Tag Archives: Croatia

Luxury Istria, 2010

Buzet in the region of Istria, is not a place that springs to mind when you think of a honeymoon destination. For a few weeks of the year during truffle hunting season, it’s the place to go for the finding of both the black and white varieties of the fungus, but for the remainder of the year it appears to be largely deserted.

My husband and I visited the local tourist office where they were amazed that we had not hired a car, as buses were not frequent in the area. They gave us the number of a local man who could give us a lift if it was on the way to where he was heading for a small fee and a plan to find some sulphur springs that were not in the guide book while we were in the region.

The main reason we had come to Buzet was for a truffle degustation at Stara Ostarija. So we booked for dinner, hoping that our journey into the middle of nowhere was not for nothing. We returned to the restaurant at twilight for our six course slow meal and were the only ones in the restaurant. Now this was more like it, I thought to myself.

First course was soft cheese with white truffles on bread. Kind of like cream cheese with a nutty twist. The second course was hard cheese with black truffles, prosciutto and olives. Not unlike a mezze plate and very tasty.

With both black and white truffles, the signature dish was the third course of soup and it was most definitely the best course. Course number four was ribbons of flat fettuccine pasta with lashings of truffle shavings. I had had this dish once before in Rome, but not with quite as many truffles. I guess they don’t exactly have a shortage of them in Buzet.

By course five, meat with larger truffle shavings, I was beginning to get a bit truffled out. So by the time the desert course of cake with truffles arrived, I really could not stomach more than one bite. So that’s what truffles taste like, I thought, as we rolled ourselves down the hill and back to the hotel.

By the next day, we had forgotten our gluttony and headed to the Zigante Tartufi truffle shop to stock up on various truffle pastes and oils to take home.

We called our local man with a spa who drove us to Istarske Toplice mineral spa. We planned to spend the day here, as there was only one bus back into town that afternoon. The outdoor sulphur pool was closed, so we headed to the indoor pool, only to discover that no more than a thirty-minute soak is recommended for the sulphur pools.

After our short dip, we had lunch as the one hotel on site and wandered around the grounds. There was a mini golf course that was not in operation and some truffle hunting dogs in cages. I would have loved to have been here in truffle hunting season so that we could get a glimpse of these clever dogs in action. As is always the way, our procrastination almost caused us to miss our bus back to town and we had to run to catch it on the main road.

Of course, Buzet will always have a special place in my heart because it was my honeymoon. The town was beautiful and the truffle degustation was also the most romantic meal that we had on our trip that sparked a lust for degustation dining that continued when we returned home to Sydney.

Related posts: Pag and Buzet, 2010, Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

Pag and Buzet, 2010

Pag town was small and all white stones. There was a pretty harbour and a great gift shop where I bought a bracelet that goes with everything. My husband and I found St Mary’s church, Kralja Kresimiro square and the statue of Juraj Damatinac. We saw Ducal Palace, a ruined tower and the statue of Basic in the main square.

The main square was actually used by the locals who made Pag lace and Pag cheese, but we could never find the famous Pag lamb. Even though we were on the right island, there was sheep everywhere and every restaurant we went to had it on the menu; we were told it was out of season.

We headed to the summer beach resort town of Novalja the next day in the hopes of finally catching a boat. The town was mainly nightclubs and restaurants which were closed for the off season.

That night, bad weather threatened to cancel our boat trip. But the weather cleared and we finally caught a car ferry to Rijeka the next day.

We had to wait half a day for the bus in Rijeka with our bags, which meant that we couldn’t take off and explore the nearby castles. Instead we took turns sitting in a local bar and wandering down the main street past the Gradski Toranja city tower. I found a stone wheel fountain in Ivana Koblera square and a roman gate. I also saw the Jardrolinja office and thought about going in to complain about the lack of boats during the off season, but decided against it.

Our bus to Buzet left from the Florence-like Chuch of Our Lady of Lourdes. The bus was busy with school children and other locals, so we had to stand the whole way. I read in the guidebook that Istria is in the centre of the slow food movement region which means eating lots of tasty food over a long period of time. So after being denied the delicacies of Pag lamb, our interest in Buzet truffles, was peaked.

We stayed in Buzet new town where most of the locals live, that had one hotel, the Hotel Fontana, which was being renovated during the off-season. After an hour or so of walking down an empty road to a recommended restaurant, we gave up and headed back to the old town. The views from the top of the hill were beautiful. Being isolated, there were green hills, white cliffs, a few red roofed houses and not much else. The town was cute and it was nice to be the only tourists in a small place.

The old town itself was tiny, mostly deserted and it didn’t take us long to see the sights. We entered through the Mala Varta gate and headed for the bell tower in the main square of Titov Trg Zvonik, which is the landmark structure that gives the town it’s aesthetic appeal.

We walked around to the Mala Sterna baroque well, saw a baroque house, the Bembo Palace and the old bell tower of St George’s church which had one of its two bells missing. Heading for Vela Sterna well square, we finally found some people in a family of four playing near the fountain.

Related posts: Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

Split and Zadar, 2010

The bus to Split was a necessity as no boats were running up the coastline in the off season.  Nevertheless, my husband and I saw some of Croatia’s larger islands along the way as well as a walled fort. We even went through Bosnia, as the country owns an area of seafront along the coast.

Split turned out to be my favourite spot in Croatia. We spent hours drinking and people watching on the Riva and enjoyed every second. The seafront overlooked the port where you could catch a ferry to Italy, but not in the off season. This was becoming a bit of a theme for our trip.

The main attraction in Split was the Diocletian Palace which had a busy market in its basement halls where I bought a pair of earrings that go with everything. We emerged at ground level to see the roman ruins in Peristil Square and the Cathedral of St Dominus. Working our way around the old town we found the silver, golden and iron gates that mark the boundaries of the palace.

We found the main street, Paplice Palace and the tall rounded vestibule. We went inside one of the palace houses and to Vocni square. I found Narondi square most interesting with its mix of old, semi-old and new palaces surrounding the square. Out the back of back Diocletian Palace was a huge statue of a wizard called the Gregorius of Nin and the modern Grgura Ninskoy garden fountain.

It was fun wandering through the side streets of Split and I was pleased to discover that they had a Zara on Marmontova St, just past the Republike Prokurative square. We enjoyed many Italian style dinners and loved the little local guest house that we stayed in on a back street.

Zadar, our next stop, seemed very bizarre. We stayed in Villa Hresc on the lakeside and took a sunset walk into the old town. The main square had the Cathedral of St Anastasia, the round Church of St Donat and roman ruins. We also found the watch tower in Narodni square. My favourite was 5 wells square and shopping at the Mango shop that we found down a side street.

The city is more recently famous for its outdoor nightclubs like The Garden. Also new is the sun salutation and sea organ, which made louder noises as the waves from a passing cruise ship hit the instrument. We found the new seafront nearby and the ferry terminal where of course there were no boats running.

And so, the next day we caught the bus to Pag Island. I was starting to think we were never going to be able to never going to be able to get on a boat!

Related posts: Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

Dubrovnik, 2010

Choosing a honeymoon destination in Europe that neither my husband nor I had been to was a bit of a challenge, but we finally settled on Croatia and Slovenia.

The Croatian website had promised a room in Lapad Bay in Dubrovnik with a water view, but upon arrival we were notified that no rooms were available in that area of the hotel and were sent to their sister hotel up the hill and away from the waterfront. They didn’t seem to care that it was not what we ordered, or that it was our honeymoon.

My husband proceeded to sleep off his rejected objections (and the week of partying in Thailand) for 12 hours, while I read a book and tried not to feel too deflated that the honeymoon appeared to be over before it even began.

When he woke up, we restored our spirits by having some spirits at the hotel bar which did have a water view and was on a sunny patio. After a calming sunset, we strolled into Lapad town and found a lovely seafood restaurant (also on the water) with a waiter that was happy to be of service and our faith was restored.

The next day, we set off to explore the old town of Dubrovnik. We walked through pile gate, over the drawbridge and up the steps to walk around the city walls. The views from Minceta Tower were the best and simply breathtaking. Orange rooves, ruined houses with the towers of churches thrown in here are there.  Lovrjenac Fort next door looked awesome in its stoniness against the bright blue sea and we followed a tourist tall ship (with a motor) around into the harbour on our walk.

Having taken in the views, we headed down to Placa Stradun- the main street of the old town. I loved the large rotund Onofrio fountain and the strategically placed Sladoled ice cream shop at the bottom of the steps. We saw St Savior’s Church and Luza square with its Orlando column and Sponza palace; but the best part of walking around the old town was exploring the many side streets. We found the morning market in Gunduliceva Poljana and Buza Bar with the self-proclaimed best view in the world out to Lokrum Island. I had to admit that it was pretty good, and we stayed for a few hours, drinking and chatting.

Back in Lapad, we walked up the hill to a recommended local pizza restaurant for dinner which was packed and had a view of the port area that we would be catching a boat from the next day.

We departed from Gruz harbour the following day for our trip around 3 of Dubrovnik’s closest islands. The day trip included as much of the bad wine that you could drink on the boat. The first was a short stop at Kolocep Island where we had just enough time to walk around the small harbour. Next was a longer stay on Sipan Island where we walked around a ruined monastery.

The final stop was Lopud Island, where we forfeited the hike up the mountain for a walk around the gardens and lunch with more drinks at a bar on the seafront boardwalk. The islands were beautiful with their old buildings and the water was so clear. I was glad that we got to see a few of them before we headed off to catch the bus to Split.

Related posts: Destination Thailand, 2010