sexta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2011

Planning your next trip?

We loved our trip to Croatia and Slovenia! Highly recommended places to visit!

Why Croatia and Slovenia?

We were initially looking for a nice and different place, with adventure sports and activities. And we found much more in those Eastern Europe countries: pleasant people, nice food, charming cities and amazing clear water!

If you need a "fast plan to your trip" and you have only a few days to spend, our recommendations are:

- a weekend in Split (Croatia), resting at the nice beaches and visiting Diocletian Palace. Spend one day in Brac island and go to Bol Beach!;


- a weekend in Dubrovnik (Croatia), visit the old town, go kayaking around the walls of the old town, have a nice dinner around the old town.


- a weekend in Bled: take a boat and row to the small island in the middle of that charming lake, visit Bled Castle and take a day tour to Bovec, with canyoning and rafting activities! You will get exausted but absolutely renewed!

quinta-feira, 15 de setembro de 2011

Bol Beach: Brac Island (Croatia)

Yes, you are right: we will say again that the water is clear and salty! And, yet, with a nice temperature!

Bol Beach is small (or should we say tiny) and very nice place to spend some time in the water, doing some snorkeling, swimming or just laying down on the beach.

The beach has no sand, but small rocks (so you don't get durty home!)

Recommendations: These are not "must do", but would be nice to know upfront:

- snorkeling equipment: you will enjoy having them around;

- waterproof camera or waterproof protection for your camera would be useful;

- swimming shoes: you can buy comfortable swimming shoes to walk on the rocky beaches and also avoid problems with sea urchins. There are some stores or tents on the streets where you can buy swimming rubber shoes for KN $30 to $40 (Kunas), approx. EUR $6 (six Euros).

Split (Croatia): Diocletian Palace

 Diocletian Palace: open day and night!

Itinerary: how to get to...from...

What we did and recommend!

It was an 8-day trip:  We spent 5 days in Croatia and 3 days in Slovenia.
 - We left Brazil (São Paulo) to Germany (Frankfurt) - Lufthansa (believe it or not, it was the lowest price!)

- From Frankfurt (Germany) to Zadar (Croatia) with Croatian Airlines (also the best price!) Trains were too expensive and would have taken from 9 to 12 hours.

- We rented a car in Zadar (Croatia) and a GPS (which was dispensable, but occasionally useful).  Our trip within Croatia and Slovenia was all done by car. And it was great! The roads are perfect and brand new. Signs were very good as well.

- From Zadar, we visited Pag and Nin in half a day. These are two nice cities within 30 to 40 minutes drive from Zadar.

- From Zadar to Split, by car. We stopped by at Sibenik and Trogir.

- From Split to Brac Island. We took the car ferry to Supetar (name of the city in Brac Island), drove to Bol Beach (HIGHLY recommended! Small and nice local beach)

- From Brac Island to Dubrovnik. At Sumartin, the city in Brac Island, we got the car ferry to Makarska (continent) to get the road again down to Dubrovnik. Please notice that in order to go to Dubrovnik you will cross border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are customs cabin for passport controls – shouldn´t take long, but check if you need any visa or authorization from your country (not required to Brazilians). We have got the coastal road, which has a nice view but lower speed limit.

- From Dubrovnik to Plitvice Jezera. This time we took the express roads. Much better and faster! Nearly 5 to 6 hours drive.

- From Plitvice to Ljubljana (Slovenia). Taking the express road to Zagreb is the best option, then heading to Ljubljana. The nearest way would be via local roads, which would take twice the time, with heavy traffic and lower speed limits). We traveled nearly for 3 hours until Ljubljana. Customs control (cabins on the road) very fast – and far better than the huge lines at the airport!

- From Ljubljana to Bled, by car. Nearly 1 hour drive.

- From Bled to Zadar, by car, to the end of our trip. 4 hours drive via Zagreb. We took the road E70 and then A1/E71.

- Now, heading back home, from Zadar we flew via Zagreb and at Pula (nearly 40 minutes flight from Zadar to Pula and another 40 minutes flight from Pula to Zagreb).

- From Zagreb (connection) to Frankfurt (Germany) and to Sao Paulo.
(Although Lufthansa and Croatia Airlines are the same company, we booked our tickets separately but it worked well with our luggage leaving Zadar straight to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Just a few comments:
We checked our luggage at Zadar airport, with Croatia Airlines, and they successfully managed  to get it straight to Brazil, even with all the connection flights we had. It was perfect!  Both Lufthansa and Croatian Airlines are Star Alliance and we were surprised that it worked so well! We were extremely satisfied with both Lufthansa and Croatian Airlines services.

Unfortunately there were no Ryanair flights available from and to the places we wanted to go. But we used Ryanair in other trips and they were good. Just notice that Ryanair flights generally uses small and distant airports. So consider additional 1 or 1,5 hours in your trip. The transportation (bus or shuttle) to those airports are generally provided by  Ryanair for free and are very good. Check time schedules and where to get the free transportation from the main airports.

sábado, 10 de setembro de 2011

Moving around Croatia and Slovenia

We rented a car in Croatia (Zadar) and traveled around the country up to Slovenia. In fact, we were informed that public transportation was not so good or trustworthy.

Car rentals are not so expensive (nearly EUR 30.00 per day) and we were free to pick or change our destinations as we wanted.  As mentioned before, we did not plan our whole trip at first and some of the cities we visited were based on  recommendations we got from local people. Great recommendations, we should say! 

The roads were great and brand new! (Our trip was in August 2011). Signs on the roads and streets were also very good. We had a GPS (rented with the car - does not worth it) which helped a little - really just a little! Sometimes we preferred to follow our insticts and maps rather than following the GPS directions.

In order to cross Croatia from North to South you will find basically two main roads: the coastal and the express road. The coastal road (8) has a nice view of the Croatian coast but with a lower speed limit. The highway (A1 / E71/ E65) is better if you are looking for a fast way to get from one place to another. You will have to pay toll in the express road.

So, in addition to the distances between cities, pay attention to the roads you will use when planning the time distance of your trip. Google Maps may give you a good estimation of time for both roads. Usually the coastal road takes double the time. Beside, highways are so good and calm that you can drive very fast! Really!!

Here´s another precious tip anywhere you go in the world: get good maps! In Croatia and Slovenia, as in most European countries, you can find free maps at Hotels, Information Centers and, of course, you can always count on Google Maps (wonderful tool!)

Ferry Boats are also a good way, or sometimes, the only alternative to get to nice islands. Get informed about the time schedule and prices. It is recommended to arrive at least one hour ahead from ferry departure. Ferry rides take nearly 1 or 2 hours from continent to the island, depending on your destination.

You will need to 'park' your car in the ferry line, get out of the vehicle, and go to the ferry ticket center to buy your ticket. (This was something new for us! In Brazil, you don't have to leave your car. You just stay in line and you get your ferry ticket before getting inside the ferry, just as a toll cabin on the roads).

You can check the time schedules and prices of the ferries at:

And you can always ask for information. Croatian and Slovenian people are very kind and will be pleased to help you.

We did not speak Slovenian or Croatian language, even though we tried to learn some basic words, but most people (specially young) speak fluent English. As there are lots of Italian turists, most Croatian and Slovenian people also speak Italian. No matter which language you speak, Slovenian and Croatian people will do their best effort to communicate with you and get you what you want.

About internet, in most hotels and Villas (family owned) in Croatia and Slovenia, you will find free internet available. However, in some, signal quality may be poor inside rooms.

sexta-feira, 9 de setembro de 2011

Bled (Slovenia) : Vintgar Gorge in Triglavski National Park

Do you remember the movie "Ice Age", where the squirrel is after a nut and the ice walls crack from top to bottom, and the cold water comes to fill the narrow space between the ice walls? Well, it looks like this part of the movie was inspired in Vintgar Gorge!

This place has rock walls which seems to have been split hundred of thousands of years ago, with an exceptionally crystal clear water (and very very cold, though!) running through its cracks . The water is so clear and so inviting that we tried to get into it, but it was too cold for us. We put our feet into the water up to the knees and in 5 to 10 seconds it all started to hurt the bones as we couldn't feel our toes! (In fact we did see some brave kids in the water, but we promise we will try harder next time.)

Unfortunately this day we forgot to load our camera battery and we had to be satisfied with the amazing images in our memories... and postcard photos! But, in our next trip, we will take an extra camera battery and will get back with cinematographic pictures.

Vintgar Gorge is nearly 4 kilometers from Bled (some people go by bicycle from 'downtown' Bled. As we had a car we just used it!).

Vintgar Gorge with its amazing clear and cold water!

Watch out in Croatia and Slovenia: bees!

Croatia is also known for its good honey. Obviously, where there is honey, there is bee! And, yes, there are quite a few bees around in the restaurants and parks.

We were in Croatia and Slovenia during the summer and there were not thousands of bees around, but usually a couple or more bees would appear when you open a bottle of juice, Ice Tea or a soft drink. The bees are always after sweet things.

To be honest, we should say that the bees were not exactly anoying all the time, but we did get a little uncomfortable with some of them around, specially during breakfast in open places. We saw no one being stinged by a bee or any other problem with them, except that they were flying around.

So, ladies, if you are not fan of bees, you should also avoid using perfumes and body moisturizing during your trip, at least during the day!

A bee in Bled, helping us write a post card!