Posts by: Ross Stovall

Zadar, Croatia – The World’s Most Beautiful Sunset | Travel

Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 in Blog, Mine, Travel | One Comment
Zadar, Croatia – The World’s Most Beautiful Sunset | Travel

Traveled May 18th – May 19th.

Previous Destination: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

After our day trip to Plitvice we continued on south in our car and made our way to Zadar. We arrived a little later than planned because of our late start in the morning from Volosko but luckily we got in with still some day light left. A big selling point of adding Zadar to our itinerary was it’s legendary sunset. Alfred Hitchcock described it as the following: “The sunset of Zadar is the world’s most beautiful and incomparably better than in Key West, Florida.” After experiencing the sunset for ourselves I definitely agree with him.

Zadar is an ancient city dating back to the Greeks and Romans but it feels very much lived in. There’s a huge mix of old and new. It’s comparable to Rome in that you can walk around and seemingly just stumble upon an ancient ruin, albeit at a much smaller scale. Here are a group of children playing a game of soccer in one of the many ruins that line the streets of the old town.

What also makes Zadar unique is the number of ugly communist era buildings littered throughout. Some would say these buildings bring down the beauty of the city, and when I first saw pictures of Zadar I thought the same thing, but after visiting I think they add to the overall uniqueness of the city. Zadar doesn’t just feel like an open air museum, it feels like a real, breathing city which is also aided by the number of University students inhabiting it. Here is example of these buildings. This is on the main road in the old town which has been (and continues to be) a major artery of Zadar for hundreds of years.

But lets get back to the sunset which is one of Zadar’s main draws. One of the best places to view it is along the edge of the old town where two modern structures exist. Most places that are billed as having great sunsets have only that. You sit and watch the sun dip below the horizon and that’s pretty much it. Not in Zadar. Here you have two attractions built by architect Nikola Bašić in 2004. First you have the sea organ which is a series of organs underneath a set of steps that use the power of the waves to create aimless music. It’s actually very beautiful and peaceful to just sit here and watch the sun dip. Here you can see people sitting on the sea organ. The holes within the steps are where the sound comes out of.

Making our way towards the second attraction.

As the sun lowers people will eventually make their way down to Zadar’s second attraction called the Sun Salutation. Here there is a collection of solar panels which collect the suns rays during the day and then use that energy to preform a beautiful light show that starts at twilight. Here it is before the light show.

Here is the light show that seemingly starts as soon as the sun falls over the horizon. There is a series of lights that change color and move around as if this was a huge outdoor dance floor. Apparently it’s pretty rare for nobody to be on this. A local student came up to everyone and asked why we were all just standing around on the edges.

But once one person got on everyone else soon followed.

This was the best sunset I’ve witnessed in my entire life. The sunset was indeed very beautiful. It went down in the perfect location and provided some beautiful magical colors that only sunsets and sunrises can produce. But the entire vibe aided by the sea organ and sun salutation was fantastic. Everyone was happy and super friendly and just enjoying the view and the sounds. There were couples, families, and groups of friends all enjoying the view.

As twilight got darker we decided to take a stroll around the old town. This is the Church of St. Donatus which has stood here since the 8th century. This is right by the main street, Kalelarga.

Here is the five wells. In the 16th century the Venetians built these wells to help the city withstand Turkish sieges. There is actually a large nightclub to the right of this up the steps.

We didn’t have enough time in Zadar as we really only had one night to see the city since we arrived late and had to leave early in the morning to make our way to Split. If doing this trip again we would have loved to add another night here. I had intended Zadar to be a nice stop to breakup the trip from Northern Croatia to Split but it ended up exceeding all my expectations. I really enjoy visiting cities that have a mix of old and new and that feel lived in and not just like a tourist destination with an open air museum. Zadar most definitely had that mix.

Previous Destination: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia | Travel

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Blog, Mine, Travel | No Comments
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia | Travel

Traveled on May 18th.

Previous Destination: Istria, Croatia – Pula, Rovinj, Grozngan, Motovun, Volosko
Next Destination: Zadar, Croatia – The World’s Most Beautiful Sunset

We left Volosko in the morning for Plitvice Lakes National Park which was about a three hour drive away. We woke up a little later than we had planned so we got into Plitvice around 1pm which left us with only a few hours to walk around the park. We only got to see the upper part of the park because of that. Although it felt like we missed a bunch and easily could’ve spent the entire day there we’re still glad we went because the park is absolutely gorgeous.

This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNIESCO World Heritage Site and is a collection of lakes arranged in beautiful waterfalls and cascades. It’s one of those places in nature that doesn’t feel real when you’re there. This place feels like it was entirely man made. The park is also very well arranged and maintained. It’s highly accessible and completely filled with walkways and bridges that will take you right up to the waterfalls, close enough even to get sprayed. The water is also crystal clear. I can only imagine how great it would be to take a dip underneath these waterfalls, which you are strictly forbidden from doing. I consider Plitvice a must visit destination when going to Croatia, even if only for a handful of hours as we did. It’s a one of a kind place and definitely lives up to the hype.

Normally Plitvice gets heavily trafficked which result in long queues around the walkways. It’s normally advised to get there early in the morning to beat the tour groups that visit in hordes. However during the day we went even showing up after lunch we didn’t experience as many people as I thought we would. I was expecting crowds like this but luckily that wasn’t our experience at all. We did go in May and after a torrent of storms had just hit the area so maybe we just got lucky. Whether it was blind luck or not we didn’t run into the crowds that the park is notorious for. For the most part we were able to walk the park at our normal pace without any slowdowns whatsoever. A very pleasant afternoon of strolling through waterfalls and cascades.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Previous Destination: Istria, Croatia – Pula, Rovinj, Grozngan, Motovun, Volosko
Next Destination: Zadar, Croatia – The World’s Most Beautiful Sunset

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Istria, Croatia – Pula, Rovinj, Grozngan, Motovun, Volosko | Travel

Posted by on Jul 5, 2014 in Blog, Mine, Travel | One Comment
Istria, Croatia – Pula, Rovinj, Grozngan, Motovun, Volosko | Travel

Traveled from May 15th to May 18th.

Previous Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Next Destination: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

After Ljubljana we took a bus to Rijeka Croatia and picked up a rental car that would be with us for the rest of the trip. The plan for the day was to make our way to Rovinj from Rijeka while stopping in Pula to see it’s Roman amphitheater. We would stay in Rovinj for two nights and then drive through the hill towns making our way to the fishing town of Volosko. Istria is at the northern most part of Croatia and is known to have the biggest Italian influence in the country. The entire area was ruled by the Venetians and is only a few hours away from Venice. On a clear day you can actually see Venice from Rovinj’s bell tower. I’ve never been to Tuscany but the interior of Istria is suppose to be some what similar with rolling hills and endless wineries and olive oil producers. When planning this trip I was very much looking forward to spending time in this area and it didn’t disappoint.

Pula

A priority of mine for the trip to Croatia was to find a place to get a dish called peka. This dish takes hours to make and consists of throwing meat and/or seafood (we picked Octopus), potatoes, and other vegetables in a big pot they call a bell. You then close the lid and cover it with coals and wait for the entire dish to stew. The key being never to open the lid until it’s ready to serve. We found a place near Pula that makes peka called Konoba Istriana which we made reservations for since the dish takes hours to make so it must be reserved ahead of time. When we pulled up in our car we could smell the intense octopus flavor throughout the area. Here is our peka cooking on the coals.
Istria Croatia cooking Peka

Here is what it looked like served. This was the best, most flavorful, and tender octopus I’ve ever had. This is one of the dishes on the trip that I can still taste. I highly recommend trying this if you can! If you’re in the area we highly recommend going to Konoba Istriana as well. All the food we got was fantastic and the owner was extremely nice. He even gave us his card and told us to call him if we ever had any questions later on our trip.
Istria Croatia Peka

After our fantastic lunch we drove over to Pula to see it’s impressive Roman amphitheater. This is one of the most well preserved Roman amphitheater’s in existence. It’s even still used as a venue for shows and has been featured in the movie Titus staring Anthony Hopkins.
Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater

Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater

Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater

Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater

Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater

Now for some gladiator reenactments.
Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater Fight

Istria Croatia Pula Amphitheater Fight

Walking through the old town of Pula.
Istria Croatia Pula old town


Rovinj

After dinner in Rovinj we went to Valentino for some cocktails with American prices. They were worth it for the view though! There’s no tables and chairs here. You get a pillow and sit on the rocks on the edge of the water overlooking a great view. The atmosphere is fantastic. We enjoyed it much more than the famous Buza bar’s in Dubrovnik.
Valentino Rovinj Istria Croatia

Walking through the narrow streets of Rovinj at night. Rovinj was a great little town. You can really see the influence of the Venetians in this town. There’s narrow alleyways winding throughout the town and like Venice it’s fun to just wander the streets and get lost.
Rovinj Istria Croatia

Rovinj Istria Croatia

A view of Rovinj from the top of it’s bell tower.
Rovinj Istria Croatia bell tower view

Originally Rovinj was an island until the channel was filled in in 1763. It’s easy to see where the channel used to be from up here.
Rovinj Istria Croatia bell tower view

These steps are very narrow and creaky. You can see the entire way down under your feet. As you can see with Chau’s two handed grip she wasn’t a big fan of these stairs.
Rovinj Istria Croatia bell tower

Rovinj Istria Croatia street

My sister and her boyfriend taking a Rovinj selfie.
Rovinj Istria Croatia selfie

Rovinj Istria Croatia lamp posts

After a day of wandering around we watched the sunset over Rovinj with a bottle of wine.
Rovinj Istria Croatia sunset

Rovinj Istria Croatia sunset

The view of Rovinj from the northern harbor.
Rovinj Istria Croatia sunset

This is the dog, named Bubba, of the owner of the incredible sobe we stayed at called Casale Bed and Breakfast. If visiting Rovinj we can’t recommend this place enough! Great location, clean, and the friendliest family you’ll ever meet. We missed our dog very much so we gave Bubba a lot of attention during our stay here.
Rovinj Istria Croatia Casale Bed and Breakfast dog

We actually ended up drinking with Adriano, the owner of Casale, until 2am at his favorite bar nearby. We stayed at this bar past closing time drinking an endless number of shots with our new friend Adriano (pictured to the right) and the bartender. Afterwards Adriano made us a great homemade pasta dish to cap the night of an amazing day.
Rovinj Istria Croatia Casale Bed and Breakfast Adriano


Grozngan

The next morning after a round of hangovers we reluctantly left Rovinj and headed inland through the hill towns of Istria. Grozngan was our first stop. Not long ago this town was completely abandoned until a bunch of artists took up residence here. There’s a handful of galleries and art shops littered throughout the town. We picked up a few nice souvenirs here.
Grozngan Istria Croatia view

Grozngan Istria Croatia street

Grozngan Istria Croatia view

Grozngan Istria Croatia view


Motovun

Our next stop was Istria’s most famous hill town named Motovun.
Motovun Istria Croatia gate

It’s easy to see the strategic advantage these hills give the town from up here.
Motovun Istria Croatia view

Motovun Istria Croatia bell tower

Motovun Istria Croatia view


Volosko

We planned to visit more hill towns but it’s amazing how fast the day goes wandering around these towns. It was getting late after Motovun so we headed straight to Volosko where we would spend one night.
Volosko Istria Croatia

This beautiful path along the water leads to the town of Opatija and eventually Lovran.
Istria Croatia Volosko Opatija walk

Istria Croatia Volosko view

We had dinner here at Konoba Tramerka which ended up being one of the best meals of the trip. The seafood at this place is incredible.
Istria Croatia Konoba Tramerka restaurant

One last drink before calling it a night.
Istria Croatia Volosko view

Previous Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Next Destination: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

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Ljubljana, Slovenia | Travel

Posted by on Jun 29, 2014 in Blog, Mine, Travel | 2 Comments
Ljubljana, Slovenia | Travel

Traveled from May 13th to May 15th.

Previous Destination: Lake Bled, Slovenia
Next Destination: Istria, Croatia – Pula, Rovinj, Grozngan, Motovun, Volosko

After Lake Bled we had planned to rent a car to drive over the Julian Alps making our way to Ljubljana but we quickly scratched that plan because of the weather and took a bus straight to Ljubljana instead. In the end we didn’t mind the extra time in Ljubljana because this ended up being one of our favorite cities we’ve ever visited. This is one of the few cities where we would try to make a point of visiting again if we were ever again in the area.

Ljubljana doesn’t have any must see sights nor is it very big for a capital city but it’s a fantastic place to just be. It has the essential ingredients for a great European city. An atmospheric cute pedestrian only old town – check. A castle on a hill – check. Great architecture from a famous architect (Jože Plečnik) – check. A canal with atmospheric cafes and restaurants – check. It’s no wonder Rick Steves calls Ljubljana the next next Prague (after Krakow). There’s great food, cafes, and bars littered throughout the city. We could spend hours just hanging out and wandering around from cafe to cafe. The city is also incredibly clean and very walk able with great friendly people throughout. We loved it here and could have easily spent a few more days just taking the entire city in.

Our first truffle dish of many throughout the trip. Delicious!

There’s graffiti in lots of places throughout the city but it never felt dirty or rundown.

Facing the triple bridge, the heart of the old town.

We were wandering around midnight after a long dinner when we stumbled upon this lone violinist playing for a small crowd of 6 people. We sat here enjoying the music echoing throughout the old town until he decided to pack up and call it a night. A really fantastic way to end our first night in Ljubljana.

The daily farmers market.

We couldn’t resist buying a couple baskets of these.

Someone carved out hearts onto this pole. Even the vandalism is beautiful here!

We went on a food walk tour and were brought to this gelato stand. This was the most jolly gelato vender we’ve ever met! He gave us taste after taste with this huge smile throughout.

Like the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris Ljubljana has it’s own bridge where couples put a lock on the bridge and throw the keys into the river. This was my sister and her boyfriend’s lock.

This was mine and Chau’s. Chau gave me a hard time for getting such an ugly looking lock =].

This is an example of a typical cafe along the river in Ljubljana. We hung out for a good hour here drinking wine and beers.

We decided to get the weirdest pizza we could find on the menu and this was it. An American style nacho pizza. It tasted exactly how it sounds and looks.

This was a great bar near the triple bridge right along the water. We hung out here for some after dinner drinks and cigars.

Our hotel was to the right of this spot. I managed to convince Chau to grab a few drinks before heading off to bed.

I tried a social experiment at this bar. I wanted to see if giving American style huge tips for my drinks would get me anything extra. It did not =].

Previous Destination: Lake Bled, Slovenia
Next Destination: Istria, Croatia – Pula, Rovinj, Grozngan, Motovun, Volosko

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Lake Bled, Slovenia | Travel

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Blog, Mine, Travel | One Comment
Lake Bled, Slovenia | Travel

Traveled on May 11th and May 12th of 2014.

Next Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia

This was the first stop on our trip through the Balkans. When planning our itinerary we heard a lot of recommendations to stay in Lake Bohinj instead of Bled because it was less touristy and supposedly just as beautiful. In fact every local we asked in Slovenia about which lake they visit they all unanimously said Bohinj because Bled was too touristy. But in the end we chose Bled because of the amazing Castle and Church on an island views. We see plenty of gorgeous lakes living next to the Sierra’s. How often do we get to visit a lake with a Castle and Church on an island that looks like something out of a fairy tale?? Never!

We actually almost completely bypassed staying here and adding on two more nights to Ljubljana because of ominous weather reports before our flight. It was scheduled to rain the one full day we were planning on being at the lake until 2 days before when the weather report changed to cloudy. Our flight arrived at 10pm to pouring rain so we were wondering if we made the wrong decision. Our fears were unfounded though as we woke up to clear blue skies.

Our airbnb host was kind enough to take us with her to visit the old town of Radovljica after she made us breakfast using fresh herbs from her garden. Radovljica was a nice change up from Bled. Bled is very beautiful but the old town leaves something to be desired. The old town in Radovljica was very small but more of what you’d expect a European old town to look like. We also got some great cheap souvenirs here from a second hand shop.

Back to Lake Bled. The very first thing we did was head straight to The Park Hotel to try the famous Kremsnita. This was the view from our table. Still blue skies but the clouds were quickly coming in.

Holy sh*t this was good. The best comparison we could come up with was a non-doughy cream puff with custard. This was heavenly and we regretted not eating more of these while in Bled.

I enjoy trying local beers while on vacation. This was one you could find everywhere along with Lasko. They were both just ok, nothing memorable. When in Slovenia it’s best to stick with the wines.

The inside of Gostilna Pri Planincu. We went here because they serve traditional Slovenia pub grub and we wanted to start one of our favorite activities… day drinking! We asked for the most popular traditional dishes and received a feast of tripe soup, goulash, and sausages. Everything was priced at around 5 euros each which I thought meant small portions but which were most definitely not.

Starting our walk around the lake. The lake looks a lot smaller than it actually is! We thought the walk would take 1-2 hours but it actually took just over 3. Still totally worth it though, the views are different from every spot.

There are swans everywhere around the lake.

Gas motors aren’t allowed on the lake so all you’ll see are paddle boats.

We thought about renting one of these boats and paddling out to the Church but the weather looked like it was starting to turn.

Instead we decided to hop on one of these Pletna boats.

Our Pletna captain rowing us to the Church of the Assumption. He said it takes about 500 strokes to get to the island from where we were. We also met a really nice Slovakian couple on this boat who were the first of many to be enamored with Chau’s “roots”. I don’t think people are used to seeing Vietnamese people out here.

The walk up to the Church of the Assumption. This is a popular spot to get married and the groom is suppose to carry the bride up these 99 steps to the top. Unfortunately for Chau we were already married so she had to hike it up herself.

No more blue skies.

We stayed at Lake Bled for 2 night but only got one full day which we thought was enough. It’s a very beautiful lake but it gets very quiet in the evenings. We had a very good seafood dinner at Ostarija Peglez’n but every bar we stuck our head into was completely dead. If we had to do it again we would have allocated these days onto Ljubljana and done a long day trip here. We’re still glad we saw this fairy tale of a place though. I highly recommend you visit here if you’re ever in Slovenia, even though it’s considered touristy.

Next Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia

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