I finally have a little time to give you some of our thoughts about our fabulous trip to Croatia. Our biggest regret is that we didn’t have more time to spend in each place plus some time to visit Istria.
The guides that you arranged were all excellent. Our particular favorites were Maris in Dubrovnik and Neven in Zagreb. They both had outstanding knowledge and great suggestions for additional activities and restaurants. Neven saved us when Air France cancelled our flight from DE Gaulle at the last minute. He was able to rebook us on Austrian Air through Vienna so that we got back home about the same time as we would have with Air France. He was extremely resourceful as well when we went to the State Archives. Our least favorite was the gal in Kotor (I’m not sure of her name, Tanja I think). She had a seemingly rote presentation and not too much personality. Our favorite drivers were Bozo in Dubrovnik and Vanya in Zagreb. They went above and beyond in service and helpfulness. Nice touches like tissues and cold water in the car made our journeys more pleasant.
As far as the itinerary went, we wish we had an extra day in Dubrovnik on our own to do more exploring. The Hotel Bellevue was a great spot with it’s lovely beach, good service and within walking distance of town. We also wished we had booked Maris for a full day tour of town—half a day wasn’t nearly enough. She recommended Kopun (restaurant) for authentic Croatian cuisine. It’s hard to find but we really enjoyed the food. It was rainy the day we went to Montenegro, but we managed to visit the church on the island and the old city. We only had an hour in the old city, not nearly enough time. Perhaps we would have left Dubrovnik earlier or skipped the church for more time in the old city. I wanted to visit some of the churches and museums there, but there was no time. Bozo recommended a great seafood restaurant for lunch right on the harbor—some of the best seafood of the whole trip.
We especially enjoyed the day we spend with Mario Bartulovic exploring the wineries on the Peljesac peninsula. We had a nice stop in Ston while the sun was still shining, as the rest of the day was rainy off and on. We stopped at two wineries before reaching his small village for a wonderful lunch in part of his family’s complex, accompanied by some of his delicious wine. He was a great guide and really nice person. A special day.
Unfortunately the weather didn’t permit our oyster tasting in Mali Ston, but our great driver Bozo got us to the ferry terminal with plenty of time. We had a good lunch with him at a small restaurant in Sucuraj that he recommended. He was very patient with us when we wanted to stop for photos. He drove us right to the edge of the old town where the hotel staff was waiting to meet us. The Hotel Adriana on Hvar was a great location right in the middle of everything. Because we got there on a Saturday on a beautiful sunny afternoon, there were wedding going on all over town—lots of fun and exciting. The hotel rooms were very small for two people, but the location and convenience made that a non-issue. We had time to see most of town on Sunday before we got an island tour and wine tastings with Mario as our guide. Again an excellent guide and interesting person. The greatest treat was our dinner in the abandoned village. We requested a beka dinner and we got just what we asked for—it was superb. What a cool spot! The hotel staff followed through with our ferry tickets as promised. Our only issue was that they didn’t bring our luggage over to the ferry dock until right before the ferry left. Other people had been boarding for 30 minutes before we got our luggage. It left us very nervous.
We loved Split and the Judita Palace Hotel. Andraje was there to meet us as we got off the ferry with his golf-cart-like transport. He was such an interesting and hilarious fellow—and he took great care of us for our entire stay. The hotel was perfect for us. Right in the middle of everything, great rooms, excellent breakfast and helpful staff—what more could you want? Our guide in Split was Nives. She was very nice and knowledgeable but very business-like. We did enjoy the wine and cheese tasting but it was a bit much for the middle of the day (maybe fewer courses). We got good recommendations for dinners and had no trouble finding the places. There was always something going on at night along the harbor, so we walked all over. Our day cooking with Tatjana in Trogir was another one of our fondest memories. We got to go to all the markets with her and watch how she purchased fish, meat, produce, cheese, etc. Then we walked all the goodies back to her house, got a tour of town, met her husband and started to work on lunch. We all had jobs to do and she was everywhere helping out. The final meal of many course was truly amazing—we didn’t eat any dinner that night because we still so full from lunch.
The weather at Plitvice Lakes wasn’t the greatest, but we started our tour around the lakes as soon as we checked in. Because of flooding, parts of the park were closed to tourists. But we did get the boat ride across the lake and did a little hiking above the water falls. Our young guide was Stefana who was very nice. My only comment was that she didn’t know too much about the flora and fauna in the part. She managed to get us to good vantage points (the park was very crowded) for pictures. The hotel was pretty much like I expected it to be. It obviously caters to a tour bus crowd. Nothing fancy for sure, but adequate and well situated for getting into the park. We did eat dinner there and it was pretty bland. It probably would have been better to stay there two nights, get up early in the morning before all the day crowds and get the boat trip in first thing. Oh well.
Our trip to Zagreb was uneventful. The Hotel Esplanade was lovely and the rooms were excellent. Again, it had a good location where you could easily walk to the old town. We loved the restaurant Trilogija—hard to find but great food. Vanya was our driver for our day trips to Zagorje and Samobor. He was a super fellow, very knowledgeable and very accommodating. Neven was our guide for Zagreb and did a wonderful job. He tried to show us behind-the-scenes places that locals go as well as all the cultural highlights. Because he had spent some time living in the USA his command of English was outstanding. He could find anything or do anything on his cell phone!
You, and Secret Dalmatia, did a superb job in every respect. My husband was particularly impressed at how you were able to gain access for him to the State Archives and have available the church records that gave him some family history. Your efforts to give us such special care made all the difference. And your knowledge of which guides and drivers are the best gave us the best possible tours. We’d be happy to have contact with any possible clients who are looking for a referral. And if you would like any additional information, please ask me. As a retired travel agent, I know how hard it is to put together such an involved itinerary and include very special activities that most folks don’t get to do. I applaud you!