Last Croatian memories

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The time has come to wave a very fond goodbye to glorious Croatia (for now at least…) so here’s a few last shots of Dubrovnik.

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With its plethora of enchanting buildings, stunning countryside and budget friendly accommodation, Croatia was a revelation.

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Here’s the Stradun and Onofrio’s large fountain again all bathed in lovely lovely Croatian sunshine *wistful sigh*

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Here’s us trying to defeat the mythical gargoyle or Maskeron.

If you enter the Old Town of Dubrovnik by the Pile Gate walk along the Stradun and you’ll see a strange stone head protruding from a stone wall.

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The head stands some half a meter above the ground, sticking out barely fifteen centimeters. Its top surface is polished like marble.
Legend has it that if you manage to hop onto the head, keep your balance, and take off your shirt while still standing facing the wall, luck in love will follow you.

Neil has technique whereas I just repeatedly hurl myself at the wall in hope…

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Then it’s off for a last mooch around the harbour and time to take a bracing dip with the locals! Check out the glorious azure sea water!

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I’m a bit of a water baby and tend to end up in any large bodies of water that I come across. However I am also a huge wuss.

P1030388So I am gradually inching my way into the water, flabby bit by flabby bit . . .

P1030387Ho ho. It’s like watching a beached whale returning to the water.

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Until finally I am submerged and at one with the lapping waves.

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And there I stayed until I was good and wrinkled.

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That’s it for Croatia folks. A hectic week of travelling hundreds of miles, getting hopelessly lost and falling head over heels in love with a breathtaking country.

Mount Srd cable car

If there’s a cable car in the vicinity then we tend to make an appearance on it sooner or later! Dubrovnik is no exception with Mount Srd boasting the town’s vertigo inducing attraction.
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The original cable car was built in 1969 but was almost completely destroyed during the shelling in the 1990s.

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At 405 metres above sea level, the views from the top are staggering. On a clear day you can see up to 60km.

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Here you can see the old town walls that we’d recently been traipsing along. Also here’s a bird’s eye view of the harbour and St John’s fortress.

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Here the distinctive shape of Dubrovnik old town is now apparent. You can see Minceta tower on the town wall in the foreground and Fort Bokar to the right in the distance.

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Onwards the tiny cable car travels, pausing briefly for us to appreciate the views and to pass another of the little pods. Each one of which holds 30 passengers.

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Of course we’ve shoved our way to the front of the car to ensure the best possible views of the town and mountain side.P1030319

It only takes a few minutes to whisk up the mountain and then you can have a potter around at the top.

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With such a good view of potential invaders it’s unsurprising that there’s a fortress on top of Mount Srd. Fort Imperial was built  in 1806-1816 during the Napoleonic Wars but now houses the Museum of the Homeland War.

There’s also an amphitheater, restaurant and shop.

It’s currently 100 kuna for an adult return ticket. You can book the cable car online and learn more here.

Dubrovnik town

After our jaunt around the walls we had another saunter into the charming old town. (This time it wasn’t pouring with rain!!)

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Heading to the Stradun via Pile Gate

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Lots of pictures of the harbour now . . .

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St Johns fortress again in all its austre glory.

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Finally I get to see the town bathed in sunshine, its gorgeous

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The harbour is a picturesque setting for a very pricey drink and some food, or you can go cheap skatey, get a picnic like us and enjoy the same views

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Makes me want to be back there right down, given the 3 degrees temperature outside and the grey drizzle!

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Cable cars and sea swimming coming up next for your enjoyment!

Walking the walls – part one

Dubrovnik old town is encircled by around two kilometres of walls and battlements. It takes around a hour and a half to march along them and they give fantastic views of the town, sea and red roof tiles.

There are three entrances to the city walls: at Pile Gate, Ploce Gate and at Sv Ivan fort. We chose the Ploce Gate entrance as there was not as much of a queue.

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Here’s Revelin Fortress, an austere block of formidable stone.

The initial fort was built in 1463, in the period of threats from the Ottoman empire, who had conquered Constantinople in 1453 and were about to occupy nearby Bosnia (occupied in 1463).

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The first of many terracotta roof tile shots! I love the warm, ripples of the roofing. During the shelling of the city in the early 1990s many of the traditional roofs were damaged and have been repaired in a patchwork of different shades.

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Minceta Tower is another of the imposing fortifications along the town walls. The sunlight really makes the ancient grey stone come to life.

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The views across Dubrovnik old town are just lovely and change as you get further along the walls.

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Here Neil blocks out some of the lovely views . . .

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On average 24 metres high and up to 6 metres thick, the walls date back to the 13th century.

Further reinforcements, including a series of imposing towers intended to protect the city against the Turks, were added in the 15th century.

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It’s not just about endless patchworks of red though, you also get fantastic views out to sea as well.

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Peeping through the thick stone walls gives you a nice shady spot to beat the heat. Just don’t hit your head like I did!

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Beach life and taking a dip

Finally, back in Dubrovnik, we head for the iconic view point that inspired me to head to Croatia in the first place.

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It’s a place called Banje Beach. Part private beach bar and part public sunspot. From high up you can get the fabulous view across the beach to the fortress.

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No apologies for a variety of beach shots now! Just sit back and enjoy them…..

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The sea is that beautiful shade of aquamarine that makes you want to hurtle head first into it.

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However it’s not quite as warm as it appears so we keep our distance and concentrate on viewing all the loveliness from afar.

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I also enjoyed the spectacle of the tourist galleon sailing majestically into the bay.

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Looks like the ship is making a sinister bee line towards my head in this particular shot . . .

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Luckily for me, and all onboard, the ship manages to make it safely to shore!!!

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Tiny Trogir

P1020672 Having finished our whistle stop tour of some of the stunning national parks, we headed back to Spilt.

We had a tiny bit of spare time so decided to head into Trogir, a lovely little medieval town.

Here’s me enjoying some late afternoon sun on the bridge over the canal that separates the new town from Trogir’s medieval core.

Trogir’s centre, surrounded by walls, comprises a preserved castle and tower and a series of dwellings and palaces from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

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Surrounded on all sides by water it is a tiny gem of a town.

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Trogir has a high concentration of palaces, churches, and towers, as well as a fortress on a small island, and in 1997 was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period.

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*Interesting fact alert* Trogir featured in two episodes of Doctor Who. Due to its specific architecture, it served as a double for Venice in “The Vampires of Venice” and as a double for Provence in “Vincent and the Doctor”.

We mooched around as the sun set on the imposing facade of Kamerlengo Castle.

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The castle was built in the mid-15th century by Marin Radoj as part of an expansion of the Veriga Tower, built on the site in the late 14th century.

It is used as a location for performances during the summer months. The word kamerlengo refers to the title of a Venetian administrative official (a chamberlain).

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As the light was fading fast we quickly admired some of the flashy boats clustered in the harbour before heading back into the twisting alleyways of the old medieval town.

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Once again we’re loving the mellow stonework and quirky details to be found throughout the town.

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I used to have one of these tiny little wind up music boxes as a nipper.

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Roski Slap

Heading on from the frothy watery delights of Skradinski buk to another, less visited part of Krka National Park -Roski Slap.

It is possible to get a boat trip from Skradinski Buk upto Roski Slap. however due to the ever present scourge of the tour group, the boat trips were full up.

Not to be deterred we decided to drive to the falls ourselves, as our Krka Park ticket allowed us admittance to the site for no extra cost.

Que another slightly hair raising car journey up winding roads and along a single track bridge across the river (heaven help you if a vehicle comes from the other direction . . )

We park up and a guide pokes her head out of a tiny shack to give us directions, first to the lake and museum and then onto the walk to the falls.

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After grabbing a quick brew at the waterside cafe we head off for a gentle stroll along the river . .or so I think. But oh no, the other half had got wind of the fact that there is set of steps that cling to the cliff face, leading upto a cave and then a panoramic view of Roski Slap.

The snag (for lazy me) being that there are approximately 600 steps . . . ..  sigh

Here his nibs is looking suitably excited about forcing me to partake in exercise  . . .

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I am not impressed . .  oh dear lord . .

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After me going on strike half way up (and collapsing in a pile of sweat and sulkiness) we finally reach the cave, and more importantly, the incredible view of Roski Slap.

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Here you can look down and see why this section of the river is known as the Necklace Cascades. These cascades are a successive series of rapids arranged and banded in such a way that they resembled necklaces

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If you squint, you can see, far far in the distance, the tiny speck of a bridge that we have to head back to . . . .

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Having got my breath back, and returned to a normal (none red) colour, I got to enjoy stunning vista. Well worth the slog upwards!

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But, not allowed to relax for too long, we were soon heading back down to the riverside to complete the loop across the river. Here’s the route back down . . . .

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Back on the flat, we ambled across the river and back to the car. Stopping on route to enjoy the rushing water once again.

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More waterfalls

Utterly enchanted as I was with Krka, this meant I took A LOT of photos! So this post is just a few more images of the watery wonderland.

Along the course of the river Krka, about 30 water mills, and several washing holes and columns have been preserved. The best preserved, and now restored watermills are at Skradinski buk.

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During the 14th and 15th centuries, the water mills on the Krka River were important for the entire Adriatic coast, as wheat was milled here for numerous towns, from Dubrovnik to Istria.

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The mills typically have rural style. The walls of the mills were built with stone and travertine, with mortar made of a combination of limestone and sand or clay. The roof and inner construction was made of wood, and the roofing was most often stone slabs.

And now for more frothy, watery marvellousness. I love the almost fluffy white of the foam against the opaque blue of the ongoing river.

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With its seven travertine waterfalls and a total drop of 224m, the Krka River is a natural phenomenon.

Here’s another glimpse of the magical Skradinski buk waterfalls before we move on.

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Cracking Krka

Our second national park adventure starts in the picturesque little habour town of Skradin – the beginning of our journey to Krka National Park.

There are several ways to get to the park, but one of the nicest is to buy your park ticket at this little town and take a boat trip up the river and into the park itself.

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The main attraction of Krka National Park lies in its seven waterfalls. The widest of these is Roški slap although Skradinski Buk is the biggest and most well known.

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Usually you’re able to swim in the lake near to Skradinski Buk, but due to high water levels (thanks to all the recent rain fall) health and safety squashed that idea!

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However, the upside of all the rain meant that the waterfalls were in full spate with the maximum volume of water powering through them.

This created a breath taking spectacle of foaming white water crashing into the placid lake below.

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Here’s Neil feeling the spray on his face after scrambling up the side of the mighty waterfall.

Skradinski buk is one of the most attractive parts of the park. It is a massive, clear, natural pool with high waterfalls at one end and cascades at the other. It is the lowest of the three sets of waterfalls formed along the Krka river. 

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In an area 400m in length and 100m in width there are 17 waterfalls and the total difference in height between the first and the last falls is 47.7 m.

Skradinski Buk is, understandably, considered to be one of the most beautiful calcium carbonate waterfalls in Europe and it is magical.

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Similar to Plitvice, visitors get to explore the park via wooden walkways that criss cross over bubbling brooks and thundering waterfalls.

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The sunlight filters through the trees and sparkles off every little stream. It is so fantastical that you half expect Gandalf or Bilbo Baggins to pop out from behind a tree.

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Eight hundred and sixty species and subspecies of plants have been identified within the territory of the national Park.

The park is a wildlife haven with 18 species of fish, 18 species of bat and over 200 species of birds as well.

Here we paused to take a look back down at Skradinski Buk and the wooden walkway we’d crossed earlier.

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The tourists look pretty darn small from all the way up here!!

P1020484Travertine steps create differing levels for the water to play and roll over. Each section of the river takes on another colour and hue. From muddy browns to deep aqua, turquoise through to opaque blues.

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The endlessly tumbling water creates a delightful spectacle of foaming, frothing loveliness.

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Next up we visit the old mills by the Krka River and then head up to Roski Slap for some vertigo inducing views.

Perfection at Plitvice National Park

From our base at Split we were perfectly placed to visit some of the stunning natural scenery that Croatia has to offer. And where better to see some of the very best on offer than at some of the country’s national parks.

First up was the three and a half hour trip to Plitvice Lakes, the largest national park in Croatia and the oldest national park in South East Europe.

P1020086 Here’s some of the misty scenes as we headed towards the park

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Plitvice Lakes national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia.

It’s made up of 16 interconnected lakes – the Upper and Lower lake areas, separated by the large Kozjak lake.

Once in the park we take the panoramic land train to the upper lakes to begin our walk (included in the entrance ticket price).

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Check out the park logo – a brown bear! These wily creatures are just some of the wildlife that roams this huge, beautiful area. Other inhabitants include wolves, lynx, wildcats and around 157 different types of bird.

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The park extends over 296.85 square kilometres (73,350 acres) and the 16 lakes are arranged in cascades. There are a variety of different walking routes that visitors can take.

These range in duration from a gentle two hour potter all the way to a day long, eight hour trek. You can plan your trip in advance here.

Visitors can get up close and personal to the lakes thanks to a series of wooden walkways that criss cross the park and waterways.

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The lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. Around every corner is yet another breath taking view of a serene lake or thundering waterfall.

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Due to the heavy rains this year, the lakes and waterfalls were all at full capacity with the volume of water creating incredible natural spectacles. It also made the walking a little muddy .. . .

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The lakes are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria.

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The name Plitvice was first mentioned in a written document in 1777 by Dominik Vukasović, the priest of Otočac.

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This name was given thanks to the natural phenomena that created the lakes. These are naturally formed shallow basins – in Croatian known as pličina or plitvak – which have been filled with water.

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Autumn adds its own golden tones to the spectacular landscape, and when the sunlight hits the trees and water it is simply breath taking.

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The lakes are well known for their distinctive and beautiful colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or turquoise blue.

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They are like the most delicate of artist’s palettes and the colours change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.

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We were lucky enough to see the waters in a variety of different lights. The day went from cloudy and overcast with corresponding slatey grey waters to sun shine and blue skies that turned the lakes and pools into enchanting mirrors of green and aqua.

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The lakes of Plitvice are a result of century-old processes and the sedimentation of chalk, which is abundantly available in the waters of this karst area. These sedimentations are called tufa or travertine.

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The park has a fairy-tale like feel. If it wasn’t for the hordes of tourists (trust us – we picked a national holiday to visit!) you’d expect to see some woodland nymph or middle earth hobbit poke their heads from behind a tree.

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Also included in the entrance ticket price is a boat trip to take you between the upper and lower lakes, however, due to the massive volume of visitors we couldn’t get on! So we only managed to see the upper lake area.

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All in all though an utterly magical day in a truly breath taking place. I would definately recommend spending at least a day in this amazing natural wonderland.
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