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.


1 comment:

Bill & Faye said...

Many Christians are anxiously waiting to hear exactly what Peggy's exclamation was when she encountered her sister and nephews dropping out of the sky!