Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 38, Thursday October 12, 2017

After a leisurely morning we return to Old Town Dubrovnik for some more exploring. First we visit Marin Držiç House which is a memorial museum for one of Croatia’s greatest playwrights. I decide to have a little one on one conversation with this interesting fellow.The Ethnographic Museum is next, and it is located in a very interesting building that was the town granary in the 16th Century. Reserves of grain were kept in 15 very large wells carved in stone. The dark grates in the floor of the main floor open into these wells.These little stone trap doors on the second floor were used to drop the grain down into the wells below.There are many exhibits of traditional handmade textiles, clothing, household items and traditional handicrafts. I would love to have a stove like this!
There are some interesting drawings on some of the pillars.
The streets here are so old.We stop for ice cream and some people watching. Men and women are rappelling down the city walls…and getting their photos taken with these exotic birds.The Friars Franciscan Monastery Museum has the oldest operating pharmacy in Europe and a beautiful garden cloister.

They also have an amazing library but unfortunately it is not open to the public because it is upstairs where the priests live. At least there are a few books on display. 

There are also some vestments with incredible embroidery.

The Franciscan church beside the museum is beautiful but it has a couple unusual features.

The paintings here are certainly different, and…

notice the hand holding the crucifix.  

We walk to the Art Gallery Dubrovnik which is located in a former palace of a Dubrovnik ship owner. There are several portraits I really like. 

We make our way back through the old town, stopping for tea and some more people watching before catching our bus home. There were street performers and…happy children chasing pigeons.

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.

 

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.

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.

Vodnjan, Bale and Rovinj, Croatia

Day 18, Friday September 22, 2017,continued.

I am not sure what was going on last night, but nothing was working as it should have. I do love blogging about our trip. It is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family and it is a keepsake of our trip for ourselves. It does take quite a bit of time and effort to post every day, especially when I am not the most computer savvy person, so when things don’t work it can be quite frustrating. My hope is to one day turn these blog postings about our trips into books.

We walked by this interesting mural on the side of a building in Vodnjan as we returned to the car park. Finding parking in the old part of town is always a challenge, but we have been pretty lucky finding public car parks with reasonable rates, anywhere from 4 to 8 Kuna an hour ($.80 to $1.60 an hour)

I love the old towns, with their passage ways and doors leading into interesting little streets, courtyards and gardens. On our way to Bale, the next town on our itinerary today, we stop to visit this Kažun Theme Park, which has the four stages of building a kažun demonstrated and several other examples of different styles as well as dry stone walls.  A kažun is a shelter for peasants and shepherds that was built in areas where it was necessary to clear the stone in order to farm the land.The next town we visit is Bale, pop. 900. It is a quiet rather sleepy little town with very old buildings and very narrow winding streets. There is a gate leading into the town through a tower in the old town wall. The Church of St. Elizabeth has wonderful paintings on the ceiling and walls. This narrow street seems to be serving as someone’s garden.

There is another tiny church here dedicated to the Holy Spirit and built in the 15th Century.  It reminded me of the cave churches we visited in Cappadocia, Turkey.
We find a playground with a picnic table and have our lunch. I peek into a crack in a nearby fence and spot these crocus in bloom. Seems strange, crocus bloom in the spring at home but in the fall here.This abandoned building is just across the field from where have our lunch. We see these sort of buildings everywhere in Croatia.  Old stone buildings in various stages of disrepair or collapse. They are not demolished but left just as they are. Perhaps some day someone will decide to renovate? In any case, it seems like nothing is ever torn down here. Everything is left just as it is, a reminder of times past.Just fifteen kilometres down the highway is Rovinj, pop.13,000. This was originally an island port that was joined to the coast in 1763 by filling in the channel separating it from the mainland, creating a peninsula. We walk up this street looking for the cathedral. Yes, another one! Every town, no matter how tiny has a church or cathedral and usually a tall bellower that is the highest point in the town. The streets here are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops catering to tourists who seem to be quite a younger crowd than we have seen elsewhere.We get sidetracked, (lost) and end up on the backside of the cathedral, so we sit to have little rest and a snack on a park bench, I draw this view while Bob amuses himself with a Games magazine.We finally find the road up to the Cathedral which is dedicated to Saint Euphemia, whose remains are preserved in a sarcophagus inside.Another beautiful Madonna…and we discover that the church is decorated for a wedding.Just a short time later we see the bride and groom arrive with the photographer to take their photos before the wedding.  They are both wearing colourful running shoes. The bride’s were bright turquoise.We slowly make our way back down the streets towards the marina exploring as we go.Little shops are tucked into the tiniest of places, often displaying most of their wares right on the street.

There are lots of bright shutters and laundry high above us.

This street is entered through a low archway. I think Friday might be laundry day as we see laundry hanging from so many windows. Also notice the street pavers that are worn so smooth and shiny.  I wonder how many feet have trod on these stones over the centuries?Soon we are back on the street by the water and we sit for a while in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth and the people watching.
There are also a lot of boats to watch as well! We walk back towards our car which is parked on the street past the very far right of this picture. It is a long walk back to the car and then about an hour to drive home to our cozy apartment. We both really enjoyed the day. It sure is nice to have sunshine after all the rainy windy weather of the first two weeks of our holiday. 

Pula, Croatia

Day 15, Tuesday September 19, 2017

Well, it was raining all night and still raining when we got up this morning but it stopped mid morning so we decided to go check out Pula. We found a parking lot and this is what we see when we get out of our car! An incredible Roman Amphitheatre.

But…I turn around and this is what I see…

The sky is very dark but we go check out the Amphitheatre and hope we don’t get wet. We decide to walk around the amphitheatre today and go inside on a drier day when we might not have to leave because of the rain. There are some great views from the outside.

We take a walk around the central part of the old town and we see some more Roman monuments: the Temple of Augustus, The Roman Twin Gates and and the Triumphal Arch. Image 2017-09-19 at 9.06 PMBy now it is raining quite heavily so we make our way back to the car, passing this interesting looking candy shop with huge candies. The banana candies are life size!Of course as soon as we get home the sun tries to peek out, but it doesn’t mange to do so for very long and soon it is raining again.After a late lunch Bob reads and I work on my journal which, of course I am already behind on.

 

 

Our Extra Day In Amsterdam

Day 9, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

All of Holland was on a severe storm alert so that was why our flight was cancelled yesterday. I decided I was staying home today and catching up on my journal.  I love to journal when we travel but with blogging and journalling I sometimes get a bit behind. My blog has been giving me a bit of grief, some of the settings have changed, either I did it unknowingly or the site has been updated. Not sure which, but it is a nuisance, and it has been taking me much longer than it should to do each post.  I think I have sorted it out, but then a new challenge arises.  

I need good light to photograph my journal pages so I can’t do it when we get home late.  A scanner would be so much better but I can’t carry that around with me! When I can I draw on location but I also use my photos as reference when needed.

The view looking down from our third floor window into our neighbour’s yards.I worked on this page wile we waited in a cafe for our entrance time to the Van Gogh Museum.

What can I say, I just loved these little statues! 

Somehow I got this page out of order, I labeled it Saturday and then wrote Sunday’s activities on it.  White Out is handy in an art kit.

I finally got up the nerve to start sketching on the tram. This always seems intimidating to do but once I start it really isn’t so bad.  The young gentleman in the hoodie knew I was drawing him. When we got up to exit the tram I showed him the sketch and he smiled. Most people don’t really seem to mind all that much if they figure out what I am doing. I like to draw with a ballpoint pen, that way I am committed, and there is no erasing.

Quiet Rainy Day in Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

We were going to go to the Rijk Museum today but I needed a down day and it is windy and raining, so we decided to stay home have a quiet day instead. Yesterday we walked almost nine miles, and the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs, or so my Fitbit tells me!  No wonder I am tired.

Some friends and family are curious about our Airbnb apartments so I thought I would include a link to each one we stay at. If you are interested take a peek.     Airbnb

Here are a few photos that never made it into previous postings.This little sculpture was in the street right outside the Oude Kirk. Bob thought it a strange placement right outside a church and asked me what it meant.  How am I to know?Our apartment host is an artist who makes tiles that are for sale in museum shops. The kitchen ones are playful takes on antique tiles and they are mounted in her bathroom and kitchen. She also very generously gave us one as a gift.We saw this couple walking Saturday and as they passed by everyone started to cheer and clap.Now, we saw this fellow with his brand new tattoo two days ago at Dam Square and the strange thing ( other than why anyone would want this tattoo on their head) is that we saw him again two times yesterday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.  What are the chances of that happening in as big and busy city as Amsterdam? I almost felt like we should say hi! I love people watching and Amsterdam is a great place for that.  I just wish I had a chance to draw or take a photo of some of the interesting faces we have seen.

Park Güell

Tuesday, December 8

Bob went out this morning to get a few groceries and all the local shops were closed!  He finally found somewhere to buy food for our last few meals in Barcelona. We discover that today is Immaculate Conception Day, a Spanish National Holiday, and almost all the shops are closed. I had planned on shopping for a few last minute souvenirs and some sketchbooks that I really liked. No luck, so we catch the metro to Park Güell, where we spend our last day in Spain.

Our walk from the metro to the park is all uphill! Luckily there are escalators for the very steepest part of the climb.  I liked the imagery of the two nuns walking in front of all the graffiti, and the ‘tree’ is actually a drain pipe with some sculptural concrete additions. I’m glad we don’t have to park here.Image-1

Park Güell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.  It was designed by Antonio Gaudi for Eusebi Güell and construction on a garden city started in 1900. There were to be sixty single family homes built but the project wasn’t successful and only two homes were actually completed.  One of these, Gaudi’s residence, is now a museum and the other, Güell’s residence, is now a public school. The park became the property of the city of Barcelona in 1923 after Güell died and in 1984 it was declared a UESCO World Heritage Site.

We bought our tickets in advance as there are ‘only’ 400 people admitted to the Monumental Zone of the park every half hour.  While we waited, we got some refreshments from a little shop that was built right into the rock cliff face.  We entered at the Teatre Grec, or Nature Square, which is partly dug into the mountain and partly held up by the Hypostyle Room. There is a long undulating bench in the shape of a sea serpent which surrounds three sides of this square. The back of the bench forms a balustrade and the entire bench is covered in mosaics made with coloured ceramic shards most of which came from demolition projects and discarded objects.FullSizeRender

I read that Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit on soft plaster so that he could figure out the correct shape of the bench seat so that it would be comfortable!”

There are great views from the square, both of the main entrance with its two whimsical buildings, and of Barcelona, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The house on the left was the porter’s residence and the building on the right is now the gift shop.FullSizeRender

The Hypostyle Room is under the square and it is a covered space that could be used for gatherings and markets. All the columns lean a bit this way or that, none of them are perpendicular to the ground.  The columns hold up the square and rainwater collected on the square is filtered down through the columns into a cistern underneath the floor. It is quite amazing.  Notice the dog’s head decoration.Image-1

At the main entrance there is the monumental flight of steps, flanked by two convex walls decorated with more mosaics, that leads up the Hypostyle Room.FullSizeRender

These are some of the many different, colourful mosaic tiles on these stairway walls. Image-1

There are sculptures and three fountains on this flight of stairs but this one is the most famous. This brightly coloured salamander, or dragon, depending on what we read is a favourite of the people of Barcelona and most visitors. Everyone wants to touch it and take their picture beside, or even sitting on the salamander. There is a guard assigned specifically to prevent people from touching the salamander to prevent further damage.  Thousands and thousands of touches eventually wear away the tiles and can cause breakage. It is an impossible job as nearly everyone attempts to make some sort of contact with this creature!FullSizeRender

We head towards Portico of the Washerwoman, which starts near the main entrance, with a spiral ramp and columns in the shape of a spiral curve that ends at a rough caryatid known as the Washerwoman because she carries a basket of washing. Image-1This ramp takes us back to the Nature Square and we spend some more time here, enjoying the sunshine and the views, along with a bit of people watching. FullSizeRender

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On the other side of the square there is another walkway called Planters Viaduct, which we follow and end up in an interesting area with more strange leaning columns and stone chairs. This is such an incredible place!   I can only guess at the hours and hours it took to create all this and wonder at Gaudi’s incredible vision and imagination.FullSizeRender

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There are so many fascinating details everywhere.  It really is a visual feast and almost too much to absorb in one visit. I would have loved to draw some of this but there just isn’t enough time to see everything and draw too.  Image-1On the way back to the square we meet this rather strange fellow.FullSizeRender

I rather reluctantly say goodbye to this wonderful place. Just outside the park gates I see a building, which appears to be unoccupied, and announce that it would make a perfect studio for me!  Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?FullSizeRender

I love these zebras we see on the walk back to the metro.
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It is a good thing that we got most of our cleaning and packing finished last night as we had some unexpected excitement tonight.  The stairway in our apartment has one of those elevator chairs that run on a rail for handicapped people.  Tonight a woman was on her way down the stairs on the chair and it stopped working.  She was getting very upset and, even with Bob’s help, her husband was not able to get her out of the chair and down the stairs. Finally we suggested calling the fire department and soon they arrived. Six of these strong firefighters finally managed to get this poor lady out of her chair and safely down the stairs.  It was quite the procedure, and it meant that for almost two hours no one could go up or down the stairwell .Image 2016-05-22 at 12.09 PM

Finally, to bed, all packed and ready for the long flight home.