June 6th - 8th
We left Camp Lanterna after long goodbyes to our new friends and headed out on our 5 hour journey to Zadar. the Istrian Peninsula is lush and we passed through many pine forests. We drove on a relatively new highway and it was smooth sailing in our Mercedes sedan. As we neared Zadar we drove through a 5km tunnel and emerged surrounded by a more arrid landscape and beautiful views of the Adriatic.
After our arrival at our hotel we took a water taxi into Zadar and once again enjoyed some good pizza and cheap, delicious wine. It's going to be quite a change for us when we get home and the girls don't get soda pop with every meal and we don't eat pizza every other day! After dinner we walked to view the totally cool Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun by artist Nikola Basic. They are both powered by the waves and the after dark light show powered by the sun is a treat.
Our apartment is very spacious with a large balcony overlooking the town of Zadar and a bay. The second day we took the water taxi again and spent the day exploring the town (and of course shopping and eating gelato!) and even spent an hour at an Internet cafe with backpackers and punk rock music blasting through the speakers. I felt like a 20 year old backpacker all over again. That afternoon we spent by the pool at our hotel and cooked in.
On our final day in Zadar we gave into the girls pleas and visited the Adventure Park. There were billboards all along the highway as we entered town and for two days we heard their pleas and all decided it would be a fun diversion from sightseeing. The park has only been open 8 days and it is a ropes course with challenging courses (better for the muscles then Pilates) and fun zip lines.
Afterwards we opted to go to a Thai restaurant we saw in Zadar and were pleasantly surprised to meet Thai women living in Croatia and serving delicious food at a poolside setting. That evening we watched the 4th game of the basketball championship of Croatia between Zadar and Zagreb. Zadar ended up losing the series but it was fun to be there during the finals of a game that is so popular in this country.
June 9th - 11th
The journey to Split was a quick 2 hours on the new highway and we stayed in a great little apartment that was once a Dalmatian villa a block from Diocletian's Palace.
The Palace was the Roman emperor Diocletian's retirement home. He left Rome because he was worried about being assassinated (not a far fetched idea considering the 12 emporeres before him were all killed in Rome) and spent his final days living in the beautiful palace on the sea. He was a emperor known for persecuting Christians and it was interesting that he died one year before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. Once that happened the Christians made Diocletian's crypt into a beautiful church and destroyed his sarcaphogus.
We toured the Palace on the first night and enjoyed a gelato (of course!) on the steps in a square. On the second day we hiked to Marjan Park for a nice view of the city. It was uphill and very hot and we really appreciated a cold drink at the top of the hill. Afterwards we had some lunch at a seaside cafe and then continued our hike in the hot sun to the Mestovic Gallery. Ivan Mestovic built the villa as a home for his family and there are over 100 sculptures displayed inside the home and in the garden. He is the only artist to have a "one man show" at the NY Met and we were looking forward to viewing his work. Although is was hot and it was ANOTHER MUSEUM we actually ended up having a great time imitating our favorite scupltures. Afterwards we headed to the Green Market for some fresh fruit and went to a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant for dinner. That day we also found time to rub the toe of the statue of Bishop Ninski for good luck and Lucy mastered blowing bubbles with her gum and telling time.
On our third and final day in Split it was another hot day (in the low 90's) and we thought a day at the beach was in order. We walked to Bacvice Beach after buying ferry tickets for the rest of our trip. The beach is the "spiritual home of Croatia's Summer Sport - Picigin". Many people - mostly teenage boys - were playing the game in the shallow sandy water. You basically hit a small ball with your hand to others in the circle and the object of the game is to keep it out of the water. It was a little like hacky-sack in the water and using your hands instead of your feet. It was fun to watch everyone and we even bought a ball and played it for several hours in the crowded water. The World Championships of the sport were being held at the beach the next day. We had a lovely dinner in a small courtyard within the palace surrounded by locals and agreed that Split was definitely a city we would recommend.
June 12th - Today, June 13th
We were proud of ourselves for getting on a car ferry with little problems (except being in the wrong line and people yelling at us in Italian because of our Italian plates and us looking at them with completely blank expressions). It was a one hour ferry to the island of Brac and then we drove to the town of Bol. Our hotel is an all-inclusive family hotel and we were happy to see other kids, a large pool, wine and beer were included in the "all-inclusive", and that we are close to Zlatni Rat (the most photographed beach in Croatia). The World Cup started on the 11th and it is VERY big here and they even have a football corner in the lobby where the schedules and scores are posted. We happily cheered on the US team as they tied England. To all of our English friends we have to say that we were thrilled with a tie and look forward to beating you in our next match against each other!
Today we spent the day at Zlatni Rat beach and swam the day away in the Adriatic Sea. We also toasted our good friends this evening because it was their wedding day back at the Rose Garden in Oakland. Congratulations to Michelle and David (and of course Ella and Kyle too)!
We are here for another two days and will then be heading to Dubrovnik and then back to the island of Hvar. Croatia is a beautiful country and the people and atmosphere are very relaxed. They advertise that the country is the "Mediterranean as it used to be" and I have to say that it must be true. It is truly a magical place and we continue to enjoy the adventure. Until next time...