Croatia 2016 Day 2 – Day trip to Perast and Kotor

It was a restless night for baby K as he woke up many times. We weren’t sure if it was the environment as staying in the attic, the roof was a lot closer to our faces as we laid in bed as compared to our room back home and he might not be used to that. Or if it was due to jet lag. Anyhow, he returned to sleep without much problem.

As of all trips, we had to wake up early (630am) to prepare for his meals since he wasn’t ready to take outside food yet. As mommy cooked, I laid in bed till baby K woke up at 8.

From the bakery, we bought a loaf of freshly baked bread the previous day and ate that for breakfast. Baby K did not seemed to know that we were overseas and behaved normally, his usual cheeky self. We managed to leave the apartment at 9, after all the preparations.

As we would be visiting UNESCO listed Kotor and Perast in Montenegro, I checked the vehicle documents just to be sure that it came with required insurance aka green card. We had read about the confusion at border crossings and that people were made to pay additional fees because of these. In the folder that came with the car, the insurance was there, covering Montenegro and Bosnia and the other countries that were planned in our itinerary. And to be better prepared, I had also input all the parking lots for the places to visit into the GPS so as to reduce time spent on fiddling around with the GPS and stress over finding a car park in a unfamiliar city.

Vehicle green card for border crossing.

I punched the “favorites” folder on my decade old Garmin uploaded a map I got from the web and selected Perast car park and we were on our way towards the border. Upon some amount of driving, I realized that the GPS would always prefer small street roads instead of taking the main road. I had to make a couple of U-turns and learnt to ignore sometimes. We arrived at border crossing at 1015 to find a queue of cars waiting to cross. As soon as it was my turn, we were asked for passports, drivers license and vehicle documents, in exchange for exit stamps at the Croatian side and entry stamps at the Montenegro’s side, a short drive away.

Border crossing at Dubrovnik.
Border crossing at Montegegro

Then it was all about following the GPS with common sense, sometimes needing to U-turn and sticking close to the waters to be sure I was on the right path. Lining the huge Kotor bay were a couple of small towns and as we moved onwards to Perast, we also drove past the Kamenari ferry crossing, which could shorten the drive to Kotor if anyone wanted to avoid going around the whole bay. We weren’t skipping the scenic drive around the bay though.

We arrived into Perast and approached the car park that was almost full. Luckily there was a parking lot available at that time. Got off and went to the shore to find a boatman offering for ferry trips to island, commonly known as “Our Lady of the Rock“, for 5euros per person return. We boarded the motor boat for the 5mins smooth trip to island. It was small island with a church on it and we spent some time taking photos with the surrounding and Perast town. We did not enter the church as it required entrance fees and we weren’t all that interested.

Abbey of St George
Our Lady of the Rock
Photos taken on the little island.
Another perspective.
Calm waters.
Boat transfer from Perast to the Lady of the Rock.

Waited to take the same boat back and only paid upon disembarkation back at the car park. There wasn’t a lot of boats so it was not too difficult to identify the same boatman. We then walked along the restaurants lined street and chose one called Konoba Skolji, which has tripadvisor winner sticker, as it most likely would have some tasty food. Indeed the decision paid off with the delicious squid ink risotto and spaghetti with prawns. Baby K wasn’t equally impressed with his cooked lunch and wasn’t cooperative to finish it so we had to negotiate with biscuits. After the nice lunch with the bay view, we bought a cup of watermelon from a fruit stall while walking back to the car, to share with baby K.

Bell tower in Perast.
Konoba Skolji menu
Tomato soup.
Squid ink risotto
Seafood pasta
Konoba Skolji restaurant

Our next stop was Kotor which was about 20mins drive further down the same road that brought us to Perast. At almost 500m from the old town the road leading to the old town was already getting jammed. There was a public parking lot just across the old town where we parked our car. Forgetting that Montenegro were already using the Euros, we crossed the road to the port side to find a bank but was advised that the official currency was the Euros.

At one of the entrance through the defense wall of Kotor Old town, we took the town map from info counter and walked through. There wasn’t a planned route for us (though we wanted to follow one recommended in Rick Steve’s travel guide but we quickly got lost) so we just started walking around and exploring the historic old town at our own pace.

Stone gate at Kotor old town.
Kotor clock and square

The narrow streets and the rustic buildings and churches and the squares from the medieval times were nice, just like those depicted in the movies. We stopped by one pharmacy to purchase a toddler spoon as we had left baby K’s utensils back in Singapore. There was a route that led the untiring travelers to the top of the mountain where people would probably enjoy a birds eye view of the bay. We didn’t do it as it was a really long climb up.

St Tryphon Cathedral
St. Nicholas church
Inside St Nic church
Paintings on St Nic church
St Lucas church and square

After walking around the old town, we went back to the car park and saw a shopping mall Kamelija nearby. That’s when we decided visit and see if there were any supermarket to buy groceries. There was a Aroma supermarket which offered pretty affordable groceries. As mommy shopped, baby K and I briefly got up to the 3rd floor where it had mainly kids stuff. After shopping, we left Kotor for Dubrovnik, paying the carpark fees of 1.60euros for about 2hrs parking at the counter before getting on the car.

Aroma supermarket
Inside Kamelija mall
Kamelija mall
Parking ticket for Kotor car park.

We drove the same way back, with the bay on our left side. It was a longer journey now and was all ok until baby K puked. Had to stop at the side of the road to do a quick clean up with wet tissues and changed out his shirt with one that we just bought from Kotor though he had to go without pants. He must have been carsick and also drank a little too much from the packet of milk we bought from the supermarket. Later on, he fell asleep.

It was a long drive back and while we made a wrong turn and started to climb a hill, we saw a beautiful view of bay at the top but did not stop to take any pictures. Made a U-turn and went back to the main road.

There was another border crossing other than the one that we gone through that afternoon. Instead on going on the main expressway after Igalo on the right, we took the left one that got us on to 516, a smaller single lane road, which would provide more ocean view then the main expressway. The border office on this road a very small building though and only a few cars would use this border crossing. We passed through within 10mins.

After being on the road for some 2hrs, we finally arrived at 7 pm. Quickly mommy cooked baby K’s dinner and we went out to the same pedestrian street yesterday at Konavoka restaurant for dinner. The food took a while to arrive, longer than it took baby K to finish his dinner. To avoid his fussiness, I took him to walk around the area and play around the fountain. After a while, I swapped with mommy to eat my dinner which also took a long time because I had ordered sardines and there were lots of bones. Dinner costed about 220kunas.

Restaurant Konavoka

It was a long night and it started with giving baby K a bath and prepared him to sleep. After he fell asleep, I had to remove the car seat to wash off the vomit and try to clean the car with detergent to get rid of the smell. Then I continued with washing the clothes with the same smell. After all the washing and my own bath, I went to bed at 1130pm, already numbed to the stench.

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.