Saturday, November 21, 2015

Croatia, Italy and Slovenia

Metro to L’Enfant; bus to Dulles; flight to Vienna (delay there but Vienna airport made up for it with a comfortable setup);

 flight to Dubrovnik; bus to Pile Gate, met our host, Anton. Good news! Spotted a gelato
within 90 seconds of entering the Old City.
The Apartment was spacious – hot water didn’t last long but everyone happy with the room and the weather.
After cleaning up we explored the town, visited churches along with other sites.

For dinner we went to Oliva’s for pizza (Teresa and Christine also had a Greek salad which they raved about). Shane and I shared a bacon and ham while Christine and Teresa shared a salami pizza- very good.

Next we found gelato, the chocolate was disappointing but the other flavors were good.

 We went to the “Hole in the Wall” for drinks. It was pretty crowded but we got seats with a view.

Our apartment was nearby and we were in bed by 9:15, about right for jet-lag night.
In the morning we went to the grocery store to get yogurt and Muesli for breakfast (and a coke zero.)
Next was the wall walk and we obtained the audio guide which was informative.


After circuiting the city we went back to the room and made preparations for the afternoon on Lokrum. Again a stop at the grocery store for bread, two meats, two cheeses, and olive oil. We then caught the ferry to the island.
We first climbed to Fort Royal and then explored the island. We did not remember the rocky pathways, Christine’s flip flops did not work well. We found the place where we took the picture that hangs above our bed- and took more pictures.
We had encountered peacocks and peahens the first time we visited but this time they were ubiquitous.

Shane was the only one who swam- first in a lagoon – then, conceding that wasn’t the Adriatic, he took the plunge again after walking to the rocky coast.
We found our way back to the ferry and upon arriving back, Shane and I had gelato. Back to the room to clean up, getting more provisions on the way.
Christine picked out our dinner restaurant and she made a great choice- Dalmatino’s. I had a marinated shrimp and anchovy salad, then grilled pork over mashed potatoes and onions. Teresa had chicken and grilled vegetables after a green salad. Christine and Shane both had octopus salad. Christine’s entrĂ©e was John Day grilled filet and Shane had drunken prawns (he got a bib). Everything was terrific.


We strolled a little afterward before getting gelato.

The next morning we got our car with little trouble- meeting the agent at the Pile Gate. Carmen the Garmin did not want to take the same route to Mostar that we did so we did have a few missteps at the beginning but still got to Mostar by noon. Christine was clever enough to facilitate finding our apartment. It was huge. Shane claimed the balcony was as big as Christine’s condo. Shane and Christine did have to sleep in the same room however.
Mostar was a great city to visit.
We walked down to the Franciscan Monastery passing some bullet-riddled buildings on the way. Then to the pedestrian cobblestoned shopping area. I got Mark a t-shirt, Teresa eyed a ceramic bowl.

We had a huge lunch at Sardvrid- we split a National Plate and a mini Sardvrid special. Lots of grilled meat, sausages, vegetables, mushrooms and French fries.

We strolled some more before crossing the new old bridge, one jumper while we were there.


 We visited a mosque while walking down another shopping street on the way back to the room.

After cleaning up and relaxing a little we headed back out. Shane and I had gelato. Chocolate still disappointing but every other flavor was good.
The one ceramic place Teresa had shown interest was closed but we found another with an accommodating owner who took us back to her storeroom where Teresa found two bowls she liked and purchased.
From there we headed to a restaurant to eat light after the huge lunch- didn’t turn out that way. Teresa had a glass of wine, the rest of us had large draft beers. We ordered a la carte, which, based on the prices, didn’t portend to be much food- wrong again.
I ordered a cheese, meat and mushroom omelet and a tomato salad. The omelet- gigantic with a ton of French fries; 8 tomatoes gave their lives for the salad; Christine had a risotto dish; Shane had smoked meat and Teresa had a pepper, tomato and cheese salad. Christine and Teresa had baklava for dessert. Drinks through dessert was 24 euros and we had a picturesque spot on the river.

We resisted gelato on the way back.

The next day Carmen did very well although one stretch of road was rather dicey. We found our apartment in Split rather early which was not far from the Promenade and Diocletian’s Palace. We scouted around a bit before choosing a restaurant. Shane and I had pizzas- exquisite; Teresa had a Greek salad, Christine’s a Caesar.
We took the walking tour of the Palace and environs before gelato. We then strolled through other parts of Old Town, then the shops and then a supermarket before getting back to the apartment.

 Christine picked the restaurant for dinner, the Gallega- very good. Shane had some great pasta and the rest of us had pizzas. Mine was anchovies with onions and capers- absolutely delicious. No room for gelato. We promenaded back to the apartment.
In the morning we took a quick drive up to Trogir, one of my favorite Croatian towns. We visited the Cathedral, the fort and numerous backstreets. After a while we had gelato and went back to the market bought supplies for lunch and a few souvenirs.

On the way back we stopped at Salona, the ancient Roman city. The ruins are still not impressive.

Back at the apartment we ate lunch and relaxed a little before heading out. First back to Diocletian’s Palace for more exploration (not only the world’s smallest cathedral but he world’s narrowest chapel) and then to Old Town for some window shopping and restaurant hunting.


After building up a hunger we found the restaurant “Fife”- a joint effort, which had been recommended and turned out to be a busy place. I had grilled chicken- tad dry, and very good Viennese potatoes. The others shared goulash and stuffed cabbage. Good and reasonably priced.
We walked to the recommended gelateria where we each had one scoop, and then one last tearful promenade.

The next day was the drive to Plitvice Lakes. Luckily the A-1 was finished and Carmen was stellar- 2 ½ hours.

As planned we ate lunch at the boat ramp in the park. I had a hamburger and strudel, the others each had a half chicken. The photos will speak for the place. Did meet a fellow Domer due to my garb.
Finding our apartment was a little more adventurous, and then our preferred restaurant was closed for renovations. We went to a facsimile. I had rumpsteak, Shane had grilled trout and the girls had veal with ham and cheese. Shane and Teresa had crepes for dessert while Christine and I had ice cream.
In the morning, after a quick stop at the mini market across the street we headed to Pula. The roads had improved greatly since our last trip.
In Pula we toured the amphitheater (Venice had once proposed pulling it apart, shipping it home and reconstructing it there) , then the Old Town. At a restaurant, Shane had calamari while the girls had salads. Although they advertised pizza, they were not serving it. We all later had gelato and I grabbed a slice of pizza.

On to Rovinj where we found our place, got the car returned and then went out to work on the rest of our Kunas.
We explored a little before finding our restaurant- great meal, Shane and I shared fried baitfish and a pizza, the girls shared a capressio salad and a pizza, they had a double order of excellent (so they reported) white wine, we had Favorit Beer.

 We walked around town before gelato and the walk back to our apartment.
In the morning we got started pretty early. We were at the Cathedral before it opened. We climbed the medieval stairs to the top of the bell tower and took photos.



We did actual shopping after coming down, checking out the art and jewelry stores.
Kebabs for lunch except Christine who had a sandwich and very expensive grapes. Gelato followed.

Christine stayed back and relaxed while the rest of us went to the beach. Shane swam- we read.
Same place for dinner- Maestral- I had shrimp pasta, Shane had mussel pasta, Christine had whitefish in a truffle sauce, Teresa had a salad. Gelato followed, back to the room.

The next day we ferried to Venice and then, with some difficulty due to a sardine tight deck, took a water bus to our hotel.
For lunch we grabbed pizza slices, and then gelato.
We visited the Doge’s Palace and then explored the city; the problem was now even the more obscure places were overrun with tourists. Lemon Soda helped with the heat. We did a little more shopping and then back to the room and our excellent a.c.

We scouted around for a while before settling on the Marco Polo for dinner. We all had lasagna Bolognese first- then Teresa and I had chicken, Shane and Christine had fish- we all had strawberry cake for our first dessert. 
After dinner we went on a long exploratory stroll to get to another bridge over the Grand Canal. On the way back we stopped in a Murano Glass shop which had some beautiful stuff, Teresa liked the birds around a bowl- no sale though.

In the morning we grabbed some pastry on the way to the train station to buy tickets. Despite Christine’s protests we bought 24 hour passes for the water bus.

We then visited churches and a garden before getting good pizza for lunch and gelato.

We went up the bell tower before going into the Cathedral. We kinda violated the no photo rule, leading Shane down the road to perdition.



We went by the Bridge of Sighs, then went really remote to get away from the throngs and did some real shopping. The kids bought me a mask for Father’s Day. We visited four more churches on the way back to our room.


For dinner we again tried Mamo’s right away but again it was filled. They could take us at 9:00 so went across the alley to the Devil’s Forest for beer, cider, or wine.
The wait was worth it. We each had delicious meals, starting with bruschetta, I had sea bass- the fish would have happily jumped in the net if he had known he would end up tasting that good; Teresa had ravioli, Christine tuna, and Shane fried sea critters. We met a couple from St. Louis sitting next to us.
We walked for a while, eventually found our way back to St. Mark’s, then gelato and back to the room.

We took the no.2 -7:00 a.m. water bus to the train station and caught the 7:43 train to Bologna.
Christine quickly directed us to our hotel, then we went out to check the sites, including the 5th largest church in the world as well at St. Dominic’s. We all had salad for lunch, the kids had beer. We then found gelato that rivaled Cream ‘N Dreams in Prague.

After a few more sites we took the 20 bus to Villa Spada and climbed the longest portico in the world to the sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. After walking back down we hopped the bus to town for a trip to the grocery store and our room.

We walked around (again thwarted finding a recommended restaurant closed) before we ended up at Ristorante Tinello. Fantastic meal! I had pasta with sausage in cream sauce and veal with ham and parmesan (I won) Christine and Teresa had ravioli with cheese and meat with ham and mushroom sauce with side dishes of grilled cheese and vegetables. Shane had rabbit and tortellini with sage and butter. No gelato that night.

We took an early train to Florence for the day. First to the Duomo- circled the outside to the Duomo museum which contained the original east doors of the baptistery- the origin of the Renaissance. At 10:00 a.m. we entered the Duomo to view the inside.
By 11:00 we were at the Academy which, of course, house Michelangelo’s David. Shane again displayed his inability to follow rules.

We then went shopping. The kids made purchases. Pasta for lunch.

We then went to the Ponte Vecchio, got our tickets for the Uffizi Museum and spent a couple hours viewing that. Overrated in my opinion.


More shopping on the way to a brewery where we shared a couple of pizzas, and except for Teresa tried some craft beers. We waited to get back to Bologna to get gelato.
In the morning we were picked up for Christine’s treat. This included guided tours of Parmeggiano- Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto ham factories.

After the tours (with samples) we were taken to a restaurant for a “light lunch”. This included prosciutto with fried bread, three pasta dishes, steak and salad, and then dessert. Red and white wine flowed freely. There were 14 on the tour- almost all were friendly and it was a very good time.

We were fearing the logistics for the trip to Verona but they couldn’t have worked out better. It was a “slow” train but very comfortable with plenty of room for our luggage.
When we arrived in Verona we checked bags at the train station and bused into the city center. After a trip to the TI we visited the Arena, the 3rd largest coliseum in the Roman world. We visited a couple of churches on the way to the forum which was now a market.



From there we took the short walk to Juliet’s House and balcony and went through it.

We then visited St. Anastasia’s, the largest church in Verona.
Next to Fuime Adige and a look at the Roman Theater at a distance.
We then went to the Cathedral which was attached to two other churches, one had a supersized baptismal fount carved out of marble.

We walked back toward the Arena but stopped at a bakery for great pizza and the gelateria for great gelato.
We snacked back at the room and took a break.
Heading out to dinner we walked through the Arsenal.



Christine’s restaurant was inexplicably closed so we went to mine. Three of us had Duck Ragu , Shane had roast suckling pig. We all had white wine and salad- gelato on the way back.
In the morning we took the bus to the train station for our trip to Padua. We picked up our tickets for the chapel, saw a couple of churches, went to the market, examined the outside of some palaces and downed some pastry before making it to St. Anthony’s where we saw his tomb, his tongue, and a piece of the true cross.

We stopped at the largest piazza in Italy before going to Giotto’s chapel and the attached museums.

  There was an announcement that a million euro lottery ticket had been placed in a woman's handbag in the city.

On the way back to the train station 3 of us got kebabs, Christine bought a sandwich. Upon arriving back in Verona we took the bus to the City Center, got some gelato, bought pastries for breakfast for the next morning, then walked back to the apartment where we indulged in beer, limoncello, lemon soda, and cherry brandy.
For dinner we ate outdoors as the weather was nice in the evening. We selected a restaurant near the Roman Arena and we could half-hear the opera taking place inside. We all had pizza- pretty good but still not as good as Croatian. I had beer, the others tried the Spritzes, they decided they were a bit bitter.
We walked back to the apartment without the aid of gelato.

In the morning there was no problem getting a taxi to take us to the airport. We said goodbye to the kids and then picked up our rental car. The Mercedes C-Class needed a special cord for Carmen which Hertz lent us.
We headed north (Teresa mentioned I already missed Christine after 10 minutes and one missed turn) but things went smoothly.
We stopped in Trento which ended up being a very tourist friendly place with hardly any tourists in it. We walked down a frescoed street, visited Maria Maggiore Church and then to the Duomo, where the Council of Trent presided as a response to the Protestant Reformation.
Trento has a history, from Roman times through Germanic tribal invasions, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Counter-reformation and the Holy Roman Empire.
We toured the Palace next to the Duomo which had housed the Bishop-Princes but now housed art and artifacts. There was a separate archaeological section.
The biggest attraction was Castello del Buonconsiglia which was one of the best castles we have ever been to, It is in great shape and filled with art and interesting artifacts. Its ceilings were worth the price of admission. The views from the castle were outrageous (if Shane had not already wrapped up the photo contest this would have been a contender). There was a lot of English and it was worth the extra euro to visit the tower with the paintings of the months of the year and hear the entertaining audio guide.

After the castle we went to the underground Roman city which was only okay.
We then headed straight to Ortisei. The weather was pleasant in Trento, it was chilly in Ortisei (St. Ulrich) Carmen knew where to take us. It was very picturesque, a valley in the mountains.


We walked down to town for dinner. Teresa had a salad with goulash with dumplings with bread and bacon. I had bread and bacon dumpling soup and wiener schnitzel. I won.
In the morning we trekked downtown first and purchased some fabulous doughnuts. After trying to figure out how to do a mountain walk, we finally decided to take the cable car to the top of the mountain and do a walk from there. Beautiful vistas in every direction. After some advice from a saleslady at a souvenir stand we decided to walk first to Compaccio; from there we took a chair lift to Panorama, and then we hiked some more, and at the end, climbed back to the cable car station for the ride back down.

We stopped for sandwiches for lunch; then the hard slog back to the room.

We then drove to Balzano, about 45 minutes- Carmen was not her best arriving in town. We went to the museum centered around the Ice Man, Otzi. He was there with all his accoutrements. Pretty good museum.

We then went to the Cathedral and a few piazzas before going to Rick Steves’ recommended restaurant. I had delicious pork shank, roasted potatoes and sauerkraut, Teresa had an endive salad.
We then drove back to our base but stopped for some mediocre chocolate cake on the way.
First light in the morning looked dreary but as the fog lifted we could see it had snowed during the night and stuck beginning about halfway up the mountains, dusting the trees.
We intended to go to Bressanone but a detour took us first to Castelrotto (a recommended R.S destination) which we had considered visiting so we stopped, went to the supermarket, then visited the church, bell tower and the Calvario stroll up a small hill.

Next to Bressanone which had a cathedral with a magnificent interior with accompanying cloisters. During our visit we ate our picnic of very good bread (I picked it out) cheese, salami and tomatoes. For dessert I had a huge doughnut with custard, Bavarian cream and chocolate. Teresa had some cakey, puddingy, fruity thing.

 Between the detour still in place and Carmen not having a good day we took a very convoluted, backtracking, scenic ride back. We parked in town, did a little shopping then ate before going back to the room. I had a “complete” meal which was cold cuts and cheese. Teresa had a salad and a spicy pasta dish. No dessert tonight.
The next day was Dolomite Road Day. We were very lucky. We had sunshine after a snowfall two nights before. The result was prime optimal. The photos will do most of the talking but I will point out some high points.
We went through St. Christina and then stopped at Selva where we had our first snowball fight.

 We went through Sella Pass before getting to Competello and taking the cable car up to over 3000 meters.
We backtracked to Canazei and picked up picnic items. Next to Pordoi Pass where we had our picnic.
The last pass was Fulzarego and not very high.

Finally to Cortina, a somewhat sleepy town. We strolled to the Olympic Stadium where a junior hockey team was practicing, then took the long way back.

We ate a 5 Torri for dinner. I had a pizza with anchovies, capers and black olives. Teresa had a Buffalo pizza. We shared a salad. I had very good apple strudel for dessert, Teresa had tiramisu. Good meal with some unplanned entertainment.
The next morning we were making such good time to Udine we detoured to Acquileia. We rented the audioguide and visited the forum, the ancient harbor docks, the basilica with the largest ancient Christian mosaic in the Western World and the archeological museum.

After our walking tour we both had bruschettas for lunch and then drove to Udine. After checking in, we walked around before making it to the Palace/Museum which featured works by Tupielo.

We then went to the castle and Old Town as a rainstorm came upon us. We sought refuge in a bar where I had a Corona and Teresa had a white wine.

We again had a fruitless search for a recommended restaurant before stopping in at Adeon’s. We both had bowtie pasta with sausage and rocket; I had a Nicoise salad; Teresa a Brazilian. Back to the room.
After breakfast we headed to Cividale where we saw the Duomo and the Temple of Santa Maria which was touted to be the best example of Lombard architecture. Not worth the trip.
We crossed the border into Kobarid where we went to the WWI Museum. This was the scene of epic fighting during The Great War and the museum showed both the misery and futility of it.
We then went up to the War Memorial and then took a pleasure walk through the forest to the waterfall, which was reminiscent, though on a much smaller scale to Trammelbach Falls in Switzerland.

We drove through the Julian Alps over the Vrsic Pass, not as impressive as the Dolomites.

On the way to Lake Bled we were pulled over for not having the sticker required to drive on the highways – a 150 euro fine. We were on the highway for 10 minutes.
We found our B&B easy enough – our room overlooked the lake.

We cleaned up and headed out. We walked halfway around the lake before deciding on a restaurant. There was a vintage car exposition.

We chose Gostilna Pic Planicu Pub and Restaurant- recommended by Rick Steves. I had garlic soup and a mixed grill; Teresa had a mixed salad (with pumpkinseed oil) and grilled pork. I won again. Mine was fantastic. We both had roasted potatoes but neither of us had room for many. On the way back we stopped at a pastry shop for Kremna Rezina and Grmada, they were out of Gibonica.

We ate our pastry in the morning for breakfast. I purchased a Coke Zero and we decided to go to the island where we circled it and toured the church. We both rang the bell more than the required three times. I rowed out and Teresa rowed back. This was quite a hit with a boatload of Asian tourists who snapped numerous photos of me lounging in the back of the boat, sipping on my coke zero while Teresa tugged at the oars.

We then drove to Vintgar Gorge which was described as the “poor man’s Plitvice Lakes”. That may be an apt description but it featured white water more than waterfalls, of which it only had two.


We drove back, went to our next door market for picnic items. Because it started to drizzle we ate our picnic in our room before walking around the lake. We made a few stops; one to listen to a band playing vintage American and British Rock, and a tour of the castle which involved a climb to get there.

After finishing circumnavigating the Lake we went to the Park Terrace for dinner to hear what turned out to be a Slovenian Group play Celtic music. They were very good. I had trout and chocolate pie, Teresa had a sausage salad and chocolate mousse pie.

In the morning we first drove to the castle in the mouth of the cave that used to be the castle in the cave. Rick Steves said don’t bother going in so we didn’t. Teresa will tell you about the Erasmus legend.


Next we went to the Skocjan cave- think the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale and indoors. The Reka River formed it and it was remarkable but no photos were allowed and there was not enough light to sneak any non-flash ones.

We then drove to Trieste. Getting to our hotel was difficult- getting out of town to return our car to the airport was more difficult. We took a bus back and saw what sites we could, including the cathedral, the outside of the castle and some Roman ruins.

We went back, cleaned up and went out for Chinese for the first time on the trip. I had sweet and sour duck; Teresa had sizzling duck. For some reason getting steamed rice was a problem. On the way back to the room we had very good gelato.

In the morning we went to the taxi stand and got a cab to take us to the Sezana train station in Slovenia, not knowing when the trains ran. We were over an hour early for the first train of the day, We had to switch trains twice on the way to Ljubljana (those trains were waiting for us) but we got there by about 12:15. We found our Hotel Allegro which was very nice.
After checking in we explored the city a little before finding lunch. We didn’t each want a whole pizza so we ordered a large one to split. We ate half of it. We had gelato later- I tried black sesame seed, not impressive.

We saw more sites and did the Roman Emonam walk which included a museum and two archeological digs. We then went to the Dragon Bridge before heading back to the room to clean up.

We went Greek for dinner; both of us had a gyro and a salad.
 In the morning we first went to the market and then to the guided walking tour. The tour was very informative; our guide was fluent in English and quite humorous. Although it was an English speaking tour there were two couples from the US, one from Canada and the rest were from countries that did not have English as its primary language.
We saw City Hall, went up to the castle, the bridges and the Predersen round square.

After the tour we watched a rope walker, examined some more architecture then took a break.

After lunch we found the French Square, visited the library, did some more shopping; I ate some gelato, went in some more churches; took a break to people watch, went to the American Embassy (no pictures allowed) and the Eastern Orthodox Christian Synagogue- more shopping and back to the room to clean up.

Going out, as we approached the Triple Bridge we saw a crowd which turned out to be a celebration of Croatia entering the EU. We had just missed first the Slovenian dancers, then the Croatian dancers and then all of them dancing together. They handed out food afterward which was gobbled down by the multitudes-us included. I tried to photobomb a TV interview but I don’t know if I made it.

For dinner we both had salads and apple strudel which was excellent. I followed up with Snickers and dark chocolate gelato on the way back.
In the morning we took a van service to the airport and had an uneventful flight home through Frankfurt. I watched 3 movies, Teresa 4.