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.

IMG_9700.JPG

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!

IMG_9895

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.

IMG_9867.JPG

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!

 

Maribor in 48 hours

Maribor is the second largest Slovenian city.  It has a population of about 100,000 so is still a small city.  It has an interesting old town and a great surrounding region to explore.  We spent 3 nights here, which meant that we had two full days to explore.  You could definitely do it in less, depending on what you are interested in but you could also spend more time  here.  So what did we do…

Old town

The old town is good for a look around.  Be aware it is almost empty during the day.  It is busiest early in the morning and the bars and cafes come alive at night.  A little tourist train leaves from the tourist centre and drives around the main sites if you can’t be bothered walking.  It is about 3 Euros.  Unfotunately there is no commentary so you are guessing a bit at what you are seeing.

IMG_9120.JPG

Hiking

You can drive to Pohorje, where you can go up on the cable car to the top, hike around a bit and have lunch at the hotel and come down the cable car again. You could hike down… it was a heat wave – we didn’t!  There is also a thermal swimming pool at the top which would be great in the winter.  It is 10 Euro’s entry.  At the bottom of the cable car there is another hotel which has a day pass for swimming.  It is 18 Euros for the day (no half day passes).  As it is outdoors it is probably a better option for the summer.

Wine

Maribor and the surrounding areas are wine country.  You can visit the oldest vine in the world (450 years old) and there is an interesting museum located at the site.

We had planned to do a winery tour.  If this is something that is of interest to you, you really do need a car and some guidance from the Wine Museum who will help you plot out the visit.  They helped us choose 4 wineries to visit and called ahead to make appointments for us.  In New Zealand this would be something that is likely to be hosted by an employee and you would taste a set flight, it would be all over in half an hour and you would move on to the next winery. Not so in Slovenia!  We only got to two of the four wineries as a wine tasting in Slovenia is a very personal experience.   We visited Kuster and Doppler and this took us all day!

First up, we went to Doppler which is a very contemporary winery.  We met the winemaker and she was fantastic at explaining the 10 ( yes 10!!!) wines she wanted us to try.  The servings are huge and there wasn’t anywhere to spit or tip so it all had to be enjoyed! She also showed us around the processing area and explained how her wine was made.  She is a third generation winemaker and the land and vines were set up by her grandfather.  Physically,  this is a particularly interesting winery because it is very contemporary in design.  This is evidenced by everything from the marketing to the buildings.  I found the marketing and artistic aspects very clever and inspired.

After Doppler, we drove down the road to Kuster.  This winemaker is a 5th generation winemaker.   As soon as we arrived, he invited us into his car and drove us around his “farm” showing us the different grapes and vines.  He drove us through to Austria (his winery is close to the border) to the “heart of winemaking” which is a heart shaped road and a very beautiful area.  We enjoyed a glass of wine at the top of this ridge and then he took us back to his house for tastings and a beautiful meat and cheese platter.  The whole experience took about 5 hours!  The family was very keen to share their wines with us and despite feeling like we were holding them up for the day they weren’t keen for us to leave until we had tried all the wines ( we suggested 5, he had 8 or 10 on his list). Apparently they had taken the day off to host us!  The wines were lovely and it was a truly memorable experience.  If you are a wine buff, I highly recommend this experience but take a sober driver; there are lots of wines and the servings are huge!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.