A Travellerspoint blog

Visiting Venice

sunny 32 °C

The last stop on our European vacation was Venice, a World Heritage Site full of beauty and a long history. With a cooler packed, Mom, Andrew and I set off on another road trip in our little rented car. The four-hour drive took us from Northern Croatia (Istria), first through the Slovenian border, before crossing into Italy. We found a four-star hotel with three-star pricing in a district outside of Venice, but with an inexpensive train service that will take you directly into Venice and back to the outer districts, hotel location is irrelevant. The train tracks clear the mainland and continue across the water and towards the island of Cannaregio, where the final train station lies. With a bridge in place, cars and buses are able to cross the water to Venice, but beyond the expensive parking lot, only pedestrians and boat services travel the alleyways and canals.

The symbol of Venice -a winged lion

The symbol of Venice -a winged lion


Mom and the A-Team in Venice

Mom and the A-Team in Venice


So beautiful

So beautiful


Canal

Canal


Gondoliers along the Canal Grande

Gondoliers along the Canal Grande


Ana in Venice

Ana in Venice


Waterways of Venice

Waterways of Venice


Mama in Venice

Mama in Venice

As you exit the train station and walk out into the brilliant sunlight, it feels as if you have been transported to another luxurious time, full of palaces and gondoliers and bright flowers cascading from every windowsill. A maze of small streets circle with no pattern. Buildings piled upon each other crowd the narrow alleys, which lavishly display shop fronts full of souvenirs, and restaurants aplenty. Vendors with trinkets, Venetian masks and knock-off Murano glass vie for your attention as the incorrigible crowds wrestle and jostle each other for a chance at a photo before one of the 350 bridges that stitch the island together. Pink street lights await the night so they can wash the city in a soft glow, though during the day act as perches to the countless pigeons that scrounge for food. Yet, however hectic, somewhere behind the throngs of people and the persistent commercialism lie enormous palaces once lived in by dukes, with Venetian windows overlooking tiny canals and front steps leading into the depths of the murky water. Boats are tied off to posts in front of every building, and gondolas wait like taxis to ferry you to any destination. Becoming purposefully lost in the labyrinth, small courtyards are stumbled upon unwittingly and lead to countless churches covered in detailed marble statues, glittering gold mosaics and frescos. Venice is both overwhelming –with so much beauty to absorb, and exasperating –as you climb over tourists and continuously empty your wallet. Its mystique will soon disappear with the incredible growth rate of tourism, slowly wearing away the charm and grandeur that was Venezia.

Bridges over small canals connect Venice alleyways

Bridges over small canals connect Venice alleyways


Venetian church

Venetian church


Three gondoliers and the Grand Canal

Three gondoliers and the Grand Canal


Venice

Venice


beautiful canal with gondolier

beautiful canal with gondolier


Church stairs leading into the water

Church stairs leading into the water


Andrew and Mom in the Piazza San Marco

Andrew and Mom in the Piazza San Marco


Gondoliers on the Grand Canal

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal


Along the Grand Canal

Along the Grand Canal


Andrew at one of over 350 bridges in Venice

Andrew at one of over 350 bridges in Venice


Every building is adorned with ornate architecture, paintings, and sculptures

Every building is adorned with ornate architecture, paintings, and sculptures


One of many beautiful canals in Venice

One of many beautiful canals in Venice


Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Church of Santa Maria della Salute


Venetian windows with flowers

Venetian windows with flowers


The Rialto is one of the main bridges that crosses the Grand Canal

The Rialto is one of the main bridges that crosses the Grand Canal

Venice was built upon a small archipelago of islands situated off the Adriatic coastline of Italy, directly across from Istria. The name Venice comes from the early settlers of the 118 island archipelago, named the Veneti. It is believed that the original population of Venice was mainly formed by the early dwellers and refugees from Rome, fleeing from the constant attacks of the Germans and Huns in the 5th and 6th centuries. The first ruler, or Doge, of Venice was elected in the 9th century, and the first Ducal Palace was erected, along with the Basilica of St. Mark. It grew as a powerhouse of trade with an unstoppable naval fleet, and by the 13th century was the most prosperous city in Europe. Initially the city of Venice was built on the islands, but as the city rapidly expanded, bridges were built to connect islands, and eventually the Venetians resorted to building the rest of the city on water. In 1200 the Doge was also the Duke of Istria and Dalmatia, and used Croatia’s resources to build Venice. The trees from interior Dalmatia, as well as the islands, were used as pylons –tarred and then sunk into the mud –which became the foundation for the floating palaces (built from the white stone of Brač) that now make up Venice.

Large palaces line the Grand Canal, seemingly floating on water

Large palaces line the Grand Canal, seemingly floating on water


Palaces along the Canal Grande

Palaces along the Canal Grande


Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco


Gondolas await to taxi you through the tiny canals

Gondolas await to taxi you through the tiny canals


A mosaic of terracotta roofs

A mosaic of terracotta roofs


Punta della Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Punta della Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute


Canal Grande

Canal Grande


Gondolier and the Grand Canal

Gondolier and the Grand Canal

We bought a two-day pass for the ferry that winds up and down the Canal Grande, stopping at various stations along the waterway. With passes in hand, we set off down the main canal towards the famous, central and most prominent square in Venice –Piazza San Marco. This central square is where most tourists spend their time as it is the piazza of nobility, boasting: the Palace of the Doges, the Basilica of St. Mark, an impressive clock and bell tower, and the Bridge of Sighs.

canal

canal


Mom and Ana in Piazza San Marco

Mom and Ana in Piazza San Marco


A birds eye view of Piazza San Marco

A birds eye view of Piazza San Marco


The canal-facing side of the Palace of the Doges

The canal-facing side of the Palace of the Doges


The large courtyard of Piazza San Marco

The large courtyard of Piazza San Marco


Basilica of San Marco

Basilica of San Marco


The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower


The Bell Tower, or Campanile of San Marco

The Bell Tower, or Campanile of San Marco


The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs


Mom and the lion in Piazza San Marco

Mom and the lion in Piazza San Marco

The Ducal Palace is an enormous building with a large central courtyard. While other palaces stood in its place, the present structure was built and added upon from the 14th to the 15th century. A large central window and balcony look out upon the square, and here the Doge would have stood to give speeches to the Venetian crowd below. Statues and carvings adorn the palace externally, only hinting at the splendor within. The inner rooms are covered in paintings done by masters and encrusted with golden frames, floor to ceiling. Unfortunately, the 16 Euro entry fee keeps many from entering these walls. Mom and I were both appalled and shocked with how every entrance to every building (big or small), had a fee attached; in years past, entrances were always free.

The door that leads into the courtyard of the Palace of the Doges, called the Porta della Carta

The door that leads into the courtyard of the Palace of the Doges, called the Porta della Carta


The central balcony of the Palace of the Doges, where the Doge would give speaches to the crowds below

The central balcony of the Palace of the Doges, where the Doge would give speaches to the crowds below


The lion, a Venetian symbol, adorns the Ducal Palace

The lion, a Venetian symbol, adorns the Ducal Palace


Detail of a column of the Ducal Palace -each column is differently carved

Detail of a column of the Ducal Palace -each column is differently carved


detail

detail


Paintings with golden frames on the ceilings of the Palace

Paintings with golden frames on the ceilings of the Palace

The Basilica of Saint Mark was built in the 16th century and is the central jewel of Venice. With domed roofs and large archways encrusted with golden mosaics, sculptures and carvings, and the four prominent bronzed horses on the central balcony, the exterior alone is remarkable. Upon entering the church you are surrounded by gold. Golden mosaics embellish the inner domed ceilings, display golden biblical scenes upon every wall and archway, focusing on the central golden altar.

One of the outer golden mosaics on the Basilica

One of the outer golden mosaics on the Basilica


The peak of the Basilica

The peak of the Basilica


The entry to the Basilica of San Marco

The entry to the Basilica of San Marco


Gold everywhere

Gold everywhere


No matter where you look in St. Mark's Cathedral you will find golden mosaics

No matter where you look in St. Mark's Cathedral you will find golden mosaics


The entire interior of St. Mark's Cathedral is gold encrusted mosaic

The entire interior of St. Mark's Cathedral is gold encrusted mosaic


Domed ceilings of gold

Domed ceilings of gold


Archways of gold

Archways of gold


Tiny tiles of gold create the mosaics that cover huge expanses of wall and ceiling

Tiny tiles of gold create the mosaics that cover huge expanses of wall and ceiling


Original golden mosaics

Original golden mosaics


Intricate mosaics adorn the walls of the Basilica of San Marco

Intricate mosaics adorn the walls of the Basilica of San Marco


The four horses of Saint Mark's Cathedral

The four horses of Saint Mark's Cathedral


Bronze horse atop the Basilica of San Marco

Bronze horse atop the Basilica of San Marco


The horses were initially plundered from Constantinople as Venice rose to power. In the late 18th century, when Napoleon conquered Venice, he stole these bronzed horses and took them to France. They were finally returned to Venice and the Basilica, with the originals inside the building and replicas atop the balcony of San Marco.

The Torre dell’Orologio, or the Clock Tower that was built in the 15th century, still has its original clock from the 15th century, as well as the two bronze Moors that move back and forth, taking a swing at the bell every hour. This original clock indicates the passing of the seasons, the phases of the moon, and the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another.

The Clock Tower, of the Torre dell'Orologio, with its original clock and bell

The Clock Tower, of the Torre dell'Orologio, with its original clock and bell


Two bronzed Moors move back and forth to ring the bell atop the clock tower

Two bronzed Moors move back and forth to ring the bell atop the clock tower

We went up to the top of the 100 meter tall bell tower (Campanile), just as the bells chimed the hour, and had a breathtaking panoramic view of Venice. Amongst the housing are large churches with spires and bell towers, domes and statues, that rise between the sea of terracotta roofs, haphazardly congested in a wash of red. The Grand Canal snakes its way through the center of Venice, constantly buzzing with boat traffic. The distant islands can also be spotted, but a haze seems to blanket the city, which we didn’t notice until looking at it from above.

Churches rise from the terracotta roofs

Churches rise from the terracotta roofs


No city planners here

No city planners here


From the bell tower in Piazza San Marco, a view of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

From the bell tower in Piazza San Marco, a view of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


Church of Santa Maria della Salute, seen from the bell tower

Church of Santa Maria della Salute, seen from the bell tower

We spent two entire days wandering the waterways and jumping on and off the ferry to explore areas away from the crowds. We visited the island of Murano to see the famous works of art created from Murano glass. Not discriminating between large and small churches, we took a peek in any door we could. Sitting along the banks of tiny canals, we watched gondoliers pass while downing our picnic lunch. There was still the Bridge of Sighs to visit, the Rialto Bridge, and countless little alleyways connected by bridges over the canals, so we spread our time trying to take in as much as we could.

The Rialto

The Rialto


Ana standing on the Rialto

Ana standing on the Rialto


Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


Water fountains with fresh, cold water

Water fountains with fresh, cold water


Tiled mosaics floor in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Tiled mosaics floor in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute


details

details


The island of Murano is full of artists that work with the Murano glass

The island of Murano is full of artists that work with the Murano glass


Traditional Murano glass work

Traditional Murano glass work


Ponte dell'Accademia

Ponte dell'Accademia


canal

canal


A fleeting glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs

A fleeting glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs


Andrew and Ana in front of the Bridge of Sighs

Andrew and Ana in front of the Bridge of Sighs


The Bridge of Sighs is so called because it leads to the prison on the right. As Prisoners walked towards the prison and their inevitable death, they had one final chance to peer out the windows on the bridge and look at their family members crying and waving their final good-byes.

After two days in Venice we were exhausted from the scorching sun, endless walking, and hordes of tourists. A long day ended with an even longer evening, sending Andrew off on his journey home and thereby ending yet another amazing A-Team adventure. Gaudi, dancing, ancient walled cities, islands and the clear blue of the Adriatic, beaches, architecture, history, lakes and waterfalls, family and love, with a dash of Venice… we have enjoyed every minute of this journey and are glad you came along and shared it with us.

Till the next adventure,

Xox A-Team

Posted by A-Team 23:25 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Irresistible Istria

sunny 35 °C

We awoke to a sunny morning in Rab after a fitful night of rain, lightning and intense winds. We were ready to move on with our adventure and head northward, but were met with some surprising and unfortunate news. We were told that the direct sailing to Rijeka was cancelled due to the winds –called bura. Looking around at the peaceful harbour, bright blue sky, and only a whisper of breeze rustling the trees, we scratched our heads in confusion. Finding out that our only option was to take a much later bus that would make our trip longer and more expensive, we begrudgingly waited around for hours, restless and ready for the next leg of our journey to begin. Once on the bus that took us to the mainland via a quick car ferry, we were amazed at the change in weather. Standing on the ferry was next to impossible as high winds tore at our clothes and nearly knocked us over. We learned that Rab is protected by mountains that shield it from these very winds, but outside Rab’s sheltered bay, havoc was ensuing. Later, after watching the news, we learned that we had just missed an enormous forest fire and that all boats and buses stopped running as dark skies rumbled overhead; we felt fortunate to have gotten away when we did. We arrived in Pula unscathed and were happy to learn the storm was moving southward as we moved north.

Bura in Pag

Bura in Pag


Red soil and olive trees of Istria

Red soil and olive trees of Istria

The northern triangularly-shaped region of Croatia is called Istria, which we heard referred to as the ‘Tuscany of Croatia;’ though, to me, this area means coming home. Istria is a mix of lush rolling hills and medieval hilltop villages full of aspiring artists, checkered farmlands that showcase Istria’s vibrant and fertile red soil and olive trees, as well as a long coastline of beaches along the clear cool waters of the Adriatic Sea. At one time under Italian rule, and with the close proximity to the Italian boarder, the culture, food and language are palimpsests of various cultural influences. The Istrian dialect varies distinctly from the Croatian language, originally used by the hardworking farmers and fishermen of the north, while it now is a matter of cultural pride that the youth speak Istrian-Croatian. Istria has fabulous food, with fresh fruits and vegetables readily available, incredible cheeses, and freshly caught seafood (along with a Nona that can cook an amazing meal) –it was nice to finally reach Pula and eat something home-cooked.

Andrew and Nona

Andrew and Nona


Pula has a large outdoor farmer's market where you can find fresh, local fruits and veggies (honey, oil, spices, etc.)

Pula has a large outdoor farmer's market where you can find fresh, local fruits and veggies (honey, oil, spices, etc.)


IMG_5603.jpgIMG_5628.jpg1IMG_5606.jpgIMG_5609.jpgIMG_5612.jpgIMG_5615.jpgIMG_5618.jpgIMG_5622.jpgIMG_5605.jpg

With plenty of family in and around Pula, we came to stay with my Nona (grandma) and mom, only to be pampered, spoiled, and loved to death. With clean laundry, bellies full, and bus passes in hand, I was ready to show Andrew, Pula. Pula is a relatively small city with most things in walking distance, but with a well-run transit system it is easier to get to the beaches via bus. Pula’s beautiful coastline of beaches have smooth limestone ledges, perfect for stretching out on before cooling off in the clear, sparkling, deep-blue and turquoise waters of the Adriatic.

Ana and mama in Pula, waiting for the bus

Ana and mama in Pula, waiting for the bus


beautiful beaches

beautiful beaches


Blue waters and endless beaches of Pula

Blue waters and endless beaches of Pula


Pula

Pula

We visited the Grotte dei Colombi, with deep caves worn into the high cliffs of limestone. The height of them had tourists testing their fears, either making the leap or shying away from the large drop. Of course, to Andrew, this was a playground full of leaping opportunities that ended with a dive off the highest point, challenging himself with a successful surfacing and a satisfied grin.

Andrew at Grotte dei Colombi

Andrew at Grotte dei Colombi


The cave system goes deep into the cliff

The cave system goes deep into the cliff


Diving

Diving


A big dive of a high cliff

A big dive of a high cliff

Visiting Pula’s old town means walking through Zlatna Vrata (the golden gates), where the entrance remains, along with sections of the remaining old walls. Now a tourist mecca, the old streets are lined with shops, vendors, street performers and music. Tourists jostle each other for room through the narrow alley, only to reach the central square (forum) where the Augustov Hram (temple) remains (built between 2 BC -14 AD), boasting impossibly high Roman columns. One of the main draws to Pula, however, has to be the amazing amphitheater called the Arena, which, largely intact from the 1st century, stands as a central focal point in Pula.

Zlatna Vrata -Golden Gates -are the entrance into old-town Pula

Zlatna Vrata -Golden Gates -are the entrance into old-town Pula


Augustuv Hram (temple) in the central Forum of Pula

Augustuv Hram (temple) in the central Forum of Pula


Andrew and the Amphitheater in Pula

Andrew and the Amphitheater in Pula


An impressive feat of architecture from the 1st-century

An impressive feat of architecture from the 1st-century


Andrew in awe, "How could they possibly build this way back then?"

Andrew in awe, "How could they possibly build this way back then?"


Front entrance leading into the Arena

Front entrance leading into the Arena


Thick limestone walls held up for over 2000 years

Thick limestone walls held up for over 2000 years


Enormous arches form the walls of the Amphitheater

Enormous arches form the walls of the Amphitheater


Andrew inside the Arena

Andrew inside the Arena

The large amphitheater was originally the gladiators’ domain, as they fought to the death, delighting the spectators and nobility. The Arena is now a main tourist draw which you can walk through and sit on the original spectator’s seats, as well as go underneath the structure to see where the lions and imprisoned gladiators were kept. A sport, similar to the UFC, two gladiators rivaled for their lives, or a gladiator was paired against a lion. Gladiators were prisoners, but could gain public support with continued success in the arena, and could eventually earn their freedom. Under this incredible monument of carved limestone and archways, the underground labyrinth has now been turned into a museum which displays the original tools used in making olive oil (something Istria is famed for).

The bell tower behind the Amphitheater

The bell tower behind the Amphitheater


Andrew the gladiator

Andrew the gladiator


Ana and the lion

Ana and the lion


The original spectators' seats, still used today for concerts and festivals.  During our time in Pula, the annual film festival was held in the Arena, and movies were screened here.

The original spectators' seats, still used today for concerts and festivals. During our time in Pula, the annual film festival was held in the Arena, and movies were screened here.


An arch of the Arena

An arch of the Arena


Pink glow of sunset

Pink glow of sunset


At dusk

At dusk


The Arena at night

The Arena at night


Pula's Amphitheater from the 1st-century, lit up at night

Pula's Amphitheater from the 1st-century, lit up at night

A grinding wheel

A grinding wheel


A push wheel

A push wheel


This press would sqeeze the oils out of the olives into the large rock basin

This press would sqeeze the oils out of the olives into the large rock basin


Amphoras that were found in Pula

Amphoras that were found in Pula


Amphoras were used to store and ship olive oil

Amphoras were used to store and ship olive oil

From Pula we took a bus to Rovinj, a beautiful old town that winds up a hill and overlooks the sea and thirteen of Croatia’s thousands of islands. Rovinj, for me, has always been a favourite place to visit, with countless art galleries, handmade treasures, and little coffee shops along cobble streets smooth from wear, all peaking at the upper church of St. Euphemia with its prominent bell tower. A statue of St. Euphemia (a martyr for the Christian faith) stands atop the bell tower as a weathervane, pointing out to sea the direction of the wind. With endless charm, especially at night, I wanted to show Andrew the adorable streets I know and love.

Rovinj

Rovinj


Cute little cobbled streets winding up the hill

Cute little cobbled streets winding up the hill


The bell tower

The bell tower


Rovinj and harbour

Rovinj and harbour


The hilltop church of St. Euphemia

The hilltop church of St. Euphemia


St. Euphemia pointing in the direction of the wind

St. Euphemia pointing in the direction of the wind


St. Euphemia

St. Euphemia


A view of the Adriatic

A view of the Adriatic


Ana overlooking 13 islands that are located near and around Rovinj

Ana overlooking 13 islands that are located near and around Rovinj


A small island just off the coast from Rovinj

A small island just off the coast from Rovinj


Beautiful old doors

Beautiful old doors


Ana and Andrew happy in Rovinj

Ana and Andrew happy in Rovinj

From Rovinj we carried on to Poreč, a small town outside the village I called home when little, and which I returned to for endless summers of my youth. With cobble streets, a lovely harbour and promenade, the Euphrasian Basilica with 6th-century golden mosaics (a World Heritage Site), and a 2km walkway around the town and near beaches, Poreč will always be a special place for me. In the years since my childhood, Poreč has become a never ending industry of tourism, full of resorts and crawling with tourists. The beautiful slab beaches are now covered with masonry and concrete, and the quiet haven where I learned to swim is now overrun without a place to lie down. I felt a deep sorrow seeing my home this way, though I know the tourist industry is very important to Poreč, I selfishly wished for the days when I splashed in the clear waters, played with my sister and turned golden in the hot sun. Still a beautiful place, it is not for those looking for a quiet get-a-way. We spent an afternoon walking around before heading to my tiny village, called Mugeba.

Limski Kanal -on the drive between Pula and Poreč

Limski Kanal -on the drive between Pula and Poreč


Poreč

Poreč


The Euphrasian Basilica

The Euphrasian Basilica


Old stone houses in Poreč

Old stone houses in Poreč


Andrew in Poreč

Andrew in Poreč


Venetian architecture is still visible around Poreč -notice the windows

Venetian architecture is still visible around Poreč -notice the windows


Venetian windows

Venetian windows

My family home still remains, though rings hollow without the laughter and loving smile of my Nono, along with the sense of family Mugeba always brought me. This all said, we opened the shutters and I showed Andrew the tiny old house and reveled in sitting there, browsing through old photos and books, and sharing the memories I will always carry with me.

Ana and her family home in Mugeba

Ana and her family home in Mugeba


These moments with my sister, Nono and Nona in Mugeba together, I will never forget

These moments with my sister, Nono and Nona in Mugeba together, I will never forget

The following day we headed back to Pula for another lazy beach day. We rented a car and made plans for our trip to the final destination of our European holiday –Venice. I’ll make you wait for that part though, and all the beautiful pictures we have to share.

Love and hugs,

Xox A-Team

Posted by A-Team 15:20 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

A Return to Island Life

Pag and Rab

sunny 32 °C

With our inland road trip at an end, we headed off to the island of Pag. With a bridge that connects the island to the mainland, a bus took us northward. While the rest of Croatia remains green and fruitful, regardless of the hot and dry summer, the further we drove north the landscape began to change drastically. The soil disappeared and fields became endless and barren with white stones stretching as far as the eye could see. A few low-lying shrubs clung on for dear life, but little else could survive in this infertile landscape. Almost moon-like, we marveled at the strangeness of it and wondered what people do with these endless rocky fields. We learned that the land was at one time lush and green, but during Venetian rule it was stripped of all its trees to help build what is now Venice. As these trees were removed and winds swept the land, little else remained.

Rock and steel blue waters in Pag -it looked like we landed on the moon

Rock and steel blue waters in Pag -it looked like we landed on the moon

People learned to make do with what is left behind, and Pag became known for its unmistakable cheese which is some of the best in Croatia. Sheep roam freely, grazing on the few salty herbs and plants that manage to thrive here, producing a distinct salty and sharp cheese. This Paški Sir (cheese) is famous, and is an important resource for Pag, including fish and traditional lace work.

While Pag Town is known for its cobbled streets and architecture, we did not come to this island for more sightseeing, rather for the wild chaos of Zrče Beach, which lies just outside the town of Novalja. I have little to say about Novalja, with only new buildings, hotels and unappealing beaches. However, to experience Zrče, this is the place to stay.

A Novalja sunset

A Novalja sunset

Zrče Beach has been called the “new Ibiza,” as all the famous DJ’s come through Pag and hold large parties for insanely cheap prices. While Ibiza had clubs spread out all over the island, Zrče is a long stretch of beach with many outdoor clubs, sitting side-by-side, only steps from each other. We had no plans on spending much time here, but wanted to see for ourselves how Zrče compares.

Ana at Zrće

Ana at Zrće


Norman Doray

Norman Doray



We loved the outdoor venue, and how simple it was to pass from one club to another. We also were amazed by the next-to-nothing prices, compared to the small fortune you spend in Ibiza. However, we both agreed that the crowds were not there for the music as they were in Ibiza; rather, they were far too drunk, raucous and young. Un-thwarted, we went out the one night and danced away to French DJ –Norman Doray, who we both agreed put on a fantastic show. Carl Cox was set to play the following night, but having seen him shine in Ibiza, we were set to move on with our journey.

Papaya on the beach

Papaya on the beach


Andrew and Ana happy in Zrće

Andrew and Ana happy in Zrće


Andrew ready to dance

Andrew ready to dance


At Aquarius on Zrće

At Aquarius on Zrće


At NOA nightclub, right on the water

At NOA nightclub, right on the water

We pulled ourselves away from the music around 2:30 am, knowing that our ferry left in the morning at 6am for the island of Rab. With little sleep, but feeling happy never-the-less, we boarded our ferry for the quick trip up the coast. Originally Rab was not part of our plan, but I wanted to see the island where my parents had their honeymoon, over 30 years ago.

Four distinct bell towers of Rab

Four distinct bell towers of Rab


Rab's pretty harbour

Rab's pretty harbour


Ana in Rab

Ana in Rab

Rab is a beautiful, medieval old town with an unmistakable skyline, consisting of four bell towers rising from the red, terracotta roofs of the tightly-nestled stone buildings. Cobble-stone streets climb up narrow alleys and bougainvillea drape over every wall, only to reach the upper town where ancient churches look out at the azure Adriatic below. Small taxi boats will whisk you away to one of the many tiny islands around Rab and leave you in a private nook to spend a day in your own private beach.

Four towers

Four towers


One of the old churches of Rab

One of the old churches of Rab


The cobbled streets in Rab

The cobbled streets in Rab


Andrew looking out over the Adriatic from one viewpoint in Rab

Andrew looking out over the Adriatic from one viewpoint in Rab


One of the Roman columns still standing in Rab

One of the Roman columns still standing in Rab


Ruins in Rab

Ruins in Rab


Quiet little islands off the coast of Rab

Quiet little islands off the coast of Rab

Very tired from our night out, we arrived in Rab at 7am, only to find closed shops and empty streets. With no accommodations pre-planned we waited and searched hopelessly until finally finding an over-priced room, and then off we went to explore. We spent hours wandering up and down the picture-postcard streets and enjoying the many viewpoints. At noon, the sun began to beat down upon us in full force and exhaustion set in. We went to our room for a short nap, only to awake to dark skies and amazing flashes of lightning, before finally opening to torrential rains and strong winds (called bura). Exiled to our room, the night in Rab was spent watching movies and listening to the endless wind and rain. Morning brought back the beautiful blue skies as if nothing had happened the previous night. Brief but beautiful all the same, our time in Rab came to an end.

Love the layers of cloud, mountain side, rocky shore, and steel blue waters during a storm.

Love the layers of cloud, mountain side, rocky shore, and steel blue waters during a storm.


Bura in Pag

Bura in Pag

A blog about the northern region of Croatia, called Istria, will complete our Croatian journey, but that can wait till next time.

Much love,
Xox A-Team

Posted by A-Team 04:53 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

On the Road Again

Road Trippin' Part 2

sunny 32 °C

After visiting Krka National Park we were stunned by the sheer volume of water that rushed over each waterfall. Waking up early the next morning we headed off to see more falls in Croatia’s largest National Park, as well as a World Heritage Site –Plitvice Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes National Park spans over nearly 295 km2 with two-thirds of the land covered in lush green forest. While the park has thousands of visitors on a regular basis, the park has strict regulations to preserve this national treasure. With no swimming tolerated in the park, the waters remain pristine and crystal clear, showing off the almost unnatural radiant blue. Starting at the highest elevations, one lake feeds into another via a series of waterfalls. There are so many graduated pools that feed into each other that the number of waterfalls in one park is breathtaking. While we agreed that Krka may boast the most volume of water, Plitvice Lakes amazed us when we easily lost count of how many waterfalls can be seen in this one area.

One lake feeding a lower lake via waterfalls.

One lake feeding a lower lake via waterfalls.


A large ravine has been carved by this river/lake system over thousands of years.

A large ravine has been carved by this river/lake system over thousands of years.

The lake water is chalk full of calcium carbonate, which, over time, calcifies the moss covered rocks and forms Travertine. This process forms barriers, damns, and riverbeds between the various levels of the river/lake system. As the water cascades over the travertine into the pools below, it continues to add deposits of calcium causing the continuous re-shaping of the landscape.

The travertine layer forming over moss. This process has been happening since the last Ice Age.

The travertine layer forming over moss. This process has been happening since the last Ice Age.



We discovered that there are different ways to experience the lakes. With small boats that can take you to different points around the lower and upper lake, row boats for rent, and buses that can connect trails off the main roads, many people only walk through portions of the park. We wanted to make sure we saw the entire area and chose to hike the 20 km trail. Rich forests enclose the surreal blue waters and shaded us from the hot sun. Starting with the lower lakes first, we clearly saw the levels that have formed from the travertine and how multiple waterfalls feed the next lake. Below us wooden walkways have been built for tourists to view the falls up close, but we had the best of both worlds by staying on the higher path to gain a bird’s eye perspective, while also having the option to descend to the main view points below.

The small ferry boat can be seen in the upper lake, and a set of falls dropping off into a lower lake.

The small ferry boat can be seen in the upper lake, and a set of falls dropping off into a lower lake.


Wooden walkways twist along the lakes, taking tourists up close to the beautiful waterfalls.

Wooden walkways twist along the lakes, taking tourists up close to the beautiful waterfalls.


Beautiful

Beautiful


Beautiful viewpoints wherever you are within the park.

Beautiful viewpoints wherever you are within the park.

We came to Veliki Slap, or Large Falls, as we rounded the lower lake, aptly named for the 78 meter drop which makes it the furthest waterfall drop in Croatia. Cascading water rushes down a large rock face in three separate falls even in the dry season, though the volume of wet season must be impressive. We continued on to a series of smaller yet equally beautiful falls, and after a while it became hard to judge which were the most picturesque.

Many viewpoints show this large waterfall.

Many viewpoints show this large waterfall.


Veliki Slap, dropping 78 meters to the first pool, only to continue feeding lower waterfalls.

Veliki Slap, dropping 78 meters to the first pool, only to continue feeding lower waterfalls.


Ana under the large waterfall

Ana under the large waterfall


A view of the three seperate falls of Veliki Slap. Imagine this in the wet season!

A view of the three seperate falls of Veliki Slap. Imagine this in the wet season!


Andrew and the Veliki Slap

Andrew and the Veliki Slap


One large fall feeding another.

One large fall feeding another.


The A-Team happy in Plitvice Lakes National Park

The A-Team happy in Plitvice Lakes National Park

From the lower lake we proceeded through the thick forest comprising mainly of Beech trees and apparently full of a variety of wildlife, including Brown bears, which we unfortunately did not see. Thinking that the endless procession of waterfalls was at its end, we were in awe when we came to the upper lakes, finding another set of falls around every bend. We spent six-and-a-half hours walking the 20 km, stopping often to take countess photos and snack breaks. Exhausted at days end, we left with big smiles and beautiful memories. Our only regret is that so many tourists are allowed through the park in a day, but were pleased that they did not impact the clear waters and rich forests, only impeding our walking speed and blocking some photographic opportunities. With so many falls to capture in photos, I am only including a few highlights in the blog.

Little falls continuously fill brilliant, crystal clear waters

Little falls continuously fill brilliant, crystal clear waters


Endless cascades

Endless cascades


Everywhere you look another set of falls awaits

Everywhere you look another set of falls awaits


So picturesque

So picturesque


Andrew at the upper lake

Andrew at the upper lake


Looking down from one of many falls

Looking down from one of many falls


Here the pools look green. The colour depends on the amount of minerals in the water, as well as organisms, rainfull, and how the angle sunlight hits the water.

Here the pools look green. The colour depends on the amount of minerals in the water, as well as organisms, rainfull, and how the angle sunlight hits the water.


A-Team amazed by the beautiful colour of water.

A-Team amazed by the beautiful colour of water.


Waterfall

Waterfall


The only way to get back to the start of the trail is to take this little ferry across a short way. Here is Andrew happy and tired.

The only way to get back to the start of the trail is to take this little ferry across a short way. Here is Andrew happy and tired.


Pristine waters and unspoiled forests, even with all the tourists that visit this national park.

Pristine waters and unspoiled forests, even with all the tourists that visit this national park.

From Plitvice we again continued on our road trip back to the coast and northward to Zadar, another large port-city where we would spend the night and return our trusty little Twingo car. While Zadar has not been a large tourist draw in the past, the scene is changing as young tourists are drawn to the Roman and Venetian ruins, vibrant night-life, and a beautiful sunset. While we had no desire to spend multiple days here, it was definitely worth a peek into the old-town.

The old gates into Zadar's old town.

The old gates into Zadar's old town.


Sunset in Zadar.

Sunset in Zadar.

We searched Zadar for accommodations but were met with full rooms and hefty prices, until finally settling into a cheap but clean boarding house. Wanting to make the most of our short stay we set off for an evening of exploration through Zadar. The long waterfront walkway is lovely to stroll upon in the warm evenings. Nearing a corner of the walkway we began to hear strange music with an odd melody seemingly radiating from the Sea. Zadar has the world’s only Sea organ, which plays music created by waves lapping at the sides of the promenade. From small holes that are found along the walkway, the waves play their almost mournful sounding melody for the tourists that sit and wait for the brilliant orange sunset of Zadar.

The holes on the walkway which let out the song of the waves.

The holes on the walkway which let out the song of the waves.


Andrew listening to the Sea Organ.

Andrew listening to the Sea Organ.

We sat on the edge of the walk snapping pictures until the sun went down, leaving behind a pink and orange sky. Turning our attention to the strange centerpiece of the promenade – a large circular grid of solar lights covered by glass and walked upon by countless people, we wondered about its purpose. As the sun vanished, lights began to twinkle under our feet and move in colours and patterns, all powered by the solar energy accumulated throughout the day. This artwork was designed as a sun salutation, and as the colours of the sky reflected on the glass and the lights flickered, the area was lit with a warm glow.

Having fun on the glowing lights.

Having fun on the glowing lights.


Andrew and the lights.

Andrew and the lights.


A-Team standing on Zadar's Sun Salutation

A-Team standing on Zadar's Sun Salutation


The reflection and glow after sunset.

The reflection and glow after sunset.


Andrew enjoying his time in the lime light.

Andrew enjoying his time in the lime light.

The old town of Zadar has a central church and bell tower, along with some Roman ruins, cobbled streets, and parts of remaining walls used for fortification (commonly found in many of Croatia’s coastal towns and cities). At night the streets in old-town Zadar become alive with buskers and endless tourists that wander from one performance to another, all the while licking their gelato and flashing their best attire. From musicians to magicians, statues that move once you deposit a tip, and cartoonists to realist artists, a night-time stroll to see the lively crowds is a must.

Zadar's bell tower in the evening light.

Zadar's bell tower in the evening light.


The orange glow of Zadar's sunset.

The orange glow of Zadar's sunset.

Exhausted from our full day of walking and taking in the sights, our night ended in a heap on our bed. The following day we caught a ferry to Pag, yet another of Croatia’s many islands. With still two islands to write about, I’ll leave these details for the next blog.

Love to all,

Xox A-Team

Posted by A-Team 07:36 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Road Trippin’ in Croatia

Part 1

sunny 32 °C

The next leg of our Croatian journey would take us to the mainland and into the central Dalmatian interior. We left the islands for Split, Croatia’s second largest city, where we would spend the day touring the old town and the beautiful feats of architecture.

Split

Split

Split is a large port city that is mainly used as a hub to get tourists to one of the many Dalmatian islands. Along with a long seafront walkway around the harbour and excursion boats ready to whisk you away to unspoiled islets, Split’s main draw remains Diocletian’s palace in the heart of the city (a UNESCO world heritage site).

A view of the harbour from Split's bell tower

A view of the harbour from Split's bell tower


Ana outside the walled city of Split

Ana outside the walled city of Split

Diocletian was a Roman Emperor (AD 245-313), who had the palace constructed as a place to retire, sparing little expense in its ten year building period. Marble was brought from Italy, sculptures from Egypt, and the white stones from Brač were used to build the palace (the same stones that were used to build the White House in Washington D.C.).

The bell tower in Diocletian's Palace

The bell tower in Diocletian's Palace


Andrew walking around old town Split

Andrew walking around old town Split

The term “palace” is misleading as it refers to all that lies within what remains of the four imposing walls. Along with a military fortress and towers that fortified a town within the walls, the imperial residence, temples and a grand cathedral, the palace covers an area of 31 000 square meters. Twisting streets of marble wind around in a confusing maze of alleyways, full both of tourists and modern little shops found in within the original edifices. Restaurants and coffee shops abound, and courtyards can be found around any bend. We toured these walls all day and only found one of the central courtyards later in the evening, exemplifying the confusion of the labyrinth.

The central point in the palace

The central point in the palace


One of Split's gates and the remaining wall

One of Split's gates and the remaining wall


The clock tower in Split

The clock tower in Split

The four walls each have one gate named after a metal: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron. Outside the Bronze Gate the famed statue of 10th century Croatian bishop Grgur Ninski (built by Ivan Meštrović, an important Croatian sculptor), towers before the entrance with tourists lined up to rub the polished big toe of the statue for its apparent luck-giving properties.

Statue of Grgur Ninski

Statue of Grgur Ninski


Andrew rubbing the big toe for good luck

Andrew rubbing the big toe for good luck

The streets meet in a central square from where Cathedral of St. Dominus is found, and after paying a small toll we were allowed to enter the Cathedral that was built as Diocletian’s mausoleum and remains largely preserved. The highlight was the long climb up the bell-tower for the panoramic view of Split. We ended our day with a hike up to the hill above the city (with yet again a seemingly endless set of stairs), and took in the beautiful view while watching the sunset in Split.

Andrew and the remaining wall around Split

Andrew and the remaining wall around Split


Ana and Andrew looking down from the bell tower

Ana and Andrew looking down from the bell tower


Ana and the bell tower

Ana and the bell tower


A hilltop view of Split

A hilltop view of Split


Sunset in Split

Sunset in Split

Early the next morning we set out on our road trip to see two of Croatia’s eight national parks. Driving up the coast we stopped off in the tiny town of Trogir, a world heritage site. Another walled city full of twisting cobble streets, it draws in many tourists and large yachts. Surrounded by moat and fortresses, along with intact Romanesque architecture and a beautiful cathedral, the sleepy Trogir offers many photographic opportunities. We walked the town and took pictures in less than an hour (you can imagine its scale), and then set off again on our road trip. Along the drive we saw beautiful shocks of colour of the Adriatic and at one point had to pull over to take photographs of the picturesque coastal town of Primošten.

The A-Team starting out on their road trip

The A-Team starting out on their road trip


Trogir surrounded by a moat

Trogir surrounded by a moat


Large fortress walls guard tiny Trogir

Large fortress walls guard tiny Trogir


Moat around Trogir

Moat around Trogir


Andrew walking the cobble stone streets of Trogir

Andrew walking the cobble stone streets of Trogir


Central square of Trogir

Central square of Trogir


Andrew concentrating on the narrow winding roads

Andrew concentrating on the narrow winding roads


Primošten

Primošten


Primošten from the highway

Primošten from the highway


The drier interior of the south

The drier interior of the south

We headed to Krka National Park and parked in the town of Skradin, from where we caught a small ferry boat that took us up the Krka River to the first set of falls. As the green, slow waters of the river wind towards the falls, few would guess what awaits them. The torrents of waters rush down any rock crevice available, drowning trees in its wake and plummeting to a large pool full of swimmers basking in the fresh clear waters. Climbing further up river another large waterfall can be heard before seen. Seven times the Krka river surprises with the sheer volume of water flowing over its famed waterfalls. We spent the day hiking to view each one, stopping in the shade to enjoy a picnic. We finished our day in the bottom pool, with Andrew jumping from trees and sitting under small offshoots of the larger falls. Having washed the sweat and dust from the hike away, we spent another couple hours driving to the next large park on our radar. Finding a cute place to lay our heads down, we settled in 9kms outside the gates of Plitvice Lakes National Park.

From Skradin you take a boat up the river

From Skradin you take a boat up the river


First set of falls

First set of falls


Andrew at Krka National Park

Andrew at Krka National Park


waterfall

waterfall


A view from above of the different levels of the Krka river

A view from above of the different levels of the Krka river


The descending pools

The descending pools


One of the seven falls at Krka Park

One of the seven falls at Krka Park


Beautiful colours

Beautiful colours


Ana at Krka National Park

Ana at Krka National Park


Waterfalls

Waterfalls


Impressive volume of water

Impressive volume of water


Andrew leaping from trees into the Krka river

Andrew leaping from trees into the Krka river


Ana swimming under the large Krka waterfall

Ana swimming under the large Krka waterfall


Andrew under an offshoot of the large falls

Andrew under an offshoot of the large falls

More from the parks in the next blog. Love to all,

Xox A-Team

Posted by A-Team 08:41 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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