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Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 26 August 2015
This is the second country breakdown of our trip to Europe from 22 April to 6 December 2014. What travel costs 4 covered the whole trip. The current article covers our holiday to Croatia immediately on quitting Germany.
Adria Adventure, Dubrovnik and the Elaphite Islands 29 June to 6 July
When we left our house-sitting in Germany we didn’t do much planning, but we had to leave the Schengen area. We chose Croatia. After our relatively quite and inexpensive sojourn in Germany, we decided on a 7-day guided walking tour and a holiday adventure.
Psychologically, however, we weren’t prepared for moving into the madness of a holiday paradise in mid-summer. It seemed like moving from our quiet home in Canberra to the Gold Coast in peak season without any thought or preparation and it took us a couple of days to adjust.
Adria Adventure is a great company. Ivana, the organiser, a former Miss Croatia, is a warm friendly person who is very knowledgeable. She was extremely helpful both on the early part of the tour and the walk through Dubrovnik, but also seemed to care just as much when the tour was over. She was happy to mind our luggage in her office when we went off to Mljet, and to recommend restaurants that she enjoyed and things to do. The ‘boys’ all kayak instructors were more casual and laid back but in a nice way, they were also charming and helpful and knew the islands.
We were picked up from the airport, which is always nice. After an orientation, we stayed in a nice hotel in Lapad, which is a lovely tourist area away from the old city of Dubrovnik towards the port. We were given suggestions and left to organise ourselves. We spent a pleasant afternoon walking around Lapad, having coffees and drinks. Next morning Ivana took us on a tour of the old city of Dubrovnik and in the afternoon we walked with Vlaco up to the peak of Mount Srdj above Dubrovnik to look down on the old city.
We left for the islands on the evening ferry. We were a small group three other English women, a mother and a daughter in her thirties and a young woman in her twenties, who had hoped to go on a kayaking tour, but adjusted well to the change. We got on well together and all fitted in. The walking wasn’t arduous but we saw much of the islands and had nice dinners with wine in the evenings. The accommodation was lovely.
We stayed on two islands and walked on three, Sipan, Kolocep and Lopud, and on the mainland around Trsteno and the Trsteno Arboretum. They filmed part of The Game of Thrones in and nearby the arboretum; they were also filming a travel program while we were there. The old city of Dubrovnik was also used extensively in The Game of Thrones. The islands were beautiful and the swimming splendid. We were also invited to use the kayaks. Amir and Ivan were our main guides.
The time went quickly and it was a special holiday. Denise and I had decided to stay on for another ten days.
Adria Adventure cost (AUD)
Cost 2 persons per day (EU 195; USD 254) $282
Cost per person per day (EU 97; USD 127) $141
Included: All-up plus: 7 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners; not included alcohol. Meals on the islands were relatively expensive.
Dubrovnik, Old City 6 to 10 July
We stayed above the old city of Dubrovnik for four nights. The view over the old city was terrific and our room pleasant. At the time we thought it slightly expensive for what it was, but we probably misjudged summer prices. We went down into the old city each day and got to know it reasonably well. It is quite small. Ivana told us some of the cheaper places and we only ate expensively a couple of times, when we felt like it. We swam a lot and hung out quite a bit in places we liked. The weather was hot and occasionally the climb up the hill seemed an effort. The nights in the room were a bit hot too with only the breeze for relief.
Private accommodation (AUD)
Total Cost $300
Cost per night (50EU) $72.50
Pomena, Island of Mljet 10 to 12 July
We booked a commercial guesthouse in Pomena through AirBNB and caught the ferry to Polace. Pomena is on the edge of the national park on the eastern end of the island. We walked and swam on our first day in the nearby lake one of three that have an outlet into the ocean. Pomena is lovely and this end of the island is paradise (and we loved the Elaphite Islands).
Next day we hired bicycles and spent the day cycling around the two lakes, swimming and sightseeing. We were lucky enough at the sea end to get a motor skiff across the narrows, so that we could complete our circuit. We also visited the old village of Govedari. Our two days on Mljet were delightful. To get back and forth to the ferry at Polace you are dependent on the hotel. Where we stayed was only a few metres away.
The room we stayed in was a large modern double room, upstairs at the back, with excellent facilities and a view. It was a nice place with a restaurant downstairs.
Pomena accommodation (AUD)
$87 per night $174
AirBNB Service Fee $21
Cost per night $97.50
Dubrovnik, Lapad 12 to 16 July
We were picked up from the ferry and taken home to a nice neighbourhood by a pleasant family who welcomed us royally. The house was in a convenient location above the main road in Lapad. The son spoke good English, but the parents despite the language problem could not have been nicer. We were taken for an orientation walk on arrival and the family helped us with everything we needed and also things that were well beyond the necessities of hospitality. The son and his father also drove us to the airport when we left.
It was an easy a ten-minute walk to anywhere in the main tourist part of Lapad and barely fifteen minutes downhill into the Dubrovnik CBD. There were plenty of restaurants nearby. We knew Dubrovnik reasonably well by this time and we spent most of our time in the Lapad area. Denise also went horse riding one afternoon out near the airport.
Our accommodation was a studio apartment in the garden. It was pleasant and private had excellent facilities and could not have been more comfortable.
Studio apartment, Lapad accommodation (AUD)
$97 per night $388
AirBNB Service Fee $46
Cost per night $108.50
One-day bus trips to Mostar and Montenegro
We went on two one-day bus trips: to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Montenegro, on each stay in Dubrovnik.
The Mostar Old Bridge (Stari Most) in Bosnia Herzegovina is the most famous landmark in the country. It was destroyed by Croatian troops in 1993 amidst other war crimes. The bridge was rebuilt under the aegis of UNESCO between 2001-2004. Although we weren’t in the country that long, things were decidedly less prosperous than in Dubrovnik and we understood that sectarian tensions between the communities were still high. Our bus driver told us that the economy in Bosnia Herzegovina is stagnant and that many people depend on money being repatriated from relatives overseas. In Dubrovnik they joke that Bosnia Herzegovina sends them bush-fires each summer; a symbol that things in Bosnia Herzegovina are not under control.
The feature of our trip to Montenegro was Kotor a world heritage walled seaside city. Kotor was mentioned in Ancient Roman times had a strong medieval history and its current fortifications and architecture date mostly from the Venetian period from the 14th to 16th century.
Our final stop was Budva where we had lunch and a couple of hours wandering before returning. Budva is a coastal resort town with a small but pleasant historic old town. Most of the development here appears to be financed from Russian money. Montenegro also seemed less prosperous than Dubrovnik.
Our bus driver was a mine of cynical information. He said that the President of Montenegro (probably referring to Milo Đukanović) is like a Mafia Don — the capo di tutte capi — and the Russians (often gangsters) are buying up property in a big way on the coast and in resort areas. He also said that he wanted to emigrate from Dubrovnik, because he didn’t think that the stability would last and he could see ethnic tensions overflowing once more into open warfare.
In Dubrovnik they are very bitter about the war. They remember only the attacks on Dubrovnik by Montenegrin soldiers controlled by Serbs who shelled the old city. They do not see this as part of the larger conflict. Croatian war atrocities were not a topic of conversation.
Dubrovnik is the tourist capital of Croatia and exceedingly dependent on tourism for economic survival, but Croatia economically seems to be doing better than other war torn parts of the ex-Yugoslavia (not including Slovenia which managed to break away cleanly before the trouble began). Zagreb the capital of Croatia appears to be doing reasonably well economically, according to one of our guides on the Elaphite Islands; but there must be some areas away from the coast in Croatia that are not doing too well.
Economically, GDP per capita in US dollars in 2014 demonstrates these comparisons:
GDP per capita by country (USD)
Bosnia Herzegovina 9800
Total cost of Croatia Holiday
The overall costs of our two and a half weeks in Croatia are as follows:
Overall Cost of our stay Croatia (AUD)
Two persons 17 days
Adria Adventure 7-day tour $1971
Other accommodation (10 nights @ $91.70 per night) $917
Cash Advance $3329
Credit card $312
Cost per night for two people (EU 265; USD 346) $384
Cost per person per night (EU 133; USD 173) $192
Our holiday was a bit cheaper than the two week non-budget trip from the UK of the people we shared our tour with, but quite expensive nevertheless. One can travel in Croatia more cheaply than we did. Friends have told us that other areas of Croatia and Eastern Europe in general are cheaper than Dubrovnik.
Nevertheless, the mid-summer weather was beautiful and it was a lovely coastal holiday. In most places, except where there is a beach, you need diving shoes to avoid the sea urchins. The water was very clear and seemed clean. The swimming was excellent everywhere.
On Mljet the best swimming was in the first lake near Pomena and in the narrows between the second and third lakes, which was a swift but safe race, its direction dependent on the stage of the tide. On the Elaphite islands the swimming was excellent everywhere.
Key words: Dubrovnik, Croatia, Lapad, Old city of Dubrovnik, Elaphite Islands, Pomena, Mljet Island, Mostar, Bosnia Herzogovina, Kotor, Budva, Montenegro
Adria Adventure were a very professional kayak touring company. As with most tourism in the Dubrovnik area of Croatia, they were very nice people and well-organised.
The Tour was Adria Adventure 7-day walking on the Elaphiti islands. It was very pleasant and the guides were excellent. However, it was more relaxed walking than strenuous walking. Kayaking was more their focus.
‘An easy ferry ride away from Dubrovnik’s Gruž harbour, the lush, vegetation-carpeted Elaphite Islands (Elafiti) present the perfect opportunity to savour the Croatian Adriatic at its unspoilt, get-away-from-it-all best. Strung out between Dubrovnik and the Pelješac peninsula to the north, the Elaphites got their name (literally the “deer islands”) from first-century-AD Roman geographer Pliny the Elder, who mentioned them in his 37-volume Historia Naturalis. The Elaphites became part of the Dubrovnik Republic from the fourteenth century, sharing in its prosperity and then its decline – by the middle of the eighteenth century many island villages lay abandoned and depopulation had become a major problem. Today, only three of the islands are inhabited – Koločep, Lopud and Šipan – each of which supports a modest tourist industry. Despite the daily influx of trippers from Dubrovnik, however, tourism on the Elaphites remains reassuringly low key, the almost total absence of cars contributing to the mellow feel: private vehicles are not allowed on any of the islands except Šipan.’ (The Rough Guide)
Game of thrones in Croatia
23 August 2015 Metro UK Dubrovnik dropped for Season 6
UNESCO on old bridge
Bosnia and Herzogovina Wikipedia