22 July: On to our eighth country this year…

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kranjska Gora, Slovenia and Ferlach, Austria

Another fine morning dawned so we decided to don the hiking shoes and explore a new dimension of Kranjska Gora, heading up into the mountains via the chair lift.

Mr A enjoys the journey up

Once up the top though, the walks were pretty much all up, and on a 30 degrees day it was hard going.

Mark finding his leg muscles wondering what’s happened
The pathway becomes very steep and largely washed out by the winter’s snowmelt
Mrs A pleased her airway is nice and wide right now – breathing well!

We walked a couple of kilometres up to a great viewing spot, and enjoyed the downhill a lot more than the up!

Looking out towards the Austrian border
These craggy peaks still a great novelty for us
Yellow Foxgloves brighten up the woodland
Shades of mauve (species unknown to us!) attract many butterflies
The downward chair lift takes the pressure off still delicate toes! You can see the mountain bike park tracks beneath us, the town of Kranjska Gora and into the valley beyond…

We wandered into the pretty town of Kranjska Gora to find somewhere for lunch. Unlike many ski resort towns we have visited during summertime, this is busy and bustling, full of e-bikes for hire, busy cafes and interesting shops.

A very pretty town with cobbled streets
A brief moment with no cyclists on the pathway

It’s great to see a town being successful all year round – no doubt the cycleway passing through is a big drawcard, with many tourers stopping for the night in hotels and B&Bs here.

Our evening’s sosta with a view

Full of pizza, we returned to Truffy to move on to our next destination, out of Slovenia, and into Austria our eighth country this year (the others being New Zealand, Australia, UK, France, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia).

It was less than an hour’s drive to our next destination, Ferlach – Austria’s southernmost town. We took the Karawanks Tunnel, a nearly 8km tunnel beneath the Karawanks Alpine Range.

80km/hr through the tunnel…we’re through to Austria in no time at all!

We had a very loose plan on the other side, aiming for the region of Carinthia. There are a number of cycleways in the area, coupled with beautiful castles and mountainous scenery. We were keen to check it out.

We found ourselves a parking place in Ferlach, a town famous for its gunsmiths, making guns for hunting which are used worldwide. Behind us are the mountains we were the other side of this morning and beside us a babbling mountain creek.

Our nearby creek might get a workout tomorrow with 33°C forecast.
A little further upstream are these lovely falls

We got the bikes out for an explore. The town is so pretty, and hardly a person around.

A lovely water feature surrounded by blossoms in the town square
Mr A kindly demonstrates one of the many hanging arrangements
Cycle friendly bridges over the creek

We had an explore locally before heading down to the 510km Drau Cycle Path which runs alongside the River Drava nearby. We did a small taster cycle as it was getting late in the day, but it has definitely encouraged us to come back and see some more tomorrow.

Beautiful reflections along the river
Schloss Hollenburg – medieval castle built in around 1100
Heading back to camp through a local farming village

After riding 19km, a beer in the local pub completed our day before we headed back to camp for showers and dinner. A great introduction to Austria.

A fine sunset as we finish our day

18 – 21 July: Lake Bled woos us with its loveliness

Author: Mrs A

Location: Lake Bled, Slovenia

We had driven past Lake Bled on our way to Bohinj and it looked lovely, but totally booked out in terms of camping opportunities. We could have done a day trip, but were really keen to see it in depth, so instead booked a hotel room for a couple of nights.

We selected the Grand Hotel Toplice, one of the oldest and most spectacular hotels on the lake’s edge, with fabulous view across to Bled Castle and Bled Island. We have our 17 year wedding anniversary coming up next month and I will be in London for my next hospital appointment, meaning we won’t be together. So, what better excuse for a few days of luxury?

Breakfast at the hotel was an event in iteself, with the best spread of food either of us have seen in many years of staying in hotels.

Delicious breakfast of poached egg with avocado and salmon, with an amazing view

DIY museli with fresh nuts, seeds and fruit, cold meats and juices, cooked eggs, sausages and vegetables, cakes, buns and yoghurts – the choice was endless and meant there was no need for lunch! All this while sat on a balcony with arguably one of the best views in the world.

We set off after breakfast to Bled Island on which stands the Church of the Mother of God, Mr A valiantly rowing us over in a wooden boat.

Getting a post breakfast workout
Lady muck

No motorised boats are allowed on the lake, keeping it serene. The church date back to the introduction of Christianity in this area (the year 745), with many adjustments over the years – mostly in the mid 1400s. Before this, there was a temple on the island dedicated to the Slavic goddess of love, Ziva.

Traditionally the groom has to carry the bride up these 99 steps before they can marry at the church!
Looking back towards Bled Castle
The church as we approach the island
A shoal of fish under one of the rowing boats
Very fit rowers paddle boatloads of people to the island all day long

Humans have been settled in this area since the Stone Age, with numerous artefacts found and displayed in the Castle, which we walked up to on our return from the island. There we enjoyed more amazing views, and saw our first little Slovenian red squirrel.

A well deserved shady break after the climb up
Impossible to do these views any justice…looking down towards Bled Island
Breathtaking…but breathing well (still hobbling with injured toes though)
Looking east towards the Karawanks…some big hikes through here

After an hour or so enjoying the hotel’s spa we went back to the room to get ready for dinner…Mr A decided to see whether we could get an upgrade. Well, he was very successful – managing to get us room 501, the best lake view room in the hotel!

A room with a view – cheers! 17 years of marriage coming up on 16 August…
Our hotel and new room as seen from the opposite shore, beneath the castle
Yet another photo of our ever changing view to the castle and island

Truffy was parked nearby so we picked up a bottle from our champagne stocks and cracked it open to celebrate with a glass of bubbles before going to dinner.

Dinner was at Restaurant Sova, which we had booked because of its fabulous reputation for both modern and delicious Slovenian food as well as having a wide selection of local wines and highly trained sommeliers. We were not disappointed.

Delicious local wines sampled
They allowed us to split a glass into two glasses to widen the sample tasted
We enjoyed a bottle of the middle wine – Starà Brajda Old Vineyard Red 2015
Food was amazing too – this seafood risotto with a scallop with champagne foam
Mr A enjoyed a pasta with cheese and truffles

Our evening finished off with a free live concert as part of the ‘Taste Bled’ weekend event. A great band called Lumberjack entertained us with covers from Kings of Leon, Lenny Kravitz and Dire Straits among others, before a ‘famous in Slovenia’ band headlined playing their own music (which was great for the locals especially). A perfect end to a perfect celebration!

After sunset – the view out towards Bled Island, the church all lit up
The castle floodlights stay alight all night
The twinkling lights of the township

I really did not expect to like Lake Bled as much as I have done. After Lake Bohinj, seeing big hotels, restaurants and a casino it all felt a little commercial. But in reality it has been far from it. The local people have been so friendly and welcoming, the hotel staff excellent, and everyone clearly loves Slovenia and is full of recommendations of what to see next. It has been more like being welcomed into a small town. This area will always have a place in our hearts.

Sunrise this morning

It’s so hard not keep looking at this ever changing scene, the chiming of church bells around the water (especially now as I write on Sunday morning, calling people to service). With a late checkout today I think we will treat ourselves to this view just a little bit longer before we jump back into our camper and continue our journey in Slovenia.

16 July: Slovenia really takes our hearts

Author: Mrs A

Location: Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

We left Ljubljana early to drive the 90 minutes up to Lake Bohinj, Slovenia’s largest permanent lake, in the hope we might be able to find a lakeside campsite for a couple of nights. There is one campground beside the lake, and they had told us to be there early to find a spot as they didn’t take bookings.

Our first view of Lake Bohinj – mirror-still in the early morning

On arrival we found a chaotic jumble of tents, campers and motor homes camped and parked up everywhere and anywhere, no set sites or organisation whatsoever. Most were parked within just half a metre of each other on muddy patches. Oh, but they were close to the water. Definitely not our type of camping., no matter how beautiful the lake is.

We abandoned that thought and found an alternative camp at Camp Danica in Bohinjsko Bistrica – further away from Bohinj but on a picturesque river and off road cycleway leading to the lake.

We got set up with almost no incident. Usually it is Mr A who is the clumsy one, but today it was me. I managed to trip over an unexpected guy rope on the campground. It sent me flying and now I have a suspected broken toe…perhaps two! Either way my left foot is not in a state for walking with two purple puffy toes. Hopefully they’re just badly bruised and my hobble will reduce with time (I will withhold photos – they can be shared on request if desired!).

I dosed up on anti-inflammatory tablets and we jumped on the bikes to ride…it didn’t hurt too much as long as I didn’t pedal with my left foot or step down…again – thank goodness for e-bikes!

It is hard for photos to do it justice as we ride through the valley surrounded by mountains

And what a ride! The path wound through beautiful alpine meadows full of white, yellow and mauve flowers of every variety, surrounded by the most gorgeous mountains of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park.

Meadows full of flowers, butterflies and the hum of insects
The Bohinjsko River which leads from the lake
Bohinj’s 700 year old St John the Baptist Church is visible for miles around

For most of the ride we followed the crystal clear Bohinjsko River, watching groups of paddlers negotiate the small rapids and gravel races. We explored small villages, full of flower filled holiday accomodation intermingled with farmers. It was just magical.

Absolutely loving this ride!

The lake was icy cold when we dipped our feet in it, though there were a few brave people in for a swim, not us…it did my toes some good though!

The lake – not as mirror perfect as first thing in the morning, but still beautiful
We followed a path part the way around the lake – stopped by a pile of boulders we couldn’t cross
Amazing colours in the shallows
Ah the serenity….

It was a beautiful ride – just over 35km (about 22 miles) all up, so we were ready for dinner on our return. In spite of an unexpected injury, a brilliant introduction to this area.

We rode 35km today – many more little lanes to explore another time too

13 – 14 July: Travelling the backroads of Slovenia

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kostanjevica na Krki and Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia

Saturday: After nearly four weeks travelling around Croatia we crossed the border into Slovenia this morning. A quick showing of passports and we were into new territory, and back in the European Union. Having lived in Australia for so many years crossing borders still feels bizarre to us – the concept that you can drive a few metres and there is a whole new culture and language. Thankfully our basic Croatian language learning of ‘thank you’ and ‘good day’ are exactly the same in Slovenia, so if nothing else we can be slightly polite, if largely ignorant!

Waiting our turn for passport checks…

Once over the border we continued on to the little settlement of Kostanjevica na Krki. Mark was earning his brownie points having found an old monastery which had been completely renovated and turned into a sculpture park and art gallery – an absolute culture hit, really not his style, but totally mine! Thank you Mr A, brownie points stored.

The centre of the settlement of Kostanjevica na Krki sits on an island in the middle of the Krka River.

Mirror perfection on the Krka River
Beautiful displays of flowers throughout Kostanjevica na Krki
Clearly a lot of pride in how their town looks – perfectly painted homes and not a single scrap of rubbish or leaf litter anywhere

You would be forgiven for thinking the Krka river becomes Krka falls in Croatia, the beautiful national park we visited a few days ago, but no, this river flows entirely within Slovenia, and is in fact the second longest in the country.

We continued to the Kostanjevica na Krki monastery.

The monastery and sculpture garden. All sculptures here are made from oak, and with recognition they slowly degrade in the elements, three are replaced every three years
One of many sculptures in the grounds

The Cistercian monastery was built in 1234 and was lived in by practicing monks until the abolition of monasteries in Slovenia in 1786. In the early 1800s all the furnishings were sold off, and the complex slowly fell into ruin.

A grand entrance to the monastery

Throughout the 1900s it has gradually been restored and renovated, the bulk of the work conducted post WWII, and today it is in perfect condition. Today there is nothing religious about the buildings, even the chapel, with all rooms given over to hosting the Božidar Jakac Art Museum and the Forma Viva Open Air Wood Sculpture Collection. The complex has been declared a cultural monument of state importance.

The chapel – today used for weddings and art exhibitions
It really is a lovely space, fresh and modern while embracing the history
Flowers adorn every archway on each of the three floors

I explored the complex with an exhibition showcasing medieval fragments from the old building and telling the story (in Slovenian and English) of the renovation and the work involved. From there, I enjoyed artworks from several important Slovenian artists and some temporary exhibitions. It is an incredible space for showcasing art, and all the more powerful for being just me there most of the time. Time just flew.

Incredible sculptures which physically moved you
Artwork picturing somewhat sinister stories
Beautiful immaculate exhibition spaces
Sculptures you wanted to quiz the artist about, like this dancer and bull
Modern bronzes in a historical space
A temporary exhibition inspired by bark beetles
And yes, even a cat!

Invigorated, I went back to meet Mark, who was relaxed, reading in the picturesque car park and we headed off for our next destination. As we drove, the sunny sky disappeared and the clouds began to darken.

Dramatic weather ahead…an ominous view through our windscreen…

We diverted off the main road to see a castle (now expensive hotel) on another island in the Krka River.

Otočec Castle – dating to 1252

There was just enough time for a quick photo of the beautiful building reflecting in the river before the first crack of lightning and boom of thunder split the silence and we retreated to find our camp, a further 20km away near the settlement of Dolenjske Toplice.

The storm raged for about an hour, with incredibly heavy rain, almost deafening on Truffy’s roof. Early evening it abated, and we emerged to go for a walk to see where we were staying.

We followed a woodland pathway into the small town. It’s famous for its hot springs and attracts a number of German tourists it seems. We had a little look around before returning to camp as the sun set.

The Krka River near to where we are camped
Apples dripping in rain along the roadside
Dolenjske Toplice
Sunset on our forest walk back
And the sun goes down on our first night in Slovenia

Sunday: Blue skies greeted us as we awoke so we decided a bike ride would be on the cards. A little research online revealed a mostly off-road and on quiet lanes ride along the river to the settlement of Novo Mesto. We decided to investigate.

Beautiful lanes along flower laden meadows

We found the pathway and followed it along the river – beautiful little agricultural villages, fields of corn, wheat, strawberries, pumpkins, tomatoes….mostly small scale, local workers.

The RIver Krka our constant companion
Beautiful barns, the detail in the woodwork is gorgeous
Mr A heads off towards the next village
Still some puddles from yesterday’s downpour
The river is full of fish
We find a riverside restaurant full of cyclists upon reaching Novo Mestro
Mr A samples chicken breast with a dumpling stuffed with cottage cheese
Ribs for Mrs A
And a glass of Slovenian red house wine – surprisingly drinkable
Yup, that river again!
Storm clouds are rolling in again over Novo Mestro

We had a fabulous ride, around 35km (22 miles) all up, and felt we got a real taste for Slovenian life in this part of the country. Despite being only about 60km from the Croatian border, Slovenia feels quite different.

9 – 10 July: Birds of prey lead us to more Roman ruins

Author: Mrs A

Location: Sokorlarski Raptor Centre and Zadar, Croatia

Tuesday: Departing camp in the morning, we headed to the Sokolarski Raptor Centre, just a fifteen minute drive from where we were staying. The centre is completely run by volunteers and funded with donations and visitors like us.

They are the only centre in Croatia which is set up to rescue birds of prey, restore them to health and release them – or in the case where they cannot be released (eg they are with humans too long) then they care for them lifelong. Injuring a bird of prey in Croatia is punishable by imprisonment, so they also are responsible for being the CSI of the bird world, identifying what or who may have killed a bird.

It wasn’t long before a keeper’s talk began. It is clear that everyone working here is passionate about the birds they are caring for, and educating people about them.

The talk was conducted in English – this guy endearingly called as all ‘darlinks’

We were first introduced to the largest owl in the world, the Eurasian Eagle Owl. This female had been hand reared from a chick, so could never be released back into the wild.

Eurasian Eagle Owl – those claws can grip 50kg of pressure per square millimetre – she could easily take down a young deer for example.

A volunteer was sought to demonstrate some particular characteristics…and of course one is found….

I am introduced to our feathery friend
Heads are apparently not threatening compared to hands – her feathers are as soft as silk, helping her fly silently
As a thank you for my time I am allowed an Eagle Owl hat for a few moments!

The Eagle Owl population is now stable throughout all European countries, other than the British Isles where they are making a gradual comeback after being absent for around 200 years.

Fun Eagle Owl Fact

Owls eyes are not light sensitive – so if you shine a light into them the pupils will not change size…instead, when their pupils are large, they are seeing in macro, observing everything right in front of them. When their pupils shrink down, they are seeing things in the distance, like a pair of incredibly powerful binoculars. Eagle Owls can see a mouse move 8km (5 miles) away!

Having done her bit demonstrating the beauty of her species, she is fed a chick, which she sucks up like spaghetti…

Going, going, gone…no place for queasiness in nature…

The Centre also cares for several Harris’ Hawks, all bred in captivity. These are usually native in South America and southwest USA, but did a good job of demonstrating bird flight and the reason they do not fly away when allowed freedom. Again a volunteer was required…

She spots lunch in my hand and flies down to munch
Less than half a kilo of bird here
Wouldn’t want to mess with that beak though
She has an easy life here, food provided and an hour of flight time per day

Just beautiful birds. Did you know that Velcro is modelled on birds feathers? Or that keratin in shampoo (that makes your hair shine) is made from chicken feathers? Or that spoilers on the back of cars are modelled from hawk tails in flight? There are so many inventions direct from birds…

We had a look around some of the other raptors being cared for there, before heading back to Truffy and pointing north.

Our destination for the day was Zadar, a town on the coast about 160km north of Split. Once parked up at a very ordinary campground (basically crammed cheek by jowl in someone’s back garden with water access) we jumped on the bikes and cycled 10km into town.

Mark enters through one of the original gateways

Zadar traces its origins back to the 9th century BCE, with evidence of Stone Age habitation around the area. The Romans settled there in the the year 49 BCE. Today the town has extended from its original walls, but much of the historical centre is still there, with a rich variety of archaeological museums and Roman history visible throughout.

It was not a picturesque cycle, riding through derelict ports and long abandoned industrial areas, but before long we were riding across a bridge over the harbour and into the old town. Like many old towns we have visited, the streets are polished with centuries of feet, and Zadar old town is quite pretty. It was listed by UNESCO in their world heritage list in 2017.

Grand old buildings from the 1500s
A fine combination of old and new

We rode through the town, past old pillars, remnants of ancient Roman palaces combined with modern shops, cafes and ice cream stores. Every corner revealed more layers of history with current day use.

We wound our way to the waterfront with views out to the island of Ugljan, the sky darkening and flashing with an approaching storm. On the waterfront there is a sea organ, chiming out sounds ethereally with each ebb of the water.

Looking out to Ugljan Island – wondering whether the storm is heading our way
People sit on the steps enjoying the organ sounds

From there, we found ourselves at the Forum, a large square full of Roman remains. Among the ruins of temples and colonnades stands one intact Roman column, which in the Middle Ages served as a shame post where wrongdoers were chained and publicly humiliated. Many of the other ruins have been used throughout the centuries as foundations for churches and other grand buildings, historical in their own right.

Mark rides past the shame post
Mr A discovers his name….almost….

Mark decided to find a seat at one of the many cafés surrounding the Forum while I climbed the 12th century St Anastasia bell tower for a birds eye view of Zadar. I felt rather chuffed that at the top of the 180 spiral stairs I was not even out of breath, unlike most of the visitors reaching the top…and just a week post surgery. Breathing is so under rated!

180 steps up to the top of the tower, past green brass bells….
Fabulous views from the top of the tower
I wonder whether these churches were purposely aligned…
Looking into the centre of town and the busy shopping strip
Looking west towards the marina and the newer town

The dark clouds got closer and closer, and before long the first drops of rain fell. We relished the cooler temperature, taking the edge of the 35 degree day, but decided it might be wise to cycle back the 10km to camp before it got worse.

First rain drops falling send us back to camp

Wednesday: The thunder, lightning and torrential rain raged all night, and we awoke to much more comfortable temperatures. We decided we had spent enough time on Croatia’s coast and set off inland.

The morning was cool, showery and windy, so a perfect day for driving as we pointed east and drove towards the hills.

Very new scenery for us, heading into the Dinaric Alps towards Zagreb on the E65

We took our time driving, stopping for lunch and an afternoon nap (still a bit tired from the general anaesthetic last week, and Mr A wasn’t complaining either!), eventually arriving late afternoon at Camp Vugec Plac, just outside the town of Samobor, west of Croatia’s capital, Zagreb.

What a contrast to yesterday’s scruffy parking lot! This is a brand new camp with hotel quality bathrooms and showers, and parking on lush mowed lawns, surrounded by beautiful countryside. There is even a lovely looking pool.

A travelling bedsit with a view…ready for a cooler night’s sleep
The pool, oh so quiet….

We got set up and then sat down with a glass of Italian wine, enjoying the evening sunshine and birdsong. This is more like it, this is exactly why we travel.

1 – 6 July: Meanwhile, back in the UK…

Author: Mrs A

Location: London and Brighton, UK

Monday: A taxi collected me from Camping Stobreč early Monday morning and escorted me to Split airport, where I boarded a plane to London, Gatwick. Within half an hour of landing at Gatwick I was on a train heading to London. It was all very smooth – having only 8kg of hand luggage helped!

Split airport – not too busy at 8.30am on Monday morning

Yes, you guessed it, the injections I had flown back for at the end of May had not made any substantial impact on my breathing, and I was on my way back for surgery…very disappointing for us both, but sadly a fact of life we have learned to get used to the past 15 years.

I have to admit that after the heat of Croatia, it was positively refreshing to step out of the airport in to temperatures in the low 20s – like the air conditioning we had been craving all weekend!

I caught a train up to West Kensington in London and checked into the Earls Court Holiday Inn Express near the hospital. I was scheduled to be in at 7.15am, and was keen to get a bit of sleep before the operation.

The view from my hotel room – a far cry from the Roman and medieval buildings of my past few weeks, but not too bad at sunset

Tuesday: I woke early and strolled over to the hospital, meeting junior doctors, an ENT registrar and the anaesthetist, getting weighed, blood pressure and temperature tested. Finally I slipped on a gown and a pair of sexy green DVT stockings and headed to theatre for my airway dilatation.

Both consultants I have been seeing, Mr Guri Sandhu and Mr Chad Al Yaghchi came to visit me in recovery, much to the surprise of the nurse who told me not to expect anyone. All had gone well – my airway had closed by about 60-70%, explaining the challenges with breathing I have been having.

We discussed next steps for my treatment, with both doctors agreeing I should give the steroid injections into my airway another try, but with a higher frequency – every 4-6 weeks rather than 8 weekly. This is what my original doctor had told me, but I had defied him, not wanting to disrupt our travel plans too much…this time, however, I agreed to give it a go. It is going to be hard to keep to our travel plans where I keep having to return to doctors for treatment, but I have to breathe…very frustrating!

Mum travelled up from Hastings to break me out

When I was returned to the next stage of recovery, my mum was there waiting for me, a welcome face amongst all the medical fraternity. Together we left the hospital, taking a taxi the five minute drive to the hotel for the night.

Evidence – 2:10pm I broke out of hospital

We had a relaxing afternoon, catching up on news, a Chinese takeaway and an early night.

Wednesday: Mum and I got to enjoy a final breakfast at the hotel, and we joined by a member of the support group I run, Kelly from Cornwall. She and I had been exchanging messages online for about four years, and she is also a patient of Mr Sandhu. It was amazing to hear Kelly’s story which is quite different from mine, but with some similar symptoms. She’s a passionate and enthusiastic lady – hopefully we can work together and perhaps meet again.

After checking out, I then headed to Brighton to finish my convalescence with my sister and her family.

Thursday: One of my friends from university, Claire, lives near to my sister and also had a hospital visit this week. It was good to catch up with her for an hour to hear how she had gone. Soda water and lime was our choice of beverage as we sat in a sunny pub garden.

Two post op friends – Claire on surgery #1 and me #29!!

Later in the day I joined my sister in collecting my niece and nephew from school, and we took them down to the local park for a play in the fountains down there. Much fun for the children…and ice creams for my sister and I (medicinal reasons of course, soothes a sore throat!)

Yay for vegan ice cream!
Elliot working on stopping the flow….What happened next? Yes the water sprayed me straight in the face!
Isabel enjoying the water
And some park time to help warm up after the water

Friday: It was back up to school with the kids to drop them off for their day, before joining my sister in some shopping, picking up bits and pieces we cannot get in Croatia.

That wiped me out for the afternoon, and I was grateful not to be in 33 degrees as I collapsed into bed for a sleep.

We had a quiet evening at home, sharing a takeaway curry and a glass of wine as the sun went down.

Spectacular skies over Brighton this evening

Saturday: Another bright sunny day with temperatures in the low 20s – making me really appreciate British summertime – I wonder why it never is dull and rainy when I visit? Poor Mark is already sweltering in Split, having started his day with the washing and cleaning out the fridge.

I’m pleased to say my breathing is much better, and sore throat aside, I am feeling good.

Chart showing my peak expiratory flow (PEF) – back on track for now

I will be back on a train to the airport this afternoon, then back to Split this evening. Mark and I have decided tomorrow it will be time to move on and explore more of Croatia…it will all be much easier with a full airway!

28 June: Returning to Split, our final night cruising

Author: Mrs A

Location: Stanići, Omiš and Split, Croatia

We left the island of Brač early and were mored up near Stanići and the bikes unloaded by 8am. Within half an hour we were off on our day’s cycle, relieved at the cooler temperatures (only 27 degrees centigrade) and early morning shade.

Riding along the waterfront in Omiš

Our ride took us along the coast a short way to Omiš and then followed the River Cetina for a way before climbing up into the hills.

“Car back”…”Passing”…the constant call as we ride along the riverside

Unlike our island cycleways which had little shade, many of the roads were treelined and cool, and there was a lovely breeze to help refresh us on the climb up the switchbacks into the mountains.

Oliver takes a second to look at our beautiful surrounds
Appreciating every scrap of shade that comes our way!
A drink break beside the river
Climbing up and up
The hills keep on coming
At 70 years young, Don is our most senior cyclist, but completes the ride with ease and no battery!
The strongest riders making it first up to our next rest stop
Final ride team photo – Mrs A, Mr A, Tim P, Paul, Oliver, Don, Glen, S-J, Dave, Tracie, Michelle and Tim C

Once up at the top we had the reward of a winding descent back down to the river and back along to the boat.

Space and dry mountain tops
The lower reaches of the River Cetina
One of the many butterflies that kept us company on our ride

We finished our 28.5km ride with a swim before lunch was served and the boat upped anchor and headed off to our final destination, Split.

Our boat docked in Split, the seventh boat in a row of cruise boats of different shapes and sizes. We had to jump between boats to reach the shore, and set off to explore.

Split is quite unique in that it combines a literal maze of streets within the fortifications of a former Roman palace built for the Emperor Diocletian. The historical core of Split was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

The Silver Gate entrance into the palace
The Peristyle – the palace’s magnificent courtyard is a popular space for relaxation in the shade. Much of the marble for the pillars has been mined from Brač, the island we left this morning.
Look out for the perfectly preserved 3,500 year old black sphinx here, taken from Egypt by Diocletian’s armies.
The temple tower

Split old town was our destination, and we were immediately taken with the combination of new with old, older and very old architecture. Roman pillars integrated with medieval archways, topped with Venetian style balconies and more Roman architecture. The limestone pavements are worn smooth with centuries of feet walking across them. It was Friday afternoon and the streets were bustling with tourists exploring, but it was not hard to escape them.

Everywhere you walk you cannot help but look up to see layers upon layers of architecture
Of course it would not be a Croatian town without cats…
Check out those ice rink polished floors…plenty of quality shops to browse through
Quiet little alleyways host restaurants and stairways to whole new worlds
Many keep looking at ground level at the variety of shops selling shoes, jewellery, knives, bags, food…but look up and you can observe more than 600 years of architecture
A refreshing juice is just the ticket for a late afternoon pick me up

We enjoyed exploring the little lanes, the warm afternoon dictating our route through the maze – if there was shade, we’d head in that direction. I found a gorgeous bracelet from an artist in Studio Naranča – she has glass beads custom made for her on an island just off Venice and shipped over to create bracelets, earrings and necklaces. If you’re in town, check it out! We stopped for a fresh juice in a shady square, taking the opportunity to just sit and people watch for a few minutes.

New bracelet!
The underground shopping area is hosted within part of the ancient palace’s sub structures

We went back to the boat for showers and get ready for a final night’s dinner with our friends. Tomorrow everyone goes their separate ways – some returning to home, others continuing travels throughout Europe or elsewhere in the world. For us, it is back to Truffy the truck and life on the road.

We still have a few days in the area, and definitely plan to come back and explore Split a little more. Meanwhile this was a great finale to a fabulous week exploring the coast and islands between Dubrovnik and Split. In many ways it feels like we just had a taster of several areas, and we definitely have a wish list of places to return to and explore further.

A delicious final meal at Mazzgoon – highly recommended
Courtyard dining at Mazzgoon
Just a young cat watching dinner from an old Roman pillar….

26 June: Blue caves and hills in Vis

Author: Mrs A

Location: Biševo and Vis, Croatia

Another early start for the captain meant we were pulling up at a dock on the island of Biševo to join another boat to tour a cave known as the Blue Cave, or Blue Grotto by 8.30am.

It was first described in 1884, by a baron who had been shown the cave by locals. At that time it was entered only by diving under the cliff, but the baron decided to blow a hole in the cliff to allow boats inside, and therefore tourists like us.

Awaiting our turn on the little boats

The little motor boat left the harbour and whizzed us around to the cliffs. We then ducked as the boat went in through the small hole in the cliff. When we sat back up we were presented with a magical sight.

This natural phenomenon occurs where the edge of the cliff has been worn away, allowing the sunlight to beam down through the water. Coupled with the white limestone of the cave walls the result is a magical blue cave.

Gordy translates what the guide is telling us about the cave
Tim takes a panorama of the spectacle

The edge of the cliff with the sunlight shining through

 

Looking through a natural bridge

 

The next two boats coming in behind us

 

The skipper delivered us back to our boat once the tour was over, and we continued on our way.

The town of Vis on the island of the same name was our next destination.

The island’s two largest settlements are the  Vis on the island’s eastern side (the settlement for which the island was originally named) and Komiža on its western coast. We had time for a look around the town before heading back to the boat for lunch. The island has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, and there is evidence of many of the cultures that followed.

Another day, another beautiful harbour
Elements of Italian architecture shining through on the backstreets
Interesting alleyways to wander down
And of course many cats…most islands have no vet, and it is uncommon to neuter males. Thankfully the local residents tend to leave cat food out for them, particularly when there are kittens involved

After lunch we were off out on the bikes. It was really warm, with temperatures up in the early 30s…and our first 10km of riding was all up hill. It was hard going in the heat, with no shade alongside the road, and out on the road it rose to 42 degrees centigrade (that’s about 108 Fahrenheit for those working in old money!).

Looking down at Komiza from the peak of our climb

Fortunately there were plenty of rewarding views. We rode across the island to Komiza, where we enjoyed the exhilarating ride down the hill before stopping for a refreshing sorbet and some cold water, before climbing up again and heading out, continuing our 32km circuit.

A little chapel high up on the cliff along our route
Komiza – a very pretty little town

Of course the road went up and up as well as we left, with a few water break stops along the way.

Beautiful views down over Komiza as we climb out
Komiza as we climbed out
Magnificent views along the island

Before long we were high up above Vis, looking at our final winding road descending below us.

Tim looking out over Vis
Me photographing Vis
Vis, our home for the night

Mr A and I headed straight off for a swim and probably increased the salt percentage of the already very salty Mediterranean in doing so, before showers and heading out to dinner.

It was just Owen, Tom, Mark and I for the night, and we headed first of all for drinks down by the water, before finding a local restaurant for food. Vis has a lovely atmosphere, particularly after our night in crazy Hvar.

Lovely sunset
Owen, Tom, Mr A and I…yes I even had a local Vis wine!

24 June: Exploring coastal Croatia

Author: Mrs A

Location: Korčula, Croatia

First of all, sorry for the multiple emails coming through, those of you who are email subscribers. We are continuing to try and pinpoint the issue and will try to resolve it as soon as possible.

Monday: Our cycle for the day commenced at the wharf where we had docked, and had us riding off at 8.30am.

Before long we arrived at the town of Korčula, where we parked up our bikes and Gordy, our local host, gave us a run down of the town’s history.

The old town of Korčula – building outside of the walls was not permitted until the 1800s

Team photo in the square down by the water

Gordy explains the town’s history. In the background, H, our cycle guide

Starting our visit beside the old town walls

The town sits out on a peninsular, with the mainland a short boat ride away. Apparently it is subject to strong winds in the winter, often up to 200km/hr so the old town has been built in a herringbone pattern – allowing a breeze to filter down to all homes, but without the damaging winds.

The old town is walled, and all streets are stepped, with the exception of one road which rings the town known as ‘the street of thoughts’, where residents could walk and think without the need to watch their feet.

As we entered the town of Korčula through the gate, Gordy explained the symbolism of the lion with the book carved on a stone. The book is open, showing the town was founded in peaceful times. Had it been closed, it would have been during a time of war.

The town coat of arms featuring a lion on the entrance gateway through the walls

The town’s main claim to fame is the birthplace of Marco Polo, with strong evidence to suggest he was born in a house here, something that is hotly contended by the Italians who claim him for themselves. It seems the Marco Polo Wikipedia entry has been written by the Italians rather than the Croatians!

The cathedral of St Mark – complete with working moon clock – built 1301-1806

There are many ‘Marco Polo’ related hotels and restaurants here and in the surrounding countryside.

We had a couple of hours to explore the town, browse the jewellery stores and refresh ourselves ready for the next ride.

Coffee and a snack for some of the gang

Plenty of steps to climb up

Mr A admiring the interesting architecture – a mixture of Greek, Venetian and more

Every street has quirks and unique architecture – and not busy outside of the school holidays

Old cart wheels put to use

Looking out towards the ‘new’ town

Even the pets here are tastefully colour coordinated to fit in with the scenery

A heavily pregnant cat decides to adopt me…

‘Please don’t go!’ – clearly I am emitting ‘I love cats’ vibes!

Our time exploring up, we rode off along the coast to our next destination. While not massively steep, the coastal road was rolling hills, and again I was grateful to be on an electric bike. The way my airway is right now, there is no way I would have enjoyed riding manually without a great deal of coughing and wheezing.

A water break at Kneza

We concluded our 20km ride at Račišće (don’t ask me to pronounce it!) where the boat motored on around and met us. Lunch was soon served and we continued cruising around to the top of the island to the port at Vela Luka, where we were to spend the night.

Vela Luka as the sun sets

Sunset over Vela Luka as we disembark and head off to find dinner

Looking back towards the harbour

The town had been celebrating St Ivan’s Day and was quite lively

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the town by day, but apparently it is famous for having a cave with evidence of human habitation from 20,000 BC – our hunter gatherer ancestors. They had a very pretty home!

We ate and retired to the boat to sleep. We’re setting off early in the morning for our next destination, Stari Grad on the island of Hvar.

24 June: Exploring coastal Croatia

Author: Mrs A

Location: Korčula, Croatia

First of all, sorry for the multiple emails coming through, those of you who are email subscribers. We are continuing to try and pinpoint the issue and will try to resolve it as soon as possible.

Monday: Our cycle for the day commenced at the wharf where we had docked, and had us riding off at 8.30am.

Before long we arrived at the town of Korčula, where we parked up our bikes and Gordy, our local host, gave us a run down of the town’s history.

The old town of Korčula – building outside of the walls was not permitted until the 1800s

Team photo in the square down by the water

Gordy explains the town’s history. In the background, H, our cycle guide

Starting our visit beside the old town walls

The town sits out on a peninsular, with the mainland a short boat ride away. Apparently it is subject to strong winds in the winter, often up to 200km/hr so the old town has been built in a herringbone pattern – allowing a breeze to filter down to all homes, but without the damaging winds.

The old town is walled, and all streets are stepped, with the exception of one road which rings the town known as ‘the street of thoughts’, where residents could walk and think without the need to watch their feet.

As we entered the town of Korčula through the gate, Gordy explained the symbolism of the lion with the book carved on a stone. The book is open, showing the town was founded in peaceful times. Had it been closed, it would have been during a time of war.

The town coat of arms featuring a lion on the entrance gateway through the walls

The town’s main claim to fame is the birthplace of Marco Polo, with strong evidence to suggest he was born in a house here, something that is hotly contended by the Italians who claim him for themselves. It seems the Marco Polo Wikipedia entry has been written by the Italians rather than the Croatians!

The cathedral of St Mark – complete with working moon clock – built 1301-1806

There are many ‘Marco Polo’ related hotels and restaurants here and in the surrounding countryside.

We had a couple of hours to explore the town, browse the jewellery stores and refresh ourselves ready for the next ride.

Coffee and a snack for some of the gang

Plenty of steps to climb up

Mr A admiring the interesting architecture – a mixture of Greek, Venetian and more

Every street has quirks and unique architecture – and not busy outside of the school holidays

Old cart wheels put to use

Looking out towards the ‘new’ town

Even the pets here are tastefully colour coordinated to fit in with the scenery

A heavily pregnant cat decides to adopt me…

‘Please don’t go!’ – clearly I am emitting ‘I love cats’ vibes!

Our time exploring up, we rode off along the coast to our next destination. While not massively steep, the coastal road was rolling hills, and again I was grateful to be on an electric bike. The way my airway is right now, there is no way I would have enjoyed riding manually without a great deal of coughing and wheezing.

A water break at Kneza

We concluded our 20km ride at Račišće (don’t ask me to pronounce it!) where the boat motored on around and met us. Lunch was soon served and we continued cruising around to the top of the island to the port at Vela Luka, where we were to spend the night.

Vela Luka as the sun sets

Sunset over Vela Luka as we disembark and head off to find dinner

Looking back towards the harbour

The town had been celebrating St Ivan’s Day and was quite lively

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the town by day, but apparently it is famous for having a cave with evidence of human habitation from 20,000 BC – our hunter gatherer ancestors. They had a very pretty home!

We ate and retired to the boat to sleep. We’re setting off early in the morning for our next destination, Stari Grad on the island of Hvar.