A Travellerspoint blog

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)

Philadelphia - Day 1 Sunday 9/1

Our travel odyssey begins, but will we ever leave PHL?


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Our Niche Touring literature listed our trip dates as September 1st through the 13th. Since air was not included as part of our tour, I assumed that we needed to be in Croatia, ready to begin touring on the first day of September. Wrong. The first day of the trip was considered to be our travel date. Whoops...well, we figured, there are worse things than an extra day in Croatia, right? We were about to find out.

So, here is what happened...

Yesterday, we left the house at 2:15 PM, and had cleared TSA at Philadelphia International by 3:30 PM, 2 hours and 20 minutes before our scheduled takeoff (I know my kids are sniggering, but we are all about mitigating travel stress). We arrived back at 154 Laurie Lane this morning at 2:20 AM. WHAT? Grab a glass of wine, here is the story.

Our AMERICAN AIRLINES plane was loaded and ready to go 20 minutes before scheduled takeoff. The captain, in his upbeat voice, welcomed us, but mentioned that some paperwork needed to be completed and, "as soon as it's done", we should be ready for an on time departure. After about 30 minutes, that same upbeat voice announced that there was a "just a little problem" with the backup computer that is used to issue alerts to the pilot, and we can't leave without a backup. It seems that the part to fix this has to come from the warehouse (Amazon.com?) and the captain doesn't know how long it should take, but he didn't think it would be too long. It was too long. The next 'glitch,' the captain noted, (now in an increasingly therapeutic voice) was that while the part had arrived, the software was old and had to be reloaded. (The software probably matched the drop down screens for entertainment and lack of charging stations for the devices you would need to entertain yourselves.) Again, no idea of departure time. Meanwhile, every 20 minutes. AA.com alerted my cellphone that we were delayed another 20 minutes (as if we did not know). After three hours of sitting on the plane (they did give us water and you were allowed to use the restroom or even deplane if you wanted, although they were very clear that they would leave without you), the software was still being loaded. (Charlie thinks that they were typing in the code and not downloading it). At the three hour mark, we were all forced to leave the plane while they continued to load the software. We took this as a bad sign and, at this point, we knew we had missed our connecting flights. In the terminal, they had drinks (non-alcoholic...seriously?), hoagies, and snacks for us. A veritable AA party. Then, we sat at the gate for ANOTHER three hours before they finally cancelled the flight at 12:15 AM. UGH. At this point, I was so tired that I actually believed that I could sleep on the flight...

So, now there are many TIRED people with questions and problems (and a fair number of them do not speak English). The first apologetic announcement is that there are no hotel rooms in Philadelphia (sold out for Made in America festival), so hotel vouchers will be for places far afield. Like maybe King Of Prussia, but there is a mall there. Where do we find our checked luggage? NO PROBLEM, says the gate agent (who has been reminding us every 15 minutes that she is not responsible for the delay), just go down to baggage claim and pick up your luggage. Of course, that means that we have left the secure airport and cannot re-enter. When we got there, we were informed that luggage will NOT be unloaded but instead sent on to its final destination. The only question now is... will we be reunited with our luggage in Split? By the way, the baggage office man did thank me for not yelling at him and gave me two toiletry packs. So, there's that.

For the next hour, while sitting in the baggage claim area in those OH-SO-COMFORTABLE plastic seats, listening to loud (but mercifully decent) music, Charlie was on the phone for over an hour with American Airlines to arrange for our PLAN B flights. Amazingly, they were very helpful and were able to arrange a one stop flight: Philadelphia - Frankfurt - Split that leaves Sunday, 9/2 at 5:40 PM. As I write this, we have already received a notice that the plane is delayed 20 minutes.

We are starting to board at 6:00PM. Wish us luck.


No Photos today.

Posted by Cybercsp 14:46 Archived in USA Tagged croatia Comments (1)

Prologue

Bok (hello) and Dobrodošao (welcome) to our blog!


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Many of you have asked us. "Why Croatia?"...so let's start with that. When visiting the Philadelphia Travel Show, we met Jane Ruth and her husband, Jay, founders of Niche Touring. Jane and Jay organize and lead small group tours to Croatia twice a year, in May and September. Their "niche" is a focus on straying "off the beaten path." Their trips offer more personal experiences with stays in smaller, often family-owned accommodations and visits to smaller family-operated restaurants and vineyards. That sounded delightful to us.

Let's begin with a little historical background: The Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea is known as the Dalmatian Coast. Dalmatia's name is derived from an ancient tribe (the Dalmatae) who lived in the area of the eastern Adriatic coast in the 1st millennium BC. (In case you wondered, this also is the area of origin of the Dalmatian dog.) Croatia is part of the region formerly known as Yugoslavia. After World War I, six Slavic states were consolidated to form Yugoslavia, which translates to "Land of the South Slavs." While the inhabitants spoke a common language, the regions had different histories, beliefs, and distinct identities. After World War II, Yugoslavia was subdivided along ethnic lines into six republics, governed under communist rule by Marshal Tito ("President for Life"). After Tito's death in 1980 and the fall of communism, the Yugoslavian union began to pull apart. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia each declared their independence, and as each region asserted itself, there was domestic strife that included nationalistic "ethnic cleansing." The Croatian War of Independence ended in 1995, with the Bosnian conflict sometimes referred to as "a war within a war." I suspect that we will be learning a lot more about this as the trip unfolds.

Let's end this prologue with a fun fact: Croatia is the birthplace of the necktie. In the early 17th Century, Croatian soldiers would be given a narrow scarf by a loved one to symbolize love and remembrance, and thousands of Croatian soldiers wore them when they were sent to France to fight in the Thirty Years' War. It is said that King Louis XIV admired these jaunty neckerchiefs and took to wearing one himself. Voilà ...a new fashion was born. King Charles II of England, who was in exile in France during this time jumped on the fashion bandwagon, eventually returning to England with what the French called a "croate." The word eventually morphed into "cravat" (a synonym for necktie). Love them or hate them, thank the Croatians for the necktie.

If all goes as planned, we will leave Philadelphia at 6:50 PM tonight (Saturday, 8/31), and after connecting flights in Zurich and Zagreb, will (finally) arrive in Split. Thanks for following along and let the trip begin....

No photos today.

Posted by Cybercsp 13:42 Archived in USA Tagged croatia Comments (0)

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