Tom & Shirley's Page -- 2015 Amsterdam and Istria Trip
  Ever since Shirley and I visited Croatia in 2008 we have wanted to return and explore more of this wonderful country.   So in Fall of 2015 we decided to visit Istria.   The Istrian peninsula is located in the northwestern part of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea, bordered by Slovakia to the north.   The Istrian west coast with its sparkling clean water and many secluded beaches can be very popular with tourists in summer however you can still feel relaxed and undisturbed in the interior that is full of pleasant rolling hills and quaint hilltop villages.   We found Istria had everything we enjoy and that it was a little slice of heaven.
  We are into the Slow-Travel concept-meaning you stay longer in one place rather than bouncing from town to town.   For a three week vacation staying one week in three places this year was the plan.   We could not find any non-stop direct flights going to Istria from the mid-west where we live so we decided to fly direct to Amsterdam from Chicago.   The plan was to stay there a week, catch a puddle jumper down to Istria and stay there for two weeks.
  Our Amsterdam accommodation was at René & Ellen Roelofs (Garden View Studio).   The on-site hosts were wonderful and very helpful.   We loved the apartment and its suburban neighborhood feel-friendly sounds during the day and quiet nights.   “Live like a local” the saying goes.   This place was not in the city center but the bus connection was close to the studio and got us downtown in less than 10 minutes.   The studio offers a full separate kitchen, huge bathroom, separate toilet area, sauna, bedroom-living room combo and a lovely outdoor space.   Additionally free Wi-Fi, TV and parking if you need it.   Shirl is very picky about accommodations when we travel.   The place has to be clean and “as advertised”.   We both can recommend this place for your Amsterdam stay.
  We really enjoyed our stay in Amsterdam and found this city to be interesting, vibrant and safe.   After staying for a week we only scratched the surface on things to do and see.   We never made it to the Van Gogh Museum so for sure a return trip will have to be made.   The Ann Frank House & Rijksmuseum are fabulous and worth the trip alone.   Additionally we took the Hungry Birds Street Food Tour which was fabulous, and highly recommended.
  Our next stop was the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia.   Our first stay was in the beautiful city of Rovinj.   Our rental was at Apartments Nimcevic, a bit out of the city center area but we had a car so it was not a problem.   We find that staying in the suburbs offers a much larger apartment at a substantial lower cost.   This apartment had 1 bedroom, a full small kitchen, a nice living room and a huge covered balcony, actually two balconies, but we only used one.   Also free wifi and parking.   This place was squeaky clean probably the most spotless we have found to date.   The owners were very kind and understanding even when we ended up arriving at almost midnight due to a late flight and closed car rental counter.   Shirley will gladly offer her recommendation for this place.
  For us Rovinj proved to be the perfect city to serve as a base for explorations along the western coast.   In our week stay in Rovinj we easily navigated to Pula in the south, Savudrija in the north and many towns and villages in between.   A ferry out to the Brijuni Island National Park was right at our back door.   Rovinj is right on the coast and had plenty affordable restaurants with interesting things to do and see keeping us busy on those days we weren’t out day tripping.   Rovinj's pedestrian only streets are full of twists, turns and dead ends.   Its harbor still supports a real fishing industry.   Cozy, clean, safe, with plenty of local history and architecture, we were very happy we choose Rovinj as our base.   We had a guide while here, Matt, from ToursByLocals who showed us around Rovinj (tour #19363) and Pula (tour #19364). We highly recommend these tours (and him).
  Pazin was our final accommodation in Istria.   Here we spent a week at Apartment Diana a simply wonderful upper flat in a residential part of town.   We were 3-for-3 in apartment rentals as this was another great choice.   The apartment is fully equipped and contains everything travelers would expect in a self-catering holiday rental.   It includes a nice outdoor balcony and free parking.   The owners Zeljko & Daniela live directly below with their 2 children and were simply the nicest hosts one could ask for.   They immediately made Shirley and I feel comfortable and “at home” in this new city.   We had drinks with them and dinner together two of the nights we were here.
  Pazin was surprisingly larger that we had envisioned and had all the essentials to meet our needs.   It has a variety of any good and reasonably priced pubs and restaurants, a helpful TI, ATMs, supermarkets, etc.
  Istria comes in three flavors: coastal paradise, rustic hilltop hamlet, and quiet medieval village.   Because the region is only about 50 miles wide and 60 miles north to south you can have both in the same day.   Pazin also proved to be a convenient base for exploits to villages and hill towns.   With great roads it never seemed to take too long to get anywhere.   A day trip over to Cres Island only took 45 minutes to get to Brestova where you catch the ferry.   If you want a change of pace avoiding crowded beaches and tourist resorts but yearn for interesting things to see and scenic places to visit then central Istria is for you.
  This is a quick overview of our trip to Amsterdam and Istria.   Below are a just a few of the photos from this trip (we actually took over 1700).   If anyone wants more detail or info on anything just email us at luvtworoam@yahoo.com   Shirl has a posted a detailed day-by-day account of this trip on Fodors titled Amsterdam, Rovinj & Pazin in Istria.   We always like to help other trip planners as many have provided help and good advice to us.  
    ~Tom & Shirley
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  And it begins! Three glorious weeks in Amsterdam and Istria, Croatia. Our studio in Amsterdam. Has the nice little outdoor space we really like.
  A funky and fun local restaurant just a few steps away. Took a day trip out to see the windmills in Zaandam. We are Tom & Shirley.
  Our Hungry Birds guide and owner were fabulous. Ring-ring. Watch out for these. They'll run you over if not careful! One of many Amsterdam canals.
  Don't miss the Anne Frank house when in Amsterdam. Long line to get into the Anne Frank house. Best to pre-buy! This was a tailor's house once upon a time.
  Houses are designed to lean toward street to give extra clearance lifting large loads using block & tackle. Beautiful flowers for sale everywhere in Amsterdam city center markets. Interesting clock tower at Amsterdam Central Station.
  Rovinj in Istria (Croatia)
  Our RovinJ Apartments Nimcevic covered balcony was superb. My Shirl at the Roving marina. The Rovinj promenade is really nice.
  The Rovinj fish market. Wandering one of the attractive coblestone backstreets of Rovinj. Rovinj from the sea.
  A scenic place on Brijuni Island. Marshall Tito's state summer retreat. At an estimated 1600 years old this Brijuni olive tree is one of the oldest in the eastern Adriatic still producing quality oil. Had to stop for some great road-side Suckling-pig in Flengi.
  Built in 1818 Savudrija has the oldest active lighthouse in the Adriatic. Baroque church of St. Servulas built in 1272. The unfinished façade contains shards of salvaged Roman masonry taken from an old temple it was built over. Interior of St. Servulas. It was renovated in 1784.
  Notice the sign: No Peeing from the Lookout. The well preserved Roman amphitheater in Pula built in 70 AD. The small hill-top town of Bale has these awesome 15th century frescos in the Little Church of the Holy Spirit.
  Pazin in Istria (Croatia)
  Apartment Diana in Pazin was the perfect base for us. The living room of our Pazin flat was very confortable. The apartment is large, with 3 bedrooms. Sadly there are lots of proud but neglected properties in the small villages in Istria, like this one in Gracisce.
  Ancient graves in graveyard at the Saint Vitus Parish Church in Gracise Pican is a quiet picturesque town. Beham's small Church of St. Mary of the Rocks the Amazing ‘Dance of Death’ fresco is the most important work of Istrian art from the Middle Ages.
  ‘Dance of Death’ frescos painted in 1474. In Zminj I found this ancient stone table buried in a stone wall. See the tablet?
  Have to catch the ferry at Brestova to get over to Cres Island on the Istrian east coast. Village of Lubenice on Cres, an almost abandoned village high on a dramatic cliff overlooking the deep blue Adriatic. It’s an amazingly scenic place. The little fisherman village of Valun on Crez has an incredibly picturesque harbor.
  Draguc is Istria’s ‘Hollywood’ due to its pristine medieval architecture. But not many families live here anymore. With its under 25 permanent residents, Hum is the smallest town in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The Church of St. Anthony the Abbot in Roc still retains three crosses on the south wall that are actually graffiti from around 1200.
  Buzet large town gates dating back to 1547. The Baroque public well in the main square of Vizinada. The square was used in the filming of Kelly's Heroes in 1969. Old Gothic castle gates in Motovun, which is the most photographed of Istrian hill towns.
  It was very quiet the day we visited the old medieval hill-top town of Oprtalj which still has the fortified town walls encircling it. This great old water cistern in in the main square, but others are to be found all around town. Zupan's Table under the hackberry trees in Tinjan. There are 12 stone seats around it where old people used to make decisions on important matters.
  Shirl 'confessing' at the old stone "Pillar of Shame" (1769) in the small village Salez. One of the few surviving examples of a pillar of shame in Istria. And all too soon our lovely three week stay in Amsterdam and Istria were over.