Wednesday, September 23, 2009

croatia

This past August Garrett and I took our first vacation together in Croatia.

Elizabeth and Milan lent us their car: they just bought and old Renault which, after a summer of driving, they decided could probably make the trip. We drove through Brno, Vienna, Slovenia, and then into Croatia. Our first rest stop in Croatia was rather eventful. I had just driven a long stretch, and we stopped at a gas station. When Garrett tried to start the car, nothing happened. We were in a foreign country where we didn't speak a word of the language. We didn't have any currency yet, and we were 8 hrs from home in a car that wasn't ours... Garrett kept saying, what do you think we should do. And I just sat for a minute soaking up the details of it, soaking in how much of a scrape we could be in --- but convinced that it had to be okay. We called Milan, and turns out, he had the same problem: a little jiggle of the car battery cables solved the problem. What a relief.
Evening dinner: peanut butter and nutella in the front seat.

Our first stop was Plitvice National Park. The land is full of limestone there, and the lake water is full of calcium, which it deposits as it moves -- so as the water falls, it builds up dams which create lakes, and then it continues to spill into new waterfalls, which also dam, and the whole process has led to a series of lakes and waterfalls across a hillside. The water is so blue, and clear too. We could see fish. We walked up through the lakes, through waterfall, gaining ground and coming to new lakes. The area is a sanctuary for many wildlife, but we didn't see anything interesting besides a few dragonflies.
After our walk through Plitvice we got back in the car for a 8+ hour drive south. The scenery changed quickly and dramatically.
We arrived in Dubrovnik, an old, walled city that is sticking out on a peninsula. It's been completely walled in for hundreds of years. The first time the walls we're actually used for defense was in 1991 during the war.

The city was quite lovely. It's full of small passageways of stone - so hard and polished with walking for centuries it looked like marble. We ate at a cafe, strolled around, and then - as it was getting so hot - walked through the wall of the city onto some rocks where we laid out and jumped into the Adriatic. When we were bored of that we walked back into the city and found lunch -- smoothies and pizza slices. Then we walked the city walls for some amazing views. Then we went to a second swimming spot outside the walls.
Each Croatian town we visited had resident cats. This amused me.
Dubruvnik was nice, but we were ready to see the next place, so we packed our tent and spent the evening driving up the Peljesac peninsula. We arrived in time for a ferry across the sea to Korcula, and just as we pulled off the ferry we saw the campground. We spent Sunday in the town of Korcula, similiar to how we spent our Saturday in Dubrovnik. Korcula is a minature Dubrovnik. It's quite cute, but so little you could circumnavigate it in about 10 minutes. The city walls have long since been knocked down, to improve ventilation in the city streets. We found a swimming spot further up shore, and spent several hours there.
That afternoon we drove across the island to the town where we'd catch a ferry early the next morning. We found a campsite about 6km out of town practically in the middle of nowhere. It was surrouned by beautiful spots to swim, and I wish we could have spent several days there, trying out all the beaches. But we had to wake up before 5 to get in line for the ferry to Split.
After the three hour ferry, we walked around Diocletian's Palace in Split. It was cool to see such old Roman ruins.
Then we drove to Zadar. Our main purpose in stopping there was to see the sea organ that has been built into the sea wall. We meant to stop for 10 minutes: we parked along the sea wall, walked around to the organ, listened to the enchanting sound, and walked back to our car...only to find that we were blocked in by cars trailing boats waiting to get on a ferry. We were starving, and no one paid attention to the fact that we were returning to a blocked-in car. So we found pizza and a coke, and then a grocery store where we could buy some wine. (Croatia is famous for its wine.) After nearly an hour, we returned to find our car still blocked in, but this time the people were kind and concerned for us. The ferry wasn't returning for over an hour. Garrett bravely drove the car along the edge of the sea wall and into an empty parking spot where a car was able to move and let us out onto the road.
video
We still had a long way to drive: all the way to the north of Slovenia, Lake Bled.

At the end of the trip we drove back through Slovenia and stayed on Lake Bled, which is absolutely beautiful - tucked in the mountains with a castle on a cliff and a cute island with a church. It was raining, and we only had the morning, so Bled is tops on our list of places to return to.

Driving back through Slovenia we saw one of these interesting racks for drying the hay in the rainy climate. When driving through Europe, you get to keep your eyes peeled for castle ruins.


We drove on to Salzburg to pick up Garrett's sister and brother-in-law, Caren and Drew....

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