After our adventures in India, we had three days in Lytham to sort ourselves out and get ready for our next adventure, in Croatia. For those of you who don't know where Croatia is (which included me until a few week ago) it's across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, not too far from Greece. It was part of Yugoslavia until 1995 when Croatia became independent, after four years of fighting.
Dubrovnik (May 30 to June 1)
We flew from Manchester to Dubrovnik, arriving just as the sun was setting. We took a taxi to the old town and after dragging our luggage down many steps, we found our apartment in the heart of the Old Town. The apartment was located in a lovely old building up two flights of stairs and was very tastefully renovated.
Next morning, we went to explore Dubrovnik - "The Pearl of the Adriatic". It's the best remaining example of a medieval walled city in Europe with many examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces & fountains.
The old city, from the city walls. Most of the roofs were destroyed during the civil war from 1991 to 1995 but all have been replaced.
The city is built on a promontory and the walls extend all around the city, including the cliffs.
The old harbour is also fortified. Only small ships can get in here - the bigger ships go to another port a few miles down the road.
The fort still looks like it could put up quite a defense, even today.
Of course. Dubrovnik is a very popular place to visit and when the cruise ships arrive, it gets VERY busy, very quickly.
But late at night, especially after rain, you can actually see the street.
The main square late at night, after a rainstorm
It's a lively city. This was a party going on just below our apartment. It was still going on long after midnight.
On the second evening, we attended a symphony concert at the Rector's Palace. We didn't get any pictures that night, but we took a couple the next day.
The courtyard of the Rectors Palace dating from the 11th century
The orchestra was supposed to be in the middle, with the audience on two sides. However, it was pouring with rain and the centre area was open to the sky, so the orchestra was squashed into the third side (on the left of this picture) and the audience kept dry on the other two sides under the arches. Although the rain was pouring off the roof, everyone managed to stay dry and the acoustics turned out to be excellent, so the concert was actually a great success.
One of many fountains in the city.
The lion was the symbol of Venice who ruled here from 1205 to 1358. Dubrovnik was almost as rich and powerful as Venice during the 15th and 16th centuries, but an earthquake in 1667 destroyed much of the city and the republic never full recovered.
The Cloisters of the Franciscan Monastery built in the 14th century
Kris waits for her breakfast at a cafe in the main square.
We spent two nights in the old town of Dubrovnik and on the third day, took a short taxi ride to the port of Gruz to meet our boat. The first item on the agenda of the cruise was a guided tour of Dubrovnik!
Dalmation Coast Cruise (June 1 to June 7)
The Princess Aloha at the port of Bodice
The Princess Aloha was to be our home for the next week. Although it could hold up to 38 passengers, there were only 13 passengers on our trip - six from New Zealand and the rest from the United States.
The upper deck of the Princess Aloha
Lunch is served. This is about half of the group. From left to right, Amit, John, Robin, Pauline, Eric, Claudia (looking away) and Dipti.
A smiling Jelena serves soup at lunch
From left to right, Pauline, Betty, Bob and Frank
Sue & Claudia
Our first stop after leaving Dubrovnik was the National Park of Mljet. We took a walk around two lakes and finished up at a small dock, where a ferry took us out to a Monastery located on an island.
One of two lakes at Mljet National Park
Kris waits patiently for the ferry
The ferry arrives
The Monastery from the water
We spent about half an hour on the island, before taking the ferry back to the main part of the island and then we walked back to the ship.
As we were eating dinner, we had quite a spectacular sunset.
We arrived late at Korcula, where we spent the night.
Hvar (pronounced Varr)
Next morning, we left for the popular port of Hvar.
The port at Hvar
The main square at Hvar. It was sunny, but the clouds are a little threatening. The town was divided (as were most towns) into rich and poor. The rich and famous lived on the left, the poor and hardworking lived on the right.
Like many towns and ports in Croatia, at some point in it's history, it was ruled from and by the City State of Venice. The winged lion of Venice (seen above) can be seen all over Croatia, although in some cities, once the Venetians left, the images would be removed.
Almost all the medieval towns have very narrow, winding streets. Hvar was no exception.
Overlooking the ocean is a Franciscan Monastery, where legend has it, a shipwrecked sailor found refuge after being turned away everywhere else because of fear of the plague. He then painted a picture of the "Last Supper".
The Franciscan Monastery at Hvar. No pictures were allowed, but I did take a picture of the chapel while we were waiting to see the Last Supper.
The Chapel at The Franciscan Monastery on Hvar.
That evening, we ate pizza in the town square with the rest of the "Not New Zealand" group.
Bol is another small port, a lot less busy than Hvar, at least the day we were there.
The small port of Bol
The harbor at Bol
Bol from the end of the harbor. Our boat is anchored at the far left of this picture.
We didn't stay in Bol, which was a pity, because we really liked the place, but headed out to Split.
Split (June 5)
Split was a big, busy city, with one outstanding feature, the Diocletian Palace, built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD.
Although much of the Palace has been lost over the centuries, the original cellars still survive.
The cellars at the Diocletian Palace
One of the gates into the palace
A later Croat ruler (after the Romans had left) crowns himself, but shows his Christian faith (the cross) while a Pope looks on with approval.
The recently restored bell tower
Trogir & Sibenik
After spending a night in Split, we sailed to Trogir, which was another World Heritage UNESCO town.
Approaching Trogir from the sea
Trogir was conquered by the Venetians and they built a fortress, as much to subdue the locals as to discourage further attacks.
The fortress at the entrance to the port of Trogir
Like Dubrovnik, the old part of Trogir is still largely medievial, although the city walls were removed many years ago.
The main square, Trogir
We climbed to the top of the bell tower. Kris made it most of the way to the top so she took this picture of me climbing the last few feet.
Of course, the reward was a nice view of the town and the port
The town & port from the top of the bell tower
Under the bell tower was the Cathedral of St Lawrence, with a very impressive entrance created by the artist Radovan & his pupils. The Cathedral was started in 1213 and finished in the 17th century.
The Cathedral entrance at Trogir showing scenes from the life of Christ
Eve stands on the left side of the gate - Adam is on the right side.
Figure of Eve at Trogir Cathedral
The Chapel of St Ivan, the Patron Saint of Trogir, created in 1467
After leaving Trogir, we went to Sibenik, another medieval town. Along the way we stopped for a swim.
The water was very cold!
An interesting and unusual twenty four hour clock in Sibenik
The entrance to The Cathedral of St James, Sibenik
The Bapistry ceilng at the Cathedral of Sibenik. God is in the middle, looking down.
One of seventy four faces surrounding the cathedral. They would be the faces of the rich and famous from Sibenik at the time.
Climbing high into the town, we discovered a small monastery garden.
The medieval garden of the St Lawrence Monastery
We stayed the night in Sibenik and left the next morning for the National Park of Krka
National Parks of Krka, Kornati
We took a short bus ride to the Krka National Park, which is famous for it's beautiful waterfalls. To see the falls, you walk along a wooden boardwalk through a very pretty natural landscape.
The boardwalk trail at Krka National Park
Kris admires the beautiful scenery
The first of many waterfalls
A dragonfly sits on a leaf
All the water in the park makes it VERY green & lush
One of many waterfalls in the park
If you get close enough, the power of the water and the roar is very impressive
Lots of different ways to see the falls. This was from above.
We returned to the boat, which had moved to another port, Bodice.
The Port of Bodice
The small town of Bodice
Leaving Bodice at lunch time, we passed through the Kornati National Park, which is made up of more than 140 islands.
The islands of Kornati National Park
The sailing looked really nice. I was quite jealous.
A nice breeze
We arrived at Sali and headed for the nearest bar.
Most of the group enjoying a drink after a long day at sea.
The next day, we left for our last stop, Zadar. We took the opportunity to take some group pictures.
The entire group poses
Claudia, K&P & Martin, our Tour Director
Ivan & Jelena
That evening, we took a guided tour of the old town of Zadar. It was very badly damaged during WWII so most of the old buildings are gone.
The Cathedral was one building which did survive
After all the rubble from the buildings was cleared away after WWII, the orginal Roman Forum was discovered. It was built in the 3rd century by the Emperor Augustus and was the largest east of Italy, which testifies to the importance of Zadar to the Romans.
In the 6th century, a church was built for St Donat on what would have been the rubble of the orginal temple.
The exterior of the Church of St Donat. It's now used as a small concert hall. The Cathedral Tower is to the right.
The interior of the church
Built into the structure of the promenade and therefore impossible to see, is a Sea Organ. As the waves push air into the hidden pipes, they make melodius and rather ethereal music, which plays day and night. It's hard to describe, but listen to a clip of a recording here:
Easier to photograph is a light display which plays at night. It used electricity stored during the day from solar panels in the ground.
It's called the Sun Salutation or "Greeting the Sun" and was designed by the same architect who designed the sea organ. It turns on automatically at sunset and follows a program linked to the sounds of the sea organ, which is nearby.
And that was the end of our time in Zadar and the end of our cruise of the Dalmation Coast. Next stop would be Zagreb.
Zagreb (June 8 -11)
We picked up a rental car at Zadar Airport and drove straight to Zagreb using the new toll road, arriving in Zagreb around 2:00pm. Having checked in, we looked for things to do and found that there was a performance of Il Trovatore by Verdi at the Opera House that evening. Even more surprising was that tickets were available and weren't too expensive. The performance started at 6:00 pm so we didn't have long to wait. The Opera House is constructed on a grand scale although with 850 seats is quiet small.
The ecoustics were wonderful and the performance loud and dramatic, with the emphasis on the singing and not the acting or the sets, both of which were fairly wooden. It's wildly deocorated with cherubs, ceiling paintings and half naked nymphs holding up the balcony. Kris tried to get some pictures as we were leaving at the end, but an attendant rushed up and stopped her. This may give you some idea.
After the performance,we ate dinner in a nearby Italian restaurant before calling it a night.
Next day, Sunday, we went exploring. Although Zagreb is an old city, it doesn't have a lot to see but there's enough for a full day.
The main square of Zagreb, Ban Jelacic Square is also the main transport hub. That's Jelacic on the horse. The communists removed him in 1947 but he was reinstated in 1990!
Ban Jelacic Square, sometimes known as Trg (the square)
We came across a couple of local markets selling the usual stuff, including local produce and pots made right on the spot.
As it was a Sunday and the weather was nice, there were plenty of people out for a stroll and plenty of places to stop for a drink.
A busy Sunday morning in Zagreb
In the afternoon, we took a tram to a large park & sports complex at Jarun Lake.
We finished our day (after a long climb up a hill) at the Mirogoj Cemetery, where the rich & famous of Zagreb are buried.
Inside are large memorials and tombs set in a pleasant park like setting.
That evening, we met up with Amit & Dipti from the cruise ship for dinner. They had also driven up from Zadar but were flying home to San Francisco the next day.
Next day, we drove out of Zagreb to visit a small town called Samobor. Samobor was an early tourist spot and was visited as early as 1810 by hunters, hikers and anglers. It has a very pretty town square.
We stopped and had a drink in the marketplace.
The small river running through the town was crossed by an interesting covered bridge.
After spending some time in Samobor, we drove up into the hills. It was all very rural with some nice views.
After a couple of hours in the hills, we drove back to Zagreb for our last evening in the city.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park & Nin (June 11-14)
After leaving Zagreb, our next stop was the Plitvice Lakes National Park, about half way on our way back to Zadar & Nin,where we would be staying. It wasn't a very nice day and we had rain on and off all day. The National Park consisted of a series of loop trails, of increasing length. We meant to do the "B" trail, which should have taken three hours, but instead we finished up on the "C" trail which took another hour. Most of the trails were wooden boardwalks - some of which were quite rotten.
These pictures give you the idea.
The park has MANY spectacular waterfalls! Of course, we had to photograph ALL of them, but here are a few samples.
And even in the places where there were no waterfalls, the park was very pretty.
After leaving the National Park, we drove (in the rain) to Nin, which is a small medieval town on an island. We were actually staying in Zaton, about 2 km away, but Nin is more photogenic.
Branimir of Croatia (shown here at the entrance to Nin) was a ruler of Croatia from 879 to 892. He kept the area free from foreign domination
The restaurant in Nin where we ate dinner the first evening. The menus in all the restaurants were in Croatian, Italian and German. Most of the tourists seemed to be German.
We spent our last two days in Croatia driving around the area looking for nice beaches. It turns out most of the beaches are either rocky or at best, stony, but the area is very pretty and there are always mountains in the background.
A typical beach in the Nin area - a rocky beach with the mountains in the background.
After three days in Zaton, we drove to Zadar airport for our flight back to the UK.