Category Archives: Teodora's Travels

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A Taste of Croatia & Slovenia

Posted by Teodora Antunovich on October 02, 2018

In August I had the pleasure of hosting a lovely small group of New Zealanders on our Tour & Cruise ‘A Taste of Croatia & Slovenia’. We designed a pure, authentic itinerary showcasing the best of Croatia and Slovenia.

Croatia Times Travel is a New Zealand owned and operated company with a Croatian heritage. We are truly passionate about Croatia and its surrounding destinations, sharing these with our customers and crafting extraordinary experiences for their travels.

The 3-week experience combined a two-week coach tour travelling from Zagreb to Split, followed by a one-week small ship cruise, finishing in Dubrovnik.

Our journey kicked off in Zagreb with a guided walking tour by our wonderful Tour Director, Vanja. A true born local, Vanja enthralled us with the best parts of the city. The short funicular ride joining the lower and upper town was delightful, but exploring the baroque city centre with Austro-Hungarian architecture was as much a highlight as Vanja’s stories. We spent the following afternoon in the Hrvatasko Zagorje region exploring Varaždin, famous for its 14th century castle. We nearly had the town to ourselves as we strolled the streets sampling domestic honey and brandy and enjoying delicacies in the town square.

Our visit to Slovenia was special. Staying in the centre of Ljubljana placed us in the heart of local culture with its infectiously lively atmosphere. Our hotel led into the main square of the city and the famous Dragon Bridge connecting to the medieval Old Town. Vibrant colours, music, market stalls, and a friendly mix of locals and tourists were right outside our door. A quiet evening at a picturesque bar on the river, sampling locally brewed beer and cocktails, was the perfect nightcap.

Lake Bled was another standout. Perfect weather highlighted incredible vistas of the Julian Alps framing the lake and island, coloured in dreamy blues and greens. The Pletna Boat ride to Bled Island gave us the opportunity to experience this transportation unique to Bled. As with Venetian gondolas, Pletna boats and their operation are a legacy handed down through family generations.

Returning to Croatia, we passed through the impressive subterranean underworld of the Postojna Caves, one of the largest karst caves in Europe. Opened in 1872, the complex infrastructure offers a fascinating subterranean paradise. We later visited one of the country’s most prestigious wineries in the Istria region to taste renowned Malvazija wine, local cheeses, salamis and olive oil, before arriving in Poreč for four glorious nights. Located on the coast of Istria, our hotel on the Riviera overlooked the gorgeous Adriatic Sea. Our stay was enriching as we engaged in all the region’s offerings, including its captivating history strongly influenced by Venetian, Roman and Austro-Hungarian predecessors.

Pula was next with its impressive Roman Amphitheatre and winding alleyways, followed by the gorgeous old fisherman’s town of Rovinj. The famous truffles at Motovun absolutely had to be tasted before heading to an Italian-style lunch in a traditional Istrian restaurant. We dined on delicacies including handmade fuži pasta with truffles, gnocchi with meat sauce, carpaccio of beef and zucchini, a sensational array of local desserts and regional wine. A local Olive Oil producer taught us the craft of olive oil tasting, before we had our first dip in the Adriatic Sea and relaxed at the beach. A sensational day was also spent exploring Venice.

En-route to the Plitvice Lakes, we enjoyed a night in Opatija, an ancient playground of  Austro-Hungarian nobility. After the diversity of history, landscapes and cuisine of other regions, it was refreshing to visit the National Park and appreciate its natural wonders. The following day we headed to the Dalmatia region for two nights in Zadar, famous for its Old Town of Roman, Venetian and Byzantine ruins and beautiful promenade. The latter is an award-winning urban space with Salutations to the Sun and Sea Organs. 

En-route to Split we stopped in Šibenik, home to a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site - St James Cathedral. We spent our final evening of the tour dining on a splendid terrace overlooking the Split promenade and Old Town. Mediterranean influenced cuisine included a gorgeous tuna carpaccio, handmade gnocchi and beef grilled on a wood-fire barbeque.

Finally, we set sail on our Small Ship Cruise aboard MS Mama Marija, a sparkling new vessel for 2018. For the next seven days we blissfully cruised along the stunning Dalmatian coastline, Island Hopping from Trogir to Brač, Vis, Hvar, Mljet and Korčula before ending in Dubrovnik. Relaxing days onboard included swimming in beautiful bays before arriving to our overnight ports mid-afternoon. Exploring in the afternoon sunshine gave way to evenings dining in local restaurants and sauntering through alleyways, before catching richly-layered sunsets from the coast. It’s truly the best of both worlds - from mornings on azure seas to evening sunsets from different harbours, this dazzling cruise was the perfect end to a spectacular experience, never to be forgotten.



Experiencing the Divine Amalfi Coastline by Boat

Posted by Teodora Antunovich on August 06, 2017

To understand the true beauty of the Amalfi Coastline, you really must experience it for yourself. The breathtaking images cannot do this region justice! 

55km of “divine coast” is comprised of 13 towns: Amalfi, Atrani, Cetara, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Maiori, Minori, Positano, Praiaiano, Ravello, Scala, Tramonti and Vietri sul Mare. Each town has unique traditions but they are connected by a signature character. Charming little villas nestle in the countryside in hues of pastel and white. Situated against a backdrop of the most breathtaking cliffs, crisp blue sky and sparkling waves frame the coastline like a painting.

The absolute best way to travel through this wondrous destination is by boat. There is something so romantic and luxurious about viewing the Amalfi Coast by sea. During our stay in Positano, we joined two small-group boat tours, each with a different focus.

Departing from Positano, we cruised on a small speedboat to Capri island for the first tour. The small boat allowed us to pause along the way and explore little grottos. The water was refreshingly cool and clear for a swim, with plenty of time to dry off before arriving to Capri. Although the trip was supposed to include a visit to the famous Blue Cave (or Blue Grotto) we chose to forego the visit because of the long wait to get in. (This is often the case during a visit in high season.) To reach the blue cave, your tour boat must cue in a line, and once you reach the "top" you may enter the cave in a small rowboat. We had more fun exploring the small grottos on the tour!

The gondola ride up to Anacapri is a must-do! It is a trip for the brave - a single seat chairlift to the top of a mountain. Despite being afraid of heights, the solo ride up was worth it to see the spectacular view. The ride back down was a lot less scary than going up!

Our second boat tour focused on immersion in the true beauty and history of the Amalfi Coast. We had a chance to hear fascinating facts and stories from the guide, swim in more beautiful grottos and discover hidden beaches along the way. Spotting villas of celebrities, such as Sophia Loren, was a treat for anyone who loves spectacular design and luxury.

A day can’t be completed without a relaxed meal of local flavours, so we stopped at a beach club near Praiano. Lunch included a glass of Campania Region wine and spaghetti served with freshly caught lobster. Delicious!

Experiencing the Amalfi Coastline by boat allows you to see the towns in their most raw forms, and is my top recommended tour. You can truly appreciate the small fishing villages with their incredible villas, and learning history from a local as you cruise the coast is simply magic.


A Taste of Zagreb

Posted by Teodora Antunovich on August 06, 2017

Croatia is one of the most talked-about destinations of 2017. The hype of Game of Thrones and Dubrovnik’s Old Town shows no signs of slowing down, and for good reason! With its iconic fortified walls, it is a spectacular historic sight and not to be missed.

The Dalmatian islands are some of my favourites as well. Small Ship Cruising along the gorgeous Adriatic coastline, feeling sparkling sun on my skin, and jumping into impossibly blue water leaves me daydreaming all year!

Beyond those well-known destinations, another area of this speci­al country is gaining momentum - shining a spotlight on Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb.

This year, Zagreb was recognised as the number one must-visit destination in Europe by Lonely Planet. It was also voted as hosting the best Christmas Markets in Europe for the last 2 years running. No longer is Zagreb a fly-by-night location, it is officially the ultimate city-break. Offering culture, arts, food and endless incredible coffee which are the perfect combination for a trip.

Picturesque architecture surrounds you at every moment. A mix of tidy 18th and 19th century Austro-Hungarian buildings and interesting old socialist buildings are complemented by lush parks, lively squares and city markets.

As a landlocked city, you might think the locals leave for the coast all summer, but summertime in Zagreb is one of the liveliest times to visit. As you walk through the city (easily and best experienced by foot) you may find yourself mingling with the locals while enjoying many of the summer festivals on offer.

Approach the city’s main square, Ban Jelačić, and be amazed by a performance of traditional Croatian Folklore dancing and singing. Continue to Upper Town and Strossmayer Promenade for live music and theatre performances. Visit Art Park and sample a craft beer or cocktail as you walk through a sculpture exhibition, or even join in on a graffiti art workshop!

Zagreb is not only a city to be visited in the summer. The city is taking initiative to have it recognised as a year-round destination. Springtime is gorgeous - you can meander through historical parks and visit the stunning Botanical Gardens. Winter is pure magic at the famous Christmas Markets, as the city is blanketed in falling snow.

On my most recent visit to Zagreb, I wanted to experience the increasingly acclaimed food and drink scene. To make our visit special, we stayed at the historic and luxurious Esplanade Zagreb Hotel. This was the centre of Zagreb social life during the 1920’s. Special guests included travellers on the famous passenger train, the Orient Express, and icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock and Queen Elizabeth II.

Today the Esplanade is considered a monument of the city and is still a social gathering point for travellers and locals to enjoy the 1925 Lounge & Cocktail Bar, Le Bistro Esplanade and the famous fine dining restaurant Zinfandel’s.

Dining at Zinfandel’s was a treat. Named after the grape, exported from Dalmatia to America in the early 19th century, the name represents the connecting of cultures at the restaurant. Zinfandel is now one of the most notable grape varieties of wines produced in Napa Valley, California, and the restaurant is proud to bear the name.

Our experience dining at Zinfandel’s was memorable from start to finish. Each dish showcased different flavours of the Croatian regions. Steamed potato dumplings, a Zagreb classic, were paired with a main of poached cuttlefish which is often served in a black risotto. This dish is traditionally served along the Adriatic coast, from Istria to Dalmatia. Our waiter and renowned sommelier recommended a divine Malvazija wine from Istria, to complete the flavours perfectly.

The next morning, we visited a local bakery to sample fresh pastries such as Burek, a delicious savoury meat or cheese pastry that you must try when visiting Croatia or the Balkan countries. This was followed by a leisurely fresh coffee in Tkalčićeva Street, which is lined with cafes and bars and frequented by the locals.

Later that evening we continued enjoying the theme of modern cuisine that Zagreb has to offer and headed to 50 A Burger & Champagne Bar. Similar to New Zealand, Croatia has embraced the popularity of good quality, memorable burgers. The menu payed homage to different regions of Croatia, offering burgers such as ‘Hvar,’ The Mediterranean’ and ‘Le Truffe.’ I was drawn to the Le Truffe, loaded with fresh truffles, truffle cheese and a truffle aioli. Truffles grown in the Istria region are a delicacy and a favourite of mine. They truly did not disappoint in this delicious burger form, and it’s an ideal way to top off the culinary experience.

There is no excuse not to include Zagreb on your itinerary when visiting Croatia! Emirates and Qatar now fly direct from their main hubs, which means only two flights to travel there from New Zealand. Plenty of European carriers also stop there regularly, so you can seek out affordable fares. Enjoy the full flavours of Croatia and make sure to experience this unique and delicious little city.

Hotel Conca D'Oro - Positano Hotel Feature

Posted by Teodora Antunovich on July 07, 2017

From the moment you reach Positano you know you are in the one of the most beautiful places in the world. The landscapes, the beautiful cliff top houses, and of course the view of the Mediterranean Sea are all breathtaking and unique. Staying at our accommodation at Hotel Conca D’Oro absolutely complimented these surroundings.

Upon arrival we received a warm welcome from the porter who met us on the main road and incredibly managed to carry our two large suitcases up 107 steps to the hotel! The hostess gave us the grand tour, leading us from the charming breakfast and restaurant terrace to the relaxing sun terrace, decked with sunbeds and a refreshing cool jacuzzi perfect for escaping the heat.

After settling into our spacious room, a faint buzz announced a visitor. To our surprise it was a waiter from the hotel staff surprising us with a complimentary bottle of Prosecco on ice. This experience kept getting better! It turns out if you book the superior room, deluxe or the honeymoon suite, the lovely Prosecco is included as a little extra touch.

The view from the room (and the entire hotel) is truly sensational. Situated near the top of the main road in Positano, it only took about 15 minutes to walk down to the beach and main town. While walking to the centre, it felt easy to lose ourselves in the many boutique stores selling dreamy linen, lace clothing, local souvenirs and of course Limoncello.

Our final night was topped off by enjoying a long candlelit dinner at the hotel restaurant. Seated on the terrace, overlooking the whole of Positano, it could not be a more perfect night. The food was spectacular as well! We enjoyed a selection of local seafood, handmade gnocchi and a refreshing Caprese Salad.

Although it is only a 3-star hotel, Conca D’Oro has a reputation as being more beautiful and of a higher standard than many of the 4-star hotels in the area. With its fresh coat of peachy paint for the summer season and welcoming atmosphere, it’s the perfect respite during your holiday!

6 Adriatic Must Haves

Posted by Teodora Antunovich on June 25, 2017

These are my must-have items for your suitcase when visiting Italy and Croatia's Adriatic this summer.

1.       Turkish Towel

These trendy threads are the most versatile item to pack for your summer travels. Turkish towels pack small, dry quickly and become softer with every wash. They are perfect for lounging on the beach and double as a scarf or sarong!

2.       Linen Shirt

You cannot go wrong with a white linen shirt for any occasion. The natural fibres breathe, keeping you cool and protecting your skin from the sun. The white shirt is also a style classic  - layer it as a cover-up over your swimwear, tucked into your jeans or tied over a summer dress. Whether you’re sailing on a yacht or dressing up for an evening at dinner, it’s perfect for hot days or balmy nights.

3.       Summer Dress

Definitely pack a breezy summer dress to take you anywhere from sightseeing to romantic evenings. Choose something light and classy – dress up with heels or get comfortable with tennis shoes for your tours. It’s a chance to play with your wardrobe, so don’t be afraid to go for patterns or colour!

4.       White Sneakers

These are your daytime must-have for sightseeing. At home on boats, walking tours and relaxing on a beach, pair these with denim or your staple summer dress. I never travel without them.

5.       Bath Bag

It helps to stay organised on your busy trips. Always pack a gorgeous bath bag – how dreamy are the florals and whites! This will keep your suitcase free of clutter, and make you smile every time you get ready for the day.

6.       Statement Earrings

This little item will elevate anything you pair it with. Add instant charm to your casual daywear or evening outfits. I’m packing my favourite pair!

Turkish towel - Redcurrent

Linen Shirt – The Reformation

Dress – The Reformation

Sneakers – Superga

Bath Bag – Ruby

Earrings - Ruby