#5 Italy/Croatia, Oct. 15, 2009

Dear Everybody,

In Croatia many private parties rent rooms to tourists. In the bus station in Zadar, a tall gray-haired man approached me with almost no English, a few words of German and mostly Croat. Still, using a pad and pen to write numbers, we made the deal and I went with him in his car to his home, which had a little two-room apartment. I met his wife (Mrs. Clean!) and got settled in. He offered to take me to “centrum,” the center of town, which is the historic Old Town, and quickly (too quickly) pointed out how to take the bus back and walk this way and that way about eight blocks to the house. He also wrote down the bus information but only pointed vaguely in the direction of where I would get off the bus (“200 meters”) and where (in town) I would get the bus (“100 meters and—100 meters oeste”). Well, I did have his phone number and figured I could get somebody to call him if worse came to worse.

By this time it was midafternoon and I had a pleasant lunch and walkaround and then headed for the bus. This didn’t seem at all like what he had described but what (in Croat) had he described? The bus signs seemed to square with what he had written so I took the #7 bus.

I showed the driver the words “Stanica Vivikovac” which he presumably recognized as where I should get off. When he told me to get off, nothing looked the least familiar—I had made mental notes of landmarks but none of them was present! I got off—and headed for a little coffee shop where luckily a young man spoke some English. I explained and asked if he would call my host, which he did—but no answer! Then I remembered one of the landmarks was a Coffee Pub and the young man recognized it, put me on my way and in a few minutes I came to the Coffee Pub. Actually it was ‘Coffee Pablo’ so I’m surprised he recognized what I was talking about. From there I made my way to my apartment—well, all’s well that ends well!

Old Town Zadar is a wonderful city chocked full of old churches, government buildings and just interesting medieval buildings. I visited St. Donatus Church, a circular 9th century Byzantine structure built over the Roman Forum. Needless to say, many Roman columns and decorations have been recycled.

Two museums, Church Art and the Archeological Museum were really outstanding and all the displays included English descriptions—how nice! But then it began to drip rain, and pretty soon the heavens opened up! I headed for a coffee bar and then lunch. It let up a little for my bus ride and walk back to my digs, but I got pretty wet. The next day fall had apparently arrived—it was the first day that I wore a long sleeved turtleneck shirt plus a shell jacket.

The next morning when I was leaving to catch a bus, my host and hostess (Jozo and Ilka) invited me in for coffee. Actually I was first given some sweet red wine made by Ilka (it was 8:30 AM!) followed by Turkish coffee and some cookies. We had a conversation of sorts, a lot of which was acting things out. I learned that this house (their part is quite unfinished) is a summer home and they live in Novograd. They have three children (two are physicians who live in Zagreb) and several grandchildren, and are pleased that Barack Obama is the US president! I related that I had visited several cities in Croatia in ’79 (all the numbers required pen and paper) and asked Jozo if he would take me to the bus station at 7:30 AM the next day.

I went back to the Old City to finish tracking down and photoing all the landmarks. One very old church (4th or 5th century) had Roman/Byzantine fragments of frescoes.

One highlight was the Ocean Organ. This is a series of pipes put into the walkway on the tip of the Old City whereby the air pushed by the waves lapping at the walkway goes into these pipes making sounds like an organ. No, it didn’t rip off “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, but there were two substantial chords that sounded alternately as the waves came in and receded. The sound was not loud (yes, it WAS loud), but it was BIG, sounding like it came from everywhere! It really was amazing.

On Wednesday I got a bus to Split where I bought my ferry ticket for Oct. 27th when I will return to Italy to fly out of Rome, and then another ticket for that afternoon to go to the island of Hvar. The ferry took 50 minutes; the weather was beautifully sunny but cool. The boat, the Andriana of the Jadrolinija Line, was modern and nice. I found the Green Lizard Hostel, which is closing in a week so I made it just in time.

Hvar town is another jewel along the Dalmatian Coast. It has roots back to the beginning of the first millennium BCE with waves and waves of subsequent powers. The sky was so blue, along with the Adriatic, and the islands were so green—it was just beautiful. I climbed up to the Venetian fortress above the town with views to knock your socks off. I also visited quite a few churches and other landmarks, but touristing in Hvar is more like BEING—-sitting in the medieval square having coffee, etc.

For lunch I had a really good pizza and some local wine; food along this coast is mostly seafood, pizza and pasta. Apparently the roast lamb is more in the interior, which I well remember having when we were here in ’79.

Another day of walking, sitting, sipping, eating and absorbing, and then I shall take a bus and then a ferry to the island of Korcula tomorrow. The weather is fall-cool but beautifully sunny and still. Things couldn’t be better!


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