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.

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.