Friday 6th May, 2011
Driving from Venice to Zadar
We left the hotel and headed to the water bus to catch it to the hire car depot. We were told that the drivers of the water buses were on strike for three hours and that we couldn’t catch one until about 1pm. We’re not sure why they were on strike but lets just say that the Pope is due in town in a few days so their timing is pretty good. You know, like QANTAS baggage handlers at Easter/Christmas.
There were massive crowds of people everywhere today so their action will cause maximum impact.
We got our hire car and headed for Croatia. It’s a disconcerting feeling being on the wrong side of the road and sitting on the wrong side of the car to drive, and changing gears with the wrong hand but with Angela’s help with the road signs we safely made it to Zadar.
The motorways here are magnificent. They are two/three lanes of 130km/h (speed limit) luxury. We were given a Fiat Panda (aka the ugliest Fiat ever made) but it has the most comfy seats and will sit on 130km/h all day if needed, although it is rather gutless up hills unless you use the gearbox to anticipate them… I did.
On the motorways, everyone drives with the expectation that they will be passed and they keep in the right lane (slow lane) unless overtaking. Not like in Australia where you drive in whatever lane you damn please and hold everyone up if you feel like it. We sure could learn a lot… We witnessed either a Police chase or Police drag today. Not sure which. We were cruising along at 130 and were passed by two black BMW 7 Series, one with flashing blue/red lights following the other very closely and straddling the middle white line, who flew by like we were doing about 70… So, so envious… Wanted soooo badly to join but didn’t think the Panda could’ve cut it…
We arrived in Zadar in the afternoon and our apartment in Zadar was even better than the last one, it’s just a shame we didn’t have more time to enjoy it. It was just a stopover on the way to bigger and better things at Dubrovnik.
Our hostess and Angela had a chat in Croatian and we found out this was their first business venture into accommodation. They had spent years renovating the apartment and had only just put it up on the internet to rent. She disappeared but returned quickly with some home-made cakes and a bottle of wine.
Hospitality indeed… ***** (5 stars)
Saturday 7th May, 2011
Driving from Zadar to Dubrovnik
More motorway luxury this morning. We left the apartment at 8.00am and headed for Dubrovnik via the A1 Motorway. There is nothing better to wake you up than an early morning drive at 140km/h on a great piece of road and get passed by a Mercedes station wagon doing at least 180… we’re not even in Germany for goodness sake.
We took the A1 again until we got to the Makarska turnoff which we took, and headed for the coast. The road that goes from Makarska to Dubrovnik has some of the prettiest scenery we have ever seen. Some of the landscape is a bit like you’d see in Tassie but about 20 times bigger. It is absolutely stunning with steep, steep sheer cliffs rising up from the road on one side and crystal blue water over the edge on the other side. Some of the continuous hills reminded us of the ones we saw in Scotland but whereas the Scottish ones were grass, these ones were pure rock.
We arrived in Dubrovnik and headed for the old part of town, Stari Grad, for a look around. The old city is beautiful and enchanting and has an old world charm. It also helps to have a tour guide that speaks the language 🇭🇷
We had a fabulous look around and explored everywhere we could…
We took a cable-car to the top of the hill overlooking the city and got a great view of it and the surrounding islands in the bay.
We also saw some remnants of the homeland war of 1991 with a bullet-ridden post box and the ruins of Fort Imperial that had great chunks missing from its walls due to being shot at.
We ended our day with a great meal in the old city and a bus ride back to the hotel…
Sunday 8th May 2011
Driving Dubrovnik to Plitvice
Happy Mother’s day to our Mum’s! We hope you had a nice day, we were thinking of you.
We headed back up the coast from Dubrovnik and through the middle of Croatia to Plitvice today. This is a UNESCO protected national park of forests, lakes and unspoilt beauty. We had another long drive but time passed quite quickly. The scenery changed dramatically after we passed through one of the long tunnels, almost 6km! The forest’s here in spring time are so beautiful and ‘soft’ ie, the foliage is so different to home.
We arrived at Plitvice around 3pm, checked into a room belonging to some one’s home. Their home was totally destroyed during the war and they had to flee for their lives. They returned 5 years later to begin to rebuild their life and home from scratch.
We are so not familiar with hardship. After talking to locals here, one realises how lucky we are back home.
We went to the national park for a quick visit as the weather was closing in on us. What we saw was the biggest waterfall , almost 80m high. The water in the lakes is crystal clear and a stunning colour blue. The park is a real gem.
We went out for dinner at a local restaurant and had the best ‘home style’ dinner ever! We really enjoyed the dinner and it was a bargain too. We are looking forward to an early night as we have another long stretch to drive to visit my rellies tomorrow. I can’t wait to see them and for Wade to meet them.
Monday 9th May 2011
Podgorac - Almost a week with family
We left Plitvice Monday morning and headed for Podgorac where Angela’s rellies live.
It was about a four and a half hour drive, so we headed for the A1 motorway again for some more luxury. We had about a 70km drive to get onto it and we drove through some landscape that was reminiscent of Tasmania but with different foliage. It was nice and green with flowers here and there, just like Spring should be.
We arrived at Teta Vera’s (Aunty Vera) house just after 12:30pm and sat down to some real home cooking, complete with cakes and coffee. I’m a little lost with the language but I know words here and there, and with body language and tone, can get the gist of what is being said. Angela interprets the main points for me, so I feel included anyway.
I’m looking forward to spending a few days here to recharge after some pretty long days behind the wheel.
Tuesday 10th May 2011
Stipanovci and Koshka
After a great sleep, we headed to Stipanovci which is about 4 km up the road from my Aunty’s place, to visit my cousin Drazen and his mum, wife and kids. We caught up with them and had a huge lunch there.
After lunch we dropped into the cemetery to pay our respects to my Grandmother, Uncle and Aunty (Stipanovci is the village where my parents lived when they got married) before heading to the city of Osijek, which is about 40km away, to pick up my cousin Drago from work..
We then headed to Koshka to his sister’s place, Nada, to catch up with her family too. Once again a huge 3 course dinner awaited us. The food has been abundant and rich and we have not been expending energy walking or working, so we’re feeling full most of the time…
It’s been fantastic for me to catch up with my first cousins and their families and Wade has enjoyed meeting them all.
He is slowly is putting the pieces of the family jigsaw together.
Wednesday 11th May 2011
Lipik and Našice
On Wednesday we promised my Aunty Vera that we’d take her to visit our other family in Lipik which is around 2 hours away. We got there around 10.30 and got to spend half a day with the Presecan side of the family. Again, it was great to catch up and to see the new addition to the family, little Marta who is 2 and a half.
We were once again welcomed with a massive feast, that is after we had a cooked breakfast and knowing dinner was waiting back home again…. Food, food, food. It’s all so tasty but we are not used to eating quite so much.
Everyone we have caught up with sends their warmest wishes back home to everyone that knows them.
We arrived back at Podgorac around 4.30, then headed to Našice to visit my cousin Nada’s, daughter, Marija at her unit. We took the opportunity to go for a walk through the town, which is where my Grandmother and other Aunty used to live. The town is very historic and dates back to the 12th century.
My cousin Drago was our tour guide and he is a fountain of historical knowledge.
Pejačević Castle | Big Park
Franciscan church of St. Antun Padovanski
The church is currently undergoing a renovation after the adjoining the monastery was rebuilt and extended in the Baroque style between 1719 and 1763.
We then went back to Podgorac for, you guessed it, dinner… After dinner we went for a long walk through the fields around the village…
A great end to our day…
Thursday 12th May 2011
Fericanci... and goodbyes...
We woke up Thursday morning to another hearty breakfast and then headed out to see my friend Suncha. She lives in a little village about 20km from Aunty’s, and this is the village where my other aunty used to live. We spent the morning with Suncha and then had lunch with her family at her parents place.
Afterwards we caught up with my Aunty’s ex-husband who lives in the same village. At 68 he is very up with technology and we exchanged Skype, email and Facebook details. He has quite the setup with remote controlled water fountains, lights and awnings. There is even front gate video surveillance to keep the rabble out. “You’ve got to be selective with who you let in these days”. We were lucky he was expecting us and left the gate open.
We headed back to Aunty’s for a goodbye catch-up with cousin Nada, Ante, Marija and Ivan – more food and drinks, and that was before dinner… after dinner we had a drink with Drago and chatted the evening away before saying our goodbyes.
We will miss all our Croatian family and friends when we leave tomorrow…