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31 days in Croatia and Slovenia Sept/Nov. 2021

Long Report warning. Spoiler alert: We had a Wonderful time and were not ready to come home after a month away. :) I'll break this into sections: General Trip Report starting with Itinerary; Packing; General Lessons Learned; Travel during Pandemic Times; I can't cover it all so I'll include a bulleted list of favorite moments and am happy to provide feedback on request.
Overall, I would agree with many other comments that I've seen that may not be the time for travel for everyone. There are extra hoops to go through, last minute changes, and information to keep updated on. For us, all the extra effort was worth it and we're glad we went.

September 23 - October 23 Croatia, Slovenia, a few days in Italy - total travel 31 days
Flights:
PUW > SEA > FRA > Dubrovnik
Ljubljana > FRA > SEA > GEG
2 people, carry-ons only. This was our first time in Croatia and Slovenia-we've been to Italy several times.
We had originally planned a trip in May of 2020 to include Slovenia, Croatia, ending in Italy with a few days in Venice & fly home from Florence. We discussed and discussed about rescheduling to Fall 2021, and for a myriad of reasons, we went ahead with the travel, albeit with an amended itinerary. '1st final' decision to go ahead was on July 4th, deposits put down and reservations solidified. Then as D variant popped up and numbers began to rise, also increasing the possibility of unknowns, we went around and around about whether to go ahead or stay home. 'Final-final' decision to go ahead was about 2 weeks before departure, around the first week of September. We've always traveled independently using RS guide books, but this time we thought it best to let someone else do some of the hard work of planning around what is open, current restrictions, boarder crossings, etc. And we're thankful for their efforts! We finalized on a 7 day small boat cruise, and a 10 day food and wine tour; 2 weeks [broken up] on our own.
Itinerary Overview:
Landed Dubrovnik, quick overnight then onto a Sail Croatia boat, the Esperanza, for 7 days island hopping the Dalmatian coast, ending in Split (stops at Mljet, Korcula, Vela Luka, Vis, Hvar, Stari Grad)
Plitvice Lakes and Waterfalls
3 days in Zagreb
Boarder crossing into Slovenia (EU) - 2 days in Ljubljana
10-day food and wine tour (8 people): Brda region and Karst; a few day trips into Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy; Vipava valley; back into Croatia for 3 days in Istria; ending in Eastern Slovenia around Maribor and Ptju.
We then picked up a rental car at LJU
Lake Bled (2 nights at Villa Bled)
Across Vrsic pass and on to 2 nights homebased in Kobarid
Ending with 2 more nights in Ljubljana (see lessons learned)
When reflecting upon the itinerary after we got home, there may have been some 'Revenge Travel' mentality happening haha. Even though I don't really like that term, it probably best captures the mielleux of our trip.
Itinerary Details:
We started with a week on a small boat cruise [Dubrovnik to Split] visiting a different island each day, breakfast and lunch on the boat with dinner on our own in the ports, and swim stops each day. The swimming was glorious, not as warm as Monterosso al Mare mid-September (previous trip), but for the end of September, the water felt great. The boat capacity is 38 ppl, there were only 12 other people on our week. And for the first time since February 2020, we truly relaxed. In the ports we encountered very few other Americans. It was definitely a positive experience for getting a taste of multiple islands!

(continued in comments below)

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Itinerary Details continued:
From Split, we went to Plitvice Park for most of one day, and then on to Zagreb. From an itinerary planning standpoint, this was challenging. We wanted to spend plenty of time at Plitvice, but we also needed transportation from Split to Zagreb, and didn't really want to overnight at Plitvice. So we opted for a local guide who picked us up at the port in Split, helped us navigate Plitvice, and dropped us less than a block from our airbnb in Zagreb. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Plitvice is amazing and something I'd been looking forward to for many years. The private guide solved several problems and we were able to relax and enjoy.
We had 3 really fun days in Zagreb, then on to Ljubljana. We didn't quite know what to expect with the ground boarder crossing from Croatia (non-Schengen) to Slovenia, but it went smoothly and no problems. Passports and vax cards, easy and no line mid-morning on a Tuesday.
After orienting ourselves to Ljubljana and a lunch of venison, we went to Ljubljana Castle. There was nobody there, it was eerie being in that huge castle complex with only about 6 other visitors. I braved my fear of heights and ascended to the top of the tower. What a view! Totally worth facing the acrophobia. {see Lessons Learned.} I started hearing lots of people way, way down below, near Prešeren Square and near Kongresni square, and thought it was a parade or a football celebration. But it quickly became apparent that things were not so friendly, the crowd sounded agitated, and then we saw the police in riot gear in both squares; and plums of tear gas; and a police helicopter. The protest had to do with the EU Summit happening in Ljubljana the following day, and according to locals, they hadn't had anything like that since the '90s. We decided that the Castle was the safest place to be at the moment, so luckily there is a nice place to sit in the Castle courtyard and have an afternoon spritz. It was a surreal moment. The police helicopter circled Ljubljana until 9:00 PM.
The next day was rainy most of the day, so basically hopped from coffee to shops to pubs. It was relaxing and fun.
Oct. 7 we started the 10 day tour and was guided through Western Slovenia, Istria, and then Eastern Slovenia. It would take me days to list out all the destinations, wineries, restaurants, historic sites, etc. that we visited. I am still posting pictures to my social media early every day :) and these days are included in my 'Favorite Moments' list.
After the food and wine tour, we spent 2 glorious nights in Lake Bled. I could have stay a week. We took Rick's advice and splurged on a nice room at Tito's summer place, Villa Bled. Highly recommend! The location, the views, free/easy parking, beautiful breakfast. We walked around the lake stopping for pictures about every 10 feet LOL the fall colors were beginning. It was not crowded. We heard no American English. We did the hike up to Ojstrica look out point. It was steep and rocky, and at one point the cable drilled into the rock along the "path" was a necessity. If you are thinking of doing this, I highly recommend looking at some youtube videos so you know what you are getting yourself in to. A couple of videos also helped me feel confident in finding the trail head and go the right direction. But the view… totally worth the steep hike.

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Itinerary Details Continues:
After that climb I thought we deserved a treat, so I called the restaurant in Castle Bled to see if they could get us in. Same day reservation, I was very surprised when they said yes. We arrived early, explored the castle, watched the sunset from the upper terrace, and then were warmly welcomed to our table with a floor-to-ceiling view. All that time I'd been looking up to the castle and didn't realize that the big square window was the 2 view tables of the castle restaurant! We were served by the dining room manager Damjan, everything about that evening was impeccable! Tip: choose your dinner time before or right around sunset for amazing views. Not only was the sunset beautiful, we got to watch the full moon rise over the Alps with our amuse bouche. Breathtaking!
Then the day I was both eagerly looking forward to and dreading at the same time. My fear of heights is unpredictable, so I had no idea what to expect driving over Vršič Pass. [Bled > Kobarid] But, the fear and anxiety did just fine, and we really enjoyed the drive, every single one of the 50 hairpin turns. We made the decision not to decide on the spot, whilst driving, if a turn-out was worth the stop or not, so we made the pre-decision that if there was a place to pull over, we pulled over. Tip: the drive is not as 'scary' as one might thing; stop for views every place possible. There were very few other vehicles on the Pass. That made for a relaxing day and rewarded us with stunning views of the Julian Alps. We then home-based in Kobarid for a few days, enjoying the Soča River area, driving to Drežnica, and the walk/hike to Kozjak waterfall in Triglav national park.
From Kobarid, we drove to LJU to drop the car off. That drive, however, was hair-raising. We knew the road would be narrow, and it was, but it was also raining, and steep. And, while we saw those big corner mirrors on other roads, this road had no corner mirrors. Google Map the 210 between Kobarid and LJU, street-view at Planina pri-Cerknem and you'll see what looks like a bicycle path. Yep, that's our road. We only encountered a handful of other vehicles (two large delivery vans, a large tractor, several regular sized cars) thanktheLordabove, because we had to literally inch by them. With the tractor, I nearly asked Mike to stop and let me out until it was over LOL Google Street View (if you're not using this tool, start now) just can't capture and express this road very well. We can laugh about it now. Kinda.
Our last two nights in Ljubljana were delightful and imprinted even deeper in my heart a love for this city. We visited both St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Franciscan church (the pink church in Prešeren Square at the Triple Bridge), my Tip would be to go to St. Nicholas during the noon hour and maybe you can hear the pipe organ practice. We enjoyed the cafes and restaurants along the river (loads of good recommendations in the RS guide books), and prepared for the trip home [see multiple Lessons Learned section]. Save time for wandering Ljubljana after dark. Mike tucked in early and I wandered solo for nearly 2 hours ~ 10PM on a Friday. I felt safe the whole time. We can't wait to return and wonder why it took us so long to get ourselves to both Croatia and Slovenia. Next trip, will include Slavonia wine country, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Lessons Learned Quick list:
Upgrade to Business Class at the last minute worth every penny
Allow lots of extra time before flying home to the US - 2 nights at final location
Sleep in a hotel with services on those 2 nights before flying home (rather than an airbnb)
Acknowledge that you're out of practice
Lessons Learned Details:
-Adding in a few extra days for cushion. We were both very glad to have 2 nights in Ljubljana before flying home rather than what we would do during 'normal times' - just 1 night. We wanted to have everything done and prepped on Thursday after dropping off the rental car so that we could either relax and enjoy our final day or have that Friday to tie up any loose ends before the Saturday 7 AM flight. Plus, Ljubljana is just lovely!
-Upgrade flight: 3 or 4 days before our flight from the US, I logged on to the Lufthansa website to just look at everything one more time and I saw the 'upgrade your flight' option. I had looked at the prices before and of course it was always very expensive and out of my budget. But I thought I'd look again, and lo and behold they apparently wanted to fill the Business Class seats so the price to upgrade had dropped dramatically. And while still a chunk of change, we decided the upgrade to Business was worth it. We have never flown Business before so it was a real treat! We were glad we made the decision for a few reasons: lay-flat comfort; more overhead space for our carry-ons and not worrying about being forced to check a bag at the last minute; we had loooong layovers in Seattle and Frankfurt, so entry into the Lufthansa lounges was a huge factor in deciding to take the Business Class plunge. The comfort and cleanliness of the lounges were definitely worth the upgrade price. The Frankfurt Lufthansa lounge has quiet dark room for sleeping, showers, pretty good food, and lots of sitting/lounging options. We had such a short time in Dubrovnik and wanted to hit the ground running, and being able to actually rest on the flight over and during the layovers was a big factor.
-Packable down coats. This was my first trip with a light-weight packable down coat and I absolutely loved it. Mike too. I have details in the Packing section.
-Starting out with the small-boat cruise worked out great! We got into relaxation mode quickly and it was a very good way to see a lot of the islands. I would do it again in a heartbeat! It truly is the best way to see the islands in Croatia. We were originally going to take ferries and public transportation. Such a positive experience with Sail Croatia.
-Going with a guide to the wineries in Slovenia. While we could have done some of the research, correspondence, and bookings ourselves, having someone else drive = priceless.
-Local Guide for Plitvice.
-Probably the biggest thing that I would do different is to have a hotel on the last 2 days before traveling back to the US rather than an airbnb. Even though we loved the apartment that we had in Ljubljana the two days before flying home, having a hotel with a front desk to help arrange a Covid test, and the ability to print our test results and the Attestation form, and order a taxi would have saved us precious time. I ended up asking our airbnb host to help me arrange a reliable taxi for 5 AM on a Saturday morning for our 7 AM flight from LJU. She did so but wanted me to call them also to confirm, which I did, and it all worked out well in the end. We had (new) friends from the Food and Wine tour who flew to the US a few days before us, so they kept us in the loop about their experience which was super helpful and eased my anxiety. Their hotel arranged a mobile testing person to come to their hotel room to do the Covid-19 test swab, so convenient!

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Lessons Learned Details Continued:
-Covid-19 test before the flight home: Our original plans for obtaining a Covid test was to do it at the Ljubljana airport. The airport came up on a search result of testing locations, and the airport website also listed the hours for testing as basically all day (I didn't write the hours down because we were going to be arriving mid-day and they said they were open all day - something like 8 AM to 6 PM). Since we had a rental car we thought it would be most convenient to pick up and drop off the rental car at LJU airport and get our tests on the Thursday before our Saturday flight home. However, the testing center at the airport was closed when we arrived and dropped off the car at 1:00 PM. This was a surprise and I didn't have a back up plan. I texted our airbnb host to ask if they could help us find a place to get tested, but we ended up just going into a pharmacy and asking. Two pharmacies and two long walks to a pop-up testing place in Tivoli Park later, we got it done. But it was quite a long walk out to the testing facility (the pharmacy said it was a 10 minute walk; it took us about 30 minutes). My test results were emailed within about 45 minutes, but Mike's results didn't show up and didn't show up, and we didn't have any contact information for the testing service, so our only choice was to go back to Tivoli Park. We could have taken a taxi, but it was a beautiful walk. We got in our 16k steps that day LOL. They had emailed his results but we never received it. They had to email it 3 times before it came through, no idea what the problem was. So, looking back, when they said we'd receive the results within an hour, we should have just taken a stroll around the park and waited nearby until we both had our results so that any problems could have been handled right away.
-Not necessarily a lesson learned, but something that surprised me. We were out of practice; it felt like our first international flight all over again. We are both normally pretty relaxed travelers, we usually know we're well prepared, and even if things don't go smoothly, we roll with it. This time, at least on the way over, we both had a level of anxiety that I did not anticipate. Reading other people's experiences helped a little (both here and in facebook groups) but I was still way more nervous than 'normal'. Not sure what I could have done to change that, but just wanted to make a note of it.
-With all the extra entrance forms that we had to do, I had forgotten to register our dates and locations with the US Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Then we found ourselves in the middle of Ljubljana during the Oct. 5 protest with police in riot gear using tear gas and water cannons the day before an EU Summit. Even though STEP was on the checklist, we just didn't do it and we had no idea what was going on. Luckily we were tucked safely inside Ljubljana castle, watching from the tower, but our friends were not so lucky and got tear gassed en route to their hotel.

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Itinerary Lessons Learned:
-Allow more time in Dubrovnik. Since our flight landed at 4:45 PM and we left the next day around noon, we didn't have time to walk the Wall and really explore the back corners. By the time I realized that the only flight from FRA to DBV was later in the day, our work time off was already set so we couldn't add more time on the front end. Welp, saving something for next time, as the saying goes. But we loved Dubrovnik and could easily spend several days there exploring at a relaxed pace.
-3 nights in Zagreb was good for us and we'd love to return someday.
-Similarly, we had 4 nights in Ljubljana and it's a very comfortable city, we felt like we saw a lot. But, we both loved it and look forward to returning. The airport is a 30 minute drive from the historic center, but the airport is a comfortable size and we would definitely fly in or out of LJU again.
-Rental car. We are comfortable driving ourselves in other countries, but we made the assumption that picking up the car at the airport was better than picking up in Ljubljana city center. As it turns out, the city center would have been just fine. We have flash-backs to trying to drive out of Florence in 2007 so we just assume that an airport pick up is best, but in this case, I wish we would have picked up and dropped off right in Ljubljana. The streets are wide and drivers are not aggressive. That would have saved us time and taxi fare. And, see above comment about the Covid-19 testing closed at the airport.

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PACKING NOTES: Packing for Warm and Cold weather: swim suit and shorts, and a winter coat and wool socks. In Carry-on. For a month. No problem! I did pack heavier that I probably ever have, but I was OK with that. Still able to do it in a High Sierra rolling backpack and the RS Euro Flight Bag. I love the Euro Flight bag more and more each time I use it. Usually I only pack it about half full or less to save space for shopping. Not this time. That little bag was stuffed pretty full. Mike used his trusty RS Convertible Carryon and a RS Euro Flight Bag. Which ended up being a lot for him to carry, even for a big strong guy. He never complained but towards the end of the trip he said he thinks he's ready, after 14 years of traveling with the RS Convertible Carryon, to graduate to a rolling option. The Euro Flight bag easily slipped over my rolling backpack handle so I was able to roll both. We both used a combo of small RS Packing Cubes and compression packing cubes. While I LOVE the compression packing cubes, I think they are partly to blame for my over-packing weight-wise. Because I had the space LOL
Packing List: (* indicates items I wore on the plane)
4 T-shirts
4 lightweight nice tops - 1 being a button up to also use for layering
1 cashmere sweater
2 tank tops
Swim suit
Scarfy swimsuit cover-up
Tunic-length Kaftan
{{Edit to add, oops I forgot to list these}} Black Skort (Costco)
{{Edit to add, oops I forgot to list these}} Light-weight Hikers' Shorts
{{Edit to add, oops I forgot to list these}} Cycle-length compression shorts (worn under dresses, lounging, and sleeping)
Long sleeve black thermal top
Sleeveless dress
*Black midi t-shirt dress
*Denim jacket w/ inside pockets
Super lightweight 'Golf' jacket for UV protection, w/ inside pockets
Lightweight long cotton scarf
Small silk scarf
Runner's Neck Buff
*Black leggings
Black skinny leg pants
Black linen wide leg pants
Comfy-cozy green joggers (in case I got sick, wanted something to lounge in, but cute enough to wear regularly too)
In Ljubljana I bought a really heavy bulky sweater. I think I was cold LOL It's really heavy. But I love it!
I also bought 1 cotton long scarf. Every picture after day 14-ish was in my coat. I wanted something to change it up.
6 Undies; 1 regular + 1 sports bra
2 smart wool ankle socks + 2 cotton socks + 1 no-show socks for the ballet flats
Shoes get their own category below :)

Items I could have left at home:
Anti-fog wipes for glasses. They just didn't work.
2 nicer (out to dinner) tops. I took 4.
1 tank top. I took 2.
Swimsuit cover-up. See Kaftan notes, below.
Cotton socks. I know this. 2 pair of smart wool socks is really all I need.
Day-bag. I took a brand new RS 100% Hemp Civita day pack. The specs say that it is only a few ounces heavier than the regular Civita Day Pack, which is what I have used for the past 14 years, but the Hemp one is bulkier and just felt heavier than I expected. I took it anyway, empty, flat in the bottom of my Euro Flight bag. Next time I'll go back to a regular Civita Day pack, or, as I found out this trip, a small cross-body bag works great. I don't really need that much. Cell phone, wallet, chapstick, flashlight.

I brought several pairs of earrings and necklaces; I could have worn 1 necklace and 2 or 3 earrings.
A note about scarves. Nobody, I mean nobody in Zagreb or anywhere in Slovenia or Istria wore scarves. Not small neck scarves, not big fuzzy scarves, not fashionable cotton scarves. It was weird to me.

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Items I was super thankful for and glad I packed:
-Light-weight cotton tunic-length Kaftan. I am all about the Kaftan!! It was great in the warm weather as a top and a swim suit cover; I slept in it one night in Smartno; I wore it around the room as lounge-wear; even wore it over my long-sleeve black top on a chilly day in the Soca valley to give my all-black something different.
-Very lightweight Hiking Shorts. I almost didn't bring them because I thought one Skort would be enough, and it would have been, but the shorts weigh just a few ounces and take up very little space. They are elastic waisted, have 5 pockets (right there I'm sold!), mid-thigh length, dry quickly. Keeper.
-Packable down coat. It stayed compressed until day 14, but then after that I think I wore it every day. Mike would say the same. His packable down coat was a last minute panic purchase because he was only planning on layering up long sleeves with his shell rain coat as a top layer. We looked at the weather about 2 weeks out and looked at average lows for Lake Bled in October, and decided he needed an actual coat. We had some pretty cold days of Burja wind and rain October 6-10, and chilly evenings, and he was very thankful for it.
-Above-mentioned Smart-Wool socks.
-Small silk scarf. There were days when it was cold and windy, and that (real) silk helped keep the cold out. And lightweight enough to wear in the evenings of the first part of the trip.
-Black linen wide-legged pants. They were light enough to wear in warm weather but keep me covered from the sun, and because being black, I wore them into the later October days as well. I had planned to layer up the leggings under the linen pants for warmth if necessary, but never ended up needing to do that.
-Cheap-o super lightweight black athletic short sleeved T-shirt. Being moisture-wicking athleticware, it was really comfy and dried very fast when washed out in the sink.
-Flash light. Because the power went out. More than once. That, and dark back alleys are exactly that after the sun goes down. If you read my Venice Acqua Alta Lessons Learned Trip report of 2018, you know I will never, ever, ever go without a flashlight ever again.
-Laundry soap sheets. Life-changer.
-Clip-on Sunglasses. Even though I also brought my prescription sunglasses, having the tiny little clip ons in a pocket of my 5-pocket hiking shorts (love those things) was really handy.
-My last "Winner" for packing is a combo of see-through Zipper Pouches and a nice large toiletries bag with handle and a light interior (11.8" x 8" x 4.7" with a flat bottom). It is large enough to fit all my bathroom items, chargers & cords, jewelry, vitamins, first aid, etc. Using small pouch zipper bags to keep things organized. First, I used this handy little bag on the airplane. The plane was not full so there was space above for both carry-on and personal item, so I didn't need to keep the personal item bag with me in the seat. I pulled this small little bag out of my personal bag for the long flight. Second, this toiletries bag helped me to keep all the little 'things' corralled and organized during the trip. Finding things was easy and packing up was quick. The light interior and flat bottom is an absolute must, as is having handles. I purchased this new item on Amazon for $10 and the set of Mesh Zipper Pouches 16 piece set for $12. Priceless. I don't know if it is acceptable to include a link to Amazon... I'm happy to do so if it's OK :)

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WOMEN'S AND MEN'S SHOES get their own category - usually we are a 2 or 3 pair of shoes maximum.
(please no judgement, I knew full well what I was doing LOL)
-Trail shoes with SOLE Insole inserts. Not quite a hiking shoe, but heavier that regular street athletic shoes. Very supportive. Heaviest shoe that I wore onto the plane.
-Adidas very lightweight athletic lace-up tennis shoe. Black and white, memory foam. These are now my favorite shoes and I'm continuing to wear them a lot even after the trip. I have picky feet and usually get some foot pain on heavy walking days so I have always thought that I needed lots of support. What I found with these is that they are almost like a barefoot shoe, in that I can feel every nook and crany. Which strengthened my feet! I wore them a lot in the first half of the trip because the trail shoes were more than I needed, and honestly the Adidas are cuter, and I really do think that they strengthened my feet. (I should add that I had also been doing barefoot workouts for months coming up to the trip, which surely strengthened my feet also). I didn't get sore, tired feet, nor foot pain.
-Sparkly flip flops with back strap. These are the kind of shoe you see at the discount store on a little hanger rather than in an actual shoe box. I think I paid $12, thinking that they would probably wear out fast and I could just ditch them once we got to the cooler weather part of the trip. But these little cheap foam sandals were super comfortable, super lightweight, and pretty cute. So I didn't ditch them and will keep them in my backpack for future trips.
-Black ballet-flats to wear out for dinners. The regular soft insoles from my trail shoes (#1 above) fit into these, so I had the option of using those insoles with the Ballet Flats or the Trail shoes. But it did make them heavier. While I did wear the ballet Flats, and was thankful for them, Slovenia and Croatia are pretty casual and I could have gotten away with the black & white Adidas even in nicer restaurants.
-Water shoes. These are a very specific item, but when you need them, you need them. They paid for themselves on the day that Mike and I swam from the boat to shore, dried off in the sun, and hiked around some trails, and swam back to the boat. We also both used our water shoes swimming in the river in Mljet. I stuffed them in one of the side pockets in my rolling backpack.
Mike's shoe notes:
-Barefoot trail shoes. Probably the most worn, performed excellently.
-Walking shoes. Too heavy, didn't wear enough to justify their weight and bulk. Discovered on this trip that the Barefoot shoes work best. We met the owner of a second hand store, and these Nikes ended up staying in Slovenia :)
-Dress Barefoot shoes. Wore these to dinner most nights. Dressed up a simple outfit.
-Water shoes [see above]
-Lightweight sandals. More like a moccasin. Wore every day on the boat, other days as a slipper.

Overall, we each could have left 1 pair home and been just fine.

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Travel to Slovenia or Croatia during Pandemic Times:
If you read Pam's recent France trip report, this will sound familiar. Everything is on your phone, so best advice is know how to use it and practice at home. Know where your QR reader is or move a shortcut to your home screen. Many of the restaurants, coffee shops, and bars did not provide printed menus but rather had a QR code taped on the table or posted near the door to scan to see the menu. Depending on the wi-fi strength, sometimes it took a long time to load, then even longer to load the English language option. Many of the sites had QR codes on the signs rather than providing paper information. Get comfortable doing screen shots, and make folders to organize your important photos/screen shots. If you are staying in airbnb, the host needs a copy of your passport to register their guests. In a hotel you just hand your passport over, but some of our airbnb hosts were no-contact (self check-in/out) so we needed to provide a copy of our passport and sometimes vaccination card to them digitally. Emailing an attachment didn't always work but sending a screen shot seemed to work better. Basically, everything is done on your phone and it's important to be prepared in that regard.
It goes without saying to take a supply of masks. I took enough to get us through the trip, both disposable and cloth. Since they are an absolute necessity, and small and practically weightless, I felt better knowing I had enough with me and didn't have to find a place to buy some.
TSA Liquids 3-1-1 exception for Hand Sanitizer: TSA allows you to take more than 3 oz./100 ml of hand sanitizer. Check their website for current allowances but at the time we were going through the airports it was up to 12 ounces; if larger than 100 ml, if has to be separate from your liquids bag. That being said, in Croatia and Slovenia, there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Everywhere. I took one tiny 1-oz bottle and a 3 oz bottle and was able to refill as needed.
TSA has changed their requirements for what they do and do not want in the grey bins, so check their website regularly for updates. For example, food has to be separate and in a clear plastic bag. Don't be afraid to ask the agents questions. I found them to be helpful because they don't want to have touch your stuff by going through your bag if they don't have to :)

-PRE-TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION: For Croatia, an Enter Croatia Form and confirmation number is required. 1 form for both of us. This is done on line and takes a few days for us to get approved. I joined a facebook group dedicated to helping tourist navigate Croatia's travel restrictions and requirements that was invaluable. Our Enter Croatia form was checked at the airport both at check in and before boarding the flight to FRA. For just flying through Germany, a similar form was required, this one for each traveler. Again, it was checked at the airport. For coming home, Lufthansa told us to have 2 copies of an Attestation Form, which we did, but it was never asked for.

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Travel to Slovenia or Croatia during Pandemic Times - Continued:
-Croatia seemed very relaxed with checking vaccination cards (or other green pass). One possibility is that because all tourists have to go through pre-screening via an Enter Croatia form (which includes uploading a copy of vaccination card, proof of recovery, or negative test) in order even to get into the country, the restaurants and other businesses didn't feel the need to check. That being said, everything we did was outdoors until we rode the funicular in Zagreb on Day 11 and had a nice dinner indoors on Day 12. One of the very first announcements from the Sail Croatia guide was that rapid tests were available at any time to anyone who wanted one. In Slovenia during the food and wine tour, vaccination was required for the tour; we were not asked to show our vax cards at any of the stops. During our independent travel days, one restaurant at Lake Bled asked to see our cards before they allowed us in for either indoor or outside seating.
-Where do you look for the best source of restrictions and requirements? There is so much information out there it can be overwhelming as to what is accurate and updated. Save a shortcut to the website for the US Embassy in your destination. This is a good practice in normal times. They have the most current Covid restrictions and requirements information. Check it often.

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Oh wow! Wonderful trip report! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it up.

What brand of jackets did you wind up getting for yourself and Mike? And what kind of barefoot shoes does he like?

I also enjoyed the in-person report yesterday at the meet-up! I think we were both in agreement about the cell phone thing....certainly not trying to intimidate anyone BUT if you are going to do European travel you need a newer phone, adequate skill with it and a cheat sheet of your passwords, lol. For those planning to travel next spring you've got 6 months to work on it and gain some aptitude.

From 2019 to now, to me it seems like the pandemic accelerated the use of cell phones as ways to have no-contact with others. You show a QR code on your screen (or watch), they scan it and no one touches any paper.

Love all your information points! Thanks again!

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346 posts

Thank you so much for this - I've just discovered Sail Croatia and am eying up the itinerary you did as a nice break in a land-based Balkans itinerary. Sounds like you enjoyed it - and the water temperature was one of my big questions!

I think I'm in revenge travel mode too and planning backups on backups. At the moment is my biggest concern is that my partner won't get insurance for a US based cruise - which is an almost nice change compared to being worried about Covid! Now I just need New Zealand to scrap hotel quarantines!

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369 posts

Would love the Amazon links to all your packing mesh bags and other items mentioned!

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844 posts

Wonderful report! I love all the details. I’ve been to Slovenia once for 5 days, and would LOVE to return. Such a gem.

I’m planning a 3 week trip next summer covering multiple climates, so your packing list is great. I also love my wide leg linen pants, and bring them everywhere. They’re so comfy on the plane. So versatile. I’m going to keep my eyes out for a kaftan! Never thought if it before, but it sounds very versatile, especially with some leggings.

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2168 posts

Rena, thank you so much for writing this lovely, detailed report! I enjoyed it a lot on this very cold day in AK!

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3349 posts

Rena, thanks so much for sharing your comprehensive trip report. Your details brought back such fond memories of our RS tour in September 2018! Loved, loved, loved Slovenia & Croatia. We spent a week in Venice prior to our tour & enjoyed 4 nights in amazing Ljubljana. Korcula, 2N was our favorite island. Fabulous! Needless to say it was all good. Your report will be helpful for those who are planning to visit the Adriatic. ;)

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71 posts

@Travel4fun I just read through that list again and realize that I had left off the skort and shorts, oops. They are added now. Link to shorts is below in my reply to Pam. It is a challenge to pack for multiple climates, but doable. After we got to Zagreb and the weather got cooler, I put the swim suit, skort, shorts into their own packing cube and didn't get into it again. Helped to stay organized. For Multiple climates, I really liked the denim jacket. I wore it on the plane, during cooler evenings on warm weather days, and then quite a bit as the weather changed. I also wore it over the sleeveless dress for our Michelin star restaurant dinner with some big earrings to perk it up. Denim is bulky but it was versatile and I wore it a lot. Mine has deep regular pockets, inside pockets, and real breast-pockets, not just the fake flap.
Here's a link to a Caftan that is not the exact product, but very similar Amazon Womens Short Caftan example
@Pam
Here are some more links:
Mike's barefoot shoes (he has 2 pair) Amazon Mens Barefoot Xero shoes
His dress shoes he ordered special hand-made from Spain. He says his feet have never been happier!
Men's Packable Down Coat - this one packs into its own inner pocket, which doesn't seem possible but it works enter link description here
Ladies' Hiking Shorts (love these things, I have 2 pair. They run a bit large) Amazon Sanity Hiking shorts
TECH: Two tech things that I didn't mention earlier
Solar charging External Battery for phone, invaluable, and has a flashlight (you see a theme here? LOL) and can charge up multiple devices simultaneously (@Pam this is what I brought to show at the Moscow Travel Club meeting) Amazon Solar Charger
Euro-electrical outlet adapter with USB plugs. A little bulky, but I used it every day, super handy Amazon Travel Plug USB

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9701 posts

Oh thank you so much! I have not tried the Xero minimalist shoes. Have stuck mostly to Altra with a pair or two of Leguanos thrown in. I'll take a look at them next time I need shoes. The Altras are a little less minimalist so a little bit sturdier sole but still have the ability to feel the ground thru them.

To everyone....that solar battery pack is very cool! As Rena said at the meet-up it's a bit heavy but might be worth it especially if you are using a lot of GPS on your phone which will drain the battery.

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3023 posts

Hi, Rena. I'm so glad you made it to Slovenia. I'm impressed that you stayed at Villa Bled. I would love to hear more about your food and wine tour in Slovenia. That sounds like a great small-group tour. Are you able to post a link to the tour company/tour?

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Hi Rena. How was the food and wine tour? Did you post a separate trip report? Thank you.

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Hi Rena,
So much fun to read about your trip before and after our Harvest Tour. Glad you made it home safely and glad you were able to upgrade.

I hope you can report on our Slovenia tour. It would be fun to read about it through another person's eyes. It was one of the best tours we have ever been on. So good to meet you and Mike on it.

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@Dave - staying at Villa Bled was pretty cool. I felt like I could reach out and touch the church on the island from our windows! There were so few other guests there and that quietness paired well with the austere communist decor style was really something else. For the tour, you can easily find it with a google search of "Savor The Experience Tours". Ours was the Harvest Tour. I discovered them when I bought a painting during 'lockdown 2020' from a Russian artist living in Slovenia. Turns out her husband runs tour groups there! One bright moment in the trip was being able to meet Natasha in person, and come home with more of her lovely art.

@Gina - I have not done a separate trip report for the food and wine portion, but I'll try to get the itinerary and comments together over this coming long weekend. Now that I know it would have an audience haha :)

@ccrdrt2 - We LOVED those 10 days and our little group! I think I'm still full, haha I was pretty diligent about taking pictures of most of the amazing food and wine, and schnapps, but some of it I honestly don't remember exactly what it is. I might reenlist our WhatsApp group again to get some input :D

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3023 posts

The Savor the Experience tours look great! The Grand Tour Slovenia-Bosnia-Croatia tour looks... well... grand. Your trip looks like a lot of fun and looks like a lot of really interesting experiences. Thanks for sharing the info. For anyone interested in a link to the tour company... https://savortheexperiencetours.com/

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3023 posts

Oh yeah, I think I ate at the restaurant at Šmartno that is on the itinerary for your trip. I had a private guide from the area named Vesna who helped me explore the Brda region. She encouraged me to get the white polenta with peas and prosciutto as a food typical of the region (along with some orange wine). It was a nice meal that we ended with a shared dessert. The owner was super kind. A very pleasant experience.

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Correct, no problems crossing boarders. Passport and vax card. Croatia required an entry form to fly into the country, which asked for dates of visit, so we had that printed confirmation but were never asked for it outsideof the airport check ins. But I believe none of the others we were traveling with had done the Enter Croatia form for the ground borders. No form or pre-confirmation was needed for getting into Slovenia. Crossing between Italy and Slovenia there wasn't even a stop. There were both Italian and Slovenian police or guards, but they waved us through with no stop.

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Rena you mentioned a facebook page that you used for Croatian travel information. We are headed that way in early May, for our first International trip, and I'm a bit nervous so it would be helpful. Also, any other information sites you might suggest for either Slovenia or Croatia.

We have down jackets, but unsure if we will need them in May...thoughts?

Nice to hear the pass wasn't crazy scary, and I will definitely avoid the road between Kobraid and Ljubljana.

We will be flying TPA to VIE, and then a round trip VIE to ZAG. We are renting a car at ZAG and returning it there.

Also have reservations at Villa Bled, it's nice to hear you really liked it.

Great trip report...thank you!