Archive for June, 2009

28 Jun 2009

The six signs

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An ominous start

We got up early one day this week and rode into Vis town in the dark to catch the early morning catamaran to Hvar. Once on Hvar we caught the large passenger/car ferry coming across from Split and going all the way to Dubrovnik. From Hvar the journey takes about seven hours and there is plenty to see – islands, coastline etc – well there would be if it wasn’t raining most of the way. The islands lose some of their charm on a cold wet dreary day. Still the boat had a nice restaurant that served both wine and food – what more could an Alpaca want.

And then we arrived in Dubrovnik – Gill and Paul insisted I write something nice about Dubrovnik … it’s going to be a challenge! I have a bad feeling about Dubrovnik. The ferry arrives into Dubrovnik by the new port, which is nowhere near the beautiful old town port. That’s the first sign. An ocean-liner is docked in the port. The second sign. We make our way off the ferry to be greeted by a thousand toothless old ladies trying to flog apartments … cheap, cheap. They are all smiles until you say no thanks. The third sign. Our prearranged driver doesn’t show. The fourth sign. We catch the bus to the old town. It is full of tourists. The fifth sign. We trudge through the old gate, like sheep. The sixth sign.


Early morning wall walker

Still, not to be dissuaded we decide to make the best of it. The next morning we wake up early, determined to beat the masses and do the Wall Walk around Dubrovnik. This is a Must do. Everything else is a Do I have to? We are literally the first people up on the walls and it feels like we have the whole place to ourselves. Dubrovnik is a fine-looking city and the intact old walls afford the most amazing views of Dubrovnik, the coastline and nearby islands, and the mountains that climb straight from the sea. By the time we have completed our walk a throng of wishful wall walkers has formed a long queue.

There is a war photo gallery in Dubrovnik which exhibits photos on war. Really! It is not the sort of place you go into with a weak stomach, but it is excellent nonetheless. There is also an interesting contemporary art gallery showcasing only Croatian contemporary art.

And here’s a gallery of pretty pictures of Dubrovnik – – click here. There I have said a few nice things about Dubrovnik.

Now for the bad: Old Town Dubrovnik has no heart, or if it does, it is flashing red and you can probably buy it for a few bucks hanging in one of the hundreds of souvenir shops. There are few real businesses in the old town and all the restaurants have signs in English, German, Spanish … and if you a lucky Croatian, and the wait staff stand outside begging you to come in. Please!

Our Rough Guide says: the rest of the old town can be easily covered in a day and a half – although once you begin to soak up the atmosphere you’ll find it difficult to pull yourself away. Are we talking about the same city?

And the very best thing about Dubrovnik was the bus ride to Split. The bus route travels along rugged coastline for most of the way and includes a fifteen minute journey, including passport checks, through Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was a fine day. The scenery was spectacular and it felt good to be heading home to Vis.

Blending in with the locals
18 Jun 2009

Weekend in Split

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Help me, I’m shrinking


Split town

Well you may have guessed it from this week’s “Lunch” photo, we are back on Vis. Yep, we’ve split Split and the highlife that goes with it and we’re back soaking the rays, down on the beach again. In fact I’ve been in the water so much lately I’m starting to shrink!

But let me tell you about Split. What a nice port city with a long boardwalk; a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Everything centres around the old Diocletian palace, that dates back over 1700 years. The palace is long gone, but many of the walls, the facade, and the subterranean passages remain. Rather than turn it into a museum, the locals have instead transformed the palace into a living breathing city – within the walls are apartments, businesses, retail shops, bars, galleries, hotels, theatres, a market square, a cathedral … the list goes on. Jeanne, Gill, Paul and I had fun winding our way through the palace quarter – a great place for hide and seek. We rented an apartment just outside the palace quarter but within the old town, so we could explore whenever we felt the need. The apartment was tiny, think of a two storey cupboard and you get the idea – seems to be a recurring theme in European apartments.


Mohitos anyone?

On Saturday night, a hot night, we went to the Split Outdoor Cinema – for a taste of real Australian cinema at the Split Animation Festival – to see “Mary and Max”. Feeling nostalgic, we immediately booked tickets on the next flight bound for Oz – just joking!

18 Jun 2009

Lunch

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12 Jun 2009

Visitors Guide

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Another day in ….


Someone had to take the photo – why always me?

Shhhhhh. I’m going to tell you a secret. I’ll whisper it to you … Vissssssssss.

Don’t tell a soul.

We’ve been here just over a week. Jeanne ‘does she ever do any work?’ has arrived yet again. Our scooter has been swapped for a nifty little Fiat convertible; and we have become water babes. The days are long and slow, punctuated by ‘siestas’, a carry-over from Spain. The weather has been PERFECT. The winds have dropped and it climbs to low 30s most days.


Going topless

Then the tough part comes – we have to make decisions: which beach, the one with the secluded bay, the one at the end of our street, the picture-postcard bay that overlooks the islands (oh, they’re all picture postcard bays).

Paul has been out taking photos, and has promised to stop now because they all look the same. The colours are so bright they hurt. We have compiled a little Visual Guide to tease and tempt – click here.

Lunchtime and another tough decision needs to be made. Do we eat at home, out in the garden? Or do we go out to the pretty seaside ports of Vis or Komiza? Or just drive through the centre of the island and stop at the first restaurant we find? Tough choices.

For the last couple of days, we have been out. First to Maxo’s in the middle of the island – Nothing more than a pretty country farmhouse; long dusty drive, vegetable patch and a few empty tables under a grape vine. It’s hot – the heat of the day.

“Are you open?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like some wine?”

“Yes.”

“Some food?”

“Of course.”

“Some salad perhaps, and some water?”

“Yes”


Smiley happy faces

And it arrives. There is no menu. It’s delicious, a large platter of goat, cooked to perfection in a red wine marinade, with a healthy serve of pasta on the side. The salad is plucked fresh from the garden, while we sit and sip our wine. It is very …. idyllic.


There’s just a bit more left


There, it’s all gone

And the next day …. more of the same. It is someone’s front yard. The chef, a largish man – well fed – slaves over hot coals in the midday sun.

“What would you like?”

“Fish.”

On the clothes-line – a black bra dangles. There is no pretentiousness here, just good food.

Today we are heading to Split for some respite because we just don’t know how much more of this we can take.

Do videnja.

06 Jun 2009

First Impressions of Vis

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Fishing port town of Komiza, Island Vis

Home is now a small cottage on the island of Vis, about three hours by car ferry from Split on the coast of Croatia. We arrived at the tail end of the worst weather in 50 years, to dark brooding skies and grey seas. The days since have been changeable, sometimes perfect and other times rainy, and often wild and woolly – like me.


Storm clouds over Vis

Originally we had planned to get fit and get about on bicycles, but one look at the topography, and the highest mountain Hum (585m), ho hum, put paid to that idea. We now have a small 50cc scooter – Svetlana – and she takes us everywhere. She is red, so technically that means she goes faster, but last night when we were coming home from our fish feast in the tiny little fishing port of Komiza, winding up along the narrow cliff-face roads direct into 40 knot headwinds, the speedometer barely moved above 35km/h and on each switchback she felt like she might just blow right off the road.

Vis is a beautiful island. The towns of Vis and Komiza are both picture-postcard beautiful with old stone cottages leading right down to the water’s edge, pebble beaches and sheltered bays. The locals are friendly, often with teeth missing and big smiles. The exception would be the tourist office in Vis. There sits a man, sprawled lazily behind a large counter, surprisingly void of any tourist information. We had seen a poster about a movie cinema in town and asked him about it.

“Come over here,” he bellows, too lazy to move from his place behind the counter. ”I can’t hear you.”

“Can you tell us about the cinema?”

“Yes there is a cinema.”

“When is it open? Are the movies in English or dubbed?”

“There is a poster.”

“Yes we have seen the poster.” It’s in Croatian. And changing the subject, because we can see we are getting nowhere fast, “We are here for the whole month. What do you recommend we do?”

“There is nothing to do. This is June.”

“Thanks you have been very helpful. Dobra dan.

We have now sourced our own information on Vis: with continuous settlement since 3,000BC, occupied at various times by the Romans, the Goths, the Venetians, the Austrians, the French, the Italians, the English and Yugoslavs – many important archeological ruins and artefacts remain including an ancient roman theatre seating 3,500 people. Let’s not mention the beautiful secluded beaches, nearby islands, vineyards and restaurants; the option to sail around the islands, swim and explore or just sit back on the beach and relax – I am sure we will find something to do in June! Fortunately the woman in the tourist office in Komiza was more helpful.