08.11.2012 - 26.11.2012 18 °C
Warning this is a long post with nearly a hundred photos. We took a lot pictures but loaded just the best one's.
Croatia was settled in the early 7th Century by Croats. It became a Kingdom around 925 A.D. and Tomislav (which also is the name of a tasty dark lager) became the country's first King. The Kingdom of Croatia retained its sovereignty for almost two hundred years. Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1100's. The next 700 hundred years after this Croatians and their land were in and out of conflicts with Hungary and Austria through Feudalism and the Ottoman wars. In 1918, after World War I, Croatia was included in the short-lived State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs which seceded from Austria–Hungary and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After World War II Croatia became a founding member of Second Yugoslavia, a socialist state. In June 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, Croatia declared independence, which came into effect on 8 October of the same year. The Croatian War of Independence was fought successfully during the four years following the declaration.
That war was a lot more complex than just "fought successfully" but some of you might remember it and for all of those involved I mean no disrespect for not going into greater detail.
Jannelle and I took a ferry all night from Ancona, Italy to Split, Croatia on the 8th of November. We had planned on staying a week maybe two max. Three weeks later we are in Budapest. Saying we enjoyed our time there would be an understatement! I don't know where to start talking about the things we loved about this old, but newly declared country. I'll start with the way we seen it first! Sunrise on the city of Split coming over some decent sized mountains that look similar to Rocky's but half the size. It was a beautiful morning with the temperature around 18 degrees for the day.
The water is so clear that you can see to the bottom (10 to 20 feet) of all the coast line we walked around. People would fish right along the harbor but really you could just watch the schools of fish swimming and I think you would just need a net to catch all you wanted! The water is so blue that again, I have to make a Rocky Mountain reference to give you some idea...think Peyto Lake but clear! Life revolves around the sea, along the coast and I would say most of Croatia in general. Fishing boats and big sail boats with ferries coming and going all day long, servicing some of the over 1000 islands in the Adriatic Sea. Islands like Hvar, which was voted one of the 10 most beautiful in the world!
We went to a hostel about a 5 minute walk from the Old Town as most locals call it. Also known as Diocletian's Palace which was built around the 4th century. He was a Roman emperor that retired from his busy life in Rome seeking solitude along what was then the province of Dalmatia. The complex is massive and still being used to this day! It's right on the coast and it full of restaurants and hotels and boutique's.
This brings me to another point that I would like to make about some of our parents and uncle's and auntie's maybe coming here for a vacation. I know I would want to retire here. Maybe we can all chip in and buy a yacht together, trust me you would not be disappointed and with all those islands so close which are mostly uninhabited, pardise is never far!
The exchange is kn5.87 Kuna to $1 Dollar Canadian. Picture how big of a house that might buy! Shannon and Brodie your rich, and the same for Roy and Michelle, your loaded lets go in together and buy house there ....
We met the nicest and sweetest 3 girls in the Hostel where we stayed. Ivana, Marta and Suzana in that order, our stay in Split felt more like hanging with friends then actually travelling on our own. They are partly to blame for the extended stay not only in Split but Croatia as a whole. Thanks girls if your reading this!
After our extended stay with our new friends we decided it was time to go for a drive along the coast so we rented another car (go-kart) and off we went, but this time the steering wheel and the other cars were on the familiar side to me! The highway's are in excellent shape here and along the coast they twist and turn the whole way! I think Leonard and Paul and a pair of Harley's would be in order, and chances are we would never see them again.
We stopped about every 10 to 20 kilometers just to soak in the view and eventually we came to the Bosnian border. We had heard about this town called Mostar which was only about 30 kilometers into the country and decided we should go for a visit. This place had been under heavy artillery and gunfire during the war and some of the buildings were still pock-marked from bullets. It is famous for this pretty little bridge that runs though the center of town. It was getting late by this time and so our visit was short.
The orange stands were along the highway as we got close to the town Metkovic. A big full bag is around what we would pay for a few at home. (maybe less) and they we're everywhere!
We drove back and stayed in Split for a couple more days then decided to leave for Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik spreads out along the very southern tip of Croatia and is famous for their Old Town which is surrounded by very high walls. This is another UNESCO world heritage site and is known as one of the best medieval walled cities in the world. It is said that at one point it rivaled Venice with its wealth and skilled diplomacy. There are no cars in this small town just steps and more steps. If you have never been to a city like this (Venice, Dubrovnik, Hvar) where there are no roads really going though town, you should try to experience it. In Europe, most drivers are trying to run you over so its nice to get a break from looking both ways, twice, maybe three times! I wonder what Asia will be like? Plus it is so quiet.
During the war it received heavy damage from significant shelling by the Serb forces which lasted around 7 months. The city has set up a hall of hero's for all the men that gave their life fighting for Dubrovnik.
If your wondering what all those locks are on the green fence, it's couple's either engraving their names or writing with marker on them then locking it and I'm guessing throwing the key into the water below. Lame...
We first seen this on Charles Bridge in Prague.
Jannelle's sweet apple pose...
Those are lemons trees in the middle of town.
There is so many side alley's and doorways in the old town it's like a giant maze and you feel like your in the movie Labyrinth. Just waiting for David Bowie to pop out and break into song. We walked though a tiny door and on the other side was this great view!
This next picture is of a brand new stainless steel hole in the floor...who needs a sit down toilet? There a always a brush close by in case you miss.
Don't laugh this was the same in the Vatican City public washrooms....I guess only God sits on the Throne?
We stayed in Dubrovnik for three days and then made are way north again which bought us back to Split one last time. We climbed a big hill just off to the side of Split and got some great views of the city and surrounding landscape.
We said good-bye one last time to our friends at the hostel and off too Zadar we went. Zadar is further north and quite a bit smaller than Split.
We heard about this thing called the Sea Organ (from Suzana) that sits right along the coast in Zadar. The Sea Organ is a series of pipes that sit underneath the steps of the promenade that uses the waves to push the air into a resonating cavity, thus making noise. The bigger the waves get, the louder and fuller the organ becomes. This is one of the coolest idea's and to top it off, they have another original site right beside the organ called "Salute to the Sun." What it looks like is a giant circular disco floor powered by solar panels witch are in-laid into the ground. It turns out that it is a very close to scale replica of the Sun with the other eight planets also to scale, following in correct order and relative distance. I loved the sea organ and the disco floor but upon realizing that's it a scale model of the solar system it made it one of the best things I've seen so far. We have video and will try and post it here but if you want try You-Tubeing "Zadar Sea Organ" and watch some of the video's.
If you look at the girls standing right by side the big circle. Just under there feet you can kinda make out some spots. That's Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
We also happened to be in Zadar during the home-coming of a famous General called Ante Gotovina. There was much celebration upon his release and another General by the name of Mladen Markac. There was a party pretty much country wide in Croatia on November 16th and we could hear the horns all day long, there were also fireworks that night in Split. Gotovina was from a town near Zadar and so they invited him to speak in the old town square as part of his tour home. Our hotel just happened to be right in that square and the day started off with a small Marching Band playing below our window somewhere around 7:00 in the morning. Here is some of that day!
I asked some local's why this was such a big deal for Croatians? "It feels like the war is finally over" said a girl that we met on our last night there. Croatians seem ready to celebrate any time and will do so with grand style. You get the feeling of just how much pride they have for their country and why shouldn't they. They fought for it and it's certainly beautiful. The wounds are now just scars and people are trying to make the best of their situations. The reminder of what it takes to have a home and homeland are still fresh in their minds and thats why they'll pop a cork to just about anything!
It was awesome to watch the celebration and to be a small part of that day!
The hotel guest manager noticed us taking picture's and she decided to "upgrade" our accommodations. This was easily the nicest room we stayed in to date, and it was free the first night and it costed the same as our original four bed dorm the second night! This rooms goes for around $154 Canadian a night in the off season. It was one of the nicest hotel rooms with the best view I have ever stayed in.
Jannelle's feet are the little one's on the right!
I would like to end by saying Croatians really were friendly and engaging. Most of them spoke English and always did there best to help us. I know that's the real reason we stayed as long as we did. They were kind and very giving right up until the last person on the train. I can say with a great deal of certainty that Jannelle and I will be back there some day, hopefully soon!