Istria is probably the most developed tourist region in Croatia with towns such as Rovinj and Poreč that attract a serious number of tourists. Besides the beautiful coastline the peninsula of Istria boasts excellent cuisine and medieval hilltop towns much like the region of Tuscany in Italy. However, there are still many off the beaten track places in Istria and in Croatia in general that you can visit.
There is a significant number of fortresses in different stages of disrepair and ruin around Croatia that can be visited for free. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit one of such forgotten and abandoned fortresses. But there are many well-preserved castles and fortresses too that attract tourists.
Since my husband and I both love medieval festivals we recently visited a small medieval festival at Dvigrad Ruins in Istria (only 25mins from Rovinj inland). I found out about it by coincidence, an ad popped on my Facebook news feed. So, we took our 20 months old boy to see some medieval knights. It was a hot Saturday afternoon which might explain the lack of visitors (admission was free, the ruins can be visited any time for free too). I think there were more performers than visitors at this festival. Firstly, we walked all over the Dvigrad Ruins. Dvigrad was a prosperous town with a fortress and a church until the plague and the malaria depopulated it in the 16th century. The last surviving families moved out at the beginning of the 18th century and since then this town has been abandoned.
Dubovac Castle, Karlovac, Croatia
It’s been a while since my last Discover Croatia post and it’s also been a long time since our last day trip as a family. But it’s completely different to travel with an active toddler than a baby. Needless to say, I found it easier to travel with a baby and now regret not travelling more with my son when he was younger. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t travel with him anymore. At the moment with him running in all directions and me being pregnant again the most simplest of walks can be difficult. Nevertheless, this day trip was great and our boy was on his best behaviour and really enjoyed exploring Dubovac Castle.
So, let’s write about Dubovac Castle. This castle is situated on a hill overlooking the town of Karlovac which is halfway between the capital of Croatia Zagreb and its biggest seaport Rijeka. Dubovac Castle is a Renaissance castle with Gothic elements whose oldest parts date back to the 13th century. The name of the castle originates from the word for an oak tree in Croatian language since it was surrounded by a large oak trees forest. There’s still a lot of greenery around the castle but not a proper forest.
Veliki Tabor Castle
Once upon a time…..that’s how all fairy-tales begin, don’t they? Croatia is full of fairy-tale castles and legends. You just need to go further inland to discover more of Croatia, not just its stunning coastline.
Veliki Tabor Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Croatia. It’s been on my to-visit list for a while. When I discussed visiting it with my husband the original idea was to spend a weekend in Zagorje region of Croatia and to visit both the castle and the baroque town Varaždin as well as several other worthy tourist attractions in the area. But we had to let go of that idea this time and we settled on a day trip to Veliki Tabor Castle with our baby boy.
For our first day trip abroad as a family I chose a town in Italy which I haven’t visited before. As it turned out my frivolous method of choosing Udine for a day trip was an excellent choice because we spent a wonderful Sunday in a surprisingly pretty town. Udine is the second largest city in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in the northeastern Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps. The capital of this autonomous region is Trieste, a city I know quite well.
I googled the major sights of Udine and made a loose plan of what to do/see on our day trip. However, I didn’t think much about the actual drive to Udine (only two and a half hours from our home) or the parking in the city. So, when we saw the exit for Udine my husband smartly decided to pull over and actually check on GPS which exit we have to take to get in the city center. All I wanted was to park somewhere near the train station because I thought that the train station (or McDonald’s) would be a good option for having baby changing facilities. No, the train station doesn’t have it (it has free toilets, usually you have to pay for them in Italy) but McDonald’s which is just across the train station has a toilet with the baby changing pad so we sorted baby V. out before we commenced our sightseeing of Udine. The plan was actually to use the service station along the motorway before we entered Udine but since there was none my idea of parking near the train station was a good one. Parking was free and it seems that parking in Italy on a Sunday is always free (at least in this part of Italy).
It was a rather warm and sunny Sunday in a city seemingly devoid of residents. But that’s Italy on a Sunday 🙂 Yes, there were a lot of people around the train station but on our short walk from the train station to the main square (15mins on foot ) we didn’t come across many locals. Nevertheless, we weren’t the only tourists in the town and we later saw where the locals hid: at the street food trucks’ festival in the park below the castle.
Before we reached the main square we walked under the pretty porticoes and my heart skipped a beat with joy. I first encountered porticoes in Bologna and I just love this rather clever architecture which provides you with cover from the sun and the rain when you walk around the town. We glimpsed the cathedral just before the main square and decided to see it on our walk back to the car.
Piazza della Libertà is Udine’s magnificent main square with the beautiful clock tower at Loggia di San Giovanni, several marble statues and a fountain. Just across this oldest square in Udine is Loggia del Lionello built in Venetian Gothic style. Baby V. looked around from his stroller and was pleased to see that he attracted a lot of admiring looks even here at this beautiful square. 🙂
Piazza della Libertà and castle above
Our first day trip abroad as a family with our baby boy V. was on a Sunday to Udine, Italy. Why did I choose Udine? A silly reason really. Some time ago I wrote a post where I mentioned a city I visited for each letter of the English alphabet. Of course, there were letters such as X, Y and Q for which I couldn’t add a city and it’s very unlikely that I’ll ever visit such faraway exotic places. But even though I haven’t visited a city whose name begins with letter U that at least could be easily rectified. You see, there’s a town called Umag in Croatia that I could visit but another thought came to my mind too: I could go to Udine, Italy. It’s not far away and it’s way more fun to visit Italy than to go to Umag which is actually a lovely seaside town famous as a venue for a major tennis tournament. Fast forward a year and I’m thinking about travelling with our baby when I remember my idea about Udine. Yes, that would be a perfect first day trip abroad with a baby since Udine is less than 2.5 hours away from us (one way). And I love Italy! So, that’s why we visited Udine.
As it turned out, Udine is a rather pretty Italian town with porticoes which I absolutely adore (I first saw them in Bologna). We spent our time in Udine walking around leisurely and taking in the sights. It was a sunny and warm day and our baby V. seemed to enjoy being out and about with us. He was a perfect little traveller 🙂 He clearly takes after his mum 😉 When I get the chance I’ll blog more about our visit so this post is just a teaser of what’s to come.
Enjoy the photos of Udine!
What better way to spend Sunday than by eating cakes in some of Trieste’s oldest cafes? My best friend M. and I went on a day trip to Trieste, Italy with the sole purpose of enjoying ourselves. There was no fixed agenda apart from our wish to visit several traditional cafes/ patisseries. It’s been a long time since I had fun in Trieste because I usually just use it for flights/ train connections. When I was a child we used to regularly go to Trieste.
Anyway, it was nice to just wander around the city center leisurely and to take in the beautiful architecture of Trieste. Very much like my hometown Trieste has more of a feel of a Central European city than a Mediterranean city. Trieste is an important Italian port and a significant university center (especially for languages) but it’s also the oldest town in Italy by the age of its inhabitants. It’s seen better days and a vivid memorial of that is its grand main square Piazza Unità d’Italia. But there are other beautiful buildings and squares too.
at the main square
Lindwurm fountain at the New Square, Klagenfurt
It was probably the hottest day of the year. 29°C on a sunny day in May. Who would have known that it could get so hot in the spring in Austria?
My mum and I took a day trip to Klagenfurt to take a break from my wedding preparations (three years ago). On the way to Klagenfurt we admired the view of the mountains and the green lush scenery. But then we reached the Karawanks Tunnel at the Austrian-Slovenian border and lost a lot of our precious time because of the road works. When we finally reached Klagenfurt I already felt exhausted but my spirits lifted when we started to walk around this pretty little town. Actually Klagenfurt is the sixth biggest town in Austria with the population of around 99 000 people and it’s the capital of the Austrian federal state of Carinthia. It’s on the lake Wörthersee and on the Glan river. According to a legend the city was founded after a couple of brave men slained the dragon like creature Lindwurm who fed on virgins. Today you can see the giant Lindwurm fountain at one of the city’s beautiful squares.
So what did we do in Klagenfurt? My mum and I just walked around and admired its many sights. The first thing we came across was the Theater built at the beginning of the 20th century by the famous theater architects Helmer & Fellner. Next to it is the Stadthaus with the flower clock which actually works. How neat! We noticed a lot of hanging flower baskets around the city. Then we saw the parish church and came to the Old Square (Alter Platz) surrounded by the houses from the 16th and 17th century. You can see the Plague Column at the square and the oldest house in Klagenfurt. It dates from 1489 and it’s got a golden goose on its façade above the entrance. Just around the corner is the Landhaus with the Renaissance façade where the Corinthian parliament holds meetings.
the flower clock actually works 🙂