Monday, September 4, 2017

Eastern Europe - Budapest to Split – August, 2017
Had a busy day in Budapest and then met at 6 p.m. for the orientation meeting for our new G adventures group.  Dinner later at Menza.  Had a delicious goat cheese salad finishing with chocolate cake and sat outside to enjoy my last night in Budapest…

Early breakfast and train to Novi Sad, Serbia.  Checked in to our hotel and had our orientation walk around the little town filled with lots of little cafes and a lovely church.  Met later and had a “family” dinner, i.e. platters of meat, vegetables, cheese, etc.  Lots of food and all delicious. 

Walked up to the Petrovaradin fortress, located on the right bank of the Danube, in the morning for a tour.  It is known for its underground tunnels, clock towel and EXIT festival, an annual music festival held in the fortress since 2001.  Stopped by Multi Tart for a yummy fruit tart and then took the train to Serbia’s largest city, Belgrade.  Walked to the Bohemian area, unique for its cobblestone streets filled many restaurants.  We all returned there later for dinner at an outdoor café and I had salmon with spinach and potato ragout listening to a trio playing lively music.

After breakfast we had our walking tour up to the military fortress overlooking the Danube.  Visited the Ethnographic Museum filled with traditional costumes, houses, etc. and afterwards walked to the old synagogue.  Stopped for a lemon tart and coffee and took a very long walk to the Church of Saint Sava, one of the world’s largest orthodox churches.  The facade is in white marble and granite but the interior is still being worked on.  When finished it will house many mosaics.

Dinner at 1905 near the bridge, i.e. pappadella with mushrooms, duck with quinoa, broccoli puree and chocolate mousse for dessert.  Had a glass of wine and enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere and delicious and beautifully prepared food.

Long ride in the morning to Sarajevo, Bosnia, stopping for lunch of chicken wrapped in bacon and tomato/cucumber/cabbage salad which we saw quite frequently!!  Orientation walk and dinner at a brewery nearby.  A nicely laid out city with a lot of history.

Great breakfast with lots of fruit.  Took a tour of the tunnel museum, a short section of the 1.6 m high hand-dug tunnel under the airport runway which acted as the city’s lifeline to the outside world during the 1992 – 95 siege.  We took a nice walk up to an overlook and then returned to the center to wander around.  Stopped at an outside café for a chicken/tomato/cucumber/feta salad and the visited the Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque, the largest historical mosque in Bosnia.  Also visited the museum across the street which was once a school and gave insight into how life was lived in Bosnia.  Walked to the Svrzo house with its cobblestone courtyards and great furnished rooms and then it started to rain so I stopped at a covered outside café for cake and coffee until it stopped.

On to the Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, eternal flambe and to the Latin bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in June 1914 starting the war.  Dinner at the Inat Kuca overlooking the river, i.e. grilled vegetables and baklava.

Had some time after breakfast to visit the Despics House which shows how a wealthy Serbian family lived in past centuries.  Also houses a theatre where performances were held.  Wandered along the river and then stopped for cake and coffee before driving to Mostar where it was very hot.  Took our orientation walk later in the evening to the old part known for its old Turkish houses and old bridge.  Had some time to wander around and down to the river to watch someone jump off the bridge before meeting for dinner at Sadrvan.  Shared a delicious platter of grilled vegetables and some fish with a couple travelers and then we stopped for ice cream on the walk back.

Headed out early in the morning but still there was a big line at the border into Montenegro and Kotor, a coastal town located in a secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor, where we were headed.   Stopped for lunch along the way but didn’t arrive in town until about 5 p.m.  Had our orientation walk and then were on our own to wander the old fortified city before meeting at 8 p.m. for dinner at an outdoor café with great fish.

Walked up to the upper town walls and fortress, climbing 1350 stairs, with a couple travelers early in the morning before it got too hot!  Very interesting and a beautiful view of the city.  Breakfast and then spent about 3 hours kayaking and stopping to swim.  Water was lovely.  Back to town to visit the market and then stopped at Hotel Astoria for some delicious cheesecake and coffee inside where it was air-conditioned but looking out as well.  Visited the Cat Museum which was fun as there are cats everywhere in the city, some churches, etc.  Really unique city.  Later in the evening had dinner on the patio of Hotel Astoria listening to music while I enjoyed delicious mussels in white wine sauce and a Greek salad with a generous helping of feta cheese.  City looked even more beautiful at night…

Drove to Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic.  Our hotel was about 10 minutes from the old town so we had some time to walk down to the nearby beach and get some lunch before meeting at 4:30 p.m. when it was cooler to go into the old town.  A fascinating walled city filled with forts, museums, churches, cafes and a lot of tourists!!  Met later for dinner but the food was so bad the restaurant didn’t even charge us…

After breakfast a couple from our group and I took the ferry to Lohrum island where we visited the beaches, dead man sea where a lot of people were swimming  and walked up to the fort where some of Game of Thrones had been filmed.  Back in the old town I stopped for cheesecake and coffee and then walked up to the Modern Art Museum filled with very interesting artwork.  Had purchased a day pass which included Rector’s Palace and the Franciscan Monastery so after visiting those I took the bus back to our hotel to regroup.  Really hot.

Had a wonderful dinner later in the evening overlooking the Port and watching the sun go down at 360, i.e. celery soup, roasted carrots with pine nuts, shrimp with gnocchi, sea bass with potato spinach puree, pigeon with lavender sauce and peaches and lemon tart with lemon marmalade.  Also had a couple small glasses of wine and thoroughly enjoyed my evening!!

In the morning I walked around the wall which took a couple hours at a leisurely pace.  Visited the open air market and finally the ethnographic museum which was excellent.  There was a special toy exhibition of painted wooden toys that are no longer made but were very popular once upon a time.  Stopped at Tavupin for octopus salad with olive and capers and finished with Dubrovnik crème caramel – both really good.

Ferry to the Island of Hvar arriving at 9:00 p.m.  After checking into the hotel all the power went down so a few of us walked into the old town and stopped for drinks.  Shared pancakes filled with nutella and ice cream with one of the travelers and then about 11:00 p.m. I went back to the hotel.  Still no power and my head lamp had run out of batteries so just left the door a crack as there was light in the hall and took a shower in the dark!

Nice modern hotel with great breakfast out on the patio.  Took a walk along the water and then we spent the day on a ferry boat which stopped at different islands where we could swim.  It was glorious!!  The water was cool and salty and it felt wonderful.  Free evening so I had dinner at Giaxa in town, i.e. little appetizer was gazpacho soup in a shot glass, little vegetable tart and some olives.  Dinner was grilled octopus salad with warm radicchio and endive and a chocolate boule.  Warm raspberry sauce was poured on top of the chocolate “boule” and it started to melt into a soup.  Really good.

Early ferry to Split.  Very extensive tour of the ruins of the Diocletian Palace, built between the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD and considered to be one of the most imposing roman ruins.  The ancient fortress has become the old town, with numerous shops, cafes, museums, etc. located in the old buildings on narrow streets.  Had the rest of the day to enjoy wandering around.  Stopped for cheesecake and espresso to figure out my day…

Visited the Folk museum filled with costumes and jewelry from ages past, found the meeting place for our upcoming tour to the waterfalls, stopped by the Greenmarket and House Sandra where I would be staying in the next few days.  Last meal together as a group at an outdoor café.   Had a smoked duck salad with goat cheese and pears.  Said our good-byes…

Breakfast in the morning, checked out and picked up some fruit at the Greenmarket.  Strolled partway up Marjan Hill for a nice view of the city and then had lunch at Bistro 7 overlooking the water, i.e. grilled octopus salad with feta cheese and radicchio and chocolate cake.  Checked in to House Natalia where I stayed one night and relaxed a bit.  It is so hot it is hard to keep walking around.  Later in the evening had a delicious dinner at Zinfandel on the patio, i.e. octopus in amaranth seeds and chocolate cake.  There were some guitar players there as well which made the evening quite pleasant.

Early breakfast at Bobis, a great pastry shop which opens early.  Met Jen, a fellow traveler, at the tour office and we had a wonderful tour booked through Viator of the Plitvice Lakes National Park.  We were very fortunate with the weather as the day was cool and we had a lot of walking to do!  The tour included a boat ride to hidden lake as well as leisurely walking trails to upper and lower lakes. 

Returning to Split about 7:30 p.m. I wandered around a bit to stretch my legs and then had a lovely dinner outside on the patio of Corte Maltese, i.e. sea bass with lentils and cauliflower puree and a traditional cake “modernized” which was superb!

Pastry and coffee at Bobis outside overlooking the water and then took a long walk along the water to the Ivan Mestrovic gallery but it was closed so will return another day.  Strolled along the beach and then back to Bistro 7 for cheesecake.  Had a fantastic dinner at Matoni restaurant later in the evening, i.e. super salata composed of layers of beets, carrots, cabbage, mango, seeds, mung beans, etc.  It was sooo delicious!  Dessert was a traditional caramelized walnut cake with vanilla cream.  A find!

Another nice pastry and coffee at Bobis and then caught the ferry to Trogir, an old UNESCO walled city.  Enjoyed strolling around, stopped for cheesecake at Teuta, an outdoor café and returning with the ferry.  Last dinner in Splitz at Dvor at a table overlooking the water.  Charred octopus with chickpeas and chocolate terrine and a glass of wine to celebrate.

Had time in the morning to visit the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery containing many of his sculptures and a lovely outdoor sculpture park.  Also walked down to the Chapel nearby housing a set of outstanding wood panels carved by him as well.   Delicious fresh tuna salad at Bistro 7 before taking the bus to the airport and flying to Zagreb where I spent the night near the airport at Cool Rooms, a perfect place to stay!   Free shuttle from and delivery to the airport.

Took the bus into town and walked about 20 minutes into the center.  Didn’t have much time to look around but enjoyed what I saw.  Had a delicious dinner at Mundoaka Street Food, i.e. dumplings filled with pork and leeks in a balsamic dipping sauce with cabbage/carrot slaw and a chocolate dessert.  Went looking for the Museum of Broken Relationships and was fortunate to run into a couple who took me there as it was very hard to find!  Housed in a beautiful baroque palace, the museum includes personal objects left from former lovers, accompanied by brief descriptions.  A very interesting museum open until 10 p.m. and a must see!

In the morning I got to the airport in plenty of time to have breakfast but didn’t notice there were two flights to Vienna!!!  Ended up going to the wrong gate and missed my flight.  Luckily I called United Airlines who had booked my flights and they were able to rebook me later in the day, i.e. 4:15 p.m. to Munich with an overnight there.  Sooo, I regrouped.  Took a few things out of my large bag and checked it through to LAX and then took the airport bus into Zagreb and wandered around the main square, open air market, saw some of Ivan Mestrovic’s sculptures and had another delicious lunch at Mundoaka Street Food.  Didn’t miss my flight this time!!!

Arrived in Munich about 6:00 p.m. and decided to just take the train into the city and enjoy what I could before it got too late.  Wandered around the Marienplatz to see the Rathhaus, around the corner to visit the Hofbrauhaus, heard some music and then had dinner at Schuhbeck, i.e. octopus with beets and cauliflower mousse and the most delicious Kaisersmarrn I have ever had!!!  Train back to the airport and then a very expensive cab ride to Hotel Claro Garni.  I didn’t realize that Munich hotels near the airport are not really very near the airport and this one didn’t have free shuttle service.  Key had been left for me in a mailbox with a code and the hotel was very nice.

Took a lovely walk through the fields nearby in the morning and then had a delicious breakfast with lots of great German breads, cheeses, fresh fruit, etc. and marvelous coffee.  Hotel arranged a shuttle for me to the airport which was a lot cheaper than the taxi last night and I caught my plane just fine.

Always great to be home after an interesting trip and this was surely one of those!

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