A Travellerspoint blog

Croatia

Walking with Neanderthals

sunny 30 °C

Left Lake Bled to travel east toward Croatia and Krapina, John had walked through there in 2015 on the European Peace Walk. Krapina is a delightful little town in the Northern region of Croatia and is also, significantly the site of the richest finds of prehistoric life, first discovered in the 1890's and given the name Neanderthals after an earlier and much smaller discovery in 1850 near the German town of Neander.
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Walking down the main street of Krapina we came across the Hostel Barrock where John had stayed in 2015, on poking his head in he was greeted by a voice declaring, "Don't I know you?" the hostess remembered him from three years ago, along with many of his fellow walkers. Melina had a great memory of faces and names and was full of stories of walkers from 2018.
The town was also celebrating a regional festival where their music and food reflected their local dialect and customs, it created a lovely, happy atmosphere as people celebrated together.
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By far the highlight was a visit to the "Neanderthal Museum" , for a small town this is undoubtedly a world class museum. Instead of having exhibits
placed in a range of rooms the building itself is a part of the exhibit, it is based around the shape of a Nautilus Shell and it becomes the vehicle for telling the story. The exhibits tell the story of the initial find, of the history of the earth, the evolution of life and customs, technologies and behaviours/beliefs of the Neanderthal people. Unfortunately you are not to take photos inside but it is a remarkable display and is sited at the geographical site where all the discoveries were made, so after walking through the museum you can walk around outside and see the significant caves where the discoveries were made.

Stayed in a tiny Air B&B with the most lovely hostess, didn't speak English but had worked at the museum for over 30 years and kept wanting to shower us with gifts.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 06:51 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Plitvice National Park and Zadar

sunny 34 °C

Travelling through Croatia the land is rocky and mountainous, the closer to the coast you get it appears harsher, dryer and quite uncompromising, it is like the sunlight has sucked the marrow our of the the soil. It seems that the only real crop is olives and I have read about sheep being kept although I haven't seen any.

Our first goal was to pay a flying visit to Plitvice National Park, World Heritage listed and rightly so. If you don't get a clear impression from our photos, 'google it' it is worth it. Plitvice is obviously a massive draw card and they have built up a supportive network around the site to facilitate the max. no. of tourists. Queues to park, queues to purchase a ticket (600 kuna for 2) and queues once in the park to see the significant sites. The place is sublime and after having visited the Neanderthal Museum yesterday I was imagining life in amongst these waterfalls and cave complexes - yes I do know that there have been a couple of ice ages in the intervening time but it was still worth imagining. The walks were clearly delineated and pathways were joined by very tasteful boardwalks, the water was so clear you could see the fish, the area is quite extensive but you can still get a good taste of it in a couple of hours (as long as you are happy to dodge all those tourists working on their instagram pose!!)
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On to Zadar on the Dalmation coast overlooking the Adriatic (ah well someone has to do it).
Like all of the Dalmatian coastline Zadar can trace settlements back to the Neolithic period, There was a city built in the Roman times and every subsequent significant era have added, changed and adapted the space to their needs. Everywhere the streets/laneways are paved with this amazing polished white stone. I have tried to find out what it is exactly, but there is considerable disagreement between whether or not it is either limestone or marble. Whatever it is it creates a stunning effect, powerfully white, so much so that with the sun reflecting off it it hurts your eyes, and so finely polished with its centuries of foot traffic it looks decidedly dangerous. These stone paths are to be found all along the Dalmatian coastline.
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Another highlight in Zadar is the the Sea Organ, an experimental sound art object which allows music to be created by waves washing into pipes under the water line with the sound released through gaps in the marble steps. With the harbour fairly still it sounds some what like a whale song but as the water becomes stirred ( we did have the wake of a ferry impact it) it suddenly becomes louder and the pitch much higher.

We also checked out the sunset, reputed to be among the most beautiful in the world, allegedly claimed by Alfred Hitchcock, it did look pretty stunning!

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Posted by Seniorcitizens 06:52 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Into "Game of Thrones" territory

sunny 37 °C

Drove from Zadar to Split via Sibenik, another ancient city on the Adriatic coast with its own stories, its own history and its amazing beauty built on the ruins of so many centuries of life.

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Split, is a city gifted with such a beautiful natural harbour. It was so stunning that Diocletian, Roman Emperor from 3rd century CE decided to build his palace here, so much of which is still standing and is right in the centre of the old city teeming with life, people, shops, markets, restaurants and cafes. I struggled to get my head around the fact that I was exploring, shopping and eating in this space that had been in active use for nearly 2,000 year. This palace was no humdrum, 'run-of-the-mill' palace either, in its day it would have been renowned for its impressive luxuries and beauty. The underground basements alone are awe inspiring with soaring barrel vaulted and domed ceilings, this part of the palace formed the solid foundations upon which the grander edifice was built. This is one of the sites that has been used as a setting for Game of Thrones" I haven't seen it but John tells me that dragons were kept in these underground sections. There is a bell tower with stunning views of the city and harbour (LOTS of stairs) an orthodox cathedral and crypt that were built in Diocletian's converted mausoleum. Most of the ancient structure is built of either the limestone or marble which has been polished by centuries of wear. The colors of the stone walls are in such a range of creams and fawn (a home decorators delight) and it it appears as if the hot Adriatic sun has sucked the very life out of them.
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Had been hanging out for a swim so headed off to the beach purported to be the popular local beach and yes it was, crowded with banana lounges and umbrellas ( at 100 kuna a day) it was hard to find a place to stand but we managed a spot and I headed off into the water. First disappointment, the sand was grey and gritty, water good but very shallow and I had to wade out for ages just to get water any where near my waist and quite warm in patches, I felt a bit of a spoilt brat, here i was swimming, well paddling, in the Adriatic and I was not really happy, we really have it so good in Australia with our beaches.

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Before we returned our car we decided to take a trip to the mountain fortress Klis which is also used extensively in "Game of Thrones". It is built along the rocky spine of the mountain and it was said that whoever held this, held Croatia , it too is built of this stark local stone and its longevity is testament to its strength and the technology used, although John did point out that probably most if it and of Diocletian's palace was built by slaves.
Needless to say, there was a lot of climbing but the views were breathtaking, none of the photos seem to do it justice.
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Final evening we walked along the harbour and checked out the real estate in yachts, this is definitely a game for the 'big boys' there was enough $'s (or Kunas) in the harbour to meet the debt of a small 3rd world country. Still very pleasant sitting there watching the sun set.
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Posted by Seniorcitizens 00:27 Archived in Croatia Tagged split Comments (0)

The Islands are calling

sunny 35 °C

On board our ferry in Split harbour (after a minor hiccup- with everyone loaded and great seats, nothing happened and we see the gang plank being lowered and people getting off, then a lot of people getting off, finally we had to get off too as apparently one of the engines wouldn't start) so onto a 2nd ferry!
Hvar (the same name as our 2nd grandson) is one of a group of islands in the Adriatic off the coast of Croatia and considered a part of Croatia, like everywhere in this area, these islands have been inhabited for millennia, the first recorded people were the Illyrians from about the 4th century BCE, who were later moved aside when the Greeks decided they liked the look of the islands; so it goes until the present day. Consequently the buildings and designs show the same evidence of history and beauty as do those in the old towns all along the Dalmatian coast. Hvar has a long rocky spine along its centre which means that unless you are standing right on the edge you are climbing, about to climb or have already climbed, which is great fun with a suitcase with a 'dodgy' wheel. Our apartment, despite being a soul destroying climb, had a balcony with a stunning view and a seductive breeze to temper the heat. The old town is magnificent, there is a wonderful promenade built right up to the water's edge where all types of 'playboy' yachts tie up. There is entertainment everywhere from high class meals on the massive yachts to the local cuisine in the old town and pubs where lots of trendy young backpackers hang out. We watched as some young poms were making themselves 'known' - this time not the 'Aussies'.
I was really keen to go for a swim, the water is so clear and inviting but the rocks make it very hard to find a safe entrance. After performing a bit of a 'Laurel and Hardy' act I did eventually get in and it was amazing, the water is so clear and refreshing and with a high salt content it allows you extra buoyancy, you can just float with very little effort, such a relaxing experience.
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Leaving Hvar, again by ferry we travelled to another island, this time Korcula, possibly even more beautiful but which doesn't attract the wealthy yachts to anywhere near the same degree. The trip is 1hr 20mins and as we settled I saw someone I thought I knew, it was Janet, my first Principal when I started at Manchester PS, she has been touring with a group of friends and was also on her way to Korcula, needless to say the hour + passed very quickly as we caught up on news.
On Korcula we were staying in a resort for a couple of days, somewhat away from the main town so we checked out all the gorgeous little lanes and historic buildings before eating lunch at the water's edge.
Marco Polo (13th century) is greatly revered here, but there does seem considerable mystery surrounding the link. The locals claim he was born here and there is even the Marco Polo house you can visit which universally gets a one star rating on Tripadvisor. Venice, on the other hand, claim that he was born in Venice and at any rate Korcula was a part of the Venetian principality at the time and Italy was decidedly miffed when at a recent opening of a Marco Polo museum in China the Croatian President was invited and not the Italian President.
Korcula has been a lovely time of resting, swimming in the various resort pools and soaking up the views.
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Posted by Seniorcitizens 11:36 Archived in Croatia Tagged & hvar korcula Comments (0)

"The Pearl of the Adriatic" - Dubrovnik

sunny 36 °C

History, history history.
A wealthy trade centre throughout the middle ages and into the renaissance, it has been ruled by many different empires over the last millennium, but through it all has maintained its unique style and liberty. Despite being separated by a small part of Bosnia Herzegovina from the rest of Croatia it is passionately Croatian as was demonstrated most recently in the 'Homeland War' of 1991-1992, Dubrovnik is a mecca for ALL the tourist cruise ships that pull into the port and as you walk around you are constantly dodging through large groups of tour people all wearing headphones and following a guide who is carrying a number in the air for everyone to follow while they race through their itinerary providing a potted history. There is some movement to try to manage the no. of cruise ships allowed into Dubrovnik each day but as Croatia is fairly dependent on the tourist dollar/euro/kuna it will be interesting to see how they manage the compromise.
IMG_20180916_102439.jpg Arriving in Dubrovnik.
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Dubrovnik is also famous as one of the sites for the filming of "Game of Thrones' and looking at the city walls you can see why, the city walls are stunning, sweeping directly up from the Adriatic with imposing turrets and bastions. The 'old city' covers quite a large area and reflects its long history of trade, political organisation and religion (predominantly Roman Catholic) so there are massive churches and Cathedrals everywhere. Their government was not unlike that modelled in Venice during the same period of time. Elected leaders who rotated through their responsibilities in administering governance, and as a result I think that it was far more prosperous than those who had monarchies.
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As Yugoslavia began to unravel at the beginning of the 1990's Serbia wished to consolidate a greater Serbia by incorporating Croatia and Bosnia under their control, to that end they attacked Croatia shortly after the Croatians had declared their intention for an independent, free country. As a part of achieving their goal Serbia attacked Dubrovnik, an area everyone believed would be safe because of its World Heritage status.
The attack was brutal and the Croatians were unprepared, believing they would be safe. Dubrovnik is surrounded by harsh, rocky mountains that look right down into its heart and the enemy used this to their strategic advantage. We took a cable car to the top of the hill behind Dubrovnik where much of the battle took place. there is an old fort there built by Napoleon at the beginning of the 1800's. As well as offering breathtaking views the old fortress houses a museum which explains the events that took place during 1990-1992. Reading between the lines you can 'hear' the passionate sense of injustice they felt, both in response to the unrelenting barrage they experienced on their beloved home, but also disappointment in the international communities response in that they held back from intervening stating that it was a 'tit for tat' battle. You also see a story of brave partisans who were prepared to sacrifice all for their freedom.. I think history is yet to tell the whole story.
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We also visited a number of historic sites; the beautiful Franciscan Monastery (structurally very reminiscent of Mont Saint Michel on the coast of France), they were world renowned for their work in the creation and use of pharmaceutical drugs. Other sites included a Jewish synagogue, and a variety of museums. We also walked the wall, about 2 km in the blazing sun but an amazing structure which included lots of climbing, we explored the Old Port and, a highlight, we found a spot near the wall where people were able to swim, the rocks were 'tricky' but the water is sublime, it is so clear and buoyant and as you swim you are looking at the city walls and centuries of breathtaking history, truly memorable.

The Wall Walk
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Ended the day off with a swim at one of the famous Dubrovnik swimming sites.
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Posted by Seniorcitizens 07:21 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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