A Travellerspoint blog

The Croatian Crawl

Catch of the day

sunny 30 °C

Meeting Shelly and Pete in Split was a special moment. We laughed and cried all at once then headed off for coffee and a market to buy some local produce. Croatian ham and cheese very good ! We sampled Croatia and loved the people. Warm friendly and true, with the exception of those who worked in the office of tourism which was curious!
We began and ended our travels with our friends with what became known as a 'fish' . No matter how prepared and aware you are as travellers you are always a potential victim of the financial misunderstanding. The one that caught us in Croatia was local fish, freshly caught('here let me show you")priced per 100 g on the menu. Naive and ignorant on our first night in Split! A scorpion fish, apparently Queen of the ocean, cost $100 and it was only for two ! 'The fish' was part of so many transactions, it was always a signal for buyer beware. Once we hit the islands we were in search of Croatia's most beautiful beach. We began on Vis with water that was clear, clean and beautiful only let down by a shabby town beach with very uncomfortable rocks, we could only look up. Hiring a car opened our world and we found special beaches in pine forests with smooth white stones. Stivna beach was a gem that can only be accessed by sea or a steep cliff path. A traumatic trip to the beach with moments of sheer terror was rewarded with a therapeutic swim in an exquisite cove. In addition to our quest, Vis allowed us to experience good examples of Croatian grill, veggies and meat, particularly when we were in the mountains and found a Konoba run by a charming host who greeted us with home made rose and carob Brandy. We journeyed on to Hvar and Dubrovnik, each becoming more touristy than the last.
Hvar was beautiful and, as is always the case, we could find ourselves our own space when we stepped outside the tourist beat. Great swimming in unbelievably aqua water, plenty of pevo (beer) and many laughs to be had. I am pleased we ended in Dubrovnik as if we had arrived there first we would have formed an entirely different opinion of Croatia. This beautifully restored city is an expensive tourist town. But when you scratch beneath the surface you discover the town stands as a symbol of its people. Nearly destroyed in 1991 the artists and towns people have devoted everything with a fierce passion to make it even better than before. So the terracotta roofs, unbelievably brilliant in their colour, display the resilience and bravery of those who fought to save their town.
We couldn't believe how many other Australian tourists we encountered here especially after feeling a bit of a novelty elsewhere. It is interesting how Australians are drawn 1000s of km from their home to find another coast, a familiar medium .
We leave this part of the holiday with so many special memories of our beach crawl in Croatia.

Posted by Pips trip 10.07.2013 11:18 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Sampling life at a slow pace

Sardinia

sunny 28 °C

Tinkling of bells from herds of goats was one of the memorable parts of our walk through Sardinia. We began with a 12 km practice walk up around the hills of Santa Lusurgiu but after scrambling through brambles, climbing over dry stone walls and becoming absolutely bushed, we were more than a little concerned for the next 85 km ! As it turned out, we were champion navigators! 22 km descending from rugged alpine surroundings through thick forests with baby wild boar skittering in our path and finally arriving at Santa Caterina. Etched into my mind was an image of us, standing exhausted on our balcony absorbing the awe inspiring view. The next few days were spent exploring 70km coastline of the Sinis peninsular. We walked along majestic limestone cliffs, white sandy beaches and through fields bordered with wild flowers, so many wild flowers. My highlight was peeling off my walking gear to plunge into the azure sea. Pure delight, even Stewart joined me in this pursuit, it doesn't get better than that ! The sand was ground from quartz, the water clear blue and the sun hot, which led to the most challenging aspects of the walk. At times of the day and in temperatures you wouldn't dream of tacking in Aus, we were stoically picking our way through brambles and stumbling next to salt pans with no shade. Guzzling water and wearing appropriate gear ( the scarf I bought for Amsterdam's Queens day made a great cape) we did what we could by dipping in the sea or stopping in a cafe. But often we just had to tough it out. Ah the challenges of adventure holidays !
Sardinian people are proud of their food, for good reason. The produce is so fresh and the combination of ingredients simple. Tomato and fresh ricotta/ bocconcini, smoked meats, delicious prosciutto,mouth watering Pecarino and so much seafood. Our last evening, spent in the beautiful city Cagliari, was in a unique restaurant called Dr Ampex. Jean Paul, an ex doctor, brings you his selection of Sardinian delights combinations of flavours that rocked my world. So on top of this and his entertaining banter we met the loveliest French whom with we laughed ourselves silly and decided to meet when we arrive in Paris. The pleasure of travel.

Posted by Pips trip 22.06.2013 06:07 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Cake for Breakfast

Vienna

overcast 19 °C

Arriving in Vienna we are greeted by the Blue Danube, Sadly not the river which was a swollen muddy brown but the waltz which we heard everywhere. We were humming it to ourselves by the end !!! So, to a week of coffee, cake and culture. We immersed ourselves in the art of Klimt, Schiele, and the architecture of Hoffman and Wagner. We walked the grand boulevards populated with beautiful buildings, though there was a sense of their decay as the 21st century begins to make its mark. Our Art Deco walk round the inner stadt took us around some incredible buildings with intricate tiled designs on their facades which were enhanced by our viewing of the beautiful art of Kilmt and the genius of Schiele in many museums. ! There were so many similarities between Prague and Vienna, yet due to calamitous historical events and the arbitrary placement of a the border between east and west, the life in these cities today is so different. Vienna, such regal elegance yet seemingly conservative and stuck in the fin de si├Ęcle, Prague working hard to push boundries. This was so clear in the theatre The Swamp Club, which we read later was from the genre of non theatre, an apt description. No characterisation, no narrative and little dialogue. Ridiculously bad, apart from the giant mole emerging from the stage which was quite funny( meant to be highly symbolic, of what we struggled to work out) . we backed this up with the opera, televised live to an audience outside. The music was spectacular but sets and costumes very traditional. I just came away feeling that Vienna was stuck in the past, though admittedly it is a fine place to be.
So to cake....Stewart as we all know does not care for dessert, but he learned to love cake, it is the Vienese way. A cafe discovered on the last day, Demel which was in an exquisite building, supplied us with great espresso and delicious truffle cake. ( their asparagus soup was also best ever !).
Also in the Austrian way, we had two hikes into the countryside, energetic up hills with views of the Danube, leafy glades in the Vienna woods, more Strauss and Gasthouses serving Schnitzel, knodle and Apple Streudel,(looking like the Cuckoo in the Dandenongs, again trapped in another time).
All in all we did love Vienna and it was the perfect place to wait out the bad weather.)

Posted by Pips trip 14.06.2013 10:01 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Submerged in Western Europe

from Prague to Vienna

rain 13 °C

In Prague in the streaming rain, a sunny attitude still prevailed. Having walked from the station we arrived drenched and with a sense of irony at our boat hotel. The rest of the day was spent under umbrellas seeing the amazing and beautiful architecture and sampling the cheapest beer in Europe. Day 2 was no less wet, but we carried on regardless. A 3 hour walking tour with an animated and informative guide. He worked hard to make eye contact amongst the dipping umbrellas but gave us a fascinating historic overview of the town. Little did we realise as we listened to his stories the water levels were rising all around us. We were wet cold and hungry and Prague ham cooked on the spit in Wenceslas square(prime tourist area) seemed like such a good idea. Like all bad travel stories, in retrospect it is so clear what we should have done. So as Stewart stands in line to buy this delicious treat, 100 crowns (around $5) seemed reasonable. After minutes of animated discussion, Stewart motioned for more money, it eventuated that the slab of ham and one piece of rye bread cost the princely sum of $20 !! This was the first bad piece of bad luck. We had a giggle, realised that there were worse things, felt guilty about under tipping our walking guide (1/2 the price of the ham)and in the drizzling rain return to our hotel, looking forward to our dry room and a gin and tonic. Waltzing down to the dock we see the river, no boat, no restaurant, just the river. (No. 2. of bad luck comes in 3s) our Botel had been towed away and our luggage was waiting for us on the dock !
Actually as it transpired, we had dodged a bullet. The next morning leaving Prague, we heard that the old town was under water ! Little did we know that in another place the river was rising, though we were soon to find out about the flooding in Passau. Watching the news in the comfort of our Viennse hotel, we were concerned about the images of devastation in the Dannube valley and wondering how our train would get through to Scharding, our starting point for our cycle along the Danube. Now the final piece of bad luck, phone call to our tour company confirmed their agency and many of the hotels were under water. They said they couldn't transfer the luggage every day to which Stewart, 'it's a safety issue' Bell replied and ther will be no paths for us to ride. At this point we decided a week in Vienna eating cake and sipping coffee in the beautiful boulevards would be quite nice any way.

Posted by Pips trip 08.06.2013 08:44 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Wonderful, wonderful.....

Copenhagen

rain 15 °C

Have just spent the last week in the delightful company of Scottie and Birgitte in Copenhagen. It was so relaxing to have a base again and we passed the time touring, eating and drinking. The Danes can drink ! We drove to Sweden just to cross the bridge as a homage to the Danish crime show of the same name feeling just a little hypocritical as we had teased Jen when she visited THAT bookshop in Nottinghill only days before. We had a coffee in Malmo, pretty town brightly coloured houses with lots of Swedish red rooves contrasting with the grey sky. We returned by ferry which was fun and had a Danish hot dog for Lew. Scottie showed us around Copenhagen on a bright sunny day and we wandered the pretty streets, no building higher than 3 storeys. We kicked back on a canal boat to see some of the sights from the water, such as the beautiful modern architecture of the Black Diamond library, the opera house and the play house. The little Mermaid, such an iconic figure of the stories from my childhood was sadly diminutive, a non event really. Highlight of the day was a typical Danish lunch in an old dark bar near the port. We had herring in three ways, meatballs and pork, all accompanied with rye bread and schnapps. Could get very used to the sharp and salty flavours as my tastebuds continue to diminish. My favourite experience of the week was a visit to Louisiana, an art gallery out of Copenhagen. We had a great day at this beautiful place with Birgitte. The gallery is situated in stunning landscaped gardens with pockets of woodlands, statues and vistas of the wild arctic sea. Within were a number of exhibitions, the most exciting by Tara Donovan where she used waste to shape stunning sculptures of nature. At night we laughed and ate delicious dinners and talked til we were blue in the face. A wonderful way to renew a friendship.

Posted by Pips trip 31.05.2013 09:39 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

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