A Train to Budapest

(This is the 17th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Saturday, June 28

Zagreb_last pictures1We ate another amazing breakfast, sneaking seeded rolls & slices of ham back to our table, then making small sandwiches for the train ride ahead.  Good thing we did.

Zagreb_last pictures2We thought we had paid for a high-speed first-class rail ticket, but apparently there was some problem with the train, or our brains when we made the reservation (don’t think so), or something, so we were we to take Train A and transfer to Train B up the line.Train Station

So what was supposed to be a quick 4-hour ride, ended up being a train ride to oblivion.  Because we had fancy tickets, we had to kick out some squatters in our seats.  By some miracle the numbers matched up and they left.

Zagreb_last pictures6Zagreb_last pictures3 Zagreb_last pictures4 Zagreb_last pictures5

All the cars had been tagged with graffiti.

Zagreb_last pictures6_banging tiresThis guy came around and banged the wheels before we were boarding–a metallic hammering sound.  I have no idea why. Scenes from the trip:

Train View1Train Views Enroute to Budapest1Train Views Enroute to Budapest2Train Views Enroute to Budapest3Train Views Enroute to Budapest4Train Views Enroute to Budapest5Train Views Enroute to Budapest6Here’s the wheel banger guy.

We kept stopping and adding more cars. The train would shudder as they’d connect, then we’d slowly take off again.  This was repeated several times, until at the above stop, we added cars and then chugged backwards.  We had started out with a relatively small train in Zagreb, but when it was time to get off the train in Budapest (nearly an hour late), the train was so long, that those of us in the nice car (which had been at the front at the beginning of the trip) were so far back we had no train walkway to land onto — only train tracks.   Instead we walked through several cars to get to where we could see the train platform of sorts — this was patchy asphalt — but worried about being carried back to Zagreb, so hurriedly got off, dragging our suitcases until we made it to the less-patchy asphalt platform.   We weren’t in Kansas, Toto, and it felt like it.

Budapest_train stationTrain Station eats.  We found out we had landed at the less nicer of the two train stations.  No kidding.  Now comes the game to change money.

Budapest_train station2Okey dokey.

We try to hit the bathrooms before figuring out the next transportation hassle, but the bathrooms require coins.  Florints, Budapest coins.  So we finally find an ATM, get some money, but need change, so we buy our subway tickets (someday we are just going to take a cab, I know it), get the change.  Then we take turns watching the luggage while the other person uses the bathroom.  Holding our subway tickets in the air, to show the guards at the top of the escalator we are law-abiding tourists, we head down into the mass transit system.

Dave is in front of me by two paces, and as he rounds the corner toward the train, the doors are open and it is waiting.  He starts to make a run for it.  I holler at the top of my lungs, “Don’t you dare get on that train!” and he freezes just before jumping inside. I can envision him being whisked off to somewhere in Budapest while I am left on the platform to dissolve in tears, weeping as he leaves me behind, no money (he had all the florints), no husband, nothing.  Luckily our marriage was saved by his good reflexes, and we caught the next train.

Budapest_street signWe took the train to a street-level tram (signs on the street, above) and by following the maps I’d printed off at home, make it to our Palace.  No kidding.  It’s Hotel Palazzo Zichy and it used to be some nobleman’s palace of a home-now-turned-hotel.  We loved it.

Hotel Zichy EntranceBudapest_hotel zichy room numbersThey speak English!  Our room is ready! and this is where the room number is in the hallway: at foot level.  Our room is perfectly lovely.

IMG_8853View out our window, into the inner courtyard. 

Zichy SquareThey recommend several restaurants for us, but we are interested in the little bistro just outside our hotel in the square: Matrjoska Bistro.

Matryoshka Bistro Sign Matryoshka Dinner1 Matryoshka Dinner2

Citrus-y Bulgar SaladMatryoshka Dinner3Freshly baked bread, two varieties

Matryoshka Dinner4Garlic and sour cream — garnish for the borschtMatryoshka Dinner5

Chilled pumpkin cream soup with dill jelly (detail, below)Matryoshka Dinner5aMatryoshka Dinner6

BorschtMatryoshka Dinner7Grilled Catfish and VegetablesMatryoshka Dinner8And to finish off, cake and ice cream (they make the ice cream next door to the bistro, but it is owned by the same people)Matryoshka Dinner8a

Poppyseed cakeMatryoshka Dinner8bVanilla ice cream

(Many of my reviews of Budapest are found on TripAdvisor.)

Church scenes1 Church scenes2Bordering this little square are the hotel, a church, a very fancy (apartment?) building, and a more normal apartment building with a pub in the basement.  In the dimming light, we take photos of the surroundings.

Church scenes3 Church scenes4 Church scenes5 Church scenes6 on Zichy Square_Budapest1 on Zichy Square_Budapest1a on Zichy Square_Budapest2Count Vichy

More details about him on the hotel’s website.on Zichy Square_Budapest2aWe are too worn out to do anything else, so after these two tasks: eat an amazing meal and explore the square, we walk back across the street to hotel.

Translation of my blog

Our internet works fine, and I laugh at the translated website: “Perhaps a little maintenance on our own selves is why summertime is such a tonic, even if we don’t know what ails us.”  The bistro and this hotel are the tonic tonight, complete with chocolate on our pillows.

Budpaest_chocolate on the pillow

Next post: Camera-less Tourist and Castle Hill

Zagreb, Croatioa–Part II

(This is the 16th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Friday, June 27

Endomundo Zagreb

When I say wander around Zagreb, I’m not kidding.  Dave turned on his Endomundo app in the morning, and checked it at dinner that night; this is what we saw. Spot #1 is where we met up at the St. Francis Church, #4 is the large overlook, #5 is St. Mark’s Church, and I’m thinking that #8 is the main cathedral.  No clue on the rest.  Here are a couple of details from walking around:

zagreb_basket of flowers Zagreb_cool door Zagreb_DAEtieApparently the Croatians claim that they invented the tie (cravat) so here’s Dave by a giant tie.  No, we didn’t buy it.  Actually we bought pathetically little on this trip.

Zagreb_fabricWe I did buy some fabric.  Well, I went into the store and thought it was a fabric shop, but it was a Home Dec store, and the fabric we’d seen in the window was actually tablecloth fabric.  I bought two lengths off of two different bolts of cloth, too tired to figure it all out, so of course, when we got home, they were too small.  So I turn them at an angle when I put them on the table.

Zagreb Stuck Bus by dbl parked carLoved this scene.  The fabric store is “CENTRA” and on our way there, we watched this tourist bus driver become extremely frustrated over the black double-parked car, blocking his way around the circle.  When we came out of the fabric shop, they were both gone.

Zagreb_pm1a_walk to post officeWe head towards the Poste to mail the postcards.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 was advertised on their small billboards.

Zagreb_pm1b_post officeWhat a great looking post office!  I also purchased some fancier stamps for decorative uses at home.  To get into this, you enter in a main door.  On the right is a market, which we also walked through, and on the left was this glorious post office.

Zagreb_pm2_corn standWe saw fresh corn stands a lot, but it smelled slightly burnt, so we passed on this.

Zagreb_pm3_cathedral alphabetWe successfully met up with Anna Clare and Earl (score one for meeting up without cell phones!) and can finally enter the cathedral.  The whole name is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saintly Kings Stephen and Ladislav, but everyone just calls it the “Cathedral.”  Inside the front door is a wall with some interesting script: the Glagolitic alphabet.  According to our guide book, it originated in the 9th century, invented by Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius as they worked to translate the Bible into Slavic languages.  Their alphabet caught on only in Croatia, and was later adapted in Bulgaria to become the Cyrillic alphabet (still used in “Serbia, Russia and other parts east”). Scenes from the interior:

Zagreb_pm3_cathedral Zagreb_pm4_cathedralZagreb_pm12c_ExteriorCathedral(View out that open door was the tower of the cloisters.)Zagreb_pm4a_silveraltarAlthough it is incredibly hard to see in this photo, this is a silver altar with a depiction of the Holy Family. Mary is holding a needle and thread, sewing. At this point, Anna Clare begins to feel faint while walking through the cathedral, so we all head out to the benches to rest and to give her a chance to recover.  Apparently they had not eaten lunch, and after driving around Croatia these past few days (she has been the only driver), plus a few other stressful experiences, she was exhausted.  So we agree to part to give them a chance to go back to their room and rest, and to find some lunch.  We’ll meet up again at dinnertime.

Zagreb_pm5_random bottle sayingOne of the challenges of being on the go is drinking enough water, and who can resist buying bottles of water when they deliver not only the water, but a lovely pithy saying to go with it?  We share this, and head back up to the Gradec portion of the Upper Town area, because Dave wants to get some more postcards from the Museum of Naive Art.

Zagreb_pm6_interiorGreekchurchWhen we come out, all the church bells are ringing for evening mass.  We realize we can now see inside the three churches if we hurry, so we hit the Greek church first.  We stand quietly at the back, and take this photo surreptitiously.

Zagreb_pm6a_interiorGreekchurchGood thing, too, for this nun kept turning and looking at us, watching the open door (below).  Not too many showed up for mass, and we moved on to St. Mark’s, in the center plaza.

Zagreb_pm6b_greekchurchdoor Zagreb_pm6c_exteriorGreekchurchExterior of Greek Church.

Zagreb_pm7_exteriorStMarksThe sun is dipping down, and shadows creep up the walls of the church.

Zagreb_pm7a_stmarksZagreb_pm7b_InteriorStMarksThe lower light proves fascinating to capture at the back of the church.  Again, they are having mass, so we quietly sit, letting our eyes adjust to the dim light.

Zagreb_pm7c_InteriorStMarksWe then notice the glowing gilt ceilings.  They are quite beautiful.  Because of the church services, we don’t walk around, but feel lucky to have seen these.

Zagreb_pm7e_InteriorStMarks Zagreb_pm7d_InteriorStMarks

Zagreb_pm7c_exteriorStMarksOutside Dave gets a good shot of the tiles on the church’s roof.

Zagreb_pm7d_exteriorStMarksZagreb_pm8_platzsign Zagreb_pm8a_platzsignI think this is about the only picture of us in Zagreb, taken by another friendly tourist.

Zagreb_pm8c_platzsignThis building with all the flags is the Ban’s Palace, offices for the prime minister.  Across the square (where I found that elegant gold curlicue door handle) is the Parliament building.

Zagreb_pm9a_InteriorCatherineChurchWe also head to St. Catherine’s church.

Zagreb_pm9b_InteriorCatherineChurchThere is a sign at the front saying closed for a wedding, but when the fellow in the T-shirt and ball cap (on the left in one of the back pews) pushes past us crackling his grocery sacks, we slip in also. Zagreb_pm9c_InteriorCatherineChurchBeautiful plaster work on every surface.  I would have loved to have walked around, but I say to myself — repeat after me — Another Time.  Visiting this city has been one of the more frustrating visits for me, the difference for what I prepared for and what I was able to see, achingly far apart. While this is a fact of life in all cities, in all countries and on all trips, it feels very pronounced here.  I try to let the stillness of the church seep into me, but all I can think about it all the things left unseen in this interesting city.  

Zagreb_pm9d_InteriorCatherineChurch Zagreb_pm9e_InteriorCatherineChurchI try to mentally cross more things off my Tourist List, knowing that at any time a tourist is but a visitor, missing out on the vibrancy of a city, as the sights and attractions and museums are always a poor substitute for living in a foreign place.  It will have to be. We head to Budapest tomorrow, back on our own.

Zagreb_pm13c_pharmacyIt’s getting time to meet up again, and as we pass by, we stop in the Old Pharmacy to take photos of how it might have looked many years ago.

Zagreb_pm13b_pharmacyLooks like they’ve reserved a cupboard for the new products.  Amazing how garish our modern-day packaging looks when compared to the classic glass and porcelain jars.

Zagreb_pm13a_pharmacyZagreb_pm13_pharmacyZagreb_pm13d_KeyShe holds the keys to the city, apparently.

Zagreb_pm16_sightseeingBehind that waving tourist is the Stone Gate, with the little chapel with Mary’s unburnt picture.  Some more street scenes:

Zagreb_pm10_window reflections Zagreb_pm11a_buildings Zagreb_pm11b_SubacZagreb_pm15_statue in marketZagreb_pm15_building exteriorZagreb14_exteriorStFrancis Zagreb_pm12_InteriorCathedralWe’re early for the meeting, so go inside to look around the cathedral again, with the stained glass glowing in the setting sun.

Zagreb_pm12a_InteriorCathedralZagreb_Rose WindowWe walk up and down several streets, and a couple of times we found a place to eat that had the right combination of prices and food, but then a group would push in past our indecisive quartet and we’d be out of a table.  We finally make it to the large social area of town, a street with large bars on either side, catering to the Happy Hour crowd.  We found a place that would serve us some dinner, and we relax and enjoy looking at the crowds and our last night together.

Zagreb_dinner1 Zagreb_dinner2Next post: A Train to Budapest

Zagreb, Croatia–part I

(This is the 15th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Friday, June 27

Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb1First up, breakfast, at our fabulous hotel.  We got there after the tour bus crowd had left, so the repast was severely depleted by the time we got there.  No worries, we found things to eat anyway.

Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb2Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb3Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb4Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb5Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb6Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb7Hotel Breakfast_Zagreb8Hotel Breakfast_ZagrebtoysAnd a toy corner for the kids.

Zagreb1_marketflowersNext, we head up to the market, to see what Zagreb’s market is like.  It’s set under red umbrellas, which is one of Zagreb’s emblems, seen on different tourist tchotckes.

Zagreb1a_marketflowersZagreb2_market Zagreb2a_markettomatoesI’d buy these too, if they already had tomatoes on them.

Zagreb3_market Zagreb4_marketumbrellas Zagreb4b_market umbrellas Zagreb5_market Zagreb6_marketpeppers Zagreb7_market Zagreb8_markettoysLittle toys for sale.  They all seemed to be made in China, frankly.

Zagreb9_WorldCupStuff Zagreb10_StFrancisChurchWe’re to meet up Anna Clare and Earl at St. Francis church, a small church up the street from the market.  My friend Judy had told me about this, as they had visited it when they went to Zagreb the year before.  I was glad I knew about it.  Above is the scene carved above the doorway.

Zagreb_meetupShepherdsHere they are!  We wait for the mass to end, then head into the church, the bells tolling and ringing.  It was wonderful.

Zagreb10a_Stfrancischurch Zagreb11_StFrancis Church Zagreb11a_StFrancisChurch Zagreb11b_StFrancisChurchThe beautiful blue ceiling reminds me of the small church in Rome, Santa Maria Sopa Minerva.

Zagreb11d_StFrancisChurch Zagreb12_StFrancis Church Zagreb13_StFrancisChurchThe inevitable grotto in honor of Mary.  While I had a long list of sights-to-see today, I could see that I needed to just tuck that list away, that this was not going to be a touristing day.  More like wander, wander, wander, which can often have its own merits.

Zagreb14_MaryonpedestalWe wander past the cathedral, but there is a mass going on, so we admire the statue of Mary on her pedestal in the fountain across from the front doors.

Zagreb15_market dress Zagreb15a_marketdressWe wander back through the market, where we notice this woman in native dress, and snap a photo of Anna Clare standing by another local:

Zagreb16_ACE

Zagreb17_hallwaytoOctogonWe were able to check off some things on the Rick Steves’ tour of Zagreb, one of which was the Octogon.  Here’s our group in the hallway.

Zagreb17a_octogonThis was the “ultimate in iron-and-glass shopping elegance a century ago” and the window over the atrium is gorgeous.

Zagreb17b_Octogon Zagreb17c_octogon Zagreb18_funicularNext up: taking the funicular up to Upper Town, a form of transportation dating from 19th-century.

Zagreb18a_funicular Zagreb18c_funicular viewsView from the top.

Zagreb19_marketNo time to wander through Stross Market, at the top of the funicular, so we’ll leave it for another day.

Zagreb27a_UpperTown Zagreb27_UpperTownTchotcke seller, but in traditional dress.  I give her some money so we can take a photo of her, but passed on the little stuff she was selling.

Zagreb20_StCatherineChurchThe Upper Town consists mainly of about 8 blocks of town, with three or so churches.  Here’s the Church of St. Catherine, but we can’t see inside.  More later. . .

Zagreb21_Greek ChurchThis one is the Greek Church, tucked neatly in the rows of buildings on the main street.

Zagreb21_uppertownTeslaNikola Tesla, he of the car fame (he championed alternating current), was born in Croatia.  He later moved to America.

Zagreb29_StMarksChurchZagreb21a_uppertowncarving Zagreb22_alcoveStMarksThe alcove of St. Marks, the prominent church on the square in Upper Town with the beautiful tiled roof.  This was closed as well.  A detail from the door is above.

Zagreb22a_interiorI peeked inside; we promised to come back to this one too.

Zagreb23_uppertownstreetWe went back down this street (the funicular is at the far end), stopping about halfway to go to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, an amazing museum (but no photos allowed).  Typically these naive artists painted on glass in this area of the country, as that was the material they had, so all the strokes are tiny and smooth, and depicted interesting scenes of giant peaches at the base of a peach tree, people harvesting, angels, demons, storm clouds–all stuff of rural life.  I’ve taken some photos of the postcards we brought home, so you can see:

Postcards AllPostcard 3Postcard 2Postcard FarmI love the lavender and orange cows in the bottom farm scene.

Zagreb24_streetsignWe wander to the site of where Anna Clare and Earl’s car was impounded when they parked illegally and didn’t know it, while buying Bibles for their mission.  I snapped a photo of the opposite corner in honor of this event.

Zagreb25_view to newertownWe wander to the overlook, a large flat plaza (which feels like the roof of some building below).  Anna Clare and Earl have to head off to do an errand for their mission headquarters, and we set our meet-up time for later.  We head back up to the main plaza.

Zagreb27_uppertowndoor Zagreb28_door

Two door handles on the city buildings surrounding the church.

Zagreb29a_steeple

Zagreb30_StoneGatechapel

This is the small chapel inside the only surviving town gate, the Stone Gate, which has a focal point of a painting of Mary that “miraculously survived a major fire in the adjoining house in 1731” or so says Rick Steves.

Zagreb30c_StoneGateZagreb30a_StoneGate Zagreb30b_StoneGateThese stone plaques give thanks (hvala) for answered prayers.

Zagreb30d_StoneGateCandles for prayers, I assume, then time to find some lunch.

Zagreb_lunch1 Zagreb_lunch2

We need caffeinated fuel, as we are already tired and it’s only the afternoon, but I must admit I enjoyed the glass it was served in.

Zagreb_lunch3Dave said he wasn’t hungry, looking forward to the pastry he’d purchased and which was in the backpack, but he ate half of our pasta anyway.  Blood sugar restored, two newly caffeinated tourists decide to wander on their own.  I pulled out the list of things to see, yet rapidly crossed off about half of them, since the time we were supposed to meet up with Anna Clare and Earl wasn’t conducive to getting to the Lower Town, catching the sights and getting back in time.  Another time, I say, uttering the Tourist’s Mantra.  We decide to stick with the Upper Town instead.

Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Attempt a Meet-up at a Later Time, or Zagreb, Part II

Traveling to Zagreb and Mirogoj Cemetery

(This is the 14th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Thursday, June 26

Travel to Zagreb_1We meet Anna Clare and Earl at breakfast, and after eating our way through the hotel’s offerings, they tell us they’ve decided to head to see the caves, back where we came from.   So after some discussion, we agreed to meet up in Zagreb at the upper Cathedral at 6:30 pm. for dinner.  This discussion is where I first began to get a hint of the fact that we would be operating on different itineraries and possibly different meeting-up schedules, one significant difference between those who live in the country (or near to it) and those who are tourists on a trip, counting every minute, trying to cram in as much sightseeing as possible.
Travel to Zagreb_2

Travel to Zagreb_2aSo after breakfast, they headed west and we headed east, towards Zagreb.

Travel to Zagreb_3One of the benefits of having a car is the ability to take some detours and see different sights, so about halfway to Zagreb, we took a left off the freeway and drove for a while through the countryside.
Travel to Zagreb_4
Travel to Zagreb_5I noticed these tiny roadside chapels everywhere, and stopped to peek in a few.
Travel to Zagreb_5a
Either she is overcome by the spirit, or she is exhausted from all the housework she’s done all day.

Travel to Zagreb_6church

Travel to Zagreb_6bThis small church caught our eye, with its graveyard in front, every plot freshly planted with flowers right on top of the plot.  We know we are headed to Mirogoj–the grand cemetery in Zagreb–so this is a preamble of sorts.

Travel to Zagreb_6c

Travel to Zagreb_6a

Travel to Zagreb_6d

SLovenia country church_2We both noticed the off-center window, which looks much older than the rest of the church.

Travel to Zagreb_6eWhat looks like black granite corner blocks are really just black paint.

Travel to Zagreb_6f

Travel to Zagreb_7a

Travel to Zagreb_yellow houseAcross the lane from the church was this pristine yellow house–every town has one, and somehow they all have planted flower boxes.

Travel to Zagreb_8Back on the road, we see this sign as we leave this small town:

SLovenia_no DramaI love their signs.

Mirojog_entryAfter some consternation, as well as some sturm und drang in the car, struggling to make sense of the maps and our printed out Google directions while watching our freeway exits go flying by, we arrive at our hotel, check in and are thrilled by it.  It’s probably the nicest hotel so far, and I look forward to relaxing in it, tonight, but first it’s off to Mirogoj Cemetery, one of Europe’s finest old cemeteries, or so the guidebooks say.

Mirojog_arch1Before we left I had looked it up on Google Maps, activating the photos feature so I could determine if it was something that Dave and I might like to see.  I don’t know if I’m channeling the Adams Family or something, but I’ve always liked the history and ambiance of these old places.  Dave and I have visited other cemeteries, using it as a green respite from the urban spaces on vacations.

Mirogoj_main entry from backThis is looking towards the backside of that front dome, at a large area for gathering the mourners and/or visitors.  While we were there, a funeral gathered, the bells clanging for ages it seemed, and we saw from a distance the casket proceeding to its resting place, followed by a handful of mourners in black.  The bells tolled for a long time.

The cemetery was originally a plot of land from a Croatian poet, who leveled the land, redirected some of the mountain’s streams, yet in the process was left cash-strapped.  So the city of Zagreb purchased from his estate after his death, keeping the name Mirogoj, after one of the founders of this section of his land.

The cemetery was divided according to religion (Catholic, Jewish and Protestant) and three different classes, was officially opened in 1876, when Miroslav Singer, a fencing instructor and gym teacher was the first buried here.

Mirogoj_TubmanThis highly polished slab of black marble is the tomb of the former president of Croatia, Franjo Tudman.

Mirogoj_Tubman memorialsSmall memorials left for him to one side: one plaque with the country’s map, and the other with their ever-present shield, although done in black and white and not the usual red/white checkerboard.

Mirogoj_10To the side of the feet of this beautiful sculpture you can see some lettering in the Glagolitic alphabet (more on this in the next post).

Mirogoj_9The town fathers planted chestnut, lime, maple and spruce trees, among others.

Mirogoj_8I want one of these in my backyard right now. . . but without the graves.  Just a little table and a couple of chairs and a good wifi connection, please.

Mirogoj_8_WWIWe arrived at the World War I Monument, or should I say, a monument to those Croatians who died in World War I.

Mirogoj_7A highly decorative tombstone.  The flowers and angry faces in the medallions in front are all inlaid mosaic.

Mirogoj_6

Mirogoj_5We saw these candles everywhere, even near the cathedral in the center of Zagreb.

Mirogoj_4I told Dave I wanted one of these.

Mirogoj_3Underneath the slab, it appears, is a small chamber.  And the coffins rest on the rails, out of the dirt.

Mirogoj_18 polishing stoneHousekeeping.  Polishing the slab.

Mirogoj_2Mirogoj_19aThis was our favorite little building.  There are no names on it, so it couldn’t be a tomb, and given the crosses and the shape, it is almost certainly a place of worship.

Mirogoj_19c

Mirogoj_19b

Mirogoj_12From 1879 to 1917, two arcades were built on either side of the main section (which houses a church), designed by Herman Bolle, a German architect. Another plan was drawn up for the central dome, portal and chapel (the currently existing) but that wasn’t built until 1929. Many famous Croatians are buried here, including Kresimir Cosic, a reknowned basketball player, one of three foreigners inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Mirogoj_17

Mirogoj_11Dave was struck by the beauty of the domes, found about every 20 or so feet in the arcade.  Here are a sampling:

Mirogoj_11e

Mirogoj_11a

Mirogoj_11b

Mirogoj_11c

Mirogoj_11d

Mirogoj_13aAnother beautiful statue.

Mirogoj_14A fresh display of red and white carnations.

Mirogoj_15_auto candleNotice the radio transmitter?  Through a series of clues, we were thinking that it would turn on the “candles” at this boy’s feet, as each of them appeared to be electronic.  If this is the case, we in America are woefully behind in our appropriate graveside accouterments.

Mirogoj_16

Mirogoj_20

Mirogoj_22

Mirogoj_23Mirogoj_23aDetail of above.

Mirogoj_letteringMore interesting writing.

Zagreb_Dave and carOkay, enough dead people.  Now it’s the moment to Turn in the Car, a big deal for tourists in an unfamiliar city.  No worries, we have the address, so with Dave giving directions, I drive there.  No worries, I’ll stay in the car, double-parked, while Dave goes in to confirm.  No worries, that place has moved, but a nice English-speaking man looks up the new place on his phone (turns out they moved 9 months ago, just two weeks after we booked the car and printed out our confirmation and where to turn it in).  We drive there, and after a series of typical-tourist-wrong-turns, we finally arrive.  And boy, are we huffing as we go in because we are late (thinking of another day’s rental) and it is too far to walk back to the hotel (thinking of taxi fees).  No worries!  The place is run by teenage boys who won’t charge us an extra day and would love nothing more than to drive us back to our hotel, no charge.

It’s now nearing the meet-up time for Anna Clare and Earl, so we walk up towards the cathedral.

Zagreb_decorative1As in Ljubljana, we found lots of Art Deco-ish applied decoration to the buildings.

Zagreb_decorative3

Zagreb_decorative2As well as classical decorative flourishes.

Zagreb_equestrian stateThis promiment equestrian statue of  Josip Jelacic, a prominent 19th-century governor, was overwhelmed and obscured by World Cup apparatus (you aren’t surprised, are you?)

Zagreb_world cup chartThe rankings.

Zagreb_Croatia TshirtsThe merchandise booth (I already have my T-shirt).

Zageb_AmericanWorldCupThe Jumbo-tron, complete with American, because right then America was playing.  Yay! America.  And Coca-Cola.  And cowboy hats.

Zagreb_decorative4We move on up towards more traditional sights, like beautifully painted classical buildings.

Zagreb_decorative eggAnd eggs.  The traditional art here is interesting, but not in this gallery, which although it contained lots of paintings on glass, did not captivate us like the museum (seen the next day).  Plus it smelled dank and basement-like, so we were in and out of there quickly.

Zagreb_decorative5

Zagreb_Singer ShopI wonder if this is related to the first man buried in Mirogoj, or to the sewing machine people?  I vote the latter.

Zagreb_native outfitTheir traditional dress.

Zagreb_Tito StatueAnd we couldn’t go far without seeing a statue of Tito, here larger than life on his pedestal.

Zagreb_cathedral1We make it to the cathedral, and one spire is under renovation (but they’ve thoughtfully provided a drape).

Zagreb_cathedral4It is beautiful decorated on the front.  We sit on the bench off to the left, waiting for Earl and Anna Clare, but able to view humanity.  We were going to go in an tour the cathedral, but the bells tolled for mass, so we decided not to go.

Zagreb_cathedral5Christ and his apostles watched over the faithful as they streamed in.

Zagreb_cathedral2A beautiful arch over the front door.

Zagreb_cathedral7

Zagreb_ill touristaAll of a sudden the front doors opened, a man stumbled out, threw up, then collapsed on the ground.  A few worshippers were following him, catching him as he fell.

Zagreb_ill touristA crowd gathered, including a nun (she came a minute after the photo was taken).  One of the women was a doctor, I heard her say.  They helped  him off to the side, to a bench behind us, so he wouldn’t be trampled as the churchgoers left the service.

Zagreb_ambulanceThe ambulance came about 6:45 p.m. and about the same time, we saw Earl walking briskly toward us, Anna Clare a minute or two behind us.  We were happy to see them, and listened as they told about their adventure of being stopped on the Slovenian freeways because they didn’t have their pass.  We were surprised they didn’t know about it, since they lived here, but I have to remember I was one of those dorky over-prepared tourists (I read two guidebooks cover-to-cover) and had read about it in one of them.  I suggested to Earl that he might want to get a guidebook and read about this country where he lived (while on a church mission), but he was insistent that all the signs should be in English.  The fine he was asked to pay was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 euros (about $200); because of his anger, they told him just to buy the pass and he wouldn’t have to pay the fine (whew!).  I don’t blame him for being upset, but I still think it’s my responsibility as a guest in a country to do my best to figure out how they do business here.  There will still be plenty of areas where we get it wrong (like dropping off the rental car late).

MenuZagreb_chopped saladAfter that exciting story, it was time for dinner, and we used Rick Steve’s book to find Nokturn, and were glad we ate here.  Dave and I shared the above salad, while Anna Clare and Earl shared the one below.

MenuZagreb_chopped salad2

MenuZagreb_noodlesI ordered this pasta, which was really great (I don’t even remember what we had for lunch–I think it was whatever leftovers we found in the car) and I was hungry.  I shared it with whoever wanted a bite, but they were more interested in their large pizza:

MenuZagreb_pizzaWe relaxed and celebrated the fact that we were able to meet up successfully.

Zagreb_cathedral2 with EarlWe wandered back to the cathedral, and lights were beginning to glow.  That’s Earl, walking back to report to us that an organ was playing (he’s carrying the leftover pizza in his hand).

Zagreb_cathedralI went over to the doors and listened: Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece of music I’d heard many times in my own home, E. Power Biggs on the organ, and my Dad would always turn up the stereo so the final cadences thundered through our speakers. PassacagliaBachI don’t know whether it was fatigue or tourist stress or the linking up of a fond memory or a brief bout of homesickness or whatever, but I could feel the tears stinging my eyes.  We bid our farewells and headed back to our lovely hotel.

Zagreb_hotel

Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Tour Zagreb

Ljubjana, Rainy Ljubljana

(This is the 12th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Wednesday, June 25

Happy Slovenian Independence Day!

What this translates out to mean for tourists is: limited openings, noon closings, no market, no easy food, and especially for us: the rain we’ve been trying to dodge for two days has finally arrived. On top of all that, we are supposed to meet Dave’s sister and brother-in-law at 1 p.m., so whatever we choose to do has be done quickly, as we need to be back to the hotel a bit early to meet them.

Ljubljana recyclesNo, this was not one of our stops on the sightseeing musts, but it was interesting to see the set-up they had for recycling– a full block full of these little huts where you could drop your goods.

Ljubljana Think SculptureA quixotic sculpture in a garden.  Those brilliant red-orange bits are letters of the alphabet.

Ljubljana Serbian Orthodox Church1Our first destination was the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, about two blocks from our hotel.  An elegant, cream-colored edifice with wide welcoming steps held a wealth of surface decoration inside.Ljubljana Serbian Orthodox Church3Ljubljana Serbian Orthodox Church99

Ljubljana Serbian Orthodox ChurchcircleBut there were signs that no photographs were allowed. So this is a clandestine shot with my iPhone, trying to get a photo of that circle up there on the arch.  I had just started making circle quilt blocks and was hunting for ideas and designs, and I had hit pay dirt on this ornately covered church.  But I resisted photographing it, determined to do it legitimately somehow.

Ljubljana Serbian Orthodox Churchext

Ljubljana Opera House front

Ljubljana_Opera House PedimentThe Opera House was on the way to our next sight.

Ljubljana Streets_1As was the Hood Burger car.Ljubljana Streets_1ESEJust kidding.  It was me that Dave was trying to photograph, for scale, in front of this building.

Three Rivers Fountain_facadesWe walked by the Fountain of the Three Carniolian Rivers (Ljubljana, Sva and Krka Rivers), inspired by one of Rome’s many fountains.  Here are the three facades, showing the three different rivers.  Unfortunately, the obelisk was under renovation:

Ljubljana Three Rivers FountainWe also found out that the original of this was in a museum. We head to the castle that looms over Ljubljana, taking a funicular up to the top (like these other tourists did).

Ljubljana_Castle1 funicular

Ljubljana view from CastleWe enjoy the soggy views as we glide upwards.

ljubljana_castle_inside_sloveniaTo this.  A re-developed plaza with several buildings, a few exhibits, a clock tower, a cafe which is not serving anything because it’s Happy Slovenian Independence Day.

Ljubljana_Castle3

Ljubljana_Castle4Another dragon, this one perched up on the side of the portal that leads to the walking path down the hill, in case you don’t want to take the funicular.

Ljubljana_Castle5 DAE

Ljubljana_Castle5 ESE

What do tourists do on rainy days?  Take pictures of one another under umbrellas and head into marginal tableaus, displays and the one interesting room in the castle that doesn’t charge you extra to visit.

Ljubljana Castle ChapelThe chapel.

Ljubljana_Castle7

Ljubljana_Castle8I loved the decorative art on the surface.  Above is the organ loft, complete with small wooden organ.

Ljubljana Castle floorI also loved the decorative surface of this slightly-pineapple-quilt-block-looking floor, but with a twist, outside in one of the gun turret towers.

Ljubljana_Castle2 view from aboveNow that we’ve seen an ersatz fountain and an ersatz castle, it’s time for real lunch.

Ljubljana Rainedout MarketBecause we did not realize what Happy Independence Day in Slovenia meant, we headed to the market.  That was a bust.  It was getting towards the meeting time with the in-laws, so we stopped by a convenience market and picked up some cold cuts, a cucumber and two rolls studded with pumpkin seeds. We got extra to feed Anna Clare and Earl, for as we were standing in line, some guy flipped a switch, locking the door and barring entrance to the few tourists outside.  To say that we felt lucky is an understatement, for we didn’t see much else open.

Ljubljana rainy day lunch1

When we arrived back home, there was a note on our door telling us that Anna Clare and Earl had decided to detour to Lake Bled and see the sights and now wouldn’t be here until 3 p.m.  Fine, we could deal.

Ljubljana rainy day lunch2We had a delicious lunch on our bed (yes, we ate theirs), then cleared everything off and took a rainy day nap, surfed the rainy day internet and rainy day waited.  And waited.  We had told them to knock on our hotel room door when they arrived, and finally at 4:30 p.m. I told Dave I wasn’t waiting around anymore.  The rain had stopped and somehow they would find us.

When we went downstairs, we found out that apparently the clerk had told them we weren’t here, so they left without knocking.  We wrote and slipped a note under their door, telling them we’d meet them at 6 p.m., hoping that the third time is a charm in Tourist Land.

Ljubljana Town Hall1

With nearly everything closed, we peeked into any open doorway, finding this exquisite courtyard with friezes over every archway.

Ljubljana Town Hall2There was a an art exhibit about shopping bags, and I took a few photos of this student exhibit.

Ljubljana Town Hall3We found out later that this was either a) the Town Hall, or b) the city art gallery (Cafe Galerija). More street sights:

Door corner two women

Doorwayarch

doorwayarch2

Ljubljana doorway path

Ljubljana Manhole cover dragon

Ljubljana rough plastered building

Bracciolini Iron PurseEvery girl should have an iron purse.

Bracciolini Pumpkin PurseOr a tomato purse. When I came home and looked them up on the web, they were running about 1500 bucks.

church niche statueThis looked to be another standard church statue (but in polychrome, not marble) until I looked at the little scene underneath.

church statue falling clericThe close-up of the statue was quite revealing.  I guess it was “throw the priest out.”  I like the lace on his robes.

cobbled stree Ljubljana

Ljubljana_yellow house

Ljublijanica RiverWe cross the river to get a good look at the University in this town, famous for its archicture by Joze Plecnik: a homegrown and prolific genius whose relationship to Ljublana has been compared to that of Gaudi’s to Barcelona. Above is Cobblers Bridge, which encapsulates his style: “simple, clean lines adorned with classical columns.”  We checked at the Tourist Office for tours of his house, but it was under renovation (closed).

large fountain by UniversityOur first look at the National and University Library (the multi-colored brick edifice, just behind the fountain) and regarded as Plecnik’s masterpiece.

wavy pavement

Ljubljana Library facade“On the surface, the red-and-gray colors scheme evokes the red soil and the chunks of granite of the karst region, south of Ljubljana.  But on a deeper level, the library’s design conveys the message of overcoming obstacles to attain knowledge.  The odd-sized and -shaped blocks in the facade represent a complex numerological pattern that suggests barriers on the path to enlightenment.” ~ Rick Steves, Croatia

Ljubljana University_library door handleThese doorknobs represent the winged horse Pegasus.  We tried to open them, but the place is locked up for Independence Day (we assume).

Ljubljana University_Moses2Moses, facing the river.

Ljubljana University_Moses1

garden courtyard side view

garden courtyard1We find an open courtyard and explore.  We loved seeing the remnants of communism here, the hammer and sicle in the decorations above doorways and statues.

Faux Art Tour_1This was an interesting crossing sign.  We look at the explanation below, thinking it might be a bus schedule:

Faux Art Tour_1aWrong.  We’ve stumbled on a Faux Art Tour, and we realize there is masking tape, marking the way.

Faux Art Tour_2path

Faux Art Tour_1path2

graffitti near universityNone catch our fancy like the two runaways, and it only leads to this wall, and what we suppose to be the art studios of the university.  But we like the fact that it’s not raining anymore, and that we are feeling a bit of freedom the schedule, until Dave realizes it is after 6:00 and we have to hurry to meet the relatives.

ACE Earl First Sighting

Walking along the main drag, next to the Post Office we spot them ahead of us, but instead of turning left to our hotel, they are turning right.  We start hollering and hollering, finally get their attention.  Dave runs to catch up to them, and finally we have met up!  It’s great seeing them, seeing them with their badges and as missionary smiles.  We refresh at the hotel, and then head out to find dinner.  We are wary, as we know not much is open.

Dinner_Sarajevo2But on our usual path to town, there is a place called Cafe Sarajevo ’84, and Anna Clare and Earl really want to eat here, so we did.  Above is the chopped salad, covered with cheese.  Dinner_Sarajevo3

A salad, without the cheese.

Dinner_Sarajevo4

We all fell in love with the warm doughy rolls, the balls of honey-butter, and the flatbreads (below).

Dinner_SarajevobreadWe shared two “three-part meals” and Earl wrapped up the rest of the bread and put it in his pocket for breakfast.  Except, we mentioned, your breakfast is free, and comes the hotel.  His face lit up in delight.  We love that, too, Earl.

Next post: Ljubljana’s Orthodox Church, and quilt Circles

Lake Bled

(This is the ninth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Monday, June 23

We woke up in Buzet and saw this. . . Ljubljana Weather Report. . . so thought we ought to again advance our plans by a day and head to Lake Bled that day, instead of exploring the southern part of Slovenia, like we’d wanted to.

Slovenia_1 road

Slovenia_2 lawnmowerAfter passing through passport control, we stopped at the very first gas station we saw to buy our Slovenian Freeway Pass, having been warned by several to do so. (scene is out the backside of the gas station.)  In fact our innkeeper in Plitvice said that there would be two fines if we didn’t have it and got caught: one from the Slovenian authorities, of roughly 150 euros (like $225) and then the rental car company would charge us because of the hassle of finding us and get their money from someone in the States.  I had also read about it in two guide books, so there was no question about whether or not we would have a pass on our window.  Dave came out from the teensy place, affixed the sticker (15 euro, about 22 bucks) and we kept driving.

Slovenia_3 roadside shrineI loved the freestanding small buildings that were roadside shrines to Mary, to Jesus, and various saints.

Mast Road SignAbout two exits after we got on the freeway with our spiffy new freeway pass, we left to go “wandering” our way through the countryside, on the way to Predjama Castle, andfound we were driving on the Mast Road, a farm-to-market road through the countryside with some historical significance.  We know this because half the sign was in English!

Mast Road Map SloveniaWe found the town “13” on the above map, V. Brda, with its interesting, but closed church.

Slovenia_4a town of Brda

Slovenia_4b town of Brda

Slovenia_5 town of Brda2

Slovenia_Landol

And in Landol, this little chapel is dedicated to someone named “St. Jost,” but again, was closed.

Slovenia_chapel and toll house

But next door was this building, which apparently served as a toll house on the road.

Slovenia_6Back on the road, we followed the signs to Predjama Castle, noting all the fallen trees from the ice storm as we drove.

Slovenia_6aRight around this corner was a small accident, a fender-bender, but the people involved had put out the glowing orange triangles signs on the road and they all had donned orange highway safety-type vests.  That would explain the package I saw in the trunk of our rental car, of which the car agency said nothing.  For the record, I had asked them about the Slovenian freeway sticker too, and again, the two twenty-somethings that ran the place kind of shrugged their shoulders: “eh?”

Slovenia_7 Predjama Castle1We parked and walked about ten paces and here it was–just like all the guidebooks said: an old castle tucked into a mountain.  The guidebooks also said the inside was “forgettable” so we didn’t pay to go in.  The outside is pretty striking, though.

Slovenia_8 Predjama Castle

Slovenia_8a Predjama Castle

Slovenia_9 Predjama CastleA faded crest painted onto the side of the castle.  I love the graphic punch of the black-and-white shutters.

Slovenia_10 harvesting logsWe heard lots of chain saws going, and saw this at the bottom of the little lane.

Slovenia_10a harvesting logs

Slovenia_11 roadside shrineWe turned left at Jesus and headed toward the motorway/freeway.
We’ve got to get our money’s worth out of this pricey car sticker and were ready to get to Lake Bled, hoping to arrive before any storm.

Slovenia_12 Lake BledWe parked, found (a cheap) lunch, and then Dave decided he wanted to walk AROUND Lake Bled.  So we did.

Slovenia_13 Lake Bled

Slovenia_15 Lake Bled

They do have some houses on the shore of Lake Bled.  Here’s one, with a beautifully painted upper story.

Slovenia_16a Lake Bled

And another, with sort of a hunting lodge flavor.

Slovenia_16b Lake Bled

Slovenia_16c Lake Bled

The hunting lodge house comes complete with a (cute) stuffed animal.

Slovenia_17 Lake Bled

In the middle of Lake Bled is this small island.  It seemed like we stopped to take a picture of this about every five feet.  Soon it got to be a joke, trying to frame it with bits of trees and leaves, making a vignette.  This is one of about 25 that we shot.

Slovenia_18 Lake BledDAE

Slovenia_sculling craft

At the far end of the lake the pavement widened and we found the rowing club (with lots of sculling shells laying out on the lawn).  There was also a place to go swimming, but you had to pay to get in.  We kept walking.

Slovenia_19 Lake BledAfter this boardwalk, we saw a few more casual beaches, and then found a small quiet place to strip off our shoes and put our feet in the water.

Slovenia_25 wading spotThe lake is a clear beautiful aqua blue, and I’m told on many days the surface is as smooth as glass.  A storm was coming in, so we had had a lot of breezes and a ruffled surface.  We visited, relaxed and soon pulled our feet out of the water and put our shoes back on.

Slovenia_14 Lake BledIt must have been a good spot for wading (there were two other teens right near us) for we saw this sign just after we got back on the trail.

Slovenia_20 Lake Bled IslandThe island from the front.  There’s a tale that if you can ring the bell three times, gold coins will fall out of your hair.  No, that’s not quite right.  If you can ring the bell, all your children will be rich.  Hmmm.  Maybe if you ring the bell you’ll have True Love?  Good Fortune?  That you are a gullible tourist? (Pick one.)  So it would be quiet on the lake for a while, then a boat of tourists would arrive and we then hear the clanging of the church bell.  You have to pay for the pleasure of getting your good fortune, so someone is doing okay, judging from the amount of bell-tolling we heard.

Slovenia_Tito Villa BledWe’d heard that Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia (when there was a Yugoslavia) had a summer house on the lake which had been turned into a hotel and conference center.  Our guidebook gave us the particulars and we walked up the grand set of stairs from the path to Villa Bled.

Slovenia_23a_Lake Bled Tito muralWe found our way to this conference room (in panoramic view, here) with a mural from the Communist era, where all the workers looked happy (and like they worked out a lot at the local gym), and the peasants were singing songs along with the soldiers, who were also — in some places — holding hands with each other.  Solidarity, indeed.

Slovenia_22 lake Bled Tito

Slovenia_23 Lake Bled Tito2Okay, there was an occasional Bashing Their Heads In With Rifles scene, but don’t let that deter you from the specter of a victorious Yugoslavia.

Slovenia_Tito Mural

Slovenia_view from Tito's patio

View from Tito’s patio.

Slovenia_21 Lake BledView across the lake.

Slovenia_26 lake Bled Cream CakeYou can’t go to Lake Bled without have a piece of their cream cake.  Tired after three hours of walking (we were taking the scenic pace), we plopped down on the patio of a hotel, and ordered one piece and two forks.

“Everyone does that,” said the waiter.  “And then they order another piece.”

We did too.

Next up: Arriving in Ljubljana

Beautiful (and Quiet) Buzet

(This is the eighth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Sunday June 22

We pulled away from House Tina, and took the country road north towards Karlovac, where our proprietor had been living in a camp during the war.  Along the way we lots of houses with bullet holes and shrapnel damage, but there were equally as many all spiffed up with new plaster, paint and new roofs.  Croatia seems to be putting the war behind them.

Karlovac Shopping

First, a stop at an Interspar store where we saw (from right to left) a clear plastic “can” with aluminum pop top full of clear lemon-water.  I didn’t buy it and looked for one the rest of the time we were over there and never saw it again.  It was very cool.  We also saw a Jane Fondom workout video, right next to a Jane Fonda workout video.  And then a very cute red-checked Croatian bag of KiKi candies, which I also purchased, along with supplies for our lunch.  I wonder if foreigners come over here and go gaga at our packaging.  Do we have any cool packaging?

Croatia1_freewaysights

It’s time to get on the road and get going.  This section of freeway, which traverses from east to west across Croatia also has lots of tunnels, but their names are beside them on signs, not over them in fun writing.  The terrain is hilly, wooded and in many section on the western side of the country we saw many fallen trees.  Apparently there had been a big storm and the temperatures suddenly dropped, freezing all the rain/ice onto the trees, cracking them in half, toppling many.  The damage was extensive.

Croatia1a_freeway sign

Not too many freeway signs–mostly beautiful countryside.  It reminded me of driving through Halifax Canada with long straight highways bordered by trees and fields.  Croatia has a toll system for their roads.  When you enter them, you draw a ticket from the automated machine and then drive.  After a while you see the Autocesta gates and you stop to pay for what you just drove.  This is more modern: no coins are thrown in a basket, instead you whip out the bankcard and they swipe it and present you with your card and your receipt.  Drive on.  At one Autocesta, we took in the scenery:

1AutocestaCroatia_cow

1AutocestaCroatia_train and pizza

croatian main roads

We drove from the blue dot (Plitvice Lakes National Park) up to Karlovac (red circle), then took the A1 West to Rijecka (green circle), where we promptly got sort of lost, but Dave kept driving and I kept flipping back and forth on my printed-out Google maps and frantically searched my map book, but somehow, someway, we made it through that spaghetti-ed freeway system interchange, heading into Istria.  And then we paid a monster fee for traveling through a very very long tunnel.

Istria Road Map

From Rijecka (green circle), we finally made it to Buzet (violet rectangle).  Istria was part of Italy until 1947, when it was scooped up into Yugoslavia, and there it stayed when Croatia split off and kept it.  Besides being known as a place for truffle hunting, wine drinking and possible early birthplace of the Glagolitic alphabet (kind of like that old claim “George Washington Slept Here”), it resembles in many ways the hilltown areas of Italy.  Some more deft driving and map-following and we glimpsed Buzet on top of a hill:Buzet7c_town from below

We drove up and looped around through this gate, the “Big” Gate:

Buzet Big Gate

On the right is what we saw coming up, and the view on the left is what we saw later, coming down.  Yes, it was interesting.  We found our hotel right away (after that hard hairpin turn to the left just inside the Big Gate), drove past it looking for parking, drove up and around the town, holding our breath on the narrow streets, then flipped around and came up again, through the gate and parked in front of Vela Vrata, our hotel.

Vela Vrata Hotel with sign

Vela Vrata_front door

We thought we were in Italy, really, except that everything was written in Croatian and they all spoke that as well.  Whenever I’ve been in Italy, I’ve been able to pick up a word or two to add to my pathetically small working vocabulary.  This time I didn’t pick up ANY words in Croatian, nor Slovenian, nor Hungarian.

Vela Vrata_room

Our room was sweet, the window shut against the day’s heat.

Vela Vrata sink

I’ve never been so excited to see shampoo, soap, and drinking glasses.  And more than one washcloth and towel.  We felt like we were in the Buzetian Waldorf Astoria.

Vela Vrata Window

View through the bathroom window.

Vela Vrata_bedroom window

And we opened up the bedroom window, to see the countryside.  We retrieved our luggage from the car, then Dave had to go and repark it “down below,” in a special lot just for the hotel.  We turned left onto a street that looked like it would work, except at the bottom there were stairs.  Nope.  Back up the car.  Around that bend there was another street, but I urged Dave just to park the car in the little parking lot below and we would walk up.  We did so, and found a little pocket park with a fountain, a family and some benches where we could eat our lunch, purchased in Karlovac.

Buzet1a_little town square below

Buzet1a2_lunch

What is it about European bakeries?  The breads are fresh, delicious and available.  We’d bought “picnic” supplies and enjoyed our lunch at this little place.  Our unstated, but previously assumed goal was to drop our stuff in Buzet and take a driving tour of the Istrian Peninsula.  This was rapidly being scaled down to drop our backpack in our room and take a walking tour of the small hilltown.

Buzet1g_overlook again

This is the view to the “front,” just below our little park, of a church and its cemetery.

Buzet1c_tiny door in wall

The route back up to our hotel (really just a couple of long city blocks, but strung out into switchbacks and up a hill) passed by some gardens.

Buzet1a3_flowers

Buzet1f_ochre wall

We walked to the right, up behind our hotel to explore.  It’s not a large hilltown, and the Sunday afternoon was quiet.

Map Buzet Istria Croatia

Here’s a map we got AFTER our walk, when the tourist agency with erratic hours finally opened.  Lots of things were noted here, but we used our guidebook to sort of guide us around this little town.  Our hotel is just across from #6, the South Bulwark, and you can see where we parked our car (the large red P).  While I do post this map, try to ignore it.  Just go with us on a traipse around a little town where you don’t speak the language, are tired from driving across the country, are happy with having had such a good picnic, and have two cameras to record everything (one for this blog and one for Instagram, later on that night).

Buzet_ESE

Buzet2a_building

These cobblestones were slippery and uneven.

Buzet2_colorful doorway

Buzet2a_old building

Buzet2b1_more towers

We saw two possible churches, but both were closed.

Buzet2f_laundry1

For some, it was laundry day.  And everywhere were potted plants, lush and full.

Buzet2e_scissors

I need this scissors sign to hang outside my sewing room.

Buzet2d_museum sign

My sister Christine was in China, and her Instagram feed was full of visits to museums.  I joked that she goes to museums and we see the sign for one.

Buzet3_house

And around every lane you could see the edge of the hill drop off into the green valley below.

Buzet4_church door

St. George’s Church (#21 on the map).  Nothing was open.  Nothing except our hotel and the bar next to it.

Buzet3_graffiti

We walked up to the top of the town, the church abutting the old crenelated city wall.  Buzet has credentials back to the 16th century, but I think the graffiti is newer.

Buzet3g_old town wall

The other side of the church, with a lone bell in the wall.

Buzet3_view from back of town

The view from atop the city wall.

Buzet3_town well1

The regular camera records the town’s Big Well (#17) in the center of the city, but the iPhone camera catches the light differently, giving a different look:

Buzet3_town well

Buzet3_timbers on side gate

Buzet3f_town gate3

Buzet3c_DAE

The views were expansive, but as Dave noted, “Italy seemed to have better land use management.”  Yes, we’d look out over a sweeping valley and see a bunch of high rises, or a quarry, or a car factory.  The old Yugoslavia, of which Croatia was a part, had its emphasis on industry and building mostly likely due to its roots in Communism, and the powers-that-be probably thought that a factory was a far better use of land than keeping a view or maintaining its agrarian heritage.  It was kind of startling sometimes, as Italy’s hilltowns are surrounded by buccolic landscapes on all sides.

Buzet3e_exterior side gate

The backside of that gate we just came through. This was the “Little Gate,” (#15 on the left side of the town), whereas the Big Gate (#2) was on the lower right side.

Buzet3h_flower

Buzet1k_countryside

Buzet1e_overlook from road

Buzet overlook

Vela Vrata_hotel sign

We came back to the hotel. An afternoon nap seemed like a good idea in this equally sleepy hilltown.  Forget getting in the car and driving around.

Buzet1m_overlook from front side

Soon it was dinner time.  Really it went like this “It’s 8 o’clock already??!!” We walked back down to our car.

Buzet1n_little gate

Buzet5_Pizzeria dinner

Pizzeria Jezic had about nine hundred options, but luckily a young couple helped us figure out what to get.  We opted for a salad (our standard) and a pizza.  We told the server we would split the pizza, so it arrived, neatly cut in half on two plates. The World Cup was on the television, but since Croatia wouldn’t be playing until the next night, Monday, June 23rd, the town was not as drawn in to what was being televised.  The game was on in the bar as we walked up the hill after dinner, but the dining area in front of the hotel only had two guests.  We remarked on how quiet the town was when we checked out the next morning, and the manager said, “Oh wait for tonight when Croatia plays.”  We were glad to get a good night’s sleep in the beautiful Vela Vrata hotel in beautiful Buzet, Istria.

I woke up earlier than Dave the next morning, and recorded this from the bathroom window.  You might have to turn up the volume to hear the singing birds.  We showered, dressed, packed up and headed toward the breakfast room.

Vela Vrata pool

First stop: the swiming pool.  I’d heard about it on the web and I wanted to see it.  I kept thinking how much my sister Susan would like to do her laps in this place.

Vela Vrata_breakfast buffet1

Vela Vrata_breakfast buffet2

The breakfast buffet included hot and cold dishes, including some strange things that we passed right by.  But it was a nice breakfast room:

Vela Vrata_breakfast roomThe use of air conditioner was not apparent, a change from the guest rooms in the hotel, and finally the server/attendant opened up opposing windows to give us a breeze through the hot and stuffy room.  We poked around places on the way back to our rooms, reluctant to leave such a nice place, but happy to go again.

Buzet overlook

We walked our luggage down to the car, remembering a large plaza we’d seen the day before (below).

Buzet8a_War Dead Memorial

Somehow Dave made his way there.  We think it was a memorial to those who had died in the war.Buzet War Dead Memorial

Buzet8e_War Dead Memorial

At the center was this strange bowl-shaped object, with the signs of the zodiac on the top and bottom and faces all around the equator of the thing.  We assumed, by the look of the light fixture on the inside, that it was some sort of beacon to memorialize the place.  We never saw it lit the night before (the pizza place was sort of near this).

Buzet7a_Nardoni Dom

We felt like Croatia had been scrubbed of Communism and its relics, finding only this place with some obviously heroic logos from that time.

Buzet7b_town Communist marker

And then again, it could be about nothing, one of the drawbacks of using graphics instead of language to make your way through a town.  We were headed for the Slovenia this morning, and to find a place to buy our “sticker.”  Apparently it was a necessary item to drive on Slovenian highways, and we were warned in two guidebooks, as well as by our host at House Tina.  He said we would get a fine of 150 euro (about $225) if we didn’t have it, and then the rental car company would fine us too, just for the hassle of having to track us down and bill us.  We were on the lookout as we made our way north.

Next up: Slovenia and Ljubljana

House Tina (Plitvice Lakes, part II)

This is the seventh post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Saturday, June 21

1002mapPlitviceNP

At the end of our Plitvice hike, we made our way to the car and headed north on the highway towards House Tina, a small hostel recommended by travel guru Rick Steves.  It looked new on Trip Advisor (an online source we use for finding hotels; I write under the name Letterpress) and we found it without too much trouble, using the map printouts from Google Maps that I’d printed out at home.

House Tina_front door

 It reminded us of homes we’d stayed in on our honeymoon in Austria.

House Tina_sign

The hostel designation is an interesting one, for the standards they have to meet are different than those of a hotel.  For example, there is no soap in the shower, nor cups in the bathroom.  We’d brought along a travel bar of soap from Hotel Vrlic in Split so were good there, and used our water bottles for cups.  I was happy they had towels, after learning about this, but extra amenities are not required.

Hotel Tina_Milan

Milan, the “owner-manager” with Dave.  He lives there with his girlfriend and together they run the place, but her family owns it.  They employ local girls to come in and clean and do laundry, which was in the garage area.  When we walked by one time, the doors were open and it was quite a set-up with several washers and dryers, folding tables, iron and cleaning supplies all arranged on shelves.

House Tina_beds1

Upstairs we had a “double,” which was two twin beds pushed together.  We were used to this from our travels so were not surprised, but the construction of the beds (by a local carpenter–very nicely done) had a piece of trim which kept the beds about 4 inches apart, even when pushed together.  There was a fan in the room, but no air conditioning.

House Tina_bathroom window view

The house was fully booked and we were the last to check in.  Our room was in the front, overlooking the front car park area and the fields beyond.  This is the view from the bedroom window.

House Tina_cabins

To the side of the car park area were two family-style cabins.

Hotel Tina_landscape2

Hotel Tina_Google

Of course, the first thing we do is check to the internet, getting the code from the hotel owner and syncing up all our devices.  We liked the news from home and had fun uploading to Instagram every day, seeing people’s comments.  I realize that the advent of electronics and access to the World Wide Web has severely curtailed my journal-writing from these trips.  I rue this development, but sometimes I’m just too tired to do anything else.  When Dave and I first started traveling, there was no way to book hotel rooms on the Web (it didn’t really exist) so we’d travel around all day, stopping about 4 p.m. to find our hotel and dinner.  The evenings were relaxing as we hadn’t “touristed” ourselves to exhaustion, which I think we do too much of now.  Of course there is always this desire that runs strong in my husband’s DNA to see one more sight, knock off one more attraction, drive a few more kilometers.  The old system was a nice counterbalance to those urges.

One lovely surprise about House Tina was the chance to eat dinner on site.  Tired from walking, I thought this was bliss, so after we got settled, we went downstairs.

House Tina_amazing salad

Around the side of the house was an outdoor patio and across the lawn was a massive outdoor barbeque set-up.  It was obvious that this place, of recent construction, was built solely for accomodating tourists.  Sorry about the photo above.  We were so hungry that we dived right in before remembering to take a photograph.

House Tina_grilled meats

We could have grilled meats or grilled fish.  I chose one and Dave chose the other and we shared.  Both were excellent.

House Tina_grilled fish

Thankfully Milan boned the trout for us.  He later sat down and told us that all their food was locally sourced.

House Tina_rice with sauce

He called this risotto, but we called it rice with gravy.  After he cleared away the diners’ plates and got things down to a dull roar (there were about 5 rooms full that night), Milan joined us and we were able to get some more of his story.  As a child, he moved to Karlovac with his parents to wait out the war, staying in a refugee camp there.  “That’s where I learned all my languages,” he told us, as he learned to converse with all the different nationalities of soldiers stationed there.  The family lost their home to the war, but later in the conversation we found out that they had re-established themselves, also running a tourist guesthouse a few miles away.

The guesthouses generally open up around Easter and stay open throughout the summer and some stay open into fall.  At Christmastime, sometimes they re-open, but then are closed during the winter months because of snowfall, as “it’s hard to get food up here when there is all the snow” he said.  When Easter coincides with the school holidays, everyone is happy, but when Easter is early, then they have to hire “the girls” early only to have nothing for them to do until school gets out.  (I’m thinking this must have happened this year, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it.)

Milan had mixed praise and scorn for those run guesthouses, as “it’s an easy way to make money, and no one has cows or farms any more.”  He alluded more than once to the easy-money making thing, and sometimes it was wistful, as if he were witnessing a sea change in the life of his fellow countrymen and wasn’t entirely happy about it.  But he himself eschewed farming for this “easy money.”

We talked about Bosnia-Herzogovina and I found the distinction between those who had government jobs (“mostly relatives of the men who already have government jobs”) versus the rest of the population generated some harsher judgement about those who were the government fat cats.  We’d read about this before coming — the clearly feudal system of regional governments taking up most of the country’s cash flow.  “But the floods will bring us together again,” Milan insisted.  “We donate clothing, money, our time to help our brothers.” Clearly there was some desire to put the divisions of the war behind him, and he felt that working together to fix the effects of the massive floods would be a tool to equalize them and bring them together.  We don’t often get the chance to talk to those who live in these countries, these towns, making assumptions as we go.  I don’t believe that one dinner table conversation will give us an accurate depiction of life there, but his willingness to talk to us about his life was helpful in understanding this country in which we were spending time.

We joined an Australian couple at their table for more visiting, finding out that they were taking three months to travel around and see the sights.  And here we were trying to cram it all in to two-plus weeks.  No wonder we were exhausted every night.

Hotel Tina_breakfast room

The next morning we went down to the breakfast room, where Milan served us “happy eggs” from local chickens, the scrambled eggs a rich buttery yellow.

Hotel Tina_jams

Hotel Tina_toaster

We could also make our own toast in this fabulous machine.  Jams and Nutella plate (above-above) were available, as well as juices.

Hotel Tina_eating area

And of course, Croatia memorabilia everywhere in honor of World Cup Soccer.

House Tina_key

We paid and turned in our key.

Hotel Tina_car hood

And saw Milan’s car, all decked out, as we pulled out.  We were our way to the Istrian Peninsula.

Next up: Buzet, a hilltown on the Istrian Peninsula

Plitvice Lakes National Park

(This is the sixth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Saturday, June 21

In the morning we showered en suite in the tiny, but immaculate shower, packed up (easy to do with half my clothes gone) and thought we’d go up the street to get some baked goods at the bakery the landlady mentioned.  And on our way we would take half the luggage.  This prompted an outcry in Croatian from the “mother” to the English-speaking daughter.  We kept saying “one minute. . . one minute” like she could understand our English. Somehow she and I both thought if we spoke more emphatically in our native language that the other one would understand.  This never works, but goes on all the time.

Split Laundry

I stood at the front door, checking out the laundry hanging over our heads until the daughter dressed and peered down from her second floor stair landing, where we explained that we’d be right back in a minute and were just going to get some breakfast up the street and drop our luggage at the car.  “Okay!” she said, then explained this all to her mother, who then made the universal symbol of “carry on,” a hand gesturing towards the front door.  We were free to go.

Bakery Cookie

Luggage stowed, we entered the bakery, the only ones in there, and started looking around.  I immediately bought a bunch of the cookies (above) which tasted like those round nutty cookies at Christmastime, but without the annoying powdered sugar all over them.  We bought some breakfast-looking breads, then Dave, seeing a loaf with a chunk cut out, wanted some bread.  He pointed and asked with his fingers indicating a small bit.  By this time, she was tired of us.  She took a knife and whacked off a piece, rolling her eyes as she held them out and said “This one or this one?”  He chose the small one and we skedaddled.  Split is a working town, with little patience for American tourists, we decided.  We paid our bill, stowed the rest of our luggage and left town, heading for the A1 going north.

Sveti Rock

Heading up the A1, we saw this interesting formation: Sveti Rok.

Sveti Rock up close

As we got closer, it morphed into this.  We continued on, through tunnels and open road until we could stop for gas.

Auto Stop Croatia

These freeways stops (this one at Gornja Ploca) had all sorts of interesting things to snack on:

Grocery Store Spaghetti Candy

Grocery Store KitKat Candy

I bought this one for my granddaughter because her nickname is KeKe (pronounced like this candy).

Grocery Store Chips

Paprika is the national flavor, we decided.  We shared a bag once at some random lunch and it tasted like barbeque-flavored chips.

Grocery Store Tacco Chips

“Taccos.”  I love how we come off as Americans.

Grocery Store Big Pep Chips

I finally did buy this one, as I couldn’t resist the title “Big Pep.”  (I could use some of these every afternoon about 3 p.m.)  After a while, we turned off the A1 onto Highway 52, heading towards the interior, leaving the coast behind.

Big Lake Croatia

The landscape in this area is less Mediteranean, more rolling meadows with rivers and lakes.

Croatia to Plitvice Rt 59 scenery

PansionCafe Croatia

It was lunchtime, so we stopped at the roadside restaurant/hotel.

PansionCafe Croatia_1

Nobody was home, it seemed, but we needed to stretch our legs and after all, all the doors were open.  Eventually we were served and after a few more minutes, they brought us these:

PansionCafe Croatia_sandwiches

We sat outside in the car and enjoyed our lunch (we left the plates there, of course) and then continued on towards Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Plitivice Map from House Tina

We decided to begin at the lower section of the park and walk our way to the upper section, following the well-traveled trail, as shown by the map, above.  The lower box also shows the changes in elevation, but even after driving all morning after a pitiful night’s sleep, we didn’t find the hours we spent in the park to be strenuous.

Plitvice1_first view

We walked in from paying for the tickets (not cheap) and to the overlook, where we saw this sight: Veliki Slap, or Big Waterfall.  It’s the tallest in the park.  See that line of tourists about halfway up on the left side, all lined up to see this?  That’s where we are headed.

Plitvice1_wide view

The descent is via a sloping, switch-backed path, down through the forested slope.

Plitvice1a_tourists on path

We have now joined the line up of tourists as only a few can pass around the corner at a time, but we endure.

Plitvice1c_burbling brook

Plitvice Large Falls DAEESEOkay! We made and got our picture besides, thanks to a skilled visiting tourist who knew how to meter a photo for proper exposure.  I hope I did theirs okay, too (a time-honored tradition: trading cameras to take shots of strangers).  We headed back up the boardwalk, following the hordes, but thankfully so far, no tour guides carrying flags leading a pack.

Plitvice2_green lake

The colors are amazing, changing from a jade green to a teal to deep blues.  We are happy to be here on a not-rainy day, as we’ve been following the weather forecasts ardently, moving the trip to Plitvice up a day, just in case.  We had gorgeous weather on this day.

Plitvice2a_sign

The park is a series of lakes and waterfalls in between each lake, and near each is a sign like this showing where you are (a little arrow on the right, which is hard to see) and the elevation.

Plitvice2b_view up the valley

Looking up the canyon.

Plitvice3_two toned again

Plitvice4_little fallsThis is a still shot of the place where I shot the video (below).

Plitvice4a_burbling waters

Plitvice5_still water

Plitvice5a_cove and boardwalk

The boardwalk crosses over one of the lakes, and there was a pathway to head up to the top of the canyon walls, passing by this cave.  We decided to head on up the lakes (bypassing this gaggle of tourists).  We realize that by arriving at 2 p.m, we were going to hit crowds, but the park is so huge it wasn’t a big problem.  But Dave is a blue-sky kind of guy and will press on ahead just so his view is not the backside of multiple tourists, but a more open landscape.  By bypassing some groups, he was able to see the natural surroundings that were quite frankly, phenomenal.

Plitvice5b_another sign

Plitvice5c_ESEDAE

Plitvice6_colors

We stood here and took about five shots each of this, tilting our cameras this way and that for the exposure in order to get the blue below and the jade above.

Plitvice6b_DAE walking past falls

Seeing Dave’s backpack was often my view as he kept pressing on. . . and I kept stopping.  (However, the photographs on this blog were taken by both of us.)  I did catch him once and got him to pause enough for the next two photos.

Plitvice DAE

Plitvice ESE

Plitvice6c_lake view

Plitvice6d_falls view

Plitvice6e_flower1

At one point the trail led up into the forested landscape, where I found some dainty wildflowers.  We were headed to Jezero Kozjak, a big lake central to the park, where we would catch a boat ride to the next part of the trail.

Plitvice7a_boat ride pano

View from the front of the boat, where we sat.

Plitvice7c_boat on lake

Another boat passed us going the other direction.  Our tickets could only be used for one boat ride, otherwise I might have been tempted to get on another going the other way, and then another taking us to where we were now headed: towards those little set of falls, straight ahead of us (below).

Plitvice7_boatride

Plitvice13c_lakeviewA panoramic photo of the lake. The lake was serene, the day was not hot, but warm, the crowd on the boat was relaxed and soon scattered as we reached the dock.  Most of the time I felt like Dave and I were in our own little world, being English speakers in a foreign country.  We could sit at tables close by our neighbors at dinner but since we couldn’t understand them (and we assumed that they couldn’t understand us), a cushion enveloped us as we traveled where we didn’t speak the language.  And it had the added benefit of creating a deeper bond between Dave and I.

Plitvice8_greens

The first few days in Croatia, we would walk side by side and not speak to each other.  It wasn’t because we were angry or anything, it was that we were just out of practice.

Plitvice8a_falls on moss

At home we would spent most of our days in our own “caves:” he doing his work and me doing mine, and then after dinner I’d head up to my study to grade or even get a few minutes of quilting in, and he’d stay downstairs and read, grade or watch TV.  Parallel lives that were now blending into one life: that of a middle-aged couple on the road together, creating memories and sharing experiences.

Plitvice8c_flower

Plitvice8c_walkway onto partII

The ferry landed on the left side of an inlet, and we stayed on, as it crossed over and dropped us off on what looked to be an island, although we knew it just the other side of the lakes.  As it turned out, we went backwards from everyone else.  Fine by us.

Plitvice8d_forested path

As we walked along this path, a large group, complete with parents pushing baby strollers, came walking towards us.  One older man detached himself from the group and went ambling off to my right, in between the trees.  Usually good tourists keep to the trail, so I realized he was after something else.  Sure enough, he stopped, looked at his group, unzipped his trousers and took Nature’s call.  Unfortunately, he didn’t look DOWN the trail, so Dave and I caught the full visual image.  We focused our gaze back to the left to see others in the group looking over at him, shaking their heads, smirking.  We were smirking, too.  Some things cross all language barriers.

Plitvice9_paths

The group passed us by and the trail changed to boardwalk, as it was headed over marshy land at the edge of the next little series of lakes.  There are twelve in this upper section, but by taking the path we did, we would only see about half of them.

Plitvice9b_DAEs footsteps on path

Plitvice9c_path again

Plitvice10_path and falls

More falls:

Plitvice10a_falls

Because we live in a dry, quasi-desert country, all this water is amazing.  Gallons and gallons and gallons falling over moss-covered embankments.  We loved the sound and so took more videos here than any other place on our trip.

Plitvice10b_flower

Plitvice10c_falls

Plitvice10d_flower


After a while the water splashing on this rock began to remind me of hail, the fat drops of water scattering and chattering over the surface of the water. I could hardly tear myself away, but we still had much to go and the light was changing, indicating late afternoon sun.

Plitvice10e_blue bug

Dave snapped this blue little insect in mid-flight. Still can’t tell if it is a flying buzzing thing, or a tiny butterfly.  I think the former.

Plitvice10f_leaves

Plitvice11a_wide falls

Plitvice11b_wide falls

Plitvice12_bark

Even the lichen on the bark is beautiful here.  We won’t see such things in our neck of the woods.

Plitvice12_watercolors

Plitvice12a_more falls

Plitvice13_path to lake

This path leads back to the boat dock, where we will take a short ferry across and then up to the trams to carry us back to the beginning.

Plitvice13a_rushing watersIt’s hard to leave such a gorgeous place.  I’ve seen pictures of this in winter and the frozen landscape is also beautiful.  (I just wouldn’t want to be here when it rains.)

Plitvice13b_ferry and trail sign

We board the ferry to cross over to the other side of this narrow part of the lake.

Plitvice14_steps up to tram stop

And head up the path to the trams, which we think will carry us back to the beginning.  We start chatting with a couple next to us, waiting on the bench.  They are from Russia and he is a photographer, carrying a tripod and bag of gear.  Their English is pretty good (our Russian is non-existent) and we chat to each other.  Of course, we are dying to get their views on the Russian takeover of Crimea–a real first-hand viewpoint, but I don’t think it’s polite to grill your benchmates on politics, so we talk about places they’ve been, places they liked a lot (many in the US).  The tram comes and they board the first car and we board the second.

Plitvice Looking Up Canyon6

The tram takes us about halfway down the canyon, near the hotels onsite, and drops us off.  We have a bit of a walk, and it’s late afternoon and we’re a bit tired.  So we are passed a lot by faster-moving younger people, but we still manage to stop at most of the viewpoints, to look down on where we’ve been.

Plitvice Looking Up Canyon5

Plitvice Looking Up Canyon4

I wonder if the larger lake at the top of this photo is where the boat crosses.

Plitvice Looking Up Canyon3

The boardwalk that crosses the lower lakes, just above the Big Waterall.  There are steps from this vantage point down to the hidden cave.  No way I’m doing that, and I think Dave feels the same.  We still have to find our hotel, find dinner, and get settled before we can call it a day.Plitvice Looking Up Canyon2

Plitvice Looking Up Canyon1

Our final view of the canyon.  The Russian couple kept our pace, and we saw them again at the big sign at the entrance, where he took our photo (below).

DAE ESE Plitvice Lakes

Next up: House Tina and a real, home-grilled dinner

Split — in Croatia

(This is the fifth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Friday, June 20

Today started out with getting our car rental, finding our way out of town, then “Where’s the map?”
“I don’t have the map.”
“Yes, you do.  It was on your nightstand at home.  You were supposed to bring the Budapest book and the map.”
“Well, I don’t have the map.”
Silence.
“Then we’ll just have to buy one.”

At the next travel stop, we purchased a nice spiral-bound book of Croatia/Slovenia.  Not as cheap as the one off of Amazon purchased before the trip, but that was home on a nightstand in a whole other life.  And here’s where the tourists start to make a shift.  Although certainly still bleary-eyed from the regimen of no sleep (World Cup Soccer issues) the jet-lag is receding and we no longer have the urge to find a place to lie down in the middle of the day.  Good thing, for today we are driving up the Croatian coast to Split.

Tudman Bridge

We pass over the Tudman Bridge on the outskirts of town, and wind our way up to the coastal road.  We go through Border Patrol twice — once for Croatia into Bosnia, and then from Bosnia back into Croatia.  We passed.

Tudman Bridge from the air

Here is a picture of the Tudman Bridge from the air, as we were flying into Dubrovnik a few days ago.  You can see the cruise ship parked there (one of their “parking spots.”) Which reminds me to tell you that one of the best things we had to eat for an airplane snack was on Air Dolomiti, where they served us chocolate pudding that was out of this world.  And gave us cute little aqua spoons, which I lost in Zagreb.  Bummer.

Pudding on Italian Airline

Tunnel1

After traveling a few whiles on the coastal road, we said “forget this,” and turned inland to travel on Croatia’s nice new superhighway, complete with tunnels.

Tunnel3

And more tunnels.

Tunnel2

Last shot of a tunnel, but I like how most all of them have names.

Split_hill land feature

After about three to three-and-one-half hours we got off the expressway, turning eastward, heading toward the coast and to Split, where this interesting landmass caught our eye.  We felt like much of the landscape was very much like home: a Mediterranean mix of hills, rocks, some trees.  I’d printed out directions off of Google Maps at home, and with those and the cool map we’d bought, I managed to get us to the front door of our hotel, but there was no parking.  Did I mention that the driver likes to park only in legitimate parking places (and that we’ve had some discussions in our prior travel about parking preferences)?  I suggested that we double park, briefly, while he went and checked with the hotel where to park, but instead we took an interesting detour up and around in the hills of Split and I swear drove on a one-way street but that could be under some discussion but I digress, until we finally looped our way back around to that same place where the navigator had suggested we double-park and check in with the hotel.  We did just that this time.

I sat in the car, and Dave rang the bell.  Soon he was followed by a woman in harem-style pants, pointing and yelling at her father who had walked quickly up the street to move his car, placed there in reserve for our car.  Just as he was pulling out, another car about eight spots away from our intended parking place started to pull out, and she asked them to hold on while he drove around and got that one (“another guest is coming”) she said.  She then jumped in front of our car, her back to the city wall along the street and motioned us forward, forward, more, forward.  Dave gunned it and we were both thinking that we were going to chop off her legs with the front of the car, but then she suddenly threw up her hands, and Dave slammed on the brakes.  (That’s why he’s the driver–good job, Dave.)  She grabbed my suitcases and strode down to the other parking place, releasing that car to pull out, then standing in the spot (with my suitcases) while her father looped around.  Once this was completed, she smiled and welcomed us to Hotel Vrlic, which of course I can’t pronounce.

Hotel Vrlic Walkway

The gate opened onto this short course of steps.

Hotel Vrlic front door

And we headed toward the front door.  Our room was at the end of a hallway, and she unlocked the glass door.  Inside there was a bathroom on the right, with sink, toilet and shower, and on the left was our bedroom.  We checked in, got the map from her and headed out to see the ancient part of Split.

Split_Golden Gate2

We made a stop first to pick up some supplies at the drugstore, and finally found our way to here: The Golden Gate of Diocletian’s Palace.  Diocletian was a Roman Emporer who decided to retire here at Split at the end of his life.  Not a great guy in terms of humanitarian standards (killing and torturing Christians for a start; read all about it in Wikipedia) he build this jumbo palace right here on the edge of the coast, which over time was taken over and integrated into the city of Split.

Split_Golden Gate

We entered into the palace through this gate and walked through narrow passageways (below) until we arrived at the main square.

Split walkway

Split_Wedding Peristyle

We’d arrived at this main square, called the Peristyle, just at the time that a bridal couple were greeting their guests, who were serenading the couple with a lovely, throaty version of “You are the Best Couple Ever in Croatia and Thank You for Not Scheduling Your Wedding During One of Croatia’s World Cup Soccer Matches,” or something like that.  I love the dude dressed up as a Roman Soldier, over on the left.  For a few kuna, you, too, can pose with him.

Split_Wedding1

A little flag waving made it all seem much more spirited.  This is the “centerpiece of Diocletian’s Palace,” says my guidebook.  The Entry Vestibule is just behind the bridal couple, and to the left of this photo is the Cathedral.  Underneath the balcony are some stairs down to the cellars, which is where we started our walking tour.

Split_Wedding2

First though, some more shots of the wedding.  She was lovely and the Peristyle was rocking with good times.  They left and the crowd emptied out so the serious tourist business could proceed apace.

Split4

Sweet little building on the Peristyle.

Cellar1

The cellars (or the Podromi) were built to level out the palace floors above, and originally were filled with water to supply to palace’s needs.  In medieval times, the residents cut holes in their floors (the ceilings of the cellar) and used the area as a refuse dump.  Since the last century, they’ve been cleaned out and now for a small medium fee, you can come in to see them.

Cellar2

Cellar3

Cellar4

Cellar5

Some parts of the cellar (the daylight to the right, in the above photo) were open to the walkways above, and several Walking Tours of Split brought their people to this spot to talk about the overpriced basements cellars to discuss the history of Split.  Finishing with the cellars, we walked back up the stairs, passing the myriads of souvenir stands.  We climbed the few steps back up to the balcony where the bridal couple had stood, and then walked into the Entry Vestibule, where supposedly Diocletian received his visitors.

Entry Vestibule3

Apparently it used to have a dome (which collapsed) but now makes this a very cool place with a sort of oculus, and a phenomenal place in which to stand and sing your klapa music for Japanese tourists:

Entry Vestibule1_placa singers

Entry Vestibule1_tourists

Entry Vestibule2

The Entry Vestibule also has four large niches where once stood statues of the “four tetrarchs who ruled the unwieldy empire after Diocletian retired” (Rick Steves Guidebook).

Split_Peristyle2

Back out to the Peristyle.  The stone steps flanked by Lions, with Santa Claus (!) at their base, is where you normally could enter the chapel, but during high season they route you around to the right so you can stand there and choose from five different options, with five different payments of what you want to see. We chose one and climbed the steps up to the Cathedral, which is tiny tiny and ornately decorated.  It once was Diocletian’s mausoleum, but it became a cathedral in the 7th century, which is when they started decorating it.  According to Rick Steves, “When Diocletian died, there were riots of happiness” among the Christians.  We concentrated on what was here during the Roman times.

Split_Cathedral Ceiling

The surviving pieces from that time are the granite columns and the relief circling the base of the dome.  The red marble pillars you see were scavenged from Diocletian’s sarcophagus.

Split_Cathedral Ceiling2

The dome has half-moon etchings layered one upon the other.  Dave excels at getting these symmetrical ceiling shots.  We left the cathedral, passed by Santa Claus and headed directly across the palace to the Baptistry.

Baptistry1

Ivan Mestrovic’s magnificent statue of St. John stands there in the baptistry, which in Diocletian’s time was once a Temple to Jupiter.

Baptistry2

On the front of the deep 12th-century font is a carving of a bishop (left), the king on his throne (right) with the submissive commoner at their feet. This Baptistry isn’t huge at all, maybe as big as my living room at home.  I was surprised by its small size to hold all this.  That explains why the statue feels kind of wedged in here, but don’t worry, St. John holds his own.

Baptisty Ceiling

This vaulted half-barrel ceiling is “considered the best-preserved” of its type anywhere.  Each little face and box are different.

Split1

We walk around the ancient place a little more, the limestone pavers polished to a shine over the centuries.

Split mosaics in sidewalk

In some places we can see the mosaics from ancient times; this is roped off so people don’t walk on it.

Split House with Bouginvillia

The bougainvillia was beautiful on this residence.  I’d like to have dinner up on their terrace on top of the house.

Split Window toward Sea

A view to The Riva, the town’s pedestrian promenade, from the “rooms” above the cellar.  After leaving Dubrovnik, with all the driving and walking, we decide we need a break and head to the Riva to watch people and the boats.

Split Cruise Ship

Or should I say, mammouth gargantuan cruise ships being ushered out to the Adriatic by tugs.  Because of the rain, we had cooler weather initially, but today is a bit hotter, and we keep moving from bench to bench, trying to find some shade.  We watch this tug-ship entertainment for a while, then decide we ought to start on the March to Find Dinner, so we head back into the Palace area.

Split_Square at Sundown

The sun is beginning to set, casting a golden glow on the different towers.

Split_Sundown Clock Tower

Split_Belltower4

Bistro Appetit_Split Water Bottle Wisdom

And it’s always the last place you look where you’ll have dinner.  We ended up at Bistro Appetit, and yes, the World Cup Games were on their flat screen.

Bistro Appetit_Split_Salad

Salad first.

Bistro Appetit_Split Pasta with Truffles

Dave had pasta.  I can’t remember everything that was in it, but I do remember that it was flavored with truffles, a rather strong taste.  He liked it.

Bistro Appetit_Split Chicken

I had vegetables and a flattened, grilled chicken breast dredged in sesame seeds.

Rubbing Bishop's Toe

My friend Judy had traveled here last year and I so wanted to see this sculpture, right outside the Golden Gate of the palace,  Alas, it was under renovation, but I laughed when I saw that they’d left the toe exposed so people could rub it for good luck.  On my wrist you see my Croatia Solidarity Bracelet, which I wore until Croatia was eliminated from the World Cup a few days later.  We brought one home for the granddaughters, which are all probably lost and gone now, as souvenirs are.

We stopped at a market and bought some peach juice for breakfast, as the owner told us that there was a bakery up the street where we could buy some baked goods in the morning.  Then home to our little home-away-from home.

Hotel Vrlic Bedroom

I mean little, literally.  The bed was about a foot shorter than Dave.  Couple that with the sudden and awful realization that I’d left half of my clothes in the little closet in Dubrovnik, made for an interesting evening.  Dave wrote to the sobe in Dubrovnik, asking if they could sent the clothes on to Zagreb to our hotel.  No answer.  By the end of the night, I’d pretty well resigned myself to the loss of the clothes.  I still had enough to get me through the trip (with a laundry stop somewhere), and realized by the silence that shipping some dumb tourist’s clothes to a far away city was not what a sobe owner wanted to do.  Dave wrote him back suggesting that he instead donate the clothes to someone who needed them, and we went to bed.  A response came in to the second email, that yes, he would do that (completely ignoring the first email).  I figured his mother-in-law to be the likely recipient.  I also learned that even if you think you are paring down your wardrobe to nothing, it can be pared down even further.

Next up: Plitvice Lakes National Park