Croatia? You Bet Your Kuna.

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 2, 2007

Q. We are thinking of traveling to Croatia in early February. Since it will be wintertime, should we be concerned that many tourist attractions might be closed?

Monica Tremonti, Rockville

A. You know, hardly a day goes by when we aren't treated to a traveler's tear-stained story about how U.S. currency is buying so little abroad. But are we here to wallow in dollar-inspired dourness? No, we are here to talk about a little antidote called the kuna. As in the Croatian national currency. As in not-the-euro. You can get five of these babies for a dollar at present.

But what will five kuna buy, you ask? "Beer and a coffee" in a cafe, says Nena Komarica of the Croatian National Tourist Board (800-829-4416, And lest you think that a metabolic roller-coaster ride is the only bargain, one dollar also buys "coffee and cake," which sounded kind of vague, although the excitement in Komarica's voice was palpable.

Furthermore, when a favorable exchange rate meets the February offseason, you might get even more with your coffee. Komarica recommends that you visit the spas of Opatija, in western Croatia on the Adriatic coast, where a room for two at a five-star hotel such as the Millennium goes for $138 a night. Wellness centers can be found there, at the Grand Hotel ($129 a night) and elsewhere, as can inscrutably titled therapies such as "aromasoul massage" and "vacuum detox." (Information on both hotels:

But if a Croatian seacoast in winter isn't your thing -- hey, how do you know until you try it? -- Zagreb will be hopping, too, in its own way. "It is not a typical capital," Komarica says of the city of 1 million. "It is also one of the 'art cities' in Europe," a distinction that appears to apply to only, well, 38 European cities. Even more exceptional is Zagreb's status as one of the world's few true walking cities. There are dozens of galleries and museums within strolling distance of the central square, Jelacica Trg, among them the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters and the Mimara Museum, which has works by Rembrandt, Renoir and others.

My husband, myself and two kids (both under 5) are going to Manhattan in December, and I'd really like to find some indoor play areas for the little ones. Any suggestions? Toys "R" Us, FAO Schwarz and the museums have gotten old.

Rachel Carr, Rockville

Can't do the Tom Hanks dance on the "Big" piano one more time, can ya? Then head over to the Children's Museum of Manhattan (212-721-1234,, where five floors of amusement await on the city's Upper West Side. Expect such genre staples as a make-believe grocery store and multiple nods to Dora the Explorer, but also such imaginative elements as a climbable Trojan horse that's part of a Greek history exhibit for small fry.

On the East Side, there's A-Ha! (212-517-8292,, a 3,000-square-foot indoor fun house geared to the 5-and-younger set. There you'll find the requisite puppet theater and bouncy areas, as well as unique play spaces sanctioned by an advisory panel of experts in child development.

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