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Review: Croatia

Escorted Tour - Coach

By Coach Round Croatia

  • By SilverTraveller Clover-Park

    43 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • Jun 2011
  • Husband

26 people found this review helpful

In June this year my husband Peter and I, both pensioners, enjoyed our first-ever holiday with Riviera Travel, to Croatia. We flew from Gatwick together with our friends Hazel and Dick and landed at Split at 10pm. There our Croatian courier, Jelena, met us and the rest of the group and soon the coach was heading along the coast road to our hotel in Vodice. Jelena informed us that there were bottles of cold water on the coach which we could help ourselves to. If we wanted one while on the move she said she would fetch it, adding “No walking allowed on the coach.” Hazel panicked, thinking she'd said “No talking allowed on the coach” That would really have spoilt the holiday!

After a late meal we went straight up to our rooms, unpacked and got into bed. Next morning when I went out onto our balcony – wow! A magnificent view of pine trees leading down to the sparkling Adriatic Sea dotted with islands and boats. That day we travelled to the Krka National Park to visit Stradinski Buk, the longest series of waterfalls on the Kirka River. We decided to walk the Trail round the waterfalls; it wasn't very well signed but we just followed the network of paths and bridges. A multitude of beautiful flowers, birds, trees, fish and steps!! Well worth the effort though for the fantastic cascades, lakes and streams. There were even a few hardy people in swimming. Next day we visited the ancient town of Split and had a guided walking tour. We saw plenty of interesting sights including the Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace. We were told more history than I'd ever learnt in my schooldays and when the tour ended were glad to wander round the market with its row upon row of stalls selling delicious strawberries, cherries, apricots, all local produce of course.

Next morning after another tasty breakfast we set off for our second hotel of the holiday, in Dubrovnik. This was to be another very scenic ride – lovely to see all the yellow broom on the hillsides with mountains in the distance. Jelena imparted lots of interesting facts about the former Yugoslavia and the dreadful time during their Homeland War of the nineties. We got quickly through the Croatian border but the Bosnia & Herzegovina border official collected all our passports and took them away to his office to study before stamping them. Later we began descending hairpin bends into the valley and our destination of Mostar. With the rebuilding of churches and mosques since the war there has been competition over who could have the tallest spire and minaret. We alighted by a very tall Bell Tower but as it was built slightly off-balance a bell would have toppled it over so the belfry has been left empty.

It was upsetting, though interesting, to see all the bomb and shell damage to the buildings. The famous 16th century humped-back bridge had been destroyed in the recent war but in 1999 UNESCO funded its refurbishment using the original old stone. We carefully made our way over the cobbles, and enjoyed wandering round the town and past the souvenir shops, several selling pens made from used bullet shells. It came out really hot again, though fortunately nothing like the 47 degrees it sometimes reaches in the summer. Back on the coach we passed close to the Catholic pilgrimage place of Medugorje where in 1981 some young people claimed to have seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but our next photo-shoot was of Pocitelj, a beautiful ancient fortified town built in the Ottoman style on a rocky cliff.

The coastal drive down into Dubrovnik was beautiful, no wonder it's called The Pearl of the Adriatic. Our hotel was situated in Babin Kuk that translates as Granny's Hip! We had a guided tour of the Old City next morning; up and down the stone steps of the narrow passageways between houses, shops and restaurants. Then along the well-polished flagstones of the main streets where various fountains, palaces and churches were pointed out to us. In the afternoon Peter and I walked the city walls that date from the 15th century. I hired an audio guide, so much easier than trying to read a guide book while taking in the sights. As we peered down into secret gardens and cloisters and climbed up into various towers and bastions, I gleaned so many fascinating facts about history, geography and architecture that I felt really privileged by the experience. Dubrovnik is still recovering from the effects of the 1979 earthquake as well as the more recent war damage. Inside the walls 824 buildings were damaged in the war and, (goodness knows who counted), 490,000 roof tiles are reported to have been shattered! Most of these have now been replaced and from this lofty position we were looking down on a sea of bright red tiles.

Next morning the four of us enjoyed a leisurely cruise on a glass-bottomed boat round Lokrum Island and then visited the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders, dedicated to the citizens who lost their lives during the war between 1991 and 1995. It was very moving to see their photos and slides showing the awful damage done to the city and surrounds. The citizens were cut off from water supplies during 1991 so were fortunate to have the centuries-old wells in the city as a substitute. Next for Peter and me was the highlight of the trip (in more ways than one) – riding on their newly re-opened Cable Car. At the top were viewing platforms with telescopes, a restaurant, little souvenir shop and an outside amphitheatre seating 250 people. We could see for miles all round and the views were amazing. A short distance from the cable car summit a large white cross had been erected with a plain matching altar in front.

The following day, Pentecost Sunday, we needed our passports again as we were visiting Montegreno. Yet more wonderful scenery with churches and monasteries scattered up high on the majestic mountains with little villages at their base. We saw people fishing and bathing in the blue waters and signs of oyster and mussel harvesting. We stopped off in Kotor, a preserved medieval city. We could spy its castle remains with towers and ramparts way up on the hillside but fortunately we had insufficient time here for Peter to suggest walking these walls! As we entered the ornate St Nicholas Church there was what looked like dried grass spread all over the floor. We didn't know whether we were supposed to keep off it so at first tried to walk round the edge. We found out later that it is a tradition in the Serbian Orthodox Church to do this at Pentecost. The nearby Church of our Lady of Angels had been converted into a cinema and was adorned with posters advertising the current film.

Back on the coach Jelena explained that many of the banks, petrol stations and apartments in Montegreno are now owned by Russians and the billboards at the side of the road, written in Russian Cyrillic, were advertising these apartments. It started raining as we arrived at Budva, a coastal town 2,500 years old, so we went through a gateway in its ancient walls and found shelter in St John's Church. We then sauntered in the drizzle through the old streets peering into various churches and souvenir shops. There were some really luxurious yachts moored in the harbour next to the pretty palm-tree lined gardens with their colourful oleanders. As we boarded the coach the rain stopped and by the time we reached the roll-on/roll-off ferry at Lepetane for the short crossing to the opposite bank the sun had come out again and we enjoyed standing on deck before continuing the coach journey back to Dubrovnik.

All too soon our holiday had come to an end and the following morning saw us boarding the coach with our luggage ready for the long drive to Split Airport. All of us had enjoyed the holiday and the way in which it had been organised, so hope to travel with Riviera Travel again. Now, thanks to all Peter's photos, carefully uploaded and labelled, we are able to reminisce to our hearts' content, on our first, but maybe not last, holiday in Croatia.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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