After Plitvice Lakes, we were on our way to our final destination on our epic Balkans road trip – Zagreb, the capital, and largest, city of Croatia. It was an easy 2 hour drive to the Hotel Panorama, where our Sixt rental car drop off location was. We had to circle a few times to figure out the drop off point. Dropping the car off was no problem – there was no damages assessed and it appeared that we were off the hook for having to pay anything for the flat tire debacle (unfortunately, a few days after getting back to Denver a bill for $250 showed up that we are fighting). Ubers were readily available in Zagreb, so we took one to get the few miles to our hotel, Hilton Canopy. It’s a new brand concept Hilton has recently introduced to appeal to the high-end hipster crowd. We felt at home right away in the inviting space. I had used Hilton points for our one night here in Zagreb, so this was a freebie. We got up to the room and continued to be impressed. There were cool little premium extras waiting for us too – like socks that….
After a great stay in Sarajevo (easily in the top 3 of our favorite places in the Balkans), we had a packed day going to Plitvice Lakes National Park and then on to Zagreb. If you recall, we tried to get to Plitvice Lakes on the day we crossed the border from Slovenia to Croatia and got a flat tire. This was take two. We got up very early to be out the door around 0730. It would take about 5 hours to drive to Plitvice Lakes from Sarajevo, as we first had to drive north west in to Croatia, then pretty much straight north from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb. Our original plan was simply to hypotenuse it. The scenery along the way was really lovely, and the drive was perfectly smooth despite encountering several more police checkpoints and a ton of traffic police radar traps. We learned first hand to flash your lights to oncoming traffic if the police were nearby – seemingly its a universal human inclination to help one another avoid traffic cops! Towards mid-morning we stopped at a gas station for coffee and a bathroom break, encountering clouds of indoor smoke as we did so. Soon….
After our favorite dinner on our trip at Klopa, second only to Hisa Franko, we were looking forward to exploring foodie Sarajevo for a second night. But, first we still hadn’t had lunch. So we headed over to the burek place that Neno recommended and tried pumpkin burek and meat burek. It was much lighter than the one we had in Ljubljana, and it came with a light yoghurt sauce that was quite refreshing. Let round 2 of foodie Sarajevo begin at Buregžinica Bosna. We then walked around the marketplace and spent some time listening to the bronze workers in the famous bronze district. We also found Sarajevo to be a hot-bed for artists – there were five art galleries that caught our eye, after some browsing, we identified two main places we wanted to come back to. There was one that painted abstract Bosnian houses, another that painted Sarajevan scenes on reclaimed lumber, and the third was a tiny gallery of mixed watercolor and oil scenes of the countryside. Considering we still wanted to work up an appetite for another foodie Sarajevo dinner after the burek, we decided to walk up to the nearest fort. On the way, we….
After a great first night in this diamond in the rough of a city, we were feeling the East meets West vibe woven throughout the history of Sarajevo. Unfortunately, we did not get great sleep because as mentioned previously, no hotels in the region seem to have air conditioning, and you either have to open the windows to get a breeze but suffer noise (and rain), or keep the windows closed and be hot. The buffet breakfast at Hotel Sana was good, but nothing near the spread at Hotel Vardar. We had a fairly early start as far as early starts go for us (0900) so that we could meet up with a free walking tour at 1030 in front of the National Theater. There are many free walking tours on offer in Sarajevo, so just look through Trip Advisor to find the one that meets your schedule and your choice of topic. We opted for the general overview “East meets West” tour through Neno and Friends, although we were seriously considering the “War scars and new times” walking tour at 1545 with the same company. Ultimately we wanted to get out early, especially with the anticipation of poor weather….
We drove to Sarajevo from Kotor and arrived around 1630, after spending 6 hours or so on the road, easily finding our hotel near the Sarajevo old city – Hotel Sana. We pulled right in, took our bags out, and then we were shown where to park. We loved that parking was included in the rate, and it was in a safe, gated location as well. Check-in was smooth and we were shown to our rooms. There was a little confusion with the room configuration at first – apparently we had requested a room with two single beds accidentally – which got cleared up right away and we were moved to a double bed configuration. We also were confused about how to make the room darker (we had skylights) and the front-desk staff patiently explained how to use the very modern tech panel in the room to operate those windows. Wow, that was unexpected! This turned out to be a very modern hotel, and we liked everything about it except the lack of air conditioning. It gets to 25 Celsius in the room (77 Fahrenheit) without opening the skylights, yet if you open the skylights you get rain and noise….