Croatia 2016 Day 10 – Zagreb old town towards Opatija, Motovun visit

The day started with the usual same routine as the day before. We had to prepare for movement again and had to pack our luggage before embarking on our road trip towards Opatija, the town we chose as an intermediate stop before heading for the coast, as Zagreb was a town far away from water. We managed to get out of the apartment by 930am for a short visit to the town of Zagreb.

There were a few places that we wanted to visit and one of which was the massive Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which at the time of writing, was the tallest building in Croatia. The walk from the apartment was an easy 10 mins in the cool morning. Took a visit inside, going through the complicated design of the giant door arch and was wowed by the tall pillars that went so high above the heads of visitors walking on the cathedral’s ground. We didn’t stay very long since we were used to seeing them in previous visits to Europe and proceeded to walk to the Zagreb central square, Trg bana Jelačića. There seemed to be some sort of event going on there were many stalls set up selling foodstuffs and traditional items and people walking around in costumes. At the far end of the square was a stage set up for performances. All these festivities going on around the commanding statue of Jelačić on a horse which we took a picture with. Spent some time strolling around and we ended up buying a pack of Croatian Medenjaci cookies. We then walked towards St Marks’ church, eating the delicious honey cookies.

Tallest building in Croatia..
…Gothic Zagreb Cathdral
Beautiful door frame
Grandeur from the arches
Market at Ban Jelačić Square
Statue of ban Josip Jelačić.
Some events going on with people dressed in costumes.
Armour suit on display.
Making yarn
Medenjaci cookies
Concert stage with performance

St Marks’ Church was a 10 min walk by distance but because it was an upslope walk, it seemed to take a while to get there. The tiled roads brought us upslope and then GPS asked us to pass an arch in a building, which I later learnt was the Stone Gate. Underneath the arch was a shrine inside and there was quite a group of people inside which made us hesitant to pass through initially as we thought it was a church and there was an ongoing service! Upon reaching the St. Marks’ church, we were greeted with a church with a really beautiful tiled roof. Took a few selfies before walking back arriving pass 11 but the landlord was kind enough to wait for us. He had even offered for us to park the car in the car park till a later time if we needed more time in Zagreb but we had get on the road already.

The Stone Gate
St. Marks’ church

I loaded the luggage into the car, lugging them down the stairs while mommy warmed up food. Bided farewell to the landlord and we drove towards Opatija, 2 hrs journey on highway and a 70kuna toll. We have arrived at our Airbnb earlier than the check in timing but I was unable to contact the landlord who was away on business trip and her parents whom were supposed to help her link up with me was not contactable. We then drove out to the town center to eat first.

Punched in the GPS for parking and we arrived to find parking lots full. Ended up driving into a covered carpark under hotel Milenji. I was in awe of the town as it was totally unexpected that the coast-side town looked so beautiful as I initially thought it was some random town. We went to eat at an equally lovely seaside restaurant called Vongola, with a view of the sea. The costs was about 200plus kunas, slightly more expensive than what we were used to but it’s ok for a couple of meals on the trip. After the lunch of Aglio Oglio and truffles pasta, we went around taking some photos, the interesting sea water swimming pool and also of the maiden with seagull. Paid the carpark fees at hotel reception for 15kunas and we drove back to the apartment.

Maiden with seagull statue
Aglio Oglio
Truffles pasta
Swimming pool connected to sea and a view of Restoran Vongola

There was a large garden of this private detached house where we parked our car and tried to contact the landlord of the Opatija Airbnb but there was no answer. We sat waiting in the car and 5mins later, an elderly lady came and identified herself as the mother. She showed me the room and left us to our own. It was a very small place at the basement of the house but had everything that we needed. What we paid was what we got, but disappointingly there were also mosquitoes. After unloading our huge luggage in the limited walking space, we drove to the huge Billa supermarket just around the corner which had its own free carpark. We bought whatever that we needed for meals preparations and returned to the room.

Queen size bed
Shower and toilet
Huge Billa supermarket nearby
Lots of walking space

Mommy prepared baby K dinner by putting the ingredients into pressure cooker and lifting it to simmer while we drove to a nearby hilltop town Motovun at 5pm. Getting there we had to drive through a long tunnel that charged toll fees of 33kunas per way. En-route, we passed by town of Buzet that we thought was Motovun but we only arrived at the correct location after travelling way further on the road. We arrived at carpark at 6pm at the bottom of this hill and was directed into the carpark as staff said the carparks in Motovun town was full and we had to take the shuttle bus up for 20kuna each person return tickets. It was a 5mins ride up to the ancient town where we alighted and started our walk to explore this town.

On the way to Motovun, town on top of a hill
Shuttle bus counter
Shuttle bus to the top
Map of Motovun

Motovun was like the other old towns, with the tiled roads lined with bricked single storey buildings but built atop a hill that offered a lovely panorama for its surroundings. Unlike many touristy old towns, there didn’t seem to have any shops opened, but it could be that it was already late. Those that were opened were mostly restaurants and these usually were near the edge of the walls which gave the diners a view while having their meals. We took some photos with a old clock tower and the surrounding beautiful scenery and was rewarded with a sight of double rainbows in the grassy hills below.

Tiled roads of Motovun town
One of the many cafes bordering the town
Double rainbows!
View of greenery from Motovun
Another panorama from Motovun

We returned to same point where we first alighted after at most 45 mins of walking since the last bus going downhill was at 7pm. We paid 20kunas for parking at the counter where the staff advised that we could drive up to the Motovun town now as it had much fewer cars now and car parks had became available. We had to head back to Opatija already as night fell. There weren’t mobile signal and again I had to follow signs and intuition. It had started to rain and somehow I ended on a small unpaved road because I was following the Garmin which was my backup.

K fell asleep as I navigated our way back to the apartment. Mommy went into the apartment to pack baby K’s dinner while I stayed in the car with the snoozing baby. We left for town again, for dinner and this time, parked at shopping mall carpark Slatina mall. We visited restaurant Bella Vista, which was across the road from the mall and for 180kunas, we had Balsamic rice and Cevapi, a meat platter. While waiting for the food to arrive, mommy visited the brightly lighted merchandise stalls nearby that didn’t have any customers around. We felt a little cold eating alfresco in this balmy full moon night, made worse by the fact that it was near the sea. After dinner, we took a short stroll around the area before returning to the car park, looking at the coastline dotted with lights from the buildings. It was 20kunas for parking, more expensive than parking at the hotel.

Relatively quiet streets at dinner time
Balsamic rice
Opened nearby stalls, like pasar malam
View from Opatija coastline

The night was spent washing up and packing for the road trip the next day and it was challenging packing our large luggage in the tiny spaces. Then bedtime.

Escape plan to Croatia/Slovenia September 2016

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Croatia/Slovenia 2016:

Total duration 18D18N
Singapore is 6hrs ahead of Croatia and Slovenia.
Flight time is 11hrs 25mins on Turkish Airlines from Singapore to Istanbul, Turkey followed by a 1hr 50min flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia after about a 4hour transition at Istanbul.
Return is 2hrs 30mins from Salzburg to Istanbul, a 11hrs layover then a 11hrs 5mins flight from Istanbul back to Singapore.

Flight from Singapore to Istanbul at 10pm, arriving at 425am in Istanbul and fly off again at 920am arriving in Dubrovnik at 1010am. Return flight from Salzburg is at 1125am and touching down in Istanbul at 255pm and flying off at 150am and finally touching down at 555pm.

Day 0 Flight to Istanbul
Day 1 Arrival in Dubrovnik, old town visit
Day 2 Day trip to Perast and Kotor
Day 3 Day trip to Mostar and Blagaj Tekke
Day 4 Dubrovnik to Neum to Split
Day 5 Day trip to Hvar and Stari Grad
Day 6 Krka National Park waterfalls and Sibenik
Day 7 Split – Diocletian Palace and old town
Day 8 Split to Trogir to Zadar
Day 9 Plitvice National Park waterfalls and towards Zagreb
Day 10 Zagreb old town towards Opatija, Motovun visit
Day 11 Opatija to Pula to Rovinj
Day 12 Rovinj to Porec, border crossing, visit Postojna Cave and Predama Castle to Ljubljana
Day 13 Ljubljana old town and castle
Day 14 Ljubljana to Skofja Loka to Lake Bled, Bled castle
Day 15 Lake Bohinj and Trenta Valley
Day 16 Lake Bled to Salzburg, Mirabell gardens
Day 17-18 Flight to Istanbul then Home Sweet Home

This annual family trip we wanted to do a road trip as it would be easier for us to manage with toddler in tow. With a car, we could get from place to place at our own pace. A few other options did surface (such as Eastern Europe – Prague and Budapest) but we were more in favour of this itinerary as we thought in terms of security these countries had less issues as it seemed less popular amongst tourists and therefore lesser target for security issues. Though we had concluded that it was really difficult to travel with a toddler from our Europe trip last year, I guessed wanderlust got the better of us?

Budget – Depends – budget buster for us due to choice over comfort.

The total amount spent was about 12k SGD, mostly coming from the plane tickets and the car with all the tolls and petrol. Accommodation was the other major contributor especially in Turkey airport. Food expenditure was not very high and comparable to Singapore’s standard of eating out at a normal restaurant, unlike in other European countries. Croatia had its own currency and there would be some losses due to double exchange from SGD to Euros to Kunas.

Complexity – High without car. Ours made easy due to car and Google maps on data plan and GPS.

Although there were multiple border crossings, it wasn’t really difficult with our own transport since we have everything with us most of the time. Road signs were clear and easy to navigate. Only roads in old towns were narrow and parking were challenging to find. We had to purchase data SIM (12-15euros?) which eased the navigation bit as Google map was accurate to the dot. The map that was used in my Garmin GPS was neurotic, often choosing the smaller roads which made the journey longer than it should have been thus unreliable.