Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dubrovnik -- Dalmatian Coast

Dubrovnik - famous walled city. Also a World Heritage Site. See

Red roofs. Bombed heavily by Serbia during the wars, now restored. There can be no full recovery of the destruction of actual original heritage sites, however. There remains a botox quality to the reconstructions.
And regular people living there. Here is some street soccer, seen from the city walls.

An ideal 8-day trip would be to fly into Dubrovnik, drive around the walled cities immediately up the coast and back, then do two days in Montenegro to see the spectacular mountains. Take the ferry to Korcula sometime in between. Croatia also has mountains, but they are a barer rock than in Montenegro, with all the deforestation (thank you, Venice and others, who conveniently ravaged Croatia to build your fleets with Croatian timber. Overview of Dubrovnik - see

Dubrovnik was heavily bombarded during the 1990's Balkan wars, but is largely and well reconstructed. It is not like Germany, where the reconstructions are easily visible because of inelasticity. In Dubrovnik, for example, they used old techniques and reusable stone. Then again, they did not have an entire country the size of Germany to rebuild.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cavtat - Dalmatian Coast on the way to Montenegro

Cavtat, Croatia, bay view

This is on the way to Montenegro, south from Dubrovnik. Take a few days to at least see the start of the mountains, and coast. See Montenegro Road Ways.

Cavtat is a good stopping point on the way - an ancient coastal town now mostly resort and marina - see photos at We arrived at dusk, in time for a great "riva" or harbor-walk promenade that goes out to a long point of land. The promenade begins just past that parking area. There is a dredger, and the view is from our hotel. By morning it was raining. That view is from our hotel.

The town dates from the Illyrians, the Greeks and Romans, Many hikers, adventure-climbers at the hotel. Easy to get a several-day car rental also. See

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sibenik - Dalmatian Coast, UNESCO

We arrived in Sibenik from Zadar, stopping off and on. There is a motorway, but we avoided it. We took the coast old road instead, small towns with fine food, go slow around the curves, cliff-sides, maybe not guardrails, but people are careful. Have to be.

Sibenik, Cathedral of St. James, Croatia. Adam and Eve.

Sibenik is a walled city. The Cathedral of St. James. Adam and Eve flank a side doorway.

The ring of faces. There are over 70 sculptured faces on the cornice going around the Cathedral of St. James, faces of ordinary folk - not saints, not famous civil officials, just people - expressing every emotion. Sibenik was heavily damaged, as were most coastal cities, during the Croat-Serbian-Bosnian wars. For more on Sibenik's history:
See Balkan history: at We hear so much of Balkan turmoil. A less explored idea, in connection with that, is where it came from; what role did the Balkans play in buffering against Ottoman and other invasions so that Venice and the rest of Europe could continue its marketing. . Location, location.

The Balkans were the first stop for the Ottoman Empire expansion, The Balkans had to be the buffer for violence for centuries, enabling Venice, Austria, Hungary, France, Germany to develop at least without that threat on their doorsteps. The Balkans absorbed it. Albania has never recovered from the conqueror doing what conquerors do - exploit. The upending of the religious and political landscape. Bosnia, Serbia, Herzegovina, all part of that heritage. Need more research here.

Cathedral of St. James, Sibenik, Croatia. Ring of stone faces.

Croatia has a history of valuing common people.

It is the country where the people's language was used by Bishop Gregory in the 10th Century, until he was stopped by Rome and compelled to use Latin, that the people could not understand. See post on Nin. So, seeing a veneration for common men and women as shown on this Cathedreal, and for their lives, was not as jarring here, as it would be in Rome. The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See http://www/

Flower market, Sibenik, Croatia

This was flower market day in Sibenik. Other days focus on meats, produce, or goods.

Books read on the way and after home:

Black Lamb, Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, by Rebecca West (1939). This is so big as a paperback that I sliced it in half, used heavy cellophane on each as a new cover, and then could read it. Old, but no comparison as to history, philosophy, geography, social customs, all in pre-WWII.

Cafe Europa: Life After Communism, by Slavenka Drakulic, 1st American ed.

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, by Robert D. Kaplan, St. Martin's Press 1993

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Zadar - Dalmatian Coast

Easter Morning. In drizzle, we went on from Nin to the larger town, Zadar. At this site,, click on "city tour" at the bottom menu. Very cosmopolitan.

From the traditional to the contemporary: here is an upscale urban and very contemporary family at the nearby city of Zadar, see Zadar, the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, see legends, Zadar, built on the grounds of the old Roman forum. The cathedral is being repaired. For American Croatians interested in their history, see American Croatians.

Zadar has been proposed as a World Heritage site. See Zadar Proposed World Heritage.This family could be from any major urban area. There is ongoing reconstruction work. The city dates from the 9th Century BC - with layers of each cultural group's influence all around - Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, large areas of big walls. We may think of Croatia as distant, but it is just across the water from Venice. Upkeep ongoing.

There is a Christian Orthodox bishop here and a Roman Catholic bishop.

Croatian coats of arms are prominent in bookshops, displays, town information, and Wikipedia (always good for an orientation) does a good job in describing Zadar, and with a map, and including its coat of arms. See

Senj and the Uskoks - Dalmatian Coast - An Unknown People

Still the Dalmatian Coast, but farther north than the usually seen walled cities.

At Senj, there is a fortress at the top of the hill behind the port town,. A large valley in the mountains funnels to the sea. See overview at There, refugees from the Turks, Uskoks, fled and set up a town, and fought back. See

The Uskoks had helped the Venetians, by fighting back the Turks, and enabling the Venetians to disengage and just keep paying financial tribute to the Turks, instead of fighting themselves, say the books. Ongoing research - see lookups at Bogomilia: A Site for the Unsung

Then, when the Uskoks through their experience in battle and on ships were getting too strong, the Venetians turned against them, eventually destroying them and dissipating their numbers. The Uskoks had become great seamen, managing the winds that even the Venetians could not; so they became pirates. Always check up on Wikipedia because the information can be updated, or left erroneous - but this looked accurate, in line with what we think we learned:

Courage, flexibility, adaptability, and drive. All for nothing. Just another page in history. But it is good to see how school children now can tour the fortress up there,and see the great crests of the old Croatian families lined up on the walls, and read of the great struggles for independence and dignity of the past. There is huge post and beam construction that still holds up, for you builders. The town looks like this, I believe this is Senj, but if it is a neighboring town, Senj looks like this from the top where the fortress is. We walked up there. We try to take notes, but sometimes get pictures mixed. For a scholarly long article, try The Uskok "Problem" at

Friday, January 26, 2007

Nin on Easter morning - Dalmatian Coast

Nin, Croatia: Parishioner, Easter Morning

Easter morning. Meet a parishioner on the walking bridge of the ancient town of Nin, going to St. Cross. The sun had just began to show after downpours at Pag, to the northeast.

She wears traditional dress, black formal wear that we understand is expected for widows, and for occasions: black stockings and shoes, a full skirt, and here she has the babushka and a short black overcoat. Sometimes there is black embroidery. Here, not.

Nin is the oldest Croatian royal town, says see also ://

King Tomislav, who ruled 910-928 (becoming King in 925) had conquered the coastal cities of the Dalmatian Coast, and issues arose as to the sovereignty of the Archbishopric of Nin here and Bishop Grgur. Gregor. Gregor. Gregory. Of Nin. See Tomislav at Bosnia Road Ways, King Tomislav, Capilyn

Nin and the next and larger town, Zadar, are often grouped together in write-ups. Go to the middle of the page for a writeup on Nin. Nin is off the main road going from Pag to Zadar, on the Dalmatian coast. for both Pag and Zadar.

Nin once was a major port and commercial hub in medieval times. I wrote to the priest there and enclosed this lady's picture, but have not heard back.

This is the old bridge where we met her.

Nin, Croatia, bridge

Nin, Croatia: Bishop Gregory, Gregor of Nin

This is Bishop Gregory of Nin, a strong 10th Century Christian religious leader who used the Croatian language in liturgy. See more on Gregory of Nin at He finally was stopped by the Pope, who wanted only Latin used, with the result that the people could not understand.

The feet or hands on many statues of saints, like the large toe of Grigor Nin here, are rubbed bright with the touchings of people with supplications, or just for luck for the rest. The statue is by the sculptor Mestrovic, with the original here (or is the original in Split??) and a copy in the second largest city, Split. See Scupture traditions, Split.

Nin, Croatia: Cathedral, St. Cross, claimed as world's smallest

Nin has the world's smallest cathedral, St. Cross, dating from the 9th century.

For full listings of the major religious buildings in Croatia, including at Nin, see Monuments, Sacred A more detailed accounting of history and Nin, and other statues of Grigor Nin is on a blog at Nin blog

St. Cross Cathedral, Nin, Croatia (world's smallest?)

Pag - Dalmatian Coast , karst , salt and deforestation

The Dalmatian Coast has its barrenness, as well as the more lush walled cities area toward the south. Here is the area around Pag. Near Zadar. See map at - if you get lost, use these additional indicators - mapshells/europe/croatia/croatia.

We were there in the pouring rain. No visibility except the barrens. Pag is a historic town, the end of a long peninsula, on Pag island, and on barren limestone plateau area, called "karst." See Other places use the word karst for mountain areas as well. This would be an excellent geo-tourism site because of the geological sites and attractions. See book "Geotourism" by Ross Dowling at this site:

Pag is also a ferry port, for those coming by water from the Istrian peninsula, like Rijeke. It had been known for its traditional dress, but few places show those except for special days.

A moonscape, salt flats, and the mountains on the far side of the waterway are as close as I can get from our pictures. See, for more Pag photos. The mountains had been deforested for ships for the Venetians and others, and the process accelerated through the centuries. Perfect for salt works. See

Pag once was a busy port, for traffic from Rijeka and many other places. It still gets ferries and some port traffic, but is remote by car. We went to the main square, found a hotel, and had a full apartment at Pag, with a fine restaurant below. We prefer smaller local places to the hotels, if there is a choice.

Pag is famous for its sheep's milk cheese, that whiffs of the varieties of herbs in the grass. Pag also used to be a place to see routine traditional dress, but not now.

It also has nude beaches, I understand, but we were there in the cold and wet. The history of Pag is at Pag History There are other sites with that beach information. Go fetch.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Primosten, Trogir and peninsula towns, Dalmatian Coast

Primosten, Croatia, view
Dalmatian Coast. The walled town of Primosten. The standard view from the road heading south. 

See Primosten once was on an island, made as a refuge from invading Turks, and finally a bridge -causeway was built. Picture-perfect. If you look closely, though, you see how modern the modern buildings are. Photography is manipulative - ease out what doesn't fit the stereotype. These scenes are not just stage sets for tourists - real people live here.

After so many of these wonderful walled cities, Primosten was a quick look. Just can't do it all.

Here is the happenstance view with Primosten in the background,  from an armchair handily placed by the side of the road, at the scenic lookout point, looking back. There is the ruin of a foundation there, so this is just like a living room of sorts.

Thank you. Much enjoyed. Humor world-wide.

We also did Trogir in just a few hours, a nearby walled city on a peninsula. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. See
Wisteria, wall at Trogir, Croatia

The age of many places is evidenced by the size of the plants - here, with wisteria, and in England, with rose bushes and rhododendron extending to second floors. In Greece, with portulacca? Is that the cascading deep pink? Who could date this ancient wisteria: how fast does one grow per year?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ston, Peljesac Peninsula, Dalmatian Coast: local ferry from Orebic; Ston; and Marco Polo

Dalmatian Coast, getting to the island of Korcula.

We chose a little local ferry from Orebic, at the end of the Peljesac Peninsula, instead of taking the big car ferry from Dubrovnik. Good choice.

First town, Ston. "Mali Ston" is the fortified point up there where the great wall ends.

The fortifications of Ston are among the longest in Croatia, providing increasing degrees of protection from invaders. As at Pag, there also are salt pans in the area.

Ston has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, see

Ston: Drive north from Dubrovnik. Watch for signs to Ston, Orebic, even Peljesac Peninsula. Get off, go across little bridge, and there is Ston - old town with double fortifications: one set of walls around the town, with a V shape at top.

Then, look closely and see another set of walls heading farther up - also a V. A place for falling back and regouping. These kinds of walls are called multiple fortified curtain walls, and they are often seen going up the mountainside, each with its own smaller fort at the apex. See

Military matters. Remember that a retreat, even a total melting back into the hills, is not necessarily a defeat. The best strategy may be to save your lives at the time, and not stand and fight against overwhelming odds - but dissolve and regroup at some point, for a later return engagement.*

Have tea and orange soda, wander, back in car and through long open spaces, little towns, fishing villages, memorials to WWII, cliffs, many scenic-type places to stop and stretch and learn something. We focus so much on Normandy and where our armies were, that it even comes as a surprise to be reminded of the devastation, sacrifice and heroism elsewhere. Who is provincial?

Orebic - Last town out. A regular local ferry plies back and forth all day there - cheap. Fast on, fast off (except for packing in the cars, see picture - but that is its own entertainment. Everybody leans over the rail to watch and applaud.

No advance ticketing. Just get in line. The Orebic ferry leaves any time it is full. Even hourly, roughly. Plenty of rooms and hotels in the town.

We got on line about 8AM and were on the first ferry from Orebic to Korcula.

Our car is this red one.

* More on military matters, after seeing the ingenious wall systems here. Read that biography, "The Life and Times of Genghis Khan," by Jim Whiting. I think that is the one I read, where the strategic retreat is described as historically used and highly effective - and expected. If our leaders read more history, perhaps they would expect that as a sensible tactic in some parts of the world and not jump to premature victory conclusions. Genghis Khan, with his military genius combined with follow-through in administration, brought his empire all the way to the Adriatic. See highly readable history lecture, a Dr. May at N.Ga.College and S.U.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sinj - Inland on the way to Mostar, Bosnia - The Six Hundred Horsemen

Also near the Dalmatian Coast, but inland, in an area on the way to Mostar, Bosnia, is this town of the 600 horsemen.

Arrive at Sinj (don't confuse with Senj, to the north) from Sibenik. This is a sidewinder route to Mostar that would be less mountainous than the direct "up." Thank you, B&B in Split for the tip.

The clue to this town's past is this jouster, representing the contests that commemorate a great victory of the townsfolk over the Turks in the 1700's. There is a festival for this, in early August. A little video of the festival is at

We were there at the wrong time of year, but enjoyed the story: the Turks conquered Sinj in the early 1500's, lost it to the Venetians in about 1700, and tried to recapture it in 1715. But suddenly 600 horsemen from the town galloped out of Sinj onto the battlefield, and the Turks were turned back.

The festival reenacts the battle - riders, dressed in traditional costume, parade and then compete, trying to spear a large suspended iron ring - much noise, cheering, song and pounding hooves, we hear. "Sinj Through the Centuries" at

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Korcula - Island, Dalmatian Coast

Korcula, Island, Croatia
Korcula is a favorite island for cruise ships - big car ferries ply from Dubrovnik and elsewhere.

Look at any map, and get an idea of how many islands are just off the Dalmatian Coast. Everywhere. Each with its own walled towns, its own story of invasions, defenses, power shifts, and economic exploitation, cultural exchanges pro and con, and deforestation - Turks, Venetians, on and on. No peace?

Korcula, Croatia: Passageway, laundry
Regular people also live here - note the laundry out the window, and through the passageway.

Tradition holds that the Polo family lived in the house at the second floor door at this house in Korcula, before moving to Venice.  Marco Polo's writings and routes (overland and by sea) are highlighted at Saudi Aramco World Magazine at 
He recorded the goods available, the value of them, all in merchant tradition.

Marco Polo House, Korcula, Croatia (claimed)

It was a family named Polo, and there are links, but who knows? For Marco Polo enthusiasts, Here is more on Marco Polo - see Tune down your volume for this audio promotion for Korcula: There is some question whether Marco Polo actually went to China, or repeated the tales of others, because of omissions as to Chinese culture that ordinarily a traveler would be expected to note - chopsticks, tiny feet for ladies, the Great Wall. The other side notes that he probably lived with Mongols, who did not hold to those customs, and the Great Wall was not in its present form until the 16th century. This is why we love history. See ://

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Makarska, history, mountains and renting lighthouses

See the panorama at
Click on the Gallery, left menu.

Makarska. Off the motorway from Dubrovnik toward Zagreb, Mountains sweeping directly into the Adriatic - every fjord-bay has a town. And its invaders, and deforestation.

Makarska shows the effects of those multiple conquerors, rebuilding, layers. There is a point where people stop re-stuccoing over the stone, and some remain rough now. As you walk about, find the full panoply of conquerors. The coast has a fine harbor, and the town is sheltered by the Biokovo range of mountains,. Lovely beaches, fine old monasteries.

There, in the succession of centuries, Romans ruled, then Goths, then Croatia (finally) until the Turks, then Venice. The town has been bombarded often and rebuilt. See

You can rent your own Croatian lighthouse here for some 700-1200 euro per week. These are in Croatian waters or at the end of a mainland, all from the 19th Century, says the Financial Times 7/15/2006. Go to for rental details and find a spot (say, at Plocica) that sleeps up to 14. Take your friends. Enjoy Christmas, New Year's and the summer. A particularly remote one, says the article, is Palagruza between Italy and Croatia (mid-water?). St. Ivan is near Rovinj.

One, St. Peter Lighthouse here in the photo, is just off the coast here at Makarska. Long promenades at the beach.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Opatije - Istrian Peninsula

Opatija, on the Istrian Peninsula. This was a favorite of Emperor Franz Joseph, notes a foodie article at - article by Mark Bittman in the Dining Out section. He is with chef Lidia Bastianich and writes that they arrived at a town "above Opatija, a favorite of Emperor Franz Joseph. It's a town of much faded glory and spectacular hillside views of islands and water."

Agree. Resort. Hospitality, glorious fish - riblji paprikasFirst overnight after landing. Hotels lining the main avenue. Go to the side streets, hillsides, for something more affordable.
Dinner on the water. the waiter brought us, unexpectedly, four perfect little fish, fast fried whole, some kind of breading, on a lettuce leaf with the famous Croatian ajvar, a red sweet-pepper and eggplant puree relish. He said he could tell we were new here, and wanted us to have the best first. A little order of fried sardines arriving unannounced as a courtesy - four of them, perfectly placed on a lovely little plate. Hospitality.

The Istria peninsula, at the north, borders on Italy (Trieste) and Slovenia. Its area runs the gamut from old world to new resort, to dry to port. Find it on the map at We had arrived at the capital, Zagreb, went through Rijeka, and this was our first night in Croatia.

Opatije was in the guidebooks as a fine resort past the bustle of Rijeke. See More hotels and palm trees than we ever expected.

First taste of fabulous Croatian food - many courses, nothing heavy, all fresh. Complete with moon over the water.

Opatije is an old and still elegant resort town, the roads were being torn up and relaid, and parking was jammed on the side streets. One of the hotel clerks where we did not stay (too pricey) kindly came out and edged us out of the steep, now boxed-in parking spot, and actually drove us to another hotel, and even parked our car when I was on the verge of giving up on the tiny space on a vertical hill, huge gully, with the stick shift. He jogged himself back. Need time to get accustomed again to standard shifts. Thank you. More on Opatije:">Opatije.

If not provided as a courtesy, do buy their little breaded and deep fried and crispy outside perfect little sardines, four in a row on a little curly lettuce. These show too many and far too small (were we eating herring??) but you get the idea: Here are Croatian fried sardines - at Go to the home page and only use the rest if you need it for navigating.

Anywhere. Fish. Where else can you sit in early afternoon, in a little tablecloth restaurant, in a small town, somewhere on the coast, headed elsewhere, and find fish heaven. The people at the next table ordered and this is what we saw:
  • They order their wine and a platter of clams, a variety.
  • During it, in comes an ice cart with 8-9 whole fish and splendid little parslies and herbs, and they took their time, picked their own fish, each something different, and each told the waiter how it was to be prepared.
  • More wine. Off goes the ice cart. Continue with the clams, then another hors d'oeuvre, and in comes your very own fish.
Stray from the menu. Ask for the fish cart instead. I did hear that not all the fish is caught locally - so much is shipped out - but it is worth denting your wallet for it.

Try the riblji paprikas - a fish stew, stemming from the Hungarian-Serbian cultures. A soft-cooked sliced onion, at least three kinds of fish, sliced (boneless), water to cover by about 1", bring to boil, add wine and fresh tomato puree or juice (depending on thickness of sauce you want), 4 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika, 1/2 -1 Tbsp cayenne (more is better). Simmer 40 minutes. Serve with wide noodles and white wine. Some put the noodles in first in the bowl, then the stew. Frommer's is good on Croatian food.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rijeke - Gateway to Istria; or points south

Rijeke was our first stop, after our usual "run" from whatever airport, a need after the customs and car-renting, to just get out on a road and go. There are fine motorways in Croatia, and we used them when we wanted to get somewhere fast. Our first day somewhere after being cooped up in a plane is usually a "run." Then when we are far from the airport, we poky up.

We headed immediately for the Rijeke hilltop area, where the old fort-castle is. The center city and port area are predictably busy, see this slide show of a "virtual walk" from 1999 in the center city area, Most of the sites resulting from a search for "Rijeke" are in Croatian. A lady named Lorraine has this site, with photos and narrative, and it is especially good for the Frankopan castle, Trsat: at She must have her entire family there as well, so stop with the knight's crypt if you like.

See the town overview also at Note that this is a big ferry port. If we had not wanted to drive the whole coast south, and there are long, twisty, mountain barren stretches, we could have taken a ferry past all that. We broke our own rule to take every ferry we see, but for good reason.
Signs for points of interest are good. We saw "Trsat" with arrows and went right up.

Here is a good overview of the Istria peninsula, starting just after Rijeke - the address is in long form, so start after the "English" and only use the later terms if you get lost in the website.
The home page lists the tourism areas covered all over the country.

Remember the names "Frankopan" and "Zrinski"- prominent and old families in Croatian history. Try Wikipedia for a start on any country's history - here at