We recently stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Dubrovnik – Villa Svilokos, 13 Mljetska Ulica, Dubrovnik.
We really enjoyed our stay at the apartment, which is comfortable, well-equipped and in a good location. The purpose of this post is to hopefully help any other guests avoid the problems we had with parking our car and finding the place. The information in the Airbnb listing is misleading – the apartment is located on a street which is not accessible to vehicles. In addition, there is no numbering on the property, although #11 and #15 do both have numbering.
At the time of writing this blog post, the Airbnb listing (here) still states that there is ‘Free parking on the premises’. This is totally wrong, and not only is it impossible to park on the premises, the closest street you can drive a car on is 200 metres away and down 65 steps, on Svetog Kriza Ulica. During the time we stayed there, we rarely saw any space to park a car along that street. DO NOT drive on Dura Basariceka Ulica, the street above Mljetska Ulica, it is impossible to park there and almost impossible to turn around. Also, there are at least 120 steps down from this street to Villa Svilokos.
If you can, try to find a parking spot as close to 19 Svetog Kriza Ulica as you can. Then walk up Lastovska Ulica and turn left onto Mljetska Ulica. Mljetska goes around a bend at Number 11, go up the lane to the first gate after Number 11, which is Number 13 although there is no numbering on it. The Airbnb apartment is just inside the gate, and the host’s father lives upstairs.
Once you have parked your car, leave it there and use public transport to get around Dubrovnik. Straight down the hill from Villa Svilokos is a bus stop which is opposite Hotel Petka. At least 4 buses (1A, 1B, 1C & 3) stop there and go to Pile Gate at Old Town. There is a good supermarket, Konzum, and a bakery nearby, close to the main bus station, which is also just down the road from the apartment.
This property is also newly listed on Booking.com, but in that listing the host states that parking is available at a nearby hotel’s car park for 20 Euros per day!
Wow, Saturday already! I’ll see if I can remember what we’ve been doing for the last few days. On Wednesday we drove south to Mlini, which is only about 10kms south of Dubrovnik. Greg had picked it out on a map of Croatia when we were trying to think what to call this blog, so we just had to go there … to say we’d been there. The town gets its name from the water-powered flour mills which are no longer in use. We didn’t stay long enough to find any, just parked quickly in someone’s No Parking area, waved to the woman watching us from the house across the road, raced to get a photo of the 2 of us near the ‘Welcome to Mlini’ sign and zapped off again … at about the same time as an old gent arrived on his motor scooter – possibly to tell us to get out of his No Parking space!
It’s only possible to drive another 30kms or so south to the Croatian border, and we were keen to head north to get the ferry across to Ploce, so we didn’t bother. As we drove north, past the beautiful Dubrovnik, we found a roadside stop for lunch with tables in the shade and a beach nearby. Unlike most Croatian beaches, this one wasn’t completely full of people, umbrellas, sun lounges & lilos, so we went down for a look, and Greg had a swim. The water was a bit chilly, and the beach part was actually just small round stones that are hard to walk on without some kind of foot protection, but it makes us realise how lucky we are in Australia, with our beautiful sandy beaches.
After going back on the ferry, which was only about half full, we drove 80kms or so on the Autoceste and camped at a little campground just a couple of kms off it. The owner is a keen gardener and has carved out a little oasis of fruit trees and cottagey flowers. The ground is basically just rock, so he has had to bring in lots of soil to get stuff to grow, but he’s even got some Australian everlasting daisies there. Nice campground, but pricey – $46 for the night.
Then to Plitvice National Park, which is the Number 1 tourist attraction in Croatia. A series of lakes and waterfalls, with boardwalks that go beside, between and over some of the lakes. We camped at Kamp Korana a few kms north of Entrance 1. Owned by the National Park and spread over 35kms along the Korana River. It was very crowded near the facilities, but we found a flat spot at the top of a hill away from the crowds.
I think I’ll let Greg’s photos tell the ‘story’ of our time at the lakes, although I wil add that I’m very glad we got there early. We were all packed up and in the car by 7.10am, which is probably some kind of personal best for us. We got a bit lost getting to the park as the entrances are not well sign-posted, but we got a park and bought our tickets without any problems. We visited the lakes in a different order to most people which helped avoid the crowds and even though we had a long wait for a boat to take us back to our starting point, that was the only slow part of our visit. When we got back to the car park, there was a HUGE queue of people waiting to buy tickets .. and then there would have been huge waits for them to get anywhere within the park for the rest of their visit.
Ah, Dubrovnik. It’s chaotic, busy, crowded, has some of the worst streets in the world and finding parking is impossible, but it’s most definitely the shiniest jewel in Croatia’s gem-filled crown. As we drove over the magnificent Franjo Tuđman Bridge, we noticed the Cunard Line’s newest darling, the Queen Victoria docked just below. Which was a sign that we shouldn’t rush to do anything touristy ‘cos everywhere would be clogged with cruise passengers. Apparently in the ‘off season’, Dubrovnik limits the number of cruise passengers to 8000 per day! We couldn’t find any numbers for this time of the year, which is most definitely ‘peak season’. Of course, there are plenty of other tourists too, and on average they spend 3x the amount as cruise passengers, so limiting them in favour of other tourists is probably a good thing.
We spent the night before last in the lovely Zakono campground at Brijesta, a little fishing village on the peninsula to the west of Dubrovnik. As we drove there, we could see the town of Neum in Bosnia. We can’t take the car into Bosnia, so we had to take a car ferry from Ploce to Trpanj to avoid the 8kms of Bosnian coastline. The ferry trip took an hour, but the whole exercise took us an extra day. Olive trees flourish in this part of the country, and at the campground there was one really, really old tree whose original tree has died, but now 5 well-established suckers are growing from it, all with good crops of fruit. Also – figs, pomegranates and citrus do really well here. Just like home.
As we drove the 70 or so kms to Dubrovnik, we noticed a wall going up the hill and around the village of Ston, which is 50 kms west of the city. We stopped for a look and read the 14 lines of text about it in our Lonely Planet Guide. This wall was as important as the Great Wall of China, but hardly gets a mention! I’m sure in 5 years it will be on everyone’s must-see list. Built in 1333, 5.5km long, with 40 towers and 5 forts, it is one of the longest fortifications in Europe. Ston was, and still is, an important salt-producing town. Repairs are being made along the wall, and the old town inside is not quite as charming as Zadar and Trogir, but still interesting and lovely to wander around, and there were plenty of (mostly local) tourists and a few tour buses there.
We’re spending a couple of nights in Dubrovnik and doing the Airbnb apartment thing again – here. Lovely apartment, best we’ve stayed in here, but finding it was right up there with one of our worst Airbnb experiences ever. Because we have a car, we filter accommodation on Arbnb to only show places with ‘Free parking on premises’. Not only did this place not have any free parking, the nearest place to park the car is on a street that is about 200 metres and at least 65 steps down the hill. Even then, it’s almost impossible to find a park. Our GPS took us to the nearest street above the apartment, which is narrow, steep, windy and has been subsequently described by our host as ‘the worst street in the world’. Great, it would have been really good to know that before Greg tried to park the car on it. The amazing Greg did manage to park the car, even though it’s left-hand drive and quite a bit bigger than most cars on the roads here.
Then finding the place, which has no numbering on it, and was down a tiny steep narrow lane that was more than 120 steps – I gave up counting at 50 steps, about a third of the way down. I stopped a local woman to ask her where the street was, and she had to do a Google maps search on her phone to find it! By the time we actually met the owner, we were all hot and unhappy – me, Greg and the owner (because we had kept him waiting because we couldn’t find the place because it wasn’t marked!). Anyway, the owner has given us his parking space in a parking garage while we’re here, we’ve calmed down and everybody is happy again.I’m going to write a separate post about how to find this place in the hope that search engines pick it up and it might save other guests the hassles we had.
So after all that, we spent the afternoon around the apartment, with a couple of trips to the car to get more things and Greg went for a walk down to main street by the dock to suss out public transport and visit the local supermarket. We caught a local bus to Old Town at around 6.30pm, walked across the drawbridge and through Pile Gate, wandered along the crowded main street and headed up a side street to the Cable Car. We managed to time our trip so that we were at the top, at Mt Srd to watch the sun set just before 7.30pm, with a beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea, and the islands and peninsula west of Dubrovnik, plus the coastline east of the city. And that magnificent city itself below us – the old walled city with its walls, forts, churches and terracotta rooftops, the city outside the walls, yachts and other boats on the water and the Queen Victoria heading south to Greece.
Then back to the apartment for a late dinner with a couple of glasses of grasevina – a Croatian white wine. We’re planning on walking the walls around the Old City today. Forecast is for a top temp of 29C, and it’s a bit cloudy but no rain forecast. Should be good.
We spent 2 nights in Zadar, at the lovely Airbnb apartment just one street back from the water . We had plans to go across to the old town in the morning, in time to have a look at the food market, which is apparently one of Croatia’s best, but a thunderstorm kept us indoors for a couple of hours longer than we intended. From the time interval between the thunder and lightning, it was a close one!
The clouds cleared into a lovely afternoon, so we caught a row-boat across to the historic old town. There is also a bridge across to it, but the boat-men ply their trade just down from where we were staying. It cost us $1 each, took 5 minutes and reminded Greg that his grandfather worked as a boatman in Brightlingsea in the UK. The old town is a wonderful mix of Roman, medieval and modern, all co-existing peacefully. It was originally settled in the 9th Century BC.
We had lunch at a restaurant near the cathedral, and just around the corner from the Roman forum. One of the columns was used as a medieval Pillar of Shame, and it still has the hooks where wrongdoers were chained. There are so many Roman ruins in the old town that most of them aren’t labelled. We sat in the restaurant’s courtyard, drinking Croatian beer and eating Croatian food – octopus for me, pork for Greg. The courtyard’s walls were built of stone – Roman? Medieval? Who knows, but they looked much older than the rest of the building.
Zadar has been bombed twice in the last century – by the Allies in 1943, then again during the ‘Homeland War’ in late 1991. Each time, it has been rebuilt, and now there are no signs of any damage.
Then further down the coast to Trogir, another historic town whose Cathedral gained World Heritage status in 1997. The old town is set on a tiny island, and we’re staying in another Airbnb apartment on Ciovo Island, which is also part of Trogir. Once again, we’re just one street back from the water, and we can see across to the bell tower of the cathedral. The apartment is one of 3 in a newly removated 200 year old stone house which belonged to the owner’s great-grandparents. The ‘streets’ here are so narrow that we have had to park the car 150 metres away, just off the main street.
We walked across the bridge to the old town yesterday afternoon and had a good wander around, getting lost a few times and ending up in private courtyards. Trogir has been my favourite Croatian town, a beautifully preserved mixture of Roman and Renaissance architecture which is all still in use, not just as museum pieces but as housing, shops, restaurants, for worship and other parts of daily life.
We are slowly making our way south down the Croatian coast. Stunning scenery, lovely weather, loads of tourists and a lot of holiday accommodation options …. many of them full at this time of the year. We did see an interesting thing this morning as we drove through a mid-sized coastal town – people sitting on folding chairs or in their car, holding a cardboard sign with ‘Apartmen’ handwritten on it. Our host at Kamp Romantic told us that lots of people rent out a room or ‘granny flat’ during the busy season, and I guess the people advertising their ‘apartments’ could have been off the main road and not so easy to find.
Last night we camped again, at a larger campground 120kms south of Labin. We’re not putting in much distance each day, in part because of the winding roads and 40 – 50km speed limit a lot of the time, but also because there’s stuff we want to see along the way. We got to Kamp Kozica early in the afternoon, and waited for a thunderstorm to pass before putting up the tent. We camped in an old terraced almond grove,with great ocean views and across to Krk Island. The campground was fairly full, and more and more vehicles arrived as the afternoon progressed. Campground facilities were … I can’t think of a nice way to say this … deplorable. Rubbish bins overflowing, no toilet paper, terrible water pressure, dirty amenities. We didn’t see anyone doing anything around the campground, as opposed to Kamp Romantik where the host and his mother were working constantly around the place. We got used to the no toilet paper and no toilet seat thing in Sth America, where we were paying Sth American prices, but paying AUD $40 for that seems extortionate. Especially when we can get Airbnb apartments for $90 or less.
(whinge over, sorry about that)
We’re now staying in Zadar for a couple of nights in an Airbnb apartment – this one, actually. It’s lovely, our host lives upstairs and has supplied breakfast provisions, information about the town and some recommendations on where to eat. The garden is full of fruit trees, including 2 pomegranate trees. I’m very tempted to pick just one …
We walked to Ljubljana’s Central Market yesterday morning just after 9am and it seemed very quiet in the nation’s capital – hardly any traffic, not many people around. The market was closed and a quick online search told us that it was the Feast of the Assumption, a very important day in the Christian and Catholic calendar. Slovenia is around 60% Catholic, and Croatia is over 80% Catholic. Italy is nearby also, so that explained why there were so many people on the move and around the place, making the most of the 3-day weekend to get away.
We drove south from Ljubljana, avoiding the autostrade as we needed some kind of e-tag that lasts 6 months and cost EU35. Probably good value for 6 months, but not for us for just one day and less than 100kms of driving. The roads we drove on were good and we visited a couple of points of interest on the way south – Predjama Castle was built into a cave, and looks totally impregnable. Building commenced in 1202, and much of what remains is from the 17th century. It has all the good stuff – a dungeon, a 16th century chest full of treasure, and holes in the ceiling of the entrance tower for pouring boiling oil on intruders.
Then on to the beautiful seaside town of Piran, which is like a smaller, less touristy version of Venice without the canals. Vehicular access is very limited, which adds to the charm of the place. We parked at the Fornace parking station about a km from the town and walked along the ‘beach’, then through narrow alleyways to the town square. There were lots of people enjoying the fine weather, swimming, sunbaking, sitting at outdoor cafes. Piran was under Venetian rule for 500 years from the late 13th century, and was a major supplier of salt.
And further along the road to Croatia and the Istrian Peninsula. We were aiming for a campgound on the coast just out of the historic town of Labin, but it was completely full. so we backtracked to Labin, to another much smaller campground, Kamp Romantic. Not sure where it got its name (and there has been at least one crying child here most of the time, so not very romantic …), but it is very well-set up with a pool, good-sized sites and a very friendly host who showed us around last night, invited us to help ourselves to vegetables from his garden and shared some of his own white wine with us. A nice drop – he grows enough grapes for 1000L, and buys more so he can make a total of 2000L per year. He and his neighbours share ownership of a grape crusher and other large agricultural machinery, and he presses his olives for oil. Last year was a bad year, he only got 8L – usual yield is around 30L.
We’re spending a couple of nights here, it’s such a nice place. Also, we’re having to rethink our plans – it’s peak season on the Croatian coast and everything is booked out. The downside of travelling the way we do, but we’ll figure out alternatives.
We were heading to Trieste yesterday, but just a few kms after we got on to the autostrade out of Venice, it looked more like a parking lot than a highway, with 3 lanes of stationary vehicles. We were lucky that we were near an exit, so we drove off and worked out what to do next. We have the Lonely Planet Slovenia guide in our travelling library, so we figured we might as well head north and have a look. Every photo I’ve seen of Slovenia has been beautiful, and it’s actually like that in real life too. Mountainous, green, picture-postcard stuff.
Triglav National Park is in the north-western corner, with a couple of lakes that have campgrounds, so we headed towards Lake Bohinj, which is a bit south of Lake Bled. The guide book says it’s slightly less glamourous and ‘touristy’ than Lake Bled, but when we went through them today, they were both packed full of people making the most of the gorgeous summer Sunday, with more and more traffic heading towards them.
We hit a couple of road closures on the way to Bohinj, and at the second one I hopped out to ask the man putting up the barriers if there was a way through … yes, further north. A camion truck had broken down or turned over or something and blocked the road from the south. So we drove on …. along very winding, very narrow roads built into the sides of mountains. Through little villages where every house seemed to have window boxes growing geraniums at every window, and a flourishing vegetable garden growing summer vegies – corn, beans, tomatoes, zucchini. It’s all so green here, a shade of green we never, ever see at home.
About 20km from Bohinj, we noticed a scattering of tents and RVs in a field. No official signs that it was actually a campground, but we went to the nearby cafe and asked – ‘yes, you can camp there, and it’s free’. Excellent! They even had wifi and gave Greg the code. We found a space for the car and tent and settled in. There were another dozen or so families spending the night there. There’s a chair lift near the cafe that goes up to a ski run in winter, and in summer walkers and mountain bikers use it to access a network of paths. It was lovely. Much nicer than the campground at Bohinj, where the tent sites all seemed to be on sloping bits of land – ie, the parts that caravans and RVs don’t want because they all want level ground.
We have spent the last week trying to find ice and having no luck at all. I got talking to some people this morning when I noticed they had an esky, and asked them how they keep stuff cold. Ice bricks. It’s not possible to buy bags of ice in Slovenia, and apparently not in Italy or Germany either. So that mystery is solved. We’ll just work around it.
Tonight we’re in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, population 280,000. We’re staying in a hostel that seems to be set up for students – our room has 3 of everything … beds, desks, shelves, cupboards. Apparently there’s a student population of around 50,000 in Ljubljana, but it’s summer holidays at the moment. We’re near the centre of town, and we can see the castle from our window at the hostel.
All the photos taken so far are on our photo album page here
We parked the car at Tronchetto, the artificial island between the mainland and the historic centre. There are loads of options, both for parking and for just getting to Venice. The closer one wants to park, the more expensive it is. Parking on the mainland is cheaper, but it’s a long way from the island and some kind of public transport is necessary, either by road or water. We just walked from the parking island, and caught the People Mover shuttle from Piazzale Roma on the way back ‘cos our legs were a bit tired by then.
Okay, so I’m going to make a confession … I didn’t think I’d like Venice much. Crowds, tourists, tacky souvenirs aren’t really my ‘thing’, but oh my goodness, it’s so beautiful I didn’t really even notice the stuff I don’t like. So much history and gorgeous old buildings & bridges, and even though there were lots of people around, we just nipped down a less crowded lane every now and then and got away from it. The Rialto Bridge across the Main Canal is being renovated, but we were still able to see all the comings and goings in the Main Canal – gondolas, boats unloading goods onto hand-carts, ferries. It was a busy Friday afternoon.
And no, we didn’t have a gondola ride. We’re far too stingey to spend EU80 on a 30-minute trip, and as neither of us are good sailors, it wasn’t on our ‘must-do’ list. I was going to add a Youtube clip of singing gondoliers, or of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, but couldn’t really find anything I liked, so I’ll leave you to find your own.
Internet access has been a bit difficult to find as we’ve been meandering south through Switzerland & Northern Italy. We stayed at another good campground just across the border in the Italian Alps on Wednesday night. More stunning views across the valley to villages on the other side, and it was quite a bit cheaper at ‘only’ $35, but we got power as well. Crappy wifi though. That part of Italy grows lots of apples and potatoes, a bit like Tassie.
Then yesterday we headed further south to Venice, through loads of tunnels, even more than when we drove through Norway to Nordkapp. We stopped at a town to try and get some internet access so that we could book a hotel in Venice, but even the ‘free’ wifi at McDonalds was impossible to access, demanding either a mobile number (an Oz number was not acceptable), or a valid credit card, but that didn’t work either. We did finally get some at an Autochef roadside cafe, so we booked some accommodation for a couple of nights. There are plenty of campgrounds here too, but at this time of the year they’re probably charging close to the same price as we’ve paid for the hotel which also includes breakfast. For the last 120kms or so, we drove on the Autostrada – we took a ticket as we entered, then paid as we left – EU12.7, around $20, which seemed okay. When we drove on motorways in Chile it was costing us up to $25 per day. Only gripe about the Autostrada was that of the 3 traffic lanes, trucks hogged 2 of them most of the time.
We’re staying in the Hotel Ducale in Favaro Veneto, which is about 10kms from St Mark’s Square, to the north on the way to the airport. Last night we wandered around the neighbourhood. A few of the local shops are closed for a couple of weeks …. well it is summer and even shopkeepers probably like to have holidays when the weather is good. We found a pizza place and had dinner there – proscuitto & carciofi artichoke for me, patatas fritas fried potato for Greg. Um, yes, it was a french fry pizza, but it tasted really good. So did mine, probably the best I’ve ever eaten. We sat and did some people-watching for a while, and looked at all the trophies and awards the pizza-maker had won in various pizza competitions, including one in Las Vegas.
And today we’re heading to Venice, with all the other tourists. We’re leaving it till later in the day, when (hopefully) there won’t be as many because the tour buses and cruise ships have timetables that are more rigid than ours. It doesn’t get dark until around 8.30, so we’ll still have time to have a good look around.
Last night we camped in Liechtenstein. Well, there’s something I never thought I’d get to say.
But let’s catch up on the last few days. We flew Qatar Airlines from Adelaide to Doha to Munich on Sunday-Monday. Good flights, almost-new planes, both of them fairly full. Getting through Immigration in Munich was probably the worst experience we’ve ever had, and we’ve been through the LAX ordeal a few times. Too many people, not enough officials to process us all. Anyway, both our enormous duffel bags were there, with the 60kgs we seem to travel everywhere with – tent, sleeping mattresses, gas stove, ice box, about 8kgs of travel guides and all the rest of the must-haves.
We picked up ‘our’ shiny white Ford Focus station wagon from the Avis counter, and that was a bit complicated because we’re renting it for more than the standard 30 days, but it eventually got sorted and headed to our hotel in a little village about halfway between the airport and Munich.
Then yesterday we started the drive south towards Croatia, passing through Austria and into Liechtenstein. It’s always such a thrill, going to another country without catching a plane, and in fact yesterday we were actually in 3 different countries in the one day!
We’re having the usual minor problems of trying to find things – folding chairs, gas cartridges, ice. The folding chairs seem to be rare here, or we’re just not looking in the right places. Finally found some, at 3x the price of home. Gas cartridges are even rarer, and much more expensive, and ice is non-existent … so far. Hopefully as we head further south and it gets warmer, we’ll find some.
We tried a campground in Austria last night, but they only had one tiny site, so we kept on going to a campground between Feldkirch and Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. $50 for an unpowered tent site, but the campground is gorgeous … terraced sites built on a hill, fruit trees everwhere, and the apple trees are all laden with ripe fruit at the moment, cute little chalet-style cabins, grass and an outdoor pool. It’s 11C here today, so we’ll be giving the pool a miss, I think. We can see across the valley to villages on the mountain opposite. It rained last night, but is fine today … so far!
And here are a few things we’ve learnt about Liechtenstein – population 37,000 (no, I didn’t leave any zeros off that number!), 3rd highest GDP in the world after Qatar & Luxemburg, 6th smallest country in the world and it’s double land-locked, which means it is landlocked by countries which are also landlocked. I really hope that last fact is a question at a Quiz Night sometime soon! Like Norway, they are not part of the EU, but are in the European Free Trade Association. Unemployment rate of 1.5%, German speaking and they have a monetary union with Switzerland, so prices are in CHF Swiss francs, but the campground also accepted our euros, at a rate of 1:1. When we were checking in, there was an Asian family who were not happy about that exchange rate for complicated reasons, but we just figured that paying the equivalent of $50 for a tent site was so outrageous that saving a couple of bucks wasn’t going to make much difference.