After a very successful daytrip to Kotor, we were keen to check out another Yugoslavian country: Bosnia and Herzegovina. We left early to try to avoid long lines at the border, and we definitely succeeded, though maybe because the car navigator sent us through some mountain roads where the border wasn’t even manned. The drive was quite scenic, so we didn’t complain, and we made it to Mostar in less than 2 and a half hours.Continue reading “Mostar and Kravica waterfalls as a daytrip from Dubrovnik”
Looking for things to do around Dubrovnik, I realized we could easily pop over to nearby Montenegro, and even better, to what might be its most famous site, Kotor. We ended up leaving pretty late, because we realized we might need a COVID tests not to cross into Montenegro, but to get back into Croatia. Then we go stuck for well over an hour at the border crossing, so even though it was supposed to be a 2-hour drive, we didn’t make it to Kotor until around 2pm.Continue reading “Kotor as a daytrip from Dubrovnik”
The popularity of Dubrovnik has exploded in recent years, “thanks” to Game of Thrones. But before and beyond that craze, Dubrovnik must be one of the most magical cities in the world. It is a very manageable place, easily visited on foot in a day, though we thought the four nights we spent there were perfect to enjoy it at leisurely pace, plus take some daytrips to neighboring Montenegro and Bosnia.Continue reading “Dubrovnik, a fairytale town”
Despite the tough competition, Hvar might very well be the best island to visit in Croatia. Admittedly, our own choice might not have been based on extensive research, but rather based on the fact that we had a rental car, and therefore our ferry options were more limited. But we loved the couple of days we spent on this island, it packs such an incredible range of experiences.Continue reading “Top things to do in Hvar”
After an epic day in Plitvice Lakes, we drove to Split, our first stop on the Dalmatian coast. Split is a strange city. On the one hand side, it’s the second largest of Croatia, a transportation hub, and the first thing you see when driving in are shabby high-rises. On the other hand side, it’s a historical jewel, a much-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heart of the old town is the Diocletian Palace, and incredibly well-preserved complex from 305 AD. The whole area is pedestrian-only, and packed with charming cafes and shops, directly on top of 2000-year old marble streets and plazas.Continue reading “The best place to stay in Split”
The Plitvice Lakes National Park had been on my bucket list for years, from the moment I saw a picture of the unreal jade and turquoise waters. After landing in Dubrovnik, we immediately drove 5 hours to sleep by the park and be able to access it as soon as it opened. The area has a lot of cheap and nice guesthouse, we’d definitely recommend the one we stayed at: Guesthouse Plitvice Villa Verde.Continue reading “The magical Plitvice Lakes in Croatia”
After a super intense first day visiting many of Istanbul’s highlights, we had a packed Sunday ahead of us. But first, we wanted to return to the Blue Mosque. We had seen so many other mosques that we couldn’t remember this one :S and hey, it was free! We appreciated its scale and intricate tiled and painted interior even more than on our first day.
Then it was time for one of the icons of the city: the Topkapi Palace. The residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and the 19th centuries, it is now a museum (TL 30, ~$10, plus TL 15, ~$5 for the harem). The complex is quite large, structured around four courtyards. We walked it counterclockwise, checking out first the kitchens and several rooms that displayed all sorts of objects: porcelain, weapons, etc. The most impressive, without a doubt, is the Imperial Treasury, its collection of gemstones presided by a massive diamond. Known as ‘the Spoonmaker’s Diamond’, this 86 carat rock is the 4th largest in the world… and said to have been exchanged for three spoons by the poor fisherman who found it.
Since I visited it in 2007, Istanbul has been high on my list of top cities around the world. Back then, it was a first stop in a classic route that would take me to the fairy chimneys and hermit chapels of Cappadocia, the travertine hot springs of Pamukkale, magnificent ancient ruins like Ephesus and the Mediterranean beach of Bodrum. This time, taking advantage of one of Elena’s business trips and with barely a weekend, we devoted ourselves to Turkey’s de facto capital (the actual capital is Ankara since 1923, but Istanbul remains the largest city and economic and cultural heart). 48 hours turned out to be the perfect amount of time to explore all the highlights of Istanbul.
St. Petersburg can be visited on a day trip from Moscow – a long but worth it trip. There are several train options, including the high speed but expensive Sapsan (3hr 45min), check out pass.rzd.ru/main-pass/public/en. We chose a slow, sleeper train, which is not only cheaper but also helps you save two hotel nights. The 4 bed compartment at ~$50 per person was functional and clean, even had a few nice details like snacks.
Some places are meant to be visited under a certain weather. Moscow is one of them; even though I suffered and complained about the extreme cold during my time there, looking back I’m glad I chose the winter to truly experience this wonderful city. Travelling during Christmas forces you to adjust your itinerary; days are shorter, you have to avoid back to back outdoors visits and reserve time for family commitments. I spent 3 days in Moscow with Elena (and her family!), and got to see all the highlights. You should be able to design a packed 2-day itinerary, if needed. I also highly recommend combining St. Petersburg into the same trip, like we did!