|LandShark and the Prius (tucked behind) waiting to roll onto the Marko Polo.|
|Vincent had to back LandShark onto the ferry. Not much clearance given with the slope of the ramp and LandShark's tail. I remembered earlier in the trip when Vince ruled out ferries because one had to "back on"; well here he was doing it!|
|And Vincent reverses LandShark perfectly into a very narrow spot.|
|Can you notice the happy expression of relief on Vincent's face, that he's no longer behind the wheel in LandShark?|
Our destination, Camping Split (~€23/nt, with the winter long-term discount), turned out to be only a few kilometers from the port and so we arrived before 08:00 and before the office even opened. (The campground is not actually in Split, but is in Stobreč, a small town just on the southern edge of Split.) Vincent and I walked around the campground and found it to be very nice. The owners were undergoing many improvements and, when done, would be outstanding. The campground itself sits right on the beach overlooking the Adriatic Sea and so I could imagine it being extremely popular in the spring, summer and fall. But here we were in winter and there was only one other motorhome at the campground, which had over 200 pitches. The main reason Vincent picked Camping Split was because they advertised "water, electricity and chemical waste deposit at the pitch". When we looked around however, none of the pitches had on-site waste disposal. There must be a problem with English translation because we faced the same issue at Roma Camping Village. Nevertheless, with further search, we did find one pitch which would be big enough for LandShark where we could reach the chemical waste deposit with an extension added to our waste hose. The office manager thought we were a little odd in our choice since it was the furthest pitch from the restaurant and showers but we found a solution where I wouldn't have to deal with taking in slides and moving LandShark to dump tanks while Vince and Paul were away.
That afternoon, Vincent and I drove into Split to look around. Our main mission was to find a bookstore and find a Croatian phrase book/dictionary. I didn't know a word of Croatian and I couldn't assume I'd get by speaking English. Vincent had ordered some language material that he'd pick up when he and Paul went back to California but for the next couple weeks, I had nothing. I noticed on-line that Split is the home to the third oldest book store in Europe so we set the GPS to that location and off we went. The kids all decided to stay in LandShark; Paul and James would study and Sarah was happy playing at the various playgrounds.
|Archaeological research suggests that Split dates back to the 4th century BC when it was the Greek colony of Aspálathos. The "old town" of Split today is absolutely lovely. Palm trees line the promenade that overlooks the Adriatic Sea.|
|Looking through a Diocletian Palace wall passageway out to the sea.|
|Statue of Marko Marulić (1450-1524) who was a nobleman and Croatian national poet: Because of his law practice and serving as a judge, he became the most distinguished person of the humanist circle in Split.|
|Cathedral of St Domnius.|
|The old town pedestrian walkways are beautiful, all lined in travertine.|
|Here, we took a break at the Trg Republike to enjoy a bit of the afternoon sun. The sea can (barely) be seen at the end of the piazza.|
|A view from the campground diving platform.|
On January 20th, Vincent and Paul finished packing and then Vincent drove LandShark to a nearby petrol station to fill up the LPG. With the warmer weather I was hopeful that we could get through the 12 days on one tank. At 13:30, I drove Vincent and Paul to the Split airport. It had a new, modern terminal building which seemed rather large for the 7 flights that depart each day. I expect there are a lot more flights coming through in the summer and perhaps, with Croatia just joining the EU in 2013, the airport planners were anticipating higher a volume of traffic in the coming years.
On the return drive, I noticed signage for a Cineplex and so took a detour and followed signs to Split's "City Center One" mall. I parked and went inside to find a very modern shopping mall that included a Cineplex theater. As luck would have it, foreign movies in Croatia are shown in the original language with Croatian subtitles. (But animated movies are dubbed because children generally can't read as fast as the dialogue is projected, so Sarah would be out of luck.) I took a look at what was playing and made plans to return that evening and catch a film.
On January 21st, James, Sarah and I went into Split. We walked around the old town, looked at a couple book stores and walked along the harbor. We also tried some pastries at a couple of bakeries. Being off-season, there really isn't a lot to do. There is only one children's museum in all of Croatia and it just opened in October 2013 in Rijeka which is about 400 km from Split. I suspect any museum we do get into will be low tech with little English translation so probably won't be a crowd-pleaser for kids.
On January 22nd, Sarah, James and I drove to the Krka National Park which was just about an hour's drive from Split. While the various boat trips at the park wouldn't be running, there was a walking trail that had good reviews. Off season my entrance fee was only 20 kunar (10 kunar for children) whereas in high season entry would be 90 kunar. I'm so glad we went because the educational trail was on a wooden walkway, much of it over rapids. I'd never been on a path like it. It was fabulous. Someone on-line wrote, "Be prepared to take lots of photographs". They were right. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.
|Driving down to the Skradinski Buk trail, one is treated to breathtaking views of the Krka River. It is 73 km (45 mi) long and its source is near the Croatia/Bosnia and Herzegovina border at the foot of the Dinara mountain.|
|Beginning of the trail: Who is going to push whom into the water?|
|The trail around Skradinski Buk is just under 2 km long.|
|It must have been challenging constructing this walkway over the rapids and falls.|
|The waterfalls were created by travertine barriers, islands and lakes.|
|Krka National Park stands out for its exceptional wealth of flora and fauna. To date, 860 plant species and subspecies have been identified in the park area.|
|The Krka River is important for the spring and autumn bird migrations. Due to the number of species found here, this is one of Europe's foremost ornithological areas.|
|Our beach front.|
|Breathtaking in every direction.|
The Klis fortress is one of the more significant fortifications in Croatia, due to its strategic defense location. The Klis fortress was used for the last time for military purposes during WWII from April 1941 to 1944 as a stronghold of Italian and German occupation forces.
|The big attraction to the Klis Fortress is the view it affords. In this direction, Solin is down below.|
|The Fortress is mainly ruins now. There's a modest entry fee of 20 kuna for adults and 10 kuna for children. The earliest records of the Fortress are from the 10th century and state that the Fortress was held by the Romans who were employing it to fend off the Avars and Slavs.|
|One needs to tread carefully here: Uneven surfaces and no guard rails.|
|Church of St Vid which was built sometime before the Turks invaded Klis.|
|A view of Split below.|
|This is not the place to have children running around unsupervised. Look at this edge and the sheer drop below. No guard rail, nothing.|
On January 25th, we drove to Omiš which is about 25 km south of Split. We drove right along the coastline and what spectacular views. The color of the water was that gorgeous aqua hue and I envied the owners of the sailboats we saw moored along the way.
|Coastline on the drive towards Omiš.|
|The Cetina River: It's source is in the northwestern slopes of the mountain Dinara and it flows a distance of 105 km to the Adriatic Sea.|
|Starting the ascent up the mountain to find a fortress.|
|We drove up past the village of Podaspilje. It would be tough "running out of milk" up here; a trip to the grocery store is kind of a big deal.|
|We drove up the mountain on the opposite side of Omiš hoping to come across a fortress. This was a "white knuckle" drive for James. We did apparently drive by the Visuc Fortress (or a sign for it) but didn't see anything.|
|Fortress Mirabella: It can be seen from the center of town but we just couldn't find a way up there either.|
|Driving north back to Stobreč, I had to pull over and try to catch this moment.|
|It's silly, but Sarah liked it. Essentially, one bounces up and down, like riding a horse, and the pony scoots forward. It was even possible to steer. Don't know why I hadn't seen these in North America.|
|Photo of the Obala Bana Berislavica (loosely translated Berislavica Quay).|
|Church of St Dominic dates from the 15th century.|
|The Kamerengo Fortress: It was erected soon after 1420, when Trogir became part of the Republic of Venice, in order to protect the sea channel and the port of Trogir.|
|A street in the old town, currently completely empty. I imagine it's packed in the summer.|
|Cathedral of St Lawrence: While there are several churches in Trogir, the Cathedral of St Lawrence is the main attraction. It is a triple-naved basilica and the current building was begun in 1213 and finally finished in the 17th century.|
|The trail alongside the Zrnovnica River is walking distance from Camping Split and makes for a nice outing; it's flat so is good for joggers and (non-ambitious) walkers.|
|The river is about the same width for a couple miles inland (and perhaps beyond) and underwent some man-made development at some point in its history.|
|James trying to convince Molly to go on the bridge for the photo op, but Molly just wasn't going to have anything to do with being suspended over water.|
In case I missed anything in my searches online, I asked the woman at the front office if there was anything for kids to do in rainy weather. She did some research for me and concluded there wasn't much, short of a photography exhibit in Split. So I decided to make use of the day and do laundry while the kids finished homework and then started watching movies. When the laundry was done, we moved into our cabin and had the luxury of being able to turn the heat up to 30 degrees C. We had access to cable television but only had news channels in English. Nevertheless, it was nice to catch up on some current happenings.
January 29th was expected to be the one dry day before a number of rainy days so I decided that we should take a ferry to the nearest island, Brač. The Jadrolinje ferry goes back and forth between Split and Supetar (the main town on Brač, with population of about 3,350) about 5 times a day in the winter and the trip takes about 50 minutes. It's a very picturesque journey and I could imagine it being very popular in the summer. But on January 30th, there were only about 30 of us traveling over (and about 50 returning later that day).
|Leaving the Split harbor.|
|Arriving in Supetar.|
|Church of the Annunciation: The present church was built in 1887 but other churches have resided on this location. The first was the Basilica of St Peter, (the English translation for Supetar), that dates back to at least the 6th century.|
|The 6th century mosaics found on this wall outside of the Church of the Annunciation are the only things that remain from the earlier Basilica of St Peter.|
|Inside the Church of the Annunciation, which is advertised as the "main attraction" of Supetar.|
|Church of the Annunciation altar.|
After lunch, we walked along the waterfront towards the cemetery, St Nicholas Church and Petrinovic Mausoleum (all located together), which are described as the second highlights of Supetar.
|A view of mainland Croatia over the Brač Channel. Notice the beautiful snow-capped mountains.|
|Close-up of the entrance to the mausoleum.|
|Many of the grave markers and tombstones in the cemetery were created by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Rendić (1849-1932). Ivan Rendić, himself, is also buried here.|
|Beyond the cemetery can be seen a Jadrolinje ferry coming into port; that would be our ride back to Split.|
|Returning to Split, this time with the sun shinning on the old town.|
|The Croatians must love their corn flakes. Ten or so different brands?|
On the evening of January 31st, I picked Vincent and Paul up at the Split airport. With 2 layovers, it was a very long trip. They flew through Dusseldorf and then via Rome. When they landed in Dusseldorf and were going through the Immigration check, the officer challenged Vince on re-entering Europe, observing that Vincent and Paul had recently already been in the Schengen zone for close to 60 days. This was just a good reminder that it's important to know your rights because the border control agent one's up against might not have all the facts. Vincent was asked how long he was staying in Europe and he said for another 5 months but added that he'd be leaving the Schengen zone later today. The agent asked to where he was going and Vincent replied, "Croatia". The agent then replied that, "Croatia is part of the EU" to which Vincent replied, "Yes it is, but it is not part of the Schengen treaty". The agent was caught off-guard by this fact and asked another agent to verify who replied that Vincent was correct. In the end, Vince and Paul were let through.
February 1st, was a rainy day and so we generally spent it at the campground. Paul and Vincent had to unpack and stow their luggage. James and I had to dump tanks and then we had to close up the slides so that Vincent could drive LandShark to refill the LPG. I also spent some more time fine-tuning a plan for the next 5 months.
On February 2nd, I needed to escape the campground and so I talked Vince, Sarah and James into driving into Split for lunch. Paul was still suffering from jetlag. It was overcast and misty but the rain was holding off. We parked at our usual place down by the harbor and walked into the old town. With the exception of the odd cafe/bar, everything was closed. I have to comment here that the Croatians love their cafe/bars; it seems there are about 4 cafe/bars for every restaurant and none of these cafe/bars sell food. (Just another reason why it's tough to find anyone overweight in this country.) Within the town walls, we did find one restaurant, De Belly, which was open and so we went in. It was surprisingly good and we thought we should return back there instead of the campground restaurant, when we could.
After lunch, we wandered around the old town and then along the water front.
|We found Split's narrowest street, Pusti Me Da Prodjem (Let Me Pass street), located adjacent to the Temple of Jupiter. Incidentally it is supposedly the narrowest street in all of Europe.|
|A nun opening the gates to the Diocletian Mausoleum/St Dujam Cathedral.|
|The Cathedral of St Dujam is the smallest cathedral in the world and claims to also be the oldest one.|
|Here we are again at the trail starting point. James described the Krka walk to Paul and Vincent.|
|Vincent and Paul both really enjoyed the trail. Vincent was really slow as he was taking lots of photos with his new camera. Now I know what it's like sightseeing with me; I'm always the one dragging behind trying to get a good shot.|
|Walking above the Skradinski Buk. The water moves at an average flow of 55 cubic meters of water per second.|
|That's James down on the bridge at the foot of the Skradinski Buk. He wanted to get back to the car and his new Kindle that Vincent brought back to him from the US.|
|Vincent and Paul at the foot of the Skradinski Buk, which is the longest waterfall on the Krka River.|
|As we left the Park, I took a last look at the Krka River.|
On February 5th, everyone was getting pretty cranky. Not having a strict agenda the last several days was taking its toll. I though everyone needed to get some exercise so we opted to take a hike in the hills/mountains above Podstrana, the town south of Stobreč.
|Starting our ascent.|
|Fantastic view of Podstrana, Stobreč and Split below.|
|It was a good trail for novice hikers and, while the steep climb was tough, the views were rewarding.|
|The boys made it to the summit. A small chapel and altar, made out of stone, were at the top.|
|The view from the summit.|
|And turning 180 degrees, this was the view at the summit looking inland.|
|It never developed into one of those spectacular sunsets so I had to settle for this.|
|Vincent assured me there was salad under that heap of grilled meat and fries.|
|James helping to load up the Prius. I sure hoped it could handle the weight of the 5 of us plus luggage and the demands of mountainous terrain.|
Our first airbnb apartment was just as advertised and the very nice host gave us a map of the city plus recommended sights to see. Once we were settled, we set out to walk to the old town, about a half kilometer away. It was all downhill walking there, which meant the return home would be all uphill. It looked like we'd be getting some much needed exercise here. We were all struck by how beautiful the old part of Dubrovnik is. It's clearly the crown jewel of Croatia and some coin it as the pearl of the Adriatic.
|We walked by the Minceta tower on our way down into the old town.|
|Once we walked through the city walls, we were treated to this enchanting view of the old town.|
On February 7th, we woke to clear skies and so it was a good day to go out and explore Dubrovnik. We set out for the old town.
After lunch we went to walk along the city walls, which is the #1 thing to do when visiting Dubrovnik. It cost 100 kuna (~$20) for adults and 30 kuna (~$6) for kids to walk the wall. Pretty pricey to walk a 2 km wall. There's that cruise ship influence again.
|Walking down the main street, the Stradun (also known as the Placa).|
|Serbian Orthodox Church, built between 1865 - 1877.|
|Close-up of the arch detail at the Rector's Palace.|
|Cathedral of Annunciation of St. Mary.|
|A more understated entrance to the old town with a statue of St Blaise above.|
|A view of the old harbor from the city walls.|
|Walking along the walls, one edges around the perimeter of the old town below.|
|Looking down the main promenade, the Stradum (Paca).|
|Fort St Lawrence: A fort has stood here since early in the 11th century. It also serves as a theatre.|
|With the view of Fort St Lawrence behind you, this is the view of the wall against the Adriatic Sea.|
|With a date tree to the left, this view shows the island of Lokrum to the right.|
|Most locals dry their laundry on lines outside their windows. This resident has also found it a good way to dry dishes.|
|Nearing the end of our walk around the wall: In general, with the exception of some uneven and steep steps, it's a pretty easy 2 km.|
|Lots of minute details can be found on the builds around the old town.|
|The Ploce Gate: Notice the beautiful stone detail on the bridge. Another statue of St Blaise sits above the entrance.|
|The views on top of Mount Srd (412 meters above sea level) are nothing less than stunning.|
The best part of the museum was the series of tv news clips covering the initial attacks on Dubrovnik in September 1991 through December 6, 1991. Despite the information provided being very one sided, it was just another reminder of the senselessness of war. And it was painful watching the Yugoslavian Federalist army bombing and destroying beautiful old Dubrovnik, a UNESCO world heritage site, while the international community did very little to intervene.
|This photo captures what most of the museum is like. The interior of the fort is cave-like including dripping ceilings.|
|After treating ourselves to the cable car ride up Mount Srd, we felt we should walk down.|
|As we walked down Mount Srd, I turned back to take this photo of Fort Imperial.|
|While walking down, we were treated to another dazzling sunset.|
After lunch, Vince and the boys were done with being wet and so returned back to the apartment. As this was our last day in Dubrovnik, I wasn't ready to call it quits yet and so Sarah joined me to return to the old town. Sarah and I hadn't walked for long before I was questioning my decision. Since Dubrovnik is paved in limestone, there was no where for the water to flow; we found ourselves walking in impromptu rivers and, when walking down/up stairs, those rivers became water falls. Our feet were drenched. Nevertheless we made the best of it and Sarah was very happy chatting away about all her plans for when she returns to California. We stopped in a souvenir shop where Sarah bought gifts for two of her cousins and then wandered the streets, taking any street that we hadn't yet explored. Sarah likened the experience to navigating a real life maze, which I think is a good description of the old town (less the hedges).
|The Great Onofrio fountain, built by Onofrio della Cava. It was erected as a celebration of the completion of a new water system in 1438, which thus supplied the city with water from the Dubrovnik River, 12 kilometres away.|
|From left to right, the Palace Sponza, Bell Tower and City Hall and Theatre.|
The next day we would be packing up and moving to Kotor, Montenegro. We read that the scenery along the coast would continue to reward so I was just hoping that the rain would miraculously go away (and maybe come back another day).