As always happens, our trip is drawing to a close. We still have to drive back from Dubrovnik to Venice to drop off the car and fly home. After our first drive, we had decided to cut the trip back in half so we would have time to stop in Split to see Diocletian's Palace. For our route, we had the choice of taking the freeway or the equivalent of a state route along the coast. The freeway would be faster, of course, but then we'd miss the great coastal views. Who could pass that up? But, before we can go anywhere, we had to get back to where we had parked the car. Our lodging in Dubrovnik was in the old town which is a "pedestrian zone". (The quotations are because we saw vehicles driving up the streets throughout the day. Usually delivery vehicles.). The parking is at the top of a WHOLE LOT of steps. Staring at the long flight of steps gave me pause. I got over it realizing it would give us a chance to get some exercise before sitting in the car all day.
We settled into our regular seats - me driving and Mike navigating. He punched our destination into his map app with the paper map as a backup and we were off. The thing about the coastal route is it's a twisting, turning road with very few straightaways. Not for those who easily get carsick. I was loving it! I got my slalom driving fix for a while. HA!
Me and "my" car (as Mike put it). That little baby had some punch!
Something not many people know is that a section of Croatia is cut off from the rest of the country by a sliver of Bosnia-Hercegovina. So, as you're driving along in Croatia to another city in Croatia, you have to go through a border check from Croatia to Bosnia and then again from Bosnia to Croatia. All in less than 15 minutes. Sound strange? Yeah, I thought so too. Apparently, many of the former Croats who are now Bosnians aren't all that happy about it. Several of the road signs with both languages had the Cyrillic names spray painted out. Mike and I made sure to stop at a scenic spot so we could say we took pictures in Bosnia. We even purchased souvenirs to prove it! I'm counting that as a country visited.
Our weather luck continued to hold for the drive and we arrived in Split in good time. Diocletian's Palace was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian as a place to retire. And, I have to say, he had a great taste in location! Everywhere you look you can see the Roman influences. We wandered along the narrow streets, getting a feel for how life may have been in ancient time. Our first stop was the church tower to get an overview of the palace. I've been up my fair share of clock/church towers. These steps were not only steep but wide open. i.e. very little railing and the windows un-barred. Which was great for picture taking. Every once in a while on my travels I'm reminded I'm not in the incredibly, overly litigious US and it's great!
Bell tower in Diocletian's Palace
The rooftops of Split with some of the old city walls.
There are sections of the original wall poking through where the city has been built up over the centuries. Every time I visit one of these ancient sites I am in awe of the fact they are still standing and in use. I picture how people from the past have each put their mark on the place and made it their home. As an example, one of the center pieces of the palace is what was originally Diocletian's mausoleum. As later generations took over, it was converted into a Cathedral and Diocletian's remains were removed. (Diocletian was known for persecuting the Christians.)
The Gold Gate to Diocletian's Palace
The ceiling from one of the underground rooms in Diocletian's Palace
Lion guarding the steps to the Cathedral (previously Diocletian's Mausoleum)
After seeing all the sights, we hit the road for the coastal city of Zadar, our stop for the night. I had read a little about Zadar before we left and there was one thing I really wanted to see - an art installation called the Sea Organ. Tubes have been built into the seaside walkway. As the waves come in, air is pushed through the tubes to make sound. We checked into our hotel, got directions to the old town and set out on foot. Zadar actually surprised both Mike & I. It's a beautiful, walled old town with Roman ruins, churches and views! We walked around until nearly sunset and then went to see the Sea Organ. The "tune" is a haunting sound made even more atmospheric with the setting sun. I put my camera on a tripod and put it on video. I'm hoping the sound came out well enough to upload it onto YouTube.
5 Wells and the Sargent's Tower in Zadar
Church of St. Donat
After sunset we paused for dinner. Both Mike and I had the best dinners of this vacation that night. I had ravioli with prosciutto and a cream sauce. It sounds simple, but it was amazingly well done. With our hunger sated we set out to see the second part of the Sea Organ called Sun Salutation. This section is made up of solar panels that work in conjunction with the organ. As the air is pushed through the tubes, color undulates on the panels under your feet. It's quite a beautiful show to watch.
Sunset at the Sea Organ
We had to get an early start the next day to drop off the car in Venice for our last night before heading home. We took the coastal route about 1/2 way then caught the freeway for the remaining portion into Venice. I noted that there were a lot more trucks on the road for our trip back than there were on the way out. I later realized that we had set out on Easter Monday. It's not a holiday in the US so I'd forgotten it is in many other countries. It really makes a huge difference in traffic. Of course, the trip back to Venice went a little faster since I had by then figured out that the speed limit is just a suggestion. All you have to remember is - slower cars on the right. Even if you think you're going fast enough, somebody is going faster. Be polite and let them go. (I sure wish the drivers back home could learn that lesson.)
Our last night in Venice was fun. Since Mike had been there several times already there weren't any of the major sites left to see. We decided to do our souvenir shopping and then grab dinner. We found a small restaurant around the corner from our hotel that had great food at a decent (for Venice) price. My second favorite meal of the trip!
Buildings along a Venice street
After dinner we decided to be adventurous and just wander off to a portion of the city Mike hadn't been to before. We set off away from the crowds to see what we could see. There were quaint alleys and courtyards - obviously the residential portion of the city. I was completely turned around but Mike knew where he was...which is why he's the navigator and I'm the driver. We chanced upon a pizzeria & bar which caters to the locals. As we stepped in there were small children running around as well as a couple of dogs! A real family-friendly place. We sat down with our beers and looked around. Plastered on the walls were posters and slogans for various socialist causes. It was an interesting place. At least the beer was good.
After our beers, we wound our way back to the hotel to call it a day. It's been a whirlwind week. All told, 7 countries (including our layover in Paris and driving through a sliver of Sovinia) in 8 days. A wonderful, amazing and awe-inspiring week. I hate the thought of going back to "real" life. Guess I'll just have to start working on the next trip!
Venice, along the Grand Canal