Serendipity with OAT

By Victor Block
This item appears on page 25 of the November 2015 issue.
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In all my years of travel, few tour group companies have lived up to their motto more than Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/955-1925, www.oattravel.com), with its promise of opportunities for learning and discovery.

The “Crossroads of the Adriatic” trip that my wife, Fyllis, and I took to Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia, Oct. 27-Nov. 11, 2014 (priced from $2,995, land only, or $4,195 with round-trip air, New York/Dubrovnik), lived up to that goal and then some.

Providing outstanding experiences as we’ve enjoyed on previous OAT journeys, the trip introduced us to a region of Western and Eastern European cultures sharing a history of peaceful coexistence punctuated by intermittent periods of hostilities.

Along the way, we visited tiny hill towns and ancient walled cities, explored forest-clad countryside and came face to face with the towering peaks of the Julian Alps, in addition to enjoying stunning coastal scenery.

Time in Croatia meant walking through the elegant labyrinthine streets of Dubrovnik and ruins of Roman edifices and exploring the dramatic series of cascading Plitvice lakes. 

Bosnia, along with displaying scars of the civil war that raged there in the 1990s, has a beautiful, craggy landscape and medieval castle towns.

In Slovenia, group members oohed and aahed at the Julian Alps and agreed that lovely Ljubljana ranks near the top of our favorite European cities. 

Tiny Montenegro stretches from rugged mountains through plunging canyons to a string of inviting beaches along the Adriatic Sea.

Exploration of these diverse destinations was enhanced by what sets OAT apart from many other tour companies: the degree of flexibility allowed trip leaders to modify the written itinerary in order to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. 

As we explored the Old Town and fortresses of Dubrovnik on the first day, our ever-creative guide Ivana noticed a small sign announcing that a string quartet would perform that night in a tiny 12th-century church. Several of us joined an audience of locals to hear an outstanding performance.

Days later, when we spent a night in a farmhouse in Slavonia, Croatia’s “breadbasket” region, several women in our group admired hand-made pottery in the kitchen. Ivana made a phone call and convinced the potter, who had closed his shop for the season, to reopen it just for us the next day.

A priest whom Ivana knows in a tiny mountain village welcomed us into his beautiful, 18th-century church and served delicious blueberry strudel he had just made, accompanied by wine from a nearby vineyard.

When we stopped in a hill town to sample truffles, Ivana was asked how those tasty tubers are found. A quick phone call, a short detour by bus and we were shadowing a truffle hunter and his dog, Riki, as they tracked down and dug up the elusive fungus with the taste one either loves or despises.

Among the other delicacies we sampled were tangerines, regional chocolates, cream cakes, roasted chestnuts and a seemingly endless supply of regional brandies.

These experiences also enhanced the tour by providing personal interactions with residents and insights into their cultures. And, after all, isn’t that what travel is about?

VICTOR BLOCK

Washington, DC

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In all my years of travel, few tour group companies have lived up to their motto more than Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/955-1925, www.oattravel.com), with its promise of opportunities for learning and discovery.

The “Crossroads of the Adriatic” trip that my wife, Fyllis, and I took to Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia, Oct. 27-Nov. 11, 2014 (priced from $2,995, land only, or $4,195 with round-trip air, New York/Dubrovnik), lived up to that goal and then some.

Providing outstanding experiences as we’ve enjoyed on previous OAT journeys, the trip introduced us to a region of Western and Eastern European cultures sharing a history of peaceful coexistence punctuated by intermittent periods of hostilities.

Along the way, we visited tiny hill towns and ancient walled cities, explored forest-clad countryside and came face to face with the towering peaks of the Julian Alps, in addition to enjoying stunning coastal scenery.

Time in Croatia meant walking through the elegant labyrinthine streets of Dubrovnik and ruins of Roman edifices and exploring the dramatic series of cascading Plitvice lakes. 

Bosnia, along with displaying scars of the civil war that raged there in the 1990s, has a beautiful, craggy landscape and medieval castle towns.

In Slovenia, group members oohed and aahed at the Julian Alps and agreed that lovely Ljubljana ranks near the top of our favorite European cities. 

Tiny Montenegro stretches from rugged mountains through plunging canyons to a string of inviting beaches along the Adriatic Sea.

Exploration of these diverse destinations was enhanced by what sets OAT apart from many other tour companies: the degree of flexibility allowed trip leaders to modify the written itinerary in order to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. 

As we explored the Old Town and fortresses of Dubrovnik on the first day, our ever-creative guide Ivana noticed a small sign announcing that a string quartet would perform that night in a tiny 12th-century church. Several of us joined an audience of locals to hear an outstanding performance.

Days later, when we spent a night in a farmhouse in Slavonia, Croatia’s “breadbasket” region, several women in our group admired hand-made pottery in the kitchen. Ivana made a phone call and convinced the potter, who had closed his shop for the season, to reopen it just for us the next day.

A priest whom Ivana knows in a tiny mountain village welcomed us into his beautiful, 18th-century church and served delicious blueberry strudel he had just made, accompanied by wine from a nearby vineyard.

When we stopped in a hill town to sample truffles, Ivana was asked how those tasty tubers are found. A quick phone call, a short detour by bus and we were shadowing a truffle hunter and his dog, Riki, as they tracked down and dug up the elusive fungus with the taste one either loves or despises.

Among the other delicacies we sampled were tangerines, regional chocolates, cream cakes, roasted chestnuts and a seemingly endless supply of regional brandies.

These experiences also enhanced the tour by providing personal interactions with residents and insights into their cultures. And, after all, isn’t that what travel is about?

VICTOR BLOCK

Washington, DC