May 4 Our ferry ride from Italy wasn’t too bad. The bedding was clean - just holey and the mattress needed to be replaced. Our biggest issue was passing through security. We forgot about the cleaver we carry around the world. The head of security and the police were called. In the end, Gary walked the knife to the garbage bin and threw it out under police surveillance. This way the police didn’t have to complete any paperwork. Bureaucracy is everywhere. Did they think Gary was going to hijack the ship?
We had a great breakfast of 3 eggs, bacon, half of a baguette with tomatoes, onions and cheese at a cafe at the port. We made a delicious egg sandwich! The car rental agency opened at 8 am. We were on the highway with our manual Ford Fiesta by 9 am. Croatia is clean, has good highways with light traffic, and beautiful farms. Our AirBnB was comfortable and the recommended restaurant was delicious, (but had terrible service) - can’t have everything. The picture to the right is bear, deer and boar prosciutto. Gary & I liked the bear the best.
Our host was very amiable and loves his home town. He shared his story being refuges from 1991-1995. The Serbs came in and destroyed the family house and most of the homes in the nearby towns. Klatko was 6 years old at the time. This story was my wake-up call. Gary & I are so blessed to be able to enjoy God’s world and His friendly people. If we could only get rid of the politicians.
May 5 Plitvice Lakes National Park We decided to walk Route “C” which took 4 ½ hrs. We started from the far right and walked to the P3 station for the boat crossing to P2. In hindsight we should have stopped at this point. It began to rain and didn’t stop for 2 hours. Gary was soaked! I had my hiking boots so was better off. From P2 we walked along the right side of the lakes to St4 where a shuttle bus took us almost all the way back to the entrance.
This Park is a spectacular park and I can see why it is a UNESCO site.. The waterfalls are numerous, the water is as turquoise as in the picture due to the dissolved limestone and the environment is lush with beech trees. This park would be in my top two parks (the other one being Yellowstone). This is a must see!
May 6 Our apartment was located near the Rastoke, (branching of the rivers). We decided to walk as the sun was out in full force. Gary did dry out! We visited the Hungarian Fort used for fighting the Ottomans in the 16th century. The Kingdom of Croatia was actually part of the Austrian empire from 1527 to 1868 and then the Austro-Hungarian empire thru WWI. Enough history!
The meeting of two rivers, ( Slunjcica and the Korana), created waterfalls, which is why this area is called the mini Plitvice. This area had 22 mills making use of the powerful energy of the waterfalls. Water still pours through the area of the house pictured. Talk about white noise!
Wood is cheap in Croatia due to the many forests - wood is lying around ready to be split. What we couldn’t figure out is how these large cuts of wood are split. Well lo and behold, as we were walking home, we saw the very machine they use to split the logs. Makes life so much easier. Wood is used to heat the homes in the countryside. It’s not cost effective to lay pipes for natural gas for just a few homes.
May 7 It was a 3 hour drive to our AirBnB in Rovinj on the Istria Peninsula. We didn’t stay in the old town as I needed to have a place for the car. We were only a 10 minute walk to the old town. We ate at the recommended restaurant Puntolina right next to the crashing Adriatic Sea. It wasn’t cheap but it was delicious and we had great service. The Croatian coast is Italy’s resort area. The high prices of western Europe easily find there way here.
May 8 The city of Pula has the 6th largest amphitheater and is the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have all four side towers with all three Roman architectural styles entirely preserved. It was constructed in 27 BC – 68 AD (each emperor improving the structure). The Romans inhabited Pula for over 500 years because of the importance of the port. The town caters to the Italians which flock the city in summer but English is widely spoken, (menus are in 4 languages - Croatian, Italian, English and German). The old part of town is very charming and of course I love the Roman history.
May 10 First we visited Motovun, a medieval hilltop village. The ramparts were from the 13th and 14th century. The view from the ramparts was glorious - well maintained farms on rolling hills. I can’t say the streets are cobbled stone as the stones used in Croatia are 2 and 3 times the size of other European villages. I’m still glad I have my hiking boots.
On the drive back to Rovinj, we stopped at the castle of Pazin. The original castle was from the 10th century. What is pictured here to the right is the final improvement in the 16th century.
May 11 Porec and the Euphrasian Basilica Complex - UNESCO
It was amazing to see the mosaics, the different stages of architecture and the grandeur of the complex for such a small town. The original church was built in the 4th century. The Bishop Euphrasian came to the town and updated the complex in the 6th century. Bishops have been living at the complex thru the 20th century. The basilica floor has been plastered over but there was a corner where the plaster was removed and I could see mosaics underneath. More restoration could be done but that takes money! The columns on the left have been restored while the columns on the right still have been plastered over. I was fascinated by a 2 in 1 painting. The Madonna and baby were painted in 1519 or 1525. The painting was covered over in 1892 with the Madonna and Angel. This raises so many questions: Did the owner of the painting get tired of the Madonna and want something different?, Did the artist find the painting just lying in a junk pile?, Who’s idea was it to expose only portions of the first painting instead of a complete restoration?
May 13 We arrived at our Zadar AirBnB without drama! It is a large apartment with a nice yard for our use. Lunch was at Rafaelo’s. We were warned to only purchase one meal. Glad we took the advice - plenty of food! This picture to the right is the marina area where we are staying. I could see the tops of the masts from our yard.
May 14 Happy Mother’s Day The computer had problems getting Internet. The tablet works fine so we had to find a computer repair facility. We walked along the waterfront to get to a rowboat that took us to Zadar’s old town. The rowboat knocked off 15 minutes of walking at less than $1 per person. Plus it was a nice adventure. We spent several hours wandering the peninsula, eating ice cream and finding the tourism office.
May 15 We went to the electronic repair store to drop off the computer. We drove to the Vransko Lake National Park. Our first stop was at the Ornithological Reserve. I must say the Croatians do a wonderful job on their national parks - keeping the park protected but allowing visitor to enjoy the park. The highlight of the day was the view from the Kamenjak Info Center. We saw the lake and the islands behind - stupendous view! This is another “not to miss adventure”. We traveled one lane roads while in the park. Thank goodness we didn’t come across any buses. (There were two at the overlook). We ate lunch at the marina of Sukosan, not far from Zadar, then picked up the computer. (Driver problems with the Windows 10 update)
May 16 Yesterday I tried to be nice by bringing in the cushions from our yard as it began to rain. The marble step was wet and down I went. My head hit the floor - I had a knot at my eyebrow and a black and blue eye; my left leg hit the sliding glass door track and my left toe smashed into the floor - it hurt the worst and was swollen and black & blue. No good deed goes unpunished! I can’t walk (limp) very far. On a high note, the computer guy had to come to the apartment to fix the computer as we still couldn’t logon to the Internet. We are back on line - YEAH! Gary walked and I limped to Rafaelo’s. We had a wonderful beef tenderloin - so satisfying!
May 17 About 1 hour away is the Island Pag and town of the same name. The small town was full of restaurants so it can accommodate a lot of tourist. This time of year, it was very quiet. We visited the lace museum for a big $1.40,which was in the same building as the lace school, created in 1907. The creativity was amazing and such delicate work. One girl in the family would take instruction. Her sole purpose was to learn lace and no household jobs would ruin her hands or eyesight - (this would have been right up my alley). Pag is known for their beach but we never could find it so we headed back to Zadar with a detour to Nin. The picture to the right is from the Internet. Nin is built on an island in a lagoon. Archeological remains indicate that the island has been inhabited since 10,000 B.C. The Greeks & Romans inhabited the area. Nin was the first Croatian royal town as well as the seat of the first Bishop dating back to 7th century. The Venetians ordered the burning of the town in 1571 and again in 1646 to keep it from falling into Ottoman hands. Nin’s importance throughout history was for salt. You can still see the salt pans. I never expected this much history from such a small town. Much of this information came from two young girls who were tour guides from a group of school children. Thanks so much for the history lesson, Ivana and Lara!
May 19 Our first ferry ride was to the Island of Ugljan and the town of Preko. It was very reasonable - about $10 for 2 round-trips. The actual trip only took 20 minutes - loading and unloading took more time. It was a very laid-back town with beautiful water. Preko would be a great place to just relax. Lunch was back in Zadar at the 5 Wells. Gary had his first wild asparagus. We also had a great Syrah. Everything was yummy.
May 20th was a cloudy day, (but good for driving), to our next destination, Kozarica, on the Island of Mljet. We had lunch in the town of Mali Ston next to the city wall that was completed in the 15th century. It extended 7 kilometers but is only 5.5 kilometer long today. The wall linked Ston to Mali Ston. Along the walls were 40 towers, (20 of which have survived), and 5 fortresses. The walls protected the salt pans that are still in use today. The waters around Ston are used for growing oysters and mussles. Gary had 6oysters with his lunch, (big surprise). He said they were very fishy -ugh! I think that was because the oysters were raised in warm water. The waiter surprised us with a package of the local salt. After lunch we waited in line to board the car ferry to Mljet Island. The road to Kozarica was a one lane road, high up on the hill, with places to pull out every so often. Thank goodness there wasn’t much traffic. Kozarica is a sleepy village where we stayed 4 nights.
May 21 Rain hampered our morning. All was made right as I had ordered a breakfast to be delivered to us at 9 am. OMG, we had yogurt for our cereal, omelets, croissants, a warm loaf of bread with jams, apples & bananas and an apricot juice!! It was a feast for a king! In the afternoon the sun did come out so we explored our sleepy village. The water is so clean and beautiful. I could sit for hours on our terrace and just watch the boats sailing to and fro.
May 22 Our destination was Mljet National Park. The island is covered with trees - so much prettier than Pag island. We boarded a small boat to the Monastery of Saint Mary on an island in a lake. No visitors are allowed inside the monastery so we walked the perimeter of the island and then up to a small church at the top of the hill. The two towns we visited were perfect stops for boaters to come in and have a bite to eat. The pace of Life in these towns was slow yet friendly.
May 23 The day was spent on the terrace listening to a book on tape - nice and relaxing. I had arranged for a fish dinner to be bought to our terrace - simple but the fish was very tasty.
May 24 Eggs & bacon were consumed, bags packed and loaded into the car - everything went smoothly until we tried to get on the road to catch the 10 AM ferry. A dump truck filled with soil was blocking the one lane road. Gary thought the driver understood we had a ferry to catch and yet he dumped the soil, then the driver had to remove some wood in order for him to park off the road. Thank goodness we padded the schedule with extra time. We made it to the ferry with time to spare but Gary was definitely on edge. We arrived in our AirBnB after suffering horrible traffic.