Rovinj is set up to appeal. Narrow streets are lined with pastel coloured buildings, shops full of enticing souvenirs or expensive clothing, the kind that don’t have visible price tags. Restaurants and cafes with views of the marina and a fortified cathedral on the highest point. We window shopped and resisted temptation, our bags are full.
The Adriatic is really that colour, quite chilly in October though, no swimming happening.
Met up with Tina, old friend of Pat’s from WA and she showed us around the village of Vodjan where she now lives, close to Pula. Dinner was fishy and delicious in a restaurant overlooking the marina. There are thousands of yachts and motor boats moored along the coastal towns, plenty of wealthy visitors cruising around evidently.
It was our last night in Croatia. On to England to,orrow.
Woken at 6.30 by church bells, horribly early. Back to sleep till the next lot. We wandered the streets bought breakfast at the mlonimar, bakery. Rolls with ham cheese, and a lettuce leaf, no butter or mayo. It varies slightly from town to town but always no butter. And pastries, sweet or savoury, we liked the fruit filled ones. I had a burek sometimes, a meat filled flat coil similar to a croissant. Rolls were the staple lunch too, I had rye where I could.
After collecting brochures for identical evening island cruises, dolphin spotting and meal included, I elected the Vagabond boat, the salesman, big smile in a tanned face, had a deep voice that reminded me of the male voice choir we had heard earlier. It was the right choice. Ticket holders from the other boats all came aboard, it made sense to use one instead of half a dozen.
There was a slight breeze up top but was the best place to be. I noticed a gull flying with us, around the boat , diving to pass in front. Others did too, it had apparently a fish in its beak. To our distress, it was a hook,, which had already ripped an eye out, dried blood streaked its neck. The salesman told us it can’t eat, the hook is stuck. By now a crowd had gathered and the gull had joined us on deck, not able to fly any more. We wanted to help. One woman used her bread roll crumbs to tempt it closer and was able to grasp it in one well aimed grab. The gull got one wing free so I helped hold it in while her daughter , 18 with strong polished nails, gently prise open the beak some more and revealed the hook completely curled around the lower half. I asked a man to get the ships tools, pliers, something and he dashed down the steps.
The bird seemed to resign itself to being handled and maybe knew we were trying to help. It settled and stayed still while she dislodged the hook first, impossible to bend it. She had to slowly drag it forward till it came free, only to reveal a third hook stuck in the feathers. It must have hurt but she freed it too. The bird started to wriggle but we held it for a moment to give it time to recover. It was not about to fly but moved away a metre or so and we threw it bits of fish leftovers from our plates and crumbs. It ate ravenously then retreated to a more sheltered spot. There were smiles and pats on the back and comments in several languages to the young woman on her skilful work. Her mother was so proud and we exchanged a happy hug of words in mangled German and English.
No one cared about only seeing one fin of a solitary dolphin. When I checked at the end of the trip, the gull had gone, hopefully flown to feed and recover. The hook was a grim souvenir for its rescuer.
I awoke in the night to pitch black, or maybe my eyes were still shut. I needed to pee. I opened my eyes and foundI was looking at the wardrobe, blundered around the wall till I felt the door to the main room. Had a vague notion the bathroom was on my right but it was the kitchen. By now, thoroughly disoriented I had no idea where I was going. Knocked into a chair on the way to a sliver of light coming through the shutters and opened them. Relief, the door I wanted was behind me, open, a welcome dark rectangle. Knocked into the chair on the way.
Morning, we’re in a new apartment and had a laugh at my nocturnal wandering. The long drive and a 10 km walk yesterday was a bit much. We decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant breakfast before finding the Colosseum. Easy. It’s huge! And at the end of our street, large cobblestones all the way, probably the originals from the Colosseum or some other Roman long gone edifice. There was an Event happening in the arena. We could hear the funky music and excited yelling from the announcer trying to whip the audience into a frenzy. Appropriate. We found a vantage point outside the walls to watch. A world championship soccer tournament was in progress. The finalists had to manipulate the ball without their hands like gymnasts at the Olympics. Girls first then boys. Fantastic.
Back to our bed for a nap. Pat had seen a poster advertising a piano recital at a nearby church, we had to go. It was sublime. A duet of classical music, a portly gentleman, white haired and smiling and a slim young woman in glasses, flicking her hair back in between pieces with a serious expression, which didn’t break into a smile until the final bow.
There were perhaps twenty people dotted through the pews, in silent awe at their gift, wanting more but they were generous enough. We floated home.
Friday 7th October was a huge day! Dominic’s birthday, he was flash flooded at work. Terrible.
We wanted to see the National Park but tours left and returned to Zadar, 2 hours each way. After some discussion between two taxi drivers, the English speaker, offered to take us, wait a couple of hours and then continue the journey on to Rijeka which was our next stop.
8am our driver arrived in a very nice car and chauffeured us in less than two hours to Plitvica lakes. In the centre of a forest of beechwood mountains are a succession of turquoise lakes with waterfalls, one was 78m high. we chose a relatively short walk and followed the signs well, until we didn’t. Took the ferry across one lake to start, and back to finish. Except we turned right afterwards and did another 4km To arrive back at the ferry. We were not the only ones. Simon was waiting at Entrance 2 where he dropped us. We waited at Entrance 1. Mobile phones saved the day.
The beech trees were all colours of autumn and dropping leaves to make carpets for us to walk on. Tracks required us to look where we walked, steps up and down in stone were hard to see at times. Lots of tourists some with dogs, others with babies and a few big groups made our progress slow as we negotiated two way walking on a one way track. The lakes were clear and tempting for a swim. All we could do was take photos, thousands were taken that day.
Simon drove us on to Rijeka and our new accommodation and we chatted about the 1990’s war and politics, here and there.
Split was a way stop for us, overnight in a basic, charmless room but great a/c and comfy bed. Our next ferry wasn’t till 4pm so we had plenty of time to wander around Diocletian’s palace, some of which is rebuilt, the space used by tourist shops and a fabulous fresh food marketplace. Also Italian dresses but I resisted. The history of Croatia reminds me of the present war in Ukraine. Other countries have invaded and destroyed and the local inhabitants have rebuilt and kept their culture throughout.
We took a ferry up the Croatian coastline to Trogir and stepped into a walled city, very small, transported in time as well as space. The town was first settled by Greeks ,third century, then Romans, Venetians and more. it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, There is no traffic inside the walls, the streets are for pedestrians. Alleyways remind me of Italy, one leads to our tiny square and balcony, much photographed because our artist host painted a Romeo and Juliet on the shutters!
Trogir itself is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage town, not least because of its magnificent cathedral which we spent hours in. The carvings are so intricate around the pillars and arches, dating from about 1248 AD. I can’t imagine how they did such fine work without modern tools. I think Gaudi may have been inspired by similar work when he designed the outside of Barcelona cathedral. We wandered around the town, found a cafe with views of the marina and the market for fruit. All fruit here tastes perfect, freshly picked. I prevailed on Pat to book another night.
In the evening we heard a male voice choir, no accompaniment, singing in glorious harmony, gave me goosebumps. There are so many places here with arched ceilings, perfect for music. some Croatian songs then Hallelujah. Bliss.
We were very slow to get going – again! Breakfast was cranberries, almonds , nectarines and pears from the market, biscuits and peppermint tea. Used the washing machine last night and hung teashirts from a line suspended between our balcony and the wall opposite! Loved the novelty. They dried overnight, luckily because they would have spoiled the tourists’ photos. We keep having to close the shutters for them! Tourist called up How old is this building? Me: Very old, we don’t live here, we’re tourists!
Walked along the promenade admiring the boats in the.marina and the cruise ships, not monsters but rather smart. We walked the other direction and found what they call a beach. A new concrete walkway, a pier to tie up to and a cafe. There were beach chairs and umbrellas on white gravel, not a regular pebble beach or sand. However it is all newly built and there’s a cafe. Coffee here is liquid gold, I’m addicted all over again!
Dinner was lasagne, freshly made (with a warning that it takes 25 minutes to make) and Greek salad with fresh feta. Local beer goes down well. Yum.
Tomorrow we head to Zaharia up the coast a couple of hours by bus.
A cloudy 8 am start , catching the bus to Zadar, up the coast. Views of the Adriatic all the way. I wanted to stop several times to possibly find a beach and continue our journey later but Pat reminded me we had a ticket to Zadar and some of the people working for bus lines/ information are fed up with tourists wanting to do what they want.
We had been told that Zadar was not a tourist town but Diocletian’s palace was worth a wander through. It is full of stalls selling souvenirs, jewellery, fridge magnets, tee shirts, and covers an immense area of the city, shops apartments churches, markets, all use it as part of daily life, as probably was the case nearly two thousand years ago!
The day started at 2.30 am! Phil was loading our bags into the car as we stumbled downstairs with the rest. He insisted on driving us, wouldn’t hear of getting a taxi, but that’s Phil. Bristol airport is now a major one, he said twenty flights were leaving around 6 am. It was bustling with white-faced , baggy eyed people, some with sleepwalking children.
There’s a shuttle bus to the Old Town of Dubrovnik and we sat back to enjoy the views along the corkscrew road winding down the mountain. There is no traffic allowed inside the walls, we walked through an ancient fortress gate into another century. The streets are paved with marble blocks worn smooth by many feet. Our room is up one of the narrow streets that rise from the main street in steep steps.
We took a walking tour and learned some of the history, this town has been defending itself for centuries! The Venetians from the Adriatic side and Serbs more recently. A huge earthquake almost destroyed the town hundreds of years ago and the residents rebuilt after all these assaults.
Found the market and bought fruit for breakfast, tubs of pomegranate seeds, grapes that exploded wth flavour. we feasted. Then found a bakery and ice cream shops were everywhere. We feasted again. Wandered the streets with hundreds of other tourists, getting our bearings. Decided we didn’t need to climb up to the city walls. The pharmacy has been operating in the same place since it was first built for herbal remedies. The ceiling is like a fresco, I actually gasped. We met the oldest cat, 18years, in her cardboard box outside the council offices. It is a city of cats, cared for because their ancestors killed the rats during the plague. The residents gave her a box but the mayor’s officers kept removing it until he received a petition signed by 1500 people, demanding that she be allowed to stay.
Saturday 1st October Fruit breakfast and peppermint tea, water in hot tap is fine! Pat wasn’t feeling well sore throat so back to the old pharmacy for lozenges. There was a gathering of people dressed for a wedding , gorgeous long gowns in silk and satin, wearing 10cm heels. The men were all in beautiful suits, quite a few patent shoes too,
We just had to stay for the bride to arrive. The guests arrived on foot, along with the usual tourists, mingling with guys hauling huge rubbish bins back and forth, quite a scene. The bride had an enormous white frothy train, like feathers a foot thick and three metres long. Perfect.