I don’t remember when I decided that the countries of the former Yugoslavia were at the top of my bucket list. Some people I knew went to Croatia and raved about it, so at some point I became determined to see it for myself.

I also don’t remember when I decided to use a travel agency to make the arrangements for me, but I found JayWay Travel and started working with them to create the perfect itinerary. JayWay specializes in independent eastern European travel, so it wasn’t like going on a tour. They customized the itinerary with me and took care of all the booking (flights, lodging, rental car, and other transportation). It worked out brilliantly. They selected superb lodging (guesthouses for the most part), and the itinerary was as close to ideal as possible for a three‐week trip. When my sister decided to join me for part of the trip, they made all her arrangements as well.

We flew into Zagreb, arriving about an hour apart, and picked up our rental car. JayWay also supplied us with a local cellphone so we could reach them if we had any problems. We drove about two hours into Slovenia and our first stop, Ljubljana. There we spent three nights, including a day trip to Bohinj and Bled.

After Ljubljana, our next stop was Kobarid, in the Soca Valley. En route we stopped in Radvoljica to visit the Museum of Apiculture, and we drove over Vršič Pass. In Kobarid we did a great hike and visited the outstanding museum dedicated to the history of World War I.

Our next destination was Rovinj, on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula. Along the way we stopped at Tolmin Gorge, Škocjan Caves, and the seaside resort town of Piran.

We spent three nights in Rovinj, including a day trip to some of the hill towns of northern Istria. I also enjoyed a bike ride, and we had some great food in Rovinj.

After Rovinj we headed to Plitvice Lakes National Park. We spent four or five hours wandering the trails, and we spent the night at a lovely B&B nearby before heading out the next morning into Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a long but lovely drive to Sarajevo. We stopped in Bihac and in Jajce, where it started to get drizzly. By the time we reached Sarajevo, we’d driven through severe downpours, which presaged the next three days of non‐stop rain. Although the Miljacka River, typically a quiet meandering stream, was raging through the city, there was no flooding in Sarajevo. Just a lot of wet.

The roaring Miljacka River in Sarajevo

In spite of the rain, Sarajevo was a highlight of the trip for me, largely thanks to my walk with Amir Telebecirovic, the private guide I hired. He really brought a genuine first‐hand perspective to the experiencing of living through the longest siege in the history of modern warfare.

My sister departed for home after the first night in Sarajevo. I stayed three nights and then headed south to Mostar, where I spent one night. From there I drove back into Croatia, first stopping in Počitelj. I drove along the Adriatic coast to Trogir, and I spent one night there. The next morning I drove to Split and dropped off the rental car. I spent most of the day in Split before catching a ferry to Hvar. I had two nights there followed by two nights in Korčula.

My final stop was Dubrovnik, where I spent three nights. I took a disappointing day trip to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, and spent an afternoon kayaking in the Adriatic before catching my flight home.

As usual, I took far too many pictures, and I blogged daily.

Photo Albums


Ljubljana (114 photos)
Bohinj and Bled (81 photos)
Western Slovenia (209 photos)
Istria (162 photos)
Plitvice Lakes (128 photos)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (204 photos)
Trogir, Split, Hvar, and Korčula (228 photos)
Dubrovnik (214 photos)

Blog Posts

Next spring? Really? (9/2/2013) - With less than two weeks until I leave for my Oregon road trip, I find that I’m already on the verge of putting down a deposit on my next vacation. I was thinking the Balkans in the fall, but now I’m thinking I won’t wait that long. I’m looking at Rick Steves’ first tour next spring, more…
Itinerary Tweaking (9/4/2013) - I love planning my vacation nearly as much as going on it.  (Nothing unusual about that, I think.)  So once I start narrowing down the plan, I am constantly tweaking it until I’ve locked everything down. So here’s my revised itinerary for the Balkans: Zagreb (2 nights), then train to Ljubljana Rick Steves tour (14 more…
More Balkan dreaming (9/19/2013) - Two days until I leave on my Oregon road trip. I’m planning to blog daily while I’m gone, posting experiences and photos. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to think ahead to next May and my trip to the Balkans. I requested a private tour itinerary from JayWay, and I’m now seriously thinking of doing that instead of the more…
Second guessing myself (10/23/2013) - In preparation for my upcoming trip, I bought the Kindle edition of Rick Steves’ Croatia & Slovenia guide book today. It’s coauthored by Cameron Hewitt, who led the travel session I attended in Edmonds last spring, and I suspect it’s more authored than coauthored by Hewitt. In reading various passages, I started second guessing the more…
My Final Balkan Itinerary (11/19/2013) - So here’s the thing: three weeks, which seems like a lot of time to travel in a geographically compact area, is not nearly enough time. But I have accepted that truth, and I have settled on an itinerary I not only can live with, but am excited about. Based on a lot of advice from more…
Planning what I can (2/2/2014) - One of the things I am missing out on as I get close to my Balkan adventure is the planning. It’s liberating in a way, but I also feel like I’m missing out on part of the experience by leaving the planning in the hands of JayWay Travel. So I’m really digging into the few more…
Ljubljana (2/9/2014) - Ljubljana wasn’t even on my radar before I started seriously planning my trip.  But the more I read about it, the more excited I am to spend some time there.  It seems to be both a great city to see and a great base to explore from.  With three nights, that’s really just two days, so I’m figuring more…
Bled and Vicinity (2/17/2014) - It will probably be late afternoon or early evening before we arrive in Ljubljana on May 4, so I’m figuring just two full days before we move on to the west. Those two days may end up being perfect for seeing the sites in Ljubljana and having some time to relax, or we might find more…
The Julian Alps (3/4/2014) - You go to the mountains for scenery, right?  And I’m guessing that won’t disappoint. One of the reasons for going to Kobarid is the drive there. We’ll had north out of Ljubljana on A2 (with stops around Bled if we haven’t had the chance to get there already). We’ll turn off A2 before we drive more…
Kobarid to Rovinj (3/6/2014) - The drive from Kobarid to Rovinj is less than 3 hours, so that gives us a lot of time along the way to see some of this stuff before we cross the border into Croatia. With detours to these three spots, and time spent exploring each, I imagine it will be a long day. But more…
Istria (3/7/2014) - We have three nights in Rovinj.  Assuming we arrive late in the day, that still gives us two full days to explore the Istrian peninsula. Rovinj will probably take up at least a good part of one of those days.  It evokes Venice, which is not surprising, since it’s close enough that on a clear more…
Plitvice via Opatija (3/10/2014) - Imagine Niagara Falls sliced and diced and sprinkled over a vast and heavily forested canyon. It’s a lush and unforgettable valley of 16 terraced lakes, laced together by waterfalls and miles of pleasant plank walks. That’s what Rick Steves says about Plitvice Lakes National Park on his 2010 show, “Croatia: Adriatic Delights.” I can’t wait more…
Plitvice to Sarajevo (3/11/2014) - At 347 km, the drive from Plitvice to Sarajevo is the longest of my trip, about 5 hours.  That would still allow plenty of time in the morning to visit the national park before the drive (if weather or timing the day before makes that advisable).  But there are two stops that have been recommended, more…
A Balkan History Lesson (3/14/2014) - Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going. (Paul Theroux) I started this post writing about my enthusiasm for seeing Sarajevo because of the extraordinary history that city has experienced.  This is the centennial year of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, the touchstone for more…
Sarajevo (3/18/2014) - My little history lesson has given me a new sense of context that I think will make visiting Sarajevo very memorable. Of all the places I’m going on this trip, I think it is the one where knowing the history will make the most difference in terms of how I experience it. It’s a cruel more…
Mostar (3/24/2014) - If you do an  image search on Mostar, pretty much every photo is of the same thing. And I’m sure I’ll add my own pictures of this bridge when I see it in person. But this, I guess, is Mostar. The Stari Most (“Old Bridge”), was built in the mid sixteenth century, when Mostar was part of more…
By Adam Jones Adam63 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7389479 Trogir and Split (3/24/2014) - After Mostar I return to Croatia, where I spend the last 8 nights of my vacation.  My first stop is Trogir, a town of about 10,000 people just 27 kilometers west of Split.  Most everyone says Split is a must‐see destination, but my agent at JayWay Travel urged me to stay in Trogir instead.  I more…
Hvar and Korčula (3/26/2014) - When I went to Italy for two weeks in 2009, I spent most of the time seeing places with rich historical and cultural significance (i.e. sightseeing), but I spent the last few days in the Cinque Terre just enjoying spectacular scenery, wonderful and challenging hikes, and quiet relaxation. My Nordic adventure two years ago had more…
Dubrovnik (3/27/2014) - Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe and beauty when you set eyes on the Stradun never fades. Indeed it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming jaded by the city’s marble streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or failing to be more…
Dubrovnik excursions (3/29/2014) - With essentially three full days in Dubrovnik, I will definitely spend one of them on an all‐day excursion to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro.  I’ve already written about that. There are a couple of other options for day trips out of Dubrovnik that won’t require a full day. Cavtat Cavtat (pronounced ‘tsav‐tat’) is a small more…
Balkan Food (3/31/2014) - Just as two years ago I struggled for the right term to describe Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and Iceland (I settled on “Nordic,” but that wasn’t really right), there isn’t a good term that describes the places I’m visiting on this trip.  I use “Balkan” reluctantly, and I acknowledge that it’s not technically accurate, but more…
Balkan Arts (4/8/2014) - There’s only one artist from the countries I’ll be visiting that I’ve ever heard of: Ivan Meštrović. But I only just figured out why I’ve heard of him. For a while Meštrović taught at Syracuse University, where I (much later) went to college. And a number of his sculptures are displayed on the SU campus. more…
Markets (4/22/2014) - I love shopping on vacation. It’s not about buying souvenirs.  In fact it’s not necessarily about buying anything (though I often do spend my American dollars abroad).  Shopping on vacation is about seeing how locals shop, and how the things they buy and the way they buy them are similar to or different from how more…
One Week Out (4/26/2014) - Hard to believe, but it’s just one week until I leave on my trip. I started packing last night.  Well, not really. I made a pile on my floor of some stuff that’s coming with me (including some stuff that most likely won’t make the final cut when I actually do start packing).  The pile more…
Packed (5/3/2014) - i’m ready. There are still two hours before I leave for the airport, but I’m all packed and ready to go. The big pile has been squeezed into my Rick Steves convertible carry‐on and my souvenir bag from being a Jeopardy! contestant.  Combined weight is 28 pounds, which is more than I’d like to be more…
A flavor of Ljubljana (5/4/2014) - If I remembered how awful it is to sit in an airplane for 9+ hours, I would start having second thoughts about my love of travel. But here I am in Ljubljana, seeing the stuff I’ve been looking at pictures of, only it’s real! And it’s charming. The flight from Seattle to London was long. more…
Jože Plečnik and Friends (5/6/2014) - My circadian rhythms must have been all akimbo, because I simply could not sleep for most of the night last night.  After I finished yesterday’s post, I quickly conked out. When I woke up, I was wide awake, but it was still dark.  It turned out it was 12:30. And no matter what I did, more…
Fucking Gorgeous’ (5/7/2014) - When we were driving via a twisty back road up and over the mountains to Bohinj this morning, Troy said she imagined I would describe the view in eloquent, dignified, refined language. Whereas she would just say “It was a fucking gorgeous drive.” She’s right. In her description and in my more eloquent, thousand‐word version: more…
Going up (and down) (5/7/2014) - It’s a struggle to identify a unifying theme of the day today. Ups and downs, as well as lefts and rights, probably is the best I can do. We made a wrong turn trying to get to the Plečnik cemetery, we got completely lost looking for the old town and the beekeeping museum in the more…
World War I as it’s never taught in school (5/9/2014) - Today’s post is a history lesson illustrated by fabulous scenery. The Soča River runs 186 kilometers from the Julian Alps near Vršič Pass to the Adriatic. It crosses into Italy, where it is called the Isonzo, at Gorizia. In World War I, Italy fought against Austria‐Hungary (and was on our side, as opposed to WWII). more…
Did I mention the sunset? (5/9/2014) - We left Kobarid this morning after breakfast, and we headed toward Tolmin. At the TI in Kobarid, Korika Tolminska (Tolmin Gorge) was suggested as a great place to stop. And it was a great suggestion. It only took about 45 minutes to hike through, but it was jam packed with gorgeous scenery (pun intended) and more…
Rovinj and Rovigno (5/11/2014) - I feel bad about yesterday’s blog post. (Actually it was not yesterday, it was Friday; this is yesterday’s post.) I was so blown away by the sunset that I didn’t actually write about the experiences of the day. I’ll try to do better. I am pleased to report that my sleep pattern seems to have more…
The hills are alive (or not so much) (5/11/2014) - Who’s bored with hearing about breakfast? Let’s skip ahead. We explored the hill towns of Istria today. When I was first researching this trip, I thought I might want to skip Istria, because it has hill towns just like Tuscany, and I’ve already been there. I wondered whether Istria was special and unique enough to more…
Compared to this, Niagara is a leaky faucet (5/12/2014) - There’s really not much to say about Plitvice Lakes National Park. The pictures don’t do it justice. I took some videos which also only pretend to capture the scope of it. I’ll try to say how it made me feel. It brought tears to my eyes several times. For a moment, I was tempted to more…
Driving, Rain in Bosnia (5/13/2014) - We departed this morning a little before 9:00, anticipating the longest drive of the trip, estimated by Google (and by the folks at JayWay, the tour company that helped create the itinerary) as about five hours. We arrived at our apartment in Sarajevo at 17:30, making the total day close to nine hours. We stopped more…
My Walk with Amir (5/15/2014) - I’m going to try something different today. I’m not going to talk about what I saw. And I’m not going to include any of the photos I took. (For one thing, it was raining all day and many of my photos are blurred by raindrops on the lens. Also, my camera got so wet it more…
Map showing occupied lands during the siege of Sarajevo Sarajevo is a sly seductress (5/15/2014) - My first impressions of Sarajevo, arriving in pouring rain and heavy traffic two nights ago after a long day of driving, were not so good. The city seemed dank and crowded and not ready for prime time. Even yesterday, after that wonderful day spent with Amir, I was more enamored of the stories than of more…
What bridge? (5/16/2014) - Today I remembered why I love to travel. It’s not to see a famous and beautiful bridge and walk the cobbled streets of an “Old Town.” It’s not to buy the same tacky, made‐in‐China souvenirs that are sold in shop after shop. It’s not even to eat the local food (although that’s pretty important) or more…
A town so cute I just wanna give it a hug (5/17/2014) - Before I proceed with my regular daily blog post, I want to make a special appeal for those who aren’t on Facebook and didn’t see my appeal there. As you know, I just spent three days in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it was raining and the Miljacka River was threatening to more…
Split and found paradise (5/19/2014) - While I was waiting in line to board the catamaran to Hvar (along with, it seemed, every other American in Split), someone standing nearby send to his companions, “We’re splitting Split.” No one laughed, and I said to him, “I bet that’s the first time anyone’s ever told that joke.” Everyone laughed. Well I went to Split, and then I more…
Less seeing, more being (5/19/2014) - This was one of those days that everyone else calls “vacation.” I call it “nothing to do.” But that’s okay. This is a beautiful place to do nothing. I simply wandered around most of the day. I sat and watched people. I gazed at the brilliant turquoise water. I sat at a cafe and had more…
Paradise Found, Lost, and Regained (5/21/2014) - Imagine you’re on a Mediterranean island. You’re sitting on a third‐story balcony. In front of you, not ten meters away, the clear blue waters of the Adriatic reach 500 meters to a rugged mountain landscape, a few red‐roofed houses clinging to the shore just below the cliffs. A cooling sea breeze is a perfect antidote more…
Of course you love Korčula (5/21/2014) - Who would think a day in a place as serene and lovely and idyllic as Korčula would also wear me out so completely? It’s strange, because I didn’t do anything other than wander around. I even took a nap in the middle of the day. And tonight I didn’t even have the energy to go out more…
But where’s the pearl? (5/23/2014) - It’s hard to believe at this time yesterday I was sitting on my balcony in Korčula savoring my last moments in paradise before getting on a boat for the two‐hour cruise south to Dubrovnik. Now here I am, sitting in my very comfortable and very modernly renovated apartment, overlooking the old port of Dubrovnik and more…
Wrong way to Montenegro (5/23/2014) - I went to Montenegro today. It was really lovely. But I went the wrong way, and it turned out to be the biggest disappointment of my entire trip. There were three ways I could have made the trip to Montenegro from Dubrovnik. One would have been to rent a car and drive there myself, but more…
Ring Them Bells (5/24/2014) - Okay, so this is going to out me, as if it wasn’t too late, but I used to love the album “Liza with a Z,” a recording of the TV special of the same name, which was in turn a film of a live concert performance. It was directed by Bob Fosse, who won a more…