Exploring Verazdin, Croatia

Day 86,  Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The abandoned building across the street seems to be a favourite spot for the neighbourhood pigeons. We drive and park near the centre of town.  Bob shows me the places he explored yesterday.  This is the Verazdin Fortress which is now a museum, and the drained moats are now covered with grass.  There are workmen constructing a skating rink which uses refrigerated lines to make artificial ice because it doesn’t get cold enough for natural ice.  We saw a rink like this in Rome a couple years ago. Here is a view of the grass covered moat which has a path all along the top. They are also building a toboggan slide using the same refrigerated plastic tubing.We walk back towards the centre of the town, looking for a place to have tea. It is a bit chilly outside so we find this cafe.This was our table, in the sunshine by the window.  Bob had a yummy hot chocolate with Baileys and some dessert and I had my usual mint tea. 
In the square outside the cafe workmen are busy getting ready for the Christmas Market and erecting a stage.  Festivities here don’t start until Advent on November 29, so unfortunately we miss the festivities.   Verazdin is called the Vienna of Croatia but we think that is a bit of a stretch.  There are many buildings in disrepair and lots of closed shops.  There are a few people on the streets but it is pretty quiet. Notice the bag of oranges Bob is carrying.  It was about $4 for a big bag of really yummy Mandarin oranges.  Almost everyone we saw on the street was carrying a bag of these oranges so we thought they must be good and we should buy a bag too. Take look at the abandoned falling down building right next door to a neat and well cared for shop. This is a main square and the big building on the left of the photo is empty and boarded up.  Well, almost boarded up, there is an open door and we peek inside the main floor which is empty except for some piles of junk and garbage.
We saw these red candles in a couple of places.  Near the cafe where we had our tea there were lots of them, spelling out the word Vukovar.  I looked it up and found out that there was a siege at the town of Vukovar during the 1990 War.  Over 3,000 soldiers and civilians, including 86 children, died during the siege and the aftermath. There are still over 300 residents missing from that time.  Last Sunday evening, memorial ceremonies took place across Croatia and candles were lit for the victims of Vukovar across the country. 



Old Town in Wroclaw, Poland

Day 11, Thursday September 5, 2019.

Today is a much needed quiet day. For some reason I only slept a few hours last night so I stay home and rest and do a bit of blogging. Bob goes for a walk and scouts out the route to the Old Town for tomorrow. Here is our view from the apartment, with our white car in the parking lot. Bob is in there too, but you can barely see his head as he walks along the street behind the hedge. 


Day 12, Friday, September 6, 2019

On our walk to Wroclaw’s Old Town we cross one of its canals. It looks so peaceful here.

Soon we are approaching the old part of town. There are many places where we see the old and the new side by side. These two buildings were across from each other.
Here’s how big items get delivered!

Wroclaw Town Square, another huge square with beautiful buildings. These date back to the 1600’s!

The flower market.Wroclaw has an ever growing populations of gnomes.  In fact, our guidebook states “the little buggers are currently rumoured to be running rampant to the score of over 300 making it literally impossible for us to try to keep track of them!”  I think they are delightful and I am happy to make their acquaintance .

A view of the glass panel fountain … and more tenement houses in the town square. The interior of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church which dates from 1330. We climb 147 steps up to the walkway between the two towers. In times past women suspected of being witches were forced to cross this walkway (there were no railings then) and if they made it across safely they were branded as a witch. If they fell to their death, then they were innocent of the crime of being a witch! You certainly didn’t want to be accused of witchcraft!  I am very glad there are railings now and I meet another couple of gnomes. We have great views of the city from up here. Here is a view of the walkway, way up there between the two towers.There were steeples on these at one time, not sure if they were destroyed during the war? More ornate colourful buildings.
I wish I knew the recipe for the bubble mixture this guy was using! He made hundreds of bubbles at a time with his string between two sticks.  Kids had such fun chasing all the bubbles.We found quite a few more of these little fellows, on doorsteps, or tucked into corners.

There was some sort of celebration happening with lots of women wearing fancy outfits and some very interesting hats.

The two little houses in the corner called Hansel and Gretel are the only two houses left of streets that used to surround a cemetery. The cemetery closed in 1773.  I wonder where the graves went?The interior of St. Elizabeth church dates to the 14th century. It was severely damaged during the second world war and then by a fire in 1976.

So it’s stained glass windows are modern. This one is quite unique.

More colourful houses on a side street…
and more busy gnomes.

We stop at a sidewalk restaurant for lunch and now we are ‘those people’ who take pictures of their meals! My salmon with a balsamic reduction was delicious.  It was one of the best restaurant meals I have had and Bob enjoyed his sausage and potato pancakes with spinach .

At the university we visit an ornate lecture room… and an interesting collection of artifacts.  This is a chart for determining eye colour.

I love all the old wooden cabinets with all their drawers. The Music Hall is under restoration but we are allowed a peak inside. We. climb another 203 steps up the Math tower, which has displays along the way.  

These are beautiful old compasses, some dating back to the 1600’s.The top of the Math Tower…
and the views. Notice the very modern looking tower among the old.

Bob standing on the Meridian line which runs through this University,  This meridian line demarcates the 51st parallel which runs right through the Math Tower as well. I just love all the reflections of the old buildings in the glass walls of the modern new buildings! Churches here are either very ornate…or look like this. The late afternoon sun was shining through the windows casting everything in a lovely olden glow.

We stop for tea and cookies in this little garden with its Baroque well. Then we visit the market and buy some fruit. Food prices are very reasonable here. More reflections. We catch a trolley bus home. We haven’t seem many paved streets or sidewalks here. Most of the streets and sidewalks here are cobbled in one fashion or another. All the uneven footing is hard on the feet and ankles. We walked 16,700 steps today and climbed the equivalent of 31 floors!

Vodnjan, Bale and Rovinj, Croatia

Day 18, Friday September 22, 2017,continued.

I am not sure what was going on last night, but nothing was working as it should have. I do love blogging about our trip. It is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family and it is a keepsake of our trip for ourselves. It does take quite a bit of time and effort to post every day, especially when I am not the most computer savvy person, so when things don’t work it can be quite frustrating. My hope is to one day turn these blog postings about our trips into books.

We walked by this interesting mural on the side of a building in Vodnjan as we returned to the car park. Finding parking in the old part of town is always a challenge, but we have been pretty lucky finding public car parks with reasonable rates, anywhere from 4 to 8 Kuna an hour ($.80 to $1.60 an hour)

I love the old towns, with their passage ways and doors leading into interesting little streets, courtyards and gardens. On our way to Bale, the next town on our itinerary today, we stop to visit this Kažun Theme Park, which has the four stages of building a kažun demonstrated and several other examples of different styles as well as dry stone walls.  A kažun is a shelter for peasants and shepherds that was built in areas where it was necessary to clear the stone in order to farm the land.The next town we visit is Bale, pop. 900. It is a quiet rather sleepy little town with very old buildings and very narrow winding streets. There is a gate leading into the town through a tower in the old town wall. The Church of St. Elizabeth has wonderful paintings on the ceiling and walls. This narrow street seems to be serving as someone’s garden.

There is another tiny church here dedicated to the Holy Spirit and built in the 15th Century.  It reminded me of the cave churches we visited in Cappadocia, Turkey.
We find a playground with a picnic table and have our lunch. I peek into a crack in a nearby fence and spot these crocus in bloom. Seems strange, crocus bloom in the spring at home but in the fall here.This abandoned building is just across the field from where have our lunch. We see these sort of buildings everywhere in Croatia.  Old stone buildings in various stages of disrepair or collapse. They are not demolished but left just as they are. Perhaps some day someone will decide to renovate? In any case, it seems like nothing is ever torn down here. Everything is left just as it is, a reminder of times past.Just fifteen kilometres down the highway is Rovinj, pop.13,000. This was originally an island port that was joined to the coast in 1763 by filling in the channel separating it from the mainland, creating a peninsula. We walk up this street looking for the cathedral. Yes, another one! Every town, no matter how tiny has a church or cathedral and usually a tall bellower that is the highest point in the town. The streets here are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops catering to tourists who seem to be quite a younger crowd than we have seen elsewhere.We get sidetracked, (lost) and end up on the backside of the cathedral, so we sit to have little rest and a snack on a park bench, I draw this view while Bob amuses himself with a Games magazine.We finally find the road up to the Cathedral which is dedicated to Saint Euphemia, whose remains are preserved in a sarcophagus inside.Another beautiful Madonna…and we discover that the church is decorated for a wedding.Just a short time later we see the bride and groom arrive with the photographer to take their photos before the wedding.  They are both wearing colourful running shoes. The bride’s were bright turquoise.We slowly make our way back down the streets towards the marina exploring as we go.Little shops are tucked into the tiniest of places, often displaying most of their wares right on the street.

There are lots of bright shutters and laundry high above us.

This street is entered through a low archway. I think Friday might be laundry day as we see laundry hanging from so many windows. Also notice the street pavers that are worn so smooth and shiny.  I wonder how many feet have trod on these stones over the centuries?Soon we are back on the street by the water and we sit for a while in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth and the people watching.
There are also a lot of boats to watch as well! We walk back towards our car which is parked on the street past the very far right of this picture. It is a long walk back to the car and then about an hour to drive home to our cozy apartment. We both really enjoyed the day. It sure is nice to have sunshine after all the rainy windy weather of the first two weeks of our holiday. 

Sublime to Strange

Earlier this trip I visited Giverny, so I really wanted to see Monet’s water lily paintings.  The metro stopped at the Concorde Station, which has walls covered with the text of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, one letter per tile, no punctuation or spacing between words.  I knew about this see this, but wasn’t sure where it was located, so it was a nice surprise to find it completely by accident.


I headed off to the Orangerie today and although there was a bit of a line it only took about half an hour before I was inside.  I was going to have a cup of tea and a bite to eat before taking a look at everything but was surprised to find that there were no facilities here for eating, or even getting a tea or coffee, so I was out of luck.


There was a special exhibit of Emile Bernard’s work so I headed there first.  No photographs allowed in here, but there were eight rooms of his work and it was an excellent collection.


The permanent collection also featured Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Modigliani, Derain,  Laurencin, Rousseau, Utrillo and Soutine.  Unfortunately most of the Modigliani’s were not available for viewing today.  There was  a hallway full of Renoirs!


Some of Picasso,s earlier works.  The Orangerie isn’t a huge place but it still took a while to see everything, and then I went to view Les Nymphéas.  No photos in here either.  I tried a sketch to get a feel of the size of these paintings but it wasn’t very successful, so I sneaked a photo from the entry to one of the two galleries. I am going to have to practice some architectural drawings, not having much success with them at all.

imageMonet designed these galleries himself and I couldn’t imagine these paintings  displayed any other way.  I knew they were huge works and I have a beautiful book at home with great close up views of the paintings but I was certainly not prepared for the impact of actually being in their presence.  There are seats in the centre of each gallery to sit and contemplate, and I certainly did that.  This a monumental work.  I could picture Monet painting these canvases, and there are so many layers of paint that the surface of the paintings are actually quite heavily textured.  Looking into the layers of paint was much like looking into the dark reflective waters of lily pond at Monet’s Giverny.

I planned on going to the Louvre for of a couple of hours but on the way there were a lot of people milling about near some big white tents.  So I went to see what it was all about.


This is Fashion week in Paris, a very big event, and a fashion show had just ended.   The attendees were leaving and posing for photos.  There are photographers with huge lenses everywhere, it was rather chaotic and surreal.




I have no idea who the lady in the black coat is, but she generated a lot of attention and was pretty much mobbed by professional looking  photographers who seemed very pleased to have taken photos of her.

There were the certainly lots of very beautiful people and then there were some rather strangely dressed people as well.


And, perhaps one of the strangest of all!  He posed for a lot of pictures and seemed very pleased with himself.


By the time the crowd was thinning out it was too late for the Louvre, so I found a cafe in the Jardin des Tuileries and ordered a salad and a pot of tea.


It was good, but it was also 21€, which is thirty dollars Canadian!  Having my own little kitchen and preparing meals has certainly saved me some money!


Stopped for one last photo on the way home beside one of the dozens of big tents erected for Fashion Week.

Académie and LaRotonde

Two drawing sessions today, six hours. I decided to use some Derwent Drawing Pencils I brought with me.  The are softer than coloured pencils, look like conté a bit,  but they don’t smudge like conté.


5 Minutes poses


15 minute poses


20 minute poses.  The model had a tummy that made her look like she was pregnant but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t.  Nice to draw in any case.

The male model this afternoon had a very muscular build but he was also very tall so he had extremely long legs and arms, broad shoulders and the tiniest waist.


Very beautiful to look at but very difficult to draw.  By the end of the three hours I was just beginning to get familiar enough with his body to figure out how to get him on paper.


I met two very nice ladies today, and we went for drinks after class to LaRotunda which had many copies of Modigliani paintings on display, one of my favourite artists.  Turns out this is quite a famous cafe, founded in 1911 and frequented by Modigliani, Utrillo, and Picasso, along with Hemmingway, and many other painters and writers.  Often when the poor artists couldn’t pay their bills  they would  pay with a piece of artwork.  My pot of mint tea was 5€, about $7.00 Canadian, but worth every cent.  It arrived on a tray in a silver looking tea pot, with an additional pot of hot water.  Very elegant and we sat and visited for almost two hours.  A lovely time.


It was almost dark by the time I headed for home, so had to take photos under artificial light again…sorry,  not the best, but better than waiting until tomorrow to get it done.