Trogir to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 33, Saturday, October 7, 2017

These orange trees were growing in the yard at our bnb. Our host kindly offered us some and they were delicious.  There were also pomegranate and olive trees growing on her property. The drive to Dubrovnik takes almost four hours and the highway passes through some beautiful landscapes.

We stop at Polče for our lunch and sit by the water.These apartments near where we are sitting remind me of something from a Mad Max movie.  I am very happy I do not have to live in one of these.Just before we cross into Bosnia-Herzegovina there is a large valley that used to be a river delta and is now rich farmland with hundreds of long narrow plots of gardens, vineyards and fruit trees.I think it is beautiful but wonder why the plots are so long and narrow.Perhaps so each farmer has access to the river for irrigation?The highway here is lined with fruit stands.  Oranges are ready for harvest and hang in bags for sale.We cross the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has a narrow strip of land that divides Croatia into two sections so that Bosnia-Herzegovina has access to the Adriatic Sea.  We both expected there would be a large port there but we didn’t see any. We are in Bosnia Herzegovina for all of 13 minutes!Here are some more photos taken from the car window on our way to Dubrovnik Just before Dubrovnik we cross over this bridge, which is high enough for cruise ships to go under.

We find our apartment without any problems and settle in for the evening.

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.

Exploring Trogir

Day 27, Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trogir is known as one of the jewels of the Dalmation Coast and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It is only a ten minute walk from our apartment to the island where the old town is located.  Almost as soon as we pass through the town gate we arrive at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence which dominates the town square. I notice that there are people up in the bell tower so we decide we should do that too.  Little did I know what I was letting myself in for! I don’t think that many things really scare me but I have to admit that climbing the steps to this bell tower did that. There is a sign that says you climb the tower at your own risk and no one under the age of 14 is allowed to do so. I soon find out why. It starts out OK, with pretty solid stone stairs and a railing .This reminds me a bit of an Escher etching, the one with all the stairs. This is looking up, way up towards that little bluish green circular opening which is in the floor of the last landing. Please note that the stone steps change to black metal ones…which I can see through! I discover that I can not look down here or I just can’t keep climbing. Remember, this tower is 154 feet tall.This platform almost does me in but I am determined to get to the top, so, laughing rather nervously I continue.This is the last bit, up even narrower metal stairs and through a little hole in the floor above us. Those are the bells that you see through the hole in the floor.

We arrive at the top much to my relief and yes, the views are amazing. This is looking towards the more modern part of the town…and here is the view over the old town.

I forgot to take any pictures of us up here or even any pictures of the two enormous bells.  Does that give you some idea how rattled I felt after that climb? I did manage to peer over the hole in the floor and take a photo looking downwards. I didn’t even notice the guy climbing the stairs.   

I mustered up the courage to start down. Bob went first, as he was a bit braver than I was.Here he is laughing at me as I rather slowly make my way down, and down and down!

When we got to the bottom I did need a few minutes just to compose myself. I haven’t been bothered by heights before. I climbed Notre Dame Cathedral and the tall tower at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and I was just fine. I found this account of  another person’s experience climbing this tower and it was eerily similar to mine. Make sure you check it out.

The door to the Cathedral was built in 1240 and has been beautifully restored.I particularly liked the two lions guarding the entrance.

These ornate pillars were inside..and this chapel with the tomb of Ivan Troginski from the15th Century. Take a look at the interesting upside down sculpture in the ceiling.

We wandered up and down the narrow streets… and ended up outside the old town walls where we sat and had tea and cookies in the sunshine and I sketched a castle. It was nice having time to do that.There are palm trees, lots of big boats, and some good people watching too.This is the Kamerlengo Castle that I drew…from the bench where Bob is sitting.We figured out what these were, can you?A typical commercial street.The local old guys meet in the park for chess and cards.We pass this lady bringing home a couple fish.

On the walk home we pass a lot of grapes growing that were never picked and are now more like raisins than grapes,,,and this is what olives look on the tree. It has been quite the afternoon and we are both happy to be back home.

Zadar to Trogir, Croatia

Day 26, Saturday, September 30, 2017

Today is a travel day from Zadar to Trogir. Here are a couple photos from the car of the drive here. We take the freeway and pay the toll as it is quite a bit faster than the non-toll roads.Driving through a huge flat valley on the way to Trogir there isn’t much to see, no farming and very few houses or towns. It seems kind of strange.We will be in Trogir for a week and there is a lot to see in this area so I think we will be busy.  We are also only about a half hour from Split which we want to visit as well.  Our apartment here is lovely and it has the biggest kitchen yet this trip. It is so nice to have a bit more room to prepare meals, and the TV has lots of English channels so Bob is enjoying that. We relax after arriving early afternoon and then go get our groceries for the week. Kind of a lazy day.

Here’s a couple photos that you might find interesting. I love peeking into doorways and openings. This is what I saw when I looked into an opening into an abandoned basement while we were in Jablanac last Wednesday.I know duct tape can be used for a lot of things. I always bring a bit with me when we travel and it often comes in handy but we have never seen it used to hold down road stones! We found this strange sight in a parking lot in Senj.

Zadar, Croatia

Day 25, Friday, September 29, 2017

It was a beautiful day for our drive to Zadar. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue. The Adriatic Sea is amazing, it is so clear and has such incredible shades of blue, everything from aquamarine to indigo.I keep snapping photos from the car window and telling Bob about all the different colours of the water. There are little inlets all along the coast…

and many of them have beaches.  This one was below a lookout where we stopped to have our lunch.

I took this to show how very clear the water is.  I now understand why so many people come to the beaches in Croatia, and yes, the water really was that blue!

I also saw these and wonder if they are buoys maybe for lobster traps?  Maybe someone reding this knows what they are and can let me know? I forgot to post a link to our apartment in Senj and here is our home in Zadar for those who are curious about Airbnb accommadations.  We have had very good luck with all our Airbnb bookings on all of our trips. We decided to visit Zadar because I read about the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation, two amazing art installations by local architect, Nikola Bašić.  I recorded my own Sea organ music but I need to learn how to load videos to YouTube so I can include them in my blog.  The link I have included was a video I found online.  We sat at sunset and listened to some phenomenal music created by the ocean waves, It really was quite magical.

Next we checked out the Sun Salutation, and it was pretty unique as well.  

We decide that we might as well climb the Radar Cathedral Bell Tower. The entrance fee is only 15 Kuna, which is $3.00. The tower is 56 meters, or 184 feet tall.

Only 209 steps later and we are at the top platform with the railing, right below the roof. which has great views of the city lights.

This is looking up at the angel on top of the roof…and here is Bob.It was a little bit scary climbing the narrow winding steps right near the top. We were above the bells, and there didn’t seem to be much holding up those metal stairs. This is looking down from the top of the stairs.

And here are some views of the bells, which are enormous. They also rang for 9:00pm just minutes after we left the tower!

The Church of St. Donatus is open until 9 pm so we visit there next. This is a 9th Century church which is built on the ruins of a Roman Forum.

Here are some interior views.  This is very different from any of the other churches we have visited in Europe.

Some of the stones used to build this church were from temples that were built to Juno and Jupiter. It is hard to wrap my head around just how old these stones and buildings are.

You may or may not know that I love trees, and that is a Roman Gate in the background.

We wander up and down a few of the streets and we are surprised at how many of the shops are still open.Restaurants often occupy very interesting buildings.This was such a pretty window I just had to take its picture… and then we walk back across the bridge to our car for the short drive home.

Crikvenica, Croatia

Day 24, Thursday, September 28, 2017

About 40 minutes north of Senj is the is the town of Crikvenica, which is one of the most popular tourist resorts in this area. It has a long pebble beach and we finally feel like we are at an ocean beach. It is a beautiful sunny day and 25 above.There aren’t a lot of people on the beach but we do see quite a few people in the water, which I think is still a bit cool. We walk south along the beach to the Kaštel Hotel which used to be a monastery in the 14th Century. It is pretty quiet down this end of the beach so we walk in the other direction…

looking for a spot to sit and have lunch. I find this old abandoned hotel, the Miramare, to draw, so we sit here for a while but sitting on a pebble beach isn’t the most comfortable.

We find softer seats and enjoy a drink gazing out at the ocean. 

There seem to be a lot of portrait busts in Croatia and I particularly like the attitude of this one.These begonias and potato vines grow about ten times larger than they do in our back yard!On our way to Senj we drove on this elevated highway but we had no idea we were up so high. Today we parked right underneath it.

I snap these two pictures from the car window on the way home. The late afternoon sun was reflecting on the water and the Bura (wind) was picking the water up off the surface of the ocean in places.Too bad that isn’t visible in these photos.I tried to get a picture of this bell tower on the way to Crikvenica  but was too late and missed it again coming home but I was able to snap this photo in the rear view mirror.

Here are a few more journal pages. I am behind but I have bits and pieces finished between these pages and today’s drawing. It was great to sit and sketch on location today. I have managed that a few times but definitely need to make more time for this during the rest of our holiday.

Coastal Towns South of Senj

Day 23, Wednesday September 27, 2017

Today we drove south of Senj to explore some of the little towns along the coast. This little fellow thinks that the middle of the road is the best place to take a nap, as do many of the cats that live around here.First stop is Sveti Juraz where we look for the ruins of a medieval church in a graveyard. We find it by accident when we were returning to our car.  Seems that these attractions are not well marked in small towns.While we were looking for the cemetery we find a path up to the top of this hill and climb up there to see what the cross at the top is about. We get to the top but are still none the wiser about why this cross is here but We have great views of the town.
This little chapel has a little shrine with a statue and flowers inside.

There are lots of wild flowers here; these little pink ones are everywhere and there are several different aromatic herbs growing wild too, thyme, rosemary and some others I didn’t know the names of.

The next stop was a ‘lets get out of here’ visit. Lukovo supposedly has a pretty pebble beach and great views of the rocky islands off shore.  The road to this town was the narrowest, windiest road we have ever driven on. It is really only wide enough for one car but it is a two way road and the corners are so tight that it is impossible to tell if there is another car approaching. It was pretty scary, and then when we get to the town, the roads are still very narrow, just barely wide enough for our car!  We make our way down to the harbour but there are no street signs or any way to find the beach so we make our way back to the highway which is high above the town. We never made it to the beach that looks like a lake in this photo. 

Starigrad was the next town but the road looks even narrower and has potholes so we decide not to even attempt it. We did make it to Jablanac, and headed to the beach for a late picnic lunch. The beach was cement! but the sun was shining and we enjoyed sitting and relaxing, watching people swim in the ocean and the boats going in and out. This photo is for my friend Pat. I told her I would dip my toe into the ocean for her today. The water was a bit cool but not too bad, and it was beautifully clear and clean.

We walked about looking for an alpine hut that is supposed to be the lowest altitude alpine hut in the world. After climbing 122 steps up to the hut we discover that it is no longer an alpine hut but that it is now a private home.  The owner kindly let us come into her yard to take a couple photos. The hut is the white building with a red roof on the right hand side of the photo below. Seems nothing today is as we thought it was going to be!Here is the view from the ‘alpine hut’ and you can see the cement beach along the left side of the photo.While we were walking through the town I peered into an abandoned building and saw all this.  There are so many buildings in Croatia that are abandoned and empty, often falling into ruin. I wonder why?  Perhaps so many young people are leaving the smaller towns and heading to the cities to find work?  Sometimes we are so busy looking at the big things that we miss the little ones.  This plant growing by the steps down to the beach was covered with white snails.So, any guesses as to what this is?Our last stop for the day was the pretty little town of Stinica.  The new ferry port to the neighbouring islands is located here. You can just make out many stone walls in this photo. These walls are all over the hillsides, sometimes on very steep mountain sides and I wonder who built them and why?  Perhaps they are terraces for gardening but the ground is so very rocky everywhere it doesn’t seem likely. Sometimes they are on such steep hillsides that it would seem impossible to grow anything. I guess it remains a mystery for now. 

In spite of everything not going exactly like we expected today we still enjoyed our drive and the scenery. Oh, and the funny little cubicles were changing rooms at the beach.