One of the Islands

September 27th, 2015

Since the day we arrived, and actually before ever leaving Cluj, we knew, that we would visit one of the nearby islands while being in Split. According to the information available on the net, there are several islands, each with it’s own unique way of attracting tourists. Of course apart from what’s there, there is another thing which needs to be considered: ease of access within a day. After considering all aspects, we decided, that the best place to visit in our situation was Bol, on the island of Brac.
Brac Island
We chose this specific location, due to a specific beach: Zlatni Rat Beach. To get there, however, there are several things to consider: there is hourly ferry connection between Split and the island of Brac, but the connection is to the town of Supetar, which is exactly on the opposite side of the island. So, we needed to be sure, that once we get to the island, there is a means to get to our destination. Well, there is. Actually there are several possibilities: either get on the ferry by car (and then there is no issue on the other side), or hop on to the local bus which can take you to the other side within an hour. Oh, yes, there are also taxis, which theoretically take you to Bol at the same price as the bus (I don’t really believe that, though), but I would not advise that if you do not want to see your breakfast again :P

In the end we chose the ferry+bus combination. The ferry per person costs 33kn one way and the bus costs 50kn per person if you buy the return ticket also (it is 40kn one way otherwise). So the whole trip there and back cost us 232kn. It is cheaper than taking the car with the ferry, then drive around there and also worry about parking… Of course this way we had to be at the ferry latest by 9AM, which crossed over in 50 minutes. At 10:30AM the bus took off and after stopping at almost every possible village on the way, we arrived to Bol at around 11:30 AM. So basically it took us 3 hours to get to a beach. We really hoped it was worth the trouble…

Compared to Split, Bol is a real beach resort. You are far away from the sounds of the city and the water is much cleaner than in Split. In fact, I have never seen a cleaner beach in my life, so it was perfect for taking pictures at least :) . After a 20 minute walk from the bus station, we arrived to the actual beach: it looked clean and less crowded than the ones in Split and there were still several sun-chairs left. Later we found out why: being so far from the city, prices are a bit steeper in Zlatni Rat. One chair costs 50kn. If you want an umbrella with that you need to pay 50kn more. So we payed 150kn for two sun-chairs and an umbrella. The plastic table came as a bonus ;) . Of course the other alternative was to sit on a towel on the pebbly beach or in the shades a bit further from the shore… but we wanted the full experience: almost front row seats admiring the beautiful white and blue colors of the sea and listening to the calming sound of the waves without getting a sunburn ;) .

Lunch can also be solved directly at the beach. There are several fast food boutiques and even restaurants right on the beach. The prices are higher than in Split and they charge for the restrooms also. Yes, this beach was pricier than the ones in Split, but for one day, it was an interesting experience. To top that you also get a bus ride which takes you through some idyllic local villages and some winding roads among the cliffs just above the seashore. This last one was a bit scary part, but breathtakingly beautiful ;) .

I have uploaded some pictures here.


Unesco Island

September 26th, 2015

We were advised to visit several interesting places around Split during our stay. One of them is Trogir, a small town, which, much like Split, preserved a lot of its old walls and buildings to the enjoyment of tourists of our time.
The Trogir visit was a half day activity: it is just a half hour drive from Split (well, that is if you do not get stuck in traffic and spend almost an hour instead) on the same direction as Split airport. When you approach this small town by car, the first thing that pops up in a driver’s head is: where do I park? Well assuming you have a GPS, you try to get to the center as much as possible and look for a parking place there. In our case, when it said we have a 1-2 minute drive left, I just entered the first parking spot on the left :D . We basically parked in the parking area just next to the bus station near the bridge leading onto the small historic island. The best thing about this parking lot was the guy greeting us: he was sitting on a bicycle as we entered, made a sign and led us to the most appropriate spot… neat :) .

So, on to the historic island itself. It is basically a miniature version of the city center of Split. It has a similar atmosphere also, including the huge crowds of tourists that always get into your perfect artistic photo of a building. One thing that was different, was the nice yachts just next to the city walls: it kind of gave off a vibe of a more refined and restricted city center. One thing I did not like, was the fee they wanted to charge for entering churches. I know tourists can be a good source of money, but it is not nice to charge people for entering a church. You charge people for entering a fort maybe, which we did and gladly payed the 25kn per person entry into Kamerlengo Castle, but we skipped the church…

The small promenade where the yachts were docked is filled with nice restaurants, which have their menu available in several languages. We picked the one having also hungarian (its amazing how the small things can make a difference :) ), and had a nice meal before heading back to one of the beaches in Split…

Photos have been uploaded here.


Split, the Relaxing City

September 25th, 2015

As written in my previous post, we have successfully arrived to the southern area of Croatia, namely to the city of Split. We had 7 days to spend here, which, as our host at the apartment said, is quite a lot for this single city. Luckily, Split is surrounded with exciting places to visit, so we had options in case we got bored with it.
Split Center
Indeed, Split is an exciting city: it has nice beaches, a historic centre, lots of great restaurants, for which one can dedicate at most 2-3 days. Our first day was reserved for enjoying some lazyness after a long period without a real holiday. We have basically spent all day on Ovcice Beach. This small bay with a pebble-beach was real close to the apartment and it seemed ideal to relax a bit and avoid the crowds of the rest of the beaches.
Ovcice Beach
We rented two sun-chairs for 40kn (whole day price) and an umbrella for 5kn and after a short dip in the water, where we quickly realized we have forgotten our aquashoes at home, we basically sat back and relaxed for almost the whole day enjoying the sound of the waves washing the pebbly shore. Well, speaking for myself, I actually listened to it for a while and then I got carried away and just… fell asleep (hope I wasn’t drooling though :P ). It was perfect for getting a sunburn on my lower legs (luckily the rest was under the umbrella) on the very first day… let me tell you that was not a pleasant way to wake up :( … Anyway, I managed to cool it down with lots and lots of sunburn lotion in the evening, so it got better later ;) .

There was another beach in Split to which we dedicated the rest of our beach experience: Bacvice Beach. This shallow, sandy beach is much larger than the previous one and due to the sand, much more crowded. It also has sunchairs and umbrellas, but here you pay for the sunchair(40kn each) and get the umbrella and even small plastic table for free ;) .
Bacvice Beach
Here we did enjoy the sea more, due to the shallow and clean water, I think it is much better than the previous one. The additional great thing here is the presence of more restaurants and boutiques selling food and drinks, so you do not really have to leave the sunchairs (and lose the rental), you can spend the entire day here. The beach is even lit for late evening fun, not that we tried it, but others seemed to have fun, so it must be :P .

Another thing we did in Split, was to visit the city center, which is basically everything within the old walls of Diocletian’s Palace. You do not have to pay for the museum tickets here, just strolling around the city center is like visiting a museum. Old, narrow streets, great sculptures on building walls all give a unique experience, which did not really compell us to pay and actually check out the museums. The whole atmosphere among the old walls is awesome: the place is full of nice restaurants (with reasonable prices), live music and lots of thematic shops. With a 30-40 minute walking distance from our apartment, we visited it several evenings, each time chosing another restaurant to eat dinner at. As we have seen, this is where the city’s beating heart moves to in the evenings.

There were some nice restaurants around the apartment also, so we did stay close on some evenings. Dvor, one of the best restaurants of the city (although a bit pricy) was nearby, so we checked it out one evening. Immediately we ran into trouble: the table we sat at was dodgy so we had to change. To top that, at 9PM they were already out of one of the items from their already quite limited menu (a thing we were planning to try)… things were looking bad, but we decided to still check it out. The apetizer arrived: a small and insignificantly looking pate with some bread… great, we were warned about this… but we were hungry, so we took a bite… and another… and another… wow, now that was the point we realized, sometimes quality beats quantity. It was one of the best pates I ate: soft, creamy and perfectly seasoned… an unexpected score for the restaurant. Then, the main course arrived, confirming, that once again, this place was all about quality. Score, again. The waitress kindly asked about desert, we said no, she was sad… so she decided to bring some on the house: not much, but very tasty: touch down for Dvor. What a turn-around ;) .

For other evenings, we had another great choice nearby: Movi the favorite of many, judging by the fact, that it was almost full of guest the entire day. Here we could get food for average price of all kinds with a pretty decent quality. It was nowhere near Dvor in class, but it was still really good ;) .

For us, these were the highlights and I have uploaded some photos of them here. More about the other days, in the next posts ;) .


Last Chance for Summer

September 24th, 2015

Being quite busy this year with many events taking place in the summer here in Cluj (like this) we ended up almost losing the sunshine of this summer… By the time we double-checked the number of our available holidays for this year, we realized the time for using them is almost finished. So what do you do when you miss the warm summer months? Well, you go south hoping for warmer weather there :) . As one of my colleagues said: this year all nearby holiday resorts are either war-zones or transit zones for immigrants, so there is not too many places you can go in the south hoping to catch some more little sunshine. Our choice was Croatia: it reaches south enough to have some chance to catch warm weather even in September, it is not a war-zone and it is (well it was) not a transit zone for immigrants. Don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid of the actual immigrants, it was the issues at border-crossings that we were afraid of…
Anyhow, after we chose the country, we basically tried to choose the point furthest to the south where we haven’t been at until now (so naturally Dubrovnik was out). The choice fell to Split: it has nice beaches, some nice islands nearby and even a national park that is close to it. Naturally so many possibilities in the area required us to be able to move around in the Split area easily. So, the choice was, again, traveling by car :) . As usual, when we went by car for similar trips, our mid-travel rest-location fell to a point in Hungary: this time it was Siófok.

A quick-search on revealed quite some possibilities for hotels where we could spend the evening and the night at. Our choice fell to Hotel La Riva, which was very close to the lake-shore, allowing us to do this a few minutes after checking in:
Siofok Sunset
Our stay at the hotel was quite good: we had a very tasty dinner at the hotel restaurant, we had a quite good room, nice private parking and a friendly staff to make our stay enjoyable.

After a relaxing evening at Siófok, we headed south (just as planned :) ) towards Split. At the border with Croatia we had absolutely no problems, the connection between the Hungarian M7 and Croatian A4 motorways went very fluently, although after the switch we got onto a bit bumpier and more expensive highway: Croatian highways are toll-roads, so our short trip (1 hour) between the border and Zagreb cost us ~€6 (compared to this the 10 day vignette in Hungary costs ~€11 giving you unlimited access for 10 days to all highways). Luckily the road after Zagreb switched to the A1, which is much-much better. The A1 is a high quality road, nice tunnels and bridges: an absolute joy to drive on :) . Of course driving on it until Split for about 400 kms will cost ~€30… You can do the math: there and back cost us more than 6 times the 10 day vignette of Hungary… :( . The gates are sometimes misleading saying you can pay only with cash, but I could pay at all “cash-gates” with credit card. So no problem at the means of payment, some of the guys at the toll-booths could use some coaching on how to smile (or speak clearly), though… Same story for the fuel-stations at rest-areas: people were not nice, not fit for working at the cash-register… For a country relying heavily on tourism, I was a bit disappointed…

All the bad feelings I gathered on the highway went away, though, after arriving to Split. The woman greeting us at Adriatic Queen Villa was very friendly, spoke English fluently (like many of the people in Split). She gave us a quick tour of the apartment we rented and made sure everything was OK for us to move in for the week. We chose an apartment in hopes of saving some money with the breakfasts (and we knew it would be hard for a few days to get up in time for the breakfast time of hotels also :P ). Actually our breakfasts were quite enjoyable, who could not love drinking coffee like this:
Coffe with a view
I think these apartments were an OK choice, although I really hope they will fix their WiFi, because the way it worked when we were there will come back to them and ruin their reputation quite soon… Also the nearby hospital helipad may be disturbing for some, for us it was a bit of a joy to see the helicopter land so close :) :

Yes, it took a while until we got there, but then we had a quite good time. More of that, though, I will write in the upcoming post series :)


My Candy Store

September 2nd, 2015

This year’s travels, so far, have been basically second looks to stuff I could not see during my earlier business trips. It wasn’t like I planned them this way, it simply turned out that all my business trips in the spring were to the same locations we were planning to go to later. Now ,this second POI in Bavaria was something I was longing to see for a long time. It was this spring that I first set my eyes (with the highest possible zoom on my phone camera) to my “candy store”:

And with the occasion of our 4 day stay in the area, I kind of dedicated a full day to a closer look. The plan was to visit BMW Welt and BMW Museum during the day, and after successfully driving for about 2 hours on the very crowded Autobahn from Nürnberg to München, we were almost at the destination. We just needed to do about two ridiculous round-drives, until I spotted the correct entrance into the underground parking under the BMW Welt complex. Yes, I was so excited I lost my ability to drive normally :P

So there we were, the entrance to the candy store :) : I knew I could not buy anything (well, not yet anyway :D ), but I was sure I was in for a treat. The entry to the complex is free of charge, you just have to pay for parking, but you have the possibility to check out some of the hottest models BMW can offer, ranging from all the cars and bikes they make, all Mini models and of course a taste of high-end luxury offered, in this case, by the smallest member of the Rolls Royce family, a close-up glimpse to the Ghost.

No, they do not let you too close to all models (especially the expensive ones), but for us these were enough :D :
Us on BMWs
The complex is a must for BMW fans, I am sure of that. What is even nicer, is what comes after a few minute walk on the futuristic bridge taking to the other side of the road: the BMW Museum. With a short stop at a convenient and not too pricey restaurant attached to the museum complex, this was our next target. The entry price per person is 10€ and for some reason they did not accept credit cards. I think this issue was only temporary, but you never know…

The museum itself is also capable to bring a wide smile to any BMW fan’s face, especially when you spot your 10+ year old car among the exhibited models (well, not exactly that, but the same model). This shows two things 1. you really need to start thinking about changing your car 2. you have chosen to buy a car that became a historic model ;) . The visit can take up to about an hour and gives an almost exhaustive view of what this Bavarian company has given to the world. Almost exhaustive because I did not see all prototypes. I would have been interested in how Gina looked like in real life…

Anyway: yes, it was what I expected, yes I came out with a smile and yes, I had to buy souvenirs :D .

Photos here.