Friday, December 25, 2015

Lovely Lake Bled

Slovenia must be one of the prettiest places we have ever visited. You have probably seen photos of Lake Bled (which sounds more like "Blade" the way the locals pronounce it).  Its castle and the little church in the middle of the lake are picture-postcard worthy. 

We did not take the traditional boats out to the church in the lake, because it was an expensive excursion, and we were told you only get to stay on the island for about 10 minutes. Even the townspeople said the church itself was not that inspiring. But the views along the lake were incredible.

The studio apartment we rented outside of town provided a stunning view of the lake and island church, as well as easy access to the lakeside path. We strolled along the shore into town and back.

The view from our apartment with a path to the lake.

Our host, Brane (brah-nuh), was an accomplished athlete. The poster behind him in the photo is of one of his rock-climbing exploits. (Sorry it's slightly out of focus, but I had to include his picture.)

Several hikes in the area make for pleasant days of exploration, especially in October, as the leaves are turning red and gold. Vintgar Gorge, near Lake Bled, offered these stunning views:


The weather turned a bit "iffy," as we visited Lake Bohinj, which, no matter how hard I tried,  I could never pronounce correctly.

The vegetation seemed familiar. We almost felt like we were back hiking in the Cascades.

What's more the architecture of this nearby town is very much like Leavenworth, Washington, but this is the real deal. The facades of the buildings there still show remnants of medieval frescoes.

Kevin conferred with a local.

And we took refuge from the rain in the coziest coffee shop in town. (It may be the only coffee shop in town.)

We were sorry to leave Lake Bled. But, as we were later to discover, it is only one of Slovenia's treasures.

My New Hat

With the young woman who sold me my hat.

The weather turned cold while we were in Dubrovnik, when the Bora, the legendary wind that chills the eastern Adriatic coast, began to blow.  We had read about the Bora, and now that we were experiencing it first-hand, I began to search for my hat, which I hadn't needed in weeks.  It was nowhere to be found.

That's why I began to search for a new one. I looked in several shops, but they mostly had warm-weather hats or caps of cotton or straw. The few winter hats I saw were pull-ons that would be more at home on the ski slope. At last, however, I found the hat, a wooly beret type.  It is a little itchy, but it keeps my ears warm.

The young woman who sold it to me was bright and spunky. I liked her style, which suited her, so Kevin snapped the above photo of the two of us.

However, I was still left with a mystery: What happened to my other hat?

It's beyond me how someone traveling for months with only a daypack and a carry-on suitcase can lose things, but it happens to me all the time! I was quite convinced I had left my hat behind in Italy.  But no, more than a month later, about two days before we flew home, I found my other hat in the bottom of my daypack. So now I have a choice--my green hat or my new black beret. So I guess that kind of caps my account of Croatia!  (Sorry.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Follow by Email

Notice anything new in the right margin? See "Follow by Email" box? If you enter your email address in the box, you will be automatically notified when new posts are entered with a link to the blog.

If I'd known it was that easy, I would have added it before! That way you won't have to log in to see if there is a new post.


The Coast of Croatia Part III: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic"

We were nervous driving down the coast to Dubrovnik. I knew we had to drive through a 9-kilometer stretch of road that traveled through Bosnia-Herzecovina, but I had forgotten to mention that to the rental-car company. It was unclear from our insurance certificate if we were covered in Bosnia, so we simply held our breath. 

Along the way, we noted many attractive fruit displays like this one.

And I was pleased to see animal bridges, like the one they are constructing on Snoqualmie pass to aid migration, are commonplace here.

George Bernard Shaw called Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic" and said if you want to experience "heaven on earth," you should go there. That praise may have been too strong, but we did find Dubrovnik to be a beautiful city, whether viewed from walls or inside. It is Kevin's favorite Croatian town.

While we were there, they had a celebration with music and a tasting from the local restaurants. I wanted to partake, but we were hungry and the event wasn't open yet. In addition, there were mobs of people there, so we settled on a nearby (Indian) restaurant that was good, but I still envied those who got to sample the feast.

We did get to savor the traditional music.

At night, Dubrovnik became a place of fairy-tale magic.

There are few signs of the bombing that devastated Dubrovnik during the war in 1991. The bright tiles that signal replacement and the few houses that have not been restored offer sad reminders of that time.

Dubrovnik and Croatia have moved on, and today there is an air of optimism there.

We were fortunate to find an Airbnb studio apartment right within the walls with a very helpful landlady, Nike (pronounced NEE-kay) like the goddess.  Here is her photo with her sweet, old dog, Lassie (male).

Dubrovnik may not be "heaven on earth," but it certainly is a place we could return to again and again.

The Coast of Croatia, Part II: Split, Trogir, and Zadar

Note: I’m sorry that I don’t have many observations to offer about our explorations of these towns. We found them very attractive, but stayed there only briefly and sadly, didn’t have many interactions with the local people, who were nonetheless friendly. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Having a rental car made it easy to travel the Croatian Coast. The tiny town of Trogir, and the larger town of Split are about half-way down the coast between Rovinj and Dubrovnik. We stayed in Split on our way south and spent a night in Trogir on our way back north.

Inside the walls of Diocletian's Palace.
Split is the home of Diocletian’s Palace, built during the 3rd and 4th Centuries, A.D.  Today, shops, restaurants, and apartments fill the emperor’s former home, which also includes a museum and art gallery at the foundational level. It’s a massive building, covering over 32,000 square feet. More than 3,000 people live in the ancient structure, which has been built on during successive periods.

Life in the city: deliveries and the "Roman soldiers" ready to pose with tourists for a few kuna (Croatian currency).

It’s great fun to explore this port city on the Adriatic. We sampled some local specialties at a restaurant not far from the palace.  Because I didn’t know the word for “goat” in Croatian, which I suspected one dish contained, I made horns with my fingers and pointed them off my head to the delight of the waiter, who informed me in English that “No, it was made with beef, not goat!”

Rachel tries to overcome the language barrier.
Split was warm and pleasant with  lovely harbor views and many cafes along the waterfront.

But we had to be on our way, planning to reach Dubrovnik the next day. (See following post.) All the little bays and towns along the coast delighted us and made us long to explore them.

Note the fortifications.

We couldn't resist this town. We stopped here for a coffee.
On our return from Dubrovnik a few days later, we stayed in Trogir, which is only a short distance from Split.  

Trogir offered its own charms. We had a very nice apartment within walking distance of the harbor.  Founded by Greek colonists, Trogir was a major port during Roman times. Today, it’s a pretty, sleepy village when tourists are not around. It has been continuously occupied for 2,000 years.

A person could do a lot worse than settling into this little town for a few days. I only wish I had a photo of the kind man in the market who gave me a free tomato from his garden. Like the town, it was sweet to savor.

The other coastal town we visited, Zadar (Zuh-DAR), offers a couple of tourist attractions that at first I thought were somewhat gimmicky: The Sea Organ and Greetings to the Sun. But I quickly became captivated by them. 

Zadar has medieval and Roman ruins, much like the other Croatian coastal towns, but The Sea Organ and Greetings to the Sun are modern attractions. The Sea Organ consists of holes in the rock platform that form soft, almost eerie sounds as the tide sweeps water under the seafront. As the wave intensity increases, the sounds change, but at least when we were there, they were always melodious.

The holes in the platform are part of the Sea Organ.
Greetings to the Sun, the other modern attraction in the same area, includes several circular solar panels that absorb the sunlight during the day. They aren't very interesting in daylight, but at night they become intense colored lights that flash in abstract random patterns. Kids, dogs, and adults all seem drawn to their magic.

In the end, we decided we really liked Zadar's contemporary attractions, and we wished that we could have something like that when Seattle redesigns its waterfront, assuming the new tunnel, which has faced endless delays, is ever completed!