San Marco Basilica, Venice, Italy

Day 44, Wednesday October 18, 2017

Our first day exploring Venice and my FitBit tells me we walked 21,400 steps and climbed 38 flights of stairs. Is it any wonder I am so tired? I am only going to post our visit to the San Marco Basilica tonight, even though we saw so much more today.

We came across this street art on our walk to San Marco PiazzaOur first view of the San Marco Basilica. I think it looks like the people behind me are carrying the tower!I was being good and not taking any pictures inside the Basilica until I heard a guide tell his group “It is OK you can take photos here as there are no guards watching.” So…when there were no guards watching I took some too.We paid to go up to the  Museum and Horse Terrace, and it was certainly worth the 5 euros each. There are rooms of incredibly detailed mosaics…and the original gilded bronze horses from Constantinople in 1204, that were on the front of the Basilica until they were replaced by replicas.This photo is for our oldest daughter. We visited Venice when she was four and she had such fun chasing the pigeons in this square beside the Basilica. I think it was right down between the two columns in this piazza.
Here I am standing on the little terrace with the replica horses…Bob with the clock tower…and a different view of the horses.Back inside for some more of the fabulous 8,000 square meters of mosaics that cover the walls and ceilings of the Basilica.The Pal d’Oro was created in the 10th Century and is covered with 250 panels of enameled Biblical scenes studded with 1300 pearls, 300 emeralds , 300 sapphires, 400 garnets, 100 amethysts and rubies and topazes! This altar piece is the only thing I remember about San Marco from our visit here in 1980.More of the mosaics on our way out of the Basilica.The front of the Basilica with the replica horses standing guard. The terrace we were standing on earlier is on either side and behind the horses above this door.That isn’t fog you see but smog! I still have a hard time with that. I have decide to pretend it is fog and mist and just not think of all the bad stuff we are breathing in.

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia to Furnole, Italy

Day 41, Sunday October 15, 2017

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.

Cavtat, Croatia

Day 39, Friday October 13, 2017

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.

The Karaka, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 37, Wednesday October 11, 2017

We set sail at 9:00 am on the Karaka, a replica of a historical ship, an important trade vessel that sailed between the 14th and 17th Century. In the 16th Century the Karaka was one of the largest ships in the world. But perhaps more importantly, the Karaka was used in the third season of Game of Thrones. The captain tells us that all the ships in Season Three are this ship with computer enhanced modifications.  The morning starts out quite windy so we are glad that we brought our coats along. We pass some of the 1,244 islands that are part of Croatia but we learned today that only 48 of them are inhabited.First stop is the island of Koločep, which only has 163 residents, There are no cars or trucks are on the island because there are no roads wide enough for them, but we do see motorbikes and golf carts. We only have about an hour here, so we walk to this little church and cemetery dedicated to St. Nicholas that was built in the 10th Century. There was another church we tried to visit but we couldn’t find it so we head back to the ship…

and stumble across this little church right down near the water.Our ship is waiting to head to Šipan, the second island on this Elaphite Island Cruise.The water here is crystal clear.Before we set sail I get a photo of Bob at the back of the ship.Soon we are on our way…and in just 30 minutes we arrive at Šipan which has a population of 436, but it has 37 churches and chapels! At one time there were 30 summer residences for wealthy families from Dubrovnik. Many of these are now abandoned, sometimes because of fighting within families. Read this interesting article to understand why there are so many abandoned buildings in Croatia, like the one in this photo.We climb the hill high above these houses looking for some of the many churches here but once again can’t find them, even though signs promise that they are just down the road. We have 90 minutes here so not a lot of time to go too far, and I don’t want the ship to leave without us!We did find this little road side shrine.
When we get back on the boat a delicious lunch is served.
While we have our lunch the Karaka makes its way to our last stop, the island of Lopud. Its population is only 220, however there are more tourist facilities because this island has sandy beaches.           

We go for another little walk and find this tiny church which was built in the 17th Century and dedicated to St. Jerome. It is right beside a big hotel named the Grand Hotel that is abandoned and not so grand at all.I rent a beach lounge chair and draw our ship while Bob goes for a walk to a beach on the other side of the island.  When Bob returns he goes for his first swim in the Adriatic Sea.  He tells me the water is cold at first but no so bad after a while.

I dip my feet into the water and that is enough for me.

There is fresh fruit for dessert  and a variety of alcoholic drinks on our return trip. The wind has died down and it is a beautiful calm day..We leave a trail in the sea behind us.Our guide told us that the engines had stopped and teased that we would all have to jump into the sea and push the boat, but then the sails were lowered!  I was so surprised, I didn’t expect that the sails would be used, but there we were, wind powered and gliding silently over the waves. It was magical. This is a view of the dining area on the ship. Here is some of the rigging on the ship.We are the last ones off the boat so that we can take just a couple more photos without so many other people. We had an absolutely wonderful day.

Walking Dubrovnik’s Walls

Day 35, Monday October 9, 2017

We walked the walls around Dubrovnik today and I took 360 photos! Don’t worry, I am not posting them all but it sure was hard to choose only a few.  Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an ancient city surrounded by medieval walls that are almost two kilometres long. Our first view of the walls is impressive.This is the Stradum, the main street of Old Dubrovnik.Soon we are up on the walls ready to start our walk. the guide books say that most people spend one to one and a half hours here, but we spend four hours walking the walls and enjoying the views.The walls are up to 125 m high and 6 m thick!This is one ladder I won’t be climbing!The walls enclosed and protected the buildings of the stari grad, or old town.Dubrovnik is not just a tourist attraction, it is home to many and we see potted gardens and laundry drying all around town.The harbour is full of boats of every type.Looking out towards the new part of town…and back towards the harbour.I just love all the domes and towers…
and the narrow streets with all the steps…and the chimneys…and all the tile roofs. I guess I just love all of it!I googled and discovered that walking the walls involves climbing 1080 steps… but the views are worth every single one.A woman told me that this was a cute picture and offered to take it for me.This tower was featured in the Game of Thrones. There are a lot of sites from the show in Dubrovnik and we intend to find some of them this week.As the sun began to set, the colours changed.I retraced some of our steps at the beginning of the walk to take a few more pictures in the golden afternoon sun and Bob waited for me.  Can you spot him?As the sun set the lights came on and the narrow side street looked even more interesting.Every space is used  and many of the streets are lined with tables waiting for dinner customers, but we head home.  We have been walking for eight hours and we are both tired.

Quiet Day in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 34, Sunday October 8

Today was a quiet but rather frustrating day. We went out to get groceries and pick up two Dubrovnik Cards that give entrance to most of the sites that we want to see. We couldn’t find the tourist office that we were looking for and the grocery store closed early because it was Independence Day. We went to another grocery store but there was no parking anywhere, so we tried a third one.  Google maps said it was there but do you think we can find it? We decide to go to a smaller grocery store nearby. It is closed too, but we finally see the store we were looking for.

Oh yes, and I spilled my whole mug of tea in the car all over my purse and then a small dish broke in my hand when I was using it! That was enough for me.  I stayed home the rest of the day while Bob went for a walk into town and picked up the Dubrovnik cards.

Here are a few more pages from my travel journal.



Hvar and Stari Grad, Croatia

Day 31, Thursday October 5, 2017

This morning we were up at 5:30 to drive into Split and catch the 7:40 ferry to the island of Hvar. It isn’t very often that I am up before the sun!The ferry ride is just over an hour and I work a bit on my journal on the way, while Bob manages to get a bit more sleep. We hike up to the Španjola Fortress high above the town of Hvar, chatting with a family from Kamloops, B.C. They are the first Canadians we have met this trip.These are only a few of the steps we climbed to get to the fortress, can you see the tiny people way at the bottom?We are rewarded with a great view of the town and nearby islands. There are water taxis that take people out to the beaches on these islands.

Checking out the jail in the dungeon. I wouldn’t want to have been dragged down those steps and into one of the tiny cells far below the fortress!The sun is shining and there is a little café with very comfortable lounge chairs so we have mint tea and relax while I draw this cannon.

Bob decides to take some pictures of me… and this shadow selfie.

The walls of this fortress are more than two meters thick!On the walk down from the fortress we see this little church and finally I get a chance for a close up look at some of the old stone walls.  I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but these walls were first built 2,400 years ago by early Greek settlers in Croatia. The walls protected crops from the winds as well as from the heat and they were used to contain animals as well.  We see these ancient walls almost everywhere we drive, sometimes in the valleys but often high on the hills and mountainsides. We read about Stari Grad, which is one of the oldest towns in Europe and a grid system used to divide the land. The field layout, using these stone walls is still mostly intact so we catch a local bus to go see this World Heritage site. We see these walls from the bus on the way and unfortunately they are the only ones we see. We didn’t realize that the Start Grad Plains are quite a ways from the town of Stari Grad and we would have needed to organize a tour or rent bikes to go see the walls and grid system of land division.So, we walk about town instead.
This is Srinjo Kola, or Middle Street, it used to be the main street and trading centre of Stari Grad in the 14th Century. It is so narrow that we wonder how it could have been a main street where lots of activity once took place.There are lots of trees in bloom and flowering plants in pots and tiny gardens along the streets.This was a particularly colourful fruit market. Just look at the piles of grapes.We see many of these tiny doorways, and I wonder why they were made so low?There are some great views of the Adriatic Sea on the bus ride back to the town of Hvar, for those who stay awake.We walk the streets of old town Hvar, but this town is built on hills!  Every road seems to lead up and then up some more, so we finally decide it is time to go down!We have seen several of these little shrines built into the walls of houses. I feel like they are little gifts to be discovered.Perhaps it is the early start to our day, or the 19,000 steps and 55 flights of stairs my Fitbit has logged today, but I am done!  I just can’t walk another step and there is still three hours until we catch the ferry back to Split…so we find a cafe with very comfortable lounge chairs facing the water and I settle in with some mint tea and my journal. After a while Bob goes for another walk but I don’t have the energy to go with him so I sit right where I am, enjoying the view and some great people watching.

The harbour is very busy and as it gets closer to 6:00 the tour boats start returning.  These nine boats lined up side by side made us laugh. It reminded us of our cruise on the Nile in Egypt. The boats parked like this and we had to walk through all the boats between us and the dock to disembark just as they were doing here.  I think they need more dock space!The deep sea fishing boats arrived soon after the cruise boats. JUst look at all the fishing rods.We go for one more little walk before we leave. I think this is a happening place in the evening. People were gathering in the cafés and restaurants, and a stage was being set up near this main square.Soon the sun sets and the ferry arrives for our 7:40 departure back to Split.By the time disembark and walk to our car it is after 9:00 and we still have a 45 minute drive home.  Good thing Bob knows the road by now because I fell asleep on the way home. I was too tired to even think about blogging. 

Day 32, Friday October 6, 2017

Today is a quiet day, making soup, a bit of grocery shopping, blogging, and then packing and tidying up so that we are ready to leave tomorrow morning for Dubrovnik. That is the last Croatian town we will be staying in before we fly to Rome in nine days.

 

Game of Thrones, Split

Day 30, Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We are checking out some of the Game of Thrones sites today.  First stop is Klis Fortress, in the hills high above Split. There has been a fortress here since the 2nd Century BC. It is pretty spectacular, and it is quite recognizable as the City of Mereeen. Here are a few of the many photos I took today along with some scenes from the show. They don’t match exactly but it does give a sense of some of the areas of this fortress used in the filming.
Daenerys walked up these steps…and down these ones.We spent a couple hours exploring the fortress and found a quiet spot to have our lunch. On our way to Split we detour into Salona to see the Roman amphitheatre which was built in the 2nd Century . It was looted by the Venetians and then used as a quarry for building stones for houses. There are many more ancient sites here but they are still underground, waiting to be excavated.Back in Split we wander for a bit looking for a street that was used for one of the scenes in the Game of Thrones.  

We visit the basement of the Diocletian Palace which was used in the fourth season of the Game of Thrones. This is where the dragons were chained.

The entrance to the dragon’s den was built where I am standing. Daenerys enters through this doorway when she has her dragons set one of her enemies on fire.
The angle isn’t the same as the photo below but it is the right spot.Here is another view, the doorway is on the right.Here are a few more photos of this amazing palace basement. 
This is the corridor where the Sons of Harpy attack Grey Worm and Ser Barristan. All the dark scenes in this video take place in this hallway.

There seem to be a lot of photos of me today.. this one is to show the old Roman paved streets that have been worn shiny from centuries of use. I just love them.

I also loved the arches high above the streets and wonder if they are actually walkways between buildings?Below is an old painting of Split from 1782. It is the same street that I showed in yesterday’s post, the one with the palm trees and all the tourists. Much of the long wall with all the pillars is still there today.  The Diocletian Palace is actually a large enclosed area with lots of buildings including ones like this where people live today.I know most of my photos don’t have a lot of people in them but that is the result of patiently waiting until just the right moment to snap the shutter and careful positioning to avoid too many people in photos. It can take a while before this happens as this is what the scene often looks like.Now to get ready for tomorrow.  We need to get up very early, at 5:30! so that we can catch the ferry to the island of Hvar.

 

Split, Croatia

Day 29, Tuesday October 3, 2017

I wanted to post my journal pages in order but I am a bit behind so I am just going to post them as they are finished. Fountain pens, watercolours and pencil crayons aren’t my usual media and I don’t usually draw buildings or landscapes so this is all a bit of a learning curve. I always enjoy working on the pages but sometimes the finished results aren’t what I envisioned. In any case, it will be a nice keepsake of our trip.

We visit Split this afternoon. Although we like to spend our time in the old parts of these Croatian towns and cities the old town is surrounded by the new town.These photos are taken as we entered Split.

There are also the very touristy areas.We make our way into the old town through the Iron Gate…and emerge on the square beside the Cathedral of St. Dominus. This was originally the mausoleum of the Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd Century but it was converted into a Christian church in the 7th Century. It is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. It is hard to believe this all happened over 2,000 years ago, and now here we are.  There is much to see in every town we have visited, and we are only scratching the surface in the. month we have here.

Our ticket to visit the Church also includes climbing the bell tower, which also has a sign saying that we do so at our own risk.  I wonder about doing this after our last bell tower adventure. This tower is 187 feet tall, 23 feet taller than the one in Trogir but somehow it is not as scary to climb. The stairs and railings feel more substantial, just safer somehow.
Here we are at the top…and here are the views in all four directions.

One more picture of the stairs on the way down, and it is along way down! those are the bells you see in the bottom of this picture, and they are near the top of the tower!

We stop on this landing for another look around…before we reach the very narrow stone steps that take us back to ground level .Yes, we were way up there!

Next stop is the Baptistry of St. John which used to be the Temple of Jupiter. I love the large hands and feet of this sculpture, and the gorgeous ceiling.We also visit the crypt below the church which is dedicated to St. Lucia of Syracuse. She was tortured and killed because she dedicated her life to God although her parents had promised her in marriage. She is the patron Saint of the blind because she was also blinded before she was beheaded. This is part of the old Palace walls.  Notice that there are apartments on the right hand side that are still occupied beside windows that are open to the sky.We leave the old town through the Golden Gate…and find this enormous statue. We are told by a taxi driver that it is good luck to rub his toes, so that is what Bob is doing.I decide I can use a bit of luck too!  Those are very big toes!

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.