Shoulder season travel has become a thing while living in Summit County, CO. Shoulder season is basically when the ski slopes are closed and the weather is too shitty to do much of anything else (~May); or it’s getting frosty and kinda snowy but the slopes aren’t open yet because there isn’t enough snow and no one feels like hiking in the mud (~mid Oct – mid Nov).
For May this year I dragged K for a whirlwind tour of a few of the former Yugoslavia countries: Croatia, Montenegro , Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We spent most of our time on Croatia and Slovenia. The others were just day trips.
I’m only going to write about my favorites since that’s what I mostly have photos for, plus I’m lazy.
Love the red roofs
Dubrovnik was fun to visit. I’ve always wanted to go to Croatia before the GoT craze. I don’t even watch GoT so I don’t have any interesting references to make. We did see people walking around with a photo book of scenes from the show and reenacting them. People are weird.
Can’t get enough of the red roofs
Favorites things from Dubrovnik:
- Food, delicious delicious seafood and meats
- Walking around the city walls (I recommend getting there early, we had the wall mostly to ourselves in the morning)
- Wandering around the city when the tourist buses leave, and after a rain, the whole place was glistening
Not favorite things: CROWDS. Definitely go before the tourist buses arrive or after they leave. Parking ($$$$) and driving around was painful (roads near and around town were congested and narrow, we stayed at a hotel outside of the town since it was significantly cheaper and nicer).
Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)
I’ve always wanted to go to Croatia because of this park. Over the years I’ve seen many pictures and wanted to go see it. Happy to report that it is just as pretty in person as in the photos. I’m also grateful for the Rick Steve’s Croatia guide, his recommendation for the walking route to follow was perfect. (The “map” provided by the park is poor excuse of a map, I did read many rants online by other people saying for the prices they charge their maps and signage were atrocious, I agree.). Confusing navigation aside, the waterfalls were soooo purty, plus we went late in the day and avoided most of the crowds (yes, I try and avoid crowds as much as possible, it stresses me out). It started raining a little when we were there, weather wasn’t perfect, but still so beautiful and peaceful. I’d love to come back here again in the winter.
Never ending waterfalls
Loved these wooden boardwalks
Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
We only did a day trip to Mostar, and I’m wondering when we can go back to Bosnia to spend more time there. It was great to wander around, lots of history, delicious (and cheap) food, and just… different. I think I found the fact that it still had a bit of evidence from the recent-ish (early 1990s) wars clearly visible (bombed buildings…), and yet we felt safe in the city made it different and curiosity grabbing. There were also sad parts, such as the cemetery for people who died in the wars and everyone was around 20 years old when they died in battle. Definitely reminds one how lucky they are…
The most iconic site in Mostar is probably the bridge. The original Stari Most (old bridge) was built in the 16th century, until it was bombed in 1993 during the war. The city rebuilt it using international funds and left pieces of the old bridge along the river bank. The wreckage was a bit eerie. They also had divers who would jump down from the bridge into the river, after collecting a bit of money from the tourists, of course.
I wish I took more photos in Slovenia, I was getting photo fatigue (excuses, excuses). We visited Ljubljana, Soca Valley (to stay and eat at Hiša Franko), and also went to Lake Bled. These were all highlights!
Ljubljana is the perfect European city (to me). Great cafes to chill and have a glass of wine and people watch, very walk-able, beautiful, great food (relatively inexpensive, although my friend who is from Slovenia tells me that wages are quite low). The produce at the farmers markets looked awesome. I’d love to come back here and just hang out for a while.
I really enjoyed our stay and meals at Hiša Franko. I learned about the place from my Slovenian friend, who I think learned about it from the Netflix Chef’s Table series (the chef Ana Roš has also won numerous “best female chef” awards). The dinner was seafood heavy, which made K not as happy. Everything was cooked expertly (delirious ingredients too) and the wine pairings were top notch. I enjoyed how they mostly served local wines (new grapes for me!). The breakfast was really amazing (really wish I had photos…). Odd story, we ran into this couple from New Jersey (American husband, wife from Hong Kong!), he saw the Netflix episode on the restaurant and had to come here. They were staying 3 nights just so he could enjoy dinner by the chef 3 times! I had fun chatting with the wife in Cantonese in the middle of Slovenia. I learned a bit about WWI from visiting Soca Valley. Apparently this valley was a big contention spot during WWI. I would like to revisit and visit the museums and learn more about WWI history (and stay at Hiša Franko again). Traveling and learning about history is fun. (I’m weird…)
We then went to Lake Bled, which was pretty and relaxing to walk around, we also drove to nearby Lake Bohinj one day (also pretty). We rented an AirBnB right above a bakery (dangerous, OMG). The tourist information desk at Lake Bled was really helpful. They gave us good tips on where to drive to and hikes to do for good views, and also kept on warning us against trying to summit the ~10k ft peaks nearby. This cracked me up. (Don’t ask me where the photos are). Also ate too many of those cream cakes (Kremsnita). SO GOOD. I oddly saw a lot of Koreans at Lake Bled, I had no idea Slovenia was a thing for them.
Almost everywhere we visited I said I wanted to go back for longer, so I’d call this trip a success!