Salzburg, Austria

Day 46, Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today was a quiet day.  Bob went for a walk to check out the transit system and neighbourhood and I worked on my blog, caught up on some emails and took it easy.  The big excursion for the day was going for a few groceries before dinner.

Day 47, Friday, October 11, 2019

Walking to the bus I notice many houses have very attractive front entries. We can see Hohensalzburg Fortress high on the hill above Salzburg.  Tour guide Bob informs me we will visit there on Tuesday. We can see beautiful green alpine meadows in the hills above Salzburg. We pass dairy cows right in town just a couple blocks from the train and bus station.  The advertisement above the cows gave me a chuckle.  We pop into a downtown church when we get off the bus.  It looks like a community church from the outside, with big cheery murals on either side of the door.  The inside is much less ornate than many of the churches we have visited and there is lots of information on community programs and events.  Nice to see. We stop at some  food stands selling wine and beer, and have a bit to eat.  These giant doughnuts look interesting but we pass.  They are as big as small plates! The gardens around the Mirabell Palace are beautiful.  In the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ Maria and the children dance around this Pegasus fountain and sing ‘Do Re Mi’. The grass contains elaborate knot patterns decorated with flowers.  These are freshly planted pansies, hundred of dozens of them! The Zwergerigarten is a surprise.  It is the oldest ‘Dwarf Garden’ in Europe and was built in 1695.  Yes, a Dwarf Garden!  We had no idea there was such a thing.    This fellow insisted on trying on Bob’s baseball cap! The collection of 28 marble dwarf sculptures was sold at auction in 1811.  17 of the sculptures have been recovered and put back into the park in their original positions.   Here are some of these curious sculptures. We have tea and cookies in the garden and then I draw for a while. I used a new brush pen that I got just before we left for holidays.  I think it is going to take a while to get used to.  I used a water brush to create value with the water based ink in the pen.

I sketched the mountain this morning waiting for the bus.  Drawing these dwarves I was starting to get a feel for how to use this pen.  A water brush and white crayon were used to add some value.Walking through the garden there are some more knot designs created with flowers in the grass. There is a small Orangerie…with some goldfish, a turtle and a few birds. Looking back towards the Mirabelle Palace. The two towers in the background belong to the church we visited earlier. These young girls were enjoying the Pegasus Fountain, and I enjoyed watching them. There seems to be several unicorns here in Salzburg. I have time for a quick sketch of a beautiful enormous tree while waiting for Bob. There are a lot of big trees here. We have never seen a giraffe quite like this before! We walk along the river heading towards the Old Town. The Old Town and the Castle on the hill make a striking view.
People are out enjoying the warm weather. This is the house that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived in with his family until he moved to Vienna in 1781. His family occupied the entire top floor.  We were looking for a free film and somehow ended up in the museum instead, so we had a quick look around. This street was the inspiration for the song ‘Silent Night’.  It is a long street so no idea exactly where this inspiration transpired.
This door had interesting marks scratched on it that looks very old.Here is the entrance to the “Silent Night’ street.
As we explore some of the side streets, we pass this ‘House of Pleasure’, and yes, it seems to be that kind of pleasure! We also see some graffiti that I quite like.  Note how the little ledge is incorporated into the image.  Very clever!This little sidewalk fountain had red roses stuck in small holes in the paving.  I wonder why? We check out the Marionette Theatre, but unfortunately there are no performances while we are here. While we wait for the bus home I notice an empty store front where someone has written on the glass windows with a black felt pen.  It is an interesting different sort of graffiti.

Mucha Museum, Fred and Ginger and St. Nicholas Church, Prague

Day 35, Sunday, September 29, 2019

Prague’s combination of old and new buildings is interesting.  Sometimes the new buildings offer great reflections of the older buildings.
This knitted sculpture ‘Carmen’ is the creation of Eva Blahová, an artist and scenic designer living in Prague. 33 knitters from all over the Czech Republic were involved in this project and they knit over 50 meters of red ruffles to dress an existing sculpture.  It is pretty impressive. Walking towards the “Dancing House’ we pass beautiful Art Nouveau buildings with very grand entrances.
These entrances are on this block of buildings. Although Prague was bombed in World War II it did not suffer the catastrophic damages of Berlin and Dresden.  There are so many beautiful buildings with lots of carved decorations here. The Dancing House, or Fred and Ginger, as it is nicknamed, was built in place of a building that was destroyed during the war.  We think we know which is Fred and which is Ginger.  What do you think? We crossed this bridge and had our picnic lunch in a little park with this view.  Prague has lots of trees and parks. Here ae some more pastel coloured buildings we see on our walk along the river. These statues holding up a balcony are quite wonderful.   I think Bob might have been a locksmith in another life.  He is always noticing interesting locks. We arrive at the most famous Baroque church in Prague, St. Nicholas Church, at Old Town Square. The dome has a diameter of 20 m, with a  height of over 49 m, making it the highest interior in Prague. The church was completed in 1735, replacing a parish church dating back to 1273.  There is so much history everywhere we visit.  Canada is such a young country in comparison.
The ceiling fresco is over 1500 square metres in size and is one of the largest in Europe. We climb to the second floor balcony for some great views of the church.There are interesting things to see everywhere if you keep your eyes open, especially down the side streets.
These painted blocks are a fundraising project for disabled people.  You pay for a brick and then get to paint it.  We didn’t have time today but I see that someone from Canada contributed a brick.
At the Mucha Museum I learn the Alphonse Mucha’s name is pronounced mooka, not moosha as I thought.  We see many of his lithograph works that I am familiar with.  The Four Flowers.. Evening Reverie…
and the Four Arts, which celebrate Dance, Painting, Poetry and Music. I particularly loved being able to get close up to some of Mucha’s drawings.  Woman on a Bear Skin is drawn with a pencil and a white crayon on a brown ground.  It is amazing.  A photo does not even begin to do it justice.  It was also behind non-glare glass which does not photograph the best. Winter Night, or Siberia, may have been Mucha’s response to the terrible suffering of the Russian people after the Bolshevik Revolution.  There was a famine that killed millions of people. It is difficult to see, but in the upper left of the painting there is a pack of wolves.  The peasant woman seems to have resigned herself to her fate.  I was not aware of Mucha’s large oil paintings.  He completed a series of very large canvases called the Slav Epic, a series of 20 enormous canvases that show the ethnic roots of the Czech people.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the Czech National Gallery of Modern Art  to see these paintings as it was under renovation. This short video shows the Mucha Museum and the Slav Epic. This collection of photographs was interesting.  It showed some of Mucha’s models, and the bottom two middle photos are Mucha in his studio and Gaugin playing the piano…without any trousers! Pages of his sketchbooks are on display.  I love seeing artist’s sketchbooks.  It is a way of understanding how they think about their art. Not all the sketches are detailed drawings.  There are some quick gestural studies as well.Another study using pencil and white crayon on brown paper.  Just gorgeous! This is a study for the stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral. Mucha was skilled in many areas of artistic expression. Mucha created this famous poster for the ballet named Princess Hyacinth.  I was happily snapping photos when near the end of our visit a docent told me that photos were not allowed.  I was surprised as we have been able to take photos, without a flash, every where else we have been.  I am very happy she didn’t see me until near the end of our visit! One of many flower stands in the city.  I often see both men and women carrying bouquets of flowers. We saw a toy store so took a peek inside. OMG! it was huge, very noisy and had a full size carousel! This made us think of the Hotel Europa we stayed at in Egypt a few years ago.  It certainly was not grand  and it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all! Walking back along Wenceslas Square I notice that someone has knocked over the horse sculptures we saw earlier.  I like this statue, all covered in sewn leather, with his hands sewn to his head and groin.  Not sure what it is supposed to represent but it does make viewers pause and contemplate.I keep trying to get a photo that shows how strange people look on these long metro escalators. There is an optical illusion that happens and everyone appears to be either leaning forward or backwards, depending they are going up or down the escalators.  Somehow it just doesn’t show that well in a photo.  The camera doesn’t see things the same way as our brain does.  It is very curious and I comment every time we ride these crazy, long, steep fast escalators.This church is in the park right beside the metro stop near our apartment.  We were curious to see inside but it is under renovation and the doors are locked.  We sat and had tea in this park the day after our flight into Prague over a month ago.I wanted to get a photo or two showing how people drink alcohol walking down the street, in the parks, and even on the metro (although they aren’t really supposed to drink on public transit).  We see that in Prague and it was especially prevalent in Berlin.  People walked around with their bottle of beer everywhere.  Not what we are used to seeing at home.

Sanssoucci Palace and Gardens, Potsdam, Germany

Day 27, Saturday September 21, 2019

We take the metro to Potsdam to visit the Sanssouci Palace and gardens, which was the summer residence of King Frederick the Great. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We did not pre-book tickets, the number of visitors to the palace are limited, but we only had to wait 90 minutes to see the palace. There was lots to see in the meantime.  This great historical windmill stands at the entrance to the Palace Park. The grounds in front of the palace.  We have our picnic lunch and then visit the Bildergalerie.The Bildergalerie was originally an orangerie but it was converted to an art gallery for Frederick’s private collection.  The yellow marble used throughout is from old Roman ruins and is very rare and expensive. There are two long galleries…
connected by a round room with a vaulted gold ceiling. At the far end there is a room for small paintings. The last photo is taken looking out from this room.  There are a lot of beautiful paintings but they were a bit hard to see because of the glare from the windows on the opposite wall.  I am surprised that they allow the much sunlight to enter the gallery, but it did make the space bright and very attractive.We still had a bit of time before our palace visit so we walked down to the gardens.  The layout here is reminiscent of Versailles in France, only on a smaller scale.  All the terraces have these nooks with glass doors that can close when cold to protect the plants.  Frederich loved to garden and grow fruit trees and grapes. We enter the palace and take this selfie in the first  room.  It contains artwork and is an entrance hallway, not very wide at all. The palace only contains twelve rooms. They are all connected by doors in a straight line that lead from one room to another. The room below is panelled in wood with inlaid botanical designs. They are very intricate.We walk through the rooms, each seeming to be a bit more elaborate than the next.
The green room above was Frederick’s study.  He suffered from asthma, gout and other ailments and he often slept in the green chair below as it was too difficult to lie in a bed.  He died in this chair when he was 74. Frederick loved nature and the palace was decorated with botanical themes.  The palace was his refuge and he lived there from April to October.  Sanssouci is from the French “sans soucci”, which means “without worry”.  Frederick was married but lived separately from his wife.  He only married because his father threatened him with imprisonment if he did not comply.  His father was very strict and made his Frederick’s life miserable.  He had a miserable childhood as his father thought him effeminate and tried to change him.  Frederick was gay and surrounded himself with male friends and companions at Sanssouci.  Women were not welcome there.  The yellow room below has raised carved decorations, and a sleeping nook for the bed, as did all the bedrooms.  Notice the spiders on the ceiling decoration.Frederick was unable to travel to Rome and Venice but his palace had many paintings of these cities, which he greatly admired. I think how lucky we have been to visit these cities. As we exit the palace there is a huge painting of Frederick the Great by Andy Warhol.  It is quite a dramatic change from the other artwork we have seen here. We climb the interior of the windmill and step outside to check out the huge blades. This is still a working windmill. We are amazed at the size of the wooden wheels and cogs. We walk through the park with its gardens and fountains towards the Orangerie. Wow!  We have never seen an orangerie this large.  It is enormous!  This photo shows one wing and the entrance behind me.  There is another wing just as long on the other side of that entrance.  This Orangerie was built by Frederich William IV in 1851-1864.  It is 300 meters long. Looking inside one of the wings of this huge orangerie.  This is where all the potted plants that would not survive winter temperatures are kept.  Like the potted plants in the photo above,
Some of the plants are huge. These large potted palms definitely need a fork lift to be moved.  No idea how they ever transplant them when needed?  The pots are almost as tall as I am!We are surprised to find more furnished rooms and another art gallery in the Orangerie.  The Raphael Hall has over 50 copies of Renaissance paintings. We saw the original of this painting in Italy at the Vatican. 

Do you recognize the tondo by Raphael that we saw at the Gemäldegalerie earlier this week?  Interesting how copying famous artworks was such a common accepted practice.  Today I think it would be called forgery. Another room in the Orangerie Palace. And another selfie reflection in a very ornate mirror.  Notice our big slippers! These are some of the stairs we climb to the top of the Orangerie.  And more stairs… to get this view. There is the East wing of this enormous building. That dome way in the distance is another palace. The New Palace, built by King Frederick, is the largest and most impressive complex at Sansoucci, but it is way too far of a walk for us today and the park is closing soon. In front of the Orangerie. Every path here has a view at the end of it…something to entice you to walk and explore. We find the Chinese House which Frederick had built to enhance his flower and vegetable gardens and we can imagine elaborate picnics here in the summer.  We make our way to the main gate just as Sanssouci is closing and catch the metro home.   We had a beautiful warm day for our time here.  A perfect day really.

Berlin Climate Protest March and the Berlin Dom

Day 26, Friday, September 20, 2019

We are going to visit the Berlin Dom today and climb the dome for a view of the city, then head home. An easy day is in order.

However, we wondered what was going on when the metro didn’t stop at the Brandenburg Gate Station. When we got off at the next station this is what we saw…people marching for as far as we could see to protest climate change  Many of the roads downtown are blocked to traffic. We stand and watch for a while…and then decide that we need to take part so we joined the protestors. Here is a short video of us marching.  It was an amazing experience to be part of this march. There are lots of children here.  We think that schools must have closed for the day, as there are many groups of school children marching with banners. There are older people, grandparents with their grandchildren, mothers with babies, families, lots of teenagers and young adults.  It gave me hope that maybe, just maybe people are paying attention to what we are doing to our world.  It was a very emotional experience.The march is going in the opposite direction, away from the Berlin Dom, so we step to the sidewalk and spend the next hour watching the people march by.  Imagine crowds like in the pictures below walking by steadily for more than an hour, and there was still no end in sight.
We think that there has to be more than 100,000 people protesting here, people of all ages, and ethnicities. Here is another short video that gives an idea of the enthusiasm and passion of these protestors.  The protest march continued but we thought we better go do the last bit of our sightseeing in Berlin. The Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship below held just one piece of sculpture, Käthe Kollwitz’s famous ‘Mother with Dead Son’, created in 1938. It has quite an impact, all alone in this big stark space.  I discover there is a Käthe Kollwitz museum, but it is not nearby and we have run out of time in Berlin.  Too bad, I love her drawings and would have liked to have seen them. Just across the street we see a very colourful exhibit and head over to find out what it is…7,000 pompoms that form a ‘Wall of Love” installation.

Right across from the pompoms is this absolutely enormous Platane tree.  I think this is the same kind of tree that is on the boulevards by our apartment.  It has a  30 metres spread! Bob wanted to find the plaque in a nearby square where the Nazis burned 25,000 books in 1933. There is also a clear glass panel that looks down below the square onto a room filled with empty bookcases.  The glass was too cloudy to get a photo. Walking toward the Berlin Dom we pass the park we had our picnic lunch a few days ago.  There is no grass, only a packed gravel surface.  The parks in European cities are used by so many people that grass would not survive. Finally we arrive at the Berlin Dom, much later than we had planned. This is a Protestant church that is every bit as ornate as the Catholic Churches we have visited in Europe. The dome above the altar is magnificent.  The Church was hit by a napalm bomb in the Second World War and the dome collapsed into the church. It was open to the elements for many years before it was finally restored to its former glory.This photo shows the bombed Berlin Dom. I had no idea how badly bombed Berlin was before we visited here.  This link shows some pictures of the damage. It must have seemed an impossible task to think of rebuilding such devastation. This is where we are climbing to. The 367 steps were worth it!  Here are some of the views from the dome. We can hear music from way up here. Turns out it is this fellow far below. He is the person on the left side of this bridge with a guitar case on the ground in front of him.  I even zoomed in a bit to take this photo.  It was surprising how clearly we could hear all the words of his song. The park area in front of the Berlin Dom and the Altes Museum. Bob is getting to be quite the photographer. Looking down some of the stairs we climbed.  At least they were good sturdy stairs, unlike some of the rickety belltower ones we have climbed in the past. Part way down there is a small museum with models of the church. The plaster and wooden models used to build the original church were used in the reconstruction of the church after it was bombed. We were way up there walking along the outside of the rectangular windows.  We weren’t sure if the buses were running after the protest march, so we walked back along the river towards the metro station On the way we see this parade of boats. Turns out is is another protest “march” with lots of music and dancing.  Take a look at the back of the boat in the second photo.  We wondered if it was about to sink, it was so low in the water. There were all sorts of spectators watching the boats. There are lots of beautiful big trees in Berlin. Just before we get to the metro we pass a store with hundreds of old sewing machines lining its windows.  Kind of neat reflections too.  It was a much longer day than we expected but I was so glad we got to see and take part, even for a bit, in the Climate March.  When we get home we discover that there were marches like this all around the world!  YAY!!  Finally people are realizing that we need to change the way we live.

 

 

East Side Gallery and Mauer Park, Berlin

Day 21, Sunday, September 15, 2019

The 1,316 meter long East Side Gallery is the longest open Art gallery in the world and it is also the longest surviving piece of the Berlin Wall. 118 artists from 21 countries began painting the East Side Gallery immediately after the wall came down and it officially became an open air gallery in 1990.

The sign says: Erection of the Wall, 1961, Fall of the Wall, 1989, Painting of the wall, 1990 and Restoration of the Wall 2009

Walk along the wall with us.

A Trabant, cleverly painted to look like it’s breaking through the wall is a well known image. We see a white Trabant soon after seeing this.  The graffiti n the back-side of the East Side Gallery is interesting too.
We stop for a snack and listen to some music along the banks of the Spree River before continuing our walk along the open air gallery.

Honecker and Brezhnev in a ‘brotherly socialist kiss’ is another famous image.

At the end of the wall we walk across the historic Oberbaum Bridge.Apparently all the hanging shoes are street art.
Next we take one of the old trams to Mauer Park which is the site of a huge flea market and a gathering place for Berliners and tourists alike. There are people everywhere!
The people on the hillside are watching karaoke performances, which happen here every Sunday. There is also an ongoing 3 on 3 Basketball game in the foreground.  Did I mention that there are people everywhere?  Bob figures probably over 20,000 people in the park today and I think we are older than 99% of them! After sampling some of the food trucks wares, we make our way up to the karaoke viewing on the hillside and have fun watching the performers. Some were not the best, but the audience was very supportive and everyone gets a big round of applause.  Here is a video of the first performer we saw.  In a few places I now realize I need to move the camera a bit more slowly when panning, but take a look. This lady was selling some rather interesting pins, and offered to let me take her photo for a small donation, and yes, they were those kind of dicks! This guy from the Dominican Republic got a great round of applause, but more for his dancing than his singing.
Some of our fellow audience members.  One of the performers from Afganistan got lots of people up dancing.The flea market was closing by the time we got around to visiting it. As we passed by this booth I overheard a guy say to his girlfriend “All these glasses and you still can’t see my point of view!”
There were lots of groups of performers. Here is one video and here is another. I can’t figure out how to edit them, so just stop watching when you have seen enough. This sign on an artist’s booth makes me laugh.  Today was a nice change from the sight seeing we have been doing. It was really relaxing, a lot of fun, and great people watching!.

Rome’s Zoo, The Bioparco

Day 79, Wednesday November 22, 2017

It was a beautiful sunny day so we went to visit the Villa Borghese Gardens. In 1605 Cardinal Borghese began turning a former vineyard into extensive gardens that now form the third largest park in Rome.

On the way to the garden entrance we pass this interestingly shaped hotel. Note the cars parked in front…they are parked on the road where the two roads on either side of the hotel merge. There are no parking spots here as it is part of the road but that doesn’t stop anyone.There are lots of  interesting animal statues around the Villa Borghese, which is now a museum.  Lots of dragons. The cardinal must have been a fan of dragons!We see a sign for the Bioparco, which is Rome’s zoo and decide that would be a great place to spend the afternoon. It is Seniors Day and the entrance is only €6.  First stop was the chimpanzees and orangutan. Not much to see at the chimpanzee enclosure but at the orangutan’s enclosure Zoe came right up to the glass to see us. She was fairly curious and looked about for quite a while before settling in for a little nap.Her sister, Martina was a bit shyer and only made a brief appearance just as we were leaving.I spent a bit of time sketching Zoe. I held her portrait up to the window for her but she wasn’t very interested. Zoe is 32 years old and Martina is 28, and they were both born here at the zoo.We see bears now and then when we visit the Rocky Mountains but it is usually just a glimpse as the disappear into the bush or they are far away. I enjoyed having the opportunity to observe this big fellow more closely.The big cats are always impressive…but then we turned a corner and met Gladio. This rare white Bengal tiger is an 8-year-old male who was rescued from captivity in a dirty cramped cage.  He had been mistreated and malnourished for years. Gladio was treated at the zoo for physical and psychological problems and he has recovered enough to be introduced to his own compound in May of this year. This was the first time that he had been able to walk on dirt and grass for a very long time as he spent most of his life in a cage on a cement floor. He now has 400 square meter of greenery, grass, a pond, and a lair. Not as good as being free but so much better than a small dirty cage.Just around the corner we spot this little leopard trying to get settled on a stump for a nap while his mother rested nearby. I was a bit disappointed in my photos, a lot of them are a bit out of focus, perhaps because I was often shooting through glass?This Southern Ground Hornbill from Africa was very pleased with himself about the mouse he had for dinner. He brought it up to his fence to show me his prize. He even pushed it against the fence to give me a really good look! Grevy zebras have very large ears. I don’t remember seeing such big eared zebras before.The Montecristo Goat is only found on the Isle of Montecristo in the Tuscan Archipelago. They were almost hunted to extinction but there are now about 250 left in the wild. This was a rather strange assortment of animals sharing the same space, Tapirs, Rheas, and  ROUS’s  (rodents of unusual size ) or Patagonian Cavys.

The Red River Hog from Africa is an interesting looking character. This is the first time we have seen one.The mommy monkeys were taking very good care of their babies… and the giraffes were busy trying to get into their barn.Waiting not so patiently.This is the entrance to the zoo. There were more sculptures but I couldn’t get them all into the photo.  I thought it was a grand entrance. I think we were the last people to leave the zoo.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 57, Tuesday October 31, 2017

On our way to the train station to visit Cinque Terre we pass street cleaners who use the same ‘witchy’ brooms as they do in Paris. It seems especially appropriate today on Halloween.We are rather surprised that most of the train ride to the Cinque Terre villages is inside tunnels! I guess, in hindsight, that makes sense as these towns are only accessible by train, boat, or walking. We are visiting Monterosso al Mare, which is the town furthest away from La Spezia where we are staying.
Cloths for sale spread out on the sand. There were lots of sellers but not many buyers.We have seen a few Halloween decorations here and there but this is the only real pumpkin jack o’ lantern we have seen.This huge rock was a popular spot. We walked all along this beach… and through a narrow tunnel to reach the oldest historic part of town.
Monday is wash day and we see lots of laundry hanging outside windows.We have noticed that churches in Italy are all quite different from each other. When we were in Spain a couple of years ago the churches seemed much more alike than they do here. These four churches are all in Monterosso al Mare.We walk down this street on our way to find the footpath that leads to the next Cinque Terre village of Vernazza about 3.6 km away. 

We aren’t exactly sure what we were expecting but we were definitely surprised at how many steps are on this path. By the end of the day we calculate we have climbed about 1,420 steps!! and of course what goes up has to come down. That is a lot of climbing up and down! These photos were taken on flights of stairs that had between 200 and 350 steps all in a row. Yes, I had to stop several times to catch my breath and rest my legs, but I did it! I am rather proud of myself.The path is also fairly rough in places and sometimes only just over a foot in width. It was quite an adventure. About half way along the path we found an older gentleman making fresh orange juice for € 2.00 a glass which seemed like a bargain! It was delicious. Way down there is Monterosso where we started our hike.We saw this little rat on the path. He didn’t want to get out of the way, despite being prodded with my hiking pole. I didn’t think he looked very healthy which may explain his strange behaviour.We even crossed a cute bridge over a small creek.There is our destination, the village of Vernazza.We found these little cat houses along the trail along with big containers of food and instructions to fill the cat’s dishes if they were empty. Someone here really loves stray cats.Finally, we are almost at Vernazza, after 2 1/2 hours of climbing up and down, and down and up.It isn’t a very big village and has a population of less than 900 however the Cinque Terre villages see more than 2.4 million tourists a year!I love peeking inside doorways and today I was rewarded with this interesting collection.
We arrive in Vernazza in this narrow street but…we have to climb down one more long narrow set of stairs to reach the main piazza, or public square, where we find an ice cream shop for a much deserved treat. The fruit sorbet in Italy is amazing, so creamy and delicious.Children in Italian towns play in the squares or on the streets, or in small playgrounds. Green spaces are far and few between. I think about how different their childhoods are compared to children at home who spend so much of their time playing outside in grassy yards and parks.After watching the sun set over the we take the train and then a bus home. We need to get off our bus a couple stops early because an accident that has tied up all the traffic. Two young people on a motorcycle have had a collision with a car. It looks very serious as neither of them are moving and there are several ambulances on the scene. It is very sobering to think of how quickly life can change. 

In yesterday’s post look at the windows in the last picture of the boat. One of them is covered in black plastic and duct tape. Not what we expected to see on a boat that costs millions of dollars.

Lokrum Island

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.

Krka National Park, Croatia

Day 28, Monday, October 2, 2017

Krka National Park covers 109 square km. so we only see a small portion of it today. We visit the Skradinski buk which is the longest and most visited waterfall on the Krka River and is one of Croatia’s natural wonders. This link has more information and a couple arial photos of this 800 meter long series of waterfalls. Why don’t you follow along with us as we visit the park?

We start by walking 840 meters down a steep path near the parking lot to get to the main boardwalk. These beauties grow along the path.

These are some of our first views of the many water features here.A viewpoint along our walk gives a glimpse of the Skradinski buk waterfall below.We turn a corner and there is a profusion of purple flowers everywhere! These are wild cyclamen and they are stunning.There are the ruins of several old mills along the path.Every corner we turn present us with another beautiful sight.We arrive at the waterfall and stop to watch some of the people swimming. We brought our bathing suits, but decide that the water is much too cold for us.We find a little spot to sit and relax after we have our lunch and Bob gets his feet wet before he finds a spot to sit and read and have a little cat nap or two while I do some sketching.Just before we set off again I try out the water too. It is pretty cold and this is enough bathing for me. I really enjoyed sitting in the sunshine and sketching the waterfall. I don’t usually draw landscapes so it is a bit of a challenge. It was too dark to photograph my drawing when we got home, so I will include it in tomorrow’s postI am standing on the long boardwalk that was crowded with people earlier in the day but most of the crowds have left by 4:00.
We climb a bit on our way out of the park and get some different views of this magnificent waterfall which has 17 steps and we see most of them.The Krka Hydro-power Plant began opertions in 1895, just two days after Tesla’s hydroelectric plant at Niagra falls, which was the first in the world. The Krka plant  was decommissioned during the First World War. Not sure what this is but I think it is a turbine?This view is along the path to some cultural and historical displays, including…these huge stones which were used to grind corn and wheat.

We thought we would have to climb the very steep 840 metre path that we walked down to start our day, but there is a shuttle bus which cliimbs up to the parking lot for us. We drive home and arrive just as it is getting dark which is great timing as either of us want to drive on narrow winding roads in the dark.

Oh yes, the answer to yesterday’s question is…they are paint balls.  Someone had been using them around town and we found them all along our walk yesterday and then found this stash, which was rather curious.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Day 22, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Plitvice Lakes were proclaimed a National Park in 1949 and they were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. There are sixteen lakes in the park and an incredible number of waterfalls. Over thousands of years the water has eroded and dissolved limestone rocks and the dissolved calcium carbonate reforms as tufa, a porous stone that makes barriers between the lakes. This results in new falls and cascades being constantly created.

The Plitvice Lakes Park are amazing.  We soon ran out of words to describe the wonder of so many waterfalls and cascades, and the beauty the we saw all around us.  The weather report said it was to be a cloudy day, but it forgot to mention the rain and mist!   It was drizzling and misty most of the morning but the rain eventually stopped later in the afternoon. We only saw the sun for about three minutes!  In spite of this we had a fantastic day.  I think it is best is to post some of the many photos I took and let you wander through the park along with us. The reflections in the water were beautiful and I kept wondering what all this would look like on a calm sunny day?

There is water rushing everywhere!These steps, all 212 of them lead to a huge sinkhole and the Supljara Cave .
Notice there are no hand rails on the boardwalks!  I saw two people trip and almost go over the edge so I am sure it must sometimes happen.Here we were walking right on top of a waterfall, and it is one of the few places that had a handrail. Yes, we wore ugly plastic rain ponchos as did many other hikers. and thankfully they helped keep us warmer and drier.These are called the Big Falls.The water runs everywhere and somehow trees manage to grow in waterfalls and shallow lakes.  We turn the corner and see this.
and this! These falls are 28 meters tall.

There are boardwalks everywhere, even right over top of waterfalls,
but as I said, no handrails .The reflections were stunning…
and the colours of the lakes were amazing.Every lake was different colour.We walked through areas with interesting trees…
and I really liked the roots on this tree.
The water everywhere is absolutely crystal clear.
There are bears, wolves, deer, wild boar, and wild cats in the park but the only animal we see is this busy little squirrel.
We walked for more than six hours, about 22,000 steps which is almost nine miles and we climbed the equivalent of 84 flights of stairs.  We figured it out and that is more than 1400 stairs up and as many back down.  No wonder we were both tired tonight.