As promised, I wrote up a little post on our family trip to Eastern Europe. We had so much fun over all and the trip went really smoothly considering I was 30 weeks pregnant and we had a newly potty “trained” toddler on our hands. I use the term potty trained lightly since he was still so young and depending on your definition of potty trained you may disagree with me. Either way, it is always an adventure traveling with kiddos but it is so much fun too. We get to see yet another side of the people and places that we visit while traveling with a kiddo. Sure it means a little less sleep, a little more crabbing, and a lot more stops and dawdling but overall it went really well.
Our first stop after our flight over the pond was Venice, Italy. We arrived in the morning and had a full day to power through before we could think of going to bed so after a quick stop at the hotel we tried to figure out the bus schedules and headed to old town Venice. I fell in love immediately. What a beautiful place! It was not much like what we had been warned about. People told us it would be smelly, and stinky, and flooded…with both people and water… but we ran into none of this. All we got to see were the beautiful buildings, waterways, shops, and people that make up this little city. Sure it was sunny and hotter than I would have ideally liked it to be but it was nothing to complain about. We spent the day just getting acquainted with the city. We had a nice lunch outside in one of the many piazzas and took our time wandering. If you visit Venice, I suggest you do the same. One our way back through Venice we had more time to see some of the historical sights, take tours, and soak up the rich history of the city but with the crowds it was exhausting and I much preferred the mindless wandering through the city and random cafes. But to each his own.
Next up came Slovenia! We actually flew from Venice to Split, Croatia and rented a car to drive the rest of the way to Slovenia…Ljubljana to be exact. What a gorgeous drive it was and the roads were amazing! So smooth and easy to navigate. We were pleasantly surprised at this and it definitely led to a sense of ease. We stayed at a lovely little Airbnb near old town, not far from Ljubljana Castle. It was the perfect place to set down roots as we explored the city. We strolled the riverside and Old Town. We visited the Triple Bridge and read up on the history of the city in our Lonely Planet Guide (they are my go-to for travel planning aside from the great World Wide Web). We tried some traditional food including some rolled dumplings that are popular in Slovenia. We also tried some not-so-traditional food (ice cream) because why not!! Everything was delicious. And we couldn’t leave without making a stop at the Ljubljana Castle to learn what that dragon was all about 😉
While we were in Ljubljana, we took a day trip out to Lake Bled. I wish we would have had more time to continue exploring this part of the country and go further into the mountains. Lake Bled was beautiful! The town wasn’t much but the hike around the lake was so picturesque and was exactly what we needed after sitting in the car and being in busy cities the past few days. It was lovely. Lots of history, lots of cool little houses and mansions around the lake. You can take a tour out to the island if you’d like as well, or go swimming, or rowing, or just pick a place to picnic on the shores of the blue lake like we did. It was worth a day trip! Pictures don’t do it justice.
After our stay in Slovenia, we headed back to Croatia and its capital Zagreb. We just happened to be traveling around the time of the World Cup so the preparations for the big day were well underway when we arrived in the capital city. We only had one full day in Zagreb so we tried to pack in as much as we could. We checked out Lower Town and Upper Town, St. Mark’s Church, the Zagreb Cathedral, a few museums, Dolac Market, and made sure to find a good place to have a cup of coffee since Zagreb is known for it. It was a whirlwind but fun to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
From Zagreb, we pushed off to stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park on our way to drop our friends back in Split for their return to the States. I wish I could say I loved it as much as I thought I would but it was a little disappointing. The park itself was insanely beautiful but the amount of people that were there was insanely terrible. The hikes were more like waiting in line and every single path was swamped with people pushing for the best photos. It was not the quiet oasis that it is made out to be in our guide books despite us arriving early in the morning. Nevertheless, I was glad we made the pit stop to see this natural wonder and wish we could have spent more time there without the crowds. Perhaps going during a different time of year would be better.
After dropping our travel buddies back off in Split for the end of their trip, my little family of three headed out alone to Dubrovnik. It was kind of a last minute decision to make this leg part of our trip since it was another 3 hours in the car but it was worth it. Walled cities by the water are the things out of fairy tales. We LOVED it. We again stayed at a little Airbnb that was just a short bus ride away from the walled city. We got up early to walk the walls before the crowds and were rewarded with a quiet 2 hour tour around the city with views that definitely didn’t disappoint. I would recommend walking the walls as early as you can go to avoid the crowds as later on in the day the amount of people up there was crazy! We also took the cable car up the mountain to see the city from above and spent some time down in old town by the “beach”. The beaches in Croatia are mostly rocky but they are still beautiful. We enjoyed several great meals that consisted mostly of fish. I also have to say that by this time in our trip the World Cup was also in full swing and the amount of people in the streets watching the soccer games was fantastic to be a part of! Such a cool experience to see Croatia cheering on their team.
After our days in Dubrovnik, we hopped in the car for the final leg of our trip back to the seaside resort town of Split. We drove back through the lovely Croatian highways and found ourselves at a little Airbnb inside of Diocletian’s Palace in Split. We spent our final days exploring the palace, climbing the bell tower, hiking the seashore, finding playgrounds for our little guy, eating pastries, and just enjoying our final moments learning about the history and soaking up the culture of this beautiful country.
If you are thinking of heading to Eastern Europe, I would say that Croatia and Slovenia are great places to start. We found them both very family friendly but they also had a lot of choices for people of all ages and in all wakes of life. I would love to go back one day and see the more rural side of these countries, maybe hike a bit more and spend more time in nature and less time in the cities…there just isn’t enough time to do it all in one trip despite us trying!!
Our next trip will be to the Middle East in February and will be our first trip as a family of 4!! I am having a hard time getting excited about it right now due to my preoccupation with the arrival of baby #4 but I know once that excitement is over and the Holidays have come and gone that I will be super excited for our next family adventure!
Where is your family headed to next?