Hello Devoted and not-very-devoted Readers!
Tales from the Adriatic Sea to regale you with today. Let’s start with two days ago, the 22nd, when we were up before the sun and driven to Fazana to meet the bus to Pula. Why Pula? Well, Pula is where our ride to Venice, the Adriatic Jet (a catamaran) was leaving from. The ride over was 2 hours and 45 minutes at 65 knots per hour, and the sea was nearly mirror-smooth. The ship was comfortable and I indulged in some latte onboard in a teeny tiny little cup – about 5 ounces and that was the large. It was, as M’s father says, “No Problem”. We reached Venice without incident and were told that the temperature was about 35 degrees C and 80% humidity. Everyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy high temps and high humidity.
DH and I opted to take the tours that were offered by the tour company, and we took a water taxi (there are NO vehicles in Venice other than a car park on the NW end of the island) to Saint Marco Square and from there we received a talk on the history of Venice by a local, Meno, who was a very entertaining guide. It was then off to a shop that sells the famous Murano Glass for a demonstration. I ended up purchasing a pair of earrings and a necklace that looked like it had a globe on it. Appropriate, no?
After the glass outlet, we then went to lunch at a local restaurant where we were served our choice of soda, wine or beer (and water), pasta with sauce, sliced pork and oven-roasted potatoes with rosemary-laced brown gravy and panna cotta for dessert. It was a very filling lunch, and from there we had some free time to wander the rats-maze of streets around St. Marco Square before having to meet back for the next tour, a gondola ride through some of the surrounding canals. DH and I both remarked how talented the gondoliers are at maneuvering their gondolas through the narrow channels, or in the case of taking-on or letting-off passengers, moving in and out of the docking areas, with a single paddle. From the gondolas, it was back to the maze to wander, DH and I purchasing a blown glass ring (for me), a glass dancer figurine (for DH… she called to him) and a Venetian masquerade mask in filigree metal. We were then off to the square again to catch up with the final tour, a Water Taxi ride through the canals and back to the port, where we were loaded back onto the catamaran and headed back to Pula.
The sea was once more, nearly mirror-smooth and we attempted to sleep on the way back, but amazingly enough the children on board had other plans and we were kept awake nearly the whole 2 h 45 m by screaming children. They were scolded by adults OTHER than their parents numerous times, but it was one of those occasions where I commented that I was in agreement that children should be seen and not heard in many situations. M’s father picked us back up from the bus stop in Fazana and it was back to the house for sleep, as plans had changed (as they seem to have done every day here… but eh, it’s vacation), and we were heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park on Tuesday.
Here is where I will do more plugging for Croatian Tourism. If you EVER decide to take a Mediterranean vacation, I implore you to visit Croatia. First of all, it’s affordable (currently the exchange rate is $1 US for 5 Kuna). Next, the people are friendly. And lastly, the area is rich in history, the coast populated by all manner of cultures and internally is just gorgeous with, again, all manner of cultures having populated the area. So, Plitvice Lakes. If I only showed people a picture of the lakes here, you would assume that the images were photoshopped. The lakes are CRYSTAL clear, and appear in varying shades of blue, from dark, clear blue to milky, neon turquoise. we got up early again to be on the road for 7 AM as the ride there would take about 3 hours if we drove straight through. We followed the coastline until we reached the town of Split, and then cut across the country over to Plitvice. We stopped for lunch in a town near the park called Otocac. Our ride into the interior of the country was interesting as the farther into the country we traveled, the more buildings we saw that were bombed out from the Croat-Serb-Bosnian war. When we stopped for lunch, we hadn’t initially noticed that there were many buildings still riddled with bullet holes, but on the way out of the restaurant, DH pointed out some in the side of a building. From there we started to look around and noticed more and more that had holes. One building was quite obviously hit with artillery fire, and the damage left on the facade. We learned later from M’s father, that many of the towns LEAVE the damage in homage to the war, and so people will remember.
The lakes were glorious. I first heard about them from a National Geographic special, and I said that if I ever got to Croatia, I wanted to make sure that I got to see them. I was not disappointed. We got to the park about 1 PM, and took the 4-6 hour tour that included a tram ride to the “top” of the lakes, a 2 hour hike to the “middle” of the lakes, a boat ride across the largest of those lakes, another 1.5 hr hike to the “bottom” of the lakes, around and up to another tram station where we jumped on the tram and rode that back to the entrance we parked at. I saw the houseplants, cyclamen and “english ivy”, growing in their native habitat. Tinfoil barbs populated the lakes (this is a common aquarium fish), and I think I even spotted another common houseplant, the Bird’s Nest Fern. The park is ENCHANTING! And to those photographers who read this, I can’t do the park enough justice. You will just have to see what photos I post when I get home, and look it up online for yourselves.
It was back to home after our hike, with a late dinner of leftovers and more Rakija… M’s father insisted. Now, when we arrived, we were told that Benji had a cold, and that M’s mother and sister both had it. Then R and DH got it… I had managed to be free of this cold until last night, where the symptoms hit me after I woke up from a short nap in the car. Oh well.
Today, we were up early again and off to Fazana to hit a pharmacy (NOTHING is over the counter here – you HAVE to talk to a pharmacist) for myself and DH, get a postcard for M and some postage for it, and then it was off to Pula to see the Fish Market and the Farmers Market. What FUN! I had a great time seeing the non-tourists shopping for their food, and I even bought some honey to bring home. M’s father also stopped at a place so we could get burek, a type of breakfast pie that is common in these areas, and I picked one up to bring back to DH who was attempting to rid himself of this cold by sleeping in. Of course, I tried it, and it was great.
This afternoon we headed to the beach for some more sunning, resting and now I’m typing this up at the dining table outside, prepping it so I can get it posted once we hit Tropicana in a little bit. Tomorrow we’re going to attempt to catch some more beach time, and then start switching back to our normal “time”. We have to be up about 1 AM (local time) Friday morning and on the road to Zagreb by 2 AM so we can get checked in with customs, etc for our flight back. My next post should be sometime on Saturday! I know you’re excited (okay, maybe more excited to see the pictures once I finally get those up here)!!!
Till next time!