Part I : Balkan 13D 10N Tour November 2018 Italy, Slovenia & Croatia (Pula, Zadar, Hvar Island, Ston & Dubrovnik)

Day 1

It’s time to relax and unwind again after 10 ½ months of ‘working’! This time we had selected Balkan as our destination for vacation. This was also the first time we followed a Singapore Tour agency i.e. LGE Tours. Sound familiar? Of course not our Finance Minister YB Lim Guan Eng lah!  It’s Let’s Go Europe! LOL!

We arrived at Changi International Airport at around 7.00 pm for our flight to Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul before taking the connecting flight to Venice, Italy. Our flight to Istanbul was at 11.45 pm. So we still could not check in as it was still early. So we hung around the airport until 8.20 pm when we met our Tour Manager Ms Dorothy. Checking-in was fast and smooth.

We then went to Plaza Premium Lounge for our dinner. At 10.40 pm we boarded our flight to Istanbul by Turkish Airlines.(B777-300)

Simple dinner at Plaza Premium Lounge, Terminal 1, Changi Airport

Waiting for boarding at Changi Airport

Day 2

We arrived at Ataturk International Airport at around 5.30 am local time after an 11-hour flight. Immediately we walked to the departure gate for our connecting flight to Venice. This flight took about 2 hour 40 minutes. We arrived at Venice at 9.30 am local time. (Time difference between Venice and Singapore is 7 hours)

Arrived at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul

A pose at Istanbul Airport before departing to Venice

Worst than AirAsia, no cover for the mobile aircraft stairs to board the plane

The tour bus was at the airport to fetch us. Immediately we headed to Pula, a historical coastal town situated in Croatia.  On the way, we stopped at Skofije, Slovenia for toilet stop as well as lunch. As Italy and Slovenia both are Schengen countries, so you don’t notice when you cross the border of both countries as you do not need to stamp the passports.

We stopped at Restaurant Inpiceria for lunch. However, as it was winter, they didn’t have enough food for 29 of us! So many of us ended up taking sandwiches for lunch at the OMV petrol station! But when we crossed the border of Slovenia and Croatia, we were required to have the passports stamped as these two countries are non-schengen countries. The immigration officer came into the bus with their stamping pads and stamped our passports.  It was quite fast and hassle free.

Lunch was supposed to be at this restaurant but there were insufficient food !

Soon we were on our way to Pula for our first itinerary of the tour. The most attractive part of this town is of course the Ruins of the Roman Coliseum, one of the six coliseums left in the world. The one in Rome is of course the most famous. Then we walked to the Old Town to see some historical buildings, including the temple of Augustus. Majority of the buildings were built by the Venetians probably 2000 years ago.

Arrived at Pula seafront

At the Old Town twin arch

At the Old Town, Pula

At around 4.00 pm, we headed back to our hotel, The Grand Premium Remisens Hotel at Opatija, another coastal town of Croatia.

The Grand Palace Premium Remisens Hotel at Opatija

 Day 3

After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, we continued our journey to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO Heritage. On the way, we stopped at Feniks Restaurant Plitvice for lunch. We had pork knuckles. But it wasn’t very tasty compared to our local grilled pork in Malaysia. The weather was very cold. It was snowing and it was all white on the way to the park!

Heavy snow on the way to Plitvice National Park

We never failed to try out the local beer whenever there is a chance. This Croatian beer has a bitter taste!

Our tour manager, Ms Dorothy Leong from Singapore

So the scenery was not as spectacular as we had expected. The trail in the park was not tough as it was properly covered with bricks or concrete. However it was very slippery. This park has altogether 16 lakes inter-connected by 92 cascading waterfalls hidden among lush forest. This park was often described as the ‘Jiu Zhai Gow’ of Europe. Entrance fee depends on season. During winter, it will be cheaper. We paid 50 kuna per pax for group tour. From the entrance, we hiked up to P3. Then from P3 we embarked on a ferry back to P1 where our bus was waiting for us. The ferry ride was only 25 minutes. If it is summer or spring, the scenery would be amazing with turquoise-coloured lakes separated by tufa, or travertine. However, in winter, all the colourful scenery turns white! Nevertheless, in winter there will be fewer tourists visiting the Park unlike in summer, it could be 10k visitors per day! It will be super-crowded until you can’t even walk comfortably, not to say to take good pictures! All in, we walked a total of 5 km at the Park according to my pedometer installed in my handphone!

Our local tour guide explaining the trail before entering the park

Starting our park trekking

Selfie on the way..

All grey and white only!

Supposed to be a beautiful waterfall. But it’s gone during winter.

A pose with the local guide

A souvenir shop at the Park but it was closed in winter.

The ferry which took us back to where the bus was waiting for us

A group photo at the National Park

Here are some photos taken by tour mate Mr KP Lee using Canon EOS 70 camera.

Courtesy of photographer Mr KP Lee

Here are some photos downloaded from internet www.venturists.net during non-winter season.

Courtesy of venturists.net

Courtesy of Venturists.net

Courtesy of venturists.net

Another 1 ½ hour bus drive took us to Biograd where we checked-in the Ilirija Hotel. Biograd is a small  town along the coast of Adriatic Sea. Buffet dinner was at the hotel, but there wasn’t much variety to choose from.

Ilirija Hotel at Biograd

View from the hotel room

Beautiful seafront at the hotel

 

Another shot before departing

Day 4

After a simple breakfast at the hotel, we checked-out and started the journey by travelling 30 km which took us about 40 minutes to the coastal town of Zadar at the Adriatic Sea. The weather was fine but a bit cloudy. We visited the Sea organ, which produces music by way of the sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. We also visited the monument to the sun, People’s Square, Church of Donatus , Zadar Cathedral, St Mary’s Church and St Anastasia’s Cathedral.  Zadar boasts of having the most beautiful sunset in the world. But we didn’t wait to see for ourselves this beautiful sunset!

Everyone was trying to listen to the music produced by the sea waves.

The music comes out from the holes as shown in the photo

From Zadar, we travelled another 158 km to reach the town of Split in Croatia. Split is the second largest city in Croatia after Zagreb. We had Chinese lunch at the Asian Restaurant. This was our first Chines meal in Balkan! After lunch, it was time to explore again. We visited the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian which was built by the Romans 1700 years ago. The palace is still well preserved. We also visited the St Domnius Cathedral. In the evening, we strolled along the Split’s seafront Promenade to catch the colourful sunset.  Dinner was at the Skinada Restaurant. We had pizza and spaghetti.

This photo was taken by using Iphone 6

This one was taken using Canon EOS 70. Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

All visitors would surely touch the toes of this great man to seek for good luck and good health! Of course mom wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity!

The toes of this great man; couldn’t remember who is he! Pastor? Priest? Clergy man? No idea at all! Didn’t pay attention while the local guide was explaining!

At the Promenade, Split

Surprised to find this antique balance is still being used by traders to weigh their goods at the local market

Sinking sun at the Promenade, Split

Sundown at the Promenade

Then we checked-in Hotel Salona Palace at Solin which is about 9 km from Split.

This hotel displays a lot of posters at its premise

Day 5   

Today’s itinerary was to visit Hvar Island. So we had to wait up early  to catch the ferry to the island at 8.30 am. Even though the ferry is quite large, it can only carry a fixed number of vehicles. So if you miss this ferry, you need to wait for the next ferry. After 2 hour navigation, we finally arrived at Hvar Island. The local guide was already waiting for us at the ferry terminal. We started our exploration by visiting the best sights of Hvar town including its lovely harbor and pretty little boats as well as the St Stephen’s Square, the largest piazza in Dalmatia and the main town square with its St Stephen Cathedral. Hvar is a historical town with buildings dated back to the 17th century but are still well preserved. The air there is fresh and crisp. The island is not crowded. We walked along the coast of Adriatic Sea which is adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. Over here, you get to experience the Mediterranean feel! The weather was good with sunny sky, very ideal to take pictures.

The ferry which took us to Hvar Island

At Sucuraj, Hvar Island

Edited photo by Mr KP Lee at Sucuraj

Sucuraj is a beautiful coastal town

Date palm tree

Lunch was at the Mizorola Restaurant with grilled chicken and ice-cream. After lunch, we took the bus which is about 1 ½ hr drive to the pier at Sucuraj to take another ferry to Dobrovnik. The journey to Dobrovnik was exhilarating, passing through some beautiful coastline. The Croatian coast is absolutely astounding. The water is crystal clear and turquoise blue with many islands and islets. We also got to enjoy the awe-inspiring sunset along the way.

Beautiful coast line of Croatia

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Sunset on the way to Dubronik

From Dobrovnik, we crossed the border of Croatia into Bosnia & Herzegovina at Klek. Again, we had our passport stamped as both countries are non-schengen countries.  Another 10 minute drive took us to Neum and checked-into Jadran Hotel which is situated at one of the bays of the Adriatic Sea. From the hotel room, you could get a beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea especially in the evening where the sun is sinking.

Sunset viewed from the hotel room

Morning view

Day 6 

Today was more relax as we only set-off at 9.00 am. We headed to Ston to visit the oyster farm. As Ston is situated in Croatia, we needed to cross the border again at Zaton Doli. At Ston, we took a boat out to the oyster farm which is just a 10-minute boat ride. At the farm, the boatmen hauled up a string of oysters and immediately opened up the oysters for us to taste. It was very fresh and got down very well with wine! Never tasted oysters so fresh before! Actually Ston is a very beautiful coastal town with stunning landscape. The village is made up of traditional Dalmatian stone cottages. You can see breathtaking calm and serene sea with many oyster and mussel farms along the coast. There are mountains behind the town. There is even a mini great wall at the mountain!

Mini great wall on the island

A small glass of wisky before tasting live oysters

Oyster farm at Mali Ston

Mom with strings of oysters just hauled up

Mom with tour mate Ms Foo from KL enjoying white wine and oysters

After the oyster tasting session, we headed south to Dubrovnik, a beautiful coastal town for its distinctive old town. It is known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ situated on the Dalmatian coast. Upon reaching Dubrovnik, we had lunch at the Poklivar open air Restaurant. We had grilled chicken. After lunch, we walked to the old town. We started our tour by visiting the museum to see the photographs of those civilians sacrificed during the 1992 civilian war with the Serbians. We also visited the Monastery built in the 13th century. We continued our walk on the marble streets with ancient walls and baroque buildings to Orlando’s Column and the Rector’s Palace. We then took a 45 minute boat cruise to take pictures of the fort built in the 17th century and also round the beautiful island of Lokrum. Dinner was at the Old Town Polistar Restaurant with pasta and pizza. 

At Dubrovnik seafront with Lokrum island at the back

At Dubrovnik Old Town

At Dubrovnik fort

Never failed to try out ice-cream from other country even during winter!

Narrow alleyway with residential houses on both sides at the Old Town

At the cathedral in Old Town

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

We then checked-into The Sheraton Hotel at Dubrovnik.

Sheraton Hotel Dubrovnik

At the back of Sheraton Hotel

A beautiful swimming pool at the hotel

Stay tuned…

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About HP Lim

An experienced Form 5 chemistry teacher from Johor Bahru.