Crisscrossing Croatia by Car

I crisscrossed Croatia, along with Bosnia and Hungary, in 2009; despite being crammed in the backseat, it was a fantastic trip.

Lucky to Find This Place!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by midtownmjd on October 11, 2009

My experience at Maksimilian had an auspicious beginning.

My friends and I arrived in Osijek, Croatia, after 10:30pm on a Sunday after driving from Budapest, and quickly realized that we had NO IDEA where the guesthouse was. We had an address, but our map wasn’t adequate and our GPS wasn’t working. We had a phone number, but we couldn’t get it to work. And Osijek is big: it’s the fourth-largest city in Croatia. As we debated the best course of action, we pulled over on a random, quiet street. When we noticed that this residential street had a small bar at the end of it, we decided to go in and ask if they knew where to find Franjevacka Street. It was a long (long, long) shot, but what did we have to lose?

We walked in and found only two men: the bartender and one patron. We showed them the address, and they shook their heads. Never heard of it. Just as we were about to turn and leave, the bartender looked further down on our paper and saw the guesthouse’s name.

"Ah, Maksimilian? The guy who runs it left this bar five minutes ago!"

The bartender called the guy, who was apparently also his friend, on his cell phone and told us to drive down the street until we found a guy riding a bicycle. That man would lead us to our guesthouse.

I was skeptical, to say the least; it really seemed like a scam. But lo and behold, Bicycle Guy led us all the way across town to Guesthouse Maksimilian. And it was true that he worked there. Good thing we happened upon the random locals’ bar on a random street that our guy was just visiting! The bartender and the Maksimilian employee were as surprised as we were.

The experience only got better from there. I can’t recommend this place highly enough as a nice budget option for eastern Croatia. We had a suite with two double rooms and a bathroom, and it had a lot of nice touches: mini-fridge, ceiling fans, toothbrushes and toiletries, towels.

We served ourselves breakfast (instant coffee, cereals, meat and cheese, breads and spreads) in the lovely kitchen and enjoyed conversing in three languages with a great couple from Paris.

When it was time to leave for our drive to Bosnia, the guy from the night before and the owner bid us farewell with helpful directions and instructions to call them if we needed anything at all, even in Sarajevo, where the owner’s father lives and could help us.

Maksimilian’s building, area, and amenities are very nice for the price, but the real reason to stay is for the hospitality.
Guesthouse Maksimilian
Franjevacka 12
Osijek, Croatia
385 31 497 567

A House with a Secret Garden

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by midtownmjd on October 26, 2009

Finding budget accommodation in Dubrovnik, and everywhere along the Dalmation Coast, at the tail end of high season proved difficult. (Tip: book well in advance!) I finally found this private accommodation listed somewhere online, and while it wasn’t very cheap, it was an excellent value for the price and we were very happy with it.

The young husband-and-wife team offers a number of rooms, many with private bathrooms, all of which are very cute and clean. The house’s highlights, though, are the patio and gardens; walking through the gate from the street feels like walking into an oasis. It’s a really lovely setting, and one that’s unexpected after seeing the house’s modest and almost hidden entrance. When we were there, our hosts’ young child and parents were enjoying the outdoors as much as we were.

The location is in Gruz, a beautiful neighborhood hugging a marina, but a bit of a long, hilly walk to the tourist attractions of Dubrovnik’s old town. There’s a bus stop nearby, though, and the trip doesn’t take long at all that way—maybe 10 minutes. We also took a taxi once, which was even quicker (though not cheap). The rooms also come with free parking in an adjacent (but not secure) lot.

Our affable hosts were full of recommendations for their city, from museums to restaurants to bars, and were helpful in getting us on our way. Their neighborhood has everything a traveler needs, like banks and food stores.

Overall, we had a good stay here, and I could imagine staying even longer and enjoying the immediate neighborhood at a more relaxed pace.
Bokun Guesthouse
Obala Stjepana Radica 7
Dubrovnik, Croatia
+385 (20) 357290

Not Bad but Not Up to Par

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by midtownmjd on October 27, 2009

Hostell Nikolla is a nice hostel deep in Split’s labyrinthine old town, with a common patio and kitchen area featuring the Internet and tasty-looking snacks. The apartment they outsourced us to, on the other hand, was a so-so spot almost scarily deep into the labyrinth without much going for it.

I wasn’t particularly surprised that the hostel sent us to a local’s rental apartment despite our reservation for the hostel, because I’d read that this happens pretty often during the summer, and we arrived fairly late into the evening. I could have done without the unorganized process of getting us the place to stay, but it worked out, and the delay gave us enough time to find a place to park and haul our bags to the hostel.

The apartment we stayed in was on the ground floor in a sort of cul-de-sac; the woman running it lived just above us. There was only one bedroom, but an extra bed and a cot were set up in the common area so the space could squeeze four people. I have no major complaints, though the apartment was not as clean or as comfortable as the other apartments and hotels we stayed in over the course of eight nights. There was air-conditioning, a kitchen with some nice appliances, and a TV and sitting area.

I think the biggest drawback was that the area felt abandoned at night, and so it seemed a little sketchy, though it’s hard to say if it really is or not--the old town of Split has a sort of charming, dilapidated quality in general. Still, situated on the ground floor, I wouldn’t feel comfortable staying there on my own.

Overall, this place was perfectly fine for our needs, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on Hostell Nikolla to house us again—in their own building or in someone else’s.
Hostell Nikolla
Kovacica 6
Split, Croatia
+385 98 902 1997

Dark-Horse Candidate Became Favorite Place on the Coast

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by midtownmjd on October 27, 2009

Ah, Zadar. My friends and I still talk about Zadar with a fondness bordering on reverence. For some reason, the day and night we spent in this northern Dalmatian city was one of those times on the road when everything falls perfectly into place—not least of which was finding ourselves in an outstanding apartment a block from the Adriatic. Our apartment exceeded my expectations in every way and remains one of the most memorable places we stayed on this trip.

Perfectly located, spotlessly clean, and plenty roomy, these apartments are rented out by an older couple that owns the building; their English-speaking son drives over to handle guests’ check-in. (This practice of a child running rental rooms out of his parents’ house seems to be very common in Croatia.) The entire family was pleasant and helpful.

Our apartment could sleep five people in two bedrooms and also featured two bathrooms, a kitchen and dining area, and two balconies with chairs. There’s air-conditioning, extra blankets, a coffeemaker—basically anything you’d need for a comfortable stay. Parking is included in the family’s large driveway.

Apartments Sestan is easily a place you could treat as a base while you explore Zadar and other area beaches and towns. I certainly wouldn’t mind sitting on the balcony for one more fiery Zadar sunrise or sunset, that’s for sure.
Apartments Sestan
I.P. Trifunica 2
Zadar, Croatia
+385 23 331571

Funny, Sunny Shared Apartment

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by midtownmjd on October 27, 2009

Staying at Rooms Rea was a little bit of a nutty experience, but I liked it.

Big, clean, and airy, the quality of the three bedrooms, two shared bathrooms, and kitchen outweighed some slightly off-the-wall experiences with the proprietor and previous guests.

The bright apartment is welcoming and comfortable, and I liked the location, which is a short taxi ride from the city center. The accommodations are much nicer in person than they appear on the official website, which is always a pleasant surprise, and as advertised, there is parking in the driveway.

I felt that these rooms were very good value for the money, and the service very friendly while I was booking via email.

I wholeheartedly recommend Rooms Rea for a Zagreb visit (just be sure to pack your sense of humor).
Rooms Rea
Ulica Josipa Sermagea 9
Zagreb, Croatia
+385 91 538 41 72

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