Dubrovnik, Croatia

Woke at 5am to get the free shuttle from the hotel to the airport to take the short flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

When we arrived in Dubrovnik, we took a shuttle from the airport to the Old City gate of Pile (pronounced “pee-le”), which was very easy to find, and only cost $7 each. Our AirBnB host said he could set us up with a taxi for 35 Euros!

The weather was perfect, the town sweet and beautiful and small. Our AirBnB was right inside the Pile Gate on an alley right off the main street.

We dropped our stuff and went to eat lunch. We came upon a very busy restaurant (Gradska Kavana Arsenal) facing the main square and looked at the menu, the maitre’d said they also had seating in the back on the water, so we checked it out. When he said on the water, he meant it! We sat at a table facing the port where the sailboats come in and had a lovely meal of squid (for me) and lamb (for Dave). [I’m now writing this after the trip and this was in the top 2 best meals we had on the entire trip!]

Calamari Dalmatian style After lunch we walked around to get our bearings – the Old Town is small enough to walk end to end in an hour or so, the streets are pedestrian only and made of limestone and super shiny. In the later afternoon, we took the cable car up to the top of Mt.Srđ. Very cool to be able to see the layout of the Old Town with the walls and towers, just like it looks in Game of Thrones 😃 We went back down to the Old Town and went to Fort Lovrijenac, a fortress just outside the city walls, and then to the Franciscan Church and Monastery. For dinner we had a simple dinner of goat cheese and smoked fish in a small square in Old Town. There is a famous spot to see the sunset from – it’s a bar called Busa Bar, which means “hole in the wall” (buža means “hole”). IMG_4777

At the end of the day, we had walked 7.1 miles.

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Istanbul – part 1

We arrived Istanbul at around 6pm. The airport far less crazy than expected, maybe related to Ramadan?

Turkish Airlines has a program where if you are laid over overnight, they give you a free hotel room. The website was very vague about how it worked, it just mentioned going to the Turkish Air counter to do it. So we left customs and found the counter. It was so easy, they took our boarding passes to make sure we were actually laid over and then called our names 15 minutes later, led us to a shuttle, and we arrived at a Marriott on the outskirts of town.

I use T-mobile and had cell signal and data with Turkish Telcom. Since I have month-to-month service and no contract, I pre-pay, which means I never worry about roaming rates anywhere. I’ve been traveling on this account for many years and highly recommend it, my bill is exactly the same every month and I get service included in every country I go to!

We decided to drop our stuff and take a cab to Istanbul’s Old Town. The cab driver had no idea what we were asking – we tried names of big things (“Blue Mosque”) and I even looked up a random restaurant on TripAdvisor and gave him my phone with the map. Still no understanding. So he got out at the hotel and asked for someone who spoke English – that person looked at my phone, said a few words to him, and we were off!

It was the first day of Ramadan (Ramazan), and when we arrived in the Old Town, it was the call to prayer to break the daily fast (Iftar). The cab driver was able to explain that the lights on the top of the minarets turn on at that time signaling time to eat.

We went to the restaurant I had found on TripAdvisor and had a decent meal, but it was definitely a tourist place.

Then we walked to the oldest part of Old Town. I am a compulsive hand-holder, but I was afraid that PDA wouldn’t be acceptable, so I held Dave’s arm as I noticed most people seemed to do.

We went into the courtyard of the Blue Mosque. The signs outside warned that women needed to cover their heads even on the grounds. I saw a guard and gestured to ask if my hood was ok, he nodded, so I put the hood of my hoodie up. I wouldn’t have thought, but I guess any head covering is enough.

Blue Mosque Istanbul//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

At the Blue Mosque there were many many people bathing outside (hands, feet, head) and preparing to enter to pray. There were men praying outside too, maybe because it was too full? There was also an interesting display with posters explaining the Muslim religion and things like the bathing rituals, hijabs, the Koran, etc.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Then we walked through a market (not the bazaar) that had all kinds of booths selling food, drinks, puppets, crafts, and Turkish coffee made over hot coals. We bought a rose drink which tasted a bit like drinking perfume.

After walking around until we were exhausted, we took another cab back to the hotel and slept until our flight the next morning to Croatia.

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Istanbul, Croatia, and Bosnia

We’re getting ready for our next big trip! We’ll be spending 2 days in Istanbul, Turkey, almost 2 weeks in Croatia, and 1 day and 2 nights in Bosnia.

Here’s the itinerary I setup for us:

itinerary

We leave in 2 days!!! There’s still so much to do!

I keep all of our packing lists in Evernote, so there are normally checkboxes next to things. Here’s the list for this trip, naturally, it all fits in carry on baggage:

WEATHER:
70 night, 80 day
DAYS:
13 days, 1 overnight flight (there)
TO DO:
paperclip for iPhone SIM card
Download dictionary
Call cc
Clean out wallet
print tickets
print itinerary
take any photos off camera
Download books for Kindle
CLOTHES:
Dave
socks 5
acorn socks
underwear 10
Shorts 3
shirts 4
jeans 1
Hat
sweater
rain jacket
pajamas
swim trunks
sun shirt
greek shirt
hiking pants 1
sleep mask
Roxane
socks
acorn socks
underwear
sports bra
Shorts
shirts
jeans
Hat
hoodie
rain jacket
vest?
pajama shirt
bikini
sun shirt
scarf
dress
hiking pants
snorkel shirt
SHOES:
Dave
water shoes
sandals
sneakers
Roxane
water shoes
sandals
sneakers
FOOD:
energy bars
almond butter
water bottle
protein shakes + bottle
trail mix
TOILETRIES
baby wipes
laundry detergent
sunscreen
first aid kit
brush
toothbrush
paste
soap
Medicines
Pain relievers
bug wipes
dramamine
OTHER:
headphones
iPhone charger
kindle + charger
camera + charger
power adapter/converter
backpack
small shopping bag
money belt
ziploc bags
earplugs
Passports
Boarding passes
Roxane Travel pillow
Dave inflatable pillow
tennis ball
aux cable
sarongs
umbrella
kayak gloves
snorkels/masks
reading glasses
camera lens protector
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Austria

(I totally forgot to blog the rest of the trip – it’s now 6 months later. Oops!)

Heather and I drove to Austria on the Autobahn, stopping in Salzburg on the way.

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After a day spent meandering around Salzburg, we got back on the road and went to Vienna to spend 2 nights there. We stayed at a little Airbnb in a sweet neighborhood very centrally located (Search Google Maps for “wien 1020 austria”).

Vienna is an interesting mix of old and new art. Churches, graffiti, and Ai Weiwei.

Churches!

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Graffiti along the waterfront:

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Ai WeiWei:

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Munich

Upon arrival in Munich, I got my rental car (an orange, manual transmission, Mitsubishi Space Star) and proceeded to freak out trying to drive from the airport to my hotel. 

I had google maps to help me (hooray for free data from tmobile!) but as soon as I got on the freeway, the GPS in the car started talking to me in German telling me to go somewhere else! I couldn’t figure out the road signs, plus the directions, plus turning off the GPS (turning the radio off didn’t stop it!), so I did what anyone would do – continued driving while laughing hysterically. 

I was able to ignore the German GPS enough to get to the hotel and park but he first thing before getting out was to reset the language. Then I figured out it had been set to the parking garage at the airport, so the whole drive it was trying to tell me to go back to where I started!

Anyway, got to Munich where I was staying in a Novotel, and immediately set off in search of another vegan restaurant: Max Pett. 

While walking, I discovered that I was staying in a beautiful area right next to a park by the river. The city folks were all swimming at the beach – so interesting how it’s right in town. 

  
I found the restaurant and had an amazing meal – though the matcha latte had banana in it…not to my taste.

  
I had only a few hours to kill before heather arrived, so I meandered to my hotel, grabbed the car, and headed back to MUC. 

We settled in for a quiet night as we were going to Vienna the next day by car, a 4-hour drive. 

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Düsseldorf 

I arrived in Düsseldorf after the long flight across the pond and found it very easy to get around. I stayed in the hotel that was actually at the airport, called the Maritim Hotel – surprisingly quiet for being at the airport. After taking a long hot shower, I decided to try and find the Gehry buildings, a set of buildings on the Rhine made by an American architect. 

The train was pretty easy to figure out but when I arrived to the area, it was maybe 90 degrees and the sun was beating down. I walked a little bike trail to the waterfront only to find that there was no breeze or relief from the heat by the water. I found the buildings, took some photos, and got back on the train for the more downtown area where I was in search of a vegan restaurant. 

  
The vegan restaurant turned out to be a bit of a bust as it was mostly a dessert cafe. I got a pesto, cheese, and tomato sandwich and a chai ice tea (no milk, more like iced tea with spices). 

Got back to the hotel and crashed for the night, ready to get to Munich where it was supposed to be less hot. 

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Germany and Austria plans

My friend Becca and I were talking about travel and I said how I’d like to go to Europe this summer and Dave didn’t have enough vacation time to go with me. Becca was thinking of going to somewhere in Europe to meet up with her dad. While mulling this over, I asked my (German) friend Franziska where I should go and she heartily recommended Bavaria. So…I bought my ticket. Then Becca posted this to Facebook and my friend Heather said she’d been wanting to go and could she come along. Hell yeah! Road trip!

My packing list was for hot weather – shorts, tshirts, (totally forgot my sandals), sneakers, and jeans just in case. 

The basic plan was: me alone in Düsseldorf for 1 d/1n, then Munich in the morning. Heather arrives in Munich that night and we go to Vienna for 2 days. We then return to Munich to get Becca and drive north to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for 2d/2n, then back to Munich. Then on the last day go to castle Neuschwanstein.

Next up, how it really went 🙂

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