Monday, November 9, 2015

2355. Travel Stories - Balkans Adventure Tour - Drinking water free or not?


EU Holidays - 11 days 8 nights  Noc 5-15


• ‘Skadarlija’, St. Sava Temple, Belgrade Fortress
• National Parliament of Serbia, Old Palace, National Theatre, National Museum, Terazije Square, Kralja Milana Street, Kneza Miloša Street, May 25th Museum
• Old Town, Sarajevo War Tunnel
• Old Bridge, Cejvan Cehaj Mosque, Old Bazaar, Turkish House
• Počitelj Tower
• Old Town, Rector’s Palace, Dubvronik City Walls, Onofrios Fountains
• Diocletian’s Palace (Entrance included)
• Peristil Square
• Temple of Jupiter
(Entrance included)
• Western Quay, Sea Organ, Monument to the Sun, St. Donatus Church, Roman Forum, St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church, Lion’s Gate
• King Tomislav Square, Stone Gate, St. Mark’s Square, Church of St. Mark, Museum of Broken Relationships, Strossmayer Promenade, Zagreb Cathedral, Ban Jelačić Square, Dolac Market
• Old Town, Central Market, Town Hall, Robba’s Fountain, Triple Bridge, Dragon Bridge, Ljubljana Castle, Lake Bled, Postojna Cave


DAY 1 - SINGAPORE • BUDAPEST (Meals on Board)
Assemble at Changi airport and take-off to the capital city of Hungary, Budapest.
DAY 2 - BUDAPEST • BELGRADE (Meals on Board, Dinner)
Travel to the capital of Serbia, Belgrade and dine in the bohemian quarter ‘Skadarlija’, where many famous people and celebrities have visited.
DAY 3 - BELGRADE • SARAJEVO (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Kick off the day with a sightseeing tour of Belgrade, also known as the ‘Gateway to the Balkans’ – pay a visit to famous attractions such as St. Sava Temple, Belgrade Fortress,
the National Parliament of Serbia, the Old Palace, the National Theatre, the National Museum, Terazije Square, Kralja Milana Street, Kneza Miloša Street and last but not least, the May 25th Museum. Thereafter, cross over to Bosnia and Herzegovina and head for its capital, Sarajevo. Enjoy the rest of the day free at leisure to explore the historic Old Town and gain an insight into events of Sarajevo’s turbulent past.
DAY 4 - SARAJEVO • MOSTAR (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Make your way to the Sarajevo War Tunnel for a visceral wartime experience of the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s. Following that, head out to Mostar, a picturesque city spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River. Follow the tour guide and amble along the magnificent Old Bridge for an extraordinary panorama over the river, visit the oldest mosque in Mostar – Cejvan Cehaj Mosque, bask in the lively atmosphere of the Old Bazaar, and drop by the 350-year-old Turkish House
DAY 5 - MOSTAR • STON • DUBROVNIK (Breakfast, Lunch – Seafood Risotto and Oysters Tasting, Dinner)
Begin the day with a photo-stop at the Počitelj tower located in a beautiful medieval town where Mediterranean and Oriental architectural styles intertwine. Make a brief stop in Ston for a sumptuous feast of seafood risotto and oysters for lunch, before continuing along the Dalmatian coast to arrive in Dubrovnik, a late-medieval walled city fronting the Adriatic Sea. Once you arrive, breeze into the stunning Old Town where you can admire the extensive monuments of different architectural styles. Let your tour guide lead the way as you explore Dubrovnik – take in the sights of the Rectors Palace, the Dubrovnik City Walls, the Onofrios Fountains, and the Dominican and Franciscan Monasteries.
DAY 6 - DUBROVNIK • SPLIT • ZADAR (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Ramble through the Croatian countryside to wind up in Split, a town on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast that was founded by the Emperor Diocletian in AD305 to construct his retirement palace. Have a ball of a time touring this seaside city with a guide, who will bring you to enter the massive Diocletian’s Palace and explore all its nooks and crannies, including the remains of the original palace, the Peristil Square as well as enter the Temple of Jupiter. Then, continue on to Zadar, a city built in the centre of the Croatian Adriatic with three thousand years of tumultuous history. Embark on a guided promenade about the city and visit the Western Quay for an up-close look at the Sea Organ and the Monument to the Sun, followed by St. Donatus Church, the Roman Forum, St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church and the Lion’s Gate.
A drive through the Croatian highlands reveals splendid alpine scenery as you arrive in one of Europe’s most impressive national parks – the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Take pleasure in a guided tour of the beautiful landscapes within the UNESCO National Heritage park, adorned with sixteen lakes that are interconnected by a series of waterfalls and deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species. Savour the riveting beauty of nature from a different perspective on the waters as you join a cruise tour, before continuing on the road to the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. Start off with a guided walking tour of the Upper and Lower Town – catch a glimpse of top attractions like the King Tomislav Square, the Stone Gate, St. Mark’s Square and the Church of St. Mark, the one-of-akind Museum of Broken Relationships, the Strossmayer Promenade, Zagreb CathedralBan Jelačić Square and Dolac Market.

DAY 8 - ZAGREB • LAKE BLED • LJUBLJANA (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Make your way to Lake Bled in the Julian Alps for a scenic lunch in its clifftop castle for a picture-perfect vista of glistening waters and the surrounding natural beauty. Next, proceed towards the capital of SloveniaLjubljana. A modern capital with small-town friendliness and atmosphere, Ljubljana is a picturesque gem graced with gorgeous alabaster bridges across the Ljubljana River and decorative Baroque facades. Embark on a guided tour to see the Old Town for some of the best-preserved medieval houses
and visit the open-air Central Market, the baroque Town Hall, the beautiful Robba’s Fountain, and the grandiose Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge. Lastly, take the funicular up to the stately Ljubljana Castle for an outstanding view over the city.
DAY 9 - LJUBLJANA • POSTOJNA • VENICE (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Journey to the town of Postojna, and embark on a unique cave tour of the renowned Postojna Cave – one of the world’s largest karst monuments. Board the unique cave railway for an exciting adventure through dark passages to the
Great Mountain, where you disembark and continue on foot across the Russian Bridge into the caves comprising of the Spaghetti Hall, the White Hall and the Red Hall. Press on further to view the renowned stalagmite in the Brilliant Passage and get a look at the Vivarium Proteus, otherwise known as the human fish. Then, you may wish to make an optional trip to the Predjama Castle before we proceed to Venice for the night.
DAY 10 - VENICE • SINGAPORE (Breakfast, Meals on Board)
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure till it is time to transfer to the airport for your flight home. You may also wish to pay an optional visit to the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet for some last minute shopping.
We hope you enjoyed your vacation with EU Holidays and we look forward to seeing you again for your next trip

What makes this travel interesting for me but unhappy for others are:
1. Luftansa cabin crew strike on the night of travel on Nov 5. We had to fly by SIA to Istanbul and was not delayed in our itinerary. We prefer SIA but in this Balkans Tour, we had to fly Luftansa. There was no strike on the Nov 15,return trip and so we reached Singapore from Vienna and Frankfurt by Luftansa. The cabin crew stopped striking on Nov 14. 

2. Mostar Hotel - Pellegrino.Hotel which is a small serviced apartment of around 12 units.
I like the big spacious room and big windows. The biggest room of all the hotels.
However, the Singaporeans complained about the need to push their luggages for around 10 minutes from the coach to the hotel. However, the hotel had 2 strong men to carry up the luggages to the rooms.,

The need to get 2 keys - one key for the bedroom and one for the main door (i.e. no electronic access cards), the lack of hot water, the noisy aircon compressors outside the window when they had to open the windows to get the cool air in as the air condition was not working in winter. However, my room air-conditioner worked and I had no noisy aircond compressors outside my room. l stayed in the 5th floor. I had weak knees and had to walk up 5 flights of stairs twice. One time to go to the room and another time to go back to the room after dinner. I had carried my camera and notebook computer bag and accessories which weighed around 4 kg. It is light weight if you don't have weak knees and backache sitting inside the coach for 7 straight hours at the beginning of the journey.

The dinners are usually inside hotels in this Balkan Tours unlike in Western European tours. No Chinese restaurant food which is Ok with me.

But in this Hotel, we had to walk 5 minutes to the outside restaurant. My group dared not order the water as we thought we had to pay in local currency and we did not want to keep the local coins. Or we were cost conscious or cheapskates.  We did not ask our tour leader whether water was part of the meal as he had paid for the water in an earlier meal. This reflected poor management communications to the travellers as drinking water is free in some hotels.

All waited for the dessert after the main course of chicken. None came. "Since you all did not order drinking water, you do not get dessert," I said. We had a good laugh as we walked back to the Hotel. We went inside a supermarket and since they did not accept euros, we did not buy anything.

 The tour leader may need to announce as to whether drinking water during meals is free or not. He did pay for water for us at one meal and so we should not ask for more freebies.



 Queen Astoria Design Hotel, Belgrade
A boutique hotel with a lift door that opens outwards.
Excellent dinner varieties

As Luftansa cabin crew were on strike on Nov 5, the night of our departure, we flew by SIA and arrived in Istanbul. This Aeroflot airline is rare in Singapore Changi Airport but it was operating in Singapore some 15 years ago.

 The coach was stationary while waiting for its turn to cross the Bosnia border. The sun set and this was the best of all pics taken of the sunset colours. No photography allowed at the border. The guards may get upset.


Nov 10, 2015

Last night, checked in the Grand Hotel Park, Dubrovnik. Serving big tour groups and modern.
Double room seaside 1,500,00-1,900,00 kn
Modern hotel with grand dining room for over 100 tables.
Large artwork on wall with unique artwork to make it memorable. Stray cats ran into lobby. No problem. Many are fed by people.

Room has all the power points and mini-bar has whisky and wine.
There is the important holder for the guest to place the heavy luggage (image), but it was hidden behind the curtain recess beside the desk (image).
Bidet as in other hotels. Surprisingly, TV screen is small.

Pastel colours of wall. Dark brown vinyl tiled like floor. Mini-bar stocked with alcoholic drinks, not just soft drinks. 
No airconditioning as room is centrally heated. Many Singaporeans are not aware that some European hotels do not provide air con to cool the room in winter. The room is stuffy due to the central heating. Open the door in this room which has the balcony. Risk of insects coming in, but none seen.

Nov 9, 2015
Hotel Peregrino
Memorable Mostar hotel for complaining Singaporeans.
5 levels, around 14 units 
I was in room 402. Got to climb up 5 levels. No elevator. Porter carries up luggages.
No hot water in this room but some guest have it.
Central heating. Has airconditioning but the one below does not have it and complain of compressor noise when the couple opened the windows to let in cool air.
Needs a key to get out of main door of hotel. Security reasons as there are gypsies who pick-pocket tourists. Another key to lock the room. No electronic card access. Dining is out in another restaurant which did not serve dessert as expected by us.

Nov 7, 2015
Good hotel. Queen Astoria Design Hotel, Belgrade.


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