Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rome to Kuala Lumpur

We have spent most of the last few days travelling. Ferry from Split to Ancona in Italy where we just missed a train to Rome. We waited a few hours and then nearly missed the next train as we were on platform 2 and not platform 2 west!

We had a quiet afternoon in Rome, leaving the next morning for Kuala Lumpur. We are currently sitting in the airport terminal, waiting for our flight to Langkawi.

We are looking forward to a few quiet days on Langkawi to recover from our very hectic holiday schedule. Each of the last 7 nights we have spent in a different bed or in the case of last night, sitting in an airline seat.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last Day in Croatia

Standing on the castle wall in Trogir

Having packed our bags and waited for the rain to clear, we still had the best part of the day as we could not board our ferry to Italy until 6.30 pm.

We headed off by bus to visit Trogir. We crossed the historic bridge into the old town and it was just as good as all the other stari grads! We did not even bother with a map but ambled through the streets and narrow laneways with their marble cobblestones. The squares were delightful and the souvenir shops had exactly the same things as all the other stari grads in Croatia.

The cathedral was especially interesting with the church being quite ornate with some unusual carvings of Adam and Eve wearing fig leaves and looking embarrassed. There was a separate baptistery with a hooded font surrounded by lots of carved cherubs - all boys. The Treasury had reliquaries of gold and silver, including arm bones encased in a golden arm studded with gems.

We climbed the bell tower that provided wonderful views over the city. It did however, have particularly steep and narrow stairs.

We had an enjoyable lunch in a restaurant near the harbour that provided great views and cover from the rain.

Our final visit was to the castle where we walked round the walls and looked at the views of the harbour and the town. Right next to the castle wall we had a view over the amusement park complete with trapeze trampolines. What a contrast between the old and the new!

Makarska Riviera

National Day in Croatia
The limestone mountains behind the harbour in Makaska.

We travelled from Mostar down to Makarska, located between Dubrovnik and Split. It has a stunning setting with a mountain range behind and a beautiful coastline and some of the best beaches we have seen in Croatia. (smaller pebbles)

We headed out to look around carrying our sunnies, hats and rain jackets and by the time we returned, we had used them all but this time, just a light shower.

We did not originally plan to visit here but are very glad we did. The place has a real holiday feel but without the significant cultural highlights, other than the nightly disco.

We now return to Split to reunite all our baggage and to prepare for our crossing to Italy.

Celebrating Croatian Style

Earlier, we posed the question as to how we should celebrate Anti Fascism Struggle Day and the National Day.

We asked lots of locals about the first holiday and most did not seem to know what it was for. Perhaps they could not explain the concept in English. Since the last public holiday we experienced, they have repealed the law requiring everything to close so on outward appearances, it was just another regular day.

The best answer we received on how to celebrate was “It is a day for eating and drinking.” Sounds like some holidays in Australia.

We were out of the country for the national day but there must have been some formalities because when we returned to Croatia, there were wreaths on several significant monuments. Like some holidays in Australia - wreaths, then eating and drinking.

We visited Trogir the following day and again saw wreaths commemorating those who had lost their lives in the fighting from 1991. Like all wars, many were very young.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Our bus trip to Bosnia Herzegovina was an interesting journey. In fact, we visited twice. Driving from Dubrovnik along the coast was beautiful. Heading north, we entered the narrow coastal strip of Bosnia Herzegovina that cuts across Croatia to the Adriatic Sea. It only goes for a few km and we went through Croatian and Bosnian immigration and then Bosnian and Croatian immigration as we exited back into Croatia a short time later.

About 65 km from Dubrovnik, we turned east to Mostar and soon reached the border to repeat the passport formalities, our 2nd trip to Bosnia Herzegovina.

Mostar is a fascinating city but sad in some ways. It was badly damaged in the fighting and its famous bridge, built in 1556, was destroyed in 1993. It has now been restored in the same style. A poignant sign says “Remember 1993”. This small sign is the only indication that it has not been standing since 1556.

The town is truly beautiful with wonderful views over the picturesque Neretva River. There are more mosques than churches, a 16th century Turkish bath, a great bazaar and overall, a fabulous ambience.

While we were in the town, the heavens opened again. Our washing was out drying on the line as were our new rain jackets. We found a restaurant to shelter in for a late lunch. It had fabulous views of the bridge. It was a great time to take photos of the bridge as no-one was silly enough top be out walking. We sat for a long time over lunch and only got a little wet on the return trip to our accommodation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Research Update

As we continued our research last night on our new economic indicator, we discovered a flaw in the ‘basket of commodities’.

It is based on the premise that the commodities are all equal. Now while some ice creams may be slightly better than others, we can tell you that if we apply the premise that all wines are equal, we have to say that some wines are more equal than others.

We should have followed our brother-in-law, Tony’s advice and spent more than one euro on a bottle.

If the image is blurred, it looked ok to us! Maybe you are just seeing double!

Motor to Kotor

Outside the walls of Kotor
Back to Dubrovnik

Off by early bus to Kotor in Montenegro. The weather looked threatening when we left Budva but over the mountain, the sun was shining. We were walking around Kotor by 9.15 am and enjoying the old town. Like all the other old towns (Stari Grads), it was the same but different!

We explored churches, the Maritime Museum and lots of old palaces (grand houses). The walls are amazing running up from the town to the top of the mountain, around the top and back down. We sat in a restaurant eating local food for lunch looking up over the buildings at this astonishing wall. What a feat of engineering!

The harbour was a contrast - lots of boats, many costing over $100 million.

It did rain when we were in the Maritime Museum and when we were on the bus back to Dubrovnik, but we stayed dry as we had new rain jackets by now. The others are back in Split!

The trip around the lake was glorious with wonderful views. Back in Herceg Novi, this time in dry weather, we discovered that it wasn’t much better than the 1st viewing in the rain.

The views over Dubrovnik, as we returned from our 2 days in Montenegro were superb.

Split Baggage

No...no nasty accident resulting in dirty washing all over the old town!

We realized this morning that as light as we are travelling, we have managed to have our bags spread over 3 cities and 2 countries.

Our main bag is in Split (intact we hope), our 2nd bag was left in Dubrovnik and our small day packs were with us in Budva in Montenegro.

They will all be reunited next Saturday when we return to Split.

Tomorrow we will take all the rest to Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina for a few days.

Cost of Living Index

With everyone focused on the economy, we have developed our Cost of Living Index for Croatia. Normally this is done by calculating the cost of "a basket of commodities".

Our index is simple but effective. It has only one item..the cost of an ice cream cone. We have found this reflects the cost of accommodation, meals, etc.

On the quieter islands like Pag, ice creams were 5 kn. In the slightly more upmarket spots like Rab and Kircula, they were 6 kn. and in the happening and tourist mecca spots like Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik, they are 7 kn.

We have called this new economic tool The Ice Cream Cost of Living Indicator.

As much fun as it was carrying out the research, we are working on a new tool..The Local Wine Cost of Living Indicator. This may delay our return.

Sorry no photos of us eating the Economic Indicator were on file.

Four Seasons in One Day

View of Budva from the city wall
Herceg Novi

‘Here under the azure dome of the sky
Everything blossoms and ripens
In the sunshine.
The poet might say:
“Here one lives for sunshine
Because of sunshine, for sunshine…”
That is why I stayed in this town.’
Zuko Dzumhur

We travelled from Dubrovnik to Herceg Novi in Montenegro. By the time we arrived, it was pouring rain! The town has a beautiful location at the entrance of one of the loveliest bays in the world and is backed by the Orjen Mountains that peak at almost 1900 metres. It’s just that the scenery does not look so good when you are dripping wet.

On we went around the bay…. stunningly beautiful…. depressingly rainy! We travelled past Kotor to Budva where we found a nice apartment and dried ourselves off. Everything we had with us was wet to some degree! Then the sun came out….. we headed down to the old town and the locals headed off to the beach.

The old town is a beautiful sight…..especially in the sun. The city has Greek, Roman and medieval structures. We explored the churches, the archaeological museum, the citadel with its great views, as well as the modern harbour with millions of dollars worth of modern boats.

A very different afternoon from how the day started.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Delightful Dubrovnik

The cloisters in the Franciscan Monastery.

Wow! Dubrovnic’s old town is really delightful.

We arrived and found an apartment in the centre of the old town, only steps from the wall, the cathedral etc. It is such a great location, we keep calling in … to have cups of tea, go to the toilet, drop off shopping etc. It is in the area where they believe the earliest church was built but not located….. We believe it is just under our apartment!

We spent the last 2 days simply strolling the old town. We have walked the famous walls, visited the cathedral and treasury complete with the relics of St. Blaize; the church of St. Saviour, the Franciscan Monastery and St. Blaize’s church; lots of beautiful buildings, old palaces and museums including the Rector’s Palace complete with original furnishings and artworks, the Franciscan and the Maritime. We have others planned for tomorrow.

We have now walked the walls of Dubrovnik but unfortunately got wet for the last 10minutes but the views were wonderful. We have also visited another few churches and museums and have been totally impressed with this beautiful city.

We are spending 2 days in Montenegro

Friday, June 19, 2009

Living in Marco,s Street

Korcula from the sea

Why is there a love seat outside the Bishop,s Palace?
The ferry from Hvar approached Korcula town and we immediately knew we were going to like this place! The approach from the sea is spectacular - one of the best in the Mediterranean. The old town with its high sea walls, towers and old houses is unforgettable.

Our accommodation is waterfront with great views. It is on the corner of Marco Polo’s street from when he was a boy! To swim, we walk just a few paces and go down the steps to the water.

We have enjoyed wandering through the old town. It is very compact! We have visited churches, museums, towers, but best of all is simply strolling along the waterfront and the labyrinths of lanes that make up the old town.

It is a place to relax, to eat, drink and unwind. The restaurants that are set up for the summer along the waterfront are great, as is the local food and wine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Starry Stari Grad

Stari Grad harbour

Lunch in the lane
Simply translated, it means “Old Town” and it was originally the capital of Hvar until the 13th century.

We leave Hvar today for the island of Korcula but our ferry does not depart until 6 pm so we are spending the day at Stari Grad, a 30 minute bus ride from Hvar town. Our bus trip took 1 hour as we went via the Stari Grad ferry port, a few km before we arrived at the old town.

Stari Grad does not have the hordes of tourists and has not changed much since the Venetians ruled it. We wandered round the old port and visited several churches, museums and old historic houses it is the sort of place that you could spend 1 hour or a lifetime.

At the time of typing this blog, we are sitting in a small outdoor restaurant in one of the little narrow lanes just back from the port Our chicken was stuffed with ham and cheese and so are we!

We are catching the 2.30 pm bus back to Hvar Town to pick up our bags, hopefully post this and catch our ferry to Korcula.

Swimmiing and Storming

We decided we needed an easy day so caught a taxi boat across to Parmazana on the St Klemen’s island. After landing, we walked across to the other side of the island and found a shady spot under some pine trees. The bay had crystal water the colour of turquoise. We settled down on our slab of marble, - it is supposed to be the best local beach - but our marble slab was better than the stoney beach.

We swam and read and swam again beforSwimminge going to a restaurant with perfect views over this delightful little view. It is obviously a favourite with boaties as about a dozen yachts bobbed around in the bay.

We caught the 4 pm taxi boat back and collapsed for a late afternoon siesta.

Soon after 6 pm, we were recuperated enough to attempt the climb to the castle which towered above our apartment. Even Hagar could have pulled this one off. With about a 20 minute walk and not an archer or boiling oil in sight, we stormed the castle, after paying our admittance fee.

The castle was interesting with an amphora museum, a prison etc but it was the views back down over Hvar made the climb worthwhile.


Hvar Island has a wonderful blend of history and culture with scenic beauty. It is the place in Croatia with the most sunny days and it is a very, very hot place in more than one sense.

We enjoyed strolling to the cultural sights, keeping to the shade whenever possible. We visited the cathedral of St Stephen and walked around to the Franciscan Monastery and church. This has an interesting museum attached containing art as well as Roman and Greek antiquities found in shipwrecks near Hvar mainly by sponge divers and fishermen.

We also walked along the Riva (Corso) to the tourist resorts just outside the town.

The most impressive thing is simply the ambience of the place. (We may have said that before!) The large town square is lined with beautiful buildings and it was still alive with people when we went off to bed after midnight.

Brac Marble

We had a brief stop on the island of Brac on our way to Hvar. It is a beautiful island and a very interesting main town.

Brac is famous for its marble and provided the building materials for the Diocletian's Palace in Split. Less well known is the fact that it also provided the marble for the US White House. The buildings in Brac are not as grandiose!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Splendid Split

Reflections on Split harbour
The old and the new

Split is a large city but a beautiful blend of the old and the new. The old city has as a focus on Diocletian’s Palace and this is adjacent to a modern harbour with cruise ships and yachts as well as old fishing boats.

Diocletian’s Palace is not a palace as you naturally picture them. It is described as one of the largest Roman ruins in existence but is a working part of the city with old walls, bars , Roman columns and churches, discos and jewellery shops, crypts, internet cafes and buskers, just to mention a few. There are the Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron Gates on the cardinal points and it all faces a fabulous harbour.

We have spent 2 days here and have not done much! Visited the old Roman based church, its treasury and its crypt as well as St John’s Baptistery, originally Jupiter’s Temple. We also visited the 12th century St Francis’ Church that is just a few doors from our accommodation.

We spent some time organising ferry tickets. Tomorrow to the islands of Brac and Hvar as well as our return to Italy on Sunday 28 June. We got the 3rd last cabin available!

We are travelling light for the next couple of weeks and leaving our 1 big bag behind with Mrs Ana. Hope it will still be here when we return to Split as all the presents are in it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Plitvice Lakes

We changed plans to visit the Plitvice Lakes as a day trip as we wanted to see the coastal scenery from Zadar to Split. It was a long day leaving after an early breakfast for the 2 hour trip and arriving back just in time for a late dinner.

It is hard to describe the lakes. The water is an amazing colour with azure blues and turquoise. It has incredible clarity. There are 16 main lakes linked by waterfalls and cascades and there is a unique interaction of water, rock and plant life undisturbed since the last ice age.

We followed the wooden foot bridges right round the lakes and at times over the cascades and waterfalls. We took the route that traversed the upper and lower lakes, completing several long walks as well as using their road train and a boat trip across a large lake. Nearly all day, no matter which direction you looked, you could see waterfalls or cascades. It was a marvellous experience.

The lakes have UNESCO World Heritage Listing and it is well deserved.

Lets pretend we are not tired!

Words can't describe the beauty of this place

The water is so clear you can pick your fish for dinner

Zany Zadar

We had an interesting bus trip from Pag which is joined at the southern end back to the mainland by an incredible bridge.
We had no great expectations for Zadar but were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the old town. We crossed over to it by footbridge and entered through a gateway in the historic walls. We visited a number of interesting churches.
At the cathedral tower, we climbed the 160 steps to the top with its magnificent views over the city and even down over the bells. The cathedral was very interesting and was built partly from old Roman columns.

St Donat’s church was particularly interesting and was built over Roman ruins. You could actually see columns on their sides that had been used as foundations Being in a climbing mode, we went to the top of the dome.
The markets outside were located in the Roman ruins with objects for sale draped over fallen columns.

The waterfront was also very interesting. People were swimming and sunbaking on the quay. The world’s only sea organ is located here. The pressure of the waves operate the pipes that produce the sounds.

It also had a huge circular object of solar panels that you could walk across called “Greetings to the Sun”. Quite zany.
Balloon seller outside the Cathedral
I'm not at the top yet!....Just hope to get there before O'Clock

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another Public Holiday

Pag harbour
Pag is famous for its lace. Most of the best is in churches as altar cloths.

We are still on the island of Pag but have now moved to old, medieval Pag Town.

Today is another public holiday. We only found out late yesterday when we arrived in Novalja. No-one could tell us what the holiday was for but late today we found out it was for Corpus Christi. Most things are closed.

We set off to catch the 11.50 am bus for the ½ hour trip to Pag Town. We discovered that it doesn’t run on a holiday but another one at 11.40 did. Finally it arrived along with the next scheduled bus at 1.30 pm.

We decided on a waterfront apartment a little out of town and after lunch on our balcony, we went for a swim.

Pag Town is located on a very protected bay that cuts right into the very middle of the island. When we walked down to the old town, it has most of the walls intact although only one of the eight original towers remain. We visited 2 churches, the bishop’s palace, the old salt stores and the beautiful narrow streets and squares. We like Pag Town better than Novalja but are ready to move on to Zadar tomorrow.

Pag Island

We arrived at Novalja on Pag at 7.30 pm last night. Everything was open and we had no trouble finding a nice room.

Novalja is the largest town on the island and has an active harbour ith lots of fishing boats.

It is mainly a place for swimming so we are about to move to PagTown for our 2nd night on the island.

Pag cheese, the distinctive paski sir, is a sheep's cheese that is salty and sharp. The sheep graze on the salty herbs and grass transmitting the flavour to their meat and milk. it is only gathered in May.
Sunset at Novalja on Pag
Fishing nets by the harbour

Local produce including the famous pag cheese

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Putting Rob on a Pedestal

Rob on the Rab pedestal.

The Roman columns were reused in the building of a medieval church which is now also a ruin.

Rob is not!

Rab Ravings

We spent this morning wandering the beautiful town of Rab. The old town wall remains including 4 wonderful towers. Each is linked to a church mainly dating from the 12oos.

Rab has less that 600 residents so it is not too large to wander each of the narrow laneways and walk around the delightful harbour. The town square is an old Roman forum and lots of buildings are made of recycled Roman buildings.
View of 3 of the towers taken from the top of the 4th.
Gail and Rob on Rab tower.

Island Hopping

Rab Harbour taken on our way to dinner.
Rijeka town gate

Rijeka fountain

We are now island hopping down the Croatian coast.

We caught the bus from Rovinj to Rijeka and then a catamaran down past the islands of Krk and Cres to Rab where we are now.

Rijeka is Croatia’s third largest city but is not a great tourist destination. We spent a few hours walking about the pedestrian streets and along the waterfront. We checked out the Roman Arch and the beautiful Hapsburg buildings but the St Vitus’ Cathedral was closed when we arrived.
Rab is a beautiful island and a fantastic little town. Lots of marble cobblestones that look great but are hell to wheel your bag along! Our room has a view over the harbour and across to the four city towers.

We depart tonight for our next island, Pag. There is only one ferry per day and it leaves at 6.45 pm.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Celebrating in Croatia

We have just discovered that we will be in Croatia on one of its national holidays. Anti Fascist Struggle Day will be celebrated on 22 June.

We would welcome suggestions on how one should celebrate this significant day.

Au Naturale Croatian Style

Waiting for the ferry to Rovinj
Is this a Japanese seagull?

It's not a church. It's a restaurant.

Gail at the posh resort on Sveti Addrija

All the other photos of people swimming were censored!

Rovinj from the ferry on the return trip. Later we climbed up to visit the tomb of St Euphemia.

We are leaving Rovinj. It is an old style Croatian sea port town that still has the fishing boats come in each morning. We read about this but have not been up in time to verify it.
Arriving late on Sunday from Zagreb, we were fortunate to find a brand new apartment. We are the first customers! It has a fantastic location just up from the harbour with heaps of space. We love it.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the waterfront and the laneways that lead down it. Dinner was at a quiet little spot just back from the water.
The town is quite Italian. It was part of Italy for longer than it has been Croatian! In fact, we are not far from Trieste from where we headed off to Ljubljana and Zagreb.
Today we caught a ferry to Crveni Otok (Red Island). This comprises 2 islands Sveti Andrija and Maskin. There is just 1 huge hotel on Sveti Andrija but we enjoyed a swim in the balmy Adriatic Sea.
We crossed the causeway linking Maslin (a 5 minute walk) and realised we were the only people wearing swimming costumes.
How do you greet a person walking towards you along the track who is only wearing sunglasses and beach shoes? We could have saved space in our bag if only we had realised! We enjoyed a swim in a quiet secluded cove….. no other details provided!
The boat trip was worth the outing without the island visit but we enjoyed the swim, the secluded mausoleum and the castle. (no difficult climb)
After a lunch of pasta back in Rovinj, we spent the afternoon exploring the old town and the church of St Euphemia.
Tomorrow we leave Rovinj and head off to the island of Rab.

Communing with nature but the bird was a seagull!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Not the Destination.. It's the Journey.

The castle well.
The destination.

It's not the glass but what's in the glass.

Gail at the Zagreb Botanical Gardens.

Journeys of Note

We travelled to Zagreb by train from Ljubljana. Before we reached the Croatian border, we were joined in our compartment by a large man from Serbia carrying a big suitcase that wouldn’t close. We figured that it was the barrel of a bazooka! At the border, the Croatian customs simply glanced at our passports but he received a thorough search - all in our small cabin for 6. It turned out that it was not a bazooka but a whipper snipper in pieces. A most interesting journey.
Zagreb was wonderful. Great accommodation in a private room in a central location…. With the 2 most popular things - a frig and good washing lines.

The cathedral was beautiful and we enjoyed the many public monuments. We even rode the free tourist train to save our legs. The city was alive with special events and performances everywhere. We enjoyed Croatian music and dance performed in a lovely park.
We decided to make a special journey to Zagreb Castle. This is rarely attempted without a private car. We took a tram to the end of the line and then a bus up the mountain with its many hairpin bends and twists and turns until we finally alighted in the small town of Sestine.

With help from a few local people, we set off through the forest following a track next to a small stream. Up and up we climbed. After about 1 ½ hours, they continued on their hike and we turned up towards the castle. One of the men in the group was surprised we were going to the castle. “Why would you want to go there? It isn’t finished” Did he mean the restorations?
Another in the group, having heard we came from Australia, asked us did we have a kangaroo for a pet and was surprised when we said no.

Finally arriving at the castle, we knew it was the journey that really mattered and not the destination. We had enjoyed the beautiful “bush” walk.

After a few photos on the ramparts and some of the very distant views of Zagreb, we headed back. This time, we followed a different path. Finally we arrived in a village… but it wasn’t Sestine. Our return bus didn’t go from wherever we were, so we had to walk to the correct village. We caught the bus and tram and returned to our room exhausted.

We enjoyed the journey…. and the destination.

PS. Sorry we don’t have a picture of the bazooka

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bled Picture Gallery

The castle at night taken as we ate our dinner at a restaurant on the opposite side of the lake.

Long drop at the castle. Very handy if you get caught short.

The castle chapel. Never did find out wheere they kept the horses.

The swan family.

Robert by the lakeside taken this morning before we returned to Ljubljana.

More boats. Note the fish.
Leaving Ljubljana for Zagreb by train tomorrow morning. Back on schedule.