Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

In May, we traveled to Croatia. Exploring the Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic Sea, we visited the city of Split, the islands of Hvar and Korcula, and Dubrovnik’s Old Town.

Split, Croatia

Old Town Split with the 4th century, Diocletian’s Palace facing the harbor

 

 

 

 

Peristyle, Diocletian's Palace, Split

Peristyle, Diocletian’s Palace, Split

 

 

 

We stayed in sobes, the U.S. equivalent of bed and breakfasts.  We had wonderful hosts at each. They gave us insight into today’s Croatia and the tourism industry they depend heavily on for their livelihood. To get to each destination, we relied on the local buses and ferries.

 

 

 

Vineyards in Lumbarda, Korcula

Vineyards in Lumbarda, Korcula

The Mediterranean climate was soothing with the hot sun, turquoise water, and lush vegetation. It claimed fresh fruit, vegetables, and local wines. We were charmed by the beauty of this region with its limestone mountains and pebbled beaches.

In July and August, the Dalmatian coast is overrun with European tourists. In May, though, the tourists are trickling in, in smaller numbers – many via cruise ships.

We visited three ancient, walled cities: Split (4th century Diocletian’s Palace) and the Old Towns of Korcula and Dubrovnik. We explored their narrow pedestrian streets looking for a Roman temple or a 15th century cathedral and caught glimpses of the Adriatic whenever possible.

Looking at Hvar town from Hvar fortress, island of Hvar, Croatia

Hvar town and fortress wall, Hvar

Along the way we learned about Croatia’s early history with the different foreign powers who controlled this land: the Illyrians, Ottomans, Venetians, and Hapsburgs.

Korcula town, Korcula

Korcula town, Korcula

The local food had influences from Italy and Turkey. Local wines, cheeses, fresh cherries, figs, almonds were bountiful.  We enjoyed delicacies only found in Croatia like cukarin cookies and Grk wine on Korcula.

Local cheese, Dubrovnik

Local cheese, Dubrovnik

In Split, we listened to a six-member male a cappella group sing (klapa singers) in the original entry vestibule of Diocletian’s Palace.  The vestibule was round with a domed ceiling. The acoustics were outstanding.  Interestingly, while in Korcula town’s old city we would run into an all-female a cappella group practicing in a similar setting.

 

The “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Old Town Dubrovnik, waited for us at the end of our trip. With its mighty medieval walls surrounding Old Town; narrow, cobbled streets; and, small squares within, it was just the spot to spend several days exploring and relaxing.

Old Town Dubrovnik

Old Town Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is ever so charming as a pedestrian-only town. We walked the mile plus of perimeter walls and rewarded ourselves for our efforts with a sunset drink at the Buza bar – a bar perched on the cliff between the perimeter wall and the sea. Breathtaking!

We found Venetian “palaces” to visit as well as a few museums including one on Dubrovnik’s history, its people and culture; a 12th century cathedral, an Orthodox church, and the main promenade, Stradun, to stroll.

Old Town Dubrovnik from St Lawrence Fortress

Old Town Dubrovnik from St Lawrence Fortress

One morning began with mist, fog and wind – a dramatic backdrop for our visit to St Lawrence Fortress. The fortress stood across a narrow cove from the Old Town’s perimeter walls. From the fortress, the views extended to Mount Srd (pronounced “surge”). Mt Srd would serve as a strategic defensive post for Dubrovnik starting in the early 1800’s when Napoleon built Fort Imperial at the summit to the Siege of Dubrovnik in 1991-92.

The Dalmatian Coast fascinated us and spoiled us. I could not have imagined how beautiful a region it would turn out to be. There’s nothing better than to reach the destination you’ve planned on visiting for months and be completely awed.

(For information on planning a trip to Croatia, consult Rick Steves’ book, Croatia & Slovenia. You may also want to refer to his website with its Traveler’s Helpline.)

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Armistice Day Reflections: Ypres, Belgium

Former battlefields near Ypres

Former battlefields near Ypres

Between 1914 and 1918 the northwest corner of Belgium, part of the region known as Flanders, saw some of the heaviest battles of World War I.

While visiting the city of Brugges, one February, I took a guided day trip to visit the infamous battlefields of Ypres.

 

Yorkshire Trench, near Ypres

Yorkshire Trench, near Ypres

During the Great War, Ypres had strategic importance in that it was located right in the path the Germans were taking to invade France. As a result, the city experienced several battles and was almost completely destroyed. The Germans occupied three sides of the city while the British, French and allied forces counter-attacked along the “Ypres Salient.”

The Battle of Passchendaele, in 1917 was the most significant battle. The allies recaptured the Passchendaele Ridge with both sides suffering terrible casualties.

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

The trip included drives around Ypres seeing the former battlefields and the Passchendaele Ridge, visiting Tyne Cot British Cemetery, Hooge Crater War Museum, Hill 60 battle area, the city of Ypres and the Menin Gate Memorial, Yorkshire Trench, Essex Farm Cemetery, and Langemark German Cemetery.

 

Menin Gate, Ypres

Menin Gate, Ypres

Hearing the detailed accounts of the battles, walking the reconstructed trenches, seeing the acres of tombstones, and feeling the raw, damp cold that the soldiers experienced almost 100 years ago made the visit humbling. On this Armistice Day, we remember the valor of those soldiers.

Note: In Belgium and France, November 11 is recognized as Armistice Day to commemorate the signing of the armistice ending WWI. In the United States, it is referred to as Veteran’s Day to honor all U.S. military veterans.

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