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!

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.

The Sun Is Shining In Poreč, Croatia!

Day 17, Thursday September 21, 2017

Finally, the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day! We drive to Poreč, which sounds like porridge, and spend most of the day exploring this Croatian Town.  The town’s main feature is a 6th Century Byzantine church, The Euphrasian Basilica.We climb these stairs, all 118 of them up to the bell tower for some great views of Poreč.

I think Bob has really become a gardener.  He started to weed the Bell Tower!The bells are very large and we are quite happy that they do not ring while we are up there.This is where we were standing in the last photo, in these archesThere are intricate floor mosaics from the 4th Century…and mosaics from the 6th Century cover the apse. They are incredibly detailed and very beautiful.There are nine Greek marble columns connected by arches on each side of the central nave.I really loved the way the light from the window shines on this Madonna.You might find this short video about the Basilicas interesting.Part of the Bishop’s Place in this complex has a little museum. The embroidery on these vestments was amazing…and I found this painting from the 15th Century very unusual. I will need to try to find out a bit more information about it.This depiction of the Crucifixion was from the 13th Century. I continue to be amazed that so many of these ancient works have survived all these years.This was a workroom off of one of the display rooms. I love peeking into these sorts of places. Here are some of Poreč’s streets.  We really enjoyed our time in this town.We sat in the sun having tea and watching some of the big yachts come and go. Their owners must have a lot with a lot more money than we do!On the way home we drive through some other small towns. We stop for a walk about in  Vrsar. Take a look the size of the boats docked here.This was something different to see.  Along the main road of a town called Flengi we saw  no fewer than twelve pigs being roasted in these big BBQ’s.

Exploring Pula and the Amphitheatre

Day 16, Wednesday. September 20, 2017

Today was cloudy, but thankfully we didn’t have any rain.  It certainly makes a big difference in our enjoyment of the day and our walk about. This post will be a bit picture heavy, there are just so many interesting things to show you.

Pula’s old buildings are either very dilapidated looking and/or they have been colourfully painted. Here are a few of the streets we walked today.There are a few more people out and about today now that the rain has stopped.Loved these balconies with all the pots of plants. I think a gardener lives here!This is the biggest ship we have ever seen. it was way more than a block long and it is simply enormous!
We went into the Temple of Augustus, only 10 Kuna each, or $2.00 Canadian.  These huge feet were my favourite exhibit inside. They were incredibly detailed. That is my foot in black at the bottom of the picture to give an idea of their size.More narrow streets…
and interesting balconies. You must look up in these cities or you miss so much.Here are some interesting fishing boats. We noticed that they all had lots of lights for attracting the fish at night. We thought that this was illegal, but I guess it isn’t here?

We sat for a while in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, enjoying the quiet simplicity of this cathedral. It is so different from all the very ornate churches we saw in Spain and Portugal on our last trip.I thought that the church’s Madonna was particularly beautiful This seems to be the church’s bell tower, but I am not certain about that. It is right in front of the church.Next stop is the Roman Amphitheatre that we walked around yesterday. It is the sixth largest amphitheater in the world. It held up to 20,000 spectators and was built in the 1st Century AD., so it is over 2,000 years old! Gladiatorial games were banished in the beginning of the 5th Century and after that it was neglected and gradually fell into ruin.Today this arena is used for festivals and performances in the summer months.Seems we were into ‘selfies’ today!Note the remains of an arched entrance in the foreground.There were rooms and chambers around the arena, some were used to hold wild beasts, and I am not sure what the others were used for. This animation video give a better idea of what the arena and the area around it looked like when it was intact.  The very beginning of the video looks fuzzy but it quickly gets better. Underneath the Amphitheater is a display about making olive oil with many ancient amphoras.Guess what I thought these look like?As we were leaving we saw a pair of lions guarding the entrance into the arena.Here is an artist’s print of the Arena as it is today.We found some more interesting streets to wander, and stopped for some tea and nourishment. All this sightseeing is hard work! We seem to walk between 13,000 to 16,000 steps each day according to my Fitbit. Just a few more steps than I usually walk at home.We climbed up to the Marine Museum but elected to walk around it rather than go inside.  There were some great views of the city and the Amphitheater..As we headed back to our car we were treated to the sights and smells of a little flower marketIt still seems bizarre to me that we can walk down a city street and there it is, a 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater!

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.

 

 

Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, November 24, 2015

Cartagena was founded in 223 B.C. and was conquered by the Romans in 209 B.C.  It is just a half hour south of where we are staying.

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall of Cartagena is a beautiful marble building on the main street.DSC01301

The Naval Museum nearby was free and an interesting place to visit.  Both of us were impressed with the scale model ships, especially this huge one of an 18th century ship from the Royal Armada.
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This huge anchor was just begging to have its picture taken.DSC01395

The Zulo Sculpture by Victor Ochao is a very powerful memorial to victims of terrorism.  It is over 16 feet tall and weighs over two tons.  Very impressive.DSC01393We sat and had lunch on this bench overlooking the harbour before we continued exploring the city…DSC01411

but not before I took a moment for this photo. FullSizeRender

Part of the afternoon was spent exploring the Museum of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena.  The museum’s entrance is in a building near the Town Hall and is connected by a tunnel to this Roman theatre built in the 1st Century by Emperor Augustus.

Click here to see a video and virtual reality tour of the Theatre and Museum, as well as more information about the archaeological excavation of the theatre.FullSizeRender_2An aerial view shows where the theatre is located in relation to the theatre and gives a good indication of just how large it is.  The tunnel went from the building at the bottom of the picture, under the ruins of the Old Cathedral of Santa María la Vieja  into the theatre.FullSizeRender_4This photo showed what the theatre looked like before excavations were started in 1988.  The arched doorway of the Old Cathedral is visible in the before and after excavation photos. A lot of buildings were built over the seating area of the theatre and all of these were removed as excavations continued.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2There are a lot of buildings near the theatre that are under re-construction. It seems that the old façades are being kept but we aren’t sure what will be built behind them.Image-1

Conception Castle is a 12th Century fortress on top of the highest of the five hills in Cartagena. This fortress has been a Roman Temple, a Muslim Citadel , a medieval castle and during the Civil War it held the sirens that warned the city’s population of bombings. We climbed the hill to the Castle and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Cartagena,DSC01376 the port…FullSizeRender_3

and the old bull fighting arena. We had parked our car way down there!FullSizeRender_3A young man from the Philippines asked us to take his photo and then he took this one for us, as well as several more of us for himself as a ‘souvenir’. I thought I took lots of pictures but he sure had me beat!  FullSizeRender_5

One of the exhibits inside the fortress were several dioramas with these little animated computer generated figures that walked and interacted with each other.  I found them quite fascinating.FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass this building which incorporated a very old building and a very new building.FullSizeRender_2  We saw some interesting graffiti, FullSizeRenderthis statue of of Cristóbal Colón, which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus,FullSizeRender_4and a rather clever sign for a coffee shop.FullSizeRender_3

Iugula! Verbera! Missus!

Monday, October 19

We are still in Merda and we are going to visit ten Roman Ruins today if we follow Bob’s schedule!

Today’s title is from one of the plaques from the Amphitheatre yesterday.  Bob wanted me to use it for the title yesterday but I forgot so here it is today. It is what the crowds would shout at the Amphitheatre when the gladiators were fighting.  Kill him!  Beat him!  Pardon him! These were not easy times…

#1 The Mithreó House, a rather grand Roman residence that has mosaics, wall paintings, three patios, garden rooms, family rooms, commercial and industrial rooms and hot baths.  It is located outside under a protective roof.image

#2 The Aquaduct of San Lázaro image#3 The Aquaduct of Los Milagros ( I think). There is some confusion over the name of this one.  Bob thinks he can hold it all up!imageimage

#4 The Circus, or Racecourse, which was a kilometer around the track, and they ran around this seven times during the course of a race!  We walked the track and out through the gates that the charioteers would have entered.  The Circus held 30,000 spectators who would often spend the entire day from morning to dusk watching the races.

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#5 Excavations at Santa Eulalia Church.  These excavations are beneath the church and have the remains of four different times: Roman Houses, 3rd century, a Christian necropolis, 4th century, which contains a mausoleum for Saint Eulalia, a martyred child saint, a basilica dedicated to Saint Eulalia, 5th to 9th centuries, and the present day church from 1230 until now.  imageimage#6 As we are walking we come across the ruins of a Roman hospital and pilgrim’s hostel, built on the remains of the site of an earlier necropolis.  There are ruins everywhere in this city!image#7 Next stop is the Temple of Diana, which was built in 1 BC, and later had a palace built inside of it, which can be seen at the back of the temple.image #8 Plaza de Espana is next, and time for a much deserved rest and some tea and cookies.image

#9 Trajano’s Arch which is 15 meters high and was once covered in marble. Part of it is now lower than the road that runs through it. The right hand pillar has an area around the column that goes down to the original base of the arch.
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#10 The Citadel and Conventual, which is a Moorish fortress in 835 and later a convent in 1229.imageimageIt has a really neat underground cistern that we walk down this tunnel to visit, complete with goldfish.image

Bob is sure he can pick up one of these cannonballs.  What do you think?
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#11 The Roman bridge over the Guadiana River which was built 2,000 years ago was still in use in the 19th century and became a pedestrian only bridge in 1993.image

#12 The Morería Archaelogical Area is 12,000 square meters of ruins that had several modern building constructed over them in1980 in a way that allows visitors to still walk around the ruins.  It is quite something to see. Look closely, one of the pictures has me somewhere in it.image image

Whew!!  I can’t believe we managed to see all this, and it didn’t even rain on us.  Somehow we saw twelve different places, not the original ten Bob had planned for us!  It was a busy day but a very interesting one.

Merida, Spain

Sunday, October 18

Merida is about half an hour from the Portuguese border, in central Spain.  It poured rain all night and most of this morning so we weren’t in a hurry to go exploring. We decided we would go to the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, which we both really enjoyed.  It is  a beautiful building that was designed to house this collection, rather than being a converted monastery or palace, like so many museums in Europe .

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Here is a close up of the sculptures and reliefs at the end of this big hall.image I really loved this huge bull from the 1st Century AD.image

The museum has several very large floor mosaics on display.  I wonder how they are able to lift these off a floor and display them on a wall?  Anyone know?imagePortrait sculpture was very important to the ancient Romans.  I felt like I would know these people if I met them, their portraits were so expressive.image image

We stayed in the museum until it closed at 4:00 and then went to visit the Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre.  These were both amazing places.  The sunken area of the amphitheatre was once covered by a wooden floor.  I have no idea why, there are lots of things I wanted to know about, but didn’t find answers to.  Guess I need to do some research.imageThe view from inside a ‘room’ beside one of the entrances to the floor of the amphitheatre. imageSome pictures of the area on the way to the Roman Theatre.

image image imageMerida was founded in 25 BC and was the capital of Rome’s westernmost province which was why it has all these fantastic monuments.  This Theatre wa built in 15-16 BC and is still used today in the summer for the city’s drama festival. It is hard to believe that these ruins are 2000 years old and still in such good condition.  Yes, some of it has been reconstructed but it is all still pretty amazing.image

The gardens behind the stage were used as a foyer during intermissions.imageWe spent quite a bit of time walking around these splendid ruins but then it started to rain again so we headed home for another late supper.  Our car was parked near this pretty little courtyard.  image