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Croatia trip - south to north.

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Aug 24th, 2011, 03:27 PM
  #1
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Croatia trip - south to north.

Itinerary : Dubrovnik - Korcula - Rovinj - Venice.
DUBROVNIK.
Arrived July 1st, staying 5 nights at Apartment Ina, located on Frana Supila opposite the Excelsior Hotel, booked through Dubrovnik Apartment Source. Nicely presented compact apartment with limited cooking facilities but a lovely terrace offering great views of the harbour and Old Town. The location,outside the Ploce Gate, was better than staying within the city walls in our opinion as long as the relatively short walk to the Old Town is not a problem; the local Banje beach is almost on the doorstep for those who want to include sunbathing as part of their holiday.

Our time was divided between the Old Town and exploring nearby islands. The Old Town was busy at all times of day,, wonderfully clean and plentifully supplied with cafes and bars for people watching. The quieter areas of town required some step climbing. Ample number of churches, plus Rupa Museum, to be seen - enough to keep any visitor busy for at least two days. The walk of the city walls is a tourist must-do and gives you a ready made opportunity to orient oneself; well within the capacity of the average walker but needs to be timed with regard to the heat and day visitor numbers.

Island 1 - Lopud. Used the faster speedboat option from the Old Town harbour, €30 return, approx 25 minutes travel time; a few splashes en route but we were thoughtfully provided with Barry White on the sound system to ensure maximum calm.
The island is the ideal antidote to the hustle of Dubrovnik with the only four wheeled transport being electric buggies that transport visitors from the town to Sunj beach, across the island. Much better to make the journey on foot, using the well-marked trails.

Island 2 - Mljet. The Nona Ana ferry that serves the island leaves from Gruz port, leaving between 8.15 and 9.15, travel time under 2 hours arriving at Polace. The main attraction is the National Park, centrepiece being the S Marija monastery on an island on the park's main lake. Your entry ticket to the park covers the boat transfer to the monastery, which operates every 60-90 minutes. The Park itself offers a good selection of walking and cycling trails.

Our general thoughts on the Dubrovnik leg of the journey was that five days gave us adequate time to discover the city;any further time, if we had it at our disposal, would have been spent exploring other places as day trips, perhaps Kotor Bay or Mostar.
Prices in shops were somewhat cheaper than we are used to but restaurants and bars were very much at a level of other European cities.
Of the restaurants we ate at, the jury is divided. One vote for Lady Pi Pi, a rooftop venue offering meat and fish from an open grill, with views over the Old Town; one vote for Taj Mahal, a curiously named Bosnian restaurant in an alleyway near the Stradun which always seemed to be busy, probably due to the good value on offer for food slightly different from the standard fare that appeared on almost all menus in town. There seemed to be a great reluctance from restaurants to veer too far away from the standard offerings of local prsut ham and grilled fish of the day - leaving one to seek out somewhere offering something a little different. We went twice to Lucin Kantun on Od Sigurate where they do a nice selection of dips and small plates with a decent selection of Croatian wines.
Regarding cafes and bars, we found the general quality of coffee on offer to be very good and in the interest of thorough research, we tried both Buza bars between the city walls and the deep blue sea - rightly enthused over by many visitors to Dubrovnik as the place to sit back and take in the view, with a Budvar at one's elbow.

In an effort to sample the more upscale of what the town has to offer, we also devoted some time sampling what some of the hotels in the Ploce area had to offer at cocktail hour. Villa Dubrovnik looked tres chic and moderne but also devoid of people - including bar staff - so onward , still thirsty, to Villa Argentina, which boasts a generously spacious outdoor deck incorporating both dining and lounge areas (nice). Ever committed to the god of research, we moved literally next door to Hotel Excelsior, where we got the last rays of the sun from their balcony; very pleasant staff, who probably should have asked us to leave as it seemed we were not meant to mingle with the residents.

In terms of evening time entertainment, there appeared to be at least one concert performance on offer most nights, judging from the posters around the Old Town; we enjoyed a one hour candlelit classical recital in the small church at the Pile Gate performed by a local quartet.
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Aug 24th, 2011, 03:44 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2011
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Nice overview, looking forward to the next installments. We were there in May, second the vote for Lucin Kantun, one of the more unique and charming offerings.
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Aug 24th, 2011, 05:42 PM
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Thanks for posting this -- keep it coming! We'll be there soon ourselves, can't wait.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 08:58 AM
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Good start - looking forward to more.
Would you mind "skipping ahead" a bit and sharing where you stayed in Rovinj? We are finalizing our itinerary and trying to decide if we should stay there or another coastal town. Thanks in advance.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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There don't seem to have been many Croatian trip reports this summer (Compared to previous years) so it's nice to come across yours.

Looking forward to reading more. I like your concise yet detailed style.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 05:08 PM
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KORCULA.

Made the move from Dubrovnik to Korcula, on a day where there was no direct ferry connection, using the services of Korkyra Transfer; they provide a daily minibus form Dubrovnik Airport to Korcula, including a private launch to avoid waiting for the ferry from Orebic to Korcula Town. They provided a pick up at our apartment in Dubrovnik and practically drove into the foyer of our hotel in Korcula - all for €20 per person!
Travel time about two and a half hours.

As we only overnighted there, our exploration of the island was limited to Korcula Town itself. Our attempt to explore inland on foot was frustrated by a combination of narrow roads and heavy car/scooter traffic. The old Town is wonderfully situated with water on three sides and narrow stepped alleyways while the newer section has a large yacht marina,generating a buzzy feel to the waterfront area.

Our dining experience in the town was limited to a pizza and beer for lunch overlooking the water and an evening meal at Adio Mare in the old town, most offerings coming from an open grill; found the lamb chops delicious, service good and prices reasonable. An interesting place to drop into (or more correctly, up to) is Buffet Massimo, also in the old town, where you can enjoy your cocktail at the top of a tower, your drinks arriving up by a pulley system from below. Your access to the upper deck is by a ladder so those with mobility problems might find it a struggle.

Given the volume of younger visitors to the island,it was not surprising to find a number of bars still busy at 11pm, some with live music; all seemed very civilised and well behaved. We could not really recommend Hotel Park as a place to stay; a much needed revamp is long overdue.

Our overall verdict on Korcula? Bigger and busier than other islands we had visited, nice old town but we were left wondering how one would explore the island itself,if we were to have stayed longer. There appeared to be no dedicated walking trails and the narrow roads would seem a challenge to even cycling. It would seem that car or scooter rental hire would be a requisite if exploring the island over a few days was on the agenda.

Onward to Istria.
Making the journey from one end of Croatia to the other presented a number of travel options. Flying from Dubrovnik to Pula (via Belgrade) was possible but involved a very early flight to Belgrade and a late evening onward connection to Pula.
A direct bus service is available but the long travel times were not for us, unless we were prepared to break the journey with an overnight en route.
Trains do not service the Dalmatian coast and we ruled out self drive, due to driving times involved.
Having eliminated all the above options, we designed our plans around the twice weekly Jadrolinija car ferry that operates between Dubrovnik and Rijeka; we booked one of its best cabins, two berth en-suite, a sea view, with air conditioning. As it calls at Korcula en route, we did not have to return to Dubrovnik to catch the ferry and we arrived after a night's sleep in Rijeka at 7am, having departed at 1pm from Korcula.
There are direct bus connections Rijeka - Rovinj. On a practical note, the first bus of the day leaves at 7am, and having landed at 6.45, we tried to make it on foot arriving at the bus station at 7.02. Lesson: if you want to make the bus, avail of one of the taxis at the ferryport.

Our Plan B was an early morning coffee or two, the 8.30 two hour bus to Pula, a spot of amphitheatre viewing and the onward transfer to Rovinj (Brioni Pula bus).

Wanderfrau. We rented from Porta Antica in Rovinj, their property on Ulica Carera with harbour view. Easy people to deal with, the apartment was about the size of an average hotel room, limited cooking facilities but the place was bright and clean with efficient air conditioning. We particularly liked the location and the people in the shops nearby almost got to know us after a few days.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 06:42 PM
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SeeDee: Given the volume of younger visitors to the island,it was not surprising to find a number of bars still busy at 11pm, some with live music; all seemed very civilised and well behaved. We could not really recommend Hotel Park as a place to stay; a much needed revamp is long overdue.

Our overall verdict on Korcula? Bigger and busier than other islands we had visited, nice old town but we were left wondering how one would explore the island itself,if we were to have stayed longer. There appeared to be no dedicated walking trails and the narrow roads would seem a challenge to even cycling. It would seem that car or scooter rental hire would be a requisite if exploring the island over a few days was on the agenda.


FYI, you seem to have visited at the peak of summer season. I visited Korcula in mid-October 2009 - at the very end of the season, maybe just beyond the end! - and things were very different, even on a weekend. No young people in the old town at night - the restaurants were almost dead at night even at 19:00. You weren't even sure they were open until you walked up to them. Busier in the daytime with tour groups but dead at night.

I didn't get out of Korcula Town either, but there are local buses from the town to Vela Luka, etc. so it is possible to explore other parts of the island without a car (though a scooter would probably be fun). In fact, I traveled by bus from Dubrovnik to Korcula and that worked out fine, though I would have preferred using Korkyra's shuttle - not an option for me the day I traveled!

Nice report. Keep going!
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Aug 26th, 2011, 05:26 AM
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Ooops, did I say Belgrade re flights from Dubrovnik to Pula? I think that should read Zagreb.
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Aug 26th, 2011, 03:15 PM
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ROVINJ

Arriving in bright sunshine to the bustle of the marina and the Old Town was always going to create a favourable first impression. Perhaps it is the actual size of the town that makes it such an attractive place to stay but we immediately warmed to Rovinj. The people were no more friendly than anywhere else,the restaurant menus were pretty much the same as well but the scale of the place made you feel at home within hours.

After a day in the place, it slowly dawned on us that our tentative plans to explore the Istrian peninsula were never going to happen. After four days, we had not taken a day trip to the Brijuni Islands, we had not done our self-drive tour of the Istrian hilltowns, we had not taken the bus to Trieste - in short, we just relaxed into the daily routine of walking out to Punta Corrente to get our fix of sunshine, exercise and the compulsory stop at one of the many kiosks for "refreshments". Bicycle hire was widely available if one wished to explore the area a little more.

Self catering requirements in the centre of town are pretty well provided for by two Konzum shops, plus an open air market which seemed to specialise in local products such as olive oil. Supermarket options for food were not great; fresh meat and fish choices were limited, with very little pre-weighed produce on display in the fridges - navigating around the language barrier at the butcher counter has never been one of the favourite holiday experiences for me. White bread was baked daily but slightly sweet and chewy rather than crusty. Hams and cheeses were plentifully stocked, salads offerings were uninspiring.

With plenty of tourists about, the town offers restaurant choices aplenty - almost all with fish featuring heavily. Of the places we ate at, none could be faulted on what we got but, as elsewhere, menus tended to be a little predictable. La Puntalina has a very nice terrace overlooking the sea, Sidro offers a good people-watching vantage point at the harbourfront, Balbi is a busy spot in the Old Town; all fed us well for about €35 per person including wine.
We saved the best for last however as far as dining in Rovinj was concerned - it's a bit of a climb, and the bill is a bit steep as well, but we had an excellent meal at Monte on our last night in Croatia. For the first time on our holiday, the word inventive entered our minds and we were lucky to get their one-and-only balcony table-for-two for the evening. Staff were very pleasant and while we still went fish (main courses - mackerel and tuna), it came better presented and garnished than anything we had eaten to date.

Leaving at dawn for Venice on the Venezia Lines ferry, we had only positive things to take with us from Rovinj. It had the energy and buzz of a tourist resort but not the out-and-out commercialism of Dubrovnik, where visitors are delivered daily almost akin to a bread delivery.
We almost rejoice in the fact that we left so many things still on the to-do list - a reason to return. Of the sites we did visit, I would sound a slight note of caution about the climb up the tower at the church of St Euphemia; while the wooden stairs probably passes all the safety regulations, it still is not for the faint hearted.

As we sail away in the direction of the Italy Forum, many thanks for previous contributors to this forum who provided us with many of the suggestions that guided us in our planning for the trip. Many but not all boxes were ticked; next time though, we definitely will get to sample the lamb/goat/whatever under the iron bell at least once. And maybe some Istrian truffles......
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Aug 26th, 2011, 04:25 PM
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Thankyou for such an interesting and comprehensive report. It has been very helpful for planning our trip next year.
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Aug 27th, 2011, 11:48 AM
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Many thanks for the info and an excellent report.
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