Before I launch into the holiday stuff… WordPress has just told me it’s been 4 years since I started blogging 🙂 I can’t really believe it’s been that long, and yet I suppose it must have been.
We holidayed in Cavtat, a small town near Dubrovnik on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. We flew to Dubrovnik airport and it was a very short taxi transfer to our hotel – of course Dubrovnik airport is not in Dubrovnik, it’s in the village of Čilipi… and the nearest town is Cavtat.
As you can see, the town has a plentiful supply of coast and sea, and the sea was very beautiful and very clean.
Also, very stony. If you are planning to go into the sea in this area you need shoes you can wear in the sea. Not only are the stones plentiful, there are massive numbers of sea urchins, which you really don’t want to tread on.
I’m slightly ashamed to say that we only paddled, and did not swim in the sea. We did swim regularly in the hotel pools, however, which are filled with sea water and more welcoming for the nervous swimmer, i.e. me. That said, we swam a lot and for the first time ever I got the hang of floating on my back. Also, for the first time ever, as I had an empty pool, I tried swimming through a walk-trot dressage test, or “doggy-paddle-breast stroke” test as I executed it. (A prelim test would introduce front crawl for canter but I didn’t feel ready for that). It was quite an interesting thing to try, as using all four limbs and needing to bend on the circles is much more like the experience of dressage from the horse’s view. I have to say that “Halt-Immobility-Salute” is rather easier in the shallow end of the pool than in the middle and it afforded Mr S much amusement as I disappeared below the surface while saluting.
Of course we went on a day trip to Dubrovnik, catching the taxi boat which takes 45 min. from Cavtat. Unfortunately the passengers are packed together closely so it’s more like a bus-ride on water rather than a relaxing and enjoyable boat trip. Still, it was much cooler than taking the actual bus, and you get to enter Dubrovnik through the walled harbour, which is nice.
Dubrovnik (and much of the area) was heavily bombed in the recent war in the area, and the ancient walls were severely damaged. However if you did not know that you would not guess it by looking at it. Everything was rebuilt to look the same as before. Tourism is what this area does, and it does it well. There are some bombed hotels between Dubrovnik and Cavtat which were not rebuilt, but all of the old towns were repaired, rebuilt and back to business as usual as quickly as possible.
Although the walls and architecture were impressive, for us old Dubrovnik didn’t have much to offer. The shops are all souvenir shops or restaurants, and we don’t particularly like crowded areas, so we didn’t stay very long.
The restaurant at which we had lunch was nice enough, but not one of our favourites of the holiday. The standard of food in restaurants throughout our stay was amazingly high, for very reasonable prices.
A far more enjoyable old-walled-town visit was had on our day trip to Montenegro, where we visited the town of Kotor. We had an excellent guided tour and the guide was interesting and passionate about the history of Kotor and of Montenegro.
While Kotor has not been bombed, it has been subject to regular serious earthquakes, so all of the churches, buildings and walls have been rebuilt numerous times. There are some remnants of the gothic structures, but mostly everything has been rebuilt in the baroque style. The walls of the town reach far up the mountain side.
The church in this picture was originally built in 809 so it has had many rebuildings in its lifetime. At the bottom right of the picture you can just see the awnings of the restaurant where I had what might have been the best pizza of my life so far.
Another amazing day trip, back in Croatia, was to the island of Mljet, to the National Park there. The park surrounds two enormous bays, which are known as lakes, because they are so far inland and so nearly enclosed by land.
We rented bikes and rode around the large “lake.” Of course as they are not entirely enclosed by land we had to get across the water, but there is a man with a small boat who rows you and the bikes across for a small sum, so that you can ride all the way round in a circle rather than going back on yourselves. We took our time and it took about 2 hours to ride around. I have to say it took me a good few minutes to remember how to ride a bike. Although it didn’t have a mind of its own I rather felt like it did at first, because it just didn’t handle like a horse! But within a few minutes I was all sorted 🙂
I have to say that ride around the lake was probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my whole life. If I ever need a setting for a meditation that will be it. Unfortunately because of the bikes we didn’t take as many photographs as we would have on foot, and those we have don’t do justice to it.
Officially the island has a population of about 1000 but with no proper shops and no senior school it’s hard to live there, so most people don’t actually live there full-time. There is a doctor, but no hospital. Even by speed boat it would take 2 hours to get to a hospital in an emergency.
Up to and including the time that the island was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Mljet was full of snakes. Croatia has 8 types of snakes, 3 of which are venomous. At the beginning of the 20th century the mongoose was introduced to the island to control the snakes, with the result that Mljet is now a snake-free area with a bit of a mongoose problem. We hoped to see a mongoose, but unfortunately it was not to be. Because we had the bikes we had to keep to the main path rather than going off into the forest where we might have had a better chance of seeing one.
While Mljet’s snakes have been exterminated, mainland Croatia still has plenty. One day we decided to explore the footpath from Cavtat towards Čilipi. A way into our walk I wandered off the main path onto a stony area (OK so all of Croatia is a stony area…) and something made me jump. I initially assigned the little noise to being made by a cricket or something but Mr S called, “Stand still! Snake!” I realised the reason the sound startled me in a primal way was that I’d just had a warning hiss from a snake. I didn’t see the snake myself as it left us quickly. Mr S said it was brownish, which does describe quite a few of Croatia’s various snakes. Later on in the walk I saw what I think was a grass snake disappearing off a warm rock to hide under a bush.
The third snake we saw was dead by the roadside, so we were able to take a picture. I’m not sure what kind it is.
I suspect though that whatever kind of snake it used to be it will end up as lunch for a street cat. There were many scrawny street cats and kittens but here’s one who was particularly good at posing.
I’ll finish off with some random photos that don’t fit into my narrative but I couldn’t resist sharing.