Monday, January 27, 2014

ALMOST HEAVEN, WEST VIRGINIA

When my husband proposed an October trip to West Virginia, I was skeptical. I had a hard time (okay, impossible time) coming up with any of the state's main attractions. All I could think of was John Denver's song "Country Roads." Bob assured me that we would have plenty to do, and that we could drift over into neighboring states along the way. At the very least, we should catch the tail end of the autumn colors. I was pretty sure his ulterior motive was the fact that he hadn't yet checked the West Virginia box on his "States I Have Visited" list, but with a sigh I consented to his plan.

I should know by now not to doubt Bob's travel ideas. Whenever he plans a trip, it's full of fun surprises. This trip turned out to be a blast.

We flew in to Charleston Airport, spent the night in a hotel about an hour north of the city, and set off early the next morning for our first destination: Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.
Charleston and Spruce Knob are circled, with a badly made *0
marking the approximate location of Blackwater Falls

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FAREWELL, BALKANS!

It has taken me seven months and 44 posts to cover our trip to the Balkans in May-June 2013, perhaps the most adventurous trip we have undertaken to date. Before our trip, we knew no one else personally who had traveled past the Adriatic coast countries (Croatia and Slovenia) of this region, so we were on our own.

When we began planning, we reached out through TripAdvisor for advice about the more unfamiliar places (Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania), sure that someone out there had done a similar driving trip. In his query, Bob asked about safety issues and noted that we were "adventurous travelers." Initial responses didn't do much to calm my nerves:

Monday, January 20, 2014

ZAGREB, CROATIA: LAST DAY

We spent our last day in the Balkans wandering around Zagreb, enjoying a visual feast.

This rather strange statue of a man appearing to serenade two dead men slumped against a pole is near the outdoor Dolac Market. It is actually a monument to a Croatian folk hero, Petrica Kerempuh, who travels through the country and pokes fun at human stupidity. I wonder what the story is here? For example, why does Petrica have a rope around his neck? Who are the two men, and what happened to them?

The intriguing sculpture was made by 20th century Croatian artist Vanja Radausa.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

ZAGREB, CROATIA: THE MESTROVIC ATELIER

Picture from here
Before our trip to the Balkans, I had never even heard the name of Ivan Mestrovic, but by the time we had made our loop through eight countries and returned to Zagreb, he was an old friend. We had been introduced to him in Novi Sad, Serbia, got to know him a bit more in Diocletian's Palace in Split, Croatia, and again outside the palace walls, and then reconnected with him in Zagreb's Cathedral of the Assumption and  St. Mark's Cathedral.

We were excited to learn that his Zagreb home and studio complex, which he bought in 1920 and lived and worked in between the two World Wars, is now a museum:

Monday, January 13, 2014

ZAGREB, CROATIA: ST MARK'S CHURCH AND ST. MARK'S SQUARE

In the old town section of Zagreb is a very old Catholic parish church, St. Mark's Church, originally built in the 13th century and rebuilt and added to several times since then, making for an interesting patchwork of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with significant 19th century additions of the roof and bell tower.

Friday, January 10, 2014

ZAGREB, CROATIA: A FARMERS MARKET AND THE CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

There is nothing like a good outdoor market in Europe. Similar markets here are like comparing a kitten to a tiger. Ours are cute and friendly, but they just don't pack the wallop that the outdoor markets in Europe do.

The Dolac market in Zagreb, while not quite as large as the one we'd visited a few days prior in Split, was still amazing.  The red umbrella theme not only protects against inclement weather, but adds a air of gaiety and brings everyone together under one "roof."

Monday, January 6, 2014

ZAGREB, CROATIA: CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION

The drive from Split to Zagreb is absolutely wonderful. There is a brand new autobahn-style freeway that had very little traffic the day we were driving on it. The scenery  is an ever-changing mix of pastures and mountains.
These windmills remind me of the windmill farms not far from where I live.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

SPLIT, CROATIA: EXPLORING OUTSIDE THE PALACE WALLS AND CALLING HOME

The northern Golden Gate of Diocletian's Palace was originally conceived as the main entrance, and the upper three niches were once filled with statues of Diocletian and his co-regent Maximilian, with an eagle (the symbol of Jupiter, whose temple is now the baptistry) between the two. The lower two niches flanking the entrance held statues of two of Diocletian's successors.

This large, wonderfully preserved arch is just inside the Golden Gate as one looks into the Palace:


Thursday, January 2, 2014

SPLIT, CROATIA: EXPLORING INSIDE THE PALACE WALLS

Diocletian's Palace, the walled section of the city of Split, is an intricate maze of narrow alleys that can either be excessively crowded or eerily quiet.



While definitely a tourist city, it is also a very lived-in place, and the blending of tourist/resident, exotic/utilitarian, and ancient/modern makes it very charming.



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