The Awesome Foursome 
Bette, Mike, Rose and Selwyn

Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy

October 2004

 

 

 

 

First stop - Italy

 

Arrival in Milan aboard SA242 from Johannesburg

 

We spent our first night at Agnello d'Oro in Bergamo where we also had a wonderful dinner.  

 

Day two of our journey - we are on our way to Trieste

 

At the RJ shopping centre on the way to Trieste

 

 

One of the beautiful squares in Trieste

 

Outside the restaurant where we had dinner in Trieste

 

Shopping for shoes at Pittarello, sadly no small sizes for Bette

 

Satisfied customers

 

Mike's "own" smart car was parked in a square in Trieste  J

 

After obtaining Slovenian visas for Bette and Selwyn we crossed the border and made our way to Kobarid

 

Slovenia

 

Battleground outside Kobarid on a very misty, cool day

 

 

With our host, Athos, whose family own the Ivancic guest house in Kobarid

 

Tasting wine at Belica in Madena which is close to Kobarid

 

Outside the homestead at Belica

 

Walking through Madena

 

Rose, Mike and Bette sitting at the back of the VW Transporter with our stock of wine from Edi Simcic 

Hiring the VW Transporter proved to be an excellent choice as it was, spacious, comfortable and above all, it had Italian numberplates which allowed it to blend into the crowds.

 

Empty boxes after unpacking the shoes bought in Trieste

 

A view from the roadside which was typical of the scenery around Kobarid

 

The Foursome buy sheep's cheese from Barbirke and Igor who are part of a community of seven people in the  village of Robidisce close to the Italian border.

 

With our waitress, Monika, at Gostilna Breza where we had an excellent meal.

 

Satisfied diners

 

At Lake Bled with Bled Castle high on the hill in the background

 

On the jetty on the shores of Lake Bled

 

A coffee break at Franci Smon where we had some delicious cakes

 

 

At Bled Castle amongst the splendid autumn foliage

 

A panoramic view from Bled Castle which overlooks the lake

 

Bette concentrating while writing an article to be included in the Monday Paper at UCT in the reception at Pension Mayer (Lake Bled) 

 

Dinner at Topolino restaurant at Lake Bled which was recommended by Aleks the winemaker from Edi Simcic.

 

The dessert at the Topolino restaurant

 

In the market at Ljubljana before buying pickled cabbage.

 

With our tour guide, Martin in  Ljubljana.  The temperature was around 7 degrees

 

In the entrance hall of the National library

 

Another look at the National Library

 

Bette standing on a section of the Triple Bridge in Ljubljana,

 

Bette standing on the "welcome mat" outside the City Hall in  Ljubljana.  
In 2001 the city celebrated 500 years of the presence of a mayoral office.

 

Inside the apartment that we hired in Ljubljana.

 

Croatia

 

A walk along the seafront  in Zadar.

 

Bette and Selwyn admire the lights of the city.

 

The market in Zadar which sells fruit fruit and vegetables as well as meat, fish cheese and clothing.

 

The narrow streets around our hotel in Zadar.

 

Bette and Selwyn enjoying a coffee break in Zadar.

 

Selwyn eating roasted corn on the cob at one of the entrances to the walled city of Zadar.

 

 

Hvar Island here we come!

 

The ferry terminal at Drvenik.

 

Rose on the ferry on the way to the island of Hvar.

 

Bette and Rose brave the elements on deck.

 

Bette and Mike on the ferry

 

Selwyn and Bette on the ferry

 

The four travelers on the next leg of their journey from Drvenik to the island of Hvar.

 

Arrival at Sucuraj on the island of Hvar.

 

Bette watching the sea wash onto the square in Hvar town.

 

Standing on the harbour wall in Hvar town.

 

Part of one of the small boat harbours in Hvar town.

 

Mike and Rose while doing a walk in Hvar town.

 

 

Mike enjoying his seafood pasta at Leporini restaurant.  Slurp slurp lekker lekker. J

 

Bette writing her diary while in our 2 bedroomed flat in Hvar Town

 

Visit to Starigrad, a town on Hvar Island.

 

For the long distance swimmers, proof that the Croatians also have an association looking after their needs.

 

Mike and Bette at the Croatian long distance swimming association offices inn Stari Grad

 

Rose and Mike relax after swimming in the Adriatic sea, Bette paddled and got her feet wet.

 

On an island in the Adriatic, sunny skies, crystal clear water, wonderful company, good food, in short it was paradise.

 

Part of the view from a hillside on the road between  Hvar town and Starigrad.

 

Dinner at Juniors, a restaurant recommended in the travel book, Footprints in Croatia 

 

Bette and Selwyn are waiting at the ferry stop at Korcula at the start of the journey south to Dubrovnik.  Bette was fascinated by the signs indicating the car ferries.

 

On the way to Dubrovnik.

 

Eating our lunch in the rather coldly air conditioned  "non-smoking" section of the ferry.

 

The very modern bridge at the entrance to the harbour at Dubrovnik.

 

Our first evening in Dubrovnik. 
We are standing on the main street of the old city.  The sheen on the road surface is due to hundreds of years of pedestrian activity.  Hardly any cars are seen inside the walled city except for small electric delivery vehicles.

 

This shot of Dubrovnik at night captures to some extent the feeling that we were in a very special place.

 

 

The clock in the main street in Dubrovnik.
 The hours are in Roman numerals whereas the minutes are displayed in Arabic numbers.

 

View of Dubrovnik taken during the walk around the old city surround wall.

 

The "wall walkers" plus resident cat

 

Selwyn and Bette on the Dubrovnik wall

 

Notice the difference in the colour of the roof tiles, the random pattern is due to the replacement of tiles damaged during the conflict in 1991 when Dubrovnik was held under siege for 3 months.

 

Descending the stairs at the end of the walk around the walls.

 

Note of confidence from the owners with regard to guests who are not satisfied with their food. JJ

 

Bette, Mike and Rose enjoy supper and Edi Simcic's wonderful wine on the balcony of our Dubrovnik apartment.

 

The "twelve o' clock" pigeon call to food.
Each day as the clock strikes12h00 the pigeons fly around this square in Dubrovnik hoping to be fed.

 

Bette inside the synagogue in Dubrovik.

 

The interior of the synagogue in Dubrovnik.  There is a very small congregation of about 40 members.

 

We took a ferry and visited Cavtat which is near to the city of Dubrovnik

 

 

With our guide, Paul, whose other job is as a medic working for Doctors without Borders.

 

The unique shopfronts in the main street in Dubrovnik.

 

Selwyn standing the the garden at the old pharmacy in Dubrovnik.

 

Bette taking the weight off her feet in the garden of the old pharmacy.

 

There is a modern pharmacy in the old pharmacy complex where they regular medicines as well as potions prescribed by doctors and homeopaths.

 

With Denis and Karen outside the entrance to the old pharmacy.  We met Denis and Karen while waiting for the ferry at Korcula and kept on bumping into them all over Dubrovnik.  Denis was born in Australia to Croatian parents so he was on a 'finding your roots' trip.  His partner, Karen, is originally from New Zealand.

 

Bette on a very small boat on the way to Cavtat which is about an hour's journey from Dubrovnik.

 

Dinner with Denis and Karen on our last night in Dubrovnik.

 

The fire station (Vatrogaji) across the road from our apartment building in Dubrovnik.  The personnel spent hours washing their equipment and motor cars.

 

The view from our apartment in Dubrovnik.

 

The glimpse of the old city of Dubrovnik as we drive inland on the next leg of our journey.

 

Bette and Selwyn with the old city of Dubrovnik in the background.

 

Rose having a nap and protecting her Gucci bag at the same time J on the ferry from Trpanj to Ploce.
  This was the only way that we could make our way towards Split without having to cross into Bosnia.

 

The glorious walk through the Plitvice National Park, a UNESCO Heritage site.

 

Water, water everywhere.  The sound of the water and singing birds were the "background music" in the park.

 

One of the many wooden walkways in the park.

 

More water.

 

Bette standing near one of the dozens of waterfalls in the park.

 

Bette watching the water and resting at the side of the road in the park.

 

Please exercise patience when downloading the following videos as they are all large files.
It is not advisable to watch these videos if you do not have a broadband connection

Click here to see a video taken at Plitvice National Park

Click here to see a scenic video taken at Plitvice National Park

Click here to see another scenic video taken at Plitvice National Park

 

Selwyn and Bette standing in front of the highest waterfall (78 metres) in the park.

 

After action, satisfaction - enjoying a wonderful dinner of local trout at Litcka Cuca. 

 

The view from our hotel which was situated in  the Plitvice National Park.  
One could hear the sound of the water from the hotel rooms.

 

The amphitheatre in Pula.

 

Another view of the amphitheatre which was the only site of interest in Pula.

 

Another reason to stay in Pula was the Hotel Scaletta  which served a breakfast that was one of the best of our entire trip. The hotel also had a wonderful restaurant where they served a fabulous dinner.

 

Back to Italy

Mike trying on his new wetsuit at a factory shop just outside Trieste

.

Rose seemingly amazed that the wetsuit was such a snug fit. J

 

Selwyn eating a gelati in Sirmione - Lake Garda which was our last stop before returning home.

 

Bette on the balcony of the room at the Hotel Aurora in Sirmione.

 

Rose and Mike buying provisions for the stop on their journey home to Australia.

 

An electric car. 
Look ma I only have 3 wheels!
J

 

Bette at the entrance to the old part of the city of Sirmione

 

Bette trying to decide which gelati flavour to choose from the dozens on offer.

 

Fresh fruit and vegetables Italian style

 

Returning the car to Europecar at Malpensa airport at the end of a wonderful adventure.


 

Italy, Slovenia and Croatia – October 2004

Accommodation

 

Tuesday,
5 October

Holiday Inn at Johannesburg International airport
Functional and convenient, around R800 per night, no breakfast

Wednesday,
6 October
Bergamo

Hotel Agnello del Oro,

€92 per room, €6 each for an excellent breakfast


Small comfortable rooms, good bathroom, TV

Thursday,
7 October
Trieste

Hotel Roma
€95 per room, included an adequate breakfast
Good room and bathroom, free Internet, TV

Friday – Sunday,
8 – 10 October
Kobarid

Apartara-ma (Ivancic guest house)
€36 per room, €5 each for an excellent breakfast
Small rooms with shared bathrooms, very comfortable
Athos, the manager, was a wonderful host and tourguide
Laundry facilities available, Internet at Bar Cinzia

Monday,
11 October
Lake Bled

Pension Mayer
€65 per room, included an excellent breakfast
Luxurious rooms and bathrooms, TV
Free Internet

Tuesday – Wednesday, 12 – 13 October Ljubljana

Tour As – Apartment Ela,
€130 per night for a 2 bedroom apartment in centre of old city, lounge, dining area, cell phone, TV, laundry facilities available in basement, heated, fairly well equipped kitchen
Close to shops and market

Thursday – Friday,
14 – 15 October
Zadar

Hotel Verena
250 Kuna per room, no breakfast
Very small rooms with bathrooms, almost like a railway carriage
Very convenient location in centre of city, close to market & shops
Internet café close to hotel

Saturday – Monday
16 – 18 October
Hvar town

Momo’s house
80 kuna per night per person
2 bedrooms, bathroom and small kitchen/dining room
Balcony with view, place to hang laundry
Lots of stairs to reach centre of town
Supermarket and Internet café in town

Tuesday – Friday
19 – 22 October Dubrovnik

Od Greba Zudioski 2
444 kuna per day for 2 bachelor apartments, discount for 3 nights
Very good location, one apartment had good views of old city
Low ceilings in bathroom and luke warm water in shower
TV, only Croatian channels available
Internet cafes and supermarkets in town

Saturday – Sunday
23 – 24 October Plitvice National Park

Hotel Jezera,
€100 per night including an adequate breakfast
Very comfortable rooms, similar to Holiday Inn, luxurious bathroom
Excellent location for walk in the National Park, lovely views of park, TV
Coffee shop, Internet available - charged by the hour

Monday
25 October
Pula

Hotel Scaletta
€71 per night including one of the best breakfasts of the trip
Very pretty, comfortable rooms, each one was different, spa bath,
TV, free Internet
Close to centre of city and main tourist attractions

Tuesday,
26 October
Sirmione - Lake Garda

Hotel Aurora,
€80 per night including a good breakfast
Small, comfortable rooms with good bathroom
TV, Internet facilities close by, views of the lake from room
Very good location, close to old city, shops and supermarket

Note 1 € (Euro) = R8.00

1 Kuna = R1.10

 

Tuesday, 5th October

Flew to Johannesburg

Wednesday, 6th October

Flew to Milan, business class, SA242

Collected our car, a VW Transporter (similar to a combi) at Europecar and drove to Bergamo to meet Rose and Mike at hotel

Had to try to figure out how to deal with the machines at the toll plazas; eventually we realised that one took a ticket at some and paid the toll at others.

After an excellent dinner at the hotel we walked around the narrow streets and bought gelati before going to bed.

Narrow streets proved to be a challenge for driving and parking the car.

Woken by sound of church bells which was to be a common occurrence during the trip

Thursday, 7th October

Cool, some rain

Drove to Trieste stopping at RJ’s shopping centre on the way, Mike bought some jumpers and Rose bought a Gucci handbag

Scratched side of car in parking garage

Dinner at Trattoria Saturnia, adequate

Friday, 8th October

Warm and sunny

Obtained visas for Slovenia

Shopping for shoes for Rose and Mike at Pittarello which was in a shopping mall a few kilometres outside the city, no small sizes for Bette except for some slippers

Drove to Kobarid with the idea of staying at Hotel Hvala but there was no room; we were recommended the guest house, Apartara-ma run by the Invancic family.

Dinner at Topli Val at Hotel Hvala, good food but very indifferent service

Saturday, 9th October

Misty and cool in Kobarid

Athos, the owner/manager at Ivancic served us a good breakfast. He spoke excellent English as well as German and advised us to go on a scenic drive through the valleys – lovely scenery, terraced vines, pretty villages with lots of geraniums in flower boxes, very narrow streets with no pavements

Visited a WW1 bunker

Wine tasting and lunch at Belice in Madena, bought 2 bottles of wine

Wine tasting at Edi Simcic, spent time with wine maker, Aleks and bought some wine to drink during trip and to take home, 2 bottles for B & S, a case for R & M

Beautiful countryside, the colour of the water in the Soce River was most unusual, almost the blue of a copper sulfate solution

Dinner at local pizzeria, a student hangout, good and inexpensive

Rained heavily that night and we got drenched walking home

Sunday, 10th October

Cool and wet, rained most of the day

Athos put our wet clothes in the room with the boiler so that they could dry out.

Kobarid war museum, volunteer guides, good English, all signage in 4 languages, English, Slovenian, Italian and German, slide show depicting a letter from a soldier, wonderful relief map of battle grounds

Drove to Kamno, north of Tolmin but turned back as heavy rain had washed away some of the roads in the area, roads are very narrow, some of them were quite steep.

Went to Robidisce near the Italian border to buy local cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Met Barbirke and Igor who live in a village occupied by 7 people, they made us feel very welcome by offering us bread, cheese and wine in their humble house which was warmed by a wood-fired stove. They make around 1500 kg of cheese per year which they sell at €10 per kilo.

Delicious dinner at Gostlina Breza, our waitress, Monika, provided excellent service.

 

While Hotel Hvala was the reason for stopping in Kobarid which was close to Trieste, the fact that they did not have accommodation for us turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we would not have met Athos or had seen the beautiful countryside around Tolmin and Kobarid.

The small villages in Slovenia look much the same as one would expect to see in Switzerland, thatched roofs with quite steep pitch, window boxes with geraniums, the countryside was very green and lush, autumn colours were everywhere. The streets are very narrow, often only the width of our car, one could almost lean out of the window and touch the buildings on either side of the road.

Monday, 11th October

Cold and wet

Said goodbye to Athos and drove to Most na Soci to put the car on the train, no train due to mudslides so we drove to Lake Bled via Serkno, Skopje Loka and Karnj

Found accommodation at Pension Mayer, recommended in Lonely Planet travel guide

Lunch at Franci Smon followed by a steep climb to Bled Castle, wonderful views of city, lake and island, good museum at castle.

Picked up an email requesting information for an article about the Distinguished Teacher award for the Monday paper and was able to send a response from the reception desk before going to dinner

Excellent dinner at Topolino restaurant, recommended by Aleks at Simcic

Lake Bled is very beautiful, obviously a resort town with lots of big hotels and many restaurants.

Tuesday, 12th October

Cool and overcast

After a great breakfast, Bette and Rose walked around Lake Bled, took about 90 minutes, Selwyn and Mike got half way.

Drove to Ljubljana along freeway – one toll plaza.

Went to Tour As, recommended in Lonely Planet and hired an apartment in the centre of the old city, convenient parking for car.

After unpacking we wandered around the city buying supplies for dinner, pasta, meats and fruit, cheese and wine from Kobarid.

Found Riclola sweets in a shop.

Wednesday, 13th October

Cold, 7 degrees

Walking tour of old city of Ljubljana with Martin: sites included the 18th century Cathedral of St Nicholas (19), the National Library (6) with its beautiful limestone pillars and panelled reading rooms, the City Hall (1), lady mayor, Triple Bridge (17) and Cobblers Bridge (4) – numbers refer to map in file.

Went shopping at market and bought fresh fish for dinner.

Centromerkur departmental store was a real time warp, old style general dealer’s store which did not match the upmarket shops in the surrounding streets.

Selwyn went to see Madama Butterfly at the opera house in the evening, the rest had dinner at home

Thursday, 14th October

Cold and wet, 7 degrees, misty with poor visibility in parts

Drove towards Zahgreb and crossed the border at Brezice. After changing money at Karlovac, we drove to the Plitvice lakes but the weather was so miserable that Bette and Rose refused to get out of the car. Since the weather forecast predicted rain for the following day, we went on towards Zadar. Our spirits started to lift as the roadside indicators informed us that the temperature was rising into the teens.

We arrived in Zadar at about 5pm and found accommodation (with parking close by).

Wandered through the streets doing some window shopping, shops are open until 8pm, prices for many goods seem to be similar to those in SA.

Dinner was fish at a local restaurant, an early night.

Friday, 15th October

After a huge thunderstorm during the night the weather cleared, the sun came out and temperature was around 18 – 20 degrees in Zadar.

Selwyn slept in and Bette, Rose and Mike bought bureks for breakfast and sat down to eat them at a local coffee shop. Coffee shops seem to serve only drinks including alcohol and the owners didn’t seem to mind our eating our breakfast, the coffee shops were crowded even in the early morning.

Explored St Anastasia church, the organist was practising and the music sounded wonderful in the simple interior of the church; Rose climbed to the top of the bell tower.

Also visited the Byzantine church of St Donat. Met Selwyn in the Forum and after some lunch we went to the Internet café to write some emails.

Wandered around the shops and bought a credit card holder.

Excellent dinner at Dva Ribara.

Zadar: Mixture of upmarket shops and local goods available. The prices in the supermarket are on a par with those in SA but fruit juice is more expensive. Cigarettes are very cheap, around 10 kuna per box, which could explain why so many people smoke.

 

Saturday 16th October

Cool and wet in Trogir, cool in Drvenik and Hvar

Mike’s birthday

Drove to Trogir, similar feel to Zadar (old and new city) but not as charming. We explored, had some coffee and drove to Split which is the second largest city in Croatia. It is very ugly, many high-rise apartment buildings. We found that the ferry was only leaving for Hvar at 7pm so we drove to the ferry terminal at Drvenik. Drvenik was very desolate, no action except for the pub near the ferry stop. It cost 105 kuna to put the car on the ferry, this included the fare for 4 adults. The trip took about 45 minutes and although it was cold, we spent most of the time on deck watching the scenery.

After arriving at Sucuraj we drove the 65 km to Hvar town, mostly before dark – beautiful scenery and most of the road was in good condition.

Could not find a tourist bureau and after bumping into an English couple, we found accommodation in part of a house high on the hill in the old city.

Walked down about 200 stairs to have a celebratory dinner at Bounty – excellent fish.

Sunday, 17th October

Warm, some wind

Bette, Rose and Mike walked around looking for dive shops but they were all closed for the season. Walked up the hill to the castle, bought some lavender sachets and soap on the way, Hvar is famous for its lavender production. Wonderful views of the town from the castle, good museum with displays of amphorae, could see our house and car from the castle. The houses in the new part of the city blend in quite well with those in the older part, the styles are similar so that a bird flying over would not notice the difference.

We met Selwyn and continued exploring on foot. Later while Rose and Mike went back to the house to rest, Selwyn and Bette looked at the larger hotels on the island, around 440 - 460 kuna per room per night. Bette bought a t-shirt.

Dinner at Leporini’s – wonderful pasta, 325 kuna for 4 people

Monday, 18th October

Warm

Drove to Starigrad, the second largest town on the island. Walked around and had some coffee. We went on the Jelsa and took the scenic route to Brusje. After stopping at Dol to look at the church which is lit up at night and has a fascinating graveyard we went back to Hvar and found a place to swim. Bette paddled while the others swam in the Adriatic Ocean which was cool but refreshing, the water is very clear as there is no sand, only pebbles underfoot.

Dinner at Juniors, recommended in Footprints in Croatia book - excellent fish and lots of cats waiting around for leftovers. We walked around the square for a while before climbing the stairs to go to bed.

 

Tuesday, 19th October

Hvar to Dubrovnik

Cool and overcast with some light rain

Drove to ferry terminal at Starigrad where we met Denis and Karen. Denis is an Australian born to Croatian parents – he was doing a "find your roots" trip. His partner, Karen, was born in New Zealand.

A huge ferry arrived, around 5 stories, and we parked our car taking our picnic to the non-smoking lounge which was freezing cold due to the air-conditioning. Cost of trip was around 600 kuna for the car and the passengers.

We stood on the deck watching as the ferry passed Hvar town. Ferry stopped at Korcula for about 30 minutes to allow passengers to take on and offload goods and passengers.

After about 5 hours we arrived in Dubrovnik, amazing new cantilevered bridge at the approach to the city, two enormous cruise liners in the harbour.

Went to Gulliver’s travel where Nora found us accommodation with parking – two bachelor apartments in a house run by Anna.

Found that the ferry back to Split only ran on Thursdays and Sundays and there was still no clarity on the issue of crossing the border into Bosnia. (Selwyn and Bette found that they needed visas to travel through the 9 km of road north of Dubrovnik that was in Bosnia , by that time Bette was in Australia and there was no way to obtain the Bosnian visa. In addition, Europecar has said that they did not want the car to be driven through Bosnia)

After unpacking we wandered though the gate of the city, down the 5 or 6 flights of stairs, onto the main street of Dubrovnik. It was sunset and the lights of the city were on, it looked like a film set with the roadway polished by hundreds of years of pedestrian activity and the white limestone buildings. We bumped into Denis and Karen again, something that would happen several times during the next few days.

Wednesday, 20th October

Warm and sunny, Bette bitten by an insect - very large, itchy site on back of her right leg

After breakfast on the balcony of Rose and Mike’s apartment, we did the walk around the walls of the old city; cost per person was 30 kuna. The wall offers spectacular views of the city including the mix of old and new roof tiles as well as the anachronism of old style terracotta tiles and modern satellite dishes. Visited maritime museum. After walk, BD, Rose and Mike went into town to do some shopping and investigate ferry options, found that one could take the ferry from the Peljesac peninsula, north of Dubrovnik, to Ploce which would get around the ‘9km of hell’ section of the road north.

Later we had supper on the balcony, also gave us an opportunity to drink some of the wonderful Simcic wine.

Thursday, 21st October

Warm and sunny

Rose and Mike went diving, then they visited Cavtat.

Bette and Selwyn started late. While we were sitting in the square in town having coffee and watching the tour groups from the cruise liners Selwyn spotted Paul and asked him to take us on a tour later that afternoon. BD and SD wandered around the old city visiting the synagogue and Jewish museum. Bumped into Karen and Denis having lunch and sat chatting for a while.

Our tour with Paul in the late afternoon was very interesting as his other profession is acting as a doctor for Medecins sans Frontieres. He was in Dubrovnik during the siege in 1990 and was able to give us a first hand account of living in a city under siege. He took us on the city tour pointing out landmarks that we could visit on our own the following day. We went into a cathedral to look at a painting attributed to Titian.

Paul told us about the construction of the city, building rules which mandated a kitchen on the top floor and shops at road level, the use of white limestone (as used for the White House in America). He pointed out that the entrance to the synagogue is in a side street to avoid attracting attention. Franciscan monastery houses the oldest pharmacy in Europe. The bombings in 1990 led to the death of 80 civilians, 3 months of no running water or electricity. The city was rebuilt under the auspices of UNESCO and most areas were restored within a few years, essential since 85% of the population depends on tourism for their income. The tour cost 500 kuna with tip and was worth the price.

Met with Rose and Mike after tour and had dinner at Lokanda, recommended by Paul and Nora, very small menu with only one item, fried sardines, for Bette

Friday, 22nd October

Warm and sunny

Rose and Mike went diving in the morning after breakfast with Bette. Later Bette and Selwyn went into the old city to take a closer look at the Old Pharmacy, bumping into Karen and Denis again. We also looked around the Rectors house, St Blaise church and the Raphael painting at the cathedral. Perhaps the most interesting exhibition was a tribute to the men who had died during the siege of Dubrovnik in 1990.

BD and SD took the boat ride to Cavtat arriving in time for lunch. After lunch Bette went for a walk while Selwyn relaxed, then we caught the bus back to Dubrovnik.

After packing and sending some emails, we met Karen, Denis, Rose and Mike for dinner, 609 kuna for 6 with 2 litres of wine and coffees! Excellent value for money.

After buying some gelati, we went back to look at Karen and Dennis’s apartment which was in the heart of the old city. It would not have suited us at there was nowhere to park the car.

Saturday, 23rd October

Foggy but clearing later

We made an early start to catch the ferry at Trapnj on the Peljesac peninsula. It took 50 minutes to get to Ploce and then we were on our way to the Plitvice National Park. Our trip took us up the coast to Markaska after which we turned inland, most of the roads were of good quality but some of the towns that we passed looked very depressed and sad - many old high-rise buildings, monotonous architecture, nothing in the way of scenery.

After about 5 hours we arrived at the Hotel Jezera at the Piltvice National Park, this time the weather was on our side as it was sunny if somewhat cool. After dinner at Licka Kuca (lots of meat and a bottle of Simcic wine) we had an early night in anticipation of the long walk the following day.

Rose not feeling too well –too much rich food?

Sunday, 24th October

Warm in the sun, otherwise cool

After a solid but unspectacular breakfast, we set off on the walk through the Plitvice National Park. Rose was feeling a bit better.

For 75 kuna each, we were transported by bus to the top of one section of the park, walked through the park until we reached a large lake, took a ferry across the lake, did some more walking and took the bus back to the start.

Since we had the whole day, we followed path H which took us through beautiful areas with trees, lakes and waterfalls. We saw some birds and lots of fish in the lakes. The path is very well-signposted and most of the walk is on a path that looks like a ladder lying on its side. The autumn colours added to the beauty of the surroundings and the constant sound was water falling. There are dozens of waterfalls or "slaps", some of them only a few metres high, the largest was 78 metres. Railings are provided where necessary and the walk is not challenging, some people were brave enough to attempt it with baby carriages or huge cameras and tripods.

We reached the boat stop where the ferry would take us across the lake at which point Rose decided to go back to the hotel. The rest of us continued and had a snack at the kiosk provided. Had to make use of the toilet facilities and it was the only time that there were toilets where you had to squat.

After looking at the largest waterfall we followed the steep, zigzag path out of the park and waited for the bus to take us back to the start.

Sat on the balcony of our hotel room with its marvellous views of the park and after consulting all our guide books decided that our next stop would be Pula, close to the Italian border.

Dinner consisted of trout at Litcka Kuca, meal for 4 plus wine cost 325 kuna

Monday, 25th October

Warm at Plitvice Park, cooler at Pula

Our drive to Pula took us to Rijeka, an ugly port city where an unfriendly bar owner would not let BD use the toilet. Stopped at Senj on the way, not a very interesting town. We drove through Opatja, a resort town with one hotel after another on the main street. Saw some incredible bridges linking the island of Kirk to the mainland.

We arrived in Pula at about 15h00 and booked into the Hotel Scaletta, a very charming hotel located close to the amphitheatre and with convenient parking for the car. We explored the amphitheatre, one of the only times where the Dorling Kindersley book was actual useful. We walked around town, very industrial feel, run down and depressing. The Hotel Rivera had seen better days. After cocktails at a bar on the waterfront, we bought some truffle oil and went back to the hotel where we had dinner at the restaurant. They allowed us to open a Simcic wine, we also bought one of their Croatian wines and enjoyed some Bisteka liquor compliments of the house – one of the best dinners of the trip.

 

Not much to recommend in Pula beyond the amphitheatre which is awesome and is used for concerts as well as a fabulous hotel and restaurant.

Tuesday, 26th October

Cloudy and cool

After a wonderful breakfast at Hotel Scaletta we set off for the drive to Italy. Travelling via Buje we crossed the border with into Slovenia (near Koper) and then onto Trieste where RS and MW bought wetsuits at Sepadiver (recommended by the dive operation in Dubrovnik). We drove to Verona along the A4 motorway which was an awesome experience – the number of trucks from all over Europe formed a never-ending stream in the slow lane. We arrived in Verona which looked dull and uninteresting so on Mike’s suggestion we moved on to Sirmione on Lake Garda. This proved to be an inspired choice for the last stop before home. We found a wonderful hotel, Hotel Aurora, and after unpacking for the last time, we explored the village. As in many cases, there was the more modern part of town and the old, walled section. We explored and bought some spice/herb mixtures for pasta as well as some more Ricola sweets. The old city had wonderful shops, many designer labels, fabulous coffee shops with a huge variety of ice creams and mini pizzas on offer. We had dinner at the el Peter restaurant at the hotel, an excellent restaurant where again they allowed us to finish the bottle of Duet, one of the Simcic wines. There was a spectacular thunder storm that night.

 

 

Wednesday, 27th October

Cool and wet

After a good breakfast, we went shopping for "padkos" (foods to eat along the way) for R & M as they had quite a long wait in Frankfurt before catching their flight home. There was a small shop on the main street in Sirmione selling fresh fruit and vegetables of excellent quality, much of it imported from Sicily. Selwyn bought a very cute bottle of Grappa as a souvenir and found some glass beetles – we bought 2 of them, one for Stacey and one for Bette. We sat at the coffee shop watching the crowds before climbing into our car for the last time to drop R & M at Linate airport to catch their flight to Frankfort.

We then made our way to Malpensa, it was fairly easy since the route was well sign-posted. It was a bit nerve wracking at times since we had got so used to our GPS system otherwise known as Mike. J We handed back the car and there was no penalty for the scratch other than a €26 charge for admin. Unfortunately Selwyn dropped one of the Simcic bottles while unloading the car.

We checked in and went to duty free to buy some Tommy Hilfiger cologne for Selwyn, we were lucky as they were offering a 20% discount for 3 or more bottles. We also bought some Baci chocolate in slabs.

Thursday, 28th October

Back in Cape Town

Warm and sunny, excellent flight, very good food, managed to sleep on the plane.

 

Impressions

Overall

Roads in Europe were mostly good; the Autostrada is extremely busy with many toll roads. Signposting is excellent with a circle enclosing a black dot indicating the city centre (turns out that this must be an International sign as we noticed it in CT on our return).

Towns had small signposts indicating the boundaries

HVAR

On leaving the sign was indicated as HVAR with the strikethrough at an angle

Drivers can be aggressive and will pass on white lines and blind corners.

Fruit was available and affordable at all towns, many towns had a central market.

We could drink the tap water in Croatia and Slovenia and parts of Italy.

There was often a service charge at restaurants, tipping was not common in Croatia or Slovenia.

There were Internet cafes in most places and some hotels offered a free service.

One needed a universal European plug for many of the electrical sockets, the two pin socket on Bette’s hairdryer as well as the battery chargers for the phones and cameras were often not quite correct. Fortunately Selwyn had brought with the plug which Leighton had bought for Bette with a view to using an Australian device in South Africa. This plug together with an Australian adaptor often did the trick.

Some hotels provide hairdryers (Pension Mayer, Jezera, Scaletta, Aurora)

School children all learn English in Croatia and Slovenian and do not wear uniforms.

Italy

Expensive except for accommodation

Petrol and diesel is around €1.10 per litre

Emergency cords in showers

Slovenia

Prosperous

People are friendly and helpful except for the receptionist at the Tourist Information Centre in Ljubljana, most could speak some English.

Two parallel currencies, the Euro and SIT or Tollar

Good breakfasts at hotels, many put an empty bowl in the middle of the table so that guests can deposit empty yoghurt containers, wrappers from butter etc

Petrol cost around $1 per litre, also diesel

Supermarket chain is Mercator

On balance, eating out and wine is more expensive than in Cape Town

Good roads even in small villages

Shops open until 19h00 in Ljubljana

Many hairdressing salons

Croatia

Supermarket chain is Konzum

Petrol is about the same price as in Slovenia

Most people seemed to smoke

Many women have dyed red hair and as in Slovenia there are many hairdressing salons, (Frizerski salons)

Lots of cats in public places

Most people can understand English, many speak it fairly fluently

Cheaper than Slovenia except for Dubrovnik which is part of the Adriatic cruise ship itineraries

Shops and banks are open long hours, 7h00 – 20h00 during the week and 7h00 – 14h00 on Saturdays

Dubrovnik is charming but was crowded during the day even in late October, it must be unpleasant in the summer when crowds are even bigger and the temperature is higher

Dubrovnik was the only place where prices were often quoted in Euros, dollars and the local currency, especially at tourist spots.

Countryside not as pretty as in parts of Slovenia, there are some bombed out buildings visible

Scenery along the Adriatic coast was beautiful and the roads were not as treacherous as we had been led to believe.