Want to fly from Milan to Dubrovnik? No problem .. just go through Munich for some unknown reason. And that was the path to get us to our stay in Croatia for a few stops along the incredible Adriatic Sea coastline.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Luftansa’s regional jets — two seats on each side of the plane — for I was concerned they would be bumpy. Not at all. Ample legroom and punctuality enhanced the experience. And given that we were one of only two planes at the Dubrovnik airport, the luggage was a cinch. Avis?? Not so much.
I could make a joke about how many Croatians it takes to rent a car, with the answer being six, but that would be cruel. Too bad it was so. The first one lost the key to the Avis office … which was miraculously found in his pocket after 15 minutes or so. Finally, after two others programmed the Garmin device for our hotel in Split, we were on our way in some type of Mitsubishi vehicle with lousy pick-up compared to the Hyundai we had rented in Spain. I do think we got soaked paying 40 Euros for some green card we were told was absolutely mandatory if the car is taken out of Croatia — which is frequent as we learned along the highway — since we weren’t asked to present it once at any checkpoint. I see a refund in our future ..
After roughly three hours, we arrived at our hotel in Split, one of Croatia’s main coastal/gateway cities with many options for ferries to the neighboring islands. With the late hour, travel fatigue and rain, we had no idea what lay in store regarding the next morning’s view .. and what thrill it was. Clear and gorgeous blue water for as far as the eye can see. Best of all, no agenda for the day or the ones to follow. A trip to the spa was in order for their “Made to Measure” massage — i.e., basically pick your favorite technique and pressure, etc. For the hour, plus a nail polish change afterward and tip, it was under a hundred bucks. Unheard of at most high-end resorts (this one being Radisson Blu).
We made the short drive into the city center to get the local currency … Croatia is not part of the EU so the Kuna it is. Maybe that’s why it is so affordable here. A great and fresh meal with a couple of courses can easily be had for $40 or so. A delicious gelato for a $1.50. Again; unheard of!
The nearby island of Brac (pronounced “brash” — too many j’s, p’s and c’s in the language) was our destination of choice by ferry with our rental car. The hour-long trip and driving there was easy, continuing on the island until we found a small boat harbor for lunch. Again, the delicious and fresh food was a bargain. Such a pleasure after expensive meals in Spain and Italy (it is both a culinary and currency diet in Croatia).
As has become typical during our travels, an itinerary change was made after deciding against the long drive inland to the capital city of Zagreb. Instead we headed north to Zadar, another of the coastline’s main gateways. A quick Frommer’s/Trip Advisor consultation led us to the Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Iadera in Punta Skala.
Some travel expert I am — there are 28 Falkensteiner locations throughout Europe, heavily concentrated in Germany and Austria, but I’d never heard the name. They offer both hotels and family residences throughout. This property has a spectacular location, albeit challenging to find even with GPS. This unplanned stay ended up being a great choice for some R&R after ambitious traveling. Less than ideal was the number of kiddies here, mostly because the international holiday of May 1 created a 3-day weekend. But we had a very large suite for a very attractive price, an enormous spa, several pools, etc. Enough said.
After a day of doing nothing, it was off to the spectacular Krka National Park in Skradin to see the waterfalls. Wow — just gorgeous. We would gladly include Plitivice on a return trip for more of the same.
Next stop: Dubrovnik plus a day trip to Montenegro …