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Croatia

Komiža - Day 6 Friday 9/6

The miracle has happened...


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Following a leisurely and ridiculously huge breakfast that no one at our table could finish (here is my avocado and egg toast)...

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... we walked around Komiža.

Here are some of the scenic views.

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Croatia seems to be a country of cats, as you will note from this street view.

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At the very end of town is the Church of Our Lady of Pirates. You certainly might wonder how this church got its name. According to the sign outside the church, in the days of marauding pirates, the altar painting of Mary was stolen from the church and taken aboard the pirate ship. While stories vary a bit, the upshot is that the theft was followed by tremendous wind that damaged the ship, preventing the pirates' escape. Legend has it that the pirates decided that it might be in their best interest to return the painting, and as soon as they did, the weather cleared. There is a slightly different version in which the pirates abscond with a statue of the Madonna, and after treacherous weather, dump the statue overboard in fear. The statue eventually floated in the direction of the shore by the church, and springs of fresh water have sprung up everywhere that the statue has been placed. Either way, here are some photos from the church.

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This photo will give you an idea of the beaches on the island.

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When we gathered to leave for our excursion, Jane shared the news that our luggage was ON THE FERRY en route to VIs!

(Pause for expressions of joy and relief)

She had arranged for our driver, Josep, to take Charlie to the dock to claim it after the rest of us were dropped for our wine tasting. This is the photo tha we used to confirm that it was our luggage. I am not sure why we are on the Croatian Tourist Board text, but I just want my luggage.

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Here is Jane's friend, Miro's farm, which is located in Podspilja. He maintains vineyards and olive groves. This terroir is the origin of zinfandel grapes, which are now grown in many other regions, including California. Miro is known for his Plavac wine, made from the zinfandel grapes, as well as his Vugava, which is a white wine made with grapes found only on the Island Vis. His wines were amazing!

Here is Miro's lovely home and farm.

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You know the drill. FIrst, there is the presentation of the welcome drink of rakia.

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Then, there must be a "snack."

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Today, we had a formal wine tasting. Miro offered two delicious white wines, Vugava and Posip, a Rose', and the Plavac.

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Between the presentation of the first and the second white wines, Charlie and Josep joined us in triumph. They were greeted with great enthusiasm from the girl who missed her clothing; here I am with Josep. (And don't worry, I saved Charlie a glass of the first wine, which is the only one that he missed.)

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We had such a pleasant time with Miro and his wife.

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After wine tasting, it is always a good idea to eat, and we traveled to a beachside restaurant owned by three brothers for a late lunch. The meal showcased their home-grown organic produce, meats, fresh fish, and homemade wine from their vineyards. As the meal was prepared, we had time for a swim at their private beach. In addition to the lobster, the grilled fish were outstanding, and there was plenty of meat for those who do not love fish.

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On our way back to the apartments, we made a stop for dessert and coffee on the white rocks, to take in the peaceful view.

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When we got back to the hotel. I was delighted to be reunited with the contents of my luggage!

Photos are tagged Croatia and Komiza

Posted by Cybercsp 13:37 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia komiza Comments (1)

Komiža - Day 5 Thursday 9/5

And still, no luggage...but a glimmer of hope.


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Does the island of Vis look familiar? The 2017 movie, "Mama Mia, Here We Go Again" was filmed in Vis, the oldest established town in Croatia. The island is known to have been inhabited since 3,000 BC, but there has been evidence of Neolithic activity dating from 8,000 BC.

What to do with a morning at leisure? Well, we slept until 9 AM, which is really late for us. Then, we walked downhill to the waterfront, to one of two restaurants where Jane has arranged for us to have our daily breakfast.

We left at 11:30 AM for an excursion to Žena Glava. Some attribute the name of this town to a translation of “Thirsty Head” (žedna glava), an allusion to a dry area, while others believe it refers to “Headwoman” (žena-glava) – a village's chief woman. Our first stop took us to the home of Darko, who is a fisherman and an affable host. As you can see, Darko raises goats. He also had this morning's fresh catch hanging up.

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Here is his area for preparing peka, and his rakia fermentation area. We are becoming acquainted with Croatian necessities.

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It has become apparent that no one leaves without a "snack," and today it was a fish based panini and some delicious garlic knots. And wine. Always homemade wine.

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Please note that my awful hair is a combination of wearing my sun hat and the heat, exacerbated by the fact that all of our hair products are in the lost luggage. The other photo shows Jay (in the blue shirt) with our host, Darko.

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We then traveled to see "Tito's secret cave." As WWII ended and the Cold War began, Vis was transformed by Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito into a military base for the communist Yugoslav army. Tito established a number of military fortifications on the island, including a submarine base and a network of secret underground tunnels and caves across the island. Tito used this cave as a hideout from the invading Nazi forces during the Second World War. I suspect it was a most effective location because the bombers would never notice it, and any land troops would not enjoy the hike to reach it (about 250 steps). By the way, Vis island was closed to visitors until 1989.

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Note that Tommy is solo in the cave niche because Maureen was smart enough to realize that this might not be worth the hike.

The views along the drive were amazing.

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After this workout, it was time to eat again. We visited the home of Ine who, as you can see, was waiting for us. To say that she is a MOST GREGARIOUS hostess might be an understatement.

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Again, we enjoyed a meal in a lovely ambiance....

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...feasting on a cuttlefish cold salad appetizer, followed by beef and gnocchi, and ending with the most delicious homemade cookies.

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We started with a rakia toast, and Ine's wines have been (in my opinion) the best of the trip so far.

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Ine's neighbor entertained us with traditional Croatian music (joined by Ine's husband), as well as a number of songs that were familiar to us. The wine encouraged us all to sing along.

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At various moments, Ine became so excited by our enjoyment that she would engage in spontaneous showers of affection, and to my utter shock, she literally lifted me off the floor.

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Maureen enjoyed a dance with our hostess.

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Suffice it to say that a good time was had by all.

On our return trip, our driver, Josep, dropped those who wished to swim off at the beach. Fortunately, my bathing suit was in my carry on luggage, so I was good to go. The beaches here are rocky, so water shoes are a must. The water is absolutely delightful. After a refreshing swim, we walked back to the apartments and spent some time outdoors on the patio.

Now for the glimmer of hope about the luggage. Last night, it occurred to Jane that she could ask her friend Luca, who is a lawyer for Croatian Air, whether he might be able to suggest a resource to help us to locate the luggage. He told her that he would take it on as his mission. In a matter of a few hours, he was sending her photos of our suitcases. American Airlines initially told him that there were no identifying tags on the luggage, and his comment to Jane was that he actually could read our phone numbers and emails that were on the tags from the pictures that they sent him...yet no one contacted us. Suddenly, with his intervention, our luggage is supposed to be expedited from Rome to Split airport, where a driver will pick it up and put it on the ferry to Vis tomorrow. Jane is a maker of miracles.

Photos are tagged Croatia and Komiza

Posted by Cybercsp 23:19 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia komiza Comments (2)

Split - Day 4 Wednesday 9/4

Still no luggage...


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Time to leave Hotel Villa Zarko, our home base in Kaštela, to explore Split. The hotel personnel have been wonderfully helpful in calling Split airport daily to check for our luggage (no luck). We spend at least 40 minutes per day on hold for American Airlines to check on the tracking of our luggage, with no answers. This is so time consuming and frustrating.

On our way to Split, we stopped to explore the Roman ruins in Salona, the birthplace of Diocletian, who founded the city of Split. Born to commoners in Croatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the Roman army, eventually ruling the Roman Empire from 284 to 305. He became Emperor when the Roman Empire was in decay, but ended the so-called "Crisis of the Third Century" (235–284), returning Rome to its former glory. After twenty years of rule, Diocletian abdicated his throne and returned to his homeland; the palace that he built near his birthplace became the city of Split. It is said that Diocletian "invented" retirement. Here is what the colosseum is believed to have looked like, and here are the ruins.

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We took a guided tour of Diocletian's Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage site), which is considered to be the most complete Roman palace in the world. The palace was constructed over a ten year period in the mid-4th century (using around 15,000 slaves), and encompasses some 220 buildings within its boundaries, including homes, bars, hotels and cafes.

Here are various sides of the palace walls. They have been transformed over the years into shops and cafes.

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The perastil is the courtyard outside the actual palace.

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Our guide told us that this Egyptian sphinx is one of 13 left in the world, and the only one that was never beheaded and repaired.

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Fun Fact: The palace's cellar was used in season four of Game of Thrones as Daenerys' Throne Room, and the underground caverns were used in scenes where Daenerys kept her dragons. Now you know.

At noon, there is a little pageant where the emperor greets his subjects.

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In this central tower (which is now an open air area), there is a group that sings traditional Klapa music. This music is traditional a cappella singing. The word Klapa translates to "group of friends," and the singers are typically male. In 2012, Klapa was added to the UNESCO "Intangible Cultural heritage of Humanity."

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Here are some additional views of Split.

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Here are some views from outside the city walls.

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We also visited the fish market.

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After our tour, we spent some time shopping for items that we are going to need if our luggage never arrives, a very depressing use of time. There was time for a beer...

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...before boarding the 3 PM catamaran to the island of Vis. Most of us used the 90 minute trip to nap. Here is our first view of Vis.

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There are cats everywhere in Croatia, and this kitty found herself a shady spot at the catamaran dock.

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We crossed to the opposite side of the island , where we checked into the Jasminka Zambarlin apartments in the small fishing village of Komiža. This will be our home base for the next four nights. I had a chance to do laundry, which was very necessary based upon our wardrobe situation. Our apartment is spacious and comfortable.

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Our dinner tonight was on the waterfront, a delicious meal of salad, pizza, and wine.

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Photos are tagged Croatia, Komiza and Split

Posted by Cybercsp 12:32 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia split komiza Comments (1)

Kaštela - Day 3 Tuesday 9/3

Still no luggage...but a lovely day.


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After a leisurely breakfast (which would have been served on the hotel terrace had it not been raining), we set out for the village of Versine.
Fortunately, the rain subsided just before we left the hotel. Our first stop was to visit an olive tree that is documented to be more than 1500 years old.

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We passed a mussel "farm"....

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...enroute to our visit with Tomislav and Gorana, who are friends of Jane and Jay. We walked through their konoba, which is a space designed for outdoor dining.

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We then toured their farm. You can see their olive oil press and one of their pomegranate trees.

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After our farm tour, and a mere two hours after breakfast, we were invited to have a "snack" at their table. We started with rakia, which might be best described as a homemade fruity grappa.

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"Snack" included homemade breads and cheeses, a platter of locally caught seafood, zucchini fritters, meats, and fruit. Oh, and wine...because it
is after 10 AM. We enjoyed sampling their domestic products, and they were the most gracious hosts.

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After this delicious repast, we traveled to the magnificent Krka National Park. The park encompasses two thirds of the Krka River and includes its seven waterfalls. Here are some of the less dramatic, but still quite pretty falls.

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The best known of the falls is Skradinski Buk Falls, the largest travertine cascade system in Europe. And yes, those are people swimming.

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Here is Charlie modeling his first replacement purchase.

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We stopped at a small business where they make soaps and lotions, and below that is a craft brewery.

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And now for Charlie's favorite part of the day...we visited a local farm to learn about prosciutto making. The pigs lead a pampered (but relatively short) life, gaining two pounds a day, until they reach 500 pounds. We saw a video that walked us trough the process, and then we were treated to a slice of the really good stuff.

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Here is their lovely vineyard, and outdoor entertainment space.

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Before dinner we saw the peka being prepared. This is a typical Croatian baked dish with meat and vegetables made on a tray under a metal bell. Embers from the fireplace are placed over the bell. Many houses in Dalmatia, especially in the countryside, have a special place in the barn or at the ground floor of the house for preparing the peka.

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We were greeted with rakia. The cherry was so delicious that we bought a bottle.

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Then we ate:
Appetizers

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vegetable soup with dumplings that were like matzo balls

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and, finally, the peka.

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Our farewell shot is of the ladies with our gracious host.

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Photos are tagged Croatia, Krka and Kastela

Posted by Cybercsp 12:32 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia krka kaštela Comments (2)

Kaštela - Day 2 Monday 9/2

Our trip officially begins! But now, I want to call this Day 1 and that would mess up Charlie's organizational work, so let's go with Day 2....


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Recap of Travel Plan B: We left PHL on Lufthansa. they apparently have computers that work, as well as in-seat entertainment screens. After arriving in Frankfort, we had a deadly-long five hour layover before our flight to Split. During our layover, Charlie checked on the luggage status, and AA reported that it was apparently enroute to Rome.

Did we experience a joyful reunion with our luggage in Split? That would be a hard no.

Now, to return to our regularly scheduled travel blog: Where are we? Well, Croatia (officially the Republic of Croatia) is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, located on the Adriatic Sea. Croatia borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (one country) and Montenegro to the southeast. Croatia shares a maritime border with Italy. Croatia has an area of 21,851 square miles and a population of about 4.28 million. And we are finally here!

We were met at the airport in Split by Jane and Jay, with whom we have shared many update emails regarding Saturday's travel drama.

BY the way....SURPRISE!...we are joined on this journey by Tommy and Maureen Vallante, who our faithful readers have met before (and whose flights got them - and their luggage - to Croatia yesterday). The "Four Cats" (Els Quatre Gats...see our Barcelona blog) are together again!

We popped in the van and traveled to Kaštela, which is located in the central southern portion of Croatia, part of the Split-Dalmatia County. Also included in the county are Split (the largest city and administrative center), Trogir, Omiš, and Makarska, and these islands: Brač; Hvar, and Vis.

We will be staying at Hotel Villa Zarko for two nights.

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This is our room, and the view from our balcony.

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Kaštela consists of seven villages: Štafilić, Novi, Stari, Lukšić, Kambelovac, Gomilica and Sućurac. We are staying in Kastela Lukšić a touristic village in the middle of Kaštela's bay, well known for its botanical garden with Mediterranean trees and plants, and beaches with small pebbles. Kaštela is best known for its Renaissance castle, Kassel VItturi.

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We took a walk through the village to locate an ATM.

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We love looking at the roofs.

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Here is the village church, which had the name Tomislva on a plaque by the door.

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In the late afternoon, we ventured out on our first group excursion, visiting Trogir, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Trogir was originally a Roman municipality, until the Croats settled there is the 6th Century. The Venetians claimed Trogir in 1420, occupying the area for four centuries, until the area was claimed by Napoleon in 1797. The land then was seized and controlled by the Austrians from 1814-1914, becoming part of Yugoslavia after WWI. After the Bosnian War, Trogir remained part of Croatia.

We entered through the city wall gate.

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Gradina Kamerlengo is the castle and fortress of Trogir. It was built in the 15th century by the Republic of Venice. Kamerlengo served for a time as the governor's palace, offering commanding views over the sea, and is now an entertainment venue, with outdoor courtyard performances.

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Walking through the streets was so enjoyable.

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The Katedrala Sv. Lovre (Cathedral of St. Lawrence) is a Romanesque structure, with both Baroque and Gothic influences. Construction commenced in 1193, and was finally completed around 1500.

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One of the cathedral's most notable features is this amazing Romanesque door. Unfortunately, time did not permit the tour, so I took these photos through a gate.

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The Cipiko Palace is located in the Town Square, right across from the main entrance of the cathedral. The Cipikos, one of the region's most prominent families, built this palatial home during the 15th-century. Note the gorgeously carved Venetian window.

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The beautiful Clock Tower features a large blue face and a domed roof that was once part of the church of St. Sebastian. It is located on John Paul II Square (Trg Ivana Pavla II) next to the Loggia. The statue of Justice was carved by Nikola Firentinac in 1471.

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We enjoyed a beautiful welcome dinner on the waterfront. Everything was served family style, and the table was (inaudibly) groaning from the weight of the platters. We started with a squid salad, and three pates (black squid, whitefish, and liver). Dinner consisted of a seafood platter with sea bass, sea bream (whole fish), langostino, mussels, and grilled squid, and a meat platter with beef, duck, pork, and lamb. The dessert platter held panna cotta, tiramisu, cheesecake, and chocolate torte. Suffice it to say that no one left hungry! (Sorry that I fell off on photos...fatigue got the better of me).

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We ended our evening on the phone with American Airlines...with promises that they will attempt to get the luggage to us.

Photos are tagged Croatia, Kaštela and Trogir

Posted by Cybercsp 23:52 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia trogir kaštela Comments (1)

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