Nuremberg

As our final stop off on the way back to Frankfurt, we stopped at Nuremberg for a night.  We really didn’t have much time here at all but what I saw I liked!  We managed to get a hotel in the Old Town (The Adina Apartment Hotel) which was particularly well located, had parking and was easy to find!  Win.

The Old Town is really worth a look and it is a short walk from the hotel to the castle and the Old Town walls.  The base of the castle has lots of little restaurants/cafes/bars.  Be aware on a Sunday (we were there then) there is next to nothing open.  You may be lucky to find a couple of bars.  For those that are shoppers (or just like looking), the Old Town has a number of high end brands and in the main square there is a market.  The market is a pretty cool one, selling everything from food, crockery, art and craft and even hairdressing scissors and dental equipment!  I enjoyed a bit of a nose around and picked up a couple of necklaces and a Venetian glass ring.

For those interested in history, specifically history around Hitler and the Nazi’s, there are many very historically signicant and very well put together museums and sites.  We visited the Nuremberg Documentation Centre and the Nazi Rally Grounds.  The Documentation is really well put together and although we have visited a number of Nazi sites over the years and even recently, there is still area specific information here and it is really worth a visit.  You can also walk around the lake (or drive) to the Rally Grounds, which are still there and you can go and stand in the grand stands.  It is quite a moving spot and you can really imagine the rallies in front of you.  Definitely worth the visit.

We were really short of time and this is all we managed but you could certainly spend a couple of days in Nuremburg and look at things properly.

Montenegro – a rough diamond?

 

Apart from it’s geographical location, I didn’t know anything about Montenegro before I left New Zealand. I had read it was a great place to go and it was highlighted by Lonely Planet as a great place to go.  In fact it was on Lonely Planets places to visit in 2016 list! We had some time, were already in Croatia so decided to go down for a look.  We had about a week spare to explore.

What did we do?  

Bay of Kotor

Firstly we headed to the Bay of Kotor which is pretty close to the Croatian border.  We decided to stay 3 nights and booked an apartment by the water through Air BnB. There are loads available.  Our apartment was about a 20 minute walk from the Old Town and had it’s own little beach.

The Bay itself  is gorgeous and on a sunny day the water sparkles. Each morning we were there cruise ships came into the Bay about 6am each morning.  This means that the Old Town can get quite crowded but we are not talking about Dubrovnik levels although it may not take long to get that way.

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The Old Town is worth a visit and we spent an afternoon exploring the shops and cafes.  I found a great shop that makes handmade leather shoes (no I didn’t buy any – my size wasn’t in!), some lovely artisan shops and in the farmers market outside the best pesto cheese ever.  It was bright green and so delicious I went back each day to get more.

There are lots of things to do in Kotor but we decided to actually enjoy our apartment and its location for a change!

 

We chose to rent SUP and paddled around the Bay.

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It was 35 euros each for the day and they delivered and picked up from our accommodation!  We were pretty happy with that.

We also decided to take a short boat tour out to Our Lady of the Rocks and the town of Perast.  When we got to the boat company, they had booked us on the wrong tour so rather than lose our business, they just sent us off on a speedboat on our own to two the tour.  Score!  It was a great tour 🙂

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The church is really interesting with great ceiling art and a small museum.  Each year on a certain date, fisherman drop a new rock around the island, each year making the island slightly bigger.  This is a town tradition that has been going on for many years.  The tour also took us across to the town of Perast where we had a quick look before heading back.  Perast has a number of restaurants, churches and some swimming areas.  Women selling their lace work can be found here too.

Ulinj

From Kotor we headed further south to the beach town of Ulinj.  This is a town that Montenegrin and Albanian locals seem to holiday in.  There are a large number of beaches and an Old Town.  The beaches are pretty crowded and the streets are impossibly narrow.  Some of the cliff beach bars have the most incredible vistas.  Unfortunately many of them are spoilt by the large amount of rubbish around.  It is the only area in Montenegro that we saw piles and piles of rubbish everywhere.

You can rent a JetSki for cheap (25 Euro for 50 mins) and boat tours and water taxis are easily available.  The locals are very proud of their local area – most have some English.

We went out for a look to the famed beach for Kite surfing, Velika Plaza.  It is a reasonable drive from the main centre and requires driving on a non-sealed road.  The beach itself is pretty rugged with rubbish piled up under the trees, a muddy sandy beach and very little else.

We also went out for a look at the river mouth famed for its great restaurants.  Ada bojana is well known for its great food.  We didn’t have time to stop and eat but it was interesting looking at the all the restaurants along the river bank.

On the way back we drove over a bridge where fisherman had elaborate fish catching huts in the river. Very interesting to watch.

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We stayed here two nights and then decided to move back down the coast to Budva.

Budva

I think that Budva has been misjudged!  Maybe this is because we arrived in early September and the rush had gone, but we didn’t mind it!  It was rubbish free, had a lovely old town, some very nice beaches,  a water front swimming pool club and some lovely food stalls and restaurants.  It is famed as a party town ( we didn’t see it) and extremely busy.  Maybe September is the time to go!

We spent one night here and enjoyed the best part of a full day here.

There are miles of gorgeous beaches to relax on all along the coast.  While most of them require you to rent a lounger, the water is so beautiful it is almost worth it.  The pool club had lovely food and great cocktails and you can rent a big day bed too. Bliss!

Budva to Lovcen to Herceg Novi

We had initially intended to drive up to the Durmitor National park however time dictated that we changed our plans to visit Lovcen National park instead.  By doing this we probably saved 2 to 3 days and we were really happy with what we saw.  The National park is an easy drive from Budva and in the National Park (which is lovely and worth staying if you have time) is Njegos Mausoleum.  It is worth a visit and sits atop Mount Lovcen.  Get there early as there are limited parking spots (less than 10) and the photo opportunities are better without the crowds!  There are a large number of steps to climb (felt like 1000 but I think was about 400) to get to the top but it really is worth it.  The views are 360 and the mausoleum itself is pretty impressive.  It is 3 Euros to get in.

From the mausoleum, we travelled down the road to Kotor.  This particular route is famed for it’s extremely narrow (read wide enough for one small car)  road with 25 hairpin bends.  I will be honest – at times it was terrifying.  One of those times was when a camper van came hurtling towards us; another was when we met a large bus coming the other way.  We stopped nose to nose just in time.  All the same it is a breathtaking drive – for views I mean, not your heart stopping!

From Kotor it is an easy coastal drive to Herceg Novi where we spent the night before our series of 3 border crossings back to Croatia!

In summary, Montenegro is a beautiful place.  The people are mostly friendly and are really proud of their country.  They need to address the rubbish in some coastal areas (not the international tourist ones).  I would say get here quick.  It will be the next Dubrovnik!

 

Dubrovnik – Paradise lost

Dubrovnik was on my bucket list.  It was the whole reason we came to Croatia and I have to say I feel a little let down.  The Old Town is truly beautiful and the walls give a stunning view.  Why am I disappointed?  The city is so overwhelmed by tourists (Split was busy but this is next level)  that I think they have got greedy.  It is much more expensive than any other place in Croatia we have been and we have had rude and or indifferent service at restaurants in town.  Our tour guide told us to do everything we want to do this year as next year it will be even more expensive (prices for entry have increased significantly this year).

We spent 5 nights (four days) in Dubrovnik doing the following:

Old Town

There are lots of buildings to look at, the usual walking tours, restaurants and souvenir shops.  We visited a Dali Exhibition,  which had a number of his smaller more minor pieces on display.  We also visited the War Photo exhibition which was very good.  It had photographs from all sides of the Yugoslavian war period.  Many very powerful images and well worth the entry price of 50 Kuna each.

We took two city walking tours, one of which was a historical tour which focussed on the war.  We have taken walking tours from each of the other countries in the conflict that we visited so thought it was good to have a more complete picture.  The tour guide was very balanced and explained some of the areas that were not clear from other tours.  We also took a Game of Thrones tour because … well you have to don’t you!  A decent amount of season 2-6 was filmed here.  Our guide (who was hilarious although not trying to be) explained with photographic examples where things were filmed and how the area was prepared. It was a really good tour and if you are  a GoT fan, one of these tours is really worth doing.

City Walls

Dubrovnik has one of the most beautiful (and restored) city walls we have seen.  The area was bombed in the war but the community has restored the area using the same design and materials.  Apparently the price increased 50% this year so if you are going to Croatia, get here quick!  The view from the walls is truly stunning and was a highlight.  We managed to get up there for sunset which was picturesque.  It is really hot and crowded so get there either in the morning or in the evening.  The latest you can go up is 7pm and they like everyone to come down by 7.30.  The day we went the sun set at about 7.35 and there was no one rushing you down and the bars still served drinks at key viewing points.  You do need at least an hour to get around as it is 2km.

Cable car

The cable car is another opportunity to see the view from above.  It is about 20 Euros to go up.  You can also walk up the hill or get an Uber for much cheaper!  We took the cable car and the views are stunning.  You can grab a drink at the cafe at the top so that you can enjoy the views for a bit longer.

3 Islands Day Cruise

This seems to be a standard tour that lots of boats offer.  It was a nice day out however don’t get too excited by the food offered.  Ours was inedible (the chicken was so hard we could have knocked someone out with it) and the drinks were some very strange tasting fizzy that we tipped out and wine that was like a bad home brew.  The three islands we visited were in the Elafiti archipeligo and included Lopud, Kolocep and Sipan.  Kolocep and  Sipan are cute little islands where you have time to grab a drink or have a swim.  We spent time jumping off piers as it was hot!  You spend quite a bit more time on Lopud as it is famous for its sandy beach.  Our boat docked on the rocky side of the island and you then walk through town, up a hill and grab a golf cart (like a taxi) which takes you to the other side of the island where the sand is.  So… we got there, surveyed the scene, decided it was too crowded, the water didn’t seem as clear and that we preferred the rocky side!  We promptly got back in another golf cart to return us to our rocky beach where we spent the afternoon.  I think we have to hand in our passports… we now prefer the no mess, no sand version of the sea!

Belje Beach Club

We had a spare afternoon so spent time at this beach club which is right at the back of the Old Town.  You do have to pay for loungers and umbrellas and you will need your trusty rock shoes!

Lokrum Island

This was recommended to us by a number of locals and travellers we met on the day tours.  It was one of the highlights!  You pick up a boat to the island at the back of the  Old Town.  The boat goes every half and hour so you can get over or back whenever it suits.  The island has a park like feel with shady trees, great rocks to jump off into the sea, restaurants if you haven’t bought a picnic and even massages if you can afford them.  The picnic area under the trees wasn’t too crowded and had large rabbits and peacocks walking around between people.  There is also a little lake called a Dead Sea which you can swim in.  Overall a nice day out with a picnic.

So my summary about Dubrovnik… I think it is probably not what it was and it has got too big for it’s boots.  Yes it is still visually stunning but I would limit my time there.  The Old Town is picturesque but the crowds, cost and poor service take the shine off this Adriatic jewel.

Dubrovnik… paradise lost

Dubrovnik was on my bucket list.  It was the whole reason we came to Croatia and I have to say I feel a little let down.  The Old Town is truly beautiful and the walls give a stunning view.  Why am I disappointed?  The city is so overwhelmed by tourists (Split was busy but this is next level)  that I think they have got greedy.  It is much more expensive than any other place in Croatia we have been and we have had rude and or indifferent service at restaurants in town.  Our tour guide told us to do everything we want to do this year as next year it will be even more expensive (prices for entry have increased significantly this year).

We spent 5 nights (four days) in Dubrovnik doing the following:

Old Town

There are lots of buildings to look at, the usual walking tours, restaurants and souvenir shops.  We visited a Dali Exhibition,  which had a number of his smaller more minor pieces on display.  We also visited the War Photo exhibition which was very good.  It had photographs from all sides of the Yugoslavian war period.  Many very powerful images and well worth the entry price of 50 Kuna each.

We took two city walking tours, one of which was a historical tour which focussed on the war.  We have taken walking tours from each of the other countries in the conflict that we visited so thought it was good to have a more complete picture.  The tour guide was very balanced and explained some of the areas that were not clear from other tours.  We also took a Game of Thrones tour because … well you have to don’t you!  A decent amount of season 2-6 was filmed here.  Our guide (who was hilarious although not trying to be) explained with photographic examples where things were filmed and how the area was prepared. It was a really good tour and if you are  a GoT fan, one of these tours is really worth doing.

City Walls

Dubrovnik has one of the most beautiful (and restored) city walls we have seen.  The area was bombed in the war but the community has restored the area using the same design and materials.  Apparently the price increased 50% this year so if you are going to Croatia, get here quick!  The view from the walls is truly stunning and was a highlight.  We managed to get up there for sunset which was picturesque.  It is really hot and crowded so get there either in the morning or in the evening.  The latest you can go up is 7pm and they like everyone to come down by 7.30.  The day we went the sun set at about 7.35 and there was no one rushing you down and the bars still served drinks at key viewing points.  You do need at least an hour to get around as it is 2km.

Cable car

The cable car is another opportunity to see the view from above.  It is about 20 Euros to go up.  You can also walk up the hill or get an Uber for much cheaper!  We took the cable car and the views are stunning.  You can grab a drink at the cafe at the top so that you can enjoy the views for a bit longer.

3 Islands Day Cruise

This seems to be a standard tour that lots of boats offer.  It was a nice day out however don’t get too excited by the food offered.  Ours was inedible (the chicken was so hard we could have knocked someone out with it) and the drinks were some very strange tasting fizzy that we tipped out and wine that was like a bad home brew.  The three islands we visited were in the Elafiti archipeligo and included Lopud, Kolocep and Sipan.  Kolocep and  Sipan are cute little islands where you have time to grab a drink or have a swim.  We spent time jumping off piers as it was hot!  You spend quite a bit more time on Lopud as it is famous for its sandy beach.  Our boat docked on the rocky side of the island and you then walk through town, up a hill and grab a golf cart (like a taxi) which takes you to the other side of the island where the sand is.  So… we got there, surveyed the scene, decided it was too crowded, the water didn’t seem as clear and that we preferred the rocky side!  We promptly got back in another golf cart to return us to our rocky beach where we spent the afternoon.  I think we have to hand in our passports… we now prefer the no mess, no sand version of the sea!

Belje Beach Club

We had a spare afternoon so spent time at this beach club which is right at the back of the Old Town.  You do have to pay for loungers and umbrellas and you will need your trusty rock shoes!

Lokrum Island

This was recommended to us by a number of locals and travellers we met on the day tours.  It was one of the highlights!  You pick up a boat to the island at the back of the  Old Town.  The boat goes every half and hour so you can get over or back whenever it suits.  The island has a park like feel with shady trees, great rocks to jump off into the sea, restaurants if you haven’t bought a picnic and even massages if you can afford them.  The picnic area under the trees wasn’t too crowded and had large rabbits and peacocks walking around between people.  There is also a little lake called a Dead Sea which you can swim in.  Overall a nice day out with a picnic.

So my summary about Dubrovnik… I think it is probably not what it was and it has got too big for it’s boots.  Yes it is still visually stunning but I would limit my time there.  The Old Town is picturesque but the crowds, cost and poor service take the shine off this Adriatic jewel.

Sarajevo in 48 hours

 

Sarajevo is a city of both hope and sadness.  Walking around the city, the war is still very evident with many buildings yet to be repaired; the ones that have, have concrete patches on their wounds, continuing to draw your attention to them.  Locals have spray painted graffiti over many of the buildings which adds to the somber mood. Unfortunately the graffiti is not street art and the locals say there is no money prioritised to clean it off.

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This photo is the inside of the entrance way to our apartment. You can still see the shrapnel holes and vandals have spray painted the interior.  The apartment itself had been refurbished since the war but some of the parquet flooring had been replaced with other materials.  This was common in the war – people burnt the floor boards to cook and keep warm.  I am unsure whether this was the case with this apartment.

The old town is typical of many old towns we have visited in the former Yugoslav region.  There are markets, restaurants bars and craftspeople selling their wares.

The people of Sarajevo enjoy sharing their city and while the ones we spoke to would prefer the interest to be focussed on their success hosting the Olympics in the 80’s, they understand the world’s interest in the war.

So what can you do in two days…  We did the following:

  • walked around the Old Town
  • talked to the various artists selling their craft.  Copper St was interesting for me and a couple of copper pans are coming back to New Zealand, kindly engraved with Sarajevo and the date by the craftsman.
  • ate loads of cevapi (basically a skinless sausage served with pita type bread)
  • tried a variety of baklava (chocolate walnut is particularly good)
  • checked out the Crimes against humanity Museum (well worth it and a very sobering visit)
  • had a drink at the cool bar The Goldfish (they don’t serve cocktails and it was very smokey when we were there)
  • Stand on the East meets West point
  • Drink from the water spouts in the Old City
  • Enjoyed a delicious dinner at Kibe (You need to book.  The food, service and views are incredible)

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  • Took a tour – Times of Misfortune (Insider Travel)

I highly recommend this tour.  It is only 3 hours but it gives you a really good understanding of the war.  You are taken to a number of key sites including the maternity hospital that was bombed (and is still in that condition), the Olympic Stadium, sniper alley and the tunnel of hope.  Our guide escaped using the tunnel in 1994 so it was interesting to hear her recount.

If you see red marks in Sarajevo that look a bit like splattered paint, or a rose, these are actual spots which denote where at least 3 people were shot.

The City Hall  (and Library) is also worth a visit.  It was completely destroyed in the war and 90 % of the books housed there were lost.  International efforts have helped rebuild both the collection and the building.

It is very beautiful inside and when we were there, there was a great painting exhibition there too.

Sarajevo was an interesting place to visit.  The people are keen to share their city and while they have not forgotten the war, you get a sense that they are trying to move on.  All the same it is a very sobering place to visit with many reminders still present.

A couple of things to mention:

  1. It is slow going leaving Bosnia borders – especially if you are going to Croatia
  2. The water is cut off at night from 12 until 6am (it was 11pm and 7 am two days we were there) as there is a shortage.

 

Zadar in 24 hours

We didn’t plan for long in Zadar – just 24 hours.  We think it was probably about the right amount of time so this is what we did.

The old town is worth a walk around, there are lovely old churches, ancient city gates and some nice ruins.  It doesn’t take long to see all the sites in the old town so an hour or two is plenty.

You can also take a row boat from the pier to the mainland or the reverse.  The row boats of Zadar are a bit of an instituation and apparently the oarsmen learnt the trade from their fathers, who had learnt from their fathers.  It is 5 KN per trip (which is very short).  We had took a return trip just to support them.  I think he thought we were a bit mad to do a return trip but once over by the lighthouse we needed to get back!  When it is calm it is a pretty easy job, but by the evening we were there it was rough and big boats were coming through the area so he was really earning his money.

There are plenty of restaurants to enjoy a nice meal and some nice areas that have been turned into cocktail lounges.  We spent time at the Garden Lounge which has big mattresses and pillows to lie down on, while you are sipping your drink. They also make pretty yummy raw cakes (try the chocolate mousse cake).  We had dinner at Restaurant Kornat where we enjoyed their monkfish, truffle and gnocchi dish.

After dinner we walked to the end of the peninsula and had struck a few poses on the Monument of the Sun installation, then sat down on the steps of the sea organ and enjoyed its music (sounds a lot like a whale I think!). It’s a pretty cool area at night with lots of families enjoying the area including some market stalls and street food stands.  Definitely worth a visit.

We had a great time in Zadar.  A good place to spend a day.

Pula and surrounds

Pula is right at the tip of the Istrian Peninsula and is worth a visit.  It boasts Roman era ruins and is in a great position to hire a boat or take a tour.  Most of the key Istrian attractions are able to be visited within a couple of hours too.

We had three full days in Pula and we decided to spend them in the following way

Day 1

Pula itself.  Sometimes it good to jump on a Hop On Hop Off bus and while this is not one of the better ones (there are only 8 stops and no one gets off!), it was worth doing in lieu of a city tour.  We sat on the bus for the whole run which takes about an hour and felt that we got value for money.  The bus only comes once per hour so this might be why people choose not to get off!

The key highlight for me was the amphitheatre.  One of the great things about it is that they still use it for concerts and other performances.  Unfortunately we missed a concert and a performance of gladiators by a couple of days each.  I think it would be amazing to catch a show or performance here.

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The tickets are about 50KN each and you can rent an audio guide for another 40KN.  The audio guide is worthwhile as there are no signs anywhere explaining anything.

The old town is nice to walk around and we found some tunnels which were created to vacate the whole town in the war.  It is 15 KN to go through and they have some displays in the middle.  We thought it was a great idea to explore them as it was a quick way back to the car and much cooler!

 

 

Day 2: Rovinj

We decided to make a day of it and drove to Rovinj (pronounced Roveen) for the day.  What a lovely little town.  It is poised on the west coast of the peninsula and is filled with interesting cobbled streets and nice beaches.

There are artists who have got little shops tucked away in lanes, hand made goods like soaps and lavender products, cheeses, wines… you name it’s probably here.  I bought a piece of art from an artist who does line drawings in wine.  It was a great conversation piece!

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There is also a fresh food and souvenir market.  It is really a pretty little town.

You can easily enjoy a day here – we did!  Don’t miss a lovely seafood lunch overlooking the water.

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Day 3: Rent a boat

We didn’t have anyone with us who had their skippers licence (a must have in Croatia) so instead of doing a tour we rented a water taxi for a half day.  The driver took us down the coast and we explored all the little inlets along the coast, went swimming in a bay and then went to the blue cave which was stunning.  We took a straight line back at a bit of speed so it was great fun!  Take a packed lunch and some drinks and enjoy.

We even saw a dolphin on the way out of the harbour!