October 03, 2012 - Dubrovnik

     Our last day, and a nice one it was, warm with the sun shining.  After a light breakfast we circumnavigated the city on the castle walls.  Ambling slowly in order to admire the views and stopping often for photos it took us nearly two hours to walk the entire length.   Built from the sea up the slope there are actually a surprising number of steps with inclines and declines common, making it a more strenuous walk then one might expect.  Each side has its own beauty – the east looks down across the tiled rooftops of the city, providing the best views of the buildings, churches etc, while the north and west sides have the vistas of the sea.  On the south one sees the harbour.  The walk is ‘the thing’ to do in Dubrovnik and having done it we certainly know why.

     After that it was a bit of souvenir shopping - Gayle might describe my shopping as more than “a bit” but let’s leave it at that – we then visited the Rupe, or Ethnographic, Museum.  While presenting an interesting collection of costumes, bridal blankets and day to day living from the past the museum paled in comparison to the one we visited in Split.

     After dinner we spent the last hour before our journey home began with a glass of wine in a bar built onto the rocks just outside the walls overlooking the Adriatic.  It was perfect as the sun set, both on a wonderful day as well as our visit to Croatia.  It was a great way to end the evening, before heading to the airport where we had a late night flight to Zagreb in order to catch an early morning flight to Frankfurt and then on to Halifax.


October 2, 2012 - Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a stunning city, certainly one of if not the nicest we've ever visited. As it is somewhat hard to imagine the destruction incurred during the early 90s war we bought a book with some graphic photos of destroyed buildings and a city on fire which helped with our understanding of the recent history.


Dubrovnik's Old Town is a maze of narrow alleys, with restaurants and shops around every corner. The streets are covered with either centuries old stones that glisten, appearing polished or smaller cobble stones. Our day was quite quiet - spent mostly wandering about, admiring the stone buildings, churches etc. We found a nice place for breakfast and then, having driven through but not stopping in Bosnia Herzegovina we chose to have dinner at a Bosnian restaurant. The Bosnian food is somewhat different from Croatian food, being more ‘middle-eastern’, with Turkish influences.


The highlight of the day though was a folk performance by the Lindo Folklore Ensemble. They only perform twice per week but we happened to hit it just right. We heard and saw traditional folk music and dancing in very colourful and attractive costumes. It was most enjoyable show, one of the best experiences of the trip.


October 01, 2012 - Sv. Klement Island (off Hvar) to Dubrovnik 


A very busy day today.  We began with an early morning swim, our last at Palmizana Menghello before leaving on the 10:00 am water taxi to Hvar.  We spent a quick 20 minutes wandering through the harbour area of Hvar town, believing we did not have time to visit the castle.  We then left for the 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive across the island to catch the 1:00 pm ferry.  The drive is very scenic although somewhat treacherous, being a very narrow road with no where to go but down if you leave it.  Guardrails are virtually non-existent.  On the way we passed a group harvesting grapes.  I enjoyed a short chat with a couple of them when I stopped to take a few photos.  We arrived at the ferry at 12:40 pm only to realize I made the first logistic mistake of the trip.  If on Sept 30 one looks at the current ferry schedule there is indeed a 1:00 pm crossing.  But when one realizes this is now October 1st one shouldn't be surprised the number of crossings has been reduced - no 1:00 pm crossing; the next one was 3:00 pm. Oh well, time to relax and enjoy a small lunch in the harbour town of Sucarej.


After the 35 minute crossing we enjoyed a specacular coastal drive to Dubrovnik.  The sun glistened on the sea and highlighted buildings along the coast.  Every turn seemed more beautiful than the last.  We again saw evidence of the war with an abnormally large number of buildings that were abandoned and roofless.  Much to our surprise we actually entered Bosnia Herzigovina on the way, again being required to pass through customs.  There was < 10 km of coastal road and only one coastal city, Neum in BiH.  We arrived in Dubrovnik after 6:00 pm, returned our rental car and then dragged our luggage through the old town until we found our apartment for the next two nights.  First impressions of Dubrovnik are very positive.


Perhaps because we are approaching the end of our trip or maybe just because there were a number of photos today I liked but there are more than usual.  Below we have


1.   Hvar castle walls

2.   grape harvesting on Hvar island

3.   a plate of local ham waitng for the ferry

4.   finishing lunch in Sucaraj, Hvar

5.   some of the spectacular coastline 


September 30, 2012 - Palmizana Meneghello, Sv. Klement


Really not much to report today.  The entire day was spent relaxing at our cottage - swimming in the crystal clear turquoise sea, simply enjoying the views from the terrace with either a Croatian beer or local Hvar wine, taking a few photos and then dinner, where I had the traditional janjetina peke - lamb cooked in charcoal under a bell like thing.


The waitresses here at Palmizana have been very efficient and friendly.  Other then some rather loud party music at another nearby restaurant that carried across the water without interference this stay in a cottage right on the Adriatic was very relaxing - exactly what we imagined a Croatian island stay to be.



September 29, 2012 - Palmizana Meneghello - Sv. Klement (off Hvar)


Today was as expected - nice weather, a couple of swims and a lot of relaxing.  Below we have Gayle enjoying breakfast followed by the view from the restaurant down to the cove.  There is virtually nothing to do on the island other then the 3.2 km hike (each way) up and across to the only 'village' Vlaka, which is really only half a dozen homes with a small church and a couple of Konobas, or local eating places.  The hike is generally along a quite narrow trail, up and down through the pine forests, with vistas of the numerous other coves of the island, as below.


We stopped at Dionis for a lemonade and an octopus salad - with tomatoes, pear, chick peas and capers and garlic in a vinagarette.  For those like me who like octopus it was a nice fresh lunch.  We returned to Meneghello just before dark, after which we had a very light dinner - the heavy eating of a number of weeks having finally caught up with us.



September 28, 2012 - Palmizana Meneghello - Sv. Klement (off Hvar) 

If one wants an out-of-the way Croatian island vacation we’ve found the place for you.  Our stone cottage (White) is right on the water – step out the front door, five steps down and we’re swimming in the cove.  Up to the restaurant for breakfast, a book or Sudoku on the terrace looking out to the bay, in for a swim, a glass of wine or a beer, a nap on the terrace, back in for a another swim in the warm water, write a few Trip Advisor reviews, perhaps another Sudoku or chapter, back in for yet another dip, and then its dinner before a cherry brandy on the terrace looking out to the yachts in the bay, listening to the water lap on shore from our terrace.


Dinner was particularly good – a nice tomato and basil brushetta, a simple but tasty spaghetti with only olive oil and garlic, a large Greek salad with cabbage – cabbage has appeared in every salad we’ve had in both Slovenia and Croatia, and perhaps the best grilled chicken I’ve had with a red pepper tapenade, all accompanied by wine from Hvar. 


And we get to do it all again tomorrow … 


September 27, 2012 - Split to Sv. Klement (an island off of Hvar)


While at the Palaca Judita we met a couple of wonderful staff - Marija and Andrija.  Andrija may shortly be a big Croatian celebrity in that he participated in a Master Chef Croatia reality show, having reached the final 50 (from 2,000).  He said he could only tell us how he did if we were prepared to accept that he would then have to silence us :-).


We spent our remaining time in Split wandering around the fish market and the back streets.  Split is old - with stone buildings, churches, towers etc.  Like most other towns and cities here in Croatia Split's central area is restricted from vehicles making it very pedestrian friendly, with squares, or in Croatian trgs, and cafes around almost every corner.  We then went to a most interesting museum the Etnografski (Ethnographic) Museum with a fascinating collection of Croatian and Slovenian costumes and dress.  The intricacy of the work, including some of Croatia's well known lace and the colours of the clothes were spectacular. 


It was then to the ferry for the two hour trip to Hvar.  Hvar was surprisingly green with pine forests covering the north side of the island.  One can cross from Stari Grad (the port) to Hvar town on the other side quite quickly.  We stopped to load up on drinks and then arranged to be picked up by boat as we were off to an island off the coast of Hvar for four nights of isolation.  The boat trip was approx. 15 minutes where we we met for the five minutes to cross the island from the marina to Palmizana Meneghello (www.palmizana.hr).  Upon arrival we discovered we were upgraded (for reasons we still don't know) to the cottage right on the water.  Open our door and immediately outside is a bay, with a number of boats anchored.  Beautiful.



September 26, 2012 - Kalpici to Split


We awoke to dogs barking and the bells of the sheep - after all we were on a farm, one has to expect some animal noise, but more important another warm sunny day.  After a liesurely breakfast, goodbyes to Stella and Cupka the dogs and Georgia an especially friendly pot-bellied pig, we took a minute (literally) to go the 100 metres to the village - well to about four or five three hundred plus year old buildings.  While taking a few pictures this older fellow came out, smiled a lot (no English) and then waved me into his barn where he showed us the rafters where he smokes his hams along with his wine-making.  Then he brought out some cherry liqueur and well - I had to be hospitable.  Turns out the fellow is Ivana's (who runs the Agroturizam) grandfather.  One of those treasured moments when while we could not communicate with words we knew he was very proud to show us his place - as old and rustic as it was - and share a drink with us.


We drove to the coast where we stopped first in the very nice little town of Tribunj for a short walk-about and then the somewhat larger Vodice where we were successful in finding a traditional handmade Dalmatian folk doll to add to our collection.  The drive to Trogir passed along some beautiful coastline as you can see in the photo below.  Trogir is another interesting town, in fact a UNESCO world heritage town with narrow cobble-stone alleys winding there way back and forth (with numerous dead-ends) through the old historical section.  We stopped for what was a pretty decent lunch.


From Trogir it was a short drive to Split, a large city of nearly half a million.  However Split is all about the compact historic centre, dating back to the 3rd century including the Riva, or promenade along the waterfront.  Split is another UNESCO recognized location as it should be.  After finding our hotel, we spent the evening wandering about, listening to a group of women singing traditional Croatian songs on the people oriented Riva and finishing with a glass of wine in one of the trgs, or squares.



September 25, 2012 - Agroturizam Kalpic


After a relaxing morning enjoying a farm breakfast and chatting with other guests we headed to Krka National Park.  The really nice thing about a place like Kalpic is that it is so easy to engage in conversations with others - hearing about their travels both here in Croatia and other places they have travelled.


One of the nicest days we've had, nothing but blue skies and a temperature that reached 28 celsius.  We decided that rather then go in the park to see the waterfalls etc. we would drive further inland to see some of the impacts of the war.  Ivana, the host here told us of her home in Sibenik being destroyed when the war began in 1991 and how as a 12 year old she and the family came here to approx. 15 km inland to the grandparents farm.  We did enter the park from the west side and took a short boat ride to a small island in the middle of the lake where there is a church and monastery, dating from the 15the century - very tranquil and peaceful.  Included was a museum with a number of haunting photos of the destruction of churches and other buildings during the war.


We continued our drive until we found a small cafe at the end of the river/lake where we took a short break enjoying a drink.  Soon thereafter the remnants of the war were obvious with signs warning of mines and many many destroyed buildings, bombed and derelict, as well as walls covered with what certainly appeared to be bullet holes.  Village after village the same can be seen.  While newer homes/farms have been built those that were destroyed remain, a visual reminder of the war.


We returned to Agroturizam Kalpic where we enjoyed another nice dinner, mine cooked in a traditional way under a cover of coals.  There was a group of Russians but otherwise only one other couple from Hamburg, Germany at dinner with whom we had a lengthy chat sharing our travel stories.  A cherry brandy made here on the farm was a perfect finish to the day.   



September 24, 2012 - Novalje, Pag Island to Kalpici (near Krka National Park)


A somewhat cloudy, but warm day the first part of the drive down the island of Pag from Novalje to the town of Pag was quite scenic but after that less so, as the landscape turned somewhat scrubby and the coastal mountains disappeared.


We stopped in the town of Zadar which turned out to be interesting. After a long history Zadar was almost destroyed by the Allied forces during World War II, rebuilt, but then during the 1991 war the city took another devastating hit when Serb forces cut the city off from Zagreb and again reduced it to ruble.  The Croatian army liberated Zadar in 1993 and the outlying area in 1995. The town has an nice mix of new and old architecture including the city walls and a number of churches and monastaries dating back hundreds of years.    As well there is a nice display of ruins around the Roman Forum which was constructed sometime between the 1st century B.C and the 3rd century A.D.  Anothe interesting attraction along the Riva, or nice green space and sea wall just outside the city walls is The Sea Organ - a series of 'pipes' that employs the sea as the organist, with changing tones and pitches depending on the force of the sea water.

The balance of the drive to Sibenik was mixed, at times along a beautiful coast while at other times through scrubby land.  At Sibenik we turned inland for 17 km until arriving at Agroturizam Kalpic, where we were met by the most friendly owner Ivana.  Dinner at the farm was again family style, and by definition for an ‘agroturizam’ traditional Croatian cooking.  It was very good.  This is a very peaceful, calm rustic farm, virtually a museum of farm relics.  There are sheep wandering the nearby pastures, their bells ringing in the morning, a couple of friendly family dogs and a wonderful pet Georgia, a pot-bellied pig.  Kalpic has turned out to be a great choice for a two night stay.

September 23 - Tribalj to Novalje, Pag


After yet another full breakfast we headed south to the island of Pag.  The drive was quite something, mountains on the left and the sea with offshore islands on the right, for the entire drive (approx. 70 km) to the ferry.  We stopped for a tour of a the castle in Senj that provided a nice history of the Uskoks, a tribe of pirates who controlled the region, including the water passage ways of the Adriatic in the 15th and 16th centuries.


The ferry was quite short, only about 15 minutes.  Upon disembarking we could have been on the moon as there was nothing but rock - this side of the island was absolutely barren, similar to what we imagine a lunar landscape would look like.  However the west side of the narrow island was somewhat greener, including vineyards around the Boskinac winery where we stayed the night.


Late afternoon prior to dinner we took a drive to Luna at the north end of the island where olive groves of over 1,000 years dominate the terrain ... along with a few sheep.  The tangled shapes of these very old olive tree trunks were quite something to see. 


Boskinac is noted for its fine restaurant and did not disappoint.  We enjoyed one of the most memorable meals of our life on a candlelit terrace.  The presentation of the food was beyond great as was the quality.  The chef made a delicious vegetable phyllo pie for Gayle and my traditional Pag lamb meal was superb.  The estate's wine was excellent, enough so that we bought another bottle to bring home with us.


The photos are first of the islands as seen from the coastal drive, the rocky terrace on the drive to Luna towards the north end of Pag, and an elderly Croatian women on the roadside near the town of Novalje.


September 22, 2012 - Louvran to Trebalj via Cres and Krk


After another over-the-top breakfast of stuffed mushrooms, prune dumplings, chocolate crepes, or palacinke/pancakes as the Croatians call them (see photo), chocolate croissants, and roasted vegetables in addition to all the standard cereals, juices, yoghurt, breads, jams, fruit ... a simple coffee and piece of toast is going to seem so strange when we return home.  Good and bad to these large breakfasts - on the good side there is no need, and we rarely have, lunch, yet on the bad side if we see a bakery or a nice quaint gostlina or taverna or restaurant on our travels we're too full to stop and try something. 


We left Lovan driving the coast road to the ferry to the island of Cres.  The drive is similar to that along the Amalfi coast of Italy, a winding road hugging the slopes dropping down to the sea, villas everywhere, and great views.  It's a short 25 minute ferry to Cres where we had about 3 1/2 hours before catching the next ferry to the island of Krk.  We stopped in the main town of Cres, a nice harbour town with restaurants lining the waterside.  We are now 'off-season' so things are a bit sleepy but just the same a nice short stop.  The island of Cres is about 60 km long after which you cross to a short causeway to the island of Losinj which extends another 30 km or so.  Although there is essentially only one road the length of the islands we drove to the tip of Losinj enjoying the barren landscape and sea views.  We then returned along the same road for our next ferry to Krk.


We did not stop on Krk but rather drove across the bridge to the mainland and a ways down the coast before going inland about 6 km to our stop for the night, a nice boutique hotel (Balatura) built in a 300 + year-old farm.  Another excellent dinner of first a chick pea and fig soup and then lamb goulash and polenta for me and a vegetable (and polenta) dish for Gayle.  An intense lemon tart nicely finished the meal.  We chatted extensively with a very nice German couple during the family style dinner.



September 20, 2012 - Rovinj to Lovran

After another very enjoyable breakfast we left Rovinj and travelled inland through Istria, first to Pazin where we stopped to tour the Kastle and its accompanying Istrian Ethnographic Museum providing a display of Istrian cultural artifacts including traditional Istrian costumes, farm and household items, a model of an old Istrian kitchen as well as a display of 14th through 20th century bells.

We then drove on to Livade, a one horse town where the 'horse' is the tartufi capital of Croatia. Livade is everything truffles - truffles on the menus, truffle oil, truffle spreads, fresh cheese with truffles - you name it - it if involves the most famous of all tubers you'll find it here. And who thought truffles were only an Italy / France thing? Zigante holds the Guinness World Record for the largest truffle ever, the size of a small cantaloupe, when normally a truffle is the size of an egg. Who knew? We're early for the annual six-week long truffle fair and exhibition (note the cow's only got one day !) which starts the end of the month. We didn't eat at Zigante itself, where the least expensive dish, a soup, was $17, and costs rose sharply from there. Across the street was a less formal restaurant where Norm had ravioli with white truffles (below) and Gayle a risotto with black truffles - the white truffles are stronger in flavour (and of course cost considerably more), although we did share.

We next stopped in the small town of Hum. Hum is the world's smallest town with only about 20 people living within the well-preserved walls which enclose two small streets and two churches (the wall of one and the nearby tower also seen below), one of which dates from the 12th century. But there is a mayor and all the formality that goes with a town.

We then crossed over a small mountain range and made our way to the Kvarner coast and the Opatija Riviera where we are staying at an Italian villa.


September 21, 2012 - Villa Astra - Lovran


Not that Gayle has a bucket list if she did one item that would appear is to stay at a real Italian villa on the Mediterranean.  Check!


The Villa Astra was built from 1903-1905 as a summer home for an Italian aristocrat from the Turin area.  The gardens leading to the sea are beautiful.  The owner Nicolo of course had the front room, the room we enjoyed with magnificent views out to the islands.  The balcony that made this bucket list worthy. 


After a short walk to the village of Lovran along a portion of the 12 km long public walkway that winds it's way along the coast we returned to enjoy a spectacular breakfast including Croatian crepes filled with chocolate or nuts.  One does not often spend nearly two hours over breakfast but sitting out on the terrace overlooking the Adriatic time just passed by.  We enjoyed time in the room (12 foot ceilings making it feel so expansive) and time on the balcony, reading or just admiring the view.  A most relaxing day.  Below are a couple of photos of the villa, first looking up from the steps leading down to the sea (yes the balcony in the middle was ours) and then through the balcony railings towards the water.  


We were committed to swimming in the sea so during the afternoon decided to take the plunge.  We had only seen one other swimming and soon knew why.  It was quite cold, but we can say we did go for a swim.


We enjoyed a nice dinner in the villa's restaurant - for me some wonderful Istrian ham, an octopus salad and a 'noble' (not that I know what makes a fish 'noble') cooked in parchment.  Gayle's was not as unique - tomato soup and an Italian pasta but nice just the same.


A wonderful day in a very special place. 



September 19, 2012 - Rovinj

Today was a very quiet day. After the drive to Bohinj and the excitement of the Cow's Ball followed by another one night stop and then a long drive we were ready for some down time. After a superb breakfast on the outdoor terrace of the Villa Tuttorotto, including Asti Spumante we went for a walk through town, including up to the cathedral at the summit of the town.

The streets (of really narrow alleyways) of Rovinj are covered with cobblestones as seen below. It gives one a sense of history to walk on the same stones are those for centuries before us.

Both Maria and the manager of Villa Tuttorotto were very helpful and informative. Maria indicated it was very 'quiet' in Rovinj compared to a month ago, although we thought there were actually a considerable number of tourists, with the streets quite crowded and the restaurants reasonably full.

Given it was calling for rain in the afternoon and we wanted to relax a bit we returned to our wonderful room where I caught up on the blog and a few emails, and Gayle did some reading, planning our next day's journey through Istria.

We enjoyed a nice dinner - again Italian - grilled vegetables and each a pasta dish; tirimasu to finish for Gayle. Fortunately we were literally just around the corner from our hotel as the skies opened up just after we sat down to eat. It poured for over an hour but fortunately stopped just as we finished.




September 18, 2012 - Slovenia to Rovinj

We returned to Croatia this afternoon, again having to cross the border patrol, something that is somewhat strange in Europe where border crossings within EU countries are non-existent.

Enjoying another beautiful sunny day we drove south, past vineyards where the grapes were being harvested, then meandering along the coast of the Istrian peninsula through Novigrad, Porec and eventually to Rovinj where we are staying for two nights. Rovinj is apparently one of the most photographed cities in Croatia, and we know why, with its location on a promontory reaching out into the harbour. In fact central Rovinj once was an islet, and it wasn't until the 18th century that the channel separating it from the mainland was filled in. Today Rovinj's Old Town, where we are staying, is a protected monument - another example of a pedestrian friendly old town completely void of cars and traffic.

In a town focused on seafood we chose to eat pizza last night - very good, followed by a stroll through the narrow cobble-stoned narrow alleyways of the old town.

Our hotel, the Villa Tuttorotto has an Italian feel with marble staircases and marble floors in the bathroom, and colourfully painted buildings.

Below is the view of Rovinj harbour from our hotel room.


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