Croatian Trip Report

Steve's Youtube Croatia Istria

Steve's Plitvice

Steve's Debrovnik

Steve's Youtube program of the Budapest and Croatian trip.

 

 

CAI-PNW CROATIA TRIP REPORT

In the fall of 2015 we began planning for our CAI-PNW trip to Croatia that included cultural experiences as well as hiking adventures.  The following sixteen CAI members participated in the trip:  Flo and John Burnett, Ida Callahan, Diane Clifford, Clarence Elstad, Steve Johnson, Karen Kornher, Lynne and Paul Kipping, Bev & Ron Riter, Ann Vess, Carol Warner, George and Rosalie Whyel and Toni Williams.  Most participants also participated in the pre-trip to Budapest and post-trip activities from Dubrovnik.  After arriving by train from Budapest to Zagreb, we traveled to the Istrian peninsula, the Plitvice lakes and falls, then along the beautiful coast.  We traveled from Split to Dubrovnik via ferry, during which the last half was a very rough ride on the sea during a storm.  Experiences included visiting many medieval villages, cathedrals and churches, museums, markets, old city walls and gardens.  We enjoyed listening to Klezmer (traditional Jewish) music and eating food cooked “under the bell”.  Ron led hikes up several mountains, Steve coordinated the transportation and I arranged for lodging and food.  With additional days before and after our “official” CAI trip, our travel adventures turned into three weeks.  Thanks to those who helped with purchasing food, cooking and cleaning up after meals.  Another great CAI-PNW trip!  See what participants wrote and a glimpse of our experiences on photos.  By Bev Riter

Pre-trip to Budapest.  Our CAI “pre-trip” began in the beautiful cities of Buda and Pest on opposing sides of the great Danube River.  Led by a young, knowledgeable, humorous, and athletic guide, our first day’s 8½- mile walking tour truly covered the territory – physically and historically. From St. Stephen’s Church to the UNESCO site viewed from the Royal Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, and side tours to the Parliament building, City Market, and City Park, as well as The Great Synagogue, a thrilling Klesmer dinner concert, and Thermal Baths, whether viewed in daylight or enraptured by night, one word came to mind-GRAND.  By Rosalie Whyel

Zagreb.  Zagreb was a delight with a great mix of modern and old buildings, wonderful green spaces, and unique museums including the Naïve Art Museum, and the Museum of Broken Relationships. Nice surprises around every corner, with unique stained glass, delightful sculptures, a lovely market, and great food. Transportation was a breeze with many trams and busses originating from a central square. While there were some tourists, they did not predominate, and it was easy to imagine real life in Zagreb.  By Karen Kornher

 

 

Medvednica Nature Park.  On our final day in Zagreb six of us led by Ron Riter, opted to hike in Medvednica Nature Park.  Our plan was to hike to Medvedgra Castle.  We took a tram and then a bus to deposit us near the entrance of the park.  We located the trail number and blaze and off we went.  The day was perfect for hiking and the trail rose moderately.  We stopped for lunch and ate outside of a pension.  Ron was studying the map to locate the continuation of the trail and before you knew it, with the help of a waiter, a local Croatian gentleman was leading us on our journey.  He spoke no English.  As we continued hiking upward, we reached a ski area.  Our “guide” found a construction worker who spoke English to share information about the ski area.  It has been used for Olympic trials.  Off we go again and soon encounter young school children and their teachers hiking.  All of us stop at another pension for a break.  What a surprise we had when the teachers gave us all a plate of apple strudel to enjoy!  Well fueled, we shortly arrived at the castle and spent some time roaming through the ruins and looked over the walls down to Zagreb.  The descent was long, steep and rocky.  We had hiked around seven miles.  Our guide continued on with us until we exited the tram near our lodging.  What a great day and experience!  By Toni Williams

Lovran.  At 9 AM sharp, our driver Bela arrived at our lodgings in Zagreb with a large van and attached trailer to pick us up.  Steve had already learned that he was Hungarian with German as his only other language.  Steve therefore had to become very creative in communicating with him using gestures, maps, and some software that translated spoken words.  Bela proved to be a very competent driver and was good natured as well.  He picked some key phrases such as Okey Dokey during the trip!  We drove west from Zagreb through mountains to the “Croatian Riviera” where we stopped in Opatija for lunch and some wandering along the beach promenade.  The 19th Century Italianate villas and hotels were reminiscent of Monaco and other places on the French Riviera.  We then went up narrow and winding roads to our lodgings at House Brio, above Lovran, where our masterful driver let us off, and, with the help of several of our crew, detached and pushed the trailer into a precarious parking space.  Bev and helpers prepared a fine dinner of Italian vegetable soup which we enjoyed al fresco as night fell.  By Carol Warner

 

 

Mt Ucka.  After breakfast Bella drove us to the Mt Ucka trailhead where we began our ascent of the Vojak summit, the highest point on the Ucka massif at 1396 meters.  The trail was obvious with a good grade though forest until obtaining the summit ridge giving us cloud obscured views.  At the summit were communication towers, an old stone tower where one could buy souvenirs and a jumping off platform for those folks, thinking they are birds, can soar on the wind currents on the contraption of their choice.  We ate lunch on the summit and then began our descent.  It was a much easier hike than Mt. Medvednica.  We only gained 1500’ with a four hour total trip time.  Back at the trailhead we had time for coffee while waiting for Bella.  By Paul Kipping

Istrian Peninsula. On Saturday we drove through beautiful hills and low mountains to the tiny village of Paladini.  Bev and Flo (cousins with maiden names of Paladini) suspect that some Paladini’s from Tuscany may have settled there many years before.  Despite its small size, the town had a well-appointed shop selling everything related to truffles, a local specialty.  The truffle-hunting dogs, of various breeds, were especially welcoming and appealing.  And we all benefitted from this visit the following morning when we tasted Bev’s truffle omelet.  Our next stop was Motovun where we climbed steep cobblestone streets to explore a classic walled hill town.  Our departure was delayed for almost an hour while bicycle racers claimed the road.  We then descended to the seacoast town of Porec where we toured the 6th Century Euphrasian basilica and strolled the promenade outside massive walls.  At our last stop, the fishing port of Rovinj, we scattered to explore the town and have dinner.  Two wedding parties provided “local color” as they gathered outside a church and strolled through town behind an accordionist.  By Carol Warner


Plitvice Lakes and Waterfalls.  After more than a week of idyllic weather, we were enshrouded by clouds and heavy rain as we approached Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia's best known and most visited natural attraction.  Although our enthusiasm was dampened considerably by the weather, we only had one day to visit the 16 lakes and countless waterfalls, so our intrepid group donned Gore-Tex, hoisted umbrellas and sloshed down to the boat which delivered us to a trailhead.  We quickly recognized that the weather had kept the crowds away, allowing us unhurried opportunities to frame spectacular photos and to appreciate the solitude along with the resident water fowl, as we spent the morning hiking several kilometers along heavily forested paths and boardwalks.  Returning to our hotel for lunch, we took full advantage of the radiators and hair dryers before venturing out again, joined by the optimists in our group who'd patiently waited for the predicted drier weather.  While we'd have preferred sunny skies to enhance the color of the lakes, the afternoon was virtually shower free, making it possible to gaze deep into the clear lakes to see the myriads of fish swimming deep within and also to see far across the lakes where the beech trees were beginning to show their fall colors.  During dinner, featuring traditional Croatian cuisine, we shared our soggy tales and agreed that our visit to Plitvice Lakes was sure to be remembered as one of the highlights of our trip.  By Flo Burnett

Paklenica National Park. Travelling from Plitvice Lakes to Poljica, we took a welcome break to hike the canyon in Paklenica National Park.  We started up the canyon on the road because the bus could not turn around at the road’s end.   We saw many rock climbers scaling the canyon’s limestone cliffs on the many established, bolted routes.  As we gained elevation we left the canyon walls and enjoyed the mountain view.  While everyone chose how far to hike, Lynne, Karen, Diane, Ron and I went to the mountain viewpoint, had lunch, and then walked back taking a parallel trail on the other side of the small stream that we followed on the ascent.  We boarded the bus and continued our journey to Poljica by the sea.  It was a very nice break in the day.  By Paul Kipping

Krka National Park and Sibenik. After breakfast we left our house by the sea in Poljica and headed for Krka National Park, noted for is waterfalls on the Krka River.  After some consultation our Hungarian bus driver found the bus parking spot, and we headed for the boat that would take us up river to the falls.  It was a beautiful fall day and we cruised up river into a cool, brisk wind especially noticed by those on the open boat top.  Once there we had about an hour to tour the falls as we wanted to catch the 12:30 return boat.  That turned out to be sufficient time for our tour and for a brief lunch.  There are many falls that are composed of travertine terraces built up over many centuries.  They are quite spectacular.  On the way back to the boat, Rosalie, wanting to take a picture of a young swan, was pecked on the toe by mama swan letting h

er forcefully know that she was to stay clear of her young.  Mama prevailed and 

no picture was taken.  Leaving the Krka NP, we went to Sibenik to see St. James Cathedral where a film crew was likely shooting a commercial.  Carved on the outside cathedral walls were very realistic stone heads of ordinary people.  These heads represented all the town’s people who refused to contribute to the cathedral’s construction.  They formed a Middle Age’s wall of shame immortalized for all to see. By Lynn Kipping

 

Poljica. After finally finding a parking place (we spent a great deal of time just getting off a small one way street high above the city.  Our lost driver was very good at backing up) and disembarking the van we then asked a local young lady how we could get to the Cathedral of St Jacob.  She told us of the underpass that would take us to a walkway along the water and on to the Cathedral a few block away. Most of the area around the church was blocked off while they were filming a commercial for some drink. Seeing the frieze of heads of people mounted, on the church, that apparently didn’t give a donation to the building was interesting.  By Clarence Elstad

Split. We arrived in Split while it was raining and our driver found a parking place as far away as he could so we would be sure to get wet, even though we had rain gear and umbrellas.  We visited the major site to see in Split which was the Diocletian Palace built in the 4th century. (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) There is a very nice waterfront promenade to explore. It was a bit sad to see how this great palace had been taken over with vendors selling touristy items. By Clarence Elstad

Trogir. Trogir is a very beautiful walled village on an island that had a great cathedral in the town center. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and it also has a wonderful waterfront promenade with a large number of medieval streets which were fun to explore. There is a fort on to furthest point of the island that was built to protect the town. This town also has the oldest continuous operating pharmacy. By Clarence Elstad

Dubrovnik.  Our arrival in Dubrovnik, via hydrofoil from split, was a major event in its own right from the cool early morning departure through the stormy sea arrival at Dubrovnik. Solid land was welcome to squeamish stomachs. Our first meeting on the terrace overlooking the sea found our motley crew attired in rain gear & warm clothes. The afternoon was spent settling into our lodging with free time to explore our surroundings. Some of us of used that time to check out the 24 hour bakery below our lodging, and take pictures of a stormy sea and the extreme wet conditions of the afternoon thunder storms. This was by far the wettest period we experienced walking between the old town and our lodging. Passing cars & buses offered drenching rooster tails with no room to avoid their brunt. 

The next day we used public transportation to the old town for our walking tour with a local guide. Informative, the walk also helped us get our bearings of the old town. After the tour we had time to walk on and explore Dubrovnik’s 13th & 16th century wall perspective before our 1600 congregation at the cable car. The lift took us to the top of 412 meter Mt Srd above Dubrovnik, with great views of the town and where we had spent the day. While the view we experienced from the lift was breathtaking, Ron & George's hike up the hill to meet us was even more so. 

From the lift station we walked along the ridge admiring the views of Dubrovnik and enjoying the camaraderie of the group. Evidently Srđ was once forested with oak trees which locals called dubrava (from the old Slavic word dub, oak tree), after which the city of Dubrovnik was named. We passed through the town site of Bosanka and memorials for it and its people. Signs related: “On 1st October 1991, Serbian-Montenegrin aggressor, began their attack on Dubrovnik. During the months of attack, by the Serbian-Montenegrin army, the village of Bosanka was completely destroyed. All the homes and other property were set on fire. In May 1992, the Croatian army liberated Bosanka and the village began to recover slowly – it started to rebuild itself so the population was able to return to their homes.” Serves as a sobering reminder to appreciate the security we enjoy at home.  After a brief stop to allow a flock of sheep to cross, our walk ended at Konoba Dubrava, site of our farewell dinner. We observed true Croatian cooking under the bell using extreme heat and burning wood embers. A real treat to see and even better to consume.  We returned by cab from the dark of the country to the magic of brightly lit Dubrovnik.  By John Burnett

Krizni Put Hike. The images on the top of Mt Srd easily viewed from the town of Dubrovnik below conjured up thoughts of why not hike up there rather than take the gondola. So at 1:30 Ron and I left the old walled city and headed in the direction of the trail depicted as a red line on the city tourist map coming down from the summit to somewhere north of the gondola base. Somehow we found the trail head, you can see Ron standing by it.To the top of Mt Srd is an elevation gain of 1352 and from the point of beginning in the old city it’s pretty much up hill. The trail rocky and rooty in the beginning translates to a nice gravely path with awesome territorial views. From the trailhead it took us 1.5 hrs. excluding the time to get there from the walled city.  There were 14 switchbacks and at each switchback there were signs approximately 4’ x 4’ depicting some sort of religious scene. We discussed these images but had no clue as to what they meant. Finally topping out we headed to the café to wait for the group coming via the gondola. It was a great hike. We stopped and chatted with various hikers, mostly going down.Upon returning home I learned that these images depict Christ on the day of his Crucifixion. (For more info go to)  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/stations_of_the_cross  All in all the hike was well worthwhile on several fronts,  Google Dubrovnik in the Home Land war 1991-1995 for info about military operations there and the associated museum.  By George Whyel

Montenegro. Up early for an uncertain start to Kotor in the pouring rain.  We got a bus and “Fred” as our guide for the day.  After many stops to pick up other passengers and numerous border checks the journey began.  When in Montenegro, we got a good look at Sveti Stefan, a five star resort for the rich and famous.  When we arrived in Buda it was still pouring rain so lunch was first on the agenda.  On our way to Buda “Fred” pointed out many examples of the destruction which was created by the 90’s war between Montenegro and Croatia.  Very sobering sights.  By the time we boarded the bus for Kotor the rain had thankfully stopped.  We were met by a local guide who gave us a 45 minute tour of the Old Town.  It has an extremely impressive setting with steep barren hills covered with fortifications, a castle and a church.  At the base of the town is the southernmost fjord in Europe.  One of the highlights was visiting a Coptic Christian cathedral filled with silver icons and relics.  Our last stop was the small village of Perast on the Bay of Kotor.  Some took small boats to the islet of Our Lady of the Rocks while others roamed the village.  By Ann Vess

Bosnia and Herzegovina.   Our bus to Mostar showed up almost on time and the weather was almost rain free.  We crossed the border twice rather quickly but at the third crossing we were held up for an hour.  Unfortunately, this left little time for the UNESCO fortified town of Pocitelj which was built in 1383.  Even looking up at the town from the road, it’s Ottoman influences were evident.  Pocitelj suffered extensive damage in the 1992-1996 war.  Arriving in Mostar, which straddles the Neretva River, we were greeted by our exceptional guide.  Stari Most, its UNESCO Bridge was originally constructed by the Ottomans in the 16th century.  We visited a Jewish Synagogue Museum and the Turkish House.  One thing I’m sure everyone will remember are the foot massaging streets of the Old Town.  Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina are countries who are still obviously still suffering from a devastating war 20 years ago.  By Ann Vess

 

 

 

 

Trip Summary

By Diane Clifford

Budapest is grand

Zagreb a bit gritty

Paladini was tasty

Plitvice wet, yet quite pretty

 

Hikers enjoyed the tower in Park Ucka

The dangling climbers in Paklenica

And yet more waterfalls in Park Krka

We missed Diocletian in Split

But the island of Trogir was a hit

 

Some got sick

On the boat to Dubrovnik

Still the walls of the town

Do truly astound

 

We'll remember Steve with his camera

And Bev in the aisles of Konzum

Not to mention our driver Bela

A somewhat misdirected fella

 

If you spent all your kuna

Left behind all your stress

Enjoyed the sights, food, and people

Then the trip was a success!

 

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