|Subject: Trip Report - Croatia & Slovenia|
Croatia and Slovenia, with their long beautiful coastline bordering the Adriatic Sea, is said to be one of the cleanest and most unspoiled regions the world. Dubrovnik is the priceless gem jutting out into the Sea, surrounded by thick medieval walls. It is, in fact, called The Jewel of the Adriatic. We planned our annual spring trip to visit Croatia and Slovenia. We started in Dubrovnik, the picturesque old walled city right on the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. Our hotel was the President in the Babin Kuk area, which is just a few miles out of the city. Each room had a huge terrace facing the water. We were too early to enjoy the beach, but it would be a great destination just a few weeks later. It gets very crowded during the summer months. Even though tourism is growing in Croatia, we didn't encounter nearly as many people this March as we did in 1990. The walk around the top of this old walled city takes over an hour, but the views are spectacular and it shouldn't be missed. There is a small charge.
We took a day trip to Mostar - many thanks to those of you who suggested it - and saw the evidence of the heavy shelling the city took during the war in the early '90's, and viewed the restored landmark bridge. The old market was not open, but there were shops and prices were a bargain for very nice things. We ate lunch at an old restaurant in the city, lots of fun for a group. Plitvice Lakes are beautiful, but not on our agenda for a March trip, although it is open. Our guide said there is another area of forest and waterfalls further north, that is more scenic with a lot more waterfalls, but I can't recall the name - maybe Krka? We were also a bit early to visit any of the numerous islands off the coast of Croatia.
We headed north with stops in Split and Zadar, which boasts a most unusual organ in the sea. The pipes are in the water right at the coast line, so that the water surging through, sounds eight separate notes. Long-term plans are to enhance the coastal area with lights so that the large cruise ships which stop in port will be treated to the unusual musical tones as well as the lights. but if there's no tide, there will be no music.
We left the coast and headed inland by way of a new highway to go to Opatija, but it was not to be. The police stopped us and advised that the strong wind just might blow us off the road, so we had to take a detour. The next road we tried had the same problem, so we ended up taking the old road which led through an area that had been heavily damaged during the war. It was a sobering experience. The houses stood like empty skeletons. No one had returned to the homes or lands in this area, and there were signs posted indicating land mines throughout.
Opatija was beautiful and many took time out to take a day trip over to Venice. The rest of us enjoyed a free day. Our hotel with its Wellness Center was right on the coast. Thermal baths, massages and whirlpools were all available. In fact, both countries are noted for their health spas.
A leisurely trip to the Postojna Caverns provided awesome sights as we rode the little wooden train into the heart of the Cavern, then continued walking through.
Slovenia was equally beautiful. We started in Lake Bled, staying at the Golf Hotel, which has wonderful pools and thermal baths, as well as massages at their Wellness Center. Lake Bled is where Olympic rowing teams train, and has the beautiful chapel in the middle of the Lake. It's necessary to take a short boat ride to it, and the castle on the hill above makes for a picturesque scene. There are wonderful views from the castle and if you find the winery, you can bottle your own wine to bring home, and have your picture taken with the resident Monk. Our dinner that night was quite a treat. We were supposed to have dinner in the castle, and we were glad we didn't. One trek up the hill in the morning was quite enough for us, though of course we had taken the bus most of the way. We went to the nearby town of Radovljica and dined at the Lecter restaurant. We had music, we had dancing (we were the dancers) and it was a fun evening. There were others in the restaurant, but we seemed to be having the most fun because we all knew each other.
Another special treat was Portoroz, again right on the Sea, with our hotel facing the water. It's a beautiful town, in fact, a college town. Just a few years ago our guide had been a student there and he told us they would go across the street from the school to the coffee shop right on the beach in the late afternoons and watch the sunset each evening. Well. Somebody has to do it. I could have stayed longer there, but Pula was on our agenda. The well-preserved old Roman amphitheatre is here, and our guide's story telling gave life to the era of the gladiators This amphitheatre had a retractable cloth roof.
All of the places we visited were worth a much longer stay, but we had to see as much as we could in our limited two weeks. Ljubljana is a "little Venice" with Old World domed buildings, and we ended in Zagreb just in time to have an afternoon and night there and return home.
Would I got back? In a heartbeat. I read all of Don and Linda's trip reports as we planned the trip, but regret that we just couldn't see more.
Rosemary in Kansas City