Zagreb and the Istrian Coast
10.27.2015 - 10.02.2015 64 °F
I know you've all been waiting breathlessly to find out if we got to Zagreb. Well.....yes, we did but not without a hiccup.
I'll take you back. It was just about 0550 am when we got to the train station. We come up from the Metro ..the station was right there in front of us. After a few minutes, we find a bus that going to Zagreb but it leaves at 0615 (not 0600 as our ticket said). We showed the reservation, which was on Brenda's cell phone, to the driver. He nods and tells us that we have to go and get the actual ticket. The desk in downstairs and doesn't open til 0600. Brenda and Jim stay with the luggage and I go downstairs and I'm first in line at the International ticket window. Promptly at 0600, the curtain slides away and I give her the cell phone. She says "wrong desk... over there" as she points to the domestic travel line. I say "In the domestic travel line??" - she says "No, across the street!!!" I get that very bad sinking feeling. I run (and I don't usually run) up the stairs and yell to Brenda and Jim that we're in the wrong place. By now, I know that when we get there, the bus will be gone. We ask another independent bus driver and he know's nothing. We've missed the bus - literally!! We all look at each other and again "run" back across the street, knowing that there is the 0615 bus that is going to Zagreb. It was almost that time now, but we would still have to buy a ticket. It's downstairs and into the same line. With Brenda's help and pleading looks we beg to the front of the line, buy the tickets and run back upstairs with about....one minute to spare, totally out of breath and a bit frazzled. It was funny as we talked about it later. Jim lets' me know later that while all this was going on, he and I were thinking the same thing. "OK, we've missed the bus to Zagreb, I wonder where the other buses are going and how can we get to Dubrovnik to catch our flight on the 8th??"
27 September 2015
The ride to Zagreb was uneventful. Passports were collected at the border and returned with no issues. We had directions to our apartment from the bus station. The day was a bit grey, kind of like our mood at the time. As we were walking from the the bus stop, an odd thing happened. We started hearing music. From the gazebo, the Puhacki Orkestar Zet was playing. At that moment, we felt as if we were being welcomed to Croatia.
Iva, our host in Zagreb, was there to meet us about 30 seconds after we found the apartment. With our bags and her two year old in tow we started up the three flights of stairs. I knew when we booked the apartment that it was the "penthouse". Somehow, that sounds luxurious but in actually only feels like it when there is an elevator. Of course, we managed.
Off to investigate our first stop in Croatia. A few "firsts on the trip", a hamburger that was great and later in the day we watched a movie on the TV. A good "relax and catch up" day. We realized that it was the first time in three weeks we'd watched any TV at all.
28 September 2015
Sometimes when people travel together, we need a break. It's really not a bad thing. Also, since we had to adjust our arrival day, Jim and I had to pick up our rental car. Brenda headed out to wander on her own and we made our way to the Westin Hotel and the Fleet Car Rental Office. Our goal was to see if we could sign all our paperwork but not pick the car up until the next day, thus avoiding paying to park...and it worked. They were more than happy to accommodate us. Paperwork signed and Jim and I did a little touring on our own with plans to meet Brenda in the Town Square by the " Horse statue" and have lunch together. Worked out great.
Since we had a late lunch, we really didn't need dinner and Brenda had scoped out a wine tasting for that evening. It was at Vinoteka Bornstein, the first and oldest in Croatia. Doris and her husband (who was having a well earned night off) have owned this establishment for an number of years. She was more than happy to fill us in on Croatian wines and also the history of Michael Grgich, a Croat, whose wine are is very well known world wide. It was a fun night - drinking and learning - can't get better than that.
29 September 2015 thru 01 October 2015
Up early - got packed. I went off to get the car and Brenda and Jim met me down, those oh so many stairs, and we were off - heading to the Rovinj (In the Istria area) by way of of Motovun, a wine area that was recommended the night before by Doris.
The drive was nice with the sun starting to peak out. From a NY Times newspaper article that Brenda had found, we decided on lunch at what is currently called Konoba Mondo. This time of year is great to visit these areas...truffle season. We all got some version of a Truffle dish - Brenda a souffle, me, polenta and Jim a pasta dish. We also started with a pate dish, topped with, of course, truffles - OMG - they were all really good!!! Our waiter was great and since it was after prime season we were actually able to have a conversation about the food and the area. September and October are officially my favorite times to travel.
Motovun is a medieval fortified town on a hill top that has been am actual town since the 1st century. The views were wonderful and the city itself very quaint. It actually would have been fun to stay the night but we had reservations in Rovinj -
Arriving in Rovinj, due to construction, it took us a few minutes to find our apartment but when we did we were very pleased. Again from Airbnb, we stayed in an apartment at the home of Giorgio Certo. Once a large property, started by his grandfather, it is still quite big and in a perfect location, only a few minutes walk to the harbour but away from the tourist noise (which at this time of the year really wasn't noisy at all).
Being located in the northwest corner of Croatia, the Istria area has seen many changes over the last 100-200 years. Giorgio told us that his father actually had four different passport and lived his whole life in the same house: Austrian Hungarian, Italian, Yugoslavian and Croatian. The area definitely has the feel of a mix of the Mediterranean cultures.
Three nights was perfect to stroll the cobbled streets of Rovinj, take a boat tour and also, take a day out to see Pula (about 30 minutes drive to the south) and it's Roman Amphitheater.
Check back later for pics...