Monthly Archives: May 2019
No this isn’t the name of one of the Dothraki in the Game of Thrones, but the major port of Croatia. We arrived here overnight from Koper. It is was not the greatest of days weather wise. Overcast, windy and cold. We headed off on a drive down the coast to the Vrana Lake Nature Park. This is the largest lake in Croatia and home to many bird species, we hoped to see some. The lake is unusual in that it is not very deep (about 4 metres), the top of the water is above sea level and the bottom is below sea level. There is a small man made channel between the sea and the lake, built in the late 1800s (?) to drain the wet lands behind the lake for agriculture, wouldn’t be done today. When the water level in the lake drops sea water enters through the channel, the environment is continually subject to the ebbs and flows of sea water. It was spitting rain when we were at the lake to see the birds. The birds also recognised it was spitting rain and very windy so they went into hiding and we didn’t see many birds. Just a couple of hardy soles hiding in the reeds. A little disappointing but still an interesting spot to visit.
We got back on the bus fairly quickly and travelled to Kamenjak, on a ridge line over looking the lake, for a snack of traditional Croatian fare. Now after our visit to the market at the Koper stop in Slovakia, we thought this was going to be different. And it was. A plate of prosciutto, fresh semi hard cheese (probably goat or sheep) and some bread. It was quite tasty. We do like prosciutto…
Kamenjak sits on top of a karst limestone landscape; underground drainage lines, sink holes and caves abound. It is quite rocky and rugged. There is a little chapel up here and inside it is a roped off area protecting one from falling down a slot in the ground surface, it drops down a long way. Bones have been found in the bottom of the hole, in past times of unrest bodies had been thrown down the hole. The chapel was built over them to honour the lives lost. It was a sobering experience looking down the hole.
Later we made our way back to Zada for a wander in the old town, more cobbled streets and old churches, before departing for Dubrovnik. Near where our ship was tied up there is a large circular solar panel array depicting the sun and the planets stretching away in scale along the waterfront. At night it throws light along the shore line and is apparently quite spectacular to see. Also here there are acoustic tubes embedded under the large marble steps that ‘sing’ with the lashing waves and wind bursts along the waterfront.
As we head off the sun and blue sky appear and we are told it will be a fine sunny day in Kings Landing, I mean Dubrovnik!
Koper in Slovenia not Copa in Cabana
But it is pronounced the same……………..
We moved on down the coastline to Koper in Slovenia. Slovenia has a very short coastline of about 27 miles wedged between Italy and Croatia to the south. It is our first stop on the way south along the coastline of the former Yugoslavia, broken up in the 1990s into various small countries based on their ethnic backgrounds. We went off on a bus trip down the length of Slovenia’s coastline and when reaching the Croatian border headed inland to a small village on a high ridge line looking out over the green valleys.
Unfortunately, the weather going down the coast was not great. It was very overcast with the seascape coated in a light mist. In bright sunny weather the views out over the islands would have been spectacular. We stopped in at the seaside village of Piran for a walk around the Venetian inspired streets and waterfront. This is a tourist hideout in the summer. The town is slowly depopulating and being let out to tourists for the season, which runs from mid April through to mid October. Real estate has gone through the roof. Tourism is the country’s biggest industry. The weather improved a bit while we were here with some blue sky and sun.
Up at the village of Padna we were welcomed by a solo musician playing some traditional instruments. He had a big grin and was looking for tips, just like a busker on the streets of Brisbane or Sydney, or even Queanbeyan for that matter.
The main game in the village was to taste some local foods and wine. It was a small place and 3 centres of tastings had been arranged in various parts of the town. There were also some local handicrafts and produce for sale. It was a hive of activity and the townsfolk had obviously done this before a few times. Ah, those tourists, they are good for a Euro or two! Part of our deal was that we were each ‘given’ 5 tasting vouchers. As it turned out these were worth 5 Euros. Not a bad deal for what was available at the stalls. We had some pieces of asparagus lasagne, a secret family recipe, along with some rather nice truffle pasta. Some apple struddles (? don’t have the dictionary with me), baked sweetened pastry pieces and strawberry tarts followed. All washed down with some rather very local red and white wines. You could go back for the food but the wines were not to our overall liking, not being picky of course.
After our eating and drinking it was back to the bus and Koper for a short wander around the old town and the waterfront. Tito Square, named after the friendly old communist dictator, is the main square in the town. A Venetian palace along with the Cathedral dominates the square.
Back at the waterfront we strolled the somewhat deserted beach. The beaches seem to all have a sand less shoreline, mostly pebbles and there always seems to be a pier of sorts that allows people to wander out to deeper water for a plunge. Watched over by lifeguards of course!
Back on board the Viking Star we set off for Croatia.
The Grand Tour
Well here we are in Venice.
Allthego and Homealone are off on a ‘grand tour’. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the British went off on ‘grand tours’, as did those Europeans on the other side of the Channel. In the harsh European winters the British and others went off to the Mediteranian, or to the East; perhaps Singapore or Hong Kong. Some even went to New York! It was the thing to do. You went off to have new experiences in far away places. However, some of the young ladies were sent off to have the fruits of their experiences delivered in parts far away! So we are off to the other side of the world for 11 weeks to have new experiences too!
Venice is our first stop after leaving Brisbane. Took 23 hours all up, via Singapore and Frankfurt. Flights were without dramas, fellow passengers were civil. The food on the Singapore Airlines flight was ok, but the Lufthansa legs were lets say…average. Movies were good.
Been to Venice before, about ten years ago. Not much seems to have changed, might have sunk a little we are told. We are staying the night at the Santa Chiara Hotel beside the Grand Canal, not far from the cruise ship terminal. We get to our hotel around 11 am and have the late morning and afternoon to check out a bucket list visit to the fish markets near the Rialto bridge. This is about 4 stops down the canal from the hotel and they close around 1pm. Problem is it is Monday and they don’t operate on Monday, so we do a thorough examination of the fruit and vegetable markets before heading back to the hotel on the ferry.
After finalising check in and occupying the room we have a break for a while. The desire for sleep is strong but Allthego has booked a table for 7.30 pm at what is referred to in a Rick Stein cooking book as an authentic Venetian eating establishment, Antiche Carampane. So it is back onto the ferry and down the Grand Canal to the Rialto bridge were we get off. We have allowed just on an hour to find this place in the back street alleys of Venice as the sun is slowly setting. Homealone has deduced the route on our Venice alley map. So away we go, up an alley, down an alley, over a canal bridge around a couple of corners, back over what seemed like the same canal bridge. Had to ask a local were it was, she kindly showed us the way…….it was just around a corner. Walked in the door just on 7.30pm. Timing is everything!
Very small dining room, but very local people despite the table of noisy South Australians sitting behind us and a couple of Bostonians next to us who had also read about the place. The others seemed to be locals. Probably no more than about 30 or so all up. It is known for it’s seafood. Proudly says: “No Pizza, No Lasagna and No Touristico Menues!” After a plate of Mediteranean bits and pieces to share, Homealone had a crab pasta dish and Allthego a piece of Sea Bass. All very tasty. It was then back to the Canal through the darkened alleys to catch the ferry. Easy!
The next day we were due to book onto our cruise ship. But we still had some time on our ferry tickets, they expired at 11am. So, as it was now Tuesday off we went to see those fish markets near the Rialto bridge. What a sight! Some of the stall holders here have held their spots through several generations of fish mongers. Fish from all over the Mediteranean, North Atlantic and prawns from Argentina. A few eels and octopus etc as well.
Next stop was to be an unusual book shop, seemingly to Allthego not far from the fish markets, across the other side of the Grand Canal and down a few back alleys. Well off we went, too and fro. The map doesn’t seem to match the alley ways. But we made it. Thousands of books, postcards, photos, maps etc and other stuff, including a staircase made of them. All crammed into a little shop front and side rooms. A stocktake would be a nightmare…….….
So it was back to the ferry, Homealone had determined the route. We made it just before the 11 am ticket expiry, Saved 15 Euros!
Back at the hotel we picked up our luggage and checked in at the cruise terminal, boarded the Viking Star, had lunch, put our feet up. Later in the evening after dinner, we stood on deck as we cruised down the Venetian Lagoon out into the Adriatic. Headed for Koper in Slovenia.