We left Kobarid this morning after breakfast, and we headed toward Tolmin. At the TI in Kobarid, Korika Tolminska (Tolmin Gorge) was suggested as a great place to stop. And it was a great suggestion. It only took about 45 minutes to hike through, but it was jam packed with gorgeous scenery (pun intended) and definitely made up for the fact that Vintgar Gorge was closed. (In fact, the woman at the TI said it’s better than Vintgar. I’m happy to agree, having no basis for comparison.)

From there we headed to Škocjanske jame (Škocjan Caves). In Slovenia there is a debate about whether Postojna or Škocjan is the better cave system to visit. We opted for Škocjan because it’s supposed to be less touristy. But despite the stunning and impressively large underground passages and chambers, it was far too touristy for our taste.

We decided to stop in Piran on the way to Rovinj, and I’m glad we did. It’s a charming seaside resort town. Unlike Potoroz, which we drove through after leaving Piran, it has retained its old-world charm while still offering all the gelato stands and bars and cafes and restaurants you could want.
Continue reading “Did I mention the sunset?”

i’m ready.

There are still two hours before I leave for the airport, but I’m all packed and ready to go.

The big pile has been squeezed into my Rick Steves convertible carry-on and my souvenir bag from being a Jeopardy! contestant.  Combined weight is 28 pounds, which is more than I’d like to be carrying, but except for my Surface, which I will use for my daily blogging, or a shirt or two that won’t really have a significant effect on the weight, it’s all stuff I am sure I will need.
Continue reading “Packed”

Hard to believe, but it’s just one week until I leave on my trip.

I started packing last night.  Well, not really.

I made a pile on my floor of some stuff that’s coming with me (including some stuff that most likely won’t make the final cut when I actually do start packing).  The pile will grow over the course of the next week, but I won’t actually start packing anything until next Friday night or Saturday morning.  My flight isn’t until 1:50, so I won’t have to rush out of the house first thing.
Continue reading “One Week Out”

I love shopping on vacation.

It’s not about buying souvenirs.  In fact it’s not necessarily about buying anything (though I often do spend my American dollars abroad).  Shopping on vacation is about seeing how locals shop, and how the things they buy and the way they buy them are similar to or different from how we do it here.

I should add that shopping on vacation is not necessarily about being out of the USA.  I love visiting shops and markets in other cities. Going to Fred Meyer in Soldotna Alaska, for instance.

The best vacation shopping is outdoor markets. A good market will have everything from fruits and vegetables to meat, fish, and dairy to flowers to arts and crafts to tacky souvenirs. If I’m lucky, or if I plan carefully, I can visit markets on my travels. So here’s what I have found.
Continue reading “Markets”

There’s only one artist from the countries I’ll be visiting that I’ve ever heard of: Ivan Meštrović. But I only just figured out why I’ve heard of him. For a while Meštrović taught at Syracuse University, where I (much later) went to college. And a number of his sculptures are displayed on the SU campus. The one I remember most vividly is this bronze sculpture of Job from 1946.

Meštrović lived from 1883 until 1962. Some of his famous monuments are in places I’ll be visiting.
Continue reading “Balkan Arts”

Just as two years ago I struggled for the right term to describe Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and Iceland (I settled on “Nordic,” but that wasn’t really right), there isn’t a good term that describes the places I’m visiting on this trip.  I use “Balkan” reluctantly, and I acknowledge that it’s not technically accurate, but it’s better than saying “former Yugoslavian” or “eastern Adriatic.”  Usually when I’m telling people where I’m going, I just list the countries I’m visiting.  But “The Foods of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro” just doesn’t cut it as a title for a blog post.
Continue reading “Balkan Food”

With essentially three full days in Dubrovnik, I will definitely spend one of them on an all-day excursion to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro.  I’ve already written about that.

There are a couple of other options for day trips out of Dubrovnik that won’t require a full day.

Cavtat

Cavtat (pronounced ‘tsav-tat’) is a small town just south of Dubrovnik.  Boats to Cavtat leave Dubrovnik regularly every day and take about 45 minutes.  There’s also a bus.  And it’s on the way to Montenegro, but I probably won’t want to take time away from my day there to stop in Cavtat, so if I go it will be maybe an afternoon getaway.

Other than a few churches and the pretty waterfront, the two draws to Cavtat are the Vlaho Bukovac House and Museum and the Račić family mausoleum, sculpted by Ivan Meštrović.  Vlaho Bukovac, who was born in Cavtat in 1855 and returned here briefly as an adult, is considered one of Croatia’s greatest painters. Ivan Meštrović, one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century (he was the first living person to have a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), was born in northeastern Croatia and lived in Split (where there is a museum that I probably won’t have time to visit, but other statues and monuments I will look out for).  He designed this mausoleum in Cavtat in 1923.  (Note to self: do a post on art in the countries I’m visiting.)

Cavtat Mausoleum Racic

Lokrum

Lokrum is the small island just offshore, a ten-minute ferry ride from town.  It has an old monastery, a mansion built by the Hapsburgs in the 1850s, ruins of a military fort, a small salt lake called Mrtvo More (Dead Sea) where you can go swimming, a small arboretum, and a nude beach.  And there are some good hiking trails and lots of peafowl.

Featured image of Cavtat by Andreas Lauterer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe and beauty when you set eyes on the Stradun never fades. Indeed it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming jaded by the city’s marble streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or failing to be inspired by a walk along the ancient city walls that have protected this civilised, sophisticated republic for five centuries.

Although the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991 horrified the world, the city has bounced back with characteristic vigour to enchant visitors again. Take the revamped cable car up to Mt Srđ. Marvel at the Mediterranean lifestyle and the interplay of light and stone. Trace the rise and fall of Dubrovnik in museums replete with art and artefacts. Exhaust yourself retracing history, then plunge into the azure sea.

Continue reading “Dubrovnik”

When I went to Italy for two weeks in 2009, I spent most of the time seeing places with rich historical and cultural significance (i.e. sightseeing), but I spent the last few days in the Cinque Terre just enjoying spectacular scenery, wonderful and challenging hikes, and quiet relaxation.

My Nordic adventure two years ago had more of a mix throughout, with some smaller, quieter places interspersed with urban tourism.

I think this trip will be also be a mix. There aren’t as many urban sightseeing venues as there were on either of my previous trips, and a lot of time throughout will be to enjoy nature. But the islands of Hvar and Korčula will, I expect, be most like the Cinque Terre: resorts with a good mix of natural and human-created beauty.
Continue reading “Hvar and Korčula”