Saturday, September 09, 2006

It is amazing the difference 15 minutes can make...

In Slovenia now, and what an adventure is has been since Dubrovnik. Lots to tell...

We left Dubrovnik much later than anticipated, as we missed the main bus to the island of Korčula and had to sit in the Dubrovnik bus terminal begin bugged incessantly by local ladies holding signs for ˝Sobe - Zimmer - Rooms˝ - it got annoying after the umpteenth time. At least the terminal had comfortable benches and was air conditioned.

We finally got on the bus and wound our way northward along the Dalmatian coast to the town of Orebič, where we caught the last ferry - at 22:45 - to Korčula. We were still about 3km from the town itself, and we were lucky to find someone to call us a taxi into town. We had called ahead from Dubrovnik to let the proprietress of the B&B we were staying in know we would be very late, but still we wer all relieved when we finally arrived at her house.

It was a wondeful place to stay, and relatively inexpensive to boot. It was dark at first of course, but in the morning we awoke to the most amazing view! We had a window looking out over the bay, and there were fishing boats gently bobbing on the crystal blue water. Wow! We were only a few meters from our own little bit of beach, and a few hundred meters to the old town.

Korčula is said to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, and, as we found out later that evening, we were incredibly fortunate, as we were there for an annual celebration of the seige of Korčula, where the Genoan navy had captured Marco Polo and brought him home to Korčula in chains. There was a mock naval battle as the Genoan fleet circled around the harbour, with cannon firing from both sides. As the story goes, finally the Genoan attackers prevailed against Korčula, and they brought Marco Polo home, but as a captive. Well, the big thrill after the reenactment was that the whole town came out to party, with free food (sausages, hamburgers, bread and mussels) and wine! We drank and ate our fill, and enjoyed a spectacular evening with a waxing moon, clear skies, and ocean breezes. Really, really cool. We found a nice cafe and enjoyed live folk songs, local beer (Croatian beer is plentiful, cheap and quite good) and an ambiance that could'nt be beat.

We started to realize that this place was too nice to leave the next day, so we arranged another night with Tereza DaPolo at Villa DaPolo, and spent the day relaxing in the sun (me a little too much sun), and swimming in the adriatic. That night we had a nice meal on the walls of the old city, and strolled along the docks, among other vacationers from all around the world, moored on their fancy boats and catamarans. It was definitely a little highlight of the adventure so far. I would love to someday go back and explore the rest of the island, as it has some hilly inland regins that were covered with olives and pines and limes, and seemed ideal for some hiking and camping.

We had to depart Korčula fro the big Dalmatian coast city of Split the next morning extremely early, on a ferry that left at 06:00. We made the ferry, and Ania amused me at one point by showing me a lemon she had picked from Tereza's private garden (which she had invited us to take from). Split was HOT (33C). We needed to get to Plitviče National Park that day, but we had no luck finding a good bus connection. So... after some coffee at a little cafe near the bus station, we decided to rent a car. Oh boy, I would get to drive in Croatia... We arranged a one way rental for two days, and would drop tha car off at the Zagreb airport. We had a few hours until we needed to pick up the car, so we had time to explore Split a little. I was thrilled about this, because I really wanted to see the Palace of Diocletian, which is one of the best preserved Roman ruins anywhere. We wandered a bit amongst the palace grounds, took lots of photos, and then explored the basement network of the palace. It was very cool - I was most impressed with all the infrastructure to handle water and sewage, but also the pressig of olive oil. It was really cool to see the channels, presses and containers all for dealing with moving olives and olive oil around.

After the palace we got some little filled baked goodies of Hungarian origin, and then explored a giant outdoor market, and bought some fresh veggies. Lettuce, basil, tomatoes, green beans and peppers. Mmmmmm... very tasty. Eventually we got out car, a little Renault Clio. It was a standard, and although the key fob had an interestingly stuck contact that caused the lock to engage and disengage pretty much with a mind of its own, there weren't any other issues with the car. Renting was a perfect idea, because we had some ability to make our own schedule. Getting out of Split was pretty easy, and on the open road we got to see the inland countryside of Coroatia. We were on the seaward side of the mountains, and it was relatively dry, especially by European standards. Away from the coast, the olives and palms were replaced by junipers and other scrubby plants, and it was reminiscent of th American Southwest. Then, after climbing a pass and several tunnels, we emegred on the leeward side of the mountains, and it was all beech and pine and hemlock, adn reminded me a lot of New York State. I could see I was going to enjoy this side of Croatia as well. We were spitting distance from Bosnia, and there was some evidence along the motorway (which was brand new and in excellent condition) of the war. Many small houses that had been destroyed hadn't been rebuilt, and the next day outside of Zagreb, we passed a memorial with lots of wreckage of tanks and aircraft - sobering reminders of the recent history here. Still, it seemed very safe, and Croatians in general were very friendly and accomodating.

We finally found Plitviče National Park, and our guest house. It was really good we had the car, as I don't know how we could have found our accomodations from the bus. What a cute little place it was. A littel mountan chalet, run by a little man who spoke no English (a first!) and only a tiny bit of German. Luckily my German (such as it is) came in handy.

That brings us to yesterday. We awoke to partly cloudy weather, and to me it looked like it could rain (and boy was I right). But, it didn't start raining until we'd had a chance to tour the park in the morning. Plitviče is an inerconnected series of lakes and waterfalls, all in a series of gorges. The geology is mainly white limestone, which gives the water a remarkable and almost hypnotizing blue color. We got to take a boat around a bit, which was very relaxing, on the blue water, with schools of carp and ducks looking for handouts. We jiked around the main waterfalls, and it was spectacular. Wait until I get the pictures of that place up!

We finished our tour in the early afternoon, had a meal of pancakes (Ania) and trout (me), and beer of course, and right as the rains came. Up until then, we'd had wonderful sunny weather. After some last minute postcard writing, we headed back on the road to Zagreb. We knew at this point that we'd missed the early train to Ljubljana from Zagreb we'd originally intended to take, so we were somewhat winging it... and now to the title of this post...

We found the airport in an immense and intense driving rain, and delivered the car in short order (with a tiny little adventure topping up the car with gas). We hopped on a bus that would take us to the main bus station, and then onto a tram to the main train station. We arrived and checked the departure board, and saw that there was a train leaving in 15 minutes that would get us to Ljubljana at about 20:45 - giving us comfortable time to find our hotel (where I am right now). What delicious luck we had. Although, when the Croatian passport control office looked at Ania's passport on the way out, we got asked a lot of questions for some reason, but we had all of our trip documents and such, and nothing came of it.

There's so much more to write, but Ljubjana awaits, and we should go explore.

Until next time!!!!

No comments: