MCV Croatia, Slovenia and the Adriatic Coast
Albany to Newark; Newark to Munich; Munich to Dubrovnik arriving on the 27th.
Afternoon transfer to Valamar Lacroma Resort, a complex of five hotels with three beaches and numerous restaurants on the Dalmatian Coast with views of wooded karst limestone islands. Our group gets a short orientation followed by an enormous buffet dinner featuring local seafood and just about anything you might desire.
DAY 3 - Dubrovnik
After breakfast, a short bus ride brings us to the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, one of the best preserved in Europe. A walking tour of the city with a local expert takes us through the Pile Gate to the Placa, the wide main street. A visit to the monastery, cloister, ancient pharmacy and Rectors Palace are included. After some free rime for independent exploration, the choice is to walk around the walls or take a ferry to Lokrum Island, formerly home to a monastery and now a nature preserve. The island has trails, a botanical garden, an centuries old fort, a couple of restaurants and a rocky beach, an excellent place to dip your feet into the crystal clear Adriatic Sea. A return ride along the coast offers stunning views of the city. This evening, a ride to Cilice for a farm to table dinner features local musicians, homemade prosciutto and cheese, wine, cordials, pork and vegetables finished with a type of Apple strudel. A stop along the way offered a stunning sunset picture stop of Dubrovnik.
DAY 4 - Dubrovnik
Today is at leisure or to take the optional excursion to Montenegro. Dinner in the old town after the departure of the cruise ship crowds is a great way to finish the day. By the way, the days have been sunny with temperatures in the 80s.
DAY 5 - Dubrovnik to Split
Gorgeous views on our drive along the Dalmatian Coast with the Adriatic on one side and the Dinaric Alps on the other. Along the route, we pass through the mountain lakes area. Our lunch stop is in the lovely old town of Omis topped by an ancient castle ruin affording excellent views of the town, river and sea. From Omis, it is a short drive to Split whose medieval core is built into Roman emperor Diocletian's well preserved palace. His mausoleum now a church; temple of Jupiter, a baptistry; the peristyle, shops and the rest, homes, restaurants and a hotel. Yes, it is very large. Detailed explanations from our guide Vesna, which means spring, illustrated the history of Split from 301 AD through medieval times to the present.
DAY 6 - Split to Plitvice
Addition to the itinerary to include 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites. First more travel north along the coast. Trogir, our first 'secret' stop, is an evocative medieval town on a small island, last occupied by the Venetians, a warren of narrow alleys and limestone buildings. Sibrenik is deceptive upon entry with an unattractive modern aesthetic and commercial waterfront. But past the bus station, it morphs into another medieval town with narrow alleys, a maze streets and stone buildings. The Cathedral, beautifully carved with stone heads surrounding the entire exterior, was our second UNESCO stop. Anywhere, waterfront, small shady terrace or square is a lovely place for a lunch break. With commentary from our tour manager and local guides about the fractious history of this area, we continue on into the interior, evidence still visible.
DAY 7 - Plitvice to Opatija
Morning to afternoon 4.5 km walk through Plitvice Lakes National Park, the oldest park, est 1949, in Croatia. Our path begins at Big Falls, the highest in Croatia, through cascading waterfalls, along raised wood paths and bridges across numerous lakes ending with a boat ride across the largest lake, turquoise colored. Stunning scenery. Interior back to the coast, switchback mountain road down to the coast, views for miles is an exhilarating ride. Upon arrival at the Adriatic coast, we are met with dark clouds, wind and rain.
An hour up the coast on the Croatian Riviera is our hotel in Icici.
DAY 8 - Istrian Peninsula
Having been part of Italy at one time, one could mistake the area for Tuscany or Umbria. Hilltop towns, Italianate style palazzi, the food, wine are all similar. First we have a short walking tour of Opatija, the largest Croatian Riviera resort town with the Riva, the seaside promenade, and grand hotels. Second stop is Aura Distillery producing all natural products including jams, olive oil, vinegar and brandy. Tour and sampling; all part with purchases in hand. Attitudes adjusted, we depart to Oprtalj and the church of St. Mary with its 15th century frescoes. These frescoes told the stories of the bible to illiterate people. Our fortune is that we are here during truffle season.
Our stop in Lavade for an early dinner includes homemade pasta with shaved black truffles and Istrian beef. Delicious.
DAY 9 - Icici to Ljubljana
Departing the Adriatic coast this morning for Slovenia. Currency changes from Croatian kuna (HRK) to the euro (€). En route, we stop at a Marche, a travel plaza, and these are phenomenal. Fresh salads, fresh squeezed juices, breads made on site, roasted meats and even wine. Just an fyi. The route to Lake Bled is scenic with the Alps surrrounding the valley. Lake Bled is shamelessly scenic. Travel by pletna (local flat bottom oared boats seating 20) to Bled Island with the baroque St. Mary's. Back on shore, a visit to the Park Hotel terrace overlooking the lake for the cream cake, a local specialty with creme patisserie with coffee or local wine is a memorable experience. Last stop, Ljubljana.
DAY 10- Ljubljana
Our change of itinerary provides a full day in Ljubljana. City tour walks us into the old town which is mostly pedestrianized but watch out for the bikes. The river Ljubljanica, spanned by 3 bridges including the Dragon Bridge, runs through town and is lined with cafes filled with locals and tourists. The architecture is mostly baroque due to an earthquake. The cathedral and the Church of the Annunciation are beautiful examples. The castle is perched high above the city. A funicular brings you up to the castle for panaramic views. Restaurants and cafes are numerous with casual to fine dining and varied cuisines. Unexpectedly, it is a very nice place to spend a few days.
DAY 11 - Ljubljana to Zagreb
Zagreb is approximately 140 KM from Ljubljana via a south eastern route. Though close, it does require 2 border crossings, one to exit Slovenia and another to enter Croatia. Each time off the coach to have the passport stamped. Zagreb's old town is fairly compact with a funicular to take you up the hill. It has a 13th century gothic cathedral which is being slowly restored due to deterioration of the limestone. Of course cafes line the streets and many are engaged in chatting, smoking and drinking. Tha architecture of the 'new' town is belle epoch with one grand example after another. Craft, flower and food markets fill the many squares.