Friday, April 25, 2014

Return to Croatia during Spring

On March 30th, we returned to Croatia and Camping Split in Stobreč. It felt like returning home and oddly enough, it was good to be back in LandShark again. The best part of being back was that for two whole days we didn't have to go anywhere, nor did we want to go anywhere. March 31st and April 1st were spent at the campground just hanging out, enjoying the beautiful spring weather and catching up on things. My only outing was a trip to the dentist in Stobreč to check on a tooth that was troubling me and was relieved to find that there was no urgent issue or problem. I would have liked to have gotten caught up with the blog but just couldn't muster up the focus and other diversions easily caught my attention, like watching the kids play tennis with Molly or James and Paul wrestling in the water.
The sweet view from my dentist's office.
"Trying Tennis": It was hard to play tennis when Molly would continually chase, and often catch, the ball thereby halting the game.
Good times.
We had other not-so-fun diversions to accomplish: Dumping tanks and refilling the propane tank, which required tidying up and moving LandShark. Vincent and I also had to relook at our Schengen territory plans as it looked like Poland was "off" due to the apparent poor conditions of the roads in that country. Budapest, Hungary was now "on" and Vincent worked on a plan that would get us up as far as Stockholm by midsummer, but minimize the miles on LandShark; this was not an easy task.

The other diversion on April 1st was our interview with Eric Hemingway who hosts the Family Adventure podcast. Vincent arranged for us to be interviewed. In order to get a wifi connection at the campground and call via Skype, we had to sit in the Prius near the wifi router. It was a less than ideal location given we had a campground security person trying to message us during the call. After the call ended and we were ready to move the Prius back to our campground, Vince couldn't start the car. The battery was dead. This was the second time we killed the battery. Vince found someone at the campground who was able to help jump start our car and then he went out and purchased a bottle as a token of thanks.
Meanwhile 3 hours later, the boys were still at it. Paul's shoes had gotten soaked in the previous round so he had improvised footwear with tea towels covered in plastic bags. I was not pleased about the additions to our laundry that day.
Our brief stay in Stobreč quickly passed and on April 2nd, we were back on the road again to the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. Vincent and Paul would be flying to the US on April 3rd and my Mother would be flying in that same day to spend two weeks with James, Sarah, Molly and me. We arrived at Petros Apartments ($65/night + €12 parking (two different currencies quoted)) after a 4 hour drive (on good Croatian roads). I'm giving Petros Apartments a mention because it was one of, if not the best accommodation, we had stayed at so far during this trip. We got settled and then had a pretty good meal at a neighborhood restaurant called Cro.

April 3rd was spent dropping Vincent and Paul off at Zagreb International, then working on the blog while James did school work and Sarah spent most of the afternoon avoiding home work. Later on, I picked Mother up at the airport and then we all spent the rest of the day catching up with her.

On April 4th, James, Sarah, Mother and I took a taxi to Trg bana Jelačića (named after Ban Josip Jelačić) which is Zagreb's main square in the Gornji Grad (upper old town). Taking a taxi with 4 passengers (30-40 kuna, depending on the driver) was about the same cost as taking a tram or bus and a lot more straightforward. 

We walked across the Trg bana Jelačića and then through the Dolac which is the most visited and the best known farmer's market in Zagreb.
Statue of Josip Jelačić on Trg bana Jelačića: It was originally installed in 1866 by Austrian authorities despite mixed support. He was a 19th century governor who extended citizen's rights and did much to unite the Croats within the Hapsburg Empire. He had a complicated reputation; Jelačić' sided with the Austrians when the Hungarians were trying to take over, as he thought he'd have a better chance at gaining Croatia's independence with the Austrians. As a result, he was considered a national hero in Croatia.
Pretty spring flower arrangements sold at the Dolac (farmers' market) for the equivalent of a dollar or two.
The Dolac with the St Mary's Church clock tower in the background.
We found a restaurant near the market and had lunch and then headed for the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Construction on the original cathedral started in 1093, but the building was destroyed by the Tatars (Turkic people from the territory of the former Russian Empire) in 1242. The current form of this cathedral was completed in 1906.
The cathedral is the tallest building and is truly a exquisite landmark in Zagreb. It is dominated by two neo-Gothic spires. The cathedral is undergoing a major exterior refurbishment.
Many intricate and elegant details on the exterior of the cathedral.
The interior was beautiful. It had been a long time since I'd been in a church that hadn't been destroyed by a recent war and later refurbished (often in a simpler fashion).
Blessed Virgin Mary And Four Angels Fountain located on the square in front of the cathedral. It was built by the Austrian sculptor, Anton Dominick Ritter von Fernkorn in 1873.
After leaving the cathedral, we walked back through the Dolac market, along Tkalčićeva Street, which is the main pedestrian area packed with restaurants and bars. We peaked into the St Francis of Assisi church and then found a park with a small playground for the kids.
The St Francis of Assisi Church was built in the 13th century as part of a Franciscan monastery. Internally, St. Francis is considered one of the most beautiful Franciscan buildings in Central Europe. It is large, but has only one nave. One of the very distinctive and very beautiful elements of the church is the cross-ribbed arched ceiling in deep blue with gold accents.
Close up of the beautiful ceiling.
James and Mother enjoyed catching up while Sarah tried out the saucer swing.
After some time at the park, we then climbed close to 200 steps to reach the Musej Grada Zagreba (City Museum). Many sources point to Zagreb's City Museum as one of the best to visit. It covers the evolution of Zagreb from prehistory to present day. The museum was updated in 1997 and holds many interesting displays. Most aren't engaging enough for kids however; James and Sarah sped through the museum at a fast past. There are some English translations in each room and one can get a feel for the broad strokes concerning how the city evolved and major influencing factors. At this point in our trip, I'd been through many municipal museums and Musej Grada Zagreba rated in the middle of the pack. If more information was translated into English (and other languages) and more effort to appeal to kids, it would be much better. Given it's current state, it wouldn't take a lot to make an average museum into a great one for a larger reach of tourists.
Watch out Mom. That lizard's going to get you!
The master craftsmen of Gradec and Kaptol tended to be migrants from various parts of Austria-Hungary. (Gradec and Kaptol were the medieval sections of Zagreb located on the hill of Gornji Grad.) Typical 18th century crafts tended to be the making of swords, spears, spurs, rifles and clocks (which flourished because of the growing importance of clocks in the household at that time). In the 19th century, goldsmiths and silversmiths emerged.
Beautiful inlaid floor depicting a map of Zagreb in the 19th century section.
Colorfully painted shooting targets can also be found in the 19th century section.
As we got closer to modern day, the scary 1930s era hair perm machine was on display.
After leaving the City Museum, we walked down the Gornji Grad hill and gradually back to Trg bana Jelačića where we caught a taxi back to our Petros apartment.
James and Mother walking through the Stone Gate: It is the eastern gate to the medieval Gradec section of Zagreb.
St George and the dragon statue located by the Stone Gate: The original location of this statue was in Mallnitz, Austria, in front of Villa Liebermann and was given as a gift to Zagreb in 1937.
On April 5th, we woke up to rain and so no one was in a rush to get out of the apartment. With this being our last full day in Zagreb, I thought we had to do something. After lunch we caught a taxi back to Gornji Grad and to the Museum of Broken Relationships; this museum was a refreshing change to the myriad of historical sights we'd visited over the past several months. The Museum of Broken Relationships hosts a number of quirky artifacts, each with its own story of how a relationship ended. The exhibits hit on a range of emotions, many ultimately sad and some pretty funny. As we all have encountered relationships that have gone south, it's a place where one can get drawn in with their own memories. Here are a few sample displays that had brief descriptions and a touch of humor:
"A hamburger toy (2011-12): His dog left more traces behind than he did."
"A wedding gown (2003-10): After big words and little action, he spent more and more time talking and less and less time acting. I paid for it all fair and square: both my wedding gown and his bank loan."
"A champagne cork: I was due to get married on 6th August, 2011, but discovered 6 months ago that my fiance was cheating on me. This is the cork from the champagne I used to celebrate my lucky escape."
After leaving the Museum of Broken Relationships, we strolled through the upper town's charming cobble-stoned streets to see a few more of the popular landmarks and made another pass at the park off of Tkalčićeva Street with the playground. We then went back to Trg bana Jelačića, got a few groceries for dinner and caught a taxi back to Petros Apartments.
St Mark's Church: It's colorful tiled roof, depicting the Croatian, Dalmatian and Slavonian coats-of-arms and also the Zagreb city emblem, makes this Gothic church one of Zagreb's most recognized buildings.
Zagreb is another city where people are trying to launch the "love locks". Here, overlooking Gornji Grad with the St Mary Church tower and the twin spires of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the background.
Tkalčićeva Street: This is where people go for nightlife in Zagreb.
A very cool water display in front of a plumbing fixture shop on Tkalčićeva Street. Not sure how many faucets they sell but I bet every kid that walks by is fascinated by the running tap on display.
On April 6th, we checked out of our Petros apartments and headed for Plitvice National Park. The weather forecast was "supposed" to be good. We arrived however and saw threatening clouds which had opened up not far from us. (When has one seen those and avoided getting wet? Practically never.) I thought (hoped) maybe today would be different. We arrived at "entrance 1", parked and then headed over to the ticket office. I decided to purchase 2-day tickets (only slightly more expensive than 1-day tickets) so that we could take a slower pace since Mother wouldn't be sprinting around the park. The ticket office recommended that we take tour B which would take 3-4 hours and included hiking, an electric boat ride on the lake and a train ride. The hiking, as it was described, didn't seem too much: a 25 minute walk, a 5 minute walk and a 15 minute walk. About 15 minutes into the "25 minute walk", I began to suspect the time estimates were based on quick walkers (even though the ticket agent did specifically categorize these times as "at a slow pace").
Route B started off with this view. We then took a switch-back path down the hill to the lower lakes below.
The various routes through the park are well-marked.

Veliki slap, the Great Waterfall.

Once we reached the water, we walked through the limestone canyon. The gravel path changed to these wooden planked walkways. Unlike the wooden walkways at Krka National Park, these were often rounded and uneven. The challenge for Mother began. Molly was a little freaked by the terrain and rushing water (which she hates) all around her. Oh, and it started to rain.
On a sunny day, we would have spent more time to pause to take in the beauty around us and the crystal clear water.
It was easy to spot fish when one wasn't focused on not tripping and staying upright.
Plitvice National Park is famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. There are about 16 lakes which are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae and bacteria. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm (0.4 in) per year.
After about 45 minutes, we finally reached Jezero Kozjak (the largest of the Plitvice lakes) and the dock to catch the boat across the lake. The rain we had experienced to this point was nothing, mere showers. The skies opened up and the faucet was turned on full. It poured as we waited for the boat to dock and then embarked. 
Here's a shot one won't see in the Plitvice brochures and guide books. I could imagine this being so pretty on a sunny day. It was beautiful in the teaming rain. It was just difficult separating the enchanting environment by the fact that we were all soaked and pretty miserable, including Molly who was trembling. The experience was made worse knowing there was no fast path or ride back to our car at entrance 1.
Prior to the cloud burst, the lake was like a sheet of glass. Not anymore.
After our boat docked, we made the "5 minute" walk to the "panorama train". The 5 minutes was really 15 minutes and all uphill. The panorama train runs along the ridge back towards entrance 1 and supposedly provides breathtaking views of the lakes below. We wouldn't know; the windows were steamed up so much. When we were dropped off, I tried to ask the driver if there was a way to get back to entrance 1 such that Mother wouldn't have to walk any further. He refused to talk with me. Probably so tired of stupid tourists and their stupid questions; maybe he should find another job. Anyway, we surmised the last walk was mostly downhill and fairly smooth terrain. I tried to get Mother to stay put and I'd get the car and drive to pick her up but Mother wouldn't give up. She was going to complete the circuit. And she did. No worse for wear. Well done!
Walking along the ridge of the east side of the canyon, we were rewarded with this view.
On the final walk, one can see the wooden paths from the first segment of route B.
And a last look at the coast-line along which we walked earlier in the day.
We checked into our Petra House (€47) apartment and proceeded to get out of our soaking clothes. Everyone was quite happy to stay in and make due food-wise with cereal, almonds and fruit. Everyone that is, except for Sarah. So she and I went out hoping to purchase something simple to prepare at a food store. We found one and it was closed. Ah yes, Sunday. So we headed to the nearest restaurant. I told Sarah to order something quick and easy, such as soup or salad. We ordered. I ordered vegetable soup. Sarah ordered trout. (Huh?) Oh well. She ate it and enjoyed it. The soup was quite okay too. We returned to the apartment to find that Mother and James had their own bit of drama while we were gone. The host’s Doberman pup had broken in twice, overly enthusiastic to play with Molly. Broken in? Not exactly. Scratched and jumped at the apartment door enough to lower the door handle and open the door. Smart dog. After the second attack, Mother and James matched wits and locked the door.

On April 7th, we woke up to prospects of a much improved day. One couldn’t be confident it wouldn’t rain but the odds looked better than the previous day. I suggested that we go back to Plitvice and try entrance 2 and see if we couldn’t figure out how to take a boat or train such that there wouldn’t be so much walking involved. Mother was game.

We packed up the car, locked the apartment and dropped the key off in the host’s mailbox, as instructed. I then started the car and reversed to notice that the rear camera wasn’t working. I shifted into drive and noticed the central panel wasn’t showing any information. Checked the climate button. Nothing. (That would be bad since I last left the temperature at 75 degrees when I went to the restaurant with Sarah.) Checked the menu button. Nothing. All the buttons around the console were dead.

The upside was that the mileage and gas gauge screen was “live” and the car was running. I needed to call a Toyota Service department. I couldn’t get back into the apartment but at least I was close enough to still access wifi. (At this point I realized I shouldn’t have let my laptop battery drain close to empty.) I found a Toyota dealer in Zagreb and (thank goodness for Skype) called them. Was there a service department in Split? Yes (Solin). I was given the address and phone number and later learned from the Solin Toyota service department that the car should be fine to drive and so we headed out. Stressed about the car dying in the middle of nowhere, I opted out of stopping at Plitvice. It just wasn’t meant to be.

The upside was that the weather continued to improve and the scenery was beautiful. Mother really enjoyed that part of it and possibly was relieved that she didn’t have to “walk the plank” at the park. The downside was we had no AC and the car was hot. With windows open, we couldn’t listen to any of our favorite podcasts. But I couldn’t complain. I was just relieved to get to Stobreč with the car still running. I dropped Mother off at her Pansion Rajic (discovering the lady meeting us didn’t speak any English). Once Mother and her bag were dropped off in a pleasant room, I left Sarah and Mother to sort out the details and eventually make it over to Camping Split. Meanwhile, James and I drove to the RV and we unloaded the rest of the luggage from the car.

I then popped back into the car and drove to the Toyota service department in Solin, about 4 miles away. An hour and a half later, they reported that they couldn't solve the console problem and needed more time. We discussed my dropping the car off next week, after my trip to Dubrovnik. But when they tried to start the car to send me off, the battery was dead. This was the third draining now. The battery was really weak. I drove back to Camping Split and was at a loss of what to do, not wanting to cancel the trip to Dubrovnik. With some consultation with Vincent, I decided to rent a car and drop the Prius off at the Toyota service the next morning, assuming the car started again that is.

With our plan set for the next day, we ate dinner at Camping Split's on-site restaurant, Horus, and then retired for the night. It was a long day.

On the morning of April 8th, I was very relieved to start the Prius and delivered it to the Toyota Solin service department. A Toyota employee then drove me to Thrifty Rent-a-Car in downtown Split, where I drove off in a second Renault Twingo. (The first one had no power for the GPS, which was critical for navigation.) I picked Mother up at Pansian Rajic and then James, Sarah and Molly at the RV. The Twingo (as the name kind of implies) was tiny and we were packed in pretty tightly. By 12:30, we were off to Dubrovnik. Once again, we drove on the A1 to save time. Despite being Croatia's major highway, the scenery is outstanding as is the quality of the road. The US and Canada could take a lesson or two from the Croatians on how to build a great highway. 

We made good time and arrived in Dubrovnik a little past 16:00. We got settled into our Apartment White Rabbit and then walked two-thirds down towards the old town to get dinner. I didn't want to make Mother walk all the way down just for dinner. We had a mediocre meal and then made our way back up to the apartment for the night.

On April 9th, we woke to rain. Bleh. We waited to see if it would clear up, but it never did. We spent the whole day in the apartment. The kids and I ran out a couple times to get food supplies and walk the dog but that was about it. James and Sarah were thrilled to find American television shows broadcasting and so they had zero drive to leave. Since we don't even have cable tv at home, this was a big deal. And yes, I even started to get drawn into NCIS and The Mentalist which, until now, I'd never seen. 
Walking to the Konzum for dinner supplies, I could see a break in the clouds at sunset. I had big hopes for much better weather the next day.
On April 10th, we woke to a perfect sunny day. (Thank goodness!) We walked down to the old city and, after exchanging some money, we walked the old town walls. There were many more people doing the same, but not too many to take away from the experience. Mother really enjoyed it as did the kids and I on our second round. 
It's a quite a walk down to the old town from the White Rabbit. Over 500 steps, at least. I thought Mother would be okay going down and we'd take a taxi back.
Note the abbreviation for the US, SAD.
We last walked these walls on February 7th. Two months later, they were still repairing the roof of the Franciscan Monastery, the same side no less!
A view looking back at Fort St Lawrence. This is the image on a beautiful sunny day. To see the same shot on a cloudy day, refer back to the previous blog covering Croatia found under February 2014.
Walking around the wall, one passes by the yard of a school. Lucky kids with the awesome location!
Creative use of a guillotine.
Old town harbor: In posting this, I now notice the red submarine. We should have taken that instead of the open air boat trip we took the next day; we would have been a lot drier.
After our walk around the old city walls, we went to lunch at a restaurant just outside of the Pile Gate.
Sitting in a perfect spot with a lovely view at the Dubravka 1836 restaurant. We had a good lunch here on this day. The mussels were delicious. (The second time we came here it was the opposite experience; despite 3 reminders, the waiter neglected to bring James and Sarah their order for ~45 minutes. Meanwhile Mother and I had completely finished ours...and we are slow eaters.)
After lunch, I told the kids that they could go back to the apartment while Mother and I wandered the streets of the old town.
Dubrovnik is the home of Eastern Europe's third oldest pharmacy which dates back to 1317 and is still in operation today. We stopped in here and I made a purchase.
After wandering around the old town, Mother suggested we find the 5-star Bellevue Hotel which boasts a great beach and view, and perhaps have a drink there. It turned out that the hotel was just under a kilometer from the old town (but we didn't know that when we set out) but we eventually found it and it was worth the effort. The Bellevue is situated on a 30 meter cliff above Miramare Bay, overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
On our walk towards the hotel, we encountered yet another one of these "love lock" displays.
We sat on the hotel terrace overlooking the Miramare Bay and this was our view. We had a drink and decided the atmosphere was so pleasant that we'd stay on for dinner.
On April 11th, it was another clear day. I looked into boat trips to a nearby island such as Lokrum, Lopud, Mljet or Korcula. There wasn't anything yet running short of 6 hour tours and I knew the kids wouldn't be up for that. The previous day, I did notice there were 1 hour boat tours that took people close to Lokrum island so that they could see old Dubrovnik from the water. Many of the boats advertised glass bottoms so one could theoretically see some sea life in the process. I asked James and Sarah if they wanted to to do this. James was keen. Sarah not so much. Mother, as usual was game for anything. With limited options for activities, I decided to go for it.

We walked down to the old town and had lunch again at the Dubravka 1836 restaurant. As written above, the meal was a let-down. So many restaurants in Dubrovnik (and Croatia as a whole) are a hit or miss. The difference with Dubrovnik is that restaurants charge western European prices due to the influx of cruise ships and tourists who expect (are willing) to pay high prices. So paying high prices for a mediocre or bad experience is a much bigger issue than the cheaper fare in other parts of the country.
While we were waiting (for what seemed like forever) for lunch, I took this photo of the town walls overlooking the Adriatic.
After lunch, we went to the harbor. Three companies were competing for our business and I randomly chose one. It was quite windy and I was a bit worried that it could be unpleasant when we left the protection of the harbor. But off we went anyway.
As we made our way down Dubrovnik's main street, Stradun, we could see that the first of the cruise ships had arrived. There were so many people that getting from A to B was a bit difficult. I realized that the best times to visit Dubrovnik would probably be March, April and September, October. During the high season, May-August, the old town would be packed and not a very pleasant experience.
Leaving the protection of the harbor.
The glass bottom was segmented into about 18" x 24" windows. Unlike the Caribbean, there wasn't much to see short of rocks. James spotted a sunken boat and tire.
It was after this photo was taken that the wind picked up and the boat started getting tossed around. The end result is that Mother, sitting in the bow, got drenched.
After we returned to the harbor, I told the kids that they could go back to the apartment if they wished and they took me up on it. Mother and I decided to do a bit of shopping in town and then we headed up to the cable car to go to the fortress. Unfortunately, as soon as we reached the cable car depot, it stopped due to high winds. So we went back to the old town and had a drink and then caught a taxi back to our apartment. I had promised Mother "taxis" and so I had to make good at least on this last day in Dubrovnik.
Our view while we had a drink before our ascent back up to our White Rabbit apartment.
On April 12th, we left Dubrovnik and headed north back to Split.  Instead of joining the A1 toll road, I wanted to follow the super scenic D8 road that hugs the coastline. We were not disappointed. I highly recommend taking this route at least once when driving between Split and Dubrovnik. It's of course slower than taking the highway but mileage-wise, it is shorter so it ended up being only about 30 minutes longer than taking the tollway.
During Mother's visit, Molly worked her way into an even better travel position, now on Mom's lap in the front passenger seat. Are you comfortable yet Molly? Not quite.
Now she's comfortable. At least someone was.
Driving the D8 along the Dalmatian coast is a bit like driving the Amalfi coast but without the graffiti and garbage along the way. Maybe it's not quite as dramatic but it's pretty close.
Along the way, we stopped at Tucepi for a break. Here's a photo of the harbor which was pretty typical of the towns we saw along the coast.
I pulled over at a couple view points along the way but never seemed to stop at the ones that showed the really dramatic scenery. This is all I've got to share which by many measures is still pretty spectacular.
On April 13th, Palm Sunday, we woke to a lovely sunny morning. I spent a little time working on the blog at Horus restaurant, which was currently the only place at Camping Split to get good wifi reception. I had gotten so far behind on the blog. It had become a bit like the 4th year thesis project in university. In fact, it would be bigger than my 4th year thesis project, given a year in university lasted only 8 months, whereas this trip would be 12 months.  I had become a typical college student procrastinator with respect to the blog, avoiding and dreading writing it. Our time in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was left hanging and I'd be relying on photographs to help jog my memory as to what we did back then. 

Anyway, after spending an hour or so trying to at least catch up with the blog's chapter on a return to Croatia, Mother and I drove into Split for lunch. Like Dubrovnik, visiting Split in April vs January was a very different experience. The promenade was busy and every cafe along the waterfront was now open and bustling with business. I was beginning to think that Croatia, like many European countries would not be great a destination during the summer due to the crowds.
Strolling the Obala Hrvatskog Narodnog Preporoda (which literally means Ivory Croatian National Revival) along the water. What a name!
A few minutes after taking the above photo, the weather changed and clouds rolled in. Mother and I walked to the end of the Riva embankment to the Trg Republike. At that point, the temperature dropped and so we went to the Bajamonti restaurant (where Vincent and I had a drink on January 18th) and had lunch. It was a good meal and enjoyable, at a slow pace without the kids. 
Bajamonti is a good restaurant choice in Split.
We emerged back onto Trg Republike just in time for the rain to start. While the weather was much improved over Mother's last visit with us in the UK in November, we were still having more rain than either of us wanted. We made a dash through the old town but I doubt Mother took in much. With thunder and lightning added to the mix, I went to fetch the car and we drove back to the campground. I then headed back to Horus to work on the blog a bit and then we all later reconvened at LandShark where Sarah had promised us dinner. She heated us up a can of cannelloni as a starter and a can of speghetti and meatballs as the main course. None of her "famous fruit salad" this time. Mom had a beer and I had a little wine, which can dress up almost any meal.

On April 14th, I had to return the rental car and pick up the Prius at the Toyota Service in Solin. They replaced the battery and by doing so brought life back to the center console. They were a super shop with which to deal and I'd certainly recommend them.

I then drove back to Camping Split and picked up Mother to drive to Trogir for lunch. It was a most perfect day and we had a lovely lunch on the Obala bana Berislavica overlooking the water.
Our pleasant lunch situation on the Obala bana Berislavia in Trogir.
Lined along the Obala bana Berislavia were these date palm trees. At first I thought they were blooming but after doing research, I learned that the pink flowers were orchids that grow epiphytically (depend on the tree for mechanical support but not for nutrients).
After lunch, we walked through the narrow streets of the old town and then headed back to Stobrec.
Unlike when we were last in Trogir in January, many shops, restaurants and sobes were open for business.
Later that evening, James, Sarah and I went to a dentist, Dr Hecimovic, in Stobrec to have our teeth checked and cleaned. This was the same dentist who checked my tooth the previous week. It was about 10 months since our last check-up in the US and was well overdue. Since we would be on the go for the next/last 90 days of our sabbatical, this would be our best chance to get this maintenance done. Dr Hecimovic seemed pretty interested in the kids' teeth. It was amusing to see he and his staff hover over James's and Sarah's mouths looking at their teeth, perhaps looking for evidence of foreign American dental work. (We did learn back in November that the orthodontic technology used in the UK was different than what our orthodontist used in California.) Dr Hecimovic gave us all a visual exam, polished James's teeth, cleaned and polished mine (how was it that my teeth needed the most work?) and said Sarah's teeth looked good as they were. The cost? 200 kuna, or about $38. Many Croatian dentists have developed quite a business attracting foreigners here for dental work. One can find a number of dentists on-line who have web sites translated into English and other languages. It is possible to get significant dental work done at the fraction of the cost charged by North American and other EU country dentists. Good to know.
Sarah required the least amount of attention of all of us. Baffling.
On April 15th, it was time to leave Camping Split (again) and drive back to Zagreb to both drop off Mother at the airport and pick Vincent and Paul up on the 16th. It was another beautiful day and once again we marveled at how good the Croatian highway (and roads in general) were. Smooth surfaces with no potholes. Lots of slick tunnels through mountains and streamlined bridges. Sound barriers were constructed out of the rock obtained via construction of the roads and had a deliberate design themselves. The Croatians have made significant investments into their roadway systems. During all of these drives, I never spotted a scrap of garbage or noticed any graffiti. Croatia was the cleanest country we had visited thus far in all of Europe. The toll cost between Split and Zagreb was a little pricey at 181 kuna (~$33) but clearly we could see the benefits of the fees. I'd been on a number of other toll roads in other countries where we paid the tolls but repairs were pretty patchy at best and rarely ever completed.

We arrived to our Petros apartment (this time $77 and €10 for parking...same apartment and parking spot, different prices) and checked in. We later walked over to Cro, that pretty good neighborhood restaurant, near the Hotel Panorama, and then retired for the night.

On April 16th, I dropped Mother off at Zagreb International and, later in the day, collected Vincent and Paul. The rest of the day was spent working on the travel blog which was increasingly becoming my nemesis.

On April 17th, we left Petros Apartments and drove back the familiar 4 hour drive to Camping Split.

On April 18th, it was time to leave Camping Split. Having stayed there off and on since January 18th it felt a bit like leaving home. I really liked the campground, the location and the staff there. Everyone was friendly and helpful. As we left, they were still making major improvements to the landscaping. While already beautiful, it will be a true 4-star location a few months down the line. This was one place to where I'd like to return. 
A last shot of our peaceful campground bay before leaving.
The final dumping of tanks before departure: Paul always seemed to be in the "managerial" role while James got the lousy end of the job.
I'll miss our wonderful spot that overlooked the sea in one direction.
...and looked up to the mountains in another direction.
Once on the road, our goal for the day was to drive to Zagreb (again). We stayed at the Hotel Plitvice campground which was filled only to about 5% capacity. We had dinner at the on-site Plitvice restaurant and I finally completed the blog covering Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The next day we would be entering Hungary and looking forward to a few days in Budapest.