A trip for you to Uganda and Rwanda–September 19-October 21, 2018

November 10,2017

Dear Adventures With Julia followers,

Many of you have commented that you really enjoyed our recent adventure to Central and Eastern Europe and I want to thank you sincerely for your heartwarming comments.  Sometimes, when it is late, I am tired and Mark wants me to turn off the lights and go to bed, I wonder why I keep on writing.  Your comments motivate me to stick with it.

We are home and recovered now and getting back into the swing of our regular life.  I am sending you the following information and invitation because it relates to travel and may tantalize you to come along for an exciting adventure of your own.

 

A couple of friends and I have put together this exciting 13-day adventure in Uganda and Rwanda.  The trip dates are September 19 through October 1, 2018 and will include such highlights as: see, hear and feel the wild departure of Lake Victoria into the Nile River; go boating on the Kazinga Channel, which hosts the greatest biodiversity of wildlife on the planet;  safari search for tree-climbing lions and herds of elephant; track gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; meet and interact with the Batwa (Pygmies); experience what has been and is being done to help the Batwa adapt to life outside the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest they were expelled from in 1992; help build a house for a Batwa family; see how the Rwandans have recovered from the 1994 Genocide and more.

This adventure is also a fund raiser for one of our favorite charities, the Kellermann Foundation.  The foundation was started by our family physician, Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermann, who went to Uganda 15 years ago to study the condition of the pygmies.  What they learned, motivated them to move to SW Uganda where they could help the people directly.  You will not believe what they have accomplished there in such a short time, unless you visit the place.  Their mission says it all. “To provide resources for health, education, spiritual outreach, and economic empowerment for the benefit of the Batwa pygmies and adjacent communities.”

If you have any interest in learning more about this adventure or know you want to join us, please send me you mailing address and phone number and I will send you a brochure that provides all the details.   I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy travels, Happy life,

Julia

 

 

Ljubljana and home

 

October 23, 2017

We laid in bed a bit longer than usual this morning and chatted about the trip, going home and what to expect when we return.  It is definitely time even though we have enjoyed every bit of our experience.

However, let me focus on the last day in Slovenia first.  The sky had cleared and the fog was gone, but the air was still cold.  Our plan was to leave the Vila Istra at 10am and be early for our 11am meeting with Mateja in Ljubljana.  About a minute after leaving the hotel, the road made a right turn and we could see the mountains behind Bled covered in the first snow of winter.  It took our breath away and Mark stopped so I could take some photos.  The elevation at Lake Bled is only 1500 feet, but the mountains nearby are over 9000.   The snow-dusted mountain range followed us as we drove east and was still visible when we entered Ljubljana.

Bled Castle on a clear morning.

The surprise view of the hills behind Bled as we left the hotel on the morning of the 23rd. It was so nice to see sunshine and mountains. The snow was a bonus October 23, 2017

Karavanka Peak near Bled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met Mateja and our driver, Luca; dropped the car we had been self-driving and started our last city tour.   Luca let us off at the Old Town square for a walking tour.  I was almost instantly sorry I did not have more clothing.  Anyway, Mateja told us all about the buildings in and around the square.  At the far end of the square is the Academia Philharmonicorun built in 1701.  One of its most famous performers was Gustav Mahler who worked there for two years.

The town square in Ljubljana. The 1701 Academia Philharmonicorum at the back was performed in by Gustav Mahler for 2 years.

Also fronting the square was a several centuries old Catholic school and monastery that had been remodeled in the Art Nouveau style in the early 1900’s.  If you look closely you will see a group of young students in front of the building.  When these ancient buildings are remodeled they have a whole new life and energy to them.

A Catholic school and monastery front on the main square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is the University building dating from 1902, but established as Ljubljana University in 1919.  45,000 students attend, studying in different faculties all over the city.   For a town of only 280,000, that is a sizable student body.  Near the University is the Library, which was designed by architect, Joze Plecnik (1872-1957), who was born and raised in Ljubljana and made major contributions to the appearance and function of the city.  In this case he designed the bronze entrance to be plain and the interior walls to be black marble, so those entering the building would make students aware that they start with DARKness and study books to come out enLIGHTened.

The University Building, established as a school in 1919. Currently there are 45K students studying in different faculties throughout the city.

The University Library was designed by Joze Plecnik (1872-1957) with plain bronze doors and black marble interiors walls to remind students that their minds were dark until they entered the library and received light from learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the corner is St Nickolas Cathedral, built between 1701 and 1706 by Italians in Baroque style to resemble a Latin cross.  Inside is a distinctive Bishop’s chair and a side chapel designed by Joze Plecnik in the 50’s.   I could see that the frescoes and statues were in excellent condition, but have run out of energy and desire to look closely.  The main entrance has very impressive bronze doors that were made in 1996, in honor of Pope JPII’s visit to Slovenia.  I cannot remember all the details Mateja talked about, except that the bust of JPII is at the top.  Another pair of bronze doors at the side entrance was also impressive and included the heads of six Ljubljana bishops looking down at the dead Jesus.  In the upper right corner is a delicately carved freeze of the Virgin Mother and baby Jesus.

The bronze doors on St Nickolas cathedral were created in 1996 by Tone Demsar, a Slovenian sculptor.  The head at the top is Pope JPII looking down out of a window.

The interior of St Nickolas Cathedral

THe famous Pletnik Bishop’s chair.

The bronze side door with Mary and baby in upper right corner and dead Christ under the bishops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much of the city has been remodeled over the years and no longer looks old.  City Hall, for instance, was built in 1480, remodeled in1718 and again in1928.  The popular style at the turn of the century was art nouveau and many buildings, including City Hall, reflect that look.  Standing near City Hall is the Fountain of the Three Rivers, created by the famous Italian sculptor, Francesco Robba in the late 18th century.

 

 

 

 

Modernized City Hall in the Old Town of Ljubljana and the Fountain of Three Rivers.

Joze Plecnik, was and actually still is, a really important figure in Ljubljana, as you may have already noticed.  In addition to the above works, he helped transform Ljubljana into a pedestrian friendly city.  He designed bridges and the waterfront to make access across the River Ljubljana easier and walking along the river a pleasant experience.  He had willow trees planted along the river banks to connect people to the water and nature. Although he practiced in Vienna, Belgrade, and Prague, Plecnik loved Ljubljana and lived and worked there until his death in 1957.

Mateja and Mark taking a tea break on a very cold morning.

At one point I got so cold, I insisted we stop in a warm place for a hot tea.  We did and I think we all felt better for the warmth.

The three bridges designed by Plecnik.

A view of the river front crossing through the center of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After walking all over the Old City, we took a funicular to Ljubljana Castle at the top of the hill.  It was the most contemporary old castle I have ever seen.  It has been so completely redone in modern concrete and steel that I had to look hard for the old castle.  Now I am sorry I did not take photos of the new, as well as the old structure.  The place is perfect for weddings, parties, musical events, anything you want.  Wish we had such a facility in Grass Valley.  Anyway, we walked up over a hundred carved steel steps to get to the top of the clock tower to see the city below and the nationally famous Julian Mountains in the distance.  We got a few photos and climbed back down the circular stairway to the ground level of the castle, where Luca had driven to pick us up.  The funicular, it turns out, is for fun rather than necessity.

The city center from the top of the Ljubljana Castle Clock Tower. The square and Cathedral are front and center.

Part of the castle from the Clock tower.

THe view of the mountain whose 3 peaks are on the country flag. Only partly visible, but better than nothing.

Matejja took this nice photo of us overlooking Ljubljana. A nice photo on which to end our trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In just a few minutes we were back in town and said good bye to Mateja.   Luca took us to the airport where we said good bye to him.  Finally, we were really done sightseeing and headed home.

Ljubljana to Vienna for 2 hours there, then on to Heathrow for an overnight stay in a countryside place called Coworth Park.  It was very quiet and we slept well.  Then in the afternoon we departed Heathrow for SFO.

************************************************************

Mark wrote some of his thoughts during the last few days. Hear they are……

It’s been a long 7 weeks with, perhaps, too heavy of a schedule.   We have had a great time, seen many wonderful places and met some great people but almost every day we have had a full day of sightseeing on our schedule. We wanted to do everything in every one of our destinations but at the same time we had to fight our own plan to get time off to relax and just to “be” as I like to say.

Julia and I have joked all of these years that we were saving our European travel until we were old and our nurse could push a wheelchair through the streets of Europe and until then we were going to “do” the hard places. I’m not willing to be old yet but I have seen the error of our thinking. There is no way my nurse could push my wheelchair over the miles of cobblestone streets, through the narrow passageways and up the hills we have climbed these many weeks.

I  enjoyed  this foray into European travel.  One benefit I never thought about before was being able to drink the water.   I can’t recall the last time on a trip that we weren’t worried about opening our mouths in the shower and accidentally drinking some water.   Drinking from the tap has always been out of the question.  We were always challenged trying to stockpile enough bottled water to get us through the night.

While driving ourselves has presented some challenges and a few coarse verbal exchanges between us, all in all I have really enjoyed driving here. While we have not seen a road wider than two lanes in each direction, I believe Julia commented earlier about how these drivers do not camp out in the passing lane and you better not either unless you want the car behind you to put his hood ornament’s brand into your trunk lid.

So while I thoroughly enjoy the benefits of first world travel here in Europe, I look forward to our next trip back to the hard places where you have to be careful in the shower and you can’t drive faster than 5 mph because the road probably won’t allow it.

The important thing to remember whether you want first world experiences or want to spend some time in the less developed world, get off your butt and get going. There is not a better education available anywhere than the knowledge you will gain by leaving home and meeting new and exciting world neighbors.

Travel safe. 🌎🌍🌏re

 

Julia’s thoughts and reniniscenses.

I really like Marks comments and can only add a few things.

The roads throughout our travels were better than I expected, some considerably better than our roads.   There are many more and much longer tunnels and bridges.  Many elevated roads have no water under them.  They are there to make travel time shorter and easier.  It concerns me that our infrastructure is not being kept up or improved.

We hit the jack pot when it comes to beds.  Only our last place, the Vila Istra Hotel, had a bed that was too soft.  Everywhere we had a firm, king bed and three pillows each.  That sure made sleeping easier even when we had 2 or 3 one night stands.  I am sure that sleeping well helped us carry on with a positive attitude.  Our only problem was when one of us was sick.  After we passed that hurdle we were fine.

As for guides and drivers, they were almost all really good.  Everyone spoke good English, thankfully, and we had lots of fun and laughter with several of them. The things we did not like are not worth remembering.

The food.  Now there is a topic.  We each had our share of really bad meals, most meals were just ok, and a few, too few, were wonderfully memorable.  Obviously, our Michelin dinner at Monte was way over the top.  I had a few really excellent fish dinners in Croatia and a few other good meals I can no longer recall.  Thankfully, fine dining was not our objective.

We have already been asked which place we liked best and what was our favorite experience.   What can we say?  We enjoyed each place while we were there for the unique place that it is.  Neither of us is inclined to have favorites.  We will probably not return to any of these countries, although there are still things I would like to have seen in several of them including the Czech Repubic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia.   Croatia holds the most appeal to me for several reasons. – small, colorful villages, many beaches on the Adriatic Sea, great seafood and a mostly Catholic population.  However, as Mark says, it is not on the way to anywhere.  I would happily have swam in Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast on a warm sunny day.  It was too cold to go swimming anywhere.  The highest the temperature got was 76 degrees and that was when we were not near water.

Did I learn anything new?  Yes.    Plan ahead better for the weather.  I thought I packed ok, but was way off the mark.  Too many light tops and not enough warm ones.  Pack less.  I do a little better each trip, but still need to improve in that department.

I learned a lot of European history and was fascinated by the similarities and the differences in each country’s experience.  I fear I  will not remember much of it for long.   Thank goodness for the blog.

I do not want to do another 7-week dog and pony show.  If we go for a long time, I want to plan on seeing fewer places and experiencing them in greater depth.  If we want to breeze through a few places, keep it to 4 weeks or less.

We definitely liked our Michelin experience.  Will start researching where they are located and try to book one far enough in advance to get a reservation.  We lucked out in Rovinj because it was the end of the season.

Mark and I got along fine.  Even while traveling, we had to handle business concerns.  Not easy when your mind is not on work.  And, of course we worried about friends caught in the fire areas as well as the hurricanes and flooding in eastern states and Puerto Rico.   Even our guides worried with us.

Attending Mass at the Mother of Peace pilgrimage site, Medjugorje, was a special treat.  I did not know much about the place and wish I had scheduled more time to experience the people and activities there.

I thank the Lord for a safe and fun experience for both of us and pray for all of you too.

Happy travels, however you go,

Julia

 

 

 

 

Slovenia

Map of Slovenia, Our 13th and final country of this adventure.

October 21, 2017

the only sign I could find as we entered Slovenia. Easy entry because of EU status, but the long line took 25 minutes.

Yeah!  We have a day to ourselves. We are leaving Rovinj and driving ourselves to Bled, Slovenia.

Predjama Castle.

If we drive nonstop, we should get to Bled in a little over 4 hours, which sounds rather nice to us as the day is clear and warm and tomorrow is expected to be cold and rainy.  If we get to Bled early enough we can walk around Bled Lake and see Bled Castle and the Baroque Church of the Assumption that stands on an island in the middle of the lake.

Vila Istra Hotel. We had the First floor rooms facing the lake.

Our plan, however, is to drive half way and see two highly recommended Slovenian sights – the Predjama Castle and the Postojna Caves, which are only a few kilometers apart.

When Mark went to put our money in the safe box at Vila Istra, he found that it was as easy to steel as the money itself. Why bother using it?

We agreed that we would not take time to go into the castle, but just see it from the outside and spend our time in the caves.  So far so good.

View from our room at Vila Istra. Visible is the island, the only island in all of Slovenia, and a traditional Pletna boat.

The drive there is very pleasant as the trees are in full autumn color.  We get to the castle and it is very appealing and not very crowded.  I would like to go inside, but we had agreed not to, so, I took some photos and we left.  Soon we were at the caves.  A whole other story.  There are huge parking lots full of cars and buses and people everywhere.  We knew the tour was 90 minutes and had prepared for that, but we did not know about the timed tour departures.

A nicer view of Lake Bled’s island, with the Church of the Assumption.

We arrive shortly after the 12 pm tour departed and learned that the next tour was not until 2pm.  Bummer.  This is a case where having a guide would have spared us from making a mistake.

Bled Castle.

Anyway, we considered our options and finally agree to give the caves a pass and drive on to Bled.  So, the bad news is we missed both of those sights.  The good news is we got to our large, comfortable and charming B&B, the Vila Istra, at 2pm with time to walk around the lake, see the mountain scenery, the castle, the church on the island,  which is just a couple hundred yards from our lake front room, AND relax in our room.

An aerial copy of Bled Castle.

We did not boat over to the church or go up to the castle as we know our guide tomorrow will take us and the cost is prepaid.  It was a lovely afternoon and evening.  We walked a short distance along the lakeside to a restaurant called Sova.  I had very good pork ribs and Mark enjoyed a seafood risotto.  We are doing better with our food choices lately.  Shortly after we went to bed, the wind and rain kicked in and it was stormy all night long.   We were both glad we had done the lake walk in the clear warm day.

It really is raining, cold and foggy on the castle square..

October 22, 2017

It was cold and rainy all day.   Our guide for the next two days, Mateja, arrived at 10am and we discussed what to do.

A working printing press from the Guttenberg era being demonstrated in a shop in the castle.

 

Finally, we agreed to drive up to Bled Castle and visit it, then drive to Bohinj Lake, a few miles away in a National Park, take a boat ride across that lake and visit an old gothic church in a nearby traditional village.

The printer showing off the image he had just made. It is an image of Bled Castle.

 

 

 

Johannes Gutenberg (1397-1468) next to Primoz Trubar (1508-1586). Two important figures in printing and the creation of books.

Then drive back to Lake Bled and take an ore powered boat ride to the island to visit the church and have a pastry in the café.

 

We did all those things in spite of the rain and cold.

A large room in the castle. The bishops did alright for themselves.

While driving up to Bled Castle we saw the distant alpine hill tops dusted with fresh snow.  No wonder I was cold.  We walked all around the castle, staying indoors most of the time.

The German-Roman Emperor, Henry II and his wife, holding the castle.

This castle was built by the Austrian Bishop Albuin of Brixen, who was given the land in 1004 by the German-Roman Emperor, Henry II, who wanted to be in good graces with the Pope.  It was a political maneuver that pleased the Pope, the Emperor and the Bishop.  The Bishop built the castle in 1011.

A print of the extraordinary crown worn by the German-Roman Emperors, who were above other emperors per instructions from the Pope.

After 800+ years in the hands of the Brixen Bishops, it was sold to an aristocratic family in the 1800’s.  Later, it was nationalized by the Austrians and in 1918 it became part of the city of Bled.

There is a printing shop in the castle that has a functioning version of the Guttenberg Press.

The 17th century indoor privy.

The printmaker was there and gave us a demonstration and told us about Primoz Trubar (1508-1586), a Slovenian, protestant priest who went to Germany to escape the counter-reformation.  He wrote the first book in Slavonian.  It was about how to read and write in the Slavonian language.

A scene of Bled Castle on the rainy day we were there.

He visited the castle briefly in 1561 and later died in Germany.

 

We saw a photo of the German-Roman Emperors crown that was first used in 962.  It was embellished in the 11th and 18th centuries and was last used by Emperor Frank II in 1804.  He resigned from being Emperor in 1896 after a battle with Napoleon.  It is a very impressive crown.

A small village near Lake Bohinj.

 

As we drove to Lake Bohinj, we learned several things from Mateja.

An example of a hay drying rack still used in the area. Grass takes about a month to dry on the racks. Then it gets stored on the flat upper level.

The population of the country is 2 million.  The capital, Ljubljana, has 280 thousand people.  Most people prefer to live in villages in the countryside rather than the city.

The 61 year old boat we road around the lake. There were only 6 on that passage from one end of the lake to the other.

Her family is a good example.  They have a 3-story house about 12 kilometers outside of Ljubljana.  Her mother lives on the ground floor, her brother and his family on the middle floor and she has the third floor.   They collectively maintain a large edible garden and are almost self sustaining.

 

A rustic summer home on Lake Bohinj.

Slovenia is 40% Karst land, which means it is made up of limestone, red soil and caves, which together make up the composition of Karst.  Karst land is in many places in the world, but the science of Karst and the name, originate in Slovenia.

A sample of a Karst wall on Lake Bohinj.

Melania Trump was born in Slovenia and did not leave home until she was about 20.  Trump came to Bled to meet Melania’s parents in 2002.  Now the parents live in Trump Tower.

 

The scenery around Lake Bohinj.

The tax structure in Slovania is more complicated than many countries we visited.

The 15th century St. John the Baptist Church in Upper Bohinj Valley.

If you earn up to 8K Euro, you pay 16%; between 8 and 20K you pay 27%; between 20 and 48K you pay 34% over 20K earned; between 48 and 70K you pay 39% above 48K earned; above 70K in earnings you are taxed at 50% on amount over 70K.   That is more than we pay in the US.

Inside St John’s Church. displaying its well preserved frescos.

In addition they pay a 9% or 22% VAT tax depending on the product.  For that they do get free education through university, basic health care and retirement.  Everyone pays a small additional amount per month to have premium insurance, that covers everything medical.

The graphic beheadding of St John the Baptist.

It is raining and foggy when we reach Lake Bohinj, but we get on the boat anyway.  Thankfully, it is enclosed.  We can open a few windows to look out, but there is not much to see in the fog.  The lake is 4 km long x 1.2 km wide, and 45 meters deep.  I wondered why we bothered, but we follow the program.  The view, we are told, is spectacular…..when you can see it.

Angels with teeth singing in the choir.

The boat itself is interesting as it is 61 years old and has always been electric.  Afterward, we drove through some farming villages and saw how they dry their grass on unusual and locally very traditional, hay racks.

The exterior of St John the Baptist Church, with a fresco of St Christopher.

The villages are quite pretty with the houses in each village clustered close together on irregular pathways rather than streets.   We stopped at St John the Baptist Church dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.  There were some interesting frescos of angels singing with their teeth showing and two different frescos showing John’s head on a plate and his decapitated body on the ground.   Outside was a fresco of St Christopher with 6 toes.  Rather strange and even weird, I thought.

A close look at Christopher’s feet shows six toes on each foot.

 

When we got back to Lake Bled it was raining only lightly and we decided to go for a PLetna boat ride with an oar powered boatman.

A pretty view of Lake Bohinj in spite of the fog.

Pletna boats have a rounded sun shade across the top and carry 18-20 people at a time.  They are powered only by one man rowing in a particular manner.

A Pletna boat passing by Tito’s summer tea house while being rowed to the island

He collects money and waits until the boat fills before he sets out.  There are 22 boats with the same number of families who have the tradition to row people to the island and back for a fee.  It has become a bit of a concession.

The Pletna boat man rowing us to the island. He was all business.

Our young ore man said his family has been doing this work for 300 years.  He has a brother and they take shifts to spell each other.  The trip to the island takes 15-20 minutes each way and he waits 40 minutes for people to see the island and get back to the boat.

 

Once on the island, our task is to climb 99 steps to get to the church and the café.  At the top, the 15th century church is pretty uninteresting, except for the wishing bell in the middle of the nave that everyone has to try.

Ringing the wishing bell inside the Church of the assumption.

Make a wish and pull on the bell rope.  We did.    The cakes in the café are where the action is.  Called “Potica”, they are a cake that is made with dough filled traditionally with walnuts and honey or other sweets, then rolled and placed in a bunt pan and cooked a long time.

The waitress serving the traditional Potica cake in the coffee house next to the Assumption Church.

There were several varieties and we each picked one.  They are not hugely sweet and yet very likeable.  Unfortunately they are a local tradition and not readily available outside Bled.  Not much time to linger, we finish the cake and head back down 99 steps to the boat.  He was waiting on us and started out as soon as we arrived. In short order, we were back at the Pletna boat dock, said good bye to Mateja and agreed to meet her the next day in Ljubljana at 11am.

A group of teen boys at the cafe, alone together.

I was happy to get back to our room, where we had a fireplace; and get it going so we could sit by it, warm up and relax.  This was the first fireplace we have had on this trip and the perfect time and place to have one.

THe 99 steps between the lake and the church. Our Pletna waits at the bottom.

For our last night in Slovenia, we decided to drive to a place overlooking the lake called the Hotel Triglav.

Our boat man readies his craft for the next group of passengers.

It was full of diners, but not very noisy.  The food was pretty good, but not great.  The big thig here was the dessert.  We were told that we had to try the traditional Bled dessert, Cream Cake.  We had it, but were not crazy about it.

The cream cake, Mateja insisted we try and pre-ordered for us at the Hotel Triglav Restaurant. We felt obliged to eat it, but would have preferred to have only one bite, or the poached pear everyone else was having.

From top to bottom it consisted of a 4” square of; powdered sugar, a filo dough top, ½ inch layer of whipped cream, 1 ½ inch layer of vanilla pudding and a filo dough bottom.   Way too much for me, I managed about half of it.  Stuffed again, we went back to our room and the cozy fireplace.  We have only one last day, tomorrow, the 23rd, to complete this adventure before we start the journey home.  I will have to send the final chapter from there as there is not time to finish before then.

Motovun and Michelin

October 20, 2017

A relief map of Istria, the most northwestern part of Croatia. Pula is in the far south, Rovinj is about midway up the Istrian coast and Motovan is in the mountains, east and slightly north of Rovinj.

We are getting closer to coming home and it shows in our attitudes.  We are caring less and less about what the guides want to tell us about their part of the world.    Today we agreed to go to one medieval hill town, called Motovun, eat in a truffle specialty restaurant and visit a truffle store.  We passed on the other two villages we were scheduled to visit.   So, we left the hotel at 10:30 and returned at 2:30.

We visited Motovun on a cold, foggy day.  Must be a great view on a clear day.

The 12th century medieval town is considered the best preserved such towns in Istria.  It is at the top of a round hill and currently has a population of 500 even though it is barely accessible by car.

A roadway leading into Motovum with shops opening directly onto the street.

It was built in two stages,  The walled top is from medieval times and the lower “suburbs” developed over time as the population grew.

The entrance passage into medieval Motovun.

We were dropped off at the bottom of the suburbs and walked up.  Only residents are allowed in by car and they drive very carefully up the narrow, slick, limestone passage.

View near the top of the medieval town.

Once at the top we walked around the walls, looking down at the houses in the burbs and the valley below.  Marija said the distant mountain views were great, but we could see none of that due to the overcast and fog.

The upper level of the city inside the walls.

At one point, she pointed out a house below in the suburbs and told us it was the birth place of Mario Andretti, the famous race car driver.   The whole town was pretty small and did not take long for us to see it all.   It was charming and probably delightful on a clear day.   We stopped for lunch at a cafe with cliffside dining, even though it was cool.

Looking down into the suburbs of motovun. The house on the left behind the angled wall is where Mario Andretti was born.

We had pasta with lots of white truffles in it.  It was tasty and pretty rich.   On the way down the hill we stopped in a roadside shop and bought a couple jars of truffles.   We wanted white truffles, but only the cheaper and more plentiful black ones were available.   Having tasted them both, we agreed that the white ones are more flavorful.

Part of the Motovun fortification walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An alley in Motovun.

 

 

 

 

 

By lunch time it was just barely warm enough outdoors to eat pasta with truffles.

 

 

Renata was waiting for us at the bottom of the suburbs and we were back in Rovinj on schedule.  We enjoyed a pleasant walk in the forested area next to our hotel and by the time we got back to the room, the sun had broken through the fog.  Although the sky was still hazy, the air was warm enough to veg comfortably on our deck.

The entrance gate to the Old City we passed under to get to the restaurant.

That evening I dressed up for a change.  I had brought way more clothes than I needed, as we almost never changed for dinner, in spite of my expectations.  Next time I will take only one slightly dress up outfit no matter how long the trip lasts.

The steep and long alley we had to climb to get to the restaurant.

Anyway, we had made reservations at the only Michelin Star restaurant in Croatia.  It is called Monte and is at the top of the Old Town in Rovinj.   Our taxi driver could get us only to the town square.  From there we had a steep walk up several flights of stairs to reach the Cathedral at the top, go around a corner and down a flight to get to the restaurant.  The walk was very worth the trouble as we had the best meal of our whole trip and many others besides.

Mark near the entrance to Monte, just below the Rovinj cathedral.

The dining room was cozy, yet full with several tables of diners.  There was a cone shaped decorative propane heater in the middle of the room that added a touch of warmth.  The walls and furnishings were colorful.  All the staff was friendly, conversational and worked all the tables, so we had no one waiter.  The chef, Daniel Dekic, and his wife, Tjitske, are the owners of the place.

Our table presentation included home made olive oil in a tube, sea salt and a spread for the lovely breads we were offered.

One of the servers told us the restaurant had been the house where the chef was born and grew up.  The restaurant, we learned, has been open since 2008 and received a Michelin Star in February of this year.

 

 

Tjitske, who comes from Holland, and dresses only in white, greeted us with menus but asked us to leave them closed until she told us what she thought we should do.

Then she proceeded to offer us two suggestions: one was a 5 course tasting meal that featured farm fresh ingredients presented in a fairly traditional manner; the other was a 7 course tastingmeal featuring totally unique flavors and combinations of tastes.

Then she said to look at the menu and decide.  The menu  presented the two offerings she told us about as well as a fully detailed  a-la-carte menu.  Once Tjitske told us we would not be stuffed by so many courses, we both agreed to go for the 7 course meal.  After all, this was our first Michelin dining experience and we wanted to make the most of it.

Then the excitement began.  It is hard to describe and explain each course so I am sharing photos of the courses I remembered before eating them.

The Disneyland forest appetizer.

The very first thing that came was called “amuse” and it did just that.  It looked like an edible Disneyland forest with green lolly-pop trees, sponge-like grass with pieces of something nutty on top and a tiny glass of a juniper “gin & tonic”.

It was more savory than sweet and very fun to eat.   Wow!  Now what?  Well, a server anticipated we might want to know and presented us with a menu of the meal.

A mystery course the arrived right after we finished the lolly pops.  No description and neither of us remember what it tasted like.  Some gourmands we are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except that we suddenly had a course in front of us that was not on the printed menu.  It tasted good, but I cannot tell you what was in it.

The first seafood course was a mix of tender and very tasty seafoods

written The first menu offering was called Omega 3 and included tunafish, mackerel and sardines.   The portion was small, but delectable, and we ate each bite very slowly so we would not miss the flavors.

Perfectly cooked crustaceans, with a piece of chicken added.  I could have skipped the chicken for more crustaceans.

The next course was a combination of crustaceans, algae, chicken, mungo beans, saffron and dashi.  I can’t begin to tell you how these ingredients worked together, but they surely did.

Another wonderful fish dish.  Even the Monk fish tasted reasonable.

Then came our last fish course: monk fish, squid croquette, zucchini and octopus, quinoa and sea foam.  Monk fish is not my favorite, but the rest of the dish was perfectly tasty and tender.  No tough octopus or squid here.  I ate the monk fish anyway.

The delectable duck course.  Mark loved the duck strudel standing up on the hot fry pan.

Then the menu switched to meat.  It started with duck sous vida, duck strudel,  pumpkin, red cabbage and cranberries.  Mark loved the strudel, which we learned included goose liver.  No idea what the “sous vida” means, but it tasted good, whatever it was.

24 hour Suckling pig.  What more can I say?  Even the aspic went with the pork.

Our second meat course was suckling pig that had cooked for 24 hours, lentils, aspic, bell peppers and geranium.  I could not find the geranium, but the rest was delicious.

The pre dessert, with cheese, tapioca, pear and a syrup. We were not given a written description for this one.

The savory part of the meal was over and we moved on to the sweet courses, which never seemed to stop.  First was a predessert that had gorgonzola cheese in the bottom, pear custard, tapioca pearls and a couple ingredients I can’t remember.  Lovely though.

Second dessert. This one has goose liver in it.  The pinkish strip on the right.

The pre dessert was followed by a plate of fresh Istrian cheese, tapioca, vanilla ice cream, goose liver, hazelnut, orange and agave syrup.  The goose liver is the pinkish strip on the right side of the plate.  I had no idea I was eating goose liver.  The whole dish blended together beautifully.

The last dessert before the coffee, tea and cookies.

The last desert was an eggplant and tomato compote with meringue, yogurt, oregano granite and almond powder.  It also tasted wonderful in spite of how it sounds.

By now very full, we were served coffee and tea and small home made cookies.  The cookies did us in.  After that we were stuffed, but had a pleasant conversation with Tjitski about their surprise in getting the designation.  At first they were nervous about keeping up the image and then they realized they needed only to keep doing what they had been doing.  They had an extremely busy season and are glad to be closing in a week for the winter.  As we left, at the end of the three hour food fest, she handed us a bag with a Michelin brochure and two small pieces of chocolate cake for something to remember them when we wake up in the morning.  I am sure we will remember them and our experience  at Monte long after the cake is gone and we have returned home.

 

 

On to Istria, North Western Croatia

People’s Square is finally quiet early in the morning as we leave Splt for Rovinj.

At 7:30 on the 18th, we left the Judita Palace and took a taxi to the car rental agency, where we picked up or rental and began our drive all day trek to Rovinj.

Driving Northeast to the Plitvice Lakes Park, we passed through these mountains literally. there was a long tunnel that looked like these mountains on one side and completely different when we exited the other side.

 

 

 

The scenery when we reached the other side of the tunnel. Full autumn color.

With only one brief false start, we were underway and traveling northwesterly on Croatia’s excellent roadway system through varied terrain.   First it was rolling hills with scrub, like high desert.

Then we passed through very fertile fields of vegetables, and finally we climbed into and through mountains.  On the other side of the tunnels we were back to fertile fields or forests in fall color.

Our fist view of Plitvice Lakes National Park as we walked down to the lake level.

There are more elevated roadways and tunnels than you can imagine.  Then we were in forests of desiduous trees in full fall color.

Waterfalls and small lakes come into view around a bend in the path. This park became a UNISCO site in 1979.

It was magnificent to see so many trees in fall color with a few conifer in the mix.  At least I did not expect it.  After 2.5 hours of driving we finally arrived at Plitvice Lakes National Park, another UNESCO site, known for being unspoiled.

These falls greeted us as we came around a corner on the boardwalk.

The lakes are known for their cascades and the ongoing biodynamic process of tufa, or travertine, formation that continues to change constantly.  With the travertine development, waterfalls are being created, while others are blocked.  This phenomenon creates the feeling that the lakes are never the same from one day to the next.

Close up of the Park’s largest falls. The Park was founded in 1949 and is the largest and oldest park in Croatia.

Well, the park was lovely and we would have really enjoyed taking our time walking and boating through it, except there were so many people moving in large groups that we could not get around them to have some space for ourselves.

A selfie in front of the falls.

We ended up walking very fast to stay ahead of them.  The park consisted of a chain of lakes, with waterfalls of different shapes and sizes, cascading into the lake below.  The water was very clear with lots of little fish.  After walking down a hill and around a lake via a series of boardwalks, we eventually come to a rest area where there was food and a boat ferry to take us through the next and largest lake.

A long shot of one of the lakes. The boardwalk full of people we just passed is on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A scenic view of falling water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the boardwalk beside the falls. This was mostly the case. We could not get around people easily as the boardwalk was so narrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

.  At the end of that lake you can either go on to more lakes or hike out of the area back to the parking lot.  As we still had 3.5 hours of driving ahead of us, and we had had enough of the crowds, we walked back to the car and headed for Rovinj.

 

The largest lake in the Park as seen from our ferry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another ferry passes us. There were several, all full of visitors.At the end of that lake we could either go on to more lakes and falls or hike out of the area and back to the parking lot.  As we still had 3.5 hours of driving ahead of us, and we had had enough of the crowds, we walked back to the car and headed for Rovinj.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road 42 between the Park and the highway. Beautiful scenery on a very narrow one lane road full of falling leaves and filtered light.

 

 

 

The GPS suggested a short cut, so we took it.  It proved to be a very narrow one lane road through dense forests of deciduous and conifer trees.

Another scene along road 42.

It was a most beautiful stretch of road, but Mark was not in the mood and just wanted to be back on the highway.  After an hour, we were and his mood improved.  The rest of the drive was very uneventful as we passed by towns and villages and a couple of cities.  We finally arrived at our hotel, Monte Mulini, in Ravinj at 6pm.

My mixed seafood dinner at our hotel, Monte Muline, in Rovinj. Very tasty.

At was nearly dark an we were too tired to care about going out for dinner, so we ate in the hotel restaurant and went to bed.  I really liked the day as we were on our own, outdoors and not having to learn anything.

October 19, 2017

Ground level view of the only Roman parts of the Amphitheater still intact – the exterior walls and the floor.

The 19th we looked out the window to realize we are back on the Adriatic Sea.

A close up of a wall section. The top part where the square windows are, were the cheap seats made of wood.

After breakfast, we walked around our hotel, which turns out to be a resort with lots of activities and a spa.   Mark made an appointment to get a pedicure and we went back to the room to get warm.

A panoramic shot of the Amphitheater. the section that has been cleaned is visible. I am glad they did not clean the whole theater.

The air is foggy, damp and chilly, like June gloom.  This place is for summer activities not late fall.  Our guide, Marija, and driver, Renata, met us at 10am.  First, we discussed our need to slow down and do less.  So today we are going to Pula to see some things on the agendas, but skip others.  Same with tomorrow, so we have the afternoons to ourselves at the hotel.

The entire amphitheater from the outside. Had to look awhile to find this shot and could not get rid of the bus.

Then we were off to Pula, a town on the southern tip of Istria.  It was only a 40-minute drive through small villages and flat countryside full of olive trees.

A small section of the walls that really really shows the beauty of Roman construction.

Marija told us the population of Pula is 60,000 and that the whole region of Istria has 200,000.  As Istria is so close to Italy, Italian, along with Croatian, are both  official languages of the region.  70% of the population in the region speak Italian as well as Croatian and 25% declare themselves Italian.

A three dimensional bronze map of Pula. The theater is in the right rear.

However, English is the 2nd language spoken by almost everyone.   Olive Oil is the main product of the region and is considered by many to be the best olive oil in the world.  It is hard for me to say as it all tends to taste the same to me and I use the stuff sparingly.

In this country, olive oil is used in large quantities on nearly everything.  The other important products of the region are wine and truffles, which are pretty exclusive to Istria.

Once in Pula, which was established as the main administrative center of the colony by Augustus in the 1st century AD,  we left the car and walked to our primary objective, the Roman amphitheater built in the 1st century AD by Augustus.

It is the sixth largest such theater in existence in the world and is considered the most complete of all of them.  It was very nice to be inside the theater and see the whole oval exterior wall intact.  I did not know that the Romans got the idea to create the amphitheater from the Greek theater.  They put two Greek theaters together to create the oval amphitheater.  This one held 20,000 spectators and was used mainly for gladiator fights.

Aside from the exterior walls, the floor and a few large blocks of stone still in place, everything else we saw has been done using smaller stones in two different stages.  First, during the Austro Hungarian period  of 1814 to 1918, the Austrians did a lot of building and improving.  Later, in the 1980’s, the current reconstruction was completed.  In the last few years, a section of the walls was cleaned to show how the amphitheater would have looked when it was new.  Nothing more is planned.   Currently there is seating for 6,000 and musical performances take place several times during the summer.   The floor is gravel and at the same level, just as it was in Roman times.  Under the floor is a T shaped passage for the gladiators and animals to move around without being seen by spectators.  It was quite a large space, maybe 20 feet wide and 10 feet high and it ran the full length of the floor above.  Mark and I have seen the colosseum in Rome and the one in Tunisia.   I must say I liked this one the best of the three because of its completeness.  The one in Rome has become iconic, but is not as inviting in my perspective.  Even the view is better in Pula.   The VIP seats would have had a view of the Adriatic Sea while watching a performance.

The Golden Door or Main Gate into Old Pula was built near the end of the 1st century BC.

After leaving the amphitheater, we strolled through the Old Town of Pula and stopped at the Golden Gate, or main entrance; built at the end of the 1st century BC; and the Hercules Gate, built in 48BC.  The Hercules Gate is interesting in that Hercules was the protector of Soldiers and Pula was a military town, not just when it was new, but all through the ages.

City Hall and the 1st century AD Temple of Augustas.

The powers of the day used the city and port as a military base, including the Austrians and the Yugoslavians.   I looked inside the small Temple of Augustus, built in the same time period and containing a broken statue of the Emperor.   Two of the walls are mostly original, but, sadly, the temple was bombed during WWII and repairs have barely restored the place.  Mark skipped it.  Definitely not worth the trouble.

Another Pula street that was pretty tight for cars, but we managed.

In the center of the old town shopping district, we, unexpectedly, came upon a statue of James Joyce, sitting in front of an old building where he taught the Austrian soldiers English in the early 1900’s.

 

 

 

THe Hercules Gate, built in 48BC as protection for the military soldiers who dominated the City. Another entrance into the Old CIty

 

 

 

 

James Joyce (1882-1941) decked out for a visit with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crowded boat harbor in Rovinj, taken from the cafe where we had a late lunch after being dropped off by our driver.

The two hours we spent in Pula was enough for us and Marija and Renata dropped us at the Rovinj harbor by 1:30pm.  There we walked along the promenade and stopped for lunch at a seaside café, where we both had mussels again.   Then we walked 20 minutes back to our hotel.  Mark had his pedicure and I wrote.  Not feeling like more walking, we taxied back to old town Rovinj for dinner, at a place called Puntulina.  As we were in the heart of truffle country we both opted for dishes with truffles.  Mark had ravioli with truffles and I had sea bass with truffles.  Both dishes were good, but I do not understand why people make such a big deal about truffles.

The Puntulina Restaurant full of happy, local patrons. It was nice to be amid locals for a change.  We had fish and pasta with truffles. Was pretty good. It was too dark to see what was probably a great view from the cliff edge, patio where we sat.  This group was inside a cozy room next to the patio.

 

Split

October 17, 2017

The courtyard of Judita Palace and the stairs to our room.

On the 17th of October, we woke up in the Old Town of Split in the cute 11 room B&B walk up we found ourselves checked into the night before.

A public building fronting on the Peoples’ Square.

We have had all sorts of accommodations from over the top luxurious to a boat hotel, to cramped and unappealing.  Most have been good or better.  This place, the Judita Palace is small, but workable.  The location is perfect, except we face onto the square, which is noisy all night so we cannot open the windows.

A house in the People’s Square, opposite the Judita Palace Hotel, where governors of the Austrian Empire resided.

With the first step outside the entrance, we entered and became part of an ancient urban wonderland.  Residents act like it is normal to live surrounded by antiquity, and I suppose it is, unless you grew up like I did, in a world where the oldest buildings were less than 200 years and where it is easier to tear things down than to restore them.

An alley that incorporates the old palace and newer construction.

Our guide for the day, Lana, sat us down at an outdoor coffee bar and gave us a 30-minute lecture before taking even one step into the city.  It was great for me as I could take notes, hear everything she said and confirm information I already had.  For starters, the name Split comes from the name Spilantium, which is the Latin name of a plant that grows prolifically in the region.  We know it as scotch broom.

A model of how the palace probably liked when it was built.

Back in the 4th century BC, the whole region was occupied by Illyrian tribes, who fought with the Romans in 5AD centuries and had disappeared by the 5th century when the Roman Empire collapsed.

 

 

Sculpture of Emperor Diocletian 3rd-4th centuries AD.

The main story here begins with Diocletian, who had been born into an Illyrian family in Saloma, the capital of Dalmatia during Roman times with a population of 68,000.

Lana showing us where Salome, Diocetian’s birth place, was in relation to Split. and how the Romans got water from the river upstream.

It was a town not far from the tiny settlement of Spilantium.   He was very smart and managed to become a soldier in the Roman Army.

The basement level in the southern third of the palace. A bride is having photographs taken at the end of the hall.

He worked his way up until he was eventually chosen by the Senate to be Emperor.  Two years later he declared himself Son of Jupiter, who was the main Roman god.  He persecuted many Christians for believing in Jesus rather than him.  Many people became martyrs during his rule.

Down in the basement, admiring the skill required to make the stones fit perfectly.

In 294 he began construction on a palace for himself on the sea near the settlement of Split and not far from where he had been born.  He was about 60 when he moved into the palace in 305.

A ceiling view from inside the basement.  The beautiful brick work is just visible.

Interestingly, he abdicated on May 1, 3005 about the time he moved into the palace.  However, he did not give up the title Son of Jupiter.  He lived in the palace for about 10 years before he died and was buried in the mausoleum he had built for himself.

Main North-South walk way between the two entrances,

 

A side bar to the above is that Emperor Constantine the Great, who followed Diocletian, reversed the order against Christians in 313.

Another factoid relates to the name “Dalmatian” Coast.  Dalmatia comes from the Illyrian sheep herders tribe called Dalmata.

In the 3rd century, Rome divided their domain into provinces and much of what is now Croatia was called the Dalmatian coast.  Today the area runs from Dubrovnik in the south to Split and Zadar in the northwest and east to Bosnia.

The 7th century Cathedral to the Assumption of Mary and the 13th century Bell Tower.

 

Now about the palace.  Lana is determined to uncover the palace for us as it has been so completely altered since the emperor died.

 

Even though it is barely recognizable, it is the heart of the old town of Split, which did not become a city until the 13th century.   Rectangular in shape it covered 300,000 square feet of area.  Some family house!

A panorama inside the Cathedral. Workers are regrouping parts of the floor.

I’ve attaching a photo of the original plan of the palace to help you as Lana did us.  It was 180 meters wide and 240 meters long.

 

The beautiful ceiling inside the Cathedral. Look closely at the scaloped detail.

 

the baroque high altar from the back side. Equally beautiful and easier to photograph.

The top or north 3rd of the palace was for soldiers and servants.  The middle third was for his octagonal Mausoleum, the Temple of Jupiter and other ritual activities.  The southern 3rd was where Diocletian and his family lived.  It was at the sea and had a pier at that entrance.  The whole palace sloped uphill from there.

Statue of Jesus crucified on the Tree of Life.

However, since the Emperor could not be lower than his subjects, he had a lower lever built at the south end that brought the living level to the height of the north wall.

Above the palace were gardens for flowers and food.  There were 4 gates, with 1 in the middle of each wall.  South was the Sea Gate and North the Main gate.  There were 16 guard towers, of which 3 remain.

The columns that formed part of the Peristyle next to the cathedral. They are each different materials with some marble, others black or pink granite.

 

Our hotel is just west of the west gate.

The 3,500 year old, black granite Sphinx with the head of a female and the hands of a human.

The square where our hotel sits is called the People’s Square and a gothic building across the way from our hotel was the house of the governor during Venetian times.  All that and we have not walked a step.  Once we start walking, it becomes apparent that one really has to look hard to find vestiges of the original palace.  So much has happened over so many centuries that it is mind boggling to get a handle on what has happened.

The view looking skyward from inside the vestibule.

At one point the Venetians built a castle inside the palace, using some of the materials.  There are 0ver 300 churches.   The Assumption of Mary and St Dujam (the Patron Saint of Split) Cathedral, which was constructed from Diocletian’s mausoleum in 641, has a clock tower next to it that was built in the 13th century.

Acapella singers in the vestibule of the Palace

Inside the small, but very decorated and interesting Cathedral are a baroque high altar that is finished so it can be seen on all sides, a result of the octagonal shape of the space, and a very appealing Statue of Christ on the Tree of Life.  Diocletian would be turning over in his grave, except his remains were removed some 330 years after he died.  Now there are relics of saints in the Cathedral.  Some transition.  Adding insult to injury for the old atheistic emperor, his Temple to Jupiter was converted into a Baptistery.  Two items of interest in the baptistery are a sculpture by the renowned sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic and a stone carving in front of the baptistery that depicts the 11th century crowning of the Croatian King Krasimir IV.  Lana said it is the earliest known depiction of a European king being crowned.

The Peristyle in front of the Cathedral. People gathered for spontaneous musical events

 

Lana took us down into the unchanged huge basement area the Emperor had built to raise the level of his living area.  We were impressed to see such a huge space with large Roman arches.

An typical alley in the Old Town.

Lana said this is what the upstairs was like when Diocletian lived here.  The reason it was not altered was that it became a dump for all the people using the spaces above for over 800 years.  When it was uncovered several years ago, it was like an archeological dig.

Now that the area has been cleared out the space is a museum.  While we were there, we saw a bride posing playfully for photos in the distance.  The place was empty except for us for about 10 minutes.

The Temple of Jupiter, now the Baptistry, on the opposite side of the Palace from the Mausoleum. The statue is made by Ivan Mestrovic.

 

Back up in the daylight, we stopped in the large, round open vestibule that was supposedly the emperor’s dining room.  While there a group of male a capella singers walked in and belted out a couple of tunes.  Down a flight of stairs was the Peristal Square in front of the Cathedral entrance.

The Baptistry in the old Temple of Jupiter. The frieze on the Baptistry panel is of the first sculpture of a European King being crowned.

It was decorated with a few of the 200, 3,000-year old columns and 1 of 4, 3,500-year old sphinxes and the Emperor had acquired, or just taken, from Egypt.  The sphinx was made from black granite and had a female head and human hands holding a bowl.  It was quite unusual.

The north entrance or Main Gate into the Palace. Statues would have been in the niches on the wall. Young men dressed as Roman soldiers stand guards, pose for photos.

We looked at many more details with Lana, but I just can’t remember it all.  There were hundreds of tourists in the old town as well as the palace.  Many of them were Asians and Germans.  Very few from the U.S.   We were glad to finally get away from the crowds and go to the last item on our agenda for the day, the sculpture Gallery of Ivan Mestrovic.

A sculpture of Gregory of Nin by Ivan Mestrovic that stands near the main entrance to Diocletians’s palace.  Non was a Croatian Bishop who translated the Bible from Latin into Croatian, making Christianity much stronger in Croatia.

 

The director of the Museum met us at the entrance and gave us a detailed tour of the museum.  Sadly, some of the best sculptures were on loan to a gallery in Krakow.  She did tell us about Mestrovic’s life and great success as an artist and teacher.  He was born into a very poor family in a small impoverished village in Croatia in 1883.  Early on his talent attracted attention and his whole village raised money to send him to school in Split.

 

 

 

 

Ivan Mestrovic’s home and later gallery. He designed the house and had it built for his family.

There he developed his skills and won many prizes as a sculptor.  As he became known and his work started selling, he became wealthy.

Mestrovic’s dining room as he designed it and left it when he fled the country in 1941.

He sold one piece for $300,000 and with that built the house (1931-1939) he lived in a very short time (1939-1941) and eventually gave to the City of Split for the Gallery.

A stone carving of a mother and children.

In 1941 he left Croatia, because of the war, and never returned.  He went to the US in 1947 and remained there until his death in 1962.  He taught at Syracuse University and Notre Dame.  He made over 2000 sculptures in wood, bronze and stone – mostly Carrera marble.  I took photos of 2 of Mestrovic’s pieces in the Old City as well as some in the gallery.

One of Mestrvic’s wood carvings

A self portrait of Ivan Mestrovic as a young man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the pieta in plaster by Mestrovic. It was very nice to be able to get up close and walk around the pieces to get a better look.

A side view of Mestrovic’s Pieta. This is a plaster sculpture.  Very touching to see up close.

After the tour, we said good bye to Lana and collapsed.  In a restaurant just inside the palace walls, we had dinner at a pasta place called Macaron.   Mark had pasta and I had a super meal of fresh, whole squid.  I am really enjoying all the very fresh fish we are able to get on the Dalmatian Coast.

Hvar, Vis and Bisevo Islands

October 15, 2017

Map of Hvar Island. We landed at the eastern edge, drove to Hvar on the west coast, then drove to Stari Grad and caught the ferry to Split.

We arrived in Hvar two evenings ago and have had a delightful time.  The weather is continuing to be sunny and warm without being hot; a slight breeze without being windy.  Yesterday, October 14, we enjoyed breakfast outdoors on the veranda for the first time on this trip.

The Hvar City Hall with the Fortress ruins at the top of the hill behind.

A narrow pedestrian street in Hvar.

What a treat to overlook the harbor and the square while having breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The oldest cistern in Hvar, 1475. The balcony above is also quite old.

Our Hvar guide, Dejana, met us at the hotel entrance and walked with us all around the old town.  Smaller than the cities we have been in recently,  Hvar is very charming, comfortable, friendly and laid back.

The 1461 Franciscan Monastery on the west side of town.

A little west of the central area is the Franciscan Monastery, built in 1461, and the Church of Our Lady of Grace.  Part of the monastery is used as a small museum with some interesting 16th and 17th century art.

 

 

 

 

Statue of St Francis made by one of the monks who lived in the monastery.

I especially liked another anonymous painting of the Last Supper, which was very difficult to photograph, and a bronze statue of Francis, both from the 16th century.  Also in the museum was a collection of coins from a ship that sunk off the Hvar coast in the second century AD.

 

Inside the Franciscan church. Note the gravestones that make up the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one time Hvar minted its own silver and copper coins.   In the monastery, there is currently only one monk, and Dejana says he is hard pressed to keep the place going.  Most understandable.

Another view of the Franciscan Monastery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An anonymous painting of the Last Supper. I found it interesting for the rich colors, the unique characteristics of each figure, the arrangement of each figure, especially Judas. Sorry I could not get a good photo. the light was not helpful.

A close up of the Last Supper.  The bag of coins Judas is carrying is visible as he reaches for food ahead of others.  His right foot is ready for him to get away.  .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A coin collection in the Franciscan Museum has a 4th century BC coin (top row, 3rd from left) and a 2nd century Ceasar coin (bottom row 2nd from left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Anthony the Abbot Church, next to the Benedictine Nunnary. I attended Sunday Mass here with lovely singing.

Up an alley on the other side of the main square is the Benedictine Nunnery, the Church of St Anthony the Abbot and a store where the 7 nuns sell the fine lace work they make.

 

 

Lace work made with aloe threads by the Benedictine nuns who live in a Nunnery in Hvar. They pray 7 times every day.

There are not many of them left either, in spite of the fact that Croatia is dominantly Catholic and there are churches all over the country and several in each town.

 

 

 

 

Fine aloe lace work by one of the 7 Benedictine nuns. It takes 2 months of working 4 hours a day to make one piece.

As we were in Hvar over a weekend, I was able to attend services in St Stephen’s and the Church of St Anthony, where all 7 nuns sang their hearts out.  It was lovely and the church, although small, was full.  In St Stephen’s there was an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament when I happened by, so I stayed for the end of that service.  Just like at home, very few people were there.

A view of Hvar from the bar at the top of our hotel. The Arsenal and theatre are on the far right

Another building, the Arsenal and Theatre, sits on the corner of the square and the harbor opposite our hotel.

 

 

Inside the Catholic Cathedral in Hvar. I arrived unexpectedly in time to witness an adoration of the sacred host.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Stephen’s Cathedral during Sunday evening services. I walked by to get this shot.

Everything is very close and easy walking, except the Fortress at the top of the hill.  We were too lazy to climb the hill, so will see it by car when we depart.

The Hvar Fortress from town.

Dejana was most interested in talking about Croatian wine, especially a particular Hvarian grand cru made by the producer Zlatan Otok.  We promised to try it when we could and let her know what we thought.  Am wondering what she has at stake as she is so insistent about us getting some.  After 3 hours, we agree to end the tour and see her in a couple of days to visit the fortress at the top of the hill, drive to Stari Grad, tour the countryside and the town and catch the 2:40 ferry to Split.

Once on our own, we shared a pizza at a place called Kogo in the middle of Stephen Square.  Then checked out the PO about sending home a box of stuff we have slowly acquired.  Wandered into a shop full of creative and colorful art and bought a cute bird to sit somewhere on our patio.  This is the first piece of “art” we have purchased on this trip.

These Roman arches were uncovered when excavating a waste dump. Currently the site is the Giaxa restaurant (pronounced Tax a). We had a very good dinner there our second evening in Hvar.

Spent the afternoon on our patio relaxing and watching the activity below without having to engage in it.  It is the end of the season and there are many fewer tourists than a couple of weeks ago.  Makes for a more pleasant experience, without having to wait in lines or make reservations or jostle for position wherever tourists gather.  Later we walked along the promenade for a mile or so, saw a number of expensive looking summer villas with large gardens and gates.  Next to the path were many park toys for children including an interesting miniature golf lay out.  Slowly, we walked back in the late afternoon light.

That evening we had dinner at Giaxas Restaurant.  It is located on an alley street, in the rediscovered room with Roman columns that I photographed earlier in the day.  Mark had a whole sea bass and I had lobster and linguini in red sauce.  Even though I had a bib and several napkins, I managed to make a mess of myself as the lobster arrived  unshelled, sitting in the sauce and noodles.   As those of you who know my lobster eating habit will appreciate, I had a grand time eating the whole platter full of food.  Meanwhile, we were a little lonesome with only one other person dining in the place.  Soon there will be no restaurants open.

 

 

Vis and Bisevo Islands

Sunday, Oct 15, we were up early so I could go to Mass with the Benedictine nuns at the Church of St Anthony the Abbot and be back in time to be picked up by our boat driver to take us to the island of Vis.  I couldn’t understand a word of the service, but I know the program and the singing was very nice.  I got back just in time to meet Goran, our guide and boat captain,  jump into his boat docked right in front of the Adriana…how fun is that…and head for Vis.

Goran picking us up for our boat ride to Vis

The ride to the island was very rough as we were beating into the wind and the waves.

Goran took our photo as we glided out of Hvar harbor. The Fortress is in the distance.

 

A couple of bunkers on Vis. We saw several from the boat.

 

 

 

I was very glad when we reached the island and the swells subsided.

Vis was the most westerly Croatian island that was inhabited, but not occupied during WWII.

Approaching a bunker for a ships and submarines.

Because of its location close to Italy, Tito turned it into a Yugoslavian military base during the Cold War.   We motored clear around the small island and saw many heavyduty bunkers and some of the 17 military barracks.

THe entrance to the ship bunker. We were surprised to see such a thing.

The most interesting and unusual site was the fortified ship and submarine shelter.

 

 

 

 

Looking out from the back of the ship bunker. It was 300+ feet long.

Goran motored all the way into it and talked about how Tito was very proud of his “secure” military base and showed it to Saddam Husain, who liked it so much that he asked to hire the architect and contractor.

From this bunker we rounded the right side of Vis  and headed for the tiny Island of Bisevo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vis and Bisevo Islands

We stopped there to visit the “famous” Blue Cave.  This sure is a money maker for the locals, who required us to pay 50 kuna (or $9) to ride a small boat into the cave to see it.

The little boats used to enter the Blue Cave sitting in Bisevo Bay.

The ride was all of 15 minutes.  But, of course, we paid.   And we really got our money’s worth.

Waiting for the swells to subside to get through that hole.

It was exciting and a bit scary to watch the boat man try to negotiate the small boat through the equally small hole.

When our eyes adjusted, this was our first view of the Blue Cave.

We waited several minutes and watched a number of waves roll in and out before the driver gunned the boat forward and through the hole.  With even slightly larger waves the hole would not be negotiable at all.    I sucked my breath as we passed through the hole with the front of the boat just touching the top of the opening.

Lovely colors inside the Blue Cave

Once inside, the boat settled down and our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

The turquoise water in the Blue Cave

Inside the cave, we rode the swells gently up and down.  We could see the lovely iridescent blue in the water.  Light comes into the cave through an underwater tunnel.  It was quite a beautiful sight.

The pretty blue Inside the Blue Cave

We enjoyed our all too short time in the cave, and were surprised how quickly and easily we blew out of the hole when it was time to go.

Getting ready to push out of the cave.

Immediately behind us was a group of 1o waiting for us to return.

 

 

Immediately after exiting the hole, right background, even the boat man was jubilant.

Can’t imagine going into the cave in a large group.  Goran said the price in summer is 20 % higher and the wait is sometimes 2 hours long with no chance for only 2 people to go in alone.  Late season has its benefits.  In another week, the operation will close down until next summer.

Komiza villages  built right on the beach. At 1500 residents, it is the second largest village on Vis.  And very sweet it is.

Ten minutes later we were back on Vis at the very small and intimate village of Komiza for a walk about and lunch.

A narrow street in the village of Komiza

The village is quite laid back with only a few tourists.  With 1500 residents it is the second largest village on the island.

A beach in the village of Komiza on Vis Island.  We ate in this building sitting over the water, while looking at lobsters in suspended ore cages.

 

The houses are built literally on the beach with very little area for cafe’s and shops.  Goran took us to his favorite place, which was barely open with us as the only guests.  I had a small, grilled sea bream.  Mark had tagliatelle with black truffles and Goran had delicious squid–I know because he gave me a taste.

My fish was excellent too.  It was all so very fresh.  We walked out of the restaurant and stepped onto the boat and motored to another small island for a visit to the Green Cave.

The entrances into the Green Cave.  Goran could have brought us here in his boat, but is not allowed to now that they are set up to charge people for the privilege.

It was just as expensive as the Blue Cave, but not exciting and not very green.   Very overrated.

Looking into the water in the Green Cave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is as green as the Green Cave got. Once we were in the cave the boat man told us the color was only green between 11am and noon when the sun entered through a particular hole in the cave.  Sounded like a rip off to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reflection through the water in the green Cave.  I rather like the shimmer in the image.

Goran stopped at a couple of popular swimming bays and beaches, but we were not in the mood to swim.  I compromised and put my feet in the water.  Cold as Lake Tahoe, but prettier water.

Another bunker on Vis, a bit closer, but hard to get centered with all the wave action.

We spotted a couple more bunkers and then we motored back to Hvar with the wind and waves at our port side.   The ride was not nearly as rough as going out to Vis.  When Goran docked at the harbor in front of our hotel, we jumped off and bid him good bye.  We were his last guests of the season.  He had been fun and pleasant and quite handsome.  In fact, several of our male guides and Croatian men in general have been rather good looking.  Single ladies take note!

Mark and Goran bidding each other good bye.

 

 

 

We relaxed at the Adriana and had dinner at The Top Restaurant, 3 floors above our room.   The food was quite good.

 

 

 

Today, October 16, 2017, we met Dajana, our guide from two days before, and stopped first at the grocery store to buy the wine we have tasted several times at her recommendation.

Mark buying the Zlatan Otok Grand cru that Dajana kept pushing. We did enjoy it and he got it a a very low price compared to the restaurant prices.

Locally produced in small quantities on Hvar by a company called Zlatan Otok, it is a very tasty Grand cru.  Mark bought 2 bottles.  Unfortunately, it is hardly available anywhere except Hvar Island.

An 1808 canon from the time Napoleon’s Army overran the island in the early 1800’s.

Then our driver of the day, John, took us up to the fortress or Fortica as it is called locally.  The original foundations were started in the 1st century BC to protect the Illyrian people living on the hillside.  Construction of the present-day fortress was begun by the Venetians in 1282 and completed, with the proceeds from salt sales, in the 16th century.

The fine view of Hvar and its harbor from the Fortress.  The nearby chain of islands on a happily clear day.

The sign over the gate indicates the year 1551.  In 1571, the fortress saved the lives of nearly all the local people who found shelter there, when the Turks attacked the town, plundering it and setting it on fire, but not succeeding in conjuring the fortifications.   Several years later, at 3:30am on October 1st, 1579, a thunderbolt struck the gunpowder store, causing a major explosion and damage to the fortress as well as the town below.

The Hvar Fortress walls facing the city.

Centuries of repairs and modifications followed.  At the beginning of the 19th century, under Austro-Hungarian rule, a large new barracks was built and occupied where the damage had been.  In the late 19th century, Hvar lost its strategic importance and Fortica was abandoned.

The view of Hvar from the top of the Fortica was very pleasing.

The abandoned hillsides on the way to Start Grad, where vines and lavender used to grow. The years of effort piling rocks is most evident.

From there we drove to Stari Grad, where we caught the ferry to Split.  Along the way Dajana talked a lot about the agriculture on the island.

Stari Grad in the distance. It is the second largest town on Hvar Island and, at one point, the most important. There is an organized city structure, a much better harbor, the agricultural plain and the ferry terminal.

Thousands of hands have moved millions of rocks over the centuries to provide land for olive trees and grape vines.  Rock walls are evident literally everywhere.  In the 19th century there were 5000 hectares of grape vines.

Stari Grad and its harbor.

 

 

 

Stali Grad city hall is the middle building. The others are empty and waiting for investors.

Then in 1910 phyllloxera, a grape vine pest, attacked and killed the vines in Europe and eventually on Hvar as well.  Today there are only 500 hectares of vines.  In 1926, lavender was planted experimentally and became hugely successful, in spite of the tremendous hand work needed to harvest the lavender crop.

A charming, but deserted street in Stari Grad

After several successful years, however, the island sustained heavy fires damage during three different dry seasons and whipped out the lavender crop each time.

Excavations of the Greek city of Pharos from 300BC.

No one had the energy to replant after the third fire.  Meanwhile, there are 400,000 olive trees on the island, 200,000 of which are untended.

 

 

 

 

St Stephen Church built in 1605. JPII’s profile is on the door mantle from when he visited the town.

The population, which was totally agrarian until tourists arrived, has now switched to managing tourism and largely gotten away from agriculture.

Another charming alley with no people.

Our first stop in Stari Grad was the post office to mail the items we did not want to carry home.  As Mark had already purchased a box, filled and sealed it in Hvar, the PO stop went smoothly.

We wandered around the nearly deserted port town for a couple of hours.  The most interesting things we saw were some remains of the original Greek settlement, Pharos, founded in 384 BC.

St John and St Mary Church from the 5th and 6th century AD.

The city has been continuously occupied for 2400 years and is now a UNESCO World heritage site.  Illyrians were the first inhabitants well before the Greeks.   The Greeks came and were followed by the Romans and then the Croatians.  The main attraction of the town in centuries passed was the agricultural plain next to it.

A corner of the agricultural plain. It is the most fertile patch of ground (70 acres) on all of Hear Island.

It is basically a large flat area (70 acres I was told) that contains fertile soil with few rocks.  It is the largest growing area on Hvar Island.

About buildings, we saw only the exteriors including of the Church of St Stephen, built in 1605 and the exterior of the Church of St John and St Mary, built during the 5th and 6th century AD.

Justina, the Czech lady we met working in her studio on palm fronds she was creatively converting into fish with personality.

While walking down an alley we encountered a pretty, Czech woman artist, Justina,  working on a palm frond she was making into a piece of art. We walked into her colorful shop and were captivated by the creative “fish” she makes from the fronds and has hanging from the ceiling.  It was not long before we agreed to buy two “fish” to hang from the ceiling in our lake house bathroom.  As it was the end of the season, she discounted the price and agreed to send the art to us.  Now we have two fish and a bird as our art purchases from this trip—both from the island of Hvar.

Getting on the car ferry in Stari Grad. There were not many passengers the afternoon we rode it.

Soon we said good bye to Dajana and boarded the ferry to Split.   The ride took just under 2 hours.

Our “Pope mobile” ride from the Split ferry terminal to the modern Judita Palace in the Old City and next to Diocletian’s Palace of 4th century AD.

When we walked off the ferry, we were met by our hotel porter, Andria.   He was very entertaining as he put our bags into a golf cart he called a pope mobile and regaled us with the ins and outs of transporting us several blocks to his establishment, the Judita Palace, deep inside the old city.

The ground floor palace entrance to the Judita. It is used as a public coffee bar.  We walked up the outside steps to the First floor hotel.  Can’t explain the green color.

It was a most unusual place.  Old and funky looking from the pedestrian street, a coffee bar on the ground floor, an open air walk up to the first floor where there was a tiny lobby, a few rooms, of which #2 was ours.  There was apparently only him to do everything.

The tiny Judita Palace lobby about 10 steps from our room.

He carried our bags, let us into the room, explained the details of the place, took our passports and checked us in, served us a bottle of white wine, handed us one real key, brought extra pillows and made dinner reservations at a place he picked, called Portofino. He also gave us the WiFi information we needed and told us it was only good for fun activities and not for work.  If we work the WiFi will self-destruct.  He had me laughing from the minute we met him at the ferry until he finally left us alone.

Our room in the Judita Palace. Note the crochet table cover.

We rested awhile and then walked to the restaurant, 3 minutes further into the Old City of Split.  This Old City is very large and, at the same time feels small.  The alleyways are narrow with 5 story buildings on both sides, giving me the feeling of being cramped and intimate at the same time.   Unlike Stari Grad, which was deserted and Hvar, which was about to be deserted, this city is vibrant and full of people.

The alley to the Portofino Restaurant.

The Portofino was very busy with patrons.

The plaza in front of the Cathedral. Musicians were entertaining the crowd that had gathered after dinner.

Mark had to wait in line to buy ice cream after dinner.  Street musicians drew a good size crowd near the cathedral.  Shops were open and had customers.  Outdoor coffee bars were full of people.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying being outdoors in the balmy weather.

 

 

 

The Elaphite Islands

October 14, 2017

Ships lined up at the port of Dubrovnik. Huge numbers considering it is the end of the season.

Two days ago, October 12, 2017, we had a lovely boat ride from the Port of Dubrovnik out to the 3 Elaphiti Islands very near the city.  The boat was slightly larger than our boat at home.

A church on the shore in the Bay of Dubrovnik.

Perfect for us, the captain and our friendly and fun guide for the day, Ana.

River of Dubrovnik. It is 30 meters long. The shorter river in the world. It flows from a spring and ends when it spills into the Bay of Dubrovnik.

The weather was sunny and warm with a cool breeze when we were moving fast.  But first we passed slowly by 4 cruise ships in port and then rounded the corner under the Dr Frano Tudman Bridge and into the Bay of Dubrovnik.

The lovely Bridge of Dr. Frano Tudman, the first president of Croatia from 1991 until his death in 1999. We crossed it a few times.

There were many old summer houses and a Catholic Church along the banks.  Our purpose was to see the shortest river in the world, the River of Dubrovnik.

A cave on Kalamota island we nosed into and then managed to turn around inside.

At “no wake” speed it was a pleasant ride with Ana talking about Croatia, the cost of property ($4000 EU per sq meter in Dubrovnik), salaries (5500 kuna (6.35:$1) per month average), income tax (20%  plus 25% VAT tax), and the Croatian flag to mention a few.

Mediterranean pine trees grow profusely on the islands

The captain turned us around and slowly we motored back under the Tudman Bridge.  Dr Tudman was the first president of Croatia from 1991 to 1999, when he died while in office.  He was very popular at the time and got a lovely bridge named after him.

A fishing boat on Lopud Island

 

We speeded up to reach the islands and in 20 minutes arrived at Kalamota Island, which has a settlement of 170 people and no roads.

Entering Lopud island port-square, where 250 people live and there are no roads,

Our stop was at a couple of cave-like coves into which our boat could just enter and slowly negotiate a turn to get out.  The water was very clear and turquoise and would have been perfect for swimming, but the temp of the water was 69F and the air was only a few degrees warmer.

The 15th century summer villa of the Skocibuha family. The property is only on its 5th owner since the 1400’s.

 

Next stop was Lopud Island, which has 250 residents and no roads.  It had a small village where we stopped and visited a 15th century summer villa built and occupied by the Skocibuha Family for several centuries.

The flowering renaissance garden leading up to the house. Saw large magnolia and persimmon trees as well as grape vines.

It is now occupied by the 5th family to own the 2,500 square meter property.

We were served home made cherry liquor and powdered donut holes in the salon.  The floor tiles are 12″ cubes from different limestone quarries.  Certainly, they will never wear out.

The gardens and a portion of the house are open to visitors as a museum.  The property docent  first showed us the salon and gave us cherry brandy to taste and sugar-coated donut holes to munch.   We then were shown the kitchen, living room, a bedroom, the chapel and the grounds.

The kitchen had all the essentials including running water from a cistern above the house. Rain catchment is still the only source of water .

 

 

 

 

 

The musicians balcony over the Salon. Musicians would sit in the balcony out of sight and play until the guests left, before coming down.

Most interesting was the living room balcony where musicians sat and played while being hidden from the guests below.  Interesting concept that seems to put the musicians in a class below the guests.

Another view of the large living room. The musicians balcony is behind the camera.

The tiles on the floor are actually 12″ cubes.  No wonder the place has lasted for so many centuries.  The original family, like all nobles of the day, had a live-in priest, who ministered to the whole family.

The family chapel inside the villa.

When the husband was gone to war or sea, often for years at a time, the lady of the house ocassionally got it on with the priest and may even have had extra children by the time the husband returned.  The accepted excuse was that sharing a toilet with the priest somehow got the lady pregnant.  So, a second toilet might be provided to prevent the possibility.

 

Sipan Island where we had lunch.  Here there are 450 residents and a 5km road between two villages.

The last island we visited was Sipan, with 2 settlements, 450 inhabitants and a 5km road between the villages.  Here we stopped at a small port with a sandy beach, a boardwalk and a delightful restaurant Ana had chosen.  We had fish soup, seafood risotto and Greek salad.  I enjoyed getting my feet wet in the sand along the beach, but was still content not to go swimming.

Boating through the Elaphiti Islands near Dubrovnik. Visited a house at one and ate lunch at another.

 

By 3pm, the captain had us back at Dubrovnik and soon we said good bye to Ana and were relaxing in our hotel, something of which we do not seem to get enough.

 

A capon dish from a 16th century recipe. Had different fruit flavors blended into the sauce. Was OK, but not great enough to have a second time.

For dinner, we walked to a place Ana suggested that served 16th century dished the chef had learned about.  We got lost getting there, but finally found the place after asking waiters in three different restaurants.  The place is called Kupon and is at the top of the Jesuit Stairs, which we somehow missed.  I had capon prepared 16th century style with bites of chicken and gnocchi in a sweet sauce of blended fruits and spices.  Sounds better than it was.  Mark had scampi served with the heads and claws attached.  Again, we left the restaurant mildly dissatisfied and wondering why we could not find a meal to our liking.

Descending the Jesuit Steps in the Old City after dinner at Kapon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dubrovnik walls from outside the city. This is the west or left side of the walls in morning light.

 

 

 

 

This is the middle section of the walls. You can see a full marina.

This is the east or right side of the walls. One picture could not properly capture the whole scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending 4 pleasurable nights in the Excelsior Hotel in Dubrovnik, listening to the Sea lap at the breakwater in front of our room, it was time to move on.

We passed through 12 kilometers of Bosnian territory for the third time. Here we are approaching the border control from Croatia. This time we didn’t even pause in our conversation. THe hill in the background is in Bosnia.

So, the next morning, October 13, 2017, we met our next driver, Niksha, and headed North.  First, we crossed the Tadman Bridge one last time and passed through the 12 kilometers of Bosnia along the coast road again.

When we reached the turn to Medjugorya, we stayed left and followed the coast to Ston. Niksha reminded us that Ston was the salt producing mecca of Croatia during the 13-17th centuries, and a major source of trade.  There are large defensive walls protecting the salt flatss that were financed by Dubrovnik in earlier centuries to protect their investment.  Now there are 5.5 kilometers of defensive walls remaining and they are in the process of being restored.

The beginning of the defensive walls at Ston, near the salt water ponds in a backwater of the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The middle section of the Ston defensive walls to protect the Dubrovnik salt flats. The village of Ston is in the foreground.

The east end of the Ston fortification walls. There are 5 kilometers still standing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small oyster bed near the island Dennis took us to taste his products.

Just beyond the salt flats, we came to the backwater bay where oysters and mussels are being cultivated.

Dennis showing us how oysters grow on nylon nets.

Dennis Drazeda, one of 3 brothers who will eventually inherit the farm we were about to visit, was at the dock to meet us and take us across a small bay, called Mali Ston, with oyster beds to an island his family leases from the government along with 25,000 square meters of oyster and mussel beds.

Mark inspecting the very, and fresh oysters he will eat.

The family’s current lease is good until 2035 and is one of only 55 oyster leases permitted by the government.  The family considers this lease a very valuable asset they hope to keep renewing within the family.

Dennis showed us the different stages of development from samples of nylon strands with oysters attached, that he had ready to show us.

He was quite prepared as he directed us to a picnic table, brought us cherry brandy, homemade wine and bread and left us to shuck some oysters and cook a pot of mussels.  I watched him cook, while he acknowledged that the tourist business brings in as much as oyster and mussel sales. He operates the tours and his brothers run the farm.  I  was really sad that I could not try the oysters, as I have been allergic to them for many years.   They could not have been fresher and Mark really enjoyed his.  We all loved the mussels and ate a huge pot between the three of us.  With nothing left to eat, Dennis took us back to the dock to wait for his next group.

Dennis, the happy oyster farmer, and Mark, the happy oyster eater.

He has two more groups of 2 and 20 just this day alone.

 

 

 

 

The ferry boat terminal with a nice beach, where we waited for it to arrive. It tales 30 cars and we were number 17 in line so we were sure to get on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazingly, the ferry operators stuffed in a last couple of cars, still leaving 6 behind.

Niksha drove on to the ferry terminal, where we waited half an hour for the next ferry.  Niksha was pleased that we had no problem getting a place in line.  As it turned out, the last 6 cars in line did not get on.  The ferry was packed.  I bet there were more than the allotted 30 cars.  Anyway, everyone on it was glad to have made it.

 

A picturesque lighthouse during the ferry ride to Hear. The light was just right.

 

 

The ride took only half an hour.  On the far east end of Hvar island, we rolled off the ferry with 78 kilometers to drive to get to Hvar.

 

The road was very narrow and curvy and it took us 1.5 hours to make the trip.  If it was high season, Niksha said, the drive time would be 3 hours.  The scenery was mostly rock, some olive trees and grape vines and more rock.  It reminded me of Israel, Italy and Greece.  All these countries are very rocky too.  The terrain was gentle rolling with a few larger hills, lots of scrub, cactus and here and there an attempt at a small garden,  I was not inspired to take a single photo.  It all looked very dull and uninteresting.  Thankfully, Hvar is a whole different matter.

View of the Hvar Harbor. Our hotel is the white building in the back.

At Hvar, Niksha left us at the entrance to the pedestrian walkway.  A hotel porter met us and took our bags. It was a pleasant 300-yard walk to our hotel, the Adriana, which fronted on the small harbor and the town square.

A slightly distorted view of our patio at the Adriana. Really nice space to hang out.

A delightful setting.  We were pleased to have a view room with a patio of our own and hoped we would have time to use it.  None of the restaurants that had been recommended by friends were open.  All had closed for the season.  We were left with the hotel’s suggestions and had very nice sea bass at a place called Dalmatino.   The weather is perfect, unless you want to swim in the Adriatic.  Fortunately for us, that is not a priority.

A Day in Bosnia

October 11, 2017

Entering Bosnia.

We had planned to drive ourselves to Mostar, but the plans got complicated and Mark chose not to drive.  A driver named Mario picked us up at 7am and off we went toward the narrow stretch of Bosnia that touches toe sea and was given to the Ottomans by Dubrovnik in the 17th century to keep relations good and promote trade.

Outside venue at Medjugorje. Imagine the place full.

That stretch was about 45-minutes from Dubrovnik.  Passing into and, 12 kilometers later, out of Bosnia, was pretty slick.  A quick look at our passports and off we went.

The church filling up for the 10am English Mass. The church was overflowing before Mass started. I’m guessing 500 people at least.

After another hour we passed into Bosnia again, got our passports stamped this time, and headed for Medjugorje.

A priest talking about the apparitions at Medjugorje. He was trying to console those who believe the site should be approved by the Pope as a shrine.

We arrived there at 9:30 in time for the English Mass at 10am.   At first it looked like there were very few people around, but the church filled up and then overflowed with people.  I am guessing about 500 were present for the Mass, along with 15 priests on the altar.

The priest getting ready to start Mass. There were 15 priests on the altar to assist with communion.

It was an ordinary service except for the comments by a priest who talked about the apparitions at Medjugorje before the Mass. I heard that Mary appeared as a “white form with a child in her arms” to 6 children on June 24, 1981 and some  more times since then to some of the children, who are now adults.  One of the women, Vicka Ivankovic, claims to have talked Our Lady and prayed with her.  She was given a mission to pray for the sick and says she continues to have daily apparitions.   At the time, they told only their families and the local priest, who believed them.  As word got out, people started to come to the hill where the apparition occurred and eventually the Yugoslav authorities heard about it and put the priest in prison.  There was not much else they could do and more and more people came to the site.  A small church was built in the mid 80’s and was later replaced by a large church and an outdoor altar, with seating for thousands.  I did not have time to climb the hill, but did light several candles for a number of people, victims of the fires and my parents.   I passed a priest and asked about a blessing.  He gave me one right on the spot.  He also suggested staying to meet one of the children (Vicka) who received the apparition.  Too bad we had no extra time.

At our lunch spot with the bridge in the background. Mirna really knew her way around.

Back on the road, we arrived in Mostar at lunch time and met our city guide, Mirna, who took us directly to a restaurant with a table facing the famous Old Bridge, or Stari Most.

A pedestrian street in Mostar.

I don’t remember what I ate, but the view of the bridge was super.  There was even a boy sitting at the top waiting for someone to pay him 25 EU to jump.  No one did while we were there.

This is the new bridge built in 2004, as an exact copy of the original bridge built in 1566.

The bridge was built in 1566 and withstood everything until it was bombed in 1993.  In 1991 the Croats and Bosnians voted to leave Yugoslavia and fought Montenegrins and Serbs who wanted to stay.  The war got messier when the Catholic Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims turned on each other in May 1993.   Mostar and Sarajevo took the brunt of the fighting, although Dubrovnik was bombed too.  95% of Mostar was destroyed.

The Neretva River passing under the Old Bridge.

Finally, in November 1995, the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed, ending the war.

Julia and Mirna, our Mostar guide, walking over the Mostar Bridge

Now, with the help of UNESCO and many countries, the city is largely restored to look just as it did before the war.   However, the population is not the same.  There were 130K in 1991 and as of 2013 the population was 113K.

Another pedestrian street on the other side of the bridge in old Kotor.

As she showed us around the town, we asked about the current political situation in Bosnia. She confirmed that the country has 3 presidents: one for each religion; Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim.  They are voted into office for a 4 year term and rotate acting as president every 8 months during the term.   According to Mirna, nothing gets accomplished, even though they are friends.

The produce market in Mostar. This lady shelled walnuts to sell.

Pretty weird, but what the hay.  Not much is getting done with one president either.

We walked through the pedestrian streets, on both sides of the bridge and took several photos of the bridge from different vantage points.  Mirna knew all the good spots where tourists would not be.  She is 24 and getting married this Saturday.  Everything is ready and she seemed very relaxed.  She knows everyone in town and they were all congratulating her as we passed.

In one shop there were several photos and a video of the bridge being blown up and the city being devastated.  It was hard to imagine that it all got put back together again.  The original bridge was designed by a Turkish architect, took 2 years to plan and 6 years to build.  So this time they did it the same way with a Turkish architect and the same amount of time to build it.  It is 29 meters long, 25 meters from the top to the water and 5 meters wide.

The Neretva River passing through the middle of Mostar. Longest river in the region.

The bridge crosses the Neretva River, which is the longest river in the Balkan region and flows through Croatia its last 20 kilometers to the Adriatic Sea.

We left Mirna about 4pm and Mario had us back in  Dubrovnik by dinnertime.  It had been a long day and we did not feel like walking into the Old City, so we ate dinner at the hotel.  For me it was a special day being able to visit Medjugorje and pray for many people, even if the apparitions have not been sanctioned by the Pope.

Dubrovnik

October 10, 2017

This morning we woke up to Croatian TV news about all the fires at home and the evacuation orders.  Even our friends, Jayna and Craig, have evacuated from Rough N Ready to Reno.  That means many more people we know must have evacuated too.  We have all of you in our thoughts and prayers.   Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death, so I am praying for her too.

Map of Croatia.  Dubrovnik is at the bottom.  We will gradually work our way up the coast, stopping at Split, the islands of Hvar and Vis, a national park and Rovinj.

Our guide today is a lady named Maris.  We walked with her to the entrance of the city and sat on the walls while she gave us the history of the city from 400Bc forward to current history.

Entering Old Dubrovnik through the draw bridge gate.

 

 

 

 

The Sponza Palace, one of only 2 buildings to survive the 1667 and 1979 earthquakes.

The interesting part of the story is that Dubrovnik is so well preserved because it never had to fight other countries.  As an independent city-state it remained neutral and used diplomacy to avoid conflict.  It also paid tribute to the ottomans and at other times to the Venetians.

St Basil’s Church with Orlando in front in the main square.

It was a huge supplier of salt in the region and used that trade to maintain control of its power.

 

 

 

 

Orlando, the Elbow measure. Merchants used the length of his arm from elbow to hand (51.2cm) called an “ELL” as a unit of measure.

It got the name “Dalmatian Coast” from the indigenous Delmati Tribes who were here as early as 400BC.  The Greeks showed up in the 3rd c BC and were followed by the Romans in the 1st c BC.

A priest blessing the throats of the faithful in St Blaze’s Church.

Rome fell in the 5th c AD and the Byzantines dominated the area until the beginning of the 13th c.

The Venetians ruled the area from 1205 to 1358, when the Croatian-Hungarian Empire conquered the Venetians.  Dubrovnik became an independent Republic at that time and stayed that way for the next 5 centuries until 1808.

 

 

 

The front of the Rector’s Palace, with the original gothic top and the Renaissance bottom built after the 1667 earthquake.

Did you know that the word salary comes from salt?  Beginning in the 13th century people traded with salt as payment and gradually came to use the word salary instead of salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A handle on the rail in the Rector’s Palace.

The golden age of Dubrovnik was the 15th and 16th centuries. The city-state was very rich, powerful and successful.

 

 

 

Titian’s Assumption of Mary in the Cathedral by the same name.

Then Vasco de Gama sailed around Africa and sealed Dubrovnik’s fate.  It gradually lost importance as a trade center.  Meanwhile, Venice went into banking and manufacturing to overcome their loss of trade.   In 1667, a 7.6 earthquake struck Dubrovnik and killed 3,000 and destroyed a third of the city.  It never completely recovered.

 

 

 

 

A self portrait (white hair, looking down) of Titian in the painting of the Assumption of Mary.

The Republic grew weak and to protect themselves, the city gave a small piece of land to the Ottomans so they could have sea access.  In doing so, the ottomans protected Dubrovnik from the Venetians.  But times change and history does too.

The Treasury room in The Assumption of Mary Cathedral was full of relics of Saints. They were as good as gold for trade in the 13th – 16th centuries.

First the French moved into Dubrovnik without a fight.  They convinced the nobles that they just wanted to pass through and go on to fight somewhere else.   The Dubrovniks agreed, the French moved in and did not leave.   Not long thereafter, the area became part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and later the Federation of Yugoslavia until 1991, when it declared independence.

 

 

St Basil’s bones encased in gold in the Treasury at the Assumption of Mary Cathedral.

The Yugoslav war from 1991-1995 was very painful for everyone in the region.  Now that it is over, everyone just wants peace.  Over 200,000 people died, including 15,000 Croatians.  The people I spoke with said they only wanted to defend their independence and have nothing to do with Serbia.

Finally, we walked into the city and visited a number of old buildings.

Us up on the walls. It was a lot of steps to get there and 1.5 miles up and down and around to complete the circuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking down on the largest fountain in the walled city.

A few survived the earthquakes of 1667 and 1979, but 80% are new since 1667 and reconstruction is still going on from the 1979 quake.

 

 

Franciscan Brothers Monastery.  The dark roof indicates the building survived the 1979 quake.  Only about 20% survived.

The points of interest included Sponza Palace just inside the walls.  It is the only building that survived the 1667 earthquake without damage.

 

Franciscan Garden behind the Monastery as seen from the walls.

Then there is St Blaze Church built in the 18th Century.  Blaze was skinned alive and then beheaded in 316 in Armenia by the Romans.  Over time he came to be known as the protector of throats and his relics arrived in Dubrovnik.  While we were there, a priest was blessing the throats of people, so I got in line too.

Another view of the densely packed city.  The red roofs are new since the 1979 quake.

We saw the Rector’s Palace, built after the quake in gothic renaissance style.  The designated rector, a member of the local council, was the official governor of the city for one month, during which time he had to live in the palace without his family and administer to the citizens.

 

 

 

 

On the Dubrovnik walls

He was not allowed to make decisions for fear he would become too powerful.

 

 

The Old Dubrovnik harbor. Small, but charming these days.

Once his month was over, he went back to being a regular member of the city council, and another council member would become rector.

Walkking around the Dubrovnik walls.  This was about the half way point.

There were 30 noble families in the city and they basically ran everything.  Each family had their own church plus a few more, so there were 47 churches in all.   One of them was the Assumption of Mary Cathedral, built in the 18th century.

One of the bastions on the Dubrovnik walls.

The outside was pretty non-descript, but inside is a major painting by the famous Italian artist, Titian.  It adorns the central Altar.  Around the corner is the treasury Room containing hundreds of relics from the 13-16 centuries when trade in relics was in as much demand as salt and gold.   We saw the only Jewish synagogue, which has 45 members; the Jesuit Stairs, which were built to resemble the Spanish Steps in Rome and the Clock Tower, which has two figures inside that ring the time, Maro and Baro.

Nearing the end of the wall walk. Can make out our hotel in the distance.

The walls of the city were built between the 13th and 17th centuries of Croatian limestone.  They are 2 kilometers long, 25 meters high and 6 meters thick.    I must say this was a very impressive place.  After walking all around the inside of the old city, we walked clear around the top of the walls and then took the cable car to the top of the hill behind the city for another view.

 

THe view from our room just before sunset.

By sunset we were back in our room and glad to  put our feet up.

Later we walked back into the city for dinner in a place called Proto.  We finally got the muscles we had been caving since we learned that they are raised in the area.  They were just ok…small and overloaded with garlic.  Oh well, we will try again. Friends who were here recently told us to try the ice-cream, so we each got a cone from a sidewalk store.  It was good and helped get rid of the garlic taste.

Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra playing “Pops” in the Rector’s Palace Atrium.

Soon it was time to attend the performance of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra in the Rector’s Palace Atrium.  They were not the best symphony we ever heard, but the music was pleasing and the orchestra was fun to watch, especially as we had seats in the front row just in front of the concert master.

The walk back to the hotel seemed very long, but we made it and went right to bed.  I must say I am getting very tired of walking on cobbles everywhere we visit old places.  Thank goodness we are wearing walking shoes and not sandals.