Next on our spreadsheet of plans was a driving tour of the Amalfi coast and Vyse was back at the helm navigating us along the tricky, twists and turns on one track roads hugging the cliffs of Amalfi. Our first stop was to the town of Ravello where we were blessed with the last parking spot in the lot closest to the town.
Our few days in Rome quickly came to an end and we were off to Naples via the high-speed train on a pleasant journey traveling to the south of Italy. As soon as we arrived in Naples we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore surrounded by the noise, smells, crowds and chaos that is the fiber of this busy city! We rented a car and I was so thankful that Vyse had elected to do all the driving as it was nuts navigating this city, honking, swearing, swerving, breaking…..and that’s just getting out of the parking lot! There are no rules, it’s a free for all and a big game of chicken when driving in this part of Italy. The four of us with all our luggage jammed into our little rental looked like a comical frat prank on how much can you cram in.
Following up on my last post, here is a video of our tour through Romes iconic landmarks, unimaginable amounts of history walking through the streets where Ceasar once stood!
We’ve done and seen so much in the month of June, on the go every day that I’m just starting to get caught up on my blog entries. We had been intensively traveling with our besties from Calgary (Vyse and Sandra) who joined us for 10 days in Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, then our kids came out and we rinsed and repeated. Overlapping with the kids my dad came out to show us his native land of Slovenia. We spent 6 days with him and the kids, then Janet and I drove them to Venice where they started their journey home. We returned to Slovenia and spent another 10 days with dad, a few days ago we dropped him off at the airport in Ljubljana and drove back to Venice where we hopped on a plane for Palermo, Sicily.
Today was our first full day in Slovenia and it has already made a big impression on us! You can’t help but be impressed by the amazing natural phenomena of the Postojna Cave System that has become an iconic tourist draw for this country and we were mesmerized by the history and beauty surrounding the Predjama Castle.
Well everyone has heard me sing the praises of our experiences with Airbnb, a few times we used VRBO and Booking.com with no problems, then we tried Hotels.com and had a terrible, stressful, twilight zone (when you can’t believe this could be real) experience. I will never, ever use Hotels.com again and want to pass on the warning if you feel like reading my rant about our experience.
I’m still in love with Italy but we were completely blown away by Croatia and will plan to return soon on our next vacation. Croatia has it all; history, great architecture, mountains, lakes, miles of coastline and over 1300 islands to explore. Its breathtakingly beautiful from Plitvice lakes and Krka National Park in its interior to its many islands, our favorite was the celebrity hot spot of Hvar.
On our second day based out of Dubrovnik we headed out for another day trip to visit the newest country in Europe, an exotic side trip to the lovely Kotor, Montenegro. The drive should have only been an hour and a half but our GPS took us on a wild trip high up into the mountains that had us arriving after a nerve racking four hours into Kotor. When we hit a rural Bosnian border crossing we knew something was up, we should have only had one crossing into Montenegro but instead we were on a GPS gone amuck adventure. Here is a video of some of the amazing scenery we got to see by mistake as I previously posted on FB.
The day after we arrived in Dubrovnik we headed out on a road trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina following the coast until we hit the first Bosnian border crossing. Little did we know that we had to go through three borders (into Bosnia, back into Croatia, then into Bosnia again) to get to Mostar. It was a bit tedious with two windows and two checks at each crossing and we weren’t even there in high season, I can’t imagine what the traffic would be like mid summer. Be forewarned but I wouldn’t let it deter you from going just thought I’d mention the three crossings as we weren’t expecting it and concerned we might be going the wrong way. The crossings were standard checks, nothing out of the ordinary, just time consuming that had us arriving in Mostar 3 ½ hours later.
Next on our Croatian, Island hoping adventure was the nature island of Korcula, Croatia which took a bit of traveling to get there. After leaving Hvar Town we drove about an hour and ½ to the end of the island and at the port town of Sucaraj we boarded a Jadrolinja ferry to Drevnik, then a ½ hour drive to Ploce for another ferry to Trpanj, then another ½ hour drive across the Peninsula to Orebic for one last ferry, finally arriving in Korcula at the town of Domince.
Early on in our vacation planning we had pondered the idea of Croatia as part of our Schengen exile (if you don’t know what I mean, read our article on the Schengen visa rules) until we could return to Italy. We tossed the idea around but were worried it might be too foreign, that language might be an issue, would it be safe to travel, was it too far…all the hymning and hawing you do when pushing beyond your comfort zones. We were already in Wales, had a month planned in England and it would be easy to just stay another month. But the universe spoke to us once again and now we can’t believe we are in the middle of our Croatian dream.
Second on the list of Croatian Islands we planned on visiting over our tour of Southern Croatia was the island of Brac. From Murter we drove down the coast to Split where we took our car onto a Jadrolinija Ferry (here is a link for planning all your ferry hops) for the 50 minute cruise to the third largest island on the Croatian Coast in the center of Dalmatia. Brac has the highest peak, Vidova Gora at 778m in the Adriatic and has some specular, albeit a bit nerve racking views as you climb its twisty, turny roads along the coastline.
After our day in Plitvice Lakes National Park we left Zadar and drove about an hour down the coast where we stayed for three nights on the Island of Murter,Croatia. You can drive to Murter as there is a small bridge at Tisno that connects the island to the mainland making it easily accessed. We booked an apartment in the village of Betina but you can look for accommodations in Tisno, Jezera and the town of Murter which combined only have a little over 5000 residents. Many of them rent out Apartments to tourists (they call them Apartmans) and you can see signs everywhere which makes for competition and low prices. It is a beautiful island on the Adriatic with a Mediterranean climate, sleepy this time of the year (late April) but starting to gear up for the busy summer season. Many of the shops and restaurants were still closed but there were a few catering to locals and the occasional tourist. We had the choice between plenty of grocery stores, a bakery and a few cafes that could provide everything we needed for a few days of relaxing.
If you saw my post on Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia you know that I exclaimed it as one of the most beautiful places we had been on our travels, well, then I must give Krka National Parks a tied rating. Krka is much larger than Plitvice, doesn’t have the UNESCO rating and is maybe a little more laid back with more open spaces. It also has the bonus of being able to swim below the largest falls in the summertime when its warmer and the water levels are lower. The drawback is it gets inundated with people in the months of July and August, we visited late April and although you couldn’t swim it was a leisurely time to visit with only the occasional tour group to dodge (the German’s were invading).
From our home base in Zadar we made a day trip into the mountains to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful places in the world we have ever been. My photos won’t do it justice, it can’t be properly described, you can’t imagine it, you just have to see it for yourself and have the OMG moments we did! If you’ve seen the Lord of Rings trilogy and thought Rivendale would be an incredible place if only it existed for real, well it does! In Plitvice (pronounced PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes National Park. There is no place like this lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, woven together by intricate waterfalls and miles of planked walkways, you’ll be certain you’ve arrived in Rivendale! At the bottom of this post is a video of these incredible falls come to life!