Author Topic: Croatia Master Thread  (Read 3212 times)

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Croatia Master Thread
« Reply #30 on: August 23, 2018, 10:23:53 PM »
PHL has way more connecting traffic than JFK does. JFK will continue to see business routes, such as London, Paris etc.. these routes are going for the summer vacation crowd, much better served through PHL.

Good article on it - https://crankyflier.com/2018/08/23/chicago-loses-asia-new-york-loses-europe-and-philly-goes-boutique-in-american-network-changes/

Offline PlatinumGuy

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Re: Croatia Master Thread
« Reply #31 on: August 24, 2018, 03:03:58 AM »
JFK is toast. Too costly to fight DL/UA, so it'll just be for some key markets.
What's the point of launching DBV, BLQ, and even TXL from a city with minimal O/D traffic? Anybody coming from ORD/NYC etc is already served via LHR/MAD. I guess you have smaller airports that can now make it with 1 stop as opposed to 2, but they would need 2 stops even with other airlines.

I don't know the O/D numbers, but per wikipedia total traffic in PHL is 30m/yr and JFK 50m/yr. I'd guess the transiting pax percentage is higher in PHL, so probably at least double in JFK. Not to mention PHL pax were already pretty captive with little 1 stop options outside AA via JFK or LHR.


I think it's plain stupid or some negation tactic with JFK.
Purpose > Pleasure

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Croatia Master Thread
« Reply #32 on: August 24, 2018, 07:02:58 AM »
What's the point of launching DBV, BLQ, and even TXL from a city with minimal O/D traffic? Anybody coming from ORD/NYC etc is already served via LHR/MAD. I guess you have smaller airports that can now make it with 1 stop as opposed to 2, but they would need 2 stops even with other airlines.

You answered that in your own question. To expand on it, they are going for destinations without North American competition.

I don't know the O/D numbers, but per wikipedia total traffic in PHL is 30m/yr and JFK 50m/yr. I'd guess the transiting pax percentage is higher in PHL, so probably at least double in JFK. Not to mention PHL pax were already pretty captive with little 1 stop options outside AA via JFK or LHR.

JFK is closer to about 60M. The 30M to 60M doesn’t sort it for you by airline. AA runs the biggest operation in PHL and carry most of the 30M passengers through there. In JFK they have a small slice of the cake.

Offline JuryDuty

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Re: Croatia Master Thread
« Reply #33 on: December 27, 2018, 10:40:25 PM »
My wife and I went on honeymoon to Croatia last summer and I've been meaning to write a trip report ever since. I recently had to do jury duty, and sitting there for hours doing nothing, I had the opportunity to do it.

Just a quick outline:

We flew into Zagreb on Sunday night and flew out of Dubrovnik the following Tuesday night, for a trip of about 9 days. After landing, we drove two hours to Plitvice National Park. Monday we went to the park and then drove another two hours to Sibenik. Tuesday we did Krka National Park, drove to Split, and returned the car. Wednesday we went canyoning, Thursday we took a boat tour, and Friday we took a catamaran (fast boat) to Dubrovnik, walked around the old city, and then went to the Dubrovnik countryside for Shabbos. Saturday night we went back to the old city. Sunday we took a boat to Lopud Island, and stayed in the Lafodia Sea Resort until Tuesday. We spent time on the beach, hiked, kayaked, took a rubber boat and explored the blue cave (not the one near Hvar and Split), and enjoyed the spa. Lafodia arranged a private transfer to the Dubrovnik airport.

Note: I just pulled up google maps for the general idea of what the trip looks like, even though we took a boat from Split to Dubrovnik and other obvious differences.

The rough sketch of the trip included Plitvice, Split (the second largest tourist city), and Dubrovnik (the number one). Sibenik was chosen as a nice town on the way. We were also thinking about going to different islands from Split. The Dubrovnik stay was cut short when I found Lafodia.
I specifically wanted to end up in Dubrovnik for Shabbos and spend the last three days there because there's a seasonal Chabad there. Kosher food is not easy to come by in Croatia and it would make the trip planning much easier. However, after booking the flight, I contacted the Rabbi, but he said that they were not operating there this year. Note: Never book before contacting Chabad!
Because of this, we decided there was no need to stay in the city for Shabbos and instead went to the countryside.


Kosher food:
We relied extensively on the kosher list from Rabbi Kotel Da Don, the chief rabbi. http://www.bet-israel.com/religija/koser-2/ The most recent list was in Croatian, and we spent some time on Google translate beforehand. There is an older one available in English. We also contacted the Chabad Rabbi of Zagreb, who told us that we can basically just buy Barilla pasta and Heinz ketchup. He mentioned a few other things in a different conversation, but I forgot those because we had already decided to use the chief rabbi's kosher list. We also brought meat, milk and cheese in our checked bags, but they were mostly spoiled because of the delayed bags. We bought tons of fruit, eggs, cereal, and pasta. We also brought along an electronic burner stovetop and bought pots and knives in Croatia. Most of the country is along the water and we were easily able to tovel them.
We ended up ordering Shabbos food from Chabad in Montenegro, which cost quite a bit because of the delivery, but ended up being super worth it. Even though Montenegro is a different country, it’s much closer to Dubrovnik than the Chabad in Zagreb.

Now into the trip:

Our bags were crazy overweight and we had resigned to being exorbitantly overcharged, but when we arrived at the check-in counter, we were told to remove about 4 kilo and then we'd be fine. We removed the electronic burner, after being assured that it would be allowed through security. Sure enough, it passed through the security in Tel Aviv and the stopover in Istanbul.

Our flight was delayed on the way out, and we were nervous about the connection. A flight attendant whispered to us not to worry, as our pilot would also be flying the second plane. Our second flight was also delayed, and we didn’t arrive in Zagreb until about 745ish pm. There was not a soul in the airport aside for two border control agents and two customs agents. One of the two checked bags didn't make it, and we had to find the complaints counter. Apparently, there was another guy in the airport.

We had rented a car through rentalcars.com, and I think the company name was Nova. They gave us a free upgrade, and the trip was much more comfortable in a Volkswagen Passat. All my clothes were in the lost bag, so we quickly tried to find an open store. However, on Sundays everything closes by 9 so we missed it by a few minutes. We resigned to getting clothes the next day and handwashed my clothes in the hotel room. The drive from Zagreb to our hotel near Plitvice (pronounced PLIT-VITS-UH) was about two hours. I wish it was daytime so we could’ve seen the scenery, because all we saw was winding country roads and darkness. The hotel (a list of hotels is at the end) had no problem staying up for us and even recommended a place we could buy clothing early the next day. We got to sleep late, and even though we wanted to get to Plitvice by 8 am to beat the crowds, we woke up late. We decided to buy clothes in Sibenik later that day and went straight to the park. Quick tip: If you fly a short stopover, especially with Turkish Airlines, make sure to have baggage insurance and pack a change of clothes in you carry-on.

We got to the park at about 915am and saw bus after bus pulling up and unloading tourists. It was quite a line to get the tickets, which are expensive in the summer (about 250 kuna, or about 40 dollars). Despite all this, it was one of the highlights of the trip. The water is stunningly clear, a vibrant blue. The waterfalls are simply beautiful. The narrow paths even went over some smaller waterfalls. The boat and train rides were pleasant. The maps were clear, except for one point which we made a wrong turn and ended up at the start. We started by Entrance 1 and took Route C, which is about a 5-hour loop, and was just enough for us to see a lot and not get too tired.
Quick tip: Do not miss Plitvice National Park!



The drive from Plitvice to Sibenik was absolutely gorgeous. Dangerous curves were followed by jaw-dropping mountain views. Eventually, the road sloped gracefully to the shores of a beautiful lake, where we stopped to take pictures. On the outskirts of Sibenik, we found a mall with clothes and food. I looked for a t-shirt with words in Croatian but it seems like the whole world only wants English words on them. We then moved onto Sibenik, which is a nice old town built on a mountain alongside the coast. The driving reminded me of driving the streets of Tzfat. Parking lots were all full, so we hung out on the main street (by the harbor) until we snagged a spot from someone leaving. When we finally parked, we had to lug our suitcases up the streets - hundreds of stairs. Despite the snags, we really enjoyed our time there. The place was beautiful and we walked along the water and through the little market of pop-up vendors. It was a nice place to spend our second night. After Turkish Airlines delivered our bag, we went to sleep early for some desperately needed sleep.


Sunset in Sibenik

The next morning, we walked around the area again, ending up by St. Michael’s fortress. The fortress (paid entrance) has stunning views. It looks like it’s also a concert venue, and it’s probably a really cool place for a concert. We then headed out to Krka national park. It was nice, but after Plitvice, it was nothing. The one plus was that you are able to enter the water, which was definitely enjoyable. We then decided to drive along the coast to Split, which was about a half hour longer than the straight route. This was probably the best decision of the trip, and as the views of the oceans and small towns along the shore were amazing. Quick tip: If you rent a car, you must spend time driving the coast.

The hotel in Split had assured us beforehand that there was a place to pull up the car to unload, even though there was no place to park. When we neared the hotel’s street, the streets narrowed until we hit a dead end. We had missed the turnoff, a narrow alleyway. There was no room to make a U-turn, and we had to backup fifty feet, then drive down the alley with my mirrors folded in. A few tough turns later, we arrived at the hotel. I had underestimated the time required to arrive at the hotel, so by the time we unloaded the car, we had just enough time to drive back to the rent-a-car and return the car. But, oh, did I mention that I had to go out the way I came? Also, we were sweating like crazy, and the mosquitoes were hungry.
I manage to turn the car around and faced with a tight turn and a deadline, I scratch the car. A kind local, who spoke no English, directed me out of that mess, but the damage was done. We were running late so we called the rent-a-car guy to let him know we were on the way. The next snag: their parking lot was right across the street from the water, where the funeral of Oliver, Croatia’s most famous singer, was being held. Traffic was incredible, but it was quite an amazing scene. All the boats were sounding their foghorns and people were everywhere, including on the lampposts. When we finally made it into the parking lot, they found a bump on the hood of the car (not us) and totally ignored the scratch on the side (apparently, there were already two scratches there, and we had just added a third). After showing them the pictures I had taken of the vehicle back in Zagreb, the employee remarked, “It’s a banged up car, and it’s late. Let’s go.” Just like that, I breathed a sigh of relief. Quick tip: If you’re driving in any of the cities of Croatia, find out beforehand if it’s an old city and what the driving is like there beforehand.
The old city of Split’s main attraction is the promenade by the water. It’s lined with palm trees and pop-up shops. The Diocletian’s Palace is also on the same street, and there are tons of stores in there also. There are booths lined up near the water, each one advertising day trips. There are benches to sit, and, aside for the smell, it was very pleasant. Like in any old city, it’s worthwhile to roam the streets and get lost a little bit.

Split

Wednesday’s activity was canyoning on the Cetina River, near Omis, 45 minutes from Split. If you’re not familiar with canyoning, you should definitely check out videos on YouTube right now. Basically, it’s going through a canyon – which includes hiking, swimming, cliff jumping, rappelling, or anything else needed. It was started in Colorado, according to our guide, and sometimes called canyoneering. There are a number of companies that offer this in Split, most leaving from the Diocletian’s Palace. One company didn’t let my wife wear a skirt (safety reasons) so we ended up settling with Adventure Dalmatia, who was more than happy to accommodate after we assured them that yes, she could take high steps even though she was wearing a skirt. This is the link to the adventure: https://adventuredalmatia.com/one-day-activities/extreme-canyonin-gon-cetina-river/ The basic canyoning trip goes for 40 euro, and the extreme, which is basically the same exact thing but also includes two abseils (not controlled by you, only controlled by the guide), is 60 euro. We chose the extreme version. There is also a transfer available from split for 15 euro. I really liked how this particular canyoning experience built up, starting with a hike down the into the canyon and each cliff jump gets progressively higher. We had no experience, but it was totally fine.
[One thing to note for tznius issues: the wet suit is extremely thick (to protect you from rocks in the water) but during the hiking part, you can’t be wearing the top half of the suit otherwise you’ll sweat to death. Make sure to wear a thin waterproof layer underneath the suit.]
After the trip, the guides wanted to eat something before the van returned to Split, so they sat us down in a bar and gave us each a free drink. We had packed our own lunch, but the meals there looked so much better than our peanut butter sandwiches. After some delay, they paid for another drink for each of us.
The original plan left Thursday open for any other adventure, like an island-hopping trip. We originally wanted to leave early and go to Hvar for a day, but we were much more content staying in the same hotel for three days. We woke up late on Thursday and felt pretty sore, so we ended up just taking a boat tour around the peninsula. It was a lot cheaper than all the others, obviously, but we were tired and were happy to sit on a boat and do nothing. We even bargained with the captain to let us on a second time for half price.
One of the things we really wanted to do was a photoshoot on an island. We contacted countless photographers in Croatia, even sending some emails in Croatian. We quickly discovered that on an island, the cost would be too prohibitive, and settled on a photographer in Split or Dubrovnik. We ended up deciding on Vjeko in Split because his portfolio was far superior to anyone else’s for anything close to his price range, and because he assured us that he had two places that could satisfy our requirements. http://epicpictures.hr/ He charged 150 euro, was a pleasure to work with, and sent the pictures the next day!
Thursday night, we packed up our stuff and reserved our golf cart taxi for the next day. He charged us crazy price, but we had no other way of getting our bags across the old city at 7 am. I tried to book a carriage pulled by bike, which would have been much more affordable, but they said that there were no cruise ships coming in the next morning, and no one would be working then. The final option, a car, was quickly nixed. I had learned my lesson not to try and get a car near the hotel.

We booked our tickets to Dubrovnik in advance. There are two companies, Jadrolinija and Kapetan Luka, that service this route. We took a 7:30 catamaran, which was perfect to ensure that we don’t run into Shabbos issues and also to give us time to explore Dubrovnik. The catamaran holds a few hundred passengers and stops on a few islands along the way. It also has more than enough room for all the luggage everyone brings aboard. Towards the end of the ride, we realized that we could sit outside, which really improved the journey. To our dismay, the Dubrovnik port was not in the old town, and we had to grab an Uber to get there. We went to the Ploce Gate, not Pile Gate, because the Uber from there to our next lodging would be cheaper and because I had googled a place to store luggage right outside Ploce Gate. We first went down to the water and had lunch. We walked around trying to find an entrance to the walk on the walls, until we realized that the two entrances were located one at each gate. The walls are a must-do for Dubrovnik, though we were quite tired by the end of it.

Dubrovnik

We got another Uber from Dubrovnik to the countryside, about a 15 minute drive away, where we were staying for Shabbos. We had ordered food from the Chabad in Montenegro, and due to a mix-up in the address, we got the food about 20 minutes before Shabbos. The food was surprisingly good and was a good break to have homemade food, and we even ordered fresh bread for the next week’s sandwiches. We also picked some tomatoes and figs in our apartment’s backyard. It’s amazing how 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik, it was completely quiet. If you’re in Dubrovnik for a while, consider exploring the nearby mountains.
Saturday night we went back into Dubrovnik, as Ubers are fairly cheap. We walked around and found a bar on the outside of the wall, along the water. Apparently, during the day, it’s a hot spot for cliff jumping. It was definitely cool to see the city in the night vibe. The only thing I wish we had more time for in Dubrovnik was the cable car to the top of the mountain, which everyone says has fantastic views.

Sunday morning, we took a Jadrolinija boat from the main port in Dubrovnik to Lopud island, which was under an hour ride including stops. There are only a few hundred people living on Lopud, but a lot of tourists come during the day. The rest of the people are guests by the hotel. We stayed in Lafodia Sea Resort, a nice all-inclusive hotel. They had a welcome in our room for our honeymoon, and they even added a discount for a massage and a free chair and umbrella by the beach for our stay. We loved the laid-back atmosphere on the island. We shopped at a local artist’s craft store and found some nice souvenirs. The hotel has a nice beach, and there is another beach at the other end of the island. There are golf cart taxis that take you to the other side of the island if you don’t want to walk. There are restaurants there and even a random massage booth.
The hotel rents out kayaks, and we took a kayak to a nearby island. We also splurged on a private rubber boat sunset ride with a skipper, who took us to the hidden spots around the islands. There are some really cool coves that we never would have found by ourselves. We went to the blue cave which was really amazing. From what I read about the caves near Hvar and Split, those are a tourist trap, so the one near Lopud was pleasantly quiet. There were only two other boats there. We also tried finding the Green Cave, but it was getting dark and the driver had never been there before. I took out his snorkeling equipment, and I think I found it, but chickened out from going in because I couldn’t see anything under the water and was scared of the sharp rocks.


Leaving Lafodia Sea Resort

On Tuesday night, we got a ride on the hotel’s boat to the mainland. The hotel arranged a BMW to be waiting for us at the port. The private transfer was a nice treat after lugging all of our stuff across the country for nine days. The Dubrovnik airport was packed in comparison to Zagreb. The flight out was delayed, and our connection was even shorter than the first one. When we got off the bus into the Istanbul airport, our flight was already on last call, and we had a half hour walk to go. (This is where marathon training comes in handy.) We got to the gate right before they closed the gate. However, the supervisor inexplicably ordered the other employee not to let us on the flight, and shut the door behind her. It was 2 AM, and the next flight was not for another 6 hours. We fought with them, screamed at them, did everything we could think of, but they just said, “Once the door closes, we can’t reopen it.” Apparently, they had taken us off the passenger list when they saw our first flight delayed. As we pressed him for more information, demanding a supervisor, and the works, he kept on messing up in his count of the ticket stubs. He complained to us that we were disturbing him from doing his job, to which we responded, just let us on, and we won’t bother you anymore. Two minutes later, we were on the plane. Oh, and of course, both bags didn’t make it.
Four months later, and hours spent on the phone with Chase/Eclaims, we were finally reimbursed for the shopping spree we took from the total of three delayed bags and one broken bag.
All in all, we had a great time. Croatia is a great mix of fun stuff to do, stunning sights to see, and chilled relaxation. We managed to do it fairly affordably, and allowed ourselves to spend on the island. We ate quite well despite the difficulty getting food, and we were happy to eat out when we got back to Israel. We highly recommend Croatia to anyone who can get past the food thing. We’re still raving about it months later.

Places we stayed:
Rakovica (Plitvice) – 4 Seasons Guest house
Sibenik – Guest House Ivan
Split (3 nights) – Vida Boutique Hotel
Gornji Brgat (Dubrovnik-2 nights) – Apartment Alex
Lopud Island (2 nights)– Lafodia Sea Resort

Just a few final notes:
I used www.FrankAboutCroatia.com a lot for planning. In the summertime, the price of the Kuna is raised so it’s about 6.3 Kuna for every US dollar. Credit card is widely accepted – we had to pay cash for the boat tour in Split, though there was an ATM right there. The euro is accepted at larger tourist attractions, like the canyoning place. I exclusively used www.booking.com for booking lodgings. If you want any more planning help, I’m happy to assist you with that also.
 Finally, I learned some Croatian before going, but it’s totally not necessary unless you’re in the supermarket. In fact, it’s really cool to see a Croat native and a Dutch tourist struggling to communicate with each other in English. The two words you need to know in order to make someone smile are “Bok” – (hello and goodbye) and “Hvala” – (thank you). Also, Sibenik is pronounced Shibenik because it has that squiggly thing on top of the ‘s’. The ‘j’ is pronounced like a ‘y’. Also, if there’s a line on top of a ‘c’ it’s pronounced “ch” as in chili. And lastly, the ‘H’ is pronounced like the guttural “ch” or “kh” as in “chesky”, so hvala is said “chvala”.

Thanks for reading! Hvala! Bok!
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 10:08:00 AM by JuryDuty »
If only we had jury duty every day, then we'd have time to write trip reports about the entire universe.

Offline ludmila

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Re: Croatia Master Thread
« Reply #34 on: December 29, 2018, 01:55:44 AM »
Thanks for the TR and pictures.
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
Pele Good,Maradona Better, George Best.

Offline Joe4007

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Re: Croatia Master Thread
« Reply #35 on: December 29, 2018, 11:59:26 PM »
Great report. Thanks for sharing.