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.

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