every day--at least not in May. Looks like you could do an overnight in Korkula and comeback to Dubrovnik the next day, but a day trip would be difficult. These are the things I'm considering too, but logistics seems to be a challenge. Maybe there's another way like a car to Korkula?

By the way, I enjoyed your Italian adventure story with the divas so much. I'm still talking about it with friends.
JEFF_ is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 08:57 AM
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It's Korcula, pronounced "Korchoola". There are a couple of buses a day from Dubrovnik if the coastal ship is not convenient.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 09:17 AM
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Thanks for the help Geoff. I should have checked the spelling.
-Jeff with a J
JEFF_ is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 09:25 AM
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Another way to go to Korcula from Dubrovnik would be to take a bus from Dubrovnik up the coast to Orobic, and a ferry the short distance to Korcula. When we stayed with folks on Korcula, that was the locals route of preference. The ferry distance is short, and the sailings more frequent.

We stayed with a family in Vela Luka, on the other end of the island, and our friends would drive the length of the island to Korcula, take the ferry to Orobic, drive to Dubrovnik to do business, and be back that same day. I wouldn't want to try it, because of the windy roads, but we did it by bus to Kocula town and back for the day.


nukesafe is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 09:38 AM
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Jeff - Thanks - this trip will be solo and hopefully very peaceful.
Barb is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:08 AM
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Barb,
To answer your question about how to get to Dubrovnik when you're in Rome.

Take the train to Bari, Italy and the Jadrolinjia ferry from there. This is the most economical until Easyjet (or was it Ryanair?) starts flying in next year.

The Eurostar takes about 4 1/2 hours to get there and costs about 50 Euros for first class. Figure 35 Euros for second. Considering you're on there for quite a while what's 15 Euros? You only save about 6 Euros in an IC train and it will take an hour longer so I recommend the Eurostar (I don't usually for other journeys). You may get lucky and get a trenOK train which costs half as much but the schedules are inconvenient.

You want to leave from Rome by noon and you will arrive in Bari by 5:00pm or so. Transfer from the train station to the Port via taxi (or walk for 30+ minutes). The ferry only takes cash so make sure you have enough. There is a Bancomat in a little building by the Port if you need it. The ferry leaves about 9:30ish at night but get there way early (6:00) to get your tickets and a cabin. I paid 160 Euros for a cabin and 4 boarding passes to get on in the summer. Set your alarm as or they will enter your cabin to get you up! You can forgo the cabin altogether and you can bring a blanket and pillow and sleep on the deck and save 60 Euros or so. You can book places in Dubrovnik or just show up! It seems weird but it works fine.

I've been there twice in the last year and I decided this year to just show up and take a SOBE from the people holding the signs. A man named Andrija (sp) Jovic was there with pictures of his apartment and a map showing where it was. I took it and he drove us to it above old town. We paid 60 Euros a night for an apartment with a patio overlooking the sea. The only negative was it was quite a walk up above oldtown but he will come and get you and drop you off anywhere you want. They fixed us a Croatian breakfast everyday for about 5 Euros ea. We called apon him several times when we need to go somewhere. When we went to get on our bus to Split he said goodbye and we waited for the bus. He came back to make sure we got our bus and it's a good thing because it pulled into the wrong bay. Had it not been for him coming back we would have missed our bus and our Croatiajet ferry in Split.

After this experience I recommend staying with a croatian family like we did. I also think you should walk as much as possible in Dubrovnik and get outside of old town too.

That post was longer than I anticipated... ;-)

Grant
Grantmasterflash is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:53 AM
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Grant: Thanks so much for all your detailed suggestions, it's great! I am seriously considering doing this, although I am wondering if it might not be easier and maybe cheaper, all things considered, to just fly from Rome to Split, or even Zagreb for $198 rt on Europebyair. Apparently there is a flight from Rome into Split on Tues. and Sat. if I am reading the schedule right. Not sure yet about the flight back to Rome. BTW what is a Croatian breakfast?
Barb is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 11:21 AM
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I just found this site for "How to get to... Korcula." The bus from Dubrovnik takes as long as the ferry. Thought the European Coastal Airlines concept was interesting, but probably way too expensive for me. They appear to have scheduled flights, but I can't seem to find anything about them. It would be a quick way to get around and probably fun, too.

http://www.korcula.net/grad/pitanja/
JEFF_ is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 11:22 AM
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My husband and I are planning a trip to Croatia next fall. For lodging in Trogir, we are debating between the Hotel Concordia and the Fontana, both of which have been recommended to us. Does anyone have any thoughts on these hotels?

For Zadar, we are debating the Hotel Niko and the President. Any thoughts on those?

Any input will be appreciated!
judi123 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 01:23 PM
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Room 3 at the Villa Adriatica was 53 euros/night and the apartment was 55 euros. I think the rooms right off the terrace were a few euros higher. The apartment has a small stove and table, all the rooms have small refrigerators. Everyone has use of the kitchen and living room downstairs, but you'll want to do all your eating and drinking on the huge terrace.

Judi123: We liked the Hotel Concordia in Trogir very much. We saw the Fontana and they are comparable in price. The only reason we didn't stay in the Fontana is because our Concordia rooms looked right on the water and Fontana was next to a school/church and we were wondering about noise. However, either one would probably be fine. We paid 500kn per night, which included breakfast.

Jeff: there are several bus lines, but I don't remember the name of ours. When we bought the ticket at the main station, we asked if we should buy a round-trip ticket and the agent said, "No," because you would have to return on the same line and it would be impossible to know when they were running. FYI.

My friends and I joked during our week in Croatia that they had "no rules." Unlike the U.S., where every public place is plastered with signs...no parking, no trespassing, no littering, no passing, no entry, no walking on the grass, etc., Croatia has none! If we ever asked, "May we..." do whatever, we were met with bewildered looks and "of course!" Therefore, cars were sometimes parked helter-skelter, the bus passed cars on blind curves, stores and restaurants often ignored their posted hours, we were free to wander through buildings and courtyards, take photos anywhere, and so on. When the local bus was packed full, about 6 of us stood on the steps right next to the driver like sardines (try standing in front of the white line on an American bus!). One performance hall was packed with people, the only exit was blocked by seats, and there were no windows or fire sprinklers..."no rules!" Obviously, lawsuits haven't dictated their lifestyle.

We felt VERY safe everywhere we went and every town was immaculately clean.
Lina is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 01:36 PM
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Barb: Jeff referred to your diva story and I've read others on the Italy board refer to it, too, but haven't been able to find it. Can you post the link? I'll be going to Italy again in the spring...love it there!
Lina is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2005, 01:42 PM
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Barb, I don't mean to highjack this thread but I did find some flights from Rome to Split that were only $99 on europe by air. Not all of them lay over in Zagreb. For instance, I used the random dates of March 14th and July 14th and there are non-stop flights from Rome to Split $99 on both days. I think it depends on the day and time you are going, but it's probably worth tweaking your itinerary a little to save the money if you can.

By the way, after all that hastle we decided to just go to Ireland instead. My husband is looking for a new job and so we decided we can only really take a week for vacation instead of two. Since Croatia is so difficult to get to that we wanted to be there longer. But I hope you have wonderful luck and I will so look forward to reading your trip report if you do indeed get to Croatia!

Lina, thank you for the nice report! I printed it out as my husband and I are now planning for a 2007 trip to Croatia.

Tracy
tcreath is offline  

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