Day 135 – 1.10.2016
Piran, Slovenia to Opatija, Croatia

We got up in the morning and found that I had got rashes with some itching sensation all over the body. We presumed some mosquitoes had bitten me as we had kept the window open. I took an Alegro, had breakfast and we left for Opatija which was just about 100 kms drive through the coastline.

We reached Buona Vista Apartment, our place of stay and found that there was no one to give the keys or check us in. Since it was a Villa, we found someone downstairs who then called up the owner who quickly came in while we sat in the car. He then showed us around the house. A beautiful two bedroom apartment with a small well-equipped kitchen, living room overlooking the sea. The entire apartment was for us. He then left after giving us the map and instructions to get to the promenade on the beach.

After a few moments of relaxation, we wanted to have lunch so we walked towards the promenade and found a nice restaurant – Mali Raj (Little Paradise) overlooking the sea. It was really beautiful. On reading the history outside the restaurant, we realised that this place used to be called Klarino (Clare’s) until the second half of the 20th century, named after a coastal spring dedicated to St. Claire and its waters.

Louis for a change wanted to have Fish so he ordered for Sea Bass & Kalamari, besides his usual Soup. The waiter brought some Fish Pate and bread complimentary and I ate it all as Louis does not like it. It was very delicious. Then came the grilled Kalamari’s and Sea Bass which the waiter nicely cleaned, removed the thorns and gave. We feasted on the fish.

We then started walking on the promenade towards the pebble beach. There was hardly anyone here. Since summer holidays were over all the activities had stopped and it looked like a sleepy town, except for a few tourists like us going around. Nevertheless the place was very scenic and enchanting.

We were informed that Opatija – a genteel town, 13km to the west of Rijeka, was the most chic seaside resort for the Austro-Hungarian elite during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – as evidenced by the many handsome belle-époque villas that the period bequeathed. Although it lost a lot of its sheen during the Yugoslav period, the town has spruced itself up in the last decade and once again attracts a mainly mature crowd, drawn to its grand spa hotels, spectacular location and agreeable year-round climate. Some excellent restaurants have sprung up to cater to them, with a particularly good cluster in the pretty Volosko neighbourhood.

The town sprawls along the coast between forested hills and the sparkling Adriatic, and the whole waterfront is connected by a promenade, which we walked on.

We then went to the super-market, picked up some things for the evening dinner, a bottle of wine etc and relaxed in the nice living room of the villa. There was a nice terrace, but as usual we felt chilly so we opted to sit indoors.

The itching had increased and there were rashes all over the body. Again I took another Alegro, but now I realised that it wasnt the mosquitoes, but something else. Probably the fish was causing the allergy. So we decided not to eat fish anymore atleast on this trip. Wanted to go vegan again, but it was so difficult with the limited sources available around.

Day 136 – 2.10.2016
Opatiga to Zadar

When we woke up today found it was raining. Today it seemed to be a rainy day. Anyway after having breakfast and coffee (prepared by me) left for Zadar. The owner, an old lady, had come by then, so we handed the keys to her. It rained the whole way, we could hardly enjoy the beautiful scenery that we were passing through.

We reached Villa Julian, Zadar around 2.45 pm after driving around 305 kms, another beautiful town, fortunately by then had stopped raining.

We got settled in the room after a check in, had some coffee and sandwiches before we left to explore another beautiful town, Zadar. A cat from the house walked in and made herself comfortable on the bed and refused to leave.

First time ever we decided to drive the car to the centre. Today being a Sunday, we were told we could get suficient parking and for free. We had to drive about four kms to reach the Centre. We parked our car at a nice prominent place and walked towards the Cathedral through the Sea Gate (St, Chrysogonus’ Gate). We came across a Church, which was closed from the 18th century, now used as a monument where some shows are held to raise money for its upkeep. Close to it was the Cathedral, but did not find any open entrance.

Just a few metres away was St. Elias’s Church and next to it was a column standing all alone called the Pillar of shame.

We then walked towards the Promenade. The waters of the sea was blue and the sun shining through the clouds.

We walked towards our left side on the promenade. At the end was an University and a big wall protecting it. We walked round it and reached the end of the wall where there was the Land Gate (Kopnena grata), through which we walked into the old town.

We met a couple of Indians visiting this place. Had a good chat with all of them. It was nice to find Indians around this place.

We then came back to the promenade and walked on its right side. We were informed by our host that we must visit this place where we could listen to the music from the sea organs and experience greeting to the sun. Right enough when we reached a few metres away, we could hear some nice sound which was like music played from some organs.

We reached the end of the promenade and found a lot of people around sitting on the steps. Also we could hear some nice sounds so we were trying to find who was playing the organ and we realised it was Music from the Sea Organ. There were white marble steps leading down to the water and concealed under these steps, was a system of polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity that turns the site into a large musical instrument, played by the chance-based results of the wind and the sea waves.

After spending some time listening to the beautiful music, we walked a little away from there and there were huge glass floorings. Could understand the importance of it only when the sun had set down. Beautiful coloured lights were flashed from the glass floorings, which was called the Sun Salutation, which was another artistic installation.

In the Second World War most of Zadar’s sea front was destroyed – and then quickly repaired as a boring, monotonous concrete wall. In order to bring some life and something different to the sea front, architect Nikola Basic designed and opened the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation in April 2005.

After having a great time, we decided to have dinner and walked to a restaurant near by. While Louis again ordered Sea Bass, I decided to have only Greek Salad.

After dinner, it was now a challenge to find the parking place where we had parked our car. It was dark now. Anyway we decided to find our way and started walking. Not bad, it wasn’t as difficult as we thought, after about 10 minutes of walking on the other side, we found the car parked safely.

Within a few minutes we reached Julian Villa, parked the car and walked up to the room. Wi-fi wasn’t good, so decided to work on the blog and finish it.

The next day we were supposed to visit Krka National Park on our way to Sibenik. So, we retired for the night.

Day 137 – 3.10.2016
Zadar to Sibenik via Krka National Park

We drove to Krka National Park. It was raining throughout on the way. When we reached Krka, it was very cold and raining heavily. Water had collected all around. However, we did not lose heart. With our rain-coats on, we bought the tickets. We were informed that it included the boat ride to the National Park and that we could spend as much time as we pleased.

So we waited for the boat to take us to Krka National Park, located along the middle-lower course of the Krka River in central Dalmatia, in Šibenik-Knin county, downstream Miljevci area, and just a few kilometers northeast of the city of Šibenik.

It was a spacious, largely unchanged region of exceptional and multifaceted natural value, and includes preserved and insignificantly altered ecosystems. The Krka Waterfalls has the second highest concentration of lavender per km squared in Europe, hence there were high frequency of wasps and bees in the area.

Extending along the 73km River Krka, the Krka National Park runs from the Adriatic near Šibenik inland to the mountains of the Croatian interior. It’s a magical place of waterfalls and gorges, with the river gushing through a karstic canyon 200m deep.

We then returned back to the deck and awaited the boat to take us back to the terminal so we could walk to our car park. We then drove to Studio Vicencin Place, Sibenik. After reaching the spot, we had to call the owner who came with the keys and the parking card for parking our car near the port just across the road. She then showed us around the small beautiful studio apartment.

Since we were traveling long distance, Šibenik was not a bad spot to stop and stretch our legs.
Nothing breathtaking here, but just some nice strolls with sea at one side and Old Town on other. There was a convenient car park not too far away and a couple of cafés/restaurants around.

Sibenik the oldest Croatian city on the Adriatic coast, is also considered to be the cultural, educational, administrative and economic center.

After making ourselves comfortable in the apartment, we went out to find some lunch for us. We then walked to the Cathedral of St. James, the most significant architectural achievement of the 15th and 16th century.

Unlike many other coastal cities in Croatia, Šibernik had no Roman heritage; it was built a thousand years ago by the Croatian kings.

The Channel harbour was busy but not as busy and bustling as it would be in summer. We were informed that it was very easy and cheap to get a boat taxi, or a ferry to the island beaches, or a longer cruise. Also there was a glass bottomed submarine to give a different view of the harbour. We walked the wide and clean path along the harbour with a wide variety of good standard cafes, restaurants and bars.

Day 138 – 4.10.2016
Sibenik to Medjugorje & Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

We started at around 9.00am. The owner of the apartment came to take the keys to the apartment and also the parking card. She brought a small gift for us and bid goodbye to us. We then drove from there towards Medugorje. We visited the town of Medjugorje a town located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 25 km southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia. It has become a popular site of Catholic pilgrimage due to reports of alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local children.

The town consisted of an ethnically homogeneous Croat population of 2306. Since 1981, when six local children claimed they had seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Medjugorje has become an unapproved destination of Catholic pilgrimage.

We visited the “St James Church in Medjugorje which we were given to understand that it ‘is’ the birthplace of reviving the Rosary in our present time for the whole world to do spiritual battle against evil. Also it is believed that it was the frequently visited sites of Our Lady in the early years of the apparitions. Pilgrims from all over visit this Church.

We also visited the hill where Our Lady had appeared to the children on various occasions. It was heartening to see the huge crowd of pilgrims climbing the hill with faith and pray. Felt really good and blessed to have got an opportunity to visit the places our Lady had appeared.

After spending a good two hours in prayer, we left for Mostar where we were staying for the night.

We reached our hotel and after checking into a nice resident-apartment hotel and parking our car into their parking, we walked for about 10 minutes to the old town. As we were walking towards the old town, we came across an Old Bridge built with stones. Actually Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva River on which Mostar is situated. This Old Bridge was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, and is one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. The bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other.

Mostar is a beautiful city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, inhabited by 113,169 people.
We found a lot of Figs and pomegranates growing in this area.

The oldest single arch stone bridge in Mostar, the Kriva Cuprija (“Sloping Bridge”), was built in 1558. The Halebija and Tara towers have always housed the guardians of the bridge and during Ottoman times were also used as storehouses for ammunition. The frontage and vault are made of regular stone cubes incorporated into the horizontal layers all along the vault. The space between vault, frontal walls and footpath is filled with cracked stone. The bridge footpath and the approaching roads are paved with cobblestones, as is the case with the main roads in the town. Stone steps enable people to ascend to the bridge either side.

We also visited the Koski Mehmed pasa Mosque built in 1617, the oldest mosque in Mostar, as it was open to visitors.

We walked through the Old Bazaar –  Kujundziluk is named after the goldsmiths who traditionally created and sold their wares on this street, and still sells authentic paintings and copper or bronze carvings of the Stari Most and the famed stećaks (medieval tombstones).

Our hotel suggested to visit Sadrvan a famous restaurant for its Turkish food and one of the best restaurants in Mostar. When we got there there were a lot of tourists like us who were eating here. We shared a lovely dish of mixed Kebabs with has, vegetables and fries. After dinner we walked back to our hotel from the other side of town.

Day 139 – 5.10.2016
Mostar to Dubrovnik (Croatia)

After breakfast we decided to visit the Tekija Dervish Monastery in Blagaj, a 13th-century town of Počitelj, Blagaj Fort (Stjepan-grad). Blagaj – a haven of peace and natural harmony, located about 15 kilometers from Mostar.

We reached Blagag Tekke and we parked our car and walked to Dervish Monastery, considered to be one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most holy and ancient sites, built to host gatherings of the Sufi Brotherhood.

The stunning half-timbered tekija rests beside the fast-flowing blue green Buna River, which spills out of a darkened cliff-cave. The upper part of the building also houses two 15th century Tajik dervishes. It was founded by Dervishes in the 16th century. The buildings were two-storied with protruding oriel windows and wide flower gardens. There were two musafirkhanas (charity houses for guests) used for accommodation of travelers

We then drove to another UNESCO World Heritage site – the necropolis on Radimlja containing the medieval tomb stones called stećci, with architectural ornaments on all four sides, stylized crosses, human and animal figures, grapevine, hunting and weapon motives. There were a total of 133 tombstones here and some were beautifully decorated.

We then started our journey to the border of Bosnia and Croatia as we were supposed to visit Dubrovnik.

After driving through mountainous road on the Trebinje – Dubrovnik road, we arrived to the border of Bosnia. The Border police took our passports and went back to his office while we waited in our car. After a few moments he came back and returned our passports duly stamped with the exit stamps. He lifted the barrier and let us out.

Just a few metres away was the Croatian border. There too the Border police took our passports and went away. After a few minutes he comes back and asks us for Insurance policy and we said we did not have one with Croatia included. He then said that there was a problem and that he will not be able to permit us to drive our car into Dubrovnik, unless we buy an insurance. He could help us in buying the insurance which would cost us Euro 250.-.

We did not know what to do, but both of us jointly decided not to pay for the insurance but drive back into Bosnia and then decide what to do. We drove down to Trebinje town and stopped at a
Petrol Bunk. Louis met some person and happened to discuss with him the problem we had faced. This gentleman turned out to be a good Samaritan and helped us find a cab to drive us to Dubrovnik, let us park our car at his bunk right in front of the CCTV camera, helped Louis to exchange some pounds to Euro and we were on our way to Dubrovnik, leaving behind our travel partner standing at the petrol bunk.

After reaching Dubrovnik we called up Mario at whose apartment we were supposed to be staying in Dubrovnik. His wife came with the keys, explained to us about travelling to the old town, place for dinner, etc and then left us so we could settle down in their cost studio apartment. They had upgraded us to a sea facing apartment and the view from the window was really beautiful.

Day 140 – 6.10.2016
Dubrovnik

Mario also suggested us to buy the Dubrovnik Card online which would help us in getting free entries to most of the museums while we would travel on the bus to and from the old town. Dubrovnik — the pearl of the Adriatic, Lord Byron’s paradise, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, had been a city that we were looking forward to seeing in real life after dreaming about it for years, so here we were to explore this beautiful city.

We walked to the bus stop and took a bus to the old town after which we got our Dubrovnik cards issued against the online vouchers purchased by us. It was a rainy day and so we purchased rain-coats and got inside the Dubrovnik walled city.

In spite of the rain it was crowded with number of tourists arriving in buses, it was undeniably one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen.

We walked through Dubrovnik’s famous Pile Gate which was the main entrance with the most interesting access point to this fabulous old city.

 

Our super saver Dubrovnik Card included our walk on the Unesco protected City Walls. These series of defensive stone walls surrounded and protected the citizens of the afterward proclaimed maritime city-state of Dubrovnik (Ragusa), since the city’s founding prior to the 7th century. Built in the 10th century and modified in the 13th and 14th centuries, these formidable walls – as high as six meters and up to six meters thick-provided a solid defense against invaders, totalling nearly two kilometers in length. A walk along this famous city walls surrounding the Old Town was a unique and wonderful experience, and excellent views over the Adriatic and inwards over the old city center.

The 5.5-kilometre long wall has the shape of a pentagon, completed in the 15th century along with other 40 towers and 5 fortresses. The “wall” meant protection to the precious salt pans that greatly contributed to Dubrovnik’s wealth, which are still being worked today. It is the second longest wall in Europe, surpassed only by the Hadrian’s Wall between Scotland and England.

Big Onofrio’s fountain (1438), built between 1438 and 1444, is probably the best known of the city’s many historic monuments. An important part of the city’s original water supply system that carried water from the Dubrovacka river, the fountain stands immediately in front of the equally attractive St. Saviour Church, built in the early 16th century in thanks for what city elders believed was divine intervention in sparing the city during an earthquake a few years earlier. One of only a few buildings to survive the devastating earthquake of 1667 intact, this small place of worship is well worth visiting for its fine Gothic and Renaissance features.

We visited the Rector’s Palace, now home to the city’s Cultural Historical Museum, which used to serve as the seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa between the 14th century and 1808. It was also the seat of the Minor Council and the state administration. Furthermore, it housed an armoury, the powder magazine, the watch house and a prison. This splendid old palace was heavily damaged by a gunpowder explosion not long after its completion, later by a fire, and then again in 1667 when an earthquake struck.

The cathedral was built on the site of several former cathedrals, including 7th, 10th and 11th century buildings, and their 12th century successor. The money to build the basilica was partially contributed by the English king Richard the Lionheart, as a votive for having survived a shipwreck near the island of Lokrum in 1192 on his return from the Third Crusade.

From the southern section of the city’s walls we could see the sailing boats and kayakers as they were passing by. We could also see Buza beach – a rocky spot beneath the city walls – this is a unique hidden place for swimming and sunbathing, we were told. Along this section of the walls there were several cafés and souvenir shops offering Croatian souvenirs.

From the western wall, we could see Fort Lovrijenac which was one of Croatia’s most important fortresses. Rising an impressive 37 meters above the Adriatic, this fortress looked stunning.

Dubrovnik was the final city in Croatia that we were visiting on this Lifetime Journey. We would have felt very disappointed had we missed it.

Dubrovnik didn’t disappoint — it was breathtaking.