Well before Tom had the offer to move to Los Angeles, we had blocked the first two weeks of October for a road trip originating from Horgen. We were both glad that Farmers Insurance could wait until December for Tom to start the new position and we were able to go ahead with our plan.
We made an itinerary that included no more than six hours of driving in any one day. Usually the drive was broken up with an interesting stop, not just a comfort and change drivers break. We also stayed a minimum of two nights in each accommodation; this time choosing apartments for a little more space. We saw a lot of interesting places and had plenty of new experiences.
Our first day was one of the longer driving days with us heading directly to Salzburg, Austria. Have you ever heard a deaf person speak? Typically, the voice is a bit distorted. Our bellhop in Salzburg was deaf! He got in the car with us to direct us to the parking area and to our room. It's a challenge enough to understand the person if they're speaking English. In German, I was totally lost. Thank goodness for hand gestures!
We started our exploration of Salzburg in Mirabell Garden which we had visited with Sarah and Alicia in 1998.
|Mirabell Garden with Hohenfortress on the hill in the distance|
One of the things we remember from our earlier trip was posing with the trolls in the garden. How interesting that Tom went directly to the same dude he posed with all those years earlier. My memory (or luck) wasn't as good. I posed with Sarah's troll. Tom and I haven't changed a bit! It was a fun trip down memory lane.
We spent the better part of a day exploring the various offerings at the Hohenfortress which is accessible by funicular.
|city of Salzburg from above|
I snagged some "illegal" shots inside the castle. It annoys me when photos are not allowed. Without flash, they will not injure anything and no, I don't want your postcards. I loved the stick figure army.
|concert venue as seen in the afternoon|
The day was completed with dinner and a concert in the fortress.
|we have to walk all that way|
|looking out from cave entrance|
|every few people were given a lantern to carry with a real flame|
Driving in Austria and Slovenia provided beautiful scenery similar to what we have become accustomed to in Switzerland.
|heading to the capital city, Ljubliana|
Before reaching our destination of Ljubliana, we planned to stop at Triglav National Park. We drove around the park and at times wondered if we were really on roads. They seemed more like the carriage trails of Acadia National Park in Maine. The experience was definitely "a hoot", to quote Tom.
|luckily no one came the other way|
|view from the bathroom|
Our apartment host did suggest a few local restaurants. We were tired and opted for the one just a few steps from our door. It was very good - so good that two nights later we were there again. It seemed perfectly fitting to be seated next to an antique brass horn.
On the way back to our apartment, Tom said "that doesn't look like the kind of place I'd go to" in reference to the seedy looking bar we were approaching. Two steps later, we heard a men's ensemble singing. We walked back and stood outside that same place listening to about six men singing Rachmaninoff vespers acapella. Very nicely done and very surprising.
We like to start our city exploration with one of the "free" walking tours. You tip the guides as you like at the end.
|typical street view and home of perhaps the best hot chocolate I've ever had!|
We learned that the center of Ljubljana was clogged with bus and car traffic not too long ago. They decided to make it solely pedestrian a few years back and it is very pleasant.
The dragons in Ljubljana are attributed to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts or St. George. Obviously, no one really knows, but the dragon is on the city's coat of arms.
|city center with castle on the hill|
|intricate carvings on cathedral doors|
|I love the fancy organ pipes|
The building was completed in 1941, but it was empty as the Italians approached. It was suspected that the Italians would take over the building for their military if something didn't change. Volunteers from all walks of life brought books into the building using a fire brigade approach. When the Italians arrived, the building was full and in use - the building was passed over.
Charlie Chaplin may have lived the last 20 years of his life in Switzerland, but he still has fans farther east.
There is an area in Ljubljana dedicated to street art. Definitely some unique sights there.
Another thing we look for in our travels is a food tour. We still haven't topped or equaled the food tour in Istanbul, but we always enjoy tasting the local cuisine. This one doubled as dinner with wines paired with the food. Nothing was outstanding, but enjoyable anyway.
We found some caves in Slovenia to include in our itinerary. We were part of an English tour which started with a train ride into the cave. Then we followed the pathway while the guide gave some information along the way. It became very clear that many folks in the group were not really English speakers, but anxious to be next inside the cave.
|back on the train to leave|
Very close by, there was also a castle built in a cave. We've been to a lot of castles, but never anything quite like this.
Like many cities, Ljubljana has a castle on the hill. This one was lit in green, a dominant color in the city's flag.
|Tom and our chariot|
|some of the free taxis have open sides|
|castle courtyard from the tower|
|my knees didn't feel like climbing the tower|
|Ljubljana from the tower|
|Ljubljana's flag with castle tower and dragon|
|no one was spotted trying anything on|
|border crossing - HR on lower left of white van|
One thing we are accustomed to from living in Switzerland is highway tolls. Many countries, like Switzerland, require a sticker to be purchased and put on the windshield if you plan to use the highways. Luckily, they could be purchased for periods of time other than only a year. During this trip, we bought one for Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. Swiss residents can travel freely into the EU zone. Of course, we had our passports, but did not need to show them on the Austrian or Slovenian borders. Being an EU member does not guarantee a place in the monetary union, or Euro. Austria and Slovenia both use Euros which made the money simple. Croatia is in the EU, but not the Euro zone. Luckily, they accept Euros, but any change is always given in the local currency.
|family style platter with two fish|
|I love this!|
We have countless pictures of scenic views, but will spare you looking at them all. We didn't count waterfalls, but it would have been a very big number.
|waterfalls in the foreground and distance|
(PS I am aware there is a small white square here. It does not show on the draft version and after several attempts to make it go away, I give up. How much time can I waste on it?)
|28 meters = approx 92 feet|
|Did Dr. Seuss find inspiration in Croatia?|
We followed one path and then took an electric ferry across one of the lakes before walking some more.
It wasn't a flat walk - we were on the lower walkway earlier.
|how many waterfalls can you find?|
|ferry in the distance|
When entering a new country, there is typically a sign showing the base speed limits. Of course, you are not supposed to sit there for a long time trying to figure it out. Driving along in Bosnia kept the driver alert - the speed limit changed very often and seemingly at random. Was it to make business for the sign makers?
You also have to understand that each city will be written in our alphabet and again in their alphabet. Bosnia did not use the vignette for highway tolls, but more traditional tollbooths with tickets and then paying later. We encountered the first toll before we had stopped to get any of the local currency. They didn't want the Croatian money, but would take Euros with again giving the change in Kuna (local).
Driving around Bosnia, we passed many vendors on the side of the road. They must be very fond of cabbage in Bosnia since there were several being sold together.
|I wonder what is in the tall bottles|
Having a military convoy following behind us was a new experience.
|at the door of our apartment|
Our first evening we didn't do much beside try to find the restaurant (Karuzo) that Alicia's friend had recommended. We thought we'd made an online reservation, but arrived early, just in case. The door was locked, but as we were about to leave, the proprietor/chef opened the door and let us in. He didn't know about the reservation, obviously being a bit eccentric and not checking his website as often as expected. He was happy to accommodate us, saying he didn't have any reservations until 9pm.
It was a tiny restaurant with nautical decor - these two pictures show the entire seating area. The menu was mostly vegetarian and vegan, but with fish as well. No meat.
Some other English speakers came in after we had ordered and as they were discussing not having a reservation, I told them it shouldn't be a problem since no one had reserved until 9:00. When the chef came back, he sent them away saying it wasn't a fast food restaurant! I couldn't believe it. Obviously, he must have another source of income.
We did have some delicious food and also an introduction to the popular local product, walnut brandy. We found it very tasty.
Again, we started our day with a walking tour. Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia are all part of the former Yugoslavia which suffered the war in the early 90's. The experience was not the same in each place. Slovenia was lucky in that the war only lasted four days. No huge devastation and hardship. Sadly, this was not the case in Bosnia or Croatia where the war lasted four years. Our guides all had childhood wartime memories. How lucky we Americans are that we haven't had a war on our soil in over 150 years. May it remain so.
The current population of Sarajevo is 400,000 people and over 1,000 mosques! The city is very hilly and the idea is for people to attend the neighborhood mosque. 85% of the city population is Bosniak, which means Muslim. Outside the city, it is closer to 50/50 between Bosniak (Muslim) and Croats and Serbs (both Christian).
During the 90's war, there was no street fighting. Lingering damage to buildings which outsiders label as "bullet holes" was really caused by shrapnel.
Our guide was eight years old when the war started. The apartment building where his family lived had a basement. For those four years, the basement was their home. It became home to others in the city who did not have a basement or any other safe place to go. He did continue to go out to go to school and his mother continued to walk across the city to go to work in high heels. It was dangerous, but it was what they had to do. His mother even traded her gold earrings for a bar of chocolate for her family.
|opera house - where the tour gathered|
We saw several spots on the sidewalk like this - they're called roses. It is paint "spilled" to mark where someone died.
My chess fan always enjoys seeing the large boards - especially in action.
|assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo sparked WW1|
The main reason the city of Sarajevo survived the war is the brewery. It has an underground water source, a spring, for making the beer. People knew they could go there and get water. It has a pub open to the public now and it seemed appropriate to patronize them. I had a beer! (As some of you know, I'm not really a fan of beer.) I asked them for the lightest beer they had. I learned a long time ago that if you hold your breath when eating or drinking something, you can hardly taste it. I employed that again - still works! Tom helped me finish!
Sarajevo as seen from the Muslim cemetery on the hill.
|all headstones face Mecca|
|Bosnian flag flanked by local banners|
Walking around Sarajevo, we saw several people selling fresh pomegranate juice. One of our many new experiences.
|architecture of Sarajevo|
Communist era apartment building commonly labeled the ugliest building in Sarajevo.
|shrapnel scars from the war|
Nothing like a little baklava break to brighten a cold, dreary day.
Driving to Dubrovnik from Sarajevo, we took the opportunity to stop in Mostar before leaving Bosnia.
|walking along a construction site - danger sign, but not blocked off!|
|market stalls on the way to Mostar's famous bridge|
What's for sale in the market? Souvenirs made from ammunition. Creepy!
The remnants of war were even more evident in Mostar.
|new building behind the shell of an old one|
|lots of shrapnel holes|
On the drive to Dubrovnik, we saw many vendors on the side of the road. Oranges seemed to be the most common item for sale.
There were plenty of scenic views along the coast.
This road sign was a surprise. Wild boar alert! We would have loved to see one - we did not except on a menu.
The old town area of Dubrovnik is a pedestrian only zone. We knew this, but also thought it would be very cool to have an apartment within the old city walls. We had to park outside the wall and find our way to the apartment with our luggage. It wasn't all that easy because of the stairs and cobblestones, but definitely worth it.
We took a couple of pictures of the apartment before we did laundry. There was no dryer - later this evening, there was laundry hanging everywhere. We discovered a clothesline outside from one window to the next, but we opted not to put our underwear out there!
|alleyway to our apartment|
There is something really beautiful about seeing the old city lit up. Tom's camera does very well with low light.
We had dinner outdoors across the square. The guitarist provided wonderful background music - we enjoyed it so much we even bought his CDs.
Not breaking from tradition, we started our first full day in the area with a walking tour.
|tour started at Onofrio's Fountain - people on the city wall behind us|
The shelling in Dubrovnik didn't last nearly as long as it did in Sarajevo. Our guide was younger during the war without clear memories to share. Most of the war damage has been cleaned up and repaired.
|new city - outside the wall|
|breeze helped showcase the Croatian flag|
|beautiful coastal town|
|Dubrovnik's harbor seen from the wall|
|I skipped this tower|
A recommendation from Alicia was a ferry ride from Dubrovnik to Lokrum island.
Lokrum is a bit of a nature preserve with peacocks walking around freely, but unfortunately none of them felt like showing off their beautiful tail feathers. That blue head and chest is so bright it almost looks fake!
|lots of bunnies who are not afraid of humans|
|view of Dubrovnik harbor from the Lokrum ferry|
|gate to Dubrovnik old town|
Driving from Dubrovnik to our next stop, Split, required us to cross the border in and out of Bosnia again even though we began and would end in Croatia. We were getting used to the routine, making sure to stop at all windows and had no problem. Unfortunately, a bit further down the road, we were signaled to pull over at a check point. Of course, the language spoken to us was Croatian and then broken English. I handed over the requested documents and a second policeman was brought over. "Do you know why you were stopped?" I said "no" although I had a pretty good idea by this time it was for speeding. The speed limits typically are reduced when you're in a village and then go higher when you're not. Knowing exactly where these change without the presence of signs can be challenging. Speeding was confirmed and I was told to "be careful" and let drive away. Phew. That was stressful and I was very happy to drive carefully away.
Our apartment in Split was fantastic: very modern decor and all the amenities we could hope for, including a urinal! That was a first. The owner even left a cell phone for us to use. It was programmed with contact numbers for them in case we had any problems with the apartment. Another first.
Split is known for being a stop for many cruise ships, but it offers much more than a pretty harbor. It is also the former home of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Tom and I planned to visit Diocletian's palace and see where the day would lead. As we were both taking some pictures at an entrance, I was approached by someone offering me a guided tour. Being alone at the time, I just said no and walked away. The same guide approached Tom and offered him a historical tour. Tom's response was "how much?" After he explained his price and what he would do, we agreed to a tour. He was very surprised when he realized that Tom and I were together. By the end of our tour, I was very glad he had been persistent. He spent somewhere between 4-5 hours with us and was a great story teller of distant and recent history.
He had an old school book from Yugoslavian days that had several maps which were helpful for us to understand his information. Split's location was the dividing line between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. (is that how it got its name?) Later the Muslims occupied the region.
The palace was multi-storied and today it is still in use! By touring the basement, we were able to see where the original rooms were and what the layout was.
Diocletian was one of the most powerful emperors and one of the only one who died in old age. This palace was actually his retirement home.
Two sides of the same tower. We saved climbing the tower for later in the day when we were on our own.
|palace courtyard where we met our guide|
|one of many alleys - easy to get lost|
This is an upper floor of an apartment built into the palace. It is clearly still occupied.
Our guide refills his water bottle from a public fountain. We're used to doing this in Switzerland, but this is the only time we saw someone do it in Croatia.
By the time we finished our tour, it was close to 3:00 pm and there had been no lunch break. We were hungry! Joe (Americanized version of his name) took us to a small, hole in the wall place and they served us a platter of smoked prosciutto and local cheese with bread and a salad.
Joe was more reluctant to talk about the 90's war. He was an older person and his memories of the time must be ugly. He echoed the sentiment of our guide in Sarajevo. There are no bad people, only bad leaders.
Our guide made sure we learned the history of today's necktie, or cravat. They're originally from Croatia, not France!
|grocery in another area of the basement of Diocletian's palace|
That's a very large statue? Who is it? Of course, the guide knew the answer. It's Gregory of Nin, or the bishop of Nin. He opposed the Pope and introduced religious services in the local language in 926, greatly pre-dating Martin Luther! Rubbing the statue's toe is supposed to bring good luck.
|why not give it a try?|
|looking down on Split|
|inside the chapel under the tower|
I decided to help out the headless sphinx.
Split has a pedestrian zone which makes it very nice for wandering. It looks like they don't want anyone walking around in their swimwear or else they don't want us to wear underwear. Hmm, I wonder which it is.
|water polo is one of their strengths|
At the end of our stay in Croatia, we still had some of their local currency. We stopped at a rest stop and filled up the gas tank and picked up some walnut brandy to take home paying for both with cash. What neither of us thought about was that we would have one more toll to pay as we left the country. Oops! We paid with what coins we had and then started picking through our Euro coins. We didn't want to give a Euro note because change would come back in the currency that we were trying to use up! I'm sure the car behind us was not pleased with how long it took us to pay.
After leaving Croatia, the final stop along our way was Venice. We had made a reservation for a parking spot for the car to be parked outside the city for two nights. I suspect arriving without a reservation could be a real problem. It had been raining a large part of the day and perhaps a few days before our arrival. When this happens, the canals in Venice flood at high tide especially with a full moon. The city prepares by lining up elevated walkways (what look like long tables) for people to walk along over the water! It may not have been the best conditions for touring, but very interesting to experience.
|on the elevated walkway|
|fashionable boots - that umbrella is now history|
The next morning, we headed back to St. Mark's Square, the well-known center of Venice. There was still plenty of water - it was deeper closer to the basilica. The elevated walkways controlled where people could be if they wanted to stay dry. Since we had on our boots, we weren't limited to the walkways.
Some people opted to go cheap and just walk in the flooded areas barefoot. Bad idea! Venice is known for some of its sewage making its way into the canals. What exactly are you walking in? Ewww!
We had been here once before with our daughters, but sadly I did not dig up the pictures when I was recently in Westport. We went inside the basilica anyway even though we'd done it before - was at least 15 years ago.
Again, no pictures were allowed inside.
Look closely here, there are four horses above the entrance. They're pretty special and Napoleon thought so too. He stole them and took them to Paris. Eventually, they were brought home, but the ones you see in this picture are reproductions. The real ones are inside, protected from the elements, and only visible if you tour the upper level of the basilica.
These are the horses safely inside the basilica. No photos allowed. Shhh. Don't tell.
I did splurge and buy some postcards of the interior which is covered in mosaics.
|not a photo - a watercolor painting|
|looking out toward the canal|
|these people are waiting to go up the bell tower - we didn't bother with it|
|people waiting for the basilica|
|the figures hit the bell on the hour|
The winged lion is a symbol of Venice and seen all over the city. The government selected it as a logo in one of the first exercises in branding and marketing.
Does anybody remember the movie Shrek? Does this remind you of Lord Farquaad - this rider looks very short, but maybe it's just the angle.
|masks may be the most popular souvenir in Venice|
Venice still has gondolas - we didn't go for it this time.
We had run out of steam in pre-trip planning and Venice didn't get the attention that some of the other destinations had. Once we arrived, we looked for what tours were available and signed up for an afternoon walking tour. Having been to Venice once before (1998?), we can attest to the fact that this tour took us to some off the beaten track destinations.
Ever heard of the leaning tower of Venice? Well, if you see this picture, you know there is one! It just doesn't have the following of the one in Pisa.
This was one of the less-known stops on the walking tour. You can pay to go up the spiral staircase for a view of the city. Originally it was part of a private home.
By later in the day, all the water had receded and the sun was out.
We are usually smiling in selfies because the one you see is always after a few failed attempts.
Waters recede and the walkways are taken down. From the sign we saw, it seems as though they are left there until they are needed again.
As in most European cities, Venice has a decent public transit system. It's just different: they have water buses known as vaporetto.
|vaporetto arriving at the station|
We made a brief stop in Como, near the border between Italy and Switzerland. It was a beautiful day to walk along the lake a bit before getting back in the car for the last drive home.
|Italian - Swiss border|