Dubrovnik Croatia

Dubrovnik – easyvoyage.co.uk

I arrived in Dubrovnik yesterday afternoon to clear skies and a Mediterranean climate warmer than Berlin but nippy at night. My apartment is in the hills overlooking Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, Old Medieval City, and Adriatic Sea.

Dubrovnik Franciscan Monastery

Getting anywhere requires climbing lots of stone steps. Although Old City and the Franciscan Monastery are less than a half mile away, it’s all downhill and then, you guessed it, up, up, up on the way back – good exercise.

Defense Walls Dubrovnik Medieval Fortress

In June 2013, I passed through Dubrovnik quickly on the way to Split, Zagreb, Rijeka, and Opǎtija – hectic and only a short day, not sure that counts as a “real visit“. Glad to have more quality time here, and it’s off-season so there aren’t many tourists.

Steps Old City Dubrovnik

I walked to Old City for dinner last night and then had the fun surprise of seeing the Gypsy Kings perform at Orlando’s Column right in the middle of everything!! I’ve long been a fan and to see them performing in such a spectacular outdoor setting was fantastic – love their music! There was a crowd but not overwhelming. Old Town has a beautiful Christmas Market and Winter Festival where the New Year celebration will take place tomorrow!

Dubrovnik from My Apartment

On the way back I forgot which steps took me down to Old City : o( and got lost in the dark. After a long day I ran out of energy, took the easy way out, and called Uber… My landlord, a former ballerina, is active in the community and has great pointers on hiking, tours, restaurants, and cultural activities. More later after I settle in a bit – it’s a huge change from Berlin! I’ll be in Dubrovnik through January.

Dubrovnik Croatia – Croatia.hr

Gypsy Kings Performing at Orlando’s Column Old City

Opǎtija Croatia

 Opǎtija

Opǎtija

I arrived in Opǎtija (means abbey in Croatian) last night and in characteristic fashion got lost finding my hotel. The train from Zagreb to Rijeka arrived at about 9:30 pm. It was impossible to find a taxi, so I took a local bus. When I got off the bus, no one was in sight. Some high school girls passing by helped me find the secluded hotel (giggling all the way). I was grateful and gave them a big hug.

Maiden with the Seagull

Maiden with the Seagull

Hotel Imperial

Hotel Imperial

This morning I decided to change hotels. Accommodations in Opǎtija are pricey but I found an interesting, reasonably priced renovated Austro-Hungarian hotel. It’s in a great location across the street from the beach and Angiolina Park and surrounded by old churches and the sound of tolling bells. The architecture is amazing with 20 foot ceilings in the rooms and more like 30+ in the open areas. The huge dome ceiling in the dining room is a masterpiece. These are nearby attractions:

  • Benedictine Abbey of Saint James – 14th century
  • Neo-Romanesque Church of the Annunciation
  • Villa Angiolina built in 1844 by Iginio Scarpa and now a museum
  • 12 km (7.5 mi) coastal foot path along the Opǎtija Riviera
  • Famous Maiden with the Seagull statue by Zvonko Car
  • Učka Mountain and nature park
Opǎtija

Opǎtija

Opǎtija (aka the Pearl of the Adriatic) is a 20 minute drive southwest of Rijeka along the Adriatic coast. It’s near the Gulf of Kvarner at the foot of Učka Mountain with a population of about 13,000. Because of its beauty and temperate climate the location is a popular European summer and winter resort. The city is surrounded by bay laurel woods and a rocky coast that leads from Volosko through Opǎtija, Ićići, Ika, Lovran, Mošćenička Draga, and other medieval villages.

Villa Angiolina

Villa Angiolina

Učka Mountain

Učka Mountain

There is much to see and do after I get orientated – very different atmosphere than Zagreb. It feels like I’m getting deep into Europe now.

More later…

Backstreets and Ballet

Dolac Flower Market

Dolac Flower Market

On Tuesday I hung out in Zagreb’s backstreets – fun! First stop was the Dolac district where I enjoyed a cappuccino and discovered the open-air food market – called “the belly of Zagreb”.

Petrica Kerempuh

Petrica Kerempuh

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary’s Church

The backdrop to Dolac market is St. Mary’s Church built in the 18th century. On the other side of the market there’s a square filled with fragrant flower stalls.

“A mischievous looking statue of Petrica Kerempuh stands in the midst of the flowers… Petrica Kerempuh is a Croatian plebeian prophet rascal and cynical commentator on contemporary events – a sort of predecessor to modern-day stand-up comedians.”

Dolac Market

Dolac Market

I continued to Tkalčićeva (tkal-chee-tseva) Street built along the course of the former Medveščak Creek, a Croatian landmark. Medveščak Creek was the location for most of Zagreb’s watermills. In the 18th century it was an industrial site used to produce cloth, soap, paper, and liqueurs.

Glyptotheque

Glyptotheque

“Medveščak Creek was the traditional boundary between the settlements of Kaptol and Gradec. Everything to the east of the creek belonged to the church-controlled Kaptol. The west side belonged to the secular Gradec.”

Tkalčićeva Street

Tkalčićeva Street

Marija Jurić

Marija Jurić

Tkalčićeva Street is famous for its colorful architecture and interesting residents. Near the beginning of the street there’s a bronze statue of novelist and equal rights advocate Marija Jurić – the first female journalist in Croatia. Her pen name is Zagorka and her novels which intertwine love stories and historical themes are popular in Croatia.  “The Witch of Gric” is one of her most popular writings.

North of Tkalčićeva Street the Glyptotheque museum houses contemporary art and design exhibitions and plaster copies of famous sculptures. It was a leather tannery before the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences converted it into a museum.

Zagreb Ballet Troupe

Zagreb Ballet Troupe

The Zagreb Ballet performance last night was really something! It was a mixture of classic and contemporary ballet. I’ve never seen stronger or more talented dancers. The ballet was called Baletini Triptih and included three separate pieces specifically choreographed for the Zagreb Grand Ballet. Each piece consisted of three segments with a short break between dances. For three hours the dancers tirelessly gave their all during extremely demanding performances. The audience appreciated their amazing stamina.

Croatian National Theater

Croatian National Theater

National Theater Dome

National Theater Dome

National Theater Interior

National Theater Interior

I had a great seat next to a friendly and gracious Danish man involved in Croatian ballet production. He explained the layout of the ornate theater. He said in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the presence and support of the royal family was a major part of every performance.

In Europe the upper front section to the left of the stage was for the king and his friends who were patrons of the ballet. The king’s family occupied the section directly across on the right side of the stage.

During high-profile ballet and opera performances kings and other royalty would show off their daughters and try to find them suitable husbands. He said to this day in Denmark no one will sit in empty seats reserved for the king – even if a performance is sold out.

It was a wonderful evening and I’m happy to have experienced a ballet in the majestic Croatian National Theater – a fantastic memory!

Split to Zagreb

Zagreb

Zagreb Croatia

I arrived in Zagreb early this morning – 3:00 a.m. The city and country transitions on this trip have been a bit rough. This one was no exception. A few minutes before departure passengers received news about cancellation of the overnight train (9 pm to 7 am) from Split to Zagreb. Instead, a bus picked us up and drove everyone to Zagreb. The bus arrived in Zagreb four hours earlier than expected and dropped us off at the central train station. What now?

The trams aren’t running at that hour of the morning but several taxis were waiting outside the train terminal. I talked to a few Aussies who were new to Zagreb as well and equally bewildered about what to do. They decided to use their smartphone mapping software to walk to their hostel in the dark – about an hour away by foot. We wished each other good luck and parted.

The owner of my apartment in Zagreb specifically advised against taking a taxi from the train station. He said the taxis waiting there were known for confusing and cheating tourists. I was a little rummy from the bus ride but realized there was no way to get to my apartment at 3:00 am without taking a taxi. The original plan was to go from the train station to the main square in central Zagreb and catch a taxi there since I was aware of the proper taxi fare from that point. After talking to (or trying to talk to) several shady drivers, I declined getting into their taxis. They were unhappy to be asked questions about their fares.

As I was pondering my predicament, a man standing by the train terminal approached and asked where I was going. I gave him the address – an upscale residential neighborhood near the university. He said his friend was an honest driver with a metered taxi and he would take me there and not cheat me. Since there was no choice except to trust someone I got into his taxi and the driver proceeded to the apartment – about a 10 to 15 minute drive. Central Zagreb was lite up beautifully at night and the buildings were gorgeous!

Zagreb Cityscape

Zagreb Cityscape

The taxi driver was soft-spoken and polite. I got there safely and paid him a reasonable taxi fare. The owner was up and let me into the apartment – which is the beginning of the next story…

The apartment owner, Mladen Kahlina, is a former opera singer who was up at that hour playing the piano and working on some lyrics. He’s retired from opera singing and now teaches and manages his small apartment building. Surprised to see me at 3:00 am – a really early arrival – Mladen said he wasn’t quite finished preparing the apartment.

While he finished putting things together, we had an interesting conversation about opera (he did the talking) which lasted for over an hour. At that point I’d been up all night – so what was a few more hours? He lectured me on Giuseppe Verdi and various other operatic composers and even sang a few lines – nice voice. Then he brought me a beautiful CD by Maria Bethania (a Brazilian singer) to listen to while winding down after the long day of travel. I love her music – it’s in Portuguese.

The apartment is cozy (with a Jacuzzi bathtub – yeah – and a small deck). Since I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours I almost immediately fell into a deep sleep. Will begin exploring tomorrow…

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and considered the cultural and political hub of the country. Mladen left a brochure on June 2013 events and performances – there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Zagreb!

Marjan Hill Split, Croatia

Dusk from Marjan

Dusk from Marjan Hill Split, Croatia

Marjan (pronounced MARyan) is an exquisite hill on the Split peninsula. Covered in a lush Mediterranean pine forest it overlooks the city of Split and the Adriatic sea.

Bene Beach

Bene Beach Marjan

The area is a beloved park enjoyed by the citizens of Split for picnics, weekend excursions, and recreation. Marjan has beaches, jogging paths, hiking trails, tennis courts, a zoo, and the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

Split Peninsual Rovinj Fenomeni

Split Peninsula – Rovinj Fenomeni

Sweeping views from Marjan include the entire city of Split, surrounding islands, and the mountains of Mosor and Kozjak part of the Dinaric Alps. I’ve visited Marjan several times and plan to go back again. The entrance is about a 25 minute climb from the Split’s riva (boardwalk).

Pine Forest

Pine Forest

Daytime View

Daytime View Split, Croatia

“In ancient times Emperor Diocletian built his palace near Marjan and organized areas close by as parks. There is a rustic 13th century AD church on Marjan dedicated to St. Nicholas, a favorite saint of fishermen of which there are many in Split.”

Hermitage Caves

Hermitage Caves

The 15th century church of St. Jerome lies along Marjan’s south rim. Directly above and behind St. Jerome are a group of Renaissance hermitage caves built into the cliffs. Split’s old Jewish cemetery is on the eastern slopes of Marjan just above the city.

Steps to Marjan

Steps to Marjan

The Meštrović Gallery is on the south side of Marjan. It’s the former villa of Ivan Meštrović, considered “one of the greatest sculptors of religious subjects since the Renaissance”. I will visit the famous gallery later today.

Mestrović Gallery

Meštrović Gallery

On Friday evening I leave Split and head north to Zagreb via train. The glorious weather and time spent here in Split has been a highlight of this trip!