Croatia or Turkey, My Tour du Jour
Last year while touring Turkey, I mapped out my 2017 solo trip to a place I have never been. I follow Dalai Lama’s quote: “Go at least once a year to a place you have never been before”, and I practice it. I couldn’t wait to visit all the historic sites in eastern Turkey, and feast on the best food for which the area is known. I was traveling with a local guide, so I wasn’t at all worried about safety. Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned and I was forced to cancel this trip and instead arrange a last minute trip back to my roots–Croatia. Croatia and Turkey are wonderful to tour, and if one doesn’t work out, the other surely will.
I wasn’t looking to discover something new. The purpose for this trip was to connect with business partners, inspect lots of hotels and meet with tourist boards. I know Croatia well and through the years I have driven the coast numerous times and vacationed in many places. This time, I was excited to experience it through my friend Halina’s eyes who was visiting for the first time.
After an overnight at home outside Zagreb, we headed south to visit Plitvice Lakes, one of Croatia’s UNESCO sites and best known national parks. No matter how often one visits, it is impossible not to take hundreds of pictures and marvel at pristine surroundings. We stopped for lunch at Licka Kuca, the national restaurant, which provides an ambiance of a traditional house in Lika and authentic local dishes before continuing to Zadar for overnight. We made it in time for sunset and headed to the wide seaside promenade which provides a perfect viewing spot.
When Alfred Hitchkock came to visit more then 50 years ago, he was blown away by the sunset. Today, you can watch the sunset and listen to the music of the sea. Nikola Basic, created an architectural object, an experimental musical instrument which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps which lead to the sea.
Next day, we headed to Krka National Park which is known for a series of 7 waterfalls. In the south, Skradinski Buk waterfall is flanked by traditional watermills. To the north, a nature trail passes another striking cascade, Roški Slap, and the Krka Monastery, built above ancient Roman catacombs. Visovac Island is home to the 15th-century Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy. We then drove on one of Croatia’s most beautiful roads, the Magistrala, which hugs the coast and offers eye-catching views. After 3 days, I was forced to cancel this trip due to family emergency and headed for Germany.
Being a traveler and in business for over a quarter of a century, I have learned to adjust and consider plan B. With only 6 nights left before returning to USA, Istanbul came to mind….and for a place I have never been, Fethiye.
With Turkish airlines, 2 daily non stop flights from Zagreb, Istanbul is only 2 hours away. In no time, I booked a ticket, hotels and reserved a rental car. Unlike previous times, this was my solo trip and I decided to be spontaneous and had no other plans in place.
Over the years, I must have been to Istanbul at least 10 times but I never stayed in the same place twice. Karaköy was the area of choice for this trip. It is a commercial neighborhood in the Beyoğlu district, located at the northern part of the Golden Horn mouth on the European side of the Bosphorus that has been going through some wonderful changes. This is an interesting area with lots of cool restaurants, coffee shops and just across the bridge is the Sultanahmet where I like to wander and spend my time.
The hotel of choice was The House Hotel Vault, which was perfect in every way. This is a boutique hotel located in a historic building–beautifully restored with luxurious décor and high stenciled ceilings; all services one expects in a 5-star hotel. They have created a perfect balance with an amazing staff who are both professional and VERY helpful; a beautiful place with wonderful rooms and rooftop terrace offering stunning views.
During my stay in Istanbul, I visited 2 museums, had some exceptional dining experiences, watched the sunsets, but the highlight of this stay was the Hürrem Sultan Hamam. This is not just any hamam and not anything you would find in any luxury hotel. Hürrem Sultan Hamam was commissioned by the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557 AD). It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) used to stand, between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. I opted for the deluxe treatment and after the 3 hours, a fruit plate & tea, I didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t help but think…I must have been a Sultana in my past life.
This time, I didn’t run around to inspect the hotels and just popped in to meet with one of the local partners and took a quick tour of Ciragan Palace–the hotel with the best suite in town–amazing, and enjoyed dinner with its charismatic and entertaining GM.
It was difficult to leave the city, but I was excited about self-drive and discovering Fethiye. I took a car transfer to Istanbul airport and a short flight to Dalaman, a city in the southwestern part of Turkey, and a gateway to the Turquoise coast–one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in Turkey. My destination was Mandarin Mango Boutique Hotel, in Faralya. I had no idea where Faralya was, but according to Google maps it was close to Fethiye. So, I opted to make a short stop at D-Resort, located in the yachting haven of Göcek. This is a beautiful property, offering several restaurants and the newly designed D-Spa and within 5 minute walk from a man-made white sand beach. Wish I had a few extra days to enjoy the hotel and taste the food served at Q Lounge, one of the hotels 4 restaurants, serving contemporary Japanese cuisine.
The drive from the airport to D-Resort was about 20 minutes and according to Google directions, I had another 40-minute drive to reach my final destination in Faralya, Mandarin & Mango Boutique Hotel which I will tell you about in my upcoming post.
In conclusion, I would like to say that as a woman and a solo traveler, not for one second did I feel uncomfortable or unsafe either in Istanbul or driving in western Turkey. My experience with Turkish people has always been positive. I find them extremely hospitable and kind. They are the type that instead of shutting the door when the stranger appears, they will open it wide and invite him in.
Croatia, Turkey or both? Choice is yours. I know both countries intimately and with my partners on the ground, I know your trip will be memorable.
Call or email me and let me plan your personal tour, or join my small group departure and let me lead the way.