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Croatia: Dubrovnik and Split


Joe H
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We have an interesting situation: I decided to use up all of my United miles before retiring and eleven months prior to the departure in late August, booked two seats to Venice, returning a week later. I should mention here that I've sold in Europe for thirty years and, at the time of making the reservation, thought we would go to Verona (including the opera) and Cortina. Because of my business I've been in this part of Italy many times and know my way around it. Exploring Asolo, Bassano and the Italian Alps and its foothills are a real adventure that we have planned on since confirming the tickets. One last visit to Venice-which we first visited almost twenty years ago-was also a type of possible anniversary for us.

But....I am fascinated by Dubrovnik. And Split is almost unknown by Americans. We could still use the same airline tickets, flying into Venice, rent a car and circuitously travel the coast ending up in Dubrovnik. I have an impression that this is one of the most beautiful places on earth but almost unknown by most Americans. I've seen numerous travel videos including the Amazing Race, all of which intrigue me.

Has anyone been?

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Not been but going to Dubrovnik in about 6 weeks. My sense is that Split is largely untouched but that Dubrovnik has a steady steam of day visitors.

I'll report what, if anything, I find... Though maybe you're going before me. Have you found any intriguing suggestions of places to try in Dubrovnik anywhere on the inter-webs?

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I have not seen the No Reservations show but will definitely try to find it. We go in late August so I'm really interested in your thoughts on returning. Thanks, Eric, for this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVsIwVKVD3c&feature=related "The next big thing is Croatia."

http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/food-and-drink/articles/dubrovnik-nightlife

I should also note that Split has a Roman amphitheatre as large as the one in Rome.

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http://www.bluedanub.../winery/bibich/ is the link for the wine (Bibich) which Tony drinks in the No Reservations episode. I just bought a case of it (shiraz, merlot and cabernet/merlot-four each) from the San Francisco based importer. For anyone reading this they do NOT have anyone representing them in the mid Atantic states. Mark, Joe...? Anyone interested in Croatian wine that Tony Bourdain raved about? I have some personal experience with excellent Moldovan and Slovenian wine and regard them as genuine bargains for the level of quality. I expect these to be similar.
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We have an interesting situation: I decided to use up all of my United miles before retiring and eleven months prior to the departure in late August, booked two seats to Venice, returning a week later. I should mention here that I've sold in Europe for thirty years and, at the time of making the reservation, thought we would go to Verona (including the opera) and Cortina. Because of my business I've been in this part of Italy many times and know my way around it. Exploring Asolo, Bassano and the Italian Alps and its foothills are a real adventure that we have planned on since confirming the tickets. One last visit to Venice-which we first visited almost twenty years ago-was also a type of possible anniversary for us.

But....I am fascinated by Dubrovnik. And Split is almost unknown by Americans. We could still use the same airline tickets, flying into Venice, rent a car and circuitously travel the coast ending up in Dubrovnik. I have an impression that this is one of the most beautiful places on earth but almost unknown by most Americans. I've seen numerous travel videos including the Amazing Race, all of which intrigue me.

Has anyone been?

I'm 25% Croatian, but I'm also 25% Italian, so I'm ... are you ready for this one? ... "Split" down the middle.

(PS - I swear to God this is true. My mom's parents came over on a boat from Zagreb and Bologna.)

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I'm not sure if going to Porec in the early 80's with Waitman (even taking into account the horrid drive through the Julian Alps) or camping in Oregon with the kids counted as the best vacation ever but I will say that the seafood in Croatia did not suck. The nudist camping park was rather interesting too. I thought the granddaughter was much more compelling than the grandmother (so did W-man). Watching people play tennis in nothing but sneakers made me giggle. Seriously. Where are they going to keep their balls?

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I was in Split and Dubrovnik in April 1988, so my impressions are from a very different time - both for me and those places. I think both are absolutely worth seeing, especially if you've already spent time in Venice and that region. My palate wasn't quite as refined back then and my student budget limited my dining options, but I still have some excellent memories. One of them being able to walk into a pastry shop and spend the equivalent of (maybe) a few dollars for an assortment of lovely confections. A few friends and I sat on a bench in the sun and sampled them all - pure decadence at the time :) The harbor in Split is picturesque, the promenade was bustling, and, as I recall, the water was a beautiful blue.

I do remember eating a lot of grilled meat while in (the then-)Yugoslavia. Even though communication was difficult, the people were helpful and friendly. I can't imagine it would be any different (if not easier) these days.

The Dalmatian coast is stunning and Dubrovnik is like no other place I've ever been. Go - you won't be disappointed!

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Not sure that helps explain the situation... :ph34r:

Well, in the old days casual tennis players kept extra balls in their pants (or panties if they were female). If you don't have any clothing on except for shoes where will you keep the extras? :( Perhaps I'm dating myself?
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I was in Split and Dubrovnik in April 1988, so my impressions are from a very different time - both for me and those places. I think both are absolutely worth seeing, especially if you've already spent time in Venice and that region. My palate wasn't quite as refined back then and my student budget limited my dining options, but I still have some excellent memories. One of them being able to walk into a pastry shop and spend the equivalent of (maybe) a few dollars for an assortment of lovely confections. A few friends and I sat on a bench in the sun and sampled them all - pure decadence at the time :) The harbor in Split is picturesque, the promenade was bustling, and, as I recall, the water was a beautiful blue.

I do remember eating a lot of grilled meat while in (the then-)Yugoslavia. Even though communication was difficult, the people were helpful and friendly. I can't imagine it would be any different (if not easier) these days.

The Dalmatian coast is stunning and Dubrovnik is like no other place I've ever been. Go - you won't be disappointed!

Thank you, Goldenticket. Really nice post; I think you captured a moment that we want to experience. You will be toasted...!

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A cousin of mine lived for a year in Zagreb, so I went and visited him--March 2009, I think it was. He said that the Croatians had a love for eating in restaurants that looked like caves, and we went to one just outside of downtown Zagreb, in a quiet residential area. Lots and lots of grilled meats and some excellent red wine. I also remember going to a cafe on the main square in Zagreb and having some of the best coffee I have ever had along with a deliciously indulgent slice of cake (my grandfather whose parents came from Vienna would be proud). Unfortunately I did not get to see Croatia outside of Zagreb, but I was pleasantly surprised by the city, as my cousin said that the capital was rather drab and industrial compared to other, smaller cities and the gorgeous Dalmatian coast. We also went out for some pretty good sushi at a Japanese restaurant in Zagreb--so I guess I sampled some of the countries' fresh seafood there.

Just after I left, my cousin and his now-wife rented a car and made the same exact trip you did. And they loved it.

Perhaps the funniest memory of that trip was getting off the plane--walking down a flight of stairs directly on to the tarmac--taking a bus into town, and realizing that I forgot to make plans to meet my cousin. I was used to just calling people on a cell phone back in the states, but had no use of it on my trip to Europe (Zagreb being the meat of the sandwich around several days in Paris on either side). Having disembarked the airport bus at the bus station, I asked at a tourist center the directions into the heart of the town, got completely turned around and wandered around near a busy four-lane highway in a somewhat industrial area, before finding my bearings, going into an internet cafe where I e-mailed my cousin, and I waited around in the main square people-watching before he found me.

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Thank you, aaronsinger. It must have been an incredible adventure that you experienced!!

My wife and I watched the Bachelorette tonight (don't laugh!!). When they were showing the previews of coming weeks several scenes looked like Dubrovnik. I played around on the internet for awhile and, yes, she will have a date in Dubrovnik.

The big deal of this will not be the show; rather it will be a perspective for Dubrovnik that might capture a bit of what my wife and I could experience. Anyway, for anyone reading this, in addition to No Reservations there will also be the Bachelorette as well as about fifteen minutes on the Amazing Race last year (which started all of this for me).

http://www.dubrovnikphotos.com/displayimage.php?album=11&pos=2

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Well, we are set: the Venice airport to Pula, Croatia for the night then on to Dubrovnik (hotels are as expensive as

Venice-it has been discovered!) for several days, Split (and an island or two for several) then returning to Trieste before flying home. Can't believe we're passing up Venice and Verona for the Dalmatian Coast but somebody has to report back.

For anyone reading this if you also happen to watch the Bachelorette when they end up in Dubrovnik please toast us. We may still be on the road trying to find it...

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Hey, so I am planning a trip to Croatia with a probably visit in the following places: Zagreb, Pula, Plitvice National Park, Zadar, Split, Hvar, then Korcula and Orebic on the way to Dubrovnik. If anyone has any recs on places to stay, sights to see, restaurants, markets, shops for food items- pretty much all the knowledge you possibly have on Croatia, I would love it.

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In Dubrovnik, check out the aquarium that's in the city wall down by the water's edge - on the eastern tip of the old city. It isn't huge but neat to see the fish, (some) in stone tanks at the edge of the Adriatic. For places to eat, you might try the north side of town, up the sides streets. I don't have a particular recommendation in Dubrovnik as they are all kind of touristy but the people were nice. Enjoy

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So this will cover a little bit more of Croatia than just Dubrovnik and Split. Also because Croatia is just so amazing I might offer some suggestions and input as well...

General Overview: Croatia was a very easy place to vacation, with more to offer than many European destinations I have already visited. It is now a member of the EU. I am not sure if they will change from the Kuna to the Euro, but both currency were accepted in many places. It was a very affordable place to travel in terms of food, lodging and activities. Hubby would be better with exact amounts, but we were very pleased overall. Most everyone spoke at least some English, with most people speaking good English, most menus are in multiple languages. Driving in the country was very easy with very well marked roads and signs, also because there aren't very many huge cities it tends to be easier to get around. Food was generally good, although somewhat lacking in excitement, we also didn't seek out the fanciest places. Also as a Diet Coke fiend I found the general lack of Coca-Cola Light and prevalence of Coke Zero a little dismaying, luckily I like Fanta and Orangina a good bit. I would recommend starting in Dubrovnik on any trip, we didn't- you should. At the bottom of my post I am also going to list towns we drove by and didn't stop at that I would recommend stopping.

Zagreb- we got here right as the country was getting inducted into the EU, so many of the museums and churches were closed because of the proximity to the ceremonies and all the security. We stayed at the Esplanada which was a REALLY nice hotel. Beautiful inside and easy walking distance to everything we wanted to see. We saw the cleaning up of the Dolac Market, but missed it due to our timing. I would have liked to have seen that. We did see the Cathedral and a few other churches, the old city gate. Just due to timing and closures we didn't do a huge amount of touring, we did get to see a lot of the EU induction though. We just grabbed lunch somewhere by Dolac Market, but up the street from the market and churches looked like some better options so I would recommend going up that way.

The next day on the way to Plitvice National Park, our rental car broke down because someone put the wrong petrol in it. We got a replacement in an hour, but ate lunch at the Marche at the exit at Karlovac off the A!. I would recommend this, but it actually had decent chicken kebabs and wasn't at all like most gas station markets, more like a little quick lunch counter place. I would have rather kept going and eaten in the beautiful town of Rastoke Croatia. If you are going to Plitvice, make this town a stop, it is really beautiful. And definitely put Plitvice on the itinerary it is worth seeing. After touring Plitvice and grabbing a beer in the park, we ate at Fortuna restaurant on the way to Vinjerac. It had spit roated meat, either lamb or pork, we were there on lamb night. It was really good a plentiful serving of juicy meat, with bits of crunchy skin. We ordered grilled vegetables with it which were really good. We also had local cheese and proscuitto and some olives and some house wine and Croatian beer. We stayed the night in the small town of Vinjerac which would have been cute for dinner if we weren't so behind from the rental car situation. It is near Zadar, which would also be a fine place to stay.

We toured Zadar the next day and it was cute, we didn't need a lot of time for touring, but it was worth seeing. We ate lunch at a place that wasn't good at all in the Art Hotel. We then drove to Split. We stayed in the Royal Hotel in Split, which was a really nice little hotel near the main party of town, it was up a few slights of stairs and I don't think they had an elevator. We had the practice of taking a small bag in with us and kept our large suitcases in the trunk of our rental car. The girl at the desk was really helpful, she bought our ferry tickets for us and gave us good recommendations. Split is really a cool town and I could have stayed there a bit longer than we did. They had nice shopping in the Old Town, a farmer's market, really great ruins of Diocletian's palace, the belltower is worth a climb if you aren't afraid of heights. We ate at Tattoria Bajamont, which had good fresh seafood pastas which we both got with different sauces and seafood. The next day we ate at a restaurant nextdoor that was really colorful and modern in decoration I can't find it on trip advisor or google maps which I find the new version of much more useless than the old. We also went to the CityOne Center just to check out their shopping malls and went to the Interspar grocery store which was fun. They had whole aisles of cured meat. We got some chips and cheese and sandwiches for the beach.

We took the ferry to Hvar. I adored Hvar. We stayed at the Amfora Grand Beach Resort. It was the priciest hotel we stayed in while we were there, but we really enjoyed the pool, breakfast and beach. The rooms were very modern, they were comfortable and fine, but it was like the designer designed a hip looking room then never had to live in the design as there were a few things that were fine, but less comfortable if not so design oriented. They had a free breakfast that was fine, had a large selection of items and it was interesting as they had a lot of items catering to a lot of different countries and their idea of breakfast. We ate our packed lunch on the beach the next day, we also had some drinks at the swim up bar at the pool. That night we went to Dalmatino in town and that was excellent. I had braised beef over homemade gnocchi that was fantastic. We had very good Tomic Plavic wine and zucchini "tartare" that was very tasty (with olive oil a little balsamic and Parmesan cheese). I would highly recommend this restaurant. We really liked the island of Hvar it was our favorite part of the trip. We would have liked to have more time there. The next afternoon we went to tour the Tomic winery (if you call in advance they will do it with food, our tasting was great, but do this instead). The wine was very good, we ended up buying 9 bottles, Hubby said all nine bottles cost less than a tank of gas. We should have bought more, it was so good. There are lots of other wine shops in Jelsa where you can try the wine. We ate dinner at Konoba Nono which was fine. Hubby had a steak, I had octopus salad and cuttlefish risotto. The risotto wasn't as creamy in ink sauce as others, it was fine flavorwise, but the steak with grilled veggies and potatoes was really good. Hvar was gorgeous and the people were very nice, it has a bit of a party atmosphere, but there is something for everyone.

The next day we wanted to take the ferry to Korcula (via Vela Luka), but we couldn't seem to find if and when the ferry was running, so we instead drove to Sucuraj and ferried to Drvenik and then drove to Dubrovnik. That takes a good bit of time to drive, they are improving the roads in a lot of the country and the D8 and the A1 and E65 are very nice, but some of the back roads reminded me of driving in parts of West Virginia. This one definitely did, if you are squeamish about driving, I would plan another route, as even when the road project is done I expect some parts will still be very winding. We were starving, but the Sucuraj ferry was quite early so we grabbed burgers and chips in the ferry bar there. The burgers were actually good freshly prepared and cooked burgers. The ferry wasn't long so when we finished eating it was time to hop back in the car and move on. As a note they don't really tell you when you need to get back in your car for the ferry so you need to watch for it and people tend to crowd to get off so give yourself some time to get down to your car as they pull the cars out and turn around really fast so you want to get down there before you land.

We stopped in Ston to walk the city walls, we weren't planning on doing this so we weren't really prepared with water or the right footwear but it was a lot of fun. Ston is known for their oysters and had a lot of restaurants but we kept on going to Dubrovnik as we wanted to get there before it got dark. I wish we would have gotten to Korcula, it looks amazing. I also would have liked to stop briefly in Sibenik to see the Cathedral and in Trigor to see the town. There are also some historic vineyards in Primosten. Additionally I would have liked to have stopped in KRKA National Park, as well. We should have planned this route to take two days with a stop over that night somewhere in here. Too much cool stuff to see, and we didn't need as much time in Dubrovnik as we thought.

Dubrovnik is a beautiful city. It is amazing the restoration that has happened since the war, it is very hard to tell there was a conflict in many places, although there are some subtle reminders. I would start here first, only because if you end here it doesn't seem as impressive as it otherwise would and the tour groups coming through can be a little overwhelming. For this reason I would also recommend not staying in the Old Town. We stayed at the Valamar Presidente which was fine it was in Babin Kuk and had a walkway into the Lapad Beach area. There were a lot of nice hotels in that area. It was a short bus ride to Old Town costing $12 Kuna. I think 1-2 days should be sufficient for touring even at a slower pace as the Old Town is pretty much what there is to see. As there are a lot of cruise ship tours, the city becomes much easier to tour after 3:00 pm and it also starts cooling off then. I highly recommend the city walls, although it is a lot of walking and stairs. I also really highly recommend the monastery and seeing the cathedral and other churches in the Old Town. We ate at: Buono (twice because of convenience) which served Italian fare, with a few Dalmatian regional dishes. I had grilled squid with boiled potatoes and greens one night, the squid was excellently spiced and cooked, the potatoes and greens needed some condiments to fix them up a little, but there was olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper on the table which worked well. The other night I just got spaghetti bolognese which was great, not anything unexpected, but it tasted good and after a long day of walking with another long day of walking ahead the carbs were good. I also could order a Jack Daniels on the rocks and a Coke Zero separately and mix them. We had wine one night and I will say generally most all the wine from table wine to better bottles of Croatian wine were very good and very affordable. In Old Town we ate at Marco Polo. I had an Istrian pasta dish with mushrooms and peas that I didn't realize had cream, it was good, but multiple dairy pills were required. I also had seared seasame encrusted tuna and grilled vegetables in balsamico this was a really fresh dish, tuna was well seared and I really liked the vegetables. We also had a burger and club sandwich at our hotel which was good. As a note, pretty much everything but french fries are prepared fresh and are served on bread that is of much better quality then a normal store bought bread. French fries are all mostly frozen with some being better than others. We also went to Tuto Benne which was "fast food" I had a grilled chicken sandwich and MK had a kebab with "Mexico Sauce" (kind of a cross between hot sauce and ketchup that isn't very spicy).

We went to Locram Island on a water taxi to escape the Disney Cruise hoards which was nice. It has tons of peacocks, beaches and some ruins of Maximillians palace which was also a summer home for Napoleon. We also did some diving, which was fine, but wasn't the best diving in terms of fish variety.

Anyway I would go Dubrovnik up. Trip Advisor is helpful for restaurants as there is no Yelp yet or other things. The concierges are not very helpful in most bigger places as they are trying to sell you tours and restaurants they are paid to send you to, but they are great in the little small hotels. If you feel the need to stop in Neum as you cross through Bosnia, if you go that way, I wouldn't. It isn't unsafe or anything just not a lot different to see, except a lot poorer and everyone seemed to stare at us as it was obvious here we were tourists and didn't fit in. We never felt that way in any part of Croatia, we felt welcome and just like a part of life there.

I think Croatia is a place that Americans would find very easy to travel in and it has ruins that are excellently preserved, great beaches that while rocky similar to many places in Europe have beautiful bright blue water. The food isn't really exciting, but it is very easy for an american who doesn't like to venture out of their palate and their are more interesting choices for someone wanting something different. We could have made more of an attempt to eat at some nicer places, but a lot of it like always is convenience. There isn't a huge amount of shopping, but you can find what you need. The hours are generally pretty long, there could be some closures in between afternoon and evening, and some shops close earlier than others, but things were generally open. Everyone was laid back and helpful. Oh and the rental car return at Dubrovnik is a zoo, so if you don't follow my advice and start there, give yourself some time to negotiate rental car return. Croatia was a great place to drive through and see different places, it really wasn't hard to drive, there wasn't traffic like we have seen in Spain or Italy that is just crazy to navigate. This is just overall an absolutely great place to vacation.

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I've just returned from a 4-day jaunt to Dubrovnik (am back in Greece for now), and can report on a few places in the city.

First things first, Dubrovnik is one of the best places I've traveled to (in my limited travel experience) and would highly recommend Croatia in general. The people are quite friendly and are not displaying any obvious 'tourist fatigue' (emphasis on obvious), transportation around the city is easy, and there are plenty of high and low options for dining and drinks. Here's a brief overview of the places we visited:

Lokanda Peskarija"”Avoid. This place overlooking the harbor in the old city is overpriced and of poor quality. According to our local hostess, LP is the victim of overexpansion. When it was a smaller restaurant, this was one of DBV's best places for seafood. However, the seafood platter we ordered was a sad assortment of likely frozen seafood quickly tossed in a skillet and served to us. The shrimp were of a questionable color (pinkish with occasional blackening and greying), and quite flavorless. The mussels were similarly flavorless, and the filleted fish (swordfish and mackerel, I believe) were tough and a bit smelly (no clean ocean smell). I didn't even bother with the cuttlefish.

Taj Mahal"”Go. Despite the name, this is actually a restaurant (with multiple locations I believe) that specializes in Bosnian food, which is a meat-centric cuisine. I sampled a couple of dishes, including a veal dish in a phyllo-like dough and a dish with a bunch of ground beef links cooked on a grill and placed in a large pita bread. The latter dish is also served with a cream cheese-type spread. The latter dish was very good, as was the first. We also got a salad that resembled a Greek salad, but with boiled potatoes, which I really enjoyed. Very hearty and good fuel for walking around the old city later in the day.

Toni Spaghetteria"”Meh. A decent pasta place socked away in the old city, but targets tourists exclusively. I had the conchiglioni with 4 types of mushrooms, which was served in a cream sauce. The shells were cooked to a nice al dente texture, and the sauce and mushrooms were flavorful, but there was no wow factor for any aspect of the dish. Thus, I can't really say much about the dish other than it was no more than carboloading for more walking around the city.

Restaurant Kopun"”Absolutely Go. This was the highlight of the trip. Located in the old city's Jesuit square, Kopun opened in 2012 and focuses on refined Croatian classics and its specialty is preparations of capon (aka castrated rooster). My cousin and I split the capon salad and fried calamari, and we each got the stewed capon dish as our mains. The salad was an excellent preparation of salad greens, fresh figs, peaches, and perhaps grapes with a balsamic drizzle. The fruits in the salad were all very flavorful and fresh, and provided a very nice counterpoint to the light savory flavor of the capon. The calamari dish rivaled any calamari I've had in Greece (my gold standard for calamari), and was flavorful with an al dente texture and a nice side dish of potatoes. The stewed capon was my favorite dish in all 5 days with two significant pieces of dark meat garnished with fresh fruits and a lightly sweet sauce that was neither cloying nor syrupy in texture. I would likely travel back to DBV for this dish.

Buža Bar"”Absolutely Go. Extremely touristy but worth it nonetheless. The famed Buža Bars are located on the exterior of the old city walls and overlook the Adriatic. They can be found by heading to the south of the old city and looking for signs that say "cold drinks," and entering through a hole in the wall (i.e. a 'buža'). Don't expect a gin with housemade tonic or some other tropical tiki monstrosity. Just go here, get a KarlovaÄko or a Ožujsko beer and watch the sun set over the sea while sitting either at a table or on the rocks. It was one of the simplest and most satisfying things we did. Just hope you don't see a dumb French girl almost fall off the rocks like we did.

Art Caffe"”Go. A small and friendly bar/café just north of the Pile Gate of the old city. Good for a few drinks before or after dinner.

I realize that many of these locations are targeted to tourists and I wanted to go to places that locals tend to visit. However, because Dubrovnik is so small, we were told that invariably the locals end up at some of the touristy places anyway. Nevertheless, if you don't really care about whether something is touristy or not, I definitely recommend visiting at least some of the places we went to (except Lokanda Peskarija).

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Ok, so because I am utterly in love with Croatia, I am going back with my Mother in May.  I think it's a place she just needs to see.  This time we are doing a little bit of a different trip.  We are taking the ferry from Venice to Ravinj (anyone ever done this?) and we will be exploring the area and staying in: Pula, Krk, Split, Hvar (with probably a daytrip to Brac), Plitvice and Zagreb.  I kind of talked my Mother out of Dubrovnik.  I just thought two cities (Venice and Dubrovnik) absolutely packed during the day with cruise ships was too much and we would rather see smaller towns.  Anyway if anyone has any recommendations for restaurants or sights let me know.  We will be renting a car.  I am hoping to catch someone selling cheese out of their trunk at a gas station again, and this time, we are buying some!

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I went to Istria (and Rovinij) for a while this summer.  Write up here: http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?/topic/40272-istria-and-slovenia/

If you have time, exploring Istria is wonderful.  We stayed in a restored farmhouse from Air BnB near Grojznan.  Some wonderful food to be found around there.

Rovinij was nice (although it rained a lot while we were there) but you don't need more than an hour or two there, especially after being in Venice.  I do recommend Brijuni if your mother is active and likes to walk or bike.

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Ok, so because I am utterly in love with Croatia, I am going back with my Mother in May.  I think it's a place she just needs to see.  This time we are doing a little bit of a different trip.  We are taking the ferry from Venice to Ravinj (anyone ever done this?) and we will be exploring the area and staying in: Pula, Krk, Split, Hvar (with probably a daytrip to Brac), Plitvice and Zagreb.  I kind of talked my Mother out of Dubrovnik.  I just thought two cities (Venice and Dubrovnik) absolutely packed during the day with cruise ships was too much and we would rather see smaller towns.  Anyway if anyone has any recommendations for restaurants or sights let me know.  We will be renting a car.  I am hoping to catch someone selling cheese out of their trunk at a gas station again, and this time, we are buying some!

I went to Istria (and Rovinij) for a while this summer.  Write up here: http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?/topic/40272-istria-and-slovenia/

If you have time, exploring Istria is wonderful.  We stayed in a restored farmhouse from Air BnB near Grojznan.  Some wonderful food to be found around there.

Rovinij was nice (although it rained a lot while we were there) but you don't need more than an hour or two there, especially after being in Venice.  I do recommend Brijuni if your mother is active and likes to walk or bike.

My maternal grandmother arrived at Ellis Island on a boat from Croatia (her sister was sent back, and they never saw each other again) - I have untold numbers of relatives in Croatia, hence a personal interest in this one.

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I went to Istria (and Rovinij) for a while this summer.  Write up here: http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?/topic/40272-istria-and-slovenia/

If you have time, exploring Istria is wonderful.  We stayed in a restored farmhouse from Air BnB near Grojznan.  Some wonderful food to be found around there.

Rovinij was nice (although it rained a lot while we were there) but you don't need more than an hour or two there, especially after being in Venice.  I do recommend Brijuni if your mother is active and likes to walk or bike.

Thank you so much!  My Mother is quite a bit older than me so I think the amount of walking just to see what we want to see during the days is going to be a good bit for her, but she might like the idea of a bike.  I have told her she needs to start walking more and incorporating in some stairs in preparation, but I don't know how seriously she is taking me on that.  (I won't make her walk the wall between Ston and Mali-Ston.)  After our last trip to Paris she is really skeptical about me saying something is walkable.

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Ok, can we make Croatia it's own country instead of dividing up two cities out of it then splitting half the country into the Istria/Slovenia section?  I think it's confusing, maybe it's just me, but I think it should just be one country for all the reviews, it really isn't big enough to be worth breaking up like this.  I am going to post my WHOLE Croatia travel report here when I get some more energy.  I started to type it and jetlag hit hard.  

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So trip report:

This time I went with my Mother.  We flew into Venice and spent a couple days there before taking the ferry across to Rovinj.  That ferry is pretty rocky, I was fine, but many on the trip got see sick, it must be fairly normal as the girls in the cabin had lots of barf bags.

Medulin, Pula, Motovun and Groznjan

We spent our first two nights at the Park Plaza Belvedere Medulin.  This was a nice, sleek modern hotel, we didn't go to the pool or beach there, but it looked nice.  Their continental breakfast was pretty meh.  We spent the next day touring Motovun and Groznjan, which I highly recommend.  Both are artist community hill towns, Motovun is a bit more touristy, but still worth the stop as they have olive oil producers you can stop at, wine producers (we like Falkin) and tastings in town and a really great restaurant Pod Napun.  The restaurant is back a little alley, and is perched on the side of the hill with a beautiful view.  We had both black and white truffle pastas which were delicious a Mediterranean salad, olive oil tasting and wine all for about $44 US dollars.  The walled town is really pretty to walk around.  Groznjan was definitely more real artisans and a few more cafes.  You can easily see both together as they are very close to one another.  We then went to Pula to see the Roman amphitheater, which was just amazing, so well preserved, we also found the Roman forum. I wouldn't necessarily stay in Pula, but seeing the sights was really worth a stop, just amazing.   We got back into town kind of late and we got a little grumpy at trying to find a restaurant because Mom didn't want to eat outside.  I wanted to go to this grill places but driving by they weren't grilling out.  We ended up eating at the hotel, which was a mistake, but we have a good bottle of malvazia, but I forget the winery.

Krk

The next day we drove to Krk. We drove through Lovran which just looked like an amazing place, we should have stopped here and wandered and gotten lunch.  We then continued onto Krk and drove through a few of the small towns on the island then spent the afternoon at the pool. Our hotel was the Valamar romantic Koralj, it did not really live up to the name it was ok, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but they had a nice pool.   Unfortunately, no food at the pool, so we snacked on some munchies we had. That night we walked into town and had dinner at Galija after seeing some of the sights in town.  They had delicious bread and we spaghetti with mussels and arugula and a seafood platter with fish, prawns, squid and mussels.  Again, can't remember the wine, there are so many wineries in Croatia and so much of the wine is really good.   Based on how good their bread is, I would assume the pizza is very good.

Zadar, Trogir and Split

We drove through Senj and some other towns on our way to Split.  We went into Zadar for a lunch and walk stop, which was fun as we saw the musical stairs at the ocean and the church and Roman ruins.  We stopped roadside and bought some local cheese.  We had a grill platter at a little place called Fast Food Nana.  The grill platter probably would have fed 1-2 more people.  We had chicken, beef sausages, ground beef made into sausage size links and a pork chop and fries.  It was pretty darn tasty, we were starving though.  We then visited Trogir, which was really beautiful and got some gelato.   A UNESCO world heritage site, with just an amazing old town and church, worth a stop, for sure.  We then came into Split.  We stayed at the Sleep Inn Split which was a great little hotel.  Great ac, bathroom, bed, awesome location,Only downfall is no reserved parking.  That night we walked the old town of Split and had wine a the Luxor listening to live music at Diocletian's Palace.  We had some of our cheese with crackers and some chocolate.

Split

We wandered the old town of Split, shopped, etc.  We had a great lunch at Diocletian's Wine Bar, which I highly recommend. shrimp, mozzarella and arugula bruschetta and seafood pasta with razor clams, vongole clams, cockles and mussels, and a lovely red wine from Croatia, a plavic.  We went to the museums, etc.  We had so much fun, then we packed up the car and headed to the car ferry for Hvar, on the way we picked up salami more crackers, bottles of wine (Tomic and Zlatan Otok), etc for our ferry ride picnic. The other places highly recommended to us where Figa and Poisiden.  

Hvar

We had a rainy couple days in Hvar at the Amphora Grand Beach Resort.  Another awesome hotel.  I highly recommend it, although the bathrooms are a little weird.  The pool and beach area just amazing and a really short walk into downtown Hvar.  We ended up doing a good bit of shopping.  We ate dinner that night at Alviz.  I wish we would have called ahead because we wanted to try Peka, but instead we had a really great Barmaid pizza with ham, bacon, Gorgonzola and a Mediterranean salad.  We also had the house white wine which was... ehh, but fine.  We made it out in time to catch a piano concert at the monastery.  The next day we did the wine tasting with food at Tomic winery in Jelsa.  I absolutely, completely recommend this.  Their wine is just phenomenal and known all over Croatia.  The wine tasting with food is essentially a two hour lunch with amazing wine.  The food was cured meats, cheeses of different varieties with a really amazing not dry feta that was crazy good, anchovies, olives, smoked fish and chocolates.  We ended up bringing about 20 bottles of their wine home with us between Mom and I.  That night we had dinner at Dalmatino, this place is kind of hard to get into and they are a bit pretentious about getting a seat, but once seated the service is excellent and then they treat you delightfully.  They serve multiple brandies and grappas, including a rosemary grappa that was incredible, wish we found out where that was from and bought some.  I had a fliet mignon with anchovy puree and tomatoes and leeks that was really tasty.  We also had the zucchini carpaccio which was really good too.  Steak was a nice change of pace from all the pasta and pizza we have eaten.  We had a bottle of Chardonnay from Krauthker, which was just fantastic, a winery I would like to check out if we are ever in Solvenia.  We spent the next day which was finally nice by the pool with burgers.  That night we took another ferry with another ferry picnic.  At the market in Hvar we picked up some amazing venison and boar salami, much better than what I have had in the USA which is a shame since we have so much wild boar and venison, seems to be we are missing something there.  We also got some amazing dried figs, apricots, sour cherries and nectarines at that market.

Plitvicka Jezera (Plitvice Lakes) 

We drove here from the ferry dept in Split which was a long drive on a dark, rainy night.  We missed the turn for the interstate so we took the back road, which I am sure is lovely in sunlight.  The next day lunch was at some roadside restaurant by the park, it was fine, but not great, will try to find the name, but in both directions there are places with spit roasted meats nearby, hold out for one of those, so much better.  

Zagreb

In Zagreb we stayed at Hotel Esplanade again, and I highly recommend it.  Amazing hotel at a great rate for how nice the rooms are and the service.  We had dinner at the restaurant there, which was really good.  I should have taken more pictures of menus, as again I can't remember our wine, it was one of the two malvazia's by the glass on the list, we tasted both and picked which one we liked more.  We wandered the city and I got an, "I Love Break Ups" tshirt from the museum of broken relationships that should be hilarious at my next family law attorney function.  I will try to fill in more details and pictures later.

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Just got back from an amazing trip to the Dalmatian Coast. Unbelievable. We did 3 nights in Dubrovnik, and then 7 nights on a boat, through G Adventures. What a great way to travel.

Dubrovnik is a gorgeous city, now very famous for being one of the places that Game of Thrones filmed. Throngs of visitors come through every day, and they finally had to limit the number of cruises ships that dock at the main harbor, because there was day that 7 docked on the same day, and you literally could not get into the Old City. 

Will focus on the food and drink obviously. Dubrovnik does not have great food. Mostly everything is tourist trap food at very, very high prices. It's difficult to get an assessment from locals on where is good to eat - the old trick of asking your cab driver or tour guide doesn't work here. The majority of Croats do not have enough money to spend on sit down meals, especially at restaurants in Old Town Dubrovnik, as the median income is $900-1000 a month. They have a custom of locally sourced and organic before it was cool, and people either eat at home or possibly have street food at bakeries, kebab shops, or cevapi (grilled minced meat served with home baked bread and some sauces). So, everyone will tell you the same recommendations and when you ask if they've ever eaten there, they will always say no.

Anyway, our first meal was at La Bodega in Old Town, near the big church at the end of the main drag ('Stradun'). It's in a few different cities in Croatia, and focuses on prosciutto, cheese, Croatian wines, and beer. It is pretty happening most of the day, and then at night is probably the busiest place in all of OT. Very good meats and cheeses, had a few local beers and had a fun conversation with the waiter who dreamed of becoming a waiter in NYC. Dinner was at Restaurant Kopun, based on recommendation from above. They are known for capon (castrated rooster) which I guess makes the bird more flavorful. We had the Kopun Risotto and a whole fish (dentex, cannot find out if there is an American version of this). Was prepared very well. Had some rakias (flavored liquors). Basically American prices. 

The second day we went on a tour of the Old Town and then saw panoramic views of the city and then headed to Cavtat, a really cute coastal town about 20 minutes from Dubrovnik. Much less people there, very serene and nice. Had lunch at Bugenvila - grilled octopus, oysters with cucumber and soybean beads, tuna nicoise salad, and sea bass. Fresh, simple, delicious. About American prices. Early evening, we went to D'Vona, a neat wine bar in the old town. Had cheese and oil (a cured cheese) with a flight of white and red Croatian wines. Delicious. Dinner was at Proto, and we had cold lobster and seafood linguine, as we weren't super hungry. This place was really expensive. A whole fish was over $100 (1kg). One of my least favorite meals. 

The next day we took a day trip to Ston and the wine country (Peljesac Peninsula). For a late morning snack, we stopped at an oyster shack outside the walls of Mali Ston (little Ston). They got them out of the water that day, and shucked them in front of us. They gave us housemade rakia (I think it was the herbal stuff, travarica), and housemade white wine. The winery tour was fun. They had recommended a few places, but I really wanted to go to Grgic, famous for being the winemaker for Chateau Montelena at the Judgement of Paris, where we beat the pants of the French. I don't recommend this winery. They make two wines, the whole thing lasted 7 minutes, didn't learn a thing, and it was so out of the way. Should have listened to our tour guide, because he was on point for everything else. We went to Milos next, a winemaking family for 500 years. Excellent reds, bought a bunch, and their olive oil was amazing, so got some of that. We went to a place more known for their rakias, and proceeded to inebriation and more purchasing of wines, rakias, and olive oils. On the way back, we stopped for lunch in Ston at the Captain's House. Most of the tour groups end of stopping here, but it's pretty good. Had a seafood salad, cuttlefish risotto, and grilled octopus. Fresh, simple, delicous. Notice a theme?

The last day on land, we saw the photo museum with pictures from the war, and then had lunch at the Bosnian place in OT, Taj Mahal. My traveling bud had the cevapi and I had a lamb kabob. It was pretty good. Then we boarded the yacht. 'Yacht' means a lot of things. This was an adequate boat... meaning we mostly went to the bathroom at restaurants and cafes, and showered at marinas that had facilities. The first island we stopped at was Sipan, and we ate at a place called Tauris.. The prize of the night was huge fresh fish, which was fried and devoured by our motley crew of 2 Americans, 5 Ozzies, and a Brit. If I have any suggestions of being trapped on a small boat for 7 nights, I'd say bring as many Ozzies as possible, it leads to a lot of shenanigans, ballyhoo, and too much laughter. 

The next day, lunch and breakfast on the boat, and then after a beautiful bike ride on the island of Mljet, we had dinner at a place called Stella Maris. We had Peka (meat topped with a bell filled with charcoal, cooked low and slow). Lamb and octopus and potatoes and one of the most meals we had. Drank Postip wine, a crisp white. 

After hiking to and then swimming in and around the Odysseus Cave, we had lunch on ship prepared by me and an Ozzie. We went back to the peninsula for wine tasting, and went to my favorite winery - Matusko. They have a Postup wine (made from Plavac Mali - 'little blue grape', and Postup refers to it growing on the hill, but not on the seaside). It is a delicious wine, medium body, velvet in the mouth, and vanilla taste. I loved, loved, loved it. Bought some for the crew. We sailed to the next island that night, Korcula, and got to shower at a marina (!). None of us wanted to sit down for dinner, so we found a kabob shop, walked around the old town, saw where Marco Polo was born (allegedly), listened to live music, and headed to bed pretty early.

Breakfast was at a non-descript cafe, but the eggs were really tasty, really bright orange yolk. Bacon not so much. Swam at a beautiful cove, and then headed to Hvar. Captain prepared a pretty awesome tapas lunch (cheese, proscuitto, salami, anchovies, tuna, hummus, bread, local wine) and then came the roughest part of the trip. Took 6-7 hours to get to Hvar, and man it was brutal - so choppy, bouncing up a down, people were a bit sea sick, and we didn't follow instructions, and some of our beds got soaked b/c the water came through our windows. Finally got to the dock on the southern side of the island, Milna, and had dinner at Konoba Kotin, known for their steak and lamb. Was fairly good lamb chops, good house red. We took a taxi to the Old Town of Hvar, saw some sights, and then hit the scene. Went to Kiva Bar and danced like 20 year old Europeans on spring break. 

Bad decisions must have been made, because everyone was hungover and grumpy the next morning, even the ever cheerful Brit and Ozzies. Most of us couldn't really even eat lunch other than snacks that we brought on board. We got to the next island, Vis (my favorite). I pushed the captain to take us to as much of a "locals" place and so he took us to Dudo. This place was great, I could have spent hours and hours here. Had salted fish, local cheese, and spaghetti carbonara, and a lot of white wine. Vis was having a festival that night, was fantastic. The most actual Croatians I met anywhere. At the festival they were serving grilled sardines for "free" (you bought the spear that they were grilled on, and that money went to charity). They also had a tomato and egg stew that was served with bread. So good. 

The next day, we sailed to the green cave which was pretty, but swimming there sucked because they let boats (even big ones) into the cave, so you just get hit with exhaust and fumes. If you go, go early. Another tapas lunch and then we sailed to the next island, Brac. Here we had what I thought was the best dinner. It was at a family's house, and it literally translates to "household". It was a friend of the captains, and they open up their house on evenings to groups (usually no more than 15-20 people there). Everything is made on property - the tomatoes, olives/olive oil, cheese, wine, rakias, lamb, pork. We met the family, toured the villa, and then they served us a variety of rakias - all flavors - cherry, limoncello, travavica, grappa, walnut, etc.). Then the first course of homemade cheese, tomatoes, prosciutto, anchovies, salad. The main course was served then, lamb slow cooked over coals (that we saw being prepared when we walked in). Tender and amazing. We drank gallons of the house red, made from plavac mali and had dessert rakia, as well. Completely over loaded with food, we drove back home and listened to a lot of 'croatian trash' music on the way home.

The last day, we went to a small beach in Brac on the north side - Zlatni Rat - other than Dubrovnik, probably the most tourist place we visited. People had beach food - hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, etc., and then we sailed to Split, our final destination. This was our captain's hometown, and he took us on a tour. He was a fun guy overall, but once we were in his hometown, he had a perma-grin on his face, and couldn't stop playing tour guide ("one more thing!!"). He took us to a cevapi spot, and the group had these great minced meat patties, but I don't eat beef, so I got a chicken sandwich from another spot. Then, we went to his favorite ice cream place, Hajduk, where we all crushed gelato. I made him take us to a dive bar (which translated as 'sketchy bar') and man he picked a good one. Felt like home - a few drunks, cigarette smoking, random hams and breads hanging on the walls, and people that kept coming by and staring at us as if to say, what are these people doing here? After that, we begged him to call his girlfriend to meet us out, because we all were dying to meet the woman that could put up with him, and she did. She was lovely, a computer programmer that was from Split. We went to To Je To, a craft beer and rakia bar opened by an American expat from Michigan. Had a great time there, then hit the club for a bit. Very Euro, danced like fools. Half the group went home, and then Captain took us to a "Croatian Trash Night" at a bar on the beach (it's like 90s dance pop, but very nationalistic and ethnocentric). It's like a country bar where everyone knows every song - bunch of young Croatians dancing and singing. Amazing. Finished with Kabobs from a turkish emigre (Just as where Ali Ponti's kabob shop is near the Old Town). Got to the boat at 6am, and just about died the next day. 

What a treat of a vacation... I would highly recommend that tour operator - very locally focused, great guides, you get to do things you'd never find yourself. The groups are mixed in age (ours ranged from 25 to 46, another boat we met ranged from 25 to 68). The boat conditions were not ideal, but unless you want to go on a cruise (which I don't), this is what you get. If you do go on this trip with G Adventures, ask for a trip with Captain Nikola. He was incredible.

S

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