Post 7 Waterfalls, waves and…Waterfalls!

Plus a few other things but I like the alliterative title! Heading north from Trogir, we stopped at the small coastal town of Sibenik. The old town is a warren of Venetian era alleys, stairways and churches.

If you could teleport a resident back here from 300 years ago he would probably recognise it immediately. In these towns we love to wander, and it is often the small details that catch my eye. Ancient carvings, or decoration above a doorway, indicating status or family links.

The tiny, kneeling figure is Marko, the town doctor and surgeon, who paid for this window in St Barbara’s church in 1419!

This stone trough at the foot of a wall, was a 14th century water bowl for dogs.

We discovered a 15th century monastery garden with a sweet cafe on the way up to the fortress.

The churches were lovely, especially the eastern orthodox church, and the richly decorated, 13th/14th century cathedral.

These carved heads date back to the 15th century! Some look so modern!

A good, free museum too, and a shoe shop with latest Italian solutions for the shorter lady..

Then we drove back to Skradin, to the sweet autocamp where we stayed a week ago. They remembered us! We were duly presented with a pomegranate because we came back!! An evening walk through the nice village, also revealed some battle scarred buildings at one end of town, as yet unrestored. Our reason for being here is to get an early boat up the river to see the Krka waterfalls before the crowds. We managed it, had a superlong walk, and the pictures speak for themselves.

A very early Hydroelectric plant was set up here, under the influence of famed local electrical genius Nikola Tesla, and nearby Sibenik had the first electric street lighting in Europe powered by AC (alternating current).

Chris took the opportunity to do some dead weight lift practice!

Next we drove to Lake Vrana, the largest natural lake in Croatia, encountering a croatian style traffic jam!

In winter, 100,000 coot call it home. Today, pygmy cormorant, and a stray spoonbill were our best spots. Next, Boris had an adventure, climbing the twisty lane up Mount Kamenjak, for incredible views over the coast and islands.

Mixed emotions here. A small chapel commemorates local people who were massacred here in various conflicts, while outside, the flag flew proudly to commemorate Croatian independence day.

The season is ending here, and many campsites are closing. Wild camping is illegal, but some people do it, using the great app Park4night. We had to resort to this at Zadar, using a former campsite on the waters edge. In fact we had a great sunset, and a peaceful night with the waves lapping a few feet from Boris!

Next day a visit to Zadar, an ancient trading port which had been colonised by Greeks, romans, slavs, Venetians, Hungarans, Austrians. It was heavily attacked in the recent war due to having 5 military bases. Now those same building house schools, university buildings and clinics! One modern restaurant facade hid an early christian church, which in turn had reused roman columns!

We did some shopping in a very modern supermarket, with an unmodern system for service. I had put 1 cucumber, 1 pepper, 4 tomatoes, 2 apples, 2 bananas, a courgette, an orange and some spring onions in my basket. Suddenly, 2 women came running towards me shouting. Firstly, every item had to go into a plastic bag. Separate bags. I protested at the use of plastic but was firmly told off! Then, one woman ran back and forth to the counters shouting a code number for each item. The other wrote it on a scrap of sticky paper and stuck it on the bag. This then was input at the till. But the lady at the till couldn’t read all the numbers… so she had to call the women over.. who ran back to the veg counter and shouted the number …aaaagh!!

Highlights of Zadar were the remains of the roman forum, and a lovely ancient glass museum. All the locally found glass was between 1800 and 2000 years old! Some undamaged, yet so delicate and ornate.

A stunning glass ‘pin’ from 3rd century AD.

Lastly, the lovely feature of Zadar was it’s new promenade, ending at the sea organ. Huge pipes have been laid on the sea bed. As the waves move in and out they play haunting tunes which constantly alter. Quite mesmerising to sit here and listen.

Next a drive inland, where autumn has arrived! We are heading to Plititze, and another huge waterfall system. We stay at the charming Kamp Bear…becauae bears and wolves live in this region. We are greeted with homemade Schnapps by the owner! Wow..quite a kick.

Again, an early start to beat the many tour buses that come here on day trips. It was busy in October… July and August would be hell. We were walking by 8.30 and had much of the first section to ourselves. It is a huge area of 16 lakes with waterfalls cascading down. We took route H which visits most of the lakes, and includes a boat ride down the longest lake. 6 miles in total, all beautiful.

Spot the people to get the scale!

Finally back to the coast to our final part of Croatia, the Istrian peninsula. Again, Boris’ wheels are nearly in the sea. Night night!

Post 6 Heading North… Korcula, Split and Trogir.

So now we start heading north again, continuing to explore Croatia as we go. (In Chris’ case…test the craft beers!) Another car ferry takes us to Korcula island, and we visit the little beach at Lumbarda, where we get out the chairs (a rarity for us), and read, and paddle!

Then to the delightful town of Korcula, a classic mediaeval hill town. Limestone walls, tiny narrow streets and red tiled roofs by a lovely harbour. We look into any open churches, as they all have their own beauty. Sadly, many have firmly locked doors!

Then a night in an olive grove, before the early ferry to Split, watching the sun rise, as we, and Boris, cruise the Adriatic!!

Split is a complete contrast. A bustling city and seaport, with a fascinating centre. The Romans came here, and in 305AD, Emporer Diocletian ordered a vast palace to be built, with an octagonal mausoleum at it’s heart.

Gorgeous 14th century carved doors.

In 605, freed Christian roman slaves came and revitalised the city as a Christian town. The Venetians and Byzantines added to it, but all keeping the structure of the Roman palace. So we can walk through vaults, see buildings and artefacts that are 1700 years old, bound up with baroque architecture, or a modern museum.

The Cathedral is inside the octagonal mausoleum.

Suddenly an art nouveau building will pop up, another reminder of the centuries of new life breathed into this city.

Next onto Trogir, a Venetian town, used as Qarth in the Game of Thrones filming recently. A stunning town.

14th century marble pulpit.

14th century wood carving.

Golden limestone walls, a fortress and numerous beautiful churches and Palazzos. Here we saw several Weddings. Immediately after the church services, everyone poured into the square. Traditional music was played. Everyone sang , Croatian flags were waved and fireworks let off!

There were tiny churches everywhere, and the town square had a beautiful Loggia, which would have been the town meeting place.

Camping Rozak is lovely. We are right by the beach, and the evening sunset was breathtaking.

However, thunderstorms overnight, and a rainy morning presented the perfect opportunity for housekeeping! Laundry, and changing the bedlinen must be done. We even caught up with admin, and played some games! Back into Trogir, for a super dinner, tucked in a quaint courtyard. The fish is excellent, especially the Carpacccio of Swordfish!

Chris had a local meat dish, braised in red wine with mountain herbs. Yum!

Post 5 A tale of two countries. Bosnia and Hertzgovina, and Montenegro.

Our motor insurance would not cover us to drive in either Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Montenegro. So we used 2 excellent tour companies based in Dubrovnik, Select Dubrovnik and Amico, to do day tours to each one. We were so glad that we did this.

However it meant we stayed on Camping Kate for 4 nights, and were there in an all night thunderstorm of epic proportions. The rain sounded as if teams of people were chucking buckets of pebbles at the van roof. The thunder was incessant. This is a map of the lightening strikes!

Chris slept through it all! Apparently it is the most rain Dubrovnik has ever had in 24 hours. There were flash floods and we saw small landslips!

We headed for our pick up above the campsite in pouring rain, togged in full waterproofs for our trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within an hour the sun came out! The day started with a visit to the beautiful Kravice waterfalls.

Then onto Mostar, which of course featured heavily in the 1990’s war here. Poor Mostar. Our excellent guide explained that the Bosnian population is the most ethnically divided, with a 3 way split between Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Muslims. Mostar had been a centre for the production of military equipment in former Yugoslavia, so all 3 sides wanted it. So it was shelled from all sides. 80% of its buildings were damaged.

It’s famous bridge, built in 1557, when the area was firmly under Ottoman rule, and became a main connection between the christian and muslim parts of the city. It survived 2 world wars, but was destroyed in 1993. It has been rebuilt by Unesco, who would only provide funds if they used traditional methods, cementing the original, retrieved stones, with egg white, goats hair.

For centuries, men of Mostar would free jump from the bridge to prove their manhood to the ladies of the town. They still do so today for the tourists!

We had an amazing lunch in Restaurant Tima-Irma.

Wages here are very low, so prices are relatively cheap for tourists. We bought some local beers!

We also visited a lovely turkish house, one of the few remaining.

Many buildings bear the marks of bullets and shells. The saddest part of the day was when our young guide said that the people see no point in rebuilding because their country is a cauldron of conflict, and they will surely be fighting again.

It was important to see, and hear a different perspective on the conflict, and life today.

The next day was sunny, as we caught our early minibus heading south to Montenegro. Strict border controls meant hold ups both ways, but WOW!, was it worth it?!

What a stunningly beautiful place. Kotor bay is ringed by high mountains, and a very sheltered inlet, with a narrow entrance, guarded by an island church. More of that later.

First we visited Kotor. Built while under Venetian rule, with formidable defensive walls, this delightful town contains palazzos and churches dating back 800 years. It is charming, and squeezed in between the mountains and the water.

The maritime museum was interesting, and the Cathedral is 852 years old, with fragments of original wall paintings.

There is also a tiny chapel, which combines both an eastern orthodox, and christian altars.

Many of the church decorations are silver, because for many years it was the most valuable of the commodities being traded.

Then a visit to pretty Perast, and a ferry to the tiny island. Legend says that 2 sailors found a picture of Mary on a rock. One was very ill, and against all odds, he recovered. They decided to build a church, but there was no island, so over a period of many years, locals sunk ships around the rocks, until they had footings. They built the church in the 15th century, Our Lady of the Rocks, which is the patron of sailors. The interior was painted by venetian artists, and is breathtaking.

Ships stop to ask for a blessing on their voyage. If their ship is involved in an accident, and they survive, they bring a Thank you to the church. Most common are silver plaques. Over 2000 adorn the walls. Gorgeous!

The small museum also contains a tapestry, created by a local wife waiting for her sailor husband to return. She worked on it for 25 years, using minute stitches-700 per square cm! The most remarkable part is that she used her own hair for the heads, and as the years go on, her hair colour changes, until it ends up white!

We loved Montenegro. Really worth a visit!

Post 2 if it is Wednesday it must be Austria…or is it Slovenia?

Our objective on this trip is to travel to Southern Croatia, so Germany and Austria are, on this occasion, serving as interesting stopovers! Our night in Germany was… chilly. So glad I packed the 10.5 tog duvet. It dropped to -2 degrees C in the night, but we were on a site with electric hookup AND an all night electric blanket. Best camping tip I can give anyone!

A gloriously clear day for our drive south east, past Munich towards the Austrian border . The Alps gradually appeared, and the scenery became stunning.

We arrived at Camping Nord Sam, on the outskirts of Salzburg, at 14.30. We had a quick snack, and caught the very convenient bus to the town centre. The Mirabelle gardens around the old palace are beautiful… and where the children in Sound of Music sang Do, Re, Me. (So I am told. I have managed to get this far through life without seeing it!)

We sadly opted to skip the 4 hour Sound of Music city tour (was it a sing a long tour I wonder?), and did our own walk. Crossing the river to the Aldstadt, the whole city centre is stunning 17th and 18th century architecture, with lovely narrow streets, and ornate metal shop signs. No Golden arches here!

The baroque Cathedral was impressive, but we loved the little chapel and cemetery of St Peter, and the hermitage chapels and catacombs in the cliff face.

Mozart was born and lived in Salzburg, and much is made of this. Mozart chocolates, liqueurs, Umbrellas, aprons, rubber ducks…. you get the idea. No music though!

Our final visit was to the Augustinian Brauhaus, a monastery brewery since 1621. A huge, traditional hall has expanded into 4 halls and a terrace holding over 5000 people! You collect your stein, get your beer dispensed…7.2% proof, and then find some yummy, if very meat based, street food at the indoor stalls.

It was a great experience, rounded off with the bus back to Boris and another very chilly night!

Another bright start and we crossed Austria on route 8. We had bought a vignette for 9 euros to allow us to travel on the motorways. Route 8 had tolls as well, for the 2 huge tunnels which meant we did not have to climb high over the Alps. We were in Slovenia in 2 hours, and 45 minutes later had found Camping Bled, on the shores of magical, glacial Lake Bled.

Another quick lunch, then off to walk the 4 miles around the whole lake, plus a long climb up to the impressively perched castle.

Fantastic views and some very interesting historical exhibitions. The castle has never been beseiged in it’s 900 year history. I wonder why.

The lakeshore is dotted with beautiful 19th century villas, one of which was taken over as a summer home by President Tito, the communist ruler of the then Yugoslavia.

An island in the centre has a lovely church of the assumption. Visitors can ring the church bell to ask for a wish to be granted, so our walk was regularly punctuated by slightly discordant chimes!

The only way to reach the island was to row yourselves.. maybe tomorrow…. or go in a traditional Pletna boat, propelled by a gondolier with 2 oars!

Great views at every turn on this walk. I am so glad I have a camera phone. A 12 shot reel of film would have been woefully inadequate!!

What an introduction to Slovenia. Magical, and the most photogenic place I have ever been to.

Tomorrow I am determined to eat the local Bled cake… a very very very unhealthy custard and cream slice!

Post 1 Autumn in Europe

So, our first big Bimble in Boris this year saw us head across to Europe to explore some places completely new to us. After spending a good night on the carpark at the channel tunnel (we know how to live!), we caught the 6.20 shuttle and were on the road at Calais 40 minutes later. Just as well, because our goal was an 8 hour, 477 mile drive to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, on the Romantik strasse in Germany. That dealt with the worst of the driving in one hit.

The Romantik strasse runs from Wurzburg, south to Fussen, and was a concept promoted after WW2 to bring tourism back to Germany. It is so pretty, and Rothenburg is one of its northern gems. A Mediaeval town, perched high above the valley, it entranced us at every turn.

The parish church was interesting and is on one of the pilgrim routes to Compostela.

Another lovely feature was an exquisitely realised, bronze relief map of the town, captioned in braille so that visually impaired visitors could share in it’s beauty.

A big surprise was a huge Christmas museum, and some beautifully presented shop windows.

Spot the people to get an idea of scale!

Great restaurants too! Chris was happy with his beer, and decided to fully embrace the local cuisine.. wildboar sausages, red cabbage and apple and sauteed potatoes.

The walk back to our lovely campsite showed another view of the town.

What a great start to our hols!

PS They seem to have got recycling colourfully organised here!

Post 28 Last Thoughts!

40,214 miles 64,343 kilometres!

25 flights, 11 airlines.. all on time

13 countries

11 different currencies

11 Languages, some indecipherable!

A lot of amazing food, extensive use of chopsticks.

Amazing historical sights, cultural encounters and wonderful scenery and nature.

Being on Christmas Island and Cocos islands was magical.. truly in the middle of nowhere!

A few hitches with delayed luggage, lost passports etc but all were overcome with the help of kind people.

Choose your toilets wisely.

We had just 1 tummy problem and 1 insect bite between us in 12 weeks of travel, despite eating street food and in local cafes, and visiting jungles!

Careful planning, probiotics and good insect repellent pay off!

Everyone asks us these questions so we will answer them here!

Which was your favourite country?

Chris – 1. Vietnam 2. Australia 3. Sri Lanka

Anne – 1. India 2. Vietnam 3. Sri Lanka

Where would you most want to go back to?

Chris – Vietnam, Sri Lanka
Anne – India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and for both of us, always, Australia!

Anywhere you wouldn’t go back to?

Maldives and South Korea.. unless Menna and Jen were winning medals in the Paralympics!

Where was the food best?

Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Borneo

Best single experience

Seeing the Taj Mahal… for both of us!

Seeing Mt Fuji was a close second! Plus nature encounters like Leopard, Orang-utang, Wombat and crabs!!

We pushed our personal boundaries, visiting countries and cultures that were very different to any we had been to before.

Some places where English was a rarity and we had to use imagination in communication.

We were happy driving and navigating in some countries …but we would NEVER consider driving in others… notably Sri Lanka and India!

We were able to successfully master mapping systems, metro systems (including Tokyo), and Menus, and ate virtually everything we were offered, often without knowing what it was!

Japan has the most wonderful toilets in the world and has spoilt us forever more. If only chilly British campsite toilets had hot seats!

We never once felt threatened or unsafe.

Most people are very friendly and helpful.

Our age was not a barrier to anything we did.

Many cultures had experienced periods of violence, war and oppression. Their stories were humbling. But positivity and generosity shone through.

People are proud of their countries and what they have, however humble it may seem to us.

Often, the people with least were the most generous.

That there are many people who overcome enormous barriers in life… every one of those Paralympians deserves a Gold medal in our book!

This was a huge trip, and we know that we are very lucky. But exciting adventures can be had in your own neighbourhood. We marvelled at beautiful temples or a great view. But tiny things were equally special.

For me, the beauty of a shell, or life in a rockpool; for Chris, picking up a coconut on a beach in the Cocos islands, opening it and drinking from it like his dad had done, were really special moments.

For all of us, there are beautiful wonders and scenery within reach of our homes, we just have to make the effort to look for them and appreciate them.

We arrived home on Thursday night.

We spent Friday walking close to home on the Dorset coast path at Durlston near Swanage.

The scenery was as ‘Wow’ as anything we had seen on our trip (ok the weather was colder, but we did bring some sun with us as promised!). We also had another magical ingredient which we did not have on our trip. We were with Peter and Tracy celebrating Peter’s birthday. That made it extra special. This weekend we also get together with the whole family and close friends. No amount of travel can replace them, and we treasure them all.

Will we travel again?

Well, as Chris knows well, he married a nomad … I have planned at least 2 more trips while we were away on this one… closer to home this time, and in Boris!

But we know that the greatest treasures in this world are not things, but people and freedom.

Thank you to everyone who has followed these ramblings, supported us and been interested in what we do.

It has meant a great deal.

Now watch this space for the next trip!!

Bye for now. Anne and Chris x

All the photos in all the blogs are mine, and were taken with my phone, hence the variable quality!

Post 27 Deja Vu Dubai!

We arrived in Dubai at 7am (2am Japan time.) Excellent flight.. especially the incredible Japanese breakfast.

Chris stuck to croissants! In Dubai we were staying for 2 night’s in an Air BnB on the Palm belonging to Danna and Mike. Mike was our tour guide on day one, and we had booked another day with him to keep us awake! So we arrived at the apartment, did a quick change into shorts and set off, firstly to a bird watching area on the river, where there was a good variety of birds, including lots of flamingoes.

Then we headed to Abu Dhabi, another Emirate. En route we stopped at the Last exit services. Everything in Dubai must be different! This was a highway food stop with a difference. The main building, and all the food outlets were themed on Mad Max films. (Post apocalyptic fantasy which involved a lot of vehicle modification and cut throat survival!) It was eye opening!

The ladies washroom!!

Abu Dhabi is wealthier than Dubai, with more oil, and it was more elegant, with a less frenetic feel.

We first visited a heritage museum explaing how just 60 years ago this area was inhabited by fishermen and desert nomads!

A bit different now!

Then to the Emperor’s Palace Hotel.. originally built as a palace, and now one of the most beautiful deluxe hotels in the world. Real palm trees adorn the corridoors.. I’m wondering if there is room on the landing at home?!

We lived the life having “gold” coffee in the golden lounge! Sprinkled with 23 carat gold.

The skyscrapers are beautiful, and very individual. Apparently these 3 were used in a stunt in the film Fast and Furious!

The most glorious stop was the mosque. Built within the last 20 years, it was enormous, and astonishingly beautiful. Almost everything you see in the pictures is marble, including the inlays on the floor, walls and pillars, or glass. The chandeliers are huge and sparkle in the light. Breathtaking.

We ended the day with snacks at an ethiopian restaurant near the BnB!

Next day we explored alone using taxis and the metro. Uber worked well. We visited the falconry museum to discover the ancient use of falcons and the bond between man and bird. Alongside is the falcon souk, selling…. falcons! Along with every accessory you can imagine! They are highly prized and therefore well looked after.

Then back to the old town, and a snack at our favourite cafe from last time – The Arabian Tea House. Fab!

A walk through the souk,

then the metro to Ibn Batutta Mall where you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a different country, as each area is geographically themed!

Our day ended with a Middle Eastern buffet at Amaseena restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Awesome array of traditional food, with chef Rani to explain what each one contained and how it was cooked. Delicious.

Now we are at the airport, waiting for our flight home and wondering where the last 3 months has gone!!