Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Color of Blue

This is our last day in Lombarda, the sleepy village on Korcula where we have stayed the last 5 days. It has been brilliantly sunny, warm (very warm) and we find ourselves sleeping in way past our normal workday patterns. I think this is called relaxing.

We drove the island's length yesterday in search of a beach and to see the sights of this mountainous Adriatic island. We were greeted with views of villages nestled along steep, terraced hillsides, high winding roads overlooking the narrow island and the deep blue sea beyond that faded into the blue skies. Peg and I both have been struck by the overwhelming sense of "blueness". Deep blue skies, varying shades of turquoise, dark blue and light blue water, and even blue doors on an old farmer's stone outbuilding are some of the ways we have been struck by the color that dominates this landscape.

Every afternoon has turned into a rocky beach swim, and the evenings of late have been music night at the town square across the small bay in front of our place. Traditional music and dance has filled the evening air until about 11 PM every night since July 1st.

Alas, it comes to a close. Tomorrow we take the early ferry off the island and begin our long drive back to Germany. It has been a great family adventure and more importantly, a great time being together before our oldest heads off to college. We treasure the time we have had this trip which will be the last one as a family with kids - the next will be as a family with at least one adult kid and who knows when that will be.

Do Videnja!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Update from Korcula

Dubrovnik 6-28-08

We started our day at Trigor, heading south to Split to see Dioclecian’s Palace in the center of the old city, which is now a bustling European city with huge apartment towers surrounding the city center and heavy industry that now supports the economy. We wandered through the narrow streets of the 4th Century palace that the retirement home of one of the last great Roman emperor’s (who actually was a bit whacky – he thought he was the god Jupiter and executed thousands of Christians who refused to worship him). His mausoleum is now the site of several of the 4th and 5th Century bishops who governed the site after Dioclecian’s death.
Then it was off to Dubrovnik, one of the truly ancient cultural centers of the Balkans – housing the oldest pharmacy in the world, one of the early free cities of Europe and also the site of the successful halting of the Muslim religion up the Balkan coast during the Middle Ages. Dubrovnik is a western, Catholic city, not Orthodox or Mediterranean in culture like you will see further south. We are staying in the home of a family touched by the war in 1991, when the Serbs shelled the city for 4 months. Our host sent his wife and kids away to safety while he and 4 friends defended their home and the city against the Serbs who held the high ground overlooking the city. The hotel next door to this home was destroyed by the shelling and is now rebuilt into a massive tourist destination hotel.
Tomorrow we tour the old city, only a few minute walk from here. We’re in a great spot to scramble down the rock hillsides right to the Adriatic for a swim when it’s hot in the afternoon.

Dubrovnik 6-29-08
Ah, Dubrovnik, the Jewel of the Adriatic. This old walled city is a great place to wander, especially on top of the walls (for a $10 fee but well worth it). We walked from our apartment (about a mile) to the old city and started with the walking tour around the whole city along the ramparts. The blazing sun ramped the temperature up as we strolled high above the city on the walls. The views both into the city and outside the walls were stunning from many points along the walk. You definitely have to stay hydrated as you move along the limestone walls that reflect plenty of the sunlight back at you.
You could see a few walls that were stilled pock marked with shrapnel from the shelling in 1991, and several scars where the modern artillery shells violently met the smooth limestone streets that date back hundreds of years. Apparently, the reason the Serbs decided to try to take Dubrovnik was mostly symbolic – to slap the Croats in the face by pummeling their prized city.
The combination of the turquoise water, blue skies, limestone building with red tile roofs makes for an idyllic setting to spend time on the rocky beaches. We came back after our walk around the old town, then jumped into our swimsuits and the climbed down the hill below are apartment for another afternoon in the water. We found some great cliffs to jump and dive off of again – only about 20 feet high but still a rush as you wait in the air to finally hit the water. Dinner and more great sleep in this quiet apartment are in store before we move again and head out to the island of Korĉula.

July 1 – Lombarda, Korĉula Is.
We are now in our first full day on Korĉula Island, a 45 km long Island off the coast of Croatia proper that is a place away from the harried crowds of Dubrovnik and other tourist cities along the coast of Croatia. We are staying for 5 nights at the same place – the Peruĉic’s home where they rent several apartments out to tourists for days to weeks at a time. We arrived by ferry yesterday after another stunningly beautiful drive up the Peljaŝic Peninsula to Orebic where the short ferry ride originated from.
It’s really warm again (90’s) and we are surviving by jumping into the ocean each afternoon to cool off. Clear water, deep blue skies, lots of sun, and – fortunately - a shady patio that we can hang out, read, eat and converse with our hosts on. Peg and I have taken a couple walks – one around the town and the other this morning to the other side of the narrow island. We were baking when we got there so we dove in the ocean yet again to attempt to cool down. We have a nice view from the patio to the fishing village of Lombarda – shown in the picture above.
Tomorrow we are going to head into the old city of Korĉula, a walled coastal city with several sites to see, restaurants to check out and hopefully some shade to keep us cool. Then in the evening, there will be a folk life festival in Lombarda with music from the local band and choirs. Should be fun.
Probably one more update before we jump on the ferries and autobahn back north to Munich on Saturday. We are having a great time with our nearly adult kids on this trip – lots of jokes, humor and relaxed fun together. A blessing not to be taken for granted.

Friday, June 27, 2008


We started our long haul down to southern Croatia. We decided to stop in Trogir, another very old city, this one that is basically an island connected by a short bridge to the mainland. We spent most of the day driving through the rugged and very unpopulated areas of central Croatia. This place is very mountainous and heavily wooded. It is easy to see how the Partisans hid in these mountains for the duration of WWII with this kind of terrain to hide in.

One of the great things we have found has been the seafood. Not all restaurants are created equal but we have had a couple very tasty meals.

Tomorrow we will reach Dubrovnik via Split were we will once again see more remnants of the Roman empire's colonization of this coastline. We'll spend two nights there before we head out to our next stop on the island of Korcula.

We are hijacking our connection to the internet today so this is a short update until we have another place to link up.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Croatia here we come

Ebenau, Austria to Kobarid, Slovenia.

Our first day of road trip heading towards Croatia was full of twists and turns. We hopped on to the autobahn heading south through the center of Austria with the plan to reach Kobarid by mid-day or so. We crossed into the far western edge of Slovenia near the intersections of the Austria-Italy-Slovenia borders.

It was a day of passes – the first –Obertaurn Pass in Central Austria was a quintessential alpine pass with a massive ski area that covered every aspect of the pass above treeline. It looked like fabulous terrain for skiing. There were numerous hotels, mostly newer construction, that were packed around the central area of the pass.

The second pass was at the border of Austria and Slovenia – Wursstpass. The road wound its way up the north side of the pass, at points up to 18 degree grades with multiple hairpin turns. Just when you thought that was bad, we hit the third pass – Vrsic Pass. The mountains here are the eastern edge of the Dolomite range of Italy – jagged, near vertical spires of limestone rock that such the earth towards the sky. Twenty-two switchbacks up a narrow, sort of a two-lane road marked this route along with big tour buses trying to do the impossible. The turns were so sharp that the buses would fully block all lanes on both sides of the hairpin turns. If an oncoming car came up to fast around a turn, they could find themselves broad siding a bus.

Finally, we survived the wild ride down the south side of Vrsic pass and finished our drive to Kobarid, narrowly be forced off the road only a few kilometers from Kobarid by a bus trying to cut a corner.

We arrived in Kobarid for the big family surprise – Peg’s sister, Sherwin, Norman, Addicus and Keaton were secretly waiting for us there. I was in on the plan but no one else expected to see them - the cover story was that they were in Hawaii. Despite several attempts by Peg to “take the scenic route”, I pushed the “agenda” to get to Kobarid in the early afternoon to maximize our time with the family for our short intersection. We arrived to see Addie and Keaton flying down on paragliders with pilots from a local tourism outfit. A great arrival plan!

Now we have some recent tips about where to go tomorrow and the next day as we work our way south along the Dalmatian Coast. More as we go.

Slovenia to Premantura, Croatia- 25 June 08

On a tip from the family we intersected in Kobarid, we cut our stay short by one day in Kobarid and made our way south to the Istrian Peninsula in Western Croatia. Before leaving Kobarid, we did a 3 mile walking tour of some of the historical sites around Kobarid. We hiked up to an old settlement site that dated back to the 700’s AD, then as part of that hike walked through the old Italian trench lines from WWI. After the hike, we went to the WWI museum in Kobarid which was an excellent focused story on the battles that were fought there during the war.

We hopped in the car in the afternoon and drove 3+ hours to Pula, Croatia then a little further to a little resort town call Premantura. The town is tiny but obviously a booming little resort hub with great rocky beaches with cliffs. It was over 90 degrees and moderately humid so we drove straight to the beach and took our first of many swims in the Adriatic. The water was the perfect temperature to cool you in the blazing afternoon heat. There are big cliffs that drop into huge pools of clear blue water that we eyed for the next day.

Dinner was a seafood treat – mini-lobsters, giant calamari (intact squid actually) were part of the seafood fare. Can’t recommend the spaghetti – event this close to Italy, it just was very flavorful – tasted mostly like meat with nothing added to the sauce.

Premantura, Croatia - 26 June 08

We got up early in the morning to head up to Pula to see the Roman coliseum there, hoping the beat the heat. It was a bit of a chore to find this huge landmark as all of the streets change names every few blocks and they wind all kinds of crazy directions. Finally, we just parked and walked west and to our amazement we were just a few block away from the coliseum, which is one of the best preserved coliseum from the Roman world.

We paid the entry fee and went on the hour long audio tour in the blazing heat (close to 98 degrees in the shade). The history of the coliseum, and the multiple attempts by the Venetian rulers to dismantle it, was fascinating. Definitely worth the small price of admission.

After we sweltered in the sun, we dashed back to the car and zipped back to our apartment in Prementura, had lunch , then hit the beach. The water was the perfect solution to the blazing heat. Peg was the bold one, first one to jump off the high rocky overhangs about 25 feet into the water. After a little while Mike found a different cove with a cliff that was even higher and without a clue, jumped off. That set off a repeated cycle of flinging ourselves off the cliffs into the water. The kids had a great time jumping in off they myriad of ledges that hung over the clear blue water.

Now we are back, waiting for the heat to abate and head off to dinner. More seafood for sure – at $10 a plate, it’s hard to pass up. Tomorrow we are off to the Split area then down to Dubrovnik the following day.


Monday, June 23, 2008


Today was all about Salzburg. After sleeping 10 hours to alleviate yesterday's journey fatigue, we had a huge Austrian breakfast of fresh bread, cheeses, and great coffee. Jolted awake with the caffeine, we drove in 10 miles to Salzburg Centrum. We walked toward the old center of town but were drawn up the mountain side to the Festung Hohensalzburg (the high fortress of Salzburg). Parts of this great castle are over 1000 years old. With the entrance fee, you have access to the fortess grounds as well as a tour of the inner tower that leads to you a high perch overlooking the entire valley in all directions.

After our castle tour, we made our way down to the old city square and the massive cathedral at Residenz Platz. Another impressive symbol of feudal society's ability to construct an huge and intricately designed structure. Labor must have been cheap. We bought lunch at a grocery store and ate at the Mirabell park in the shade of the great trees there. Kristin and Daniel are great to travel with at this age (not that they were ever a bother). There humor and inquisitive questions, like "Is weinersnitzel a kind of sausage?", make are touring all the more fun.

Tomorrow, we began the road trip - south to Slovenia to the sleep town of Kobarid. It is a town that was ravaged in WWI and has several sites related to its role on the Italian Front of the Great War. We are not sure about our web access so our next post may be a few days away.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hitting the ground falling

It's day one of our newest family adventure. Travelling together again - this time to the exotic Dalmatian coastline of Croatia for two weeks of sightseeing and rest (we hope).

Our flights were a bit on the tortuous side. The no-frills treatment on US Airways was definitely that - no snacks, no sleep, no seats that have those nice little headrests that let you lean to the side and try to sleep. After a 5 hour and then a 7 hour flight, we landed in Munich, jumped in the rental car and zipped down to Austria at 90 mph. We nearly had a major glitch in our plans when we found out that Budget doesn't allow you to take a rental car to Croatia (car theft issues) so had to switch to a different European based car company (SIXT). Fortunately, they are not Croato-phobic so we now have wheels.

We took a short drive today through several small villages and walked around in order to stay awake. Just as when we left Europe 15 years ago, it still has it's idyllic scenary and beautiful blend of farms, mountains and bustling towns.

Back tomorrow after a few more neurons are connected with sleep.