You may wonder why we went to Verazdin, seeing as there really wasn’t all that much to see or do there? It has to do with something called the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Area is an area with 26 European countries that have officially abolished all passport and other types of border control at their mutual borders.
The catch is that you can only stay 90 days in these Schengen Countries once every six months. Our holiday is 92 days, so we needed to go to a country that was not part of the Schengen Agreement so that we would not have any problems.
Most people we have spoken to don’t know anything about this rule…but then most people don’t spend more than 90 days on holidays in a six month period!
However, there are going to be changes to travelling in Schengen countries that will affect anyone travelling to Europe. “World travelers privileged with visa-free entry to the Schengen member states will also be affected in the near future from recent changes that the EU has decided to implement. The most important change is that as of January 2021, travelers will need to apply for an online authorization, and wait for its approval before heading to the EU.”
It is very foggy when we start our drive to Vienna, only we soon realize that it is smog, not fog! It smells awful and bothered my eyes and chest. It clears up for a bit but then we drive back into the band of smog that stretches across the countryside. We have never seen anything quite like this before.One of the many small villages in Croatia. Most of these villages only have one row of houses along the highway, no side streets at all. Notice the pretty yellow and purple chrysanthemums growing along the fence. We saw lots of these flowers along the way. One fairly long stretch of the road has a shrine every 300 to 500 metres, and each one had fresh flowers placed in front of it. Another little village. We don’t see many people about and think that they probably have a hard time keeping people from moving to bigger urban centres. The highway mainly passes through farmland, and I quite like all the trees along the side of the road.
We finally get a bit of sunshine. There are winter crops planted which are just beginning to grow that are many different shades of green. We get to Bratislava about 3:00 pm, return our rental car and catch the Flixbus one last time back to our apartment in Vienna. We are surprised how quickly it gets dark now. This is photo taken on the bus just after 4:30pm. We catch an Uber from the Main Bus Depot. Twenty euros well spent. We are dropped off at our apartment door, which is the same apartment we had a couple weeks ago in Vienna. It almost feels like coming home. In three more sleeps we will really be home.
It poured all day Wednesday, so we both stayed home. Bob got a much needed haircut and we washed clothes.
Thursday was another quiet day for both of us as well. Bob went for a walk in the afternoon, but said there wasn’t much happening in town. I got a chance to work on my blog on both days and with this post I am almost caught up. Just in time as we only have four more sleeps until we head home.
I found this tiny book in the apartment today. It is a miniature Gutenburg Bible. It is certainly the tiniest book I have ever seen. Our apartment is the second from the bottom balcony on the left side of the photo. The end of our street is countryside. I took a peek into the empty apartment building across the street. One of the empty store fronts on the ground floor looked like someone might have once stayed there. I was startled when a wild cat gave a loud yowl and ran past me to get out the door. I decided maybe I better not explore any further!
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.
I am very happy to stay home and have a quiet day but Bob gets restless and heads out exploring. He walks all the way into town which is about half hour away. When he gets back we go for groceries. This is the view towards town and that is Bob in the blue coat. I saw a really neat way to cut open a pomegranate on the internet. I bought one to give it a try. Firt cutoff the blossom end by making four cuts and pulling the piece out. I was surprised how easily it came out. Next slice down the length of the pomegranate wherever there is a membrane. And presto, pull the pieces apart. It worked really well. This was my big adventure for the day.
We are on our way to Croatia. Leaving our apartment, the streets are narrow … with not a lot of room…
but we are soon on some wider roads… and crossing the Danube as we start a four hour drive to Verazdin, Croatia. The Hungarian countryside is much like back home in Alberta.There are a few farms and small villages but the rural areas seem to be sparcely populated.
At the border they checkout our passports and the car registration, then let us pass. We arrive at our new Airbnb around 2:00. Our apartment is great and there is parking right on the street . We are right on the edge of the town, with fields nearby. There is also an empty apartment building across the street and two more only partly constructed buildings that look abandoned. We think the economy here must be struggling. Here is another view across the street from our apartment . There is a small grocery store on the corner, but not much else close by.
We are exactly halfway through our holiday and we have been having a really good time, but it is hard work too and I am starting to feel a bit weary. Today I stayed home and Bob went out and about exploring. It was a grey day today with rain on and off so I think it was a good day to stay put. Here are a few more journal pages. The light wasn’t the best for photographing them but it will have to do.Strange how the pages look so different on the computer than they do in person. I don’t like them as well, the texture of the paper doesn’t show, sometimes the colour is a bit off, and they tend to look ‘flatter’ that they really are. I think perhaps if I was able to scan them they would look better but I can’t haul a scanner around with me! Too bad.I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment. It is so nice to hear from readers of the blog. If you read a post perhaps you could take just moment to press the ‘Like’ button? I enjoy knowing that you liked the post. Thanks.
Our Airbnb has bikes so today Bob went for a 34 km bike ride along this river. It only took him 3 1/2 hours, including his lunch break. Much better time than if I was along for the ride!You can see the mountains way in the distance in this one.I had a much-needed quiet day. I did all our laundry and a bit in my journal. I finally was able to take photos of the finished pages. Usually by the time get home it is too dark to get decent pictures. I drew this page in the car on the way to Dubrovnik.When we were in Venice I finally started to draw while I was on the bus or waiting for the vaporettos. I took a hardcover Stillman and Birn Alpha Sketchbook for this trip instead of my own handmade signatures. It is nice having everything already bound in a book but it is much heavier to carry around. The 9″x6″ landscape format is a bit awkward when I draw standing and a bit too big and obvious when I try to draw people without them noticing that I am doing so. I think I will go back to my old system of carrying a signature at a time in a folder and then binding them all together when I get home for any other trips.
I started to draw in a little notebook that is maybe about 3″x5″ and that is working for those times when my bigger book isn’t. I showed the lady in the last drawing her portrait as she walked by on the bus, and she was quite pleased. She told her friends so I held it up for them to see, and lots of other people saw it and were smiling at me about it. Kind of nice. I had a chance to sit and draw the Karaka on location which was fun and challenging.This ‘steam punky’ fish was interesting to draw . I used my favourite Bic pen for this one. I have bits and pieces done on other journal pages, but really I am quite behind. I am trying to draw more on location whenever possible.
Today has two posts as I am catching up on our last day in Croatia and our first full day in Italy.
Day 40, Saturday October 14, 2017
When we arrived in the old town of Dubrovnik we were greeted by a marching band.First stop is Fort Revelin, a fortress that was built in 1462 outside the city walls to help protect Dubrovnik. The ground floor is the Dubrovnik Archaeological Museum which isn’t very big, just a few smallish rooms, so it doesn’t take us long to see everything.On our way to the port I need to take a few more photos of Dubrovnik’s fantastic old buildings. There is just so much to see here.Here is a different view of the old town as we travel on the ferry to Lokrum Island, and yes, the water is really that blue!First stop on the island is the Benedictine Monastery complex, from the 15th Century where there is an authentic replica of the Iron Throne which was donated by the Game of Thrones. This photo makes me think of a quote on a card a friend gave me years ago. “Inside every woman is a queen, speak to the queen and she will answer!” There is a small museum here with some interesting videos about the filming of the series and a map of all the Croatian filming locations.
The cloister of the Benedictine Monastery.We find a bench in the gardens for our lunch but need to share our food with the local peacocks and bunnies. I have never seen young peacocks before, and now here they are eating out of my hand! They do like rice cakes. I don’t know how all the rabbits found their way here but there are lots of them everywhere,A walk along the shore takes us to these strange rock formations which are a favourite place for sun bathing and swimming.We walk across this natural stone bridge, rather carefully as it wasn’t terribly wide.The well of Charlotte, an oval stone pool, was once used for bathing and perhaps for watering exotic plants but it is now all dried up. It looked like a site for secret ceremonies, accompanied by strange creatures.The Dead Sea, is a little salt water filled lake linked to the open sea.On our way to Fort Royal which is on the highest point of the island we pass some of these flowering yuccas and … a tree that needed a hug.This photo of the Path of Paradise, or the Celestial Way, doesn’t really show how steep it is, but it is a very long uphill path to Fort Royale, also known as the Tower of Maximilian. Those are people way down at the bottom and we are still only about two thirds of the way to the top.The view from the top is worth the climb. Those rocks people sunbathe on are way down on the part of the island that sticks out into the sea.That is Dubrovnik in the distance and…Here is a close up of the old walled town and the walls we walked on…and here is the tower. I was surprised that we are able to go inside, and we both had a laugh when we saw the toilets which are on the top of the tower.Does anyone know what these fruits are? They are about the size of a large cherry.There are peacocks everywhere on the island. They were imported from the Canary Islands about 150 years ago.The Botanical gardens were the location of the City of Qarth in the Game of Thrones but many of the plantings were damaged last winter by cold weather and high winds and it looks pretty sad now. Only the bigger sturdier plants seemed to have survived. It was actually a very disappointing botanical garden.Soon it is time to return to Dubrovnik. No one is allowed to spend the night on the island because it was cursed by Benedictine monks who were forced to leave the island by a French Army General. They spent their last night there walking three times around the island with candles carried upside down so that the molten wax left a trail. As they walked they chanted “Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!” At dawn they left and the curse did its work. Every new owner of the island suffered misfortune of some kind including death, murder, bankruptcy, earthquakes, and shipwrecks. As we return to Dubrovnik we see lots of boats heading out of the harbour.Here we are walking towards the entrance to the walled city…and we pass through the gate with its massive doors one last time. Although we spent a week here we could easily have spent even more time in this enchanting city.
I didn’t get a chance to post anything last night as we were busy cleaning and packing to be ready for our flight to Italy today. The morning went well, we had a great flight and we arrived 15 minutes early in Rome. Here is our first view of Italy. Then our day changed. We boarded a very crowded bus for the drive from our plane to the terminal and waited for 10 minutes packed like sardines before the bus decided to move. We arrived at the terminal and there was a huge line of people waiting to go through customs. We joined the throngs of people waiting in line, and then we waited, and waited and waited. It took us more than two hours to get through customs. Here are some of the people ahead of us…and here are some of the people behind us…and here are the rest of the people who arrived after we did! They were lined all the way out the door.
We finally made it through customs and then it took almost another hour to get our luggage. The people were lined up four and five deep and there was luggage from five different flights on that one carousel.We arrange for our rental car only to find that the trunk is so small only one suitcase will fit inside, so back to the counter to change cars. They did upgrade us for free which was nice and we are finally on our way. Just a quick stop at a mall to get a SIM card for our phone. We wait at least 15 minutes there before we are served and once we get our SIM card we find out that it will take two hours for it to become activated. That was about 6 hours ago and we are still waiting for that to happen. We finally arrive at our bnb, almost two hours later than planned.
Bob thinks that things just take longer in Italy. So far they sure have. We are very happy though that we were not stuck in the 13 km long traffic jam we see on the freeway heading towards Rome! Tomorrow we go to Venice. Here’s hoping for a better day, today was long and tiring.
We spend the day at a little coastal town named Cavtat, which is about a 35 minute bus ride from our apartment. Here is Main Street Cavtat…which is the birthplace and home of one of Croatia’s most famous artists Vlaho Bukovac, (1855-1922). As a young artist he painted the walls of his parent’s home.Here is the view from a room at the front of the house.His studio was on the fourth floor, with huge north facing windows. It is a beautiful atelier…with a ‘modern’ bathroom!I really like his paintings and studies.Next we climb high above the town to the Račić Family Mausoleum. This family mausoleum now serves as a chapel for the town cemetery. The father, son, and daughter all died from the Spanish flu just a day before the son was to be married. Račić’s widow ordered the mausoleum built and then she died from grief a year after her family’s deaths. The interior is amazing, the inside of the dome is decorated with 136 heads of angels.A view of the town from our walk down from the mausoleum. Back in town we have ice cream and sit for a while along the water while I sketch the view below. You can just make out the mausoleum on the skyline.
This photo is Dubrovnik way off in the distance.
All too soon the sun starts to set and we catch our bus home.