Zagreb

Zagreb is such an amazing city. What I would love to do is come back and split time between here and Dubrovnik, but they are ten hours apart, so I would lose a day or two in travel. But it would be worth it.

I would love to come back to Zagreb to just look at all the wonderful buildings that are so much like Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. That in itself it a history lesson about the different empires that have ruled or heavily influenced the area. I would also like to spend some time in the museums here, included the Museum of Broken Relationships, and spend another few nights hanging in the city center people watching.

I got up an hour and a half earlier to go for a walk with Sonia. We walked back to the city center to take in the wonderful buildings we saw last night. I especially loved the buildings that had a clear Austrian empire look, like the ballet and the museum in Tito Square. Pictures will not do them justice but will at least jog a memory.

The hotel was in a really great location. It was less than ten minutes from the city center and downtown promenade. I had a really nice view of the top of the cathedral from my room.

Their government buildings are not very secure. You could walk right up to the door and there was not a guard insight. I just can not imagine getting that close to the White House.

Everyday in the city a cannon goes off at noon and has for hundreds of years. Originally, it indicated to workers it was time to return to work. I was down below using the public toilet so I did not hear it.

There is a church called St. Catherine’s that I was curious about. It is called the Barbie Church because it is all pink inside. It is the church a lot of the local women want to get married in. It has been closed the last year and a half outside of mass and weddings. The bishop of the church wants to charge an entrance fee, and the city thinks all churches should be free. So the bishop is keeping the church closed. Not sure how long the stalemate will continue.

There is a really nice chapel in the Stone Gate. Our guide said that is where locals go to prayer. There is a painting of Mary that survived a a fire in 1731 and a makeshift chapel was made. When I went back, there were a lot of people coming and going. From older women to men in business suits.

The Market was buzzing and a lot of people were buying flowers to put on the graves for All Saints Day.

For lunch, I grabbed a sandwich from a local bakery. I was heading to the same area as a local guy so we ended up chatting and having lunch together. His name was Ivar, and he had or was going to have an interview for a second job as a waiter. He was cute and young, and he shared his dessert with me. He then said, he was going to get some weed. And I was like did you say weed. And he smiled and was like yes. You can get it for ten Kuna which is like $2. All I could do was shake my head and laugh. The most ironic thing is that the place he pointed to was right across from the cathedral.

But yes, and amazing city!  After spending time in smaller places it was a little jarring to run into people asking for money. I had not seen it in the other places, which were smaller.

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Zagreb and the Journey There

Zagreb is a great city! I only have one night here, which is unfortunate because I think it would be fun to spend a few nights!

It is such a vibrant city and the pulse of the city is very strong and positive. The architecture is amazing. Very grand and stately. It reminds me of the the beautiful buildings in Vienna. I could go around snapping pictures of beautiful buildings all day.

We arrived in the evening, and I went out with Tammy, Sonia, Angela, and Rosanne. Rosanne and Angela are from Seattle and are mother and daughter. They are good people too. I think we are all kindred spirits. We walked to the city center and found a place to have drinks. The weather here is colder so a cup of hot chocolate hit the spot. We had a great time talking about life. It was such a great conversation and great to be in the company of intelligent women and have great conversations about this journey we call life. It is like we took the trip to have this wonderful meeting of the minds, and I also think very timely.

On the way to Zagreb, we stopped by this village. I think it was called Ethnoland, but basically the family-owned business explained how life used to be in the days gone by and then we had a traditional meal from that area. It was so good. It was basically meat and potatoes but the meat had such a great flavor and was tender.

So I was talking to Tammy about the Pink Floyd song I mentioned yesterday. Now I understand why the song grips me so much. It was written about/for a band member who committed suicide. So yes, this longing for someone, but in this case, someone who is not coming back.

We also drove back through Bosnia. So again, my feet have trodden there, so it will count. I was talking to another woman who has traveled quite a bit, I think she said this trip will make 54 counties. She has also been to the Arctic Circle and all seven continents. She is counting Bosnia in her count, because she has the same philosophy. Your feet have tread there. And the Bosnia coast is amazing. Now mind you it is not that long but it is pretty.

We passed by an area that grows Mandarin Oranges. We were told the day before they had a roadblock and were giving the oranges away. Because of all the Russian embargoes, the farmers have lost that market so they have excess. Having written a brief about the impact of the embargo to Seattle and Washington state (and there is only a small impact) it felt close to home. As Russia searches for new markets, traditional markets have to search for markets to sale to. But they are competing with other markets who also searching for new markets. For the consumer, it is good because supply is high.

I spoke with a tour member today who worked for the foreign services for around 20 years. The places he has lived sounds so amazing, and yes I found myself using that word a lot!

Another couple I met have been married for 58 years. He is a Presbyterian pastor.

Tonight is my last night in Croatia, followed by two quick nights in Slovenia to end with three nights in Venice. I am ready to just relax on the waterfront and do nothing but get my thoughts together in one of the most beautiful places I have been!

Dubrovnik…I am in Love

Dubrovnik will go down as one of my favorite cities ever!

Going up to Mount Srd sounded very tempting for a great view, but luckily we were taken to a lookout spot to get some great pictures. So it saved me around 100 krona. Plus there is a cable car to get up to the top. I am not really a fan of cable cars. Des if you are reading this, remember that crazy cable car ride in Singapore? Between that and Santorini, I have had enough.

Most of the day was just roaming around the Old Town. In the show Game of Thrones, the city is used as King’s Landing, well a photo-shopped version. It goes down as one of the best Old Town’s I have seen. I was able to see the Cathedral, which reminds me last night Sonia and I came across what appeared to be an Orthodox church while some sort of service was going on. I was also able to see the Synagogue and Museum, which were located on ˝Jewish Street.˝ Just like in Split, Jewish people migrated there during the Inquisition. Dubrovnik has the second-oldest continuously functioning synagogue after Prague. I am trying to remember if I went there or not when I was in Prague. The museum had some nice pieces among them a 14th-century Torah roll that came from Spain.

One goal I had was to walk the City Walls. There were some amazing views of the water and the city. It was a nice, sunny day. I would hate to attempt to walk it when it was raining because I imagine it would be pretty slick.

I saw some pictures of the soldiers who died while defending the city from Serbian and Montenegrin attackers in the early 90’s. It made my heart ache. The men were so young. Some the age I am now. Others born in the same year as I and killed in 91. It is like we were the same age, and I was in my senior year of high school dreaming of getting out of Moses Lake, and they were defending their homeland and killed in duty. And they would have been 40 this year. During the walking tour of the city, our guide was saying how his parents harbor some deep feelings against Serbians and that they would never go to Serbia, while he had no problems going there.

Sonia and I parted for a short while as she shopped, and I went to sit by the water and think about some things. While I was walking to these rocks, I rounded a corner in time to see an older, overweight, European guy in a Speedo do a cannon ball into the sea. He then created a major splash that hit the guy who was innocently sitting there trying to enjoy the sun. My eyes are still traumatized by what I saw. I just do not think men and Speedos mix together very well. I saw a person who may or may not have been the same person later walking around with no shame with his shirt pulled over his belly and in offending Speedos, searching for a place to dry off. Have you no decency man!

Anyway I settled on the rocks by the water for 90 minutes or so thinking and writing and reading. I plan on doing this a lot in Venice. I normally have a State of LTB reflection time during my trip so this is a good start. There were some local guys behind me. One of them came up and asked me where I was from and wanted to take a picture with me. Then another of them came up and told me if I needed help finding anyplace he could help me. Keep this in mind for later in my post.

I went to a cafe to get some water and use the toilet and the guy working there asked me where I was from. When I said Seattle, he got super excited. He was like I know Seattle. Super Sonics! He then went on for a few minutes how much he liked Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. He asked me if I had ever seen them in the city so I told him about the time I saw Shawn Kemp at a party. This was actually a scary moment in my life because he was standing in the shadows so I did not see him right away. I kind of felt someone behind me and almost screamed when I saw a big guy coming out of shadows. But I digress.

One of my travel mates loaned me a book called the Best American Travel Writing. One of the stories was called A Moving Experience. It talked about making connections with people. As people share their travel adventures, they are sharing a highlight reel. They sell their trip on what was good about it. Unless they are going for another angle, which is saying how horrible it was. So for me for example. I have traveled with friends, on my own, and on my own with a tour group. When on my own, I may not mention the times of loneliness I may feel while being on my own for two weeks with limited contact. With tours, I can sometimes hangout with other tour mates. So this is why making those connections are so important. So for example, when I was in Santorini, I went into this store to buy some water. Since I tend to be more open and friendly when traveling, I gave the guy a big smile and and said hi to him. He then refused to take my money and was like with a smile like that, you do not pay. A small connection.

So after I met back up with Sonia, we were walking back into the Old City to try to find a restaurant. This guy stopped me and was like where you sitting by the rocks earlier. I was like, uh…yeah. Then he was like and there were all these guys behind you. I was like yeah. He was like I saw you. I was on the wall, and I was jealous of those guys. He then asked me if I would go on a date with him. I was kind of like huh. The rest of the conversation was a blur. I ended up saying no, which I think was the right thing to do, but now I am starting to think why not.

My more practical side says he is a local who probably hangs out picking up women traveling through the city because some people travel and have a good time. The other part of me is like why not have gone out to coffee with the guy and just accepted it for what it was at that moment. Because to be honest, I am not sure what I would have been signing up for or what he was expecting or what his agenda was. And maybe there was no agenda just an interest in someone he found attractive. So what do you think? Should I have said yes? He was cute. Probably late 40’s. Meanwhile in Seattle, I cannot get a date to save my life.

To quote Molly Ringwald as Samantha in Sixteen Candles, ˝Unbelievable. Donger’s here for five hours, and he’s got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I’m like a disease.˝

Oh. Sonia and I ended up going to the New Harbor again and walking some more. Then we had dinner.

The Journey to Dubrovnik

The journey to Dubrovnik was very scenic. The coast is so very amazing, and yes I keep using that word. Amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Unreal.

The thing I found most interesting was that there is a portion of the coast that is actually part of Bosnia so we had to cross the border into Bosnia and then what felt like a five-minute drive later, cross the border back into Croatia.We also made a stop, so technically I have been to Bosnia! LOL. Part of the rule is that your feet have to touch the ground and you have to leave the airport or train station to count.

Once we got to the hotel, Sonia and I met and took a bus to the New Harbor to go in search of a camera. We walked along the New Harbor for a second then took the bus to the Old City. OMG. I am in love! I cannot wait to explore more. I can see why Rick Steves likes this place so much. It kind of reminded me of Lucerne in that it does not appear to be real.

My big decision is whether to use Saturday as a free day or join the trip to Montenegro. When I feel I could see a lot tomorrow, I know I could see more in two days and not be so rushed. I could also just chill out. The other side is will I ever plan to take a trip to Montenegro outside of this? Big question mark. I need to decide tomorrow. We will see. I would not mind just walking down to the sea and just being for a few minutes.

Split

The North Winds blow at odd places, but our local guide said they bring good luck so to make a wish. I am learning to be careful what I wish for, because I might just get it!

So the highlight of Split was certainly Diocletian´s Palace! Diocletian was a Roman emperor who was born near Split. He joined the Roman military and made his way up the ranks. He assassinated his predecessor, so there you go. Diocletian was the first Roman emperor to retire, and he had his palace built to be both a luxury palace and military fortress. He was the emperor who the one who divided the empire among for emperors, which may or may not have been the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire. His palace was quite amazing.

He was not very popular. For example, he wanted a bust made of himself so he offered gold to the artist who made the best bust. What he did not say was that he was going to chop off the hands of the artists who made busts he did not like. So about 100 artists last their hands before he found one he liked.

He also hated Christians, and he had them killed in masses. It is very ironic that Constantine, his successor, legalized Christianity and made it the official religion of the empire.

Diocletian´s wife and daughter converted to Christianity, and he had them killed, which made people hate him even more. So, when he died, things did not go as he planned.

Looters came and built homes on the top floor of his palace. The descendants of those people still live in those homes today though many of them are falling apart. Keep in mind the palace is 1700 years old. They also took his body from the mausoleum he had built for himself and throw his body in the sea. They also turned his mausoleum into the Cathedral of St. Dominus. His Jupiter Temple was turned into St. John´s Baptistery.

Parts of seasons four and five of Game of Thrones were filmed in the city. I was in the room of the scene of Game of Thrones were Daenerys locked her dragons. It was cool! I enjoyed the palace as well as the Cathedral, which has some really cool doors, the Baptistery, and the Crypt. The Crypt has a statue of Saint Lucia. There are papers with prayers and letters of thanks, so I added a letter of thanks. There was also a note written in a foreign language that had a pink pin, one that would be used for a cloth diaper. It made me wonder about the person who left that letter. Was the letter a letter of thanks for the safe arrival of a little girl after years of trying? Was it a letter asking for a child? Whatever, a special prayer for whoever wrote the letter.

Our local guide said that some of the older people are having a hard time adjusting to capitalism and miss communism. I suppose because things were more guaranteed. I must say I find the communist architecture I have seen here and in Poland very depressing and without character.

I also went to their tiny Jewish Ghetto. The synagogue, which is the third-oldest practicing synagogue in Europe, was closed. I tend to try to find the Jewish Ghettos when I travel. I remember in Venice and Ostia Antica how far I had to walk to get to them. The Jewish population in Split came from Portugal and Spain during the reigns of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon and the Spanish Inquisition.

I also really enjoyed their market. It was very alive and bustling. Probably the most bustling and lively I have seen. Their seaside pedestrian promenade was also nice as well as a couple of squares I came across.

Oh, and there is a statue of Bishop Gregory of Nin whose toe you rub and make a wish. One person called it rubbish, I called it fun.

The Journey to Split: Rain/Wind, Sleet/Snow, Sun

When I was sitting on the waterfront in Opatija, I was looking at the water thinking that it looked like a storm was coming in. After a while, I began to wonder why I was just sitting there waiting knowing something was coming. As I was walking home, it started to sprinkle. By the time I blogged and got ready to go to bed, the sky opened up. It was a windy, rainy night that was kind of peaceful in a weird way.

The journey to Split was quite the whirlwind of weather.

To start out, it was raining very hard, and it was windy. The bus was shaking. We stopped in Sjern for a quick break, and I realized that it did not matter where I was on the Croatian coast. The Adriatic Sea is just so amazing. No matter the city, all you have to do is just sit and enjoy the water. What a peaceful way to spend a few days! I almost got blown away trying to capture the place.

We passed through some mountains on the way to Split. At first, it was kind of cool to see traces of snow along the road. Then I noticed that it was snowing. By the time we hit our next stop, it was snowing! It was pretty and unexpected! And whenever I drive through mountains, I think of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings!

Anyway when we got out of the mountains it was sunny and warm! So it was quite the confusing weather day, which ended beautifully with me taking layers off and being hot.

One of the couples on the trip is celebrating the 50th anniversary of meeting. They said they celebrate that anniversary more than their wedding. They will be married 50 years in August (they got married fast they said). The advice they give young couples is the first 49 years are the hardest.

We stopped in Zadar on the way. I hung out with Sonia, and we had enough time to visit the ruins of the Roman forum and grab some gelato. I may need a gelato intervention when I return. I now remember that Italy is the one vacation I did not lose weight during despite walking for hours each day. The seafront in Zadar was so very amazing. Absolutely beautiful. I could sit for hours with a book or notebook/pen. Stunning! There was also some beautiful buildings with a definite Austria-Hungary empire influence.

We had a group dinner, and there was a local group who performed for us. For the first time ever, I did the chicken dance. I have seen it on TV, but I never had a chance to do it live. It was actually quite fun. The band also played songs like Yesterday and Proud Mary, and it was fun to sing along.

Opatija and Beyond

Today was quite the day. I was originally going to hangout in Opatija all day on my own. After really looking at my trusty Rick Steves´ guidebook, I realized I could do all I wanted here in a few hours plus get some time to just soak it up. So I decided to do the Istria Peninsula trip. I am very glad I did because I had a great time and enjoyed some fabulous spots. I also spent time with another tour mate named Sonia who is from Toronto. She´s good people.

So the first stop was Pula. My buddy Rick recommends giving Pula two to three hours to see the sights. I agree, though I liked the place enough to want to spend some chill time there. The first stop was the Amphitheater. It was pretty impression and is the sixth largest Roman amphitheater. It´s supposed to be one of the best preserved. There is a small part it took workers five years to clean. The local guide joked that it was because her culture takes two to three, two hour breaks everyday.

On a side note, I really love meeting local guides. They have so much interesting history outside of the history books. For example, Nada mentioned things from her early years at certain locations, which brings the area more to life. As a kid, of course the amphitheater would be a big playground. She also mentioned that her grandfather, father, herself, and her kids were all born in Pula. But her grandfather was born when it was part of  Austria. Her dad was born when it was part of Italy. She was born when it was part of Yugoslavia, and her kids were born as it is now, Croatia. A lot of change for one region over the last decades.

I will actually be going to a history lecture series about the Great War as part of the UW Alumni History Lecture Series. My mind is drawing a blank of the names of the leaders who divided ˝Eastern Europe˝ after WWI, but whoever they were, they did a bad job, but I digress.

Anyway, the amphitheater did not disappoint. Pictures will not do it justice. After that, Sonia and went for a walk, which I discovered ended up being the self-guided tour laid out by Rick Steves. The parts I liked the most were the Forum, which included the Temple of Augustus. There was also the Arch of Sergius, which Michelangelo loved. All in all I enjoyed strolling in the alleys and back alleys of the Old Town. It is probably bad, but I really only have an interest in the old part of cities. There was also a nice market with a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Oh, I did not learn until on the way here how much olive growing is done here.

We stopped for lunch in Rovinj. I had a pretty heavy breakfast so I skipped lunch all together and opted to walk around. I like their Old Town. I took some pictures that I believe capture the essence. I wanted to walk up to the Church of St. Euphemia, which is believed to contain the relics of St. Euphemia. There is also a bell tower, which I decided to walk up the 192 stairs to. I was a little hesitant after seeing the somewhat narrow wood steps, but I made it without incident and was rewarded with some beautiful views of the city and the sea. After that, I wandered around the Old Town some more. There was a nice market.

Rovinj and Pula are both places with good vibes. It was also pretty easy to capture the history there in a short time.

We also stopped in Porec, which was just okay. I was able to see the Euphrasian Basilica, which also had a museum and a bell tower that I walked up with Sonia. Good views. I figure this is good training as I need to get in shape for when I walk the Seattle Half Marathon in November. The basilica was cool and had some nice Byzantine mosaics. The Old Town there was okay. I think Rick Steves´ may have had some influence because he was not impressed.

Then we arrived back in Opatija. I took the time to walk along the water, which was very peaceful. I also sat and cleared my head for a while. The water makes a very beautiful lapping sound as it hits the rocks. I wanted to see a statue called Greetings to the Sea, which is of a woman surrounded by seagulls. I was able to see it, but it was dark so my attempts at pictures were no good. I basically hit up the waterfront beach called Slatina and the promenade called Lungamore. I caught a small part of the Angialina Park. It was very nice. This city is beautiful and peaceful. I will add it to Lucerne, Venice, and Santorini as possible honeymoons spots. I also have the ring, dress, and bridesmaids’ dresses picked out – smile.

Oh, and we passed by a fjord, which was amazing. I think my first time seeing an area that was actually referred to as a fjord.

And Opatija has some pretty amazing architecture. There are some really nice villas. Anyway the place is just amazing. Somewhere worth coming back to. I did want to see the Abbey of St. James but it was closed when I got there.

That is all for now. I will edit later!