Part II: Balkan 13D 10N Tour November 2018 (Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia & Italy) (Kotor, Mostar, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Lake Bled, Postjona Cave, Burano and Venice)

Day 7

We set off early to cross the border again to Montenegro, a small country to the south of Croatia.  Our destination was to visit Kotor, another coastal town at the end of Boka Bay at the Adriatic Sea surrounded by mountains, notable the Lovcen National Park. The tour manager told us that the people of Montenegro are very relax and carefree. What they like to do is to drink coffee and chit chat even during working hour! True enough, border crossing was fast and smooth as the officer didn’t even check or stamp the passports! After about 2 hour drive, we finally reached the town of Kotor. The local tour guide Mr Bojan was at the gateway of old town to greet us after we had waited for about 15 minutes. Probably he was drinking coffee with his friends while waiting for us to arrive! We then toured this Medieval fortified Old Town which was built in the 16th century & 17th century. We also visited some Catholic churches. The Old Town mostly consists of churches, monasteries, theaters, prisons, bastions, forts, museums, clock towers and palaces. They are surrounded by a great wall like the Great Wall of China! There are 3 gates to enter the Old Town; the Seagate, the Rivergate and the Gurdic Gate. It looks like Croatia is a country which is full of Old Towns!

Lunch was at the Cattaro Restaurant in the Old Town.

We had fish chips and rice, fish soup and ice-cream. The meals in Balkan are quite simple and similar to Eastern Europe, i.e. 3 courses; the first one is either soup or salad, the second one is meat; either fish, chicken or pork followed by a dessert; ice-cream, pudding or cake.

Oyster farms on the way

Old Town fort viewed from outside

This edited version was taken by Mr KP Lee using Canon EOS 70

There is a  small church up the hill. Everyone was curious how the people would go up to the church for prayer. Actually we walked half way up the hill until we were stopped by a guy who asked us to pay 8 € each to go up.   Only Mr & Mrs  KP Lee paid and went up.

Close look of the church taken by Mr KP Lee

At The Seagate entrance of the Old Town

Our local tour guide, Mr Bojan

The clock tower inside the Old Town

On the way up to the church but had to U-turn.

Outside the Old Town

Then we went back to Dubrovnik again this time by crossing the lake using the open air ferry. Buffet dinner was at the Sheraton Hotel.

Day 8

Again today we set off early at 7.45 am to cross the border of Bosnia & Herzegovina to Mostar to visit the Stone Bridge. This time crossing the border was slow at the Metkovic border. When we reached Mostar, it was raining quite heavily. So we had to wear raincoat and carry umbrella. What a day! Most important of all, we could not take good pictures. Because of the rain, we didn’t stay long at the bridge. Everyone was rushing to the restaurant for shelter as it was also very cold! We had lunch at Kadrama Restaurant near the Stone Bridge. This time we had grilled fish and soup.

At Mostar Stone Bridge

A deserted street at Mostar probably because of rain

Very good grilled fish at Kadrama Restaurant

Then we proceeded to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina after another 2 hour drive. We visited the famous part of the city Bascarsija and the city hall, walked through the streets to see the local shops and cafés or restaurants.  Taking picture at the Sebilj is a must for all visitors to Sarajevo! The Sebilj is a wooden fountain built in 1753 and relocated to the present site in 1853. The local guide said  it was built by the Turks and you can still find the same one in Istanbul. You still can drink the water coming out from the tap.

Of course we also didn’t miss the chance to visit one of the oldest mosques in the city. The lifestyle of the people of Sarajevo is like the people of Istanbul, Turkey.  They are very modern.

At the Sebilj – Sarajevo icon at Bascarsija Square

We then checked in Austria and Bosna Hotel at Sarajevo.

Day 9 

Today’s bus journey would be the longest as we were going to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia some 400 km away from Sarajevo. On the way, we passed through big plots of farm land either grown with fruits (mostly tangerine) or vegetables. We also passed through mountains and forests. At the Bosnia & Herzegovina, our passports were not stamped. We were not required to get down the bus. But at the Solavonki Brod on the Croatia border, we were asked to get down the bus and had the passports scanned and stamped. It took nearly an hour to cross this border. We arrived at Zagreb at around 3.15 pm after a simple lunch at Petrovo Sovo on the way to Zagreb.

A simple lunch at Turist Restaurant on the way to Zagreb

The local tour guide Mr Christian was there to meet us. We went to St Marc Square, visited St Mary’s Cathedral and the Parliament House.  Dinner was at Katedralis Restaurant near the St Mary Cathedral. We had pork chop and salad.

St Mary Cathedral

A group photo at Zagreb Old Town

Didn’t know that the world first neck tie was designed by a Croatian!

With local guidde Mr Christian at Zagreb Square before he left

In the evening, we checked-in Hotel Aristos at the outskirts of Zagreb.

Day 10

After breakfast, we were on our way to Slovenia. We crossed the border at Obrezje. Again everyone was asked to get down the bus to have the passports scanned and stamped. It was quite a long queue. Then we proceeded to Ljublajna. The local tour guide was there to meet us. We went up to the Ljublajna Castle by taking the funicular ride. We had a tour of the castle before proceeding to the Dragon Bridge, the icon of Slovenia. Actually we had been to Ljublajna Castle in our previous trip to Eastern Europe in 2013. We also visited the university and the Square. Know what? This tour guide stayed and worked in KL before for 5 years. And he still follows the Malaysian politics!

The water coming out from this kangaroo is drinkable and could bring good luck!

The funicular tram will take you up the Ljubljana Castle

At the Ljubljana Castle overlooking the city

This Slovenia local tour guide stayed in KL before

A pose with the bat at Ljubljana Castle

At the Dragon Bridge

At the Love Bridge

Notice the large number of love locks at the bridge?

At Ljubljana Square

Group photo again at the Square

We had lunch at the Chinese Han Restaurant. This was our second Chinese meal in Balkan! Everyone was so happy after so many days of eating Balkan food! Then we headed to Bled which is infamous for its beautiful and scenic Lake Bled. We went up to the Bled Castle to have a panoramic view of the Lake Bled. In 2013, we also visited this castle but when we reached, it was dark already, so couldn’t see the lake at all! The uniqueness of this lake is that there is a small natural islet with a church in the middle of the lake. At the castle, we didn’t miss the chance of trying the famous cream cake and coffee. This cream cake is very yummy with very good texture. It is not very sweet. A piece of cake and a cup of coffee cost us 6€.

Notice the small islet on the background?

The islet zoomed in

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

The opposite side of Lake Bled

Cream cake sold at the castle

Visited the museum at the castle

View of snow capped mountain from the castle

Another candid shot of the islet

In the evening, we checked in Best Western Premium Hotel at Bled. This hotel is facing the beautiful lake. Immediately we walked to the lake to take some pictures before it was getting too dark. Dinner was at the Murka Restaurant  at Bled.

Best Western Premium Hotel

The Bled Castle viewed from the lake near the hotel

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Day 11  

From Bled, we headed to Postjona Cave, a cave which took 200 million years to form. It was discovered 200 years ago in 1818. It is the largest cave in Europe with a length of 27 km. In the cave, besides some insects, there is one rare amphibian which belongs to the salamander family i.e. the human fish. This human fish can survive for 10 years without food! They display the fish in the aquarium and also in live video. The temperature of the cave always maintains at 100C. To enter the cave, you need to take a 10 minute tram. The cave was well preserved with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.  Lunch was at the Frasmus Restaurant.

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Taking a tram to enter the cave

After lunch, it was happy hour for the ladies as we were going to Noventa Premium Outlet for some shopping! Of course the ladies were elated and euphoric! We shopped for around 3 hours before checking in the Hotel Crowne Plaza at Venice, Italy.

A pose with our driver, Mr Anthony. A skillful driver but sometimes could be quite impatient!

Day 12

Actually there was no itinerary for today. Our departure time was 7.00 pm. However, there is an optional tour to Burano Island and St Marc Square at Venice. It costs 80€ per pax.  All except 2 didn’t join the excursion.

From the hotel, we checked out and went to the jetty at Isola del Tronchetto, Venice to take a chartered speed boat to Burano Island. The journey took about 1 hour 45 minutes. Burano Island is famous for its distinctive colourful houses. According to the tour guide, the houses are painted in different bright colours so as to enable the fishermen to distinguish their houses when they come back from fishing especially during foggy days!

The island is also famous for its fine and beautiful laces. We also didn’t miss the opportunity to snap photos of the leaning tower in the island. Lunch was at the Galuppi Seafood Restaurant. This restaurant is owned by a Thai national. The seafood is fresh and tasty. It is not salty either. We ordered lobster dark noodles,  grilled squids and seafood soup. The seafood soup contains clams, mussels, prawns and small squids. All tasted great. All in, it costs us 72€ for the two of us!

At the jetty of Isola del Tronchetto, Venice

The leaning tower at Burano viewed from the boat

This leaning tower is not as popolar as the leaning tower of Pisa

This is where we had our seafood lunch

Boats are the only mode of transportation in Burano, Venice

On the way to Burano by Mr KP Lee

After lunch, we took the boat to Piazza San Marco or commonly known as St Mark’s Square. This is the largest square in Venice. This square is very popular with tourists. It is a must-visit in any traveler’s Italy itinerary.  The place is very congested with tourists.  This island is very unique as the only transportation in this island is by boat or gondola. There are many canals here connecting various places. You either walk or have to take a  water taxi  from one place to another.  Flood is very common in this Square. So you could see platforms everywhere. They will be set up as walkway during floods. The most popular attraction here is of course the gondola ride.  But we didn’t try it due to time constraint.  There are many medieval buildings especially the church cathedrals here built as early as in the 9th century. The most popular and astounding one is of course The St Mark’s Cathedral and the Bell tower. This cathedral was built in the 9th century and it is still well preserved. Shopping is also popular here.  Italy is famous for its pasta, spaghetti, pizza and seafood. Of course you can find a lot of Italian cuisine restaurants at this square.  We walked around trying to find the shop selling truffles delights. Truffle belongs to the fungus family which are usually found in association of the tree roots. Besides America and Australis, Italy is another country which you can find a lot of truffles. Pure truffles are very expensive stuffs. The truffles we bought are already mixed with cheese or butter. They also have other flavours.  Of course this Square is also popular with Italian leather bags. We explored until around 3.30 pm before taking the boat back to the jetty and boarded the bus to the airport for our departure ending our memorable and enjoyable trip to the Balkans!

The Bell Tower

St Mark’s Cathedral

Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal

Truffles sold at this shop

At one of the canals in Venice

With gondola at the back

Italian delights at St Marc Square

Sunset at St Marc Square by Mr KP Lee

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Courtesy of Mr KP Lee

Addio Venice,  dovidenja Croatia! Goodbye Balkan!

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About HP Lim

An experienced Form 5 chemistry teacher from Johor Bahru.