Saturday, September 19, 2009

Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro

September 4-14, 2009 Matt and I took the most amazing road trip through Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro...traveling through the inland first and up the coast as we worked our way back to Garmisch. Here's a quick breakdown of our trip's itinerary:

Day 1 (4th): Drove from Garmisch to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was raining the entire drive luckily once we arrived at the campsite the "receptionist," who worked in a small building in the middle of the road, so kindly let us know that it was only 1 euro more to get a bungalow (compared to the price of 2 people, a tent and a car) for the night. So, we stayed in a bungalow versus putting up our tent in the dark and rain!

Bungalow means 2 cots and a roof ....bathroom was on the other side of the campsite

Day 2 (5th): Still raining....BUT as soon as we set foot in the park it stopped raining, the sun came out and it turned out to be a hot day! After exploring the National Park we drove to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). We had some trouble crossing the border...the guards kept saying we needed a green card and I kept telling them we were American citizens....come to find out a "Green Card" is an International Insurance Card that just so happens to be green....1/2 hour later we were on our way!

Matt and I overlooking the lower and upper lakes

Looking down on the trail we had walked along several hours earlier..we spent about 6 hours walking around the National Park

Day 3 (6th): Train from Mostar to Sarajevo! and exploring Mostar at night. We got an early start to go to the train station but we still ended up running around...basically we didn't have any local currency yet because the one ATM we saw on our way from the hotel to the train station was broke and the train station didn't accept credit cards nor would she take our euros. So, we went to the bus station and convinced that lady to exchange us some money - she just estimated how much our euro was worth and gave us some Convertible Marks. We then ran back to the train station teller, bought our ticket and caught the train 5 minutes later! YAY for the Bus lady who acted as a bank teller that morning!

Hay stacks and houses scattered along our train ride

Nothing better to do on a Sunday than play chess....and tell others how to play! :)

Sarajevo Rose...

Typical building in Sarajevo

The Holiday Inn...where reporters stayed during the war

The Stari Most or "Old Bridge" in of my favorite sites!!!

Day 4 (7th): Explored Mostar, got lost while trying to leave BiH; spent the night in a "sobe." A sobe is a room that an individual rents out of their home -- we paid 40 euros for a spectacular room and view!!

exploring Mostar during the day

Day 5 (8th): Drove to Kotor Bay, Montenegro.

We were able to see Dubrovnik from the road on our drive to Kotor

The Bay of Kotor -- view from our villa!

Day 6 (9th): Explored Kotor then drove to Dubrovnik and had our first date night! During date night I might have admitted that Matt's beard was growing on me...

The wall surrounding Kotor

There's a fortress creeping up the mountain that protects Kotor beyond the wall

Me at the top of the fortress!

Spectacular views of Kotor and the Bay from the fortress

Date night in Dubrovnik

Day 7 (10th): Explored Dubrovnik, walked around the city wall, drove to the island of Hvar. We didn't know what time the ferry left, we just knew it left every hour or so. Well, when we arrived in the town of Drvenik we could see the was getting ready to leave in 5 minutes!! Perfect timing! So we hurried up, bought our ticket and sped onto the ferry.

The view from the wall around Dubrovnik

On the ferry to Hvar

Sunset over the Dalmatian islands

Day 8 (11th): Took a day excursion using our 'change money' to the island of Brac with the famous beach, Zlatni Rat! (I hate coins so I always put them in a jar and cash it in when it's full, Matt does the same - so just before our trip we both cashed in our jars and decided that money would be spent on a fun day! so this was it) We hopped on a boat in the Hvar town harbor and relaxed on a beach chair on the upper deck of the boat while we made our way to the island of Brac, next to Hvar. Once we arrived on the island of Brac I drug Matt on a speed walk to the beach (about 20 minutes! we didn't see people from our boat until 10 minutes later...). We then enjoyed a day on the beach and swimming around! Even though it was a little windy and the water was a little chilly it was picturesque and relaxing! When we got back to Hvar we ate at a nice restaurant in the main square with the cathedral and finished our night with a complimentary shot of grappa from the owner....ugh! haha

The beach!! :) It changes from day to day depending on the weather

Day 9 (12th): Drove to Split...didn't like it...kept driving to Novigrad (a small town further North). Before we got to Split we had to get off the island of Hvar...let's just sum this experience up by saying we missed the boat twice!! We didn't make it on the first ferry because it was full, so we were told it would be back in an hour and a half so we went to eat lunch. Well, as we were walking back to our car we noticed that there was another ferry and the line of cars was moving...sure enough they had all passed our car and we were stuck in a similar spot in the line as before. Then, 45 minutes or so later another ferry came....we were left to be the first car in line for the next ferry!! So, we had some down time to read magazines and research our upcoming destinations. I guess we weren't in a huge rush but waiting to board a ferry isn't my favorite past time but Matt considered it all worth it for the Hamburger we ate for lunch :-P

We arrived in the small town of Novigrad as the sun was setting and apparently the town was closing down! There is one camp ground in town and we arrived just as they were closing! So, the receptionist rushed through giving us a key and some info on where to eat (the one restaurant that was open!). After setting up our tent we drove back down into town to eat (it wasn't that far but we were hungry and wanted to get there asap!). We enjoyed a delicious pizza (each!) and of course, a liter of wine! Not a day went by on our trip that we didn't drink at least a liter of wine! Lunch and dinner were never complete unless we drank wine! When we returned to the campsite we realized we were never told what the code was to access the I tried to lift the arm barring us from our didn't work so I told Matt he probably could lift it with his muscles...nope! So we had to call to get the code. Then, about an hour or two after we fell asleep we both laid there wide awake as the tent blew on top of us from the heavy winds and rain! Go figure. Then, I started to get scared and ran various scary movie scenarios through my head...not a good idea!! Let's just say it took a while to fall back asleep and I made sure Matt wasn't going to sleep until I did :)


Boat on the water in Split

Day 10 (13th): Explored Novigrad, drove to Zagreb, date night #2. Even though Zagreb is larger than Split we didn't find it as overwhelming as Split. We also got smart and used the GPS to help us locate a hotel so we weren't aimlessly wandering around the city! We stayed at, in my opinion, the nicest hotel in Zagreb! The Hotel Dubrovnik **** located in the heart of Zagreb on the main square, Ban Jelačić square. We walked around for a little bit, enjoyed a glass of wine (the best of the entire trip!) and an appetizer at a swanky cafe near our hotel then we went back, got ready and had date night number 2 in the hotel's restaurant where I enjoyed my favorite meal of the entire trip, delicious gnocchi in a wine sauce.

The fortress of Novigrad...every town has one apparently... :)

The town of Novigrad

Day 11 (14th): Explored Zagreb and reluctantly drove back to Garmisch.... :(

The "cute street" as I call it or Tkalčićeva Street as locals call it

St. Marco's church with a beautiful mosaic roof