Croatia and Slovenia Experiences

This item appears on page 12 of the May 2011 issue.

Articles my husband, R.C., and I read in ITN helped us plan our fall ’09 trip to Croatia and Slovenia. We went to Plitvice National Park because every article we’d read about Croatia mentioned this destination. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another place quite like it. The color of the lakes is so special, black-and-white photos cannot do it justice. We spent an entire day walking the park’s paths.

We also read Yvonne Michie Horn’s article “The Adriatic Coast” (Feb. ’09, pg. 6), which had us looking for the “winged lion” all up and down the coast of Croatia.

One of the hundreds of waterfalls in Croatia’s Plitvice National Park. Photo: Pyle

Here are some tips from our experience.

We didn’t want to spend all our time driving, so we decided to only rent cars locally in places where they were absolutely needed: from Bled, Slovenia, to see the Julian Alps, and from Zagreb, Croatia, to see Plitvice National Park.

A European friend told us about Economy Car Rentals (phone, in the US, 845/764-4416), which acts as an agent, finding you the best deals with rental firms. They definitely did have the best prices, and our experiences in Slovenia and Croatia were very positive.

On a later part of our trip, in Sicily, we weren’t very happy with the car we got. Later, we were told we should have returned it and insisted on a different one, but we were too much on the move to think of doing that.

We traveled by train from Venice to Bled, Bled to Ljubljana and on to Zagreb. We flew Croatia Air (Zagreb, Croatia; phone +385 1 66 76 555) from Zagreb to Dubrovnik to cover the distance as quickly as possible.

If you book well in advance, Croatia Air offers a few heavily discounted seats on each flight — so few that when I was using the online reservation form, “our” seats disappeared after a transaction timeout and I had to wait until the next day for them to be available for booking again.

From Dubrovnik, we traveled up the coast in a variety of boats: to Korcula on a big car ferry and to Split on a high-speed catamaran, plus a day trip to Trogir on a small sightseeing boat. We found that Korcula and Trogir were similar; you don’t need to see both.

We used Rick Steves’ “Croatia & Slovenia” guide for all our planning for these two countries and found it exceptional. Every recommended lodging and restaurant met our expectations.

To cross the Adriatic to Italy, we used an overnight ferry from Split to Ancona. (If you are headed to Rome, the best connections are from Dubrovnik, but we wanted to get to Florence, or to Sicily for which there were no reasonable routes from Dubrovnik.)

The biggest ferry operator, by far, is Jadrolinija, but Blue Line International (phone +45 3672 2001) has similar ships plus an English option on their website and an exceptionally helpful staff.

We changed our booking by one day shortly after we made the initial reservation. There was supposed to be a charge for this, but it was waived, presumably because we did it well in advance. However, they neglected to tell us that the same class of service (outside cabin) was not available on the revised date. The girl who was handing out boarding passes told us this but couldn’t do anything else about it.

When we returned home, I sent an e-mail asking if we were due a refund and it was promptly applied to our credit card.

Boulder, CO