Croatia for the first time!

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 21.59.13I have been really slack at the blogging. To be honest I have been spending too much time eating and drinking and now I need the detox. We had a holiday in Croatia which was to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, followed by visitors in Prague, all that wining and dining has expanded the waistline.

We arrived in Croatia having flown from Prague, it takes just over an hour. Our first thoughts on arriving were why we had not been before. The coastline is beyond beautiful, the water was just the perfect temperature and tempted us to swim every day. We DSCF3657-001were picked up from the airport and taken by taxi to a tiny harbour about 40 minutes drive from the airport. We then got onto a fancy speed boat which whizzed us across the stunning blue waters to our hotel 10 minutes away. The island of Sipan is small, 9 km by 2.6 km, it goes from sea level to a height of 243m, we did it by bike and it felt higher than that on a sweltering afternoon. The population is only 500, you see the same faces doing many different tasks to make the island work. There is a depression on the island which is very fertile, olives, figs, almonds, oranges and a host of vegetables are grown here. The hotel has a garden there and it is where their produce comes from. On our epic cycling trip we discovered a few snakes, most were squashed on the road, but some were laying there sunbathing. It was a good job the brakes on the bikes worked, I feared we would cycle along and get a snake tangled in the spokes of the bike. I would have dropped the bike and screamed all the way back to our hotel in hysterics.

DSCF3613We also did some sea kayaking! This was one of the more stressful moments of our trip. We had a double kayak and set off mid morning for a slow kayak around the island, with the intention of also going over to another island not far away, where you can see the ruins of an old building with a small harbour. The kayaking was easy enough but I have not spent all that much time on the water and it looked really deep. We paddled our way along the coast, up to a big arch in the rock and went it. I was particularly worried that the kayak would go up against rocky coastline, puncture and we would have to clamber up the rocks and find our way home. With this heightened sense of anxiety I let out a scream when I saw a large yellow object under the water, right beside our kayak. It took half a second for me to then realise, it was the reflection of the paddle! What an idiot! Luckily my husband has known me a long long time and just sighed and smiled! The really terrifying moment came when we were out on the open sea between Sipan where we were staying and an adjacent island, the one with the ruin. We were heading towards the ruin when to our right was an enormous car ferry and to our left another large ship, traveling in the opposite direction, basically we were a seakayak sandwich between two very large unstoppable ships. My anxiety levels did reach the red gauge, I paddled like my life truly depended on it, worry about whether the ships would collide with us, or the bow waves were going to sink us. It was alright in the end, I think my turbo paddling got us out of danger and we made it to the ruin. It was after that I decided to save our marriage it would be best if we paddled back to the main island and gave the kayaks back!

We then spent days reading, swimming, eating and drinking, like a proper relaxing holiday!

AftDSCF3743-PANOer a few days, we took the real car ferry from our island over to Dubrovnik, it stops off at a couple of islands along the way and took just over an hour. We were in no rush, it was a lovely cruise to Dubrovnik and we were grateful for the breeze, as it was up to 34C. Us northern european types suffer if it gets above 20C. A short bus ride and we were at the Pile Gate of Dubrovnik city. A 3 minute stroll and we were at our hotel just inside the city. It was truly amazing to be in such a place. It reminded of Venice without the canals. We took an evening stroll and walked part of the walls, we were saving ourselves for the next day.

The guide we had for the tour of the Walls & Wars was nothing short of brilliant. A young man in his mid 20s who had grown up in Dubrovnik, been evacuated during the conflict in 1991 to return and help rebuild the city and his life. He was a tremendous source of information and despite the sweltering heat we enjoyed the two hours of walking around. There was a moment when he pointed out a museum, just inside the walls, we visited it the next day and there is a funny story. Our guide was telling the time but the name of cruise ships that were coming into Dubrovnik, he warned us that there would be a glut of day visitors at around 11.30am and to get our lunch early. We took this advice and visited a bakery, bought some sandwiches and ate them in our air conditioned hotel room and waited for the hoards of visitors from the cruise ships to subside, along with the heat before venturing out in the evening.

DSCF3802In the evening we went to a restaurant that is up high and only has outdoor seating. It barbecues seafood and I was really looking forward to tucking in. The simple food is often the best. We had our beers and placed our order, some bread arrived and then the heavens opened and the Mother of all thunders storms come upon us. It was something biblical! We took our drinks into the kitchen, as there is no other indoor space, hoping it would blow over and we would get the yummy food. Alas it was not to be, the rain was cascading down the steps into the kitchen, where around 20 hungry diners were huddled. We got chatting to the couple who had originally been sat next to us. A Professor from Warwick University, she was into micro-biology, we got chatting and she was kind enough to offer her help for youngest daughter if she wanted advice on science subject at university, as youngest daughter is still not sure what she wants to do. How the Lord works in mysterious ways.

The museum we decided to see, needs a bit of explanation. Years gone by, a scrape of land that was inside the walls was a bit grassy, the children would play football on it. Then there was some reconstruction going on and it became obvious that great archeological treasures lay beneath this part of the city, they were laying a water pipe at the time. A big ‘dig’ was started, when it was complete the area was ‘sealed’ underneath a synthetic topped football pitch. From the walls, it is a large red basketball court type of appearance. We decided to visit the museum, got there at 9.55, it opens at 10am. This is important! We waited in the shade because it was already blisteringly hot. Eventually just after 10am the door opened and a gentleman aged around the late 20s stepped out. ‘What do you want? Why are you here?’ was his opening comment. ‘We have come to visit the museum – DSCF3834-001this is the right place?’ He practically hugged us, he was so thrilled and delighted to have visitors. Turns out that this museum is so well disguised that in the last month he had four visitors, two were by mistake looking for something else. The curator rushed off, apologising whilst switching on lights and becoming quite excited. We were then taken by the hand and personally guided through the treasures that lay beneath the sports court above. It is a vast array of buildings that were the old city forge, where they made tools, cannon balls, swords and much more. It is a really interesting place and so cool, beneath ground it was a very pleasant experience. The curator was so disappointed with his visitor numbers, he was asking us what he could do. The museum is truly worth the visit, so we have emailed a few times with suggestions. It will make his day!

On returning to Prague, we had one day before middle daughter came out with a friend for a few days. Followed by more friends later that week and so the merry-go-round continues with more arriving this week and at the weekend. Might need to register with the local Prague 1 tourist board at this rate.

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