Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SPLIT, CROATIA: DIOCLETIAN'S PALACE

Built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in about 300 AD as his retirement home, what is known as "Diocletian's Palace" in Split, Croatia, is actually a walled city that once housed as many as 9,000 people. The Romans abandoned the city in about the 7th century, and thereafter it was gradually filled with Christians.
Photo from here


Sunday, December 15, 2013

SPLIT, CROATIA: A CIRCUITOUS JOURNEY AND AN AMAZING FARMERS MARKET

From Mostar we head back to the coast of Croatia to the city of Split, the largest city on the Dalmatian coast (the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea) and the second largest city in Croatia. Between our map and our now working GPS, we felt pretty confident about this leg of the journey.

We began on what appeared to be a brand new freeway, but the GPS unit didn't recognize it. There is a difference of opinion about what happened next. Bob thinks the new road ended and we went the way we were supposed to and only felt lost (he subscribes to Tolkien's theory that "Not all those who wander are lost"), but I think the GPS unit, confused by the new freeway and not up-to-date on its maps, led us completely astray. Where we ended up on our printed map was far from any main road. It took several stops to ask directions of non-English-speaking Croats who gesticulated, spoke loudly, and repeated the same unintelligible words multiple times, but somehow got us back to where we needed to be. Note: If you are planning a driving trip in Southern Croatia, make sure your GPS has the latest maps uploaded, or that you are using navigation on an updated cell phone. Talk to your hotel people before you leave about how much of the new freeway is done, and carrying an old-fashioned map is always a good idea.

When we got to Split, we headed straight for our hotel, the Guesthouse Vrlic.
It is just a block from Diocletian's Palace, an absolutely fabulous location. It is nothing fancy, but it is very clean and charming in its simplicity. Our room had a fridge, which came in handy as I will show later. My only complaint is that the "wi-fi in every room" was really "wi-fi in the hallways."  It was a minor inconvenience compared to the awesomeness of the location.
The smallest tub I have ever bathed in.

Friday, December 13, 2013

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: DETOUR TO MOSTAR PART II, THE SAD AND TRIUMPHANT TALE OF THE OLD BRIDGE

The Neretva River, one of the largest rivers in the eastern Adriatic Basin, runs through the center of Mostar like a ribbon of liquid jade,

and it is crossed by the longest single span stone bridge in the world, the Stari Most, or Old Bridge. According to Rick Steves, this is the "granddaddy" of Venice's Rialto Bridge. The Mostar Bridge was completed in 1566, only 25 years before the Rialto Bridge, so it's technically not old enough to be a granddaddy, but you get the idea.
Mostar's Old Bridge
Venice's Rialto Bridge, photo taken from here

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: DETOUR TO MOSTAR, PART I

Our original plan was to drive from Dubrovnik to Split, but when we learned that we could take a one-hour detour on good roads to Mostar, a famous little town in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we decided to take a detour. As shown on the map below, Dubrovnik is actually separated from the rest of Croatia by a finger of Bosnia and Herzegovina that reaches out to the Adriatic and gives the country a seaport. We had to go through four customs stops to go through that finger: 1) out of Croatia, 2) into Bosnia, 3) out of Bosnia, and 4) back into Croatia.
Not too far northwest of there we went through two more border crossings to get into Bosnia: 1) out of Croatia and 2) into Bosnia. Crazy. As reported, the highway to Mostar was very nice, with a crumbling castle or two perched atop the hills along the way.
 Miraculously, we only made one wrong turn (due to roadwork), and we quickly got back on track.

The drive was much easier than our previous Bosnia experience driving to Sarajevo. I can see now why most tour companies go to Sarajevo via Mostar. However, while the road was much better and much more direct, it wasn't nearly as exciting as our drive into Sarajevo from the north. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

CROATIA: DUBROVNIK SMILES

While the walk along the undulating city walls and the pilgrimage through Old Town's churches certainly dominated our visit to Croatia, there were quite a few other odds and ends that we enjoyed along the way. The first thing that caught my eye as we entered the city walls was a citrus tree that looked strangely familiar, although it was taller and had a lot more trunk than its cousins in my yard:
Note that all the fruit from the lower branches has been picked, but there are still oranges to be had for someone who is willing to lean really really really far over the wall to pick them from above.
The Croatian flag's patchwork center is very unique, and we have to admire their choice of colors:
I adore this statue of Marin Drzic (1508-1567), considered Croatia's finest Renaissance poet, playwright, and prose writer. He seems so pensive, doesn't he?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

CROATIA: DUBROVNIK CHURCHES

The main street of Dubrovnik is known as either the Stradun or Placa, depending on whom you ask. It basically bisects the city, and lends itself to a leisurely stroll. Stores and restaurants entice both weary wall-walkers like ourselves and freshly-landed cruisers to stop in for a minute to rest, but more importantly to shop.

A close-up of the bell tower that can be seen in the distance in the picture above. This area reminded me a lot of St. Mark's Square in Venice:

http://www.bloggersentral.com/2012/11/pinterest-pin-it-button-on-image-hover.html