#7 (Final) Italy/Croatia, Oct. 29, 2009

Dear Everybody,

Nasty—that’s what the weather was my last day in Dubrovnik. I truly felt in danger of being blown off the rain-washed stone steps of which there are many since the town is down in a bowl with churches, homes, even a mosque and a synagogue spreading up the steep hillsides. A number of sites were closed—maybe for the season.

When it got really wet and nasty, I went back to my apartment, turned on the oven with the door open to dry my wet jacket arranged over a chair, and drank the last of the wine while I read the International Herald Tribune that I bought at a kiosk on my way home. The nasty weather didn’t seem to minimize the number of tourists who were still arriving in droves from cruise ships. Most of the tourists carried umbrellas, blowing inside out.

The next day I got a city bus to the bus station (autobusni) and then a bus to Split, my last Croatian destination. On the way the bus made a rest stop so I got out to look for a bathroom. The Women’s was locked up tight, but a man came out of the Men’s. Two other women from the bus had also tried the locked Women’s to no avail so they charged into the Men’s and I followed. They entered the two stalls while I waited. A young man came in, casually used one of the four urinals, flushed and went out. When the two women exited, I used one of the stalls. Mission accomplished!

In Split I found the CroParadise Hostel without any trouble. It was located one block from the Diocletian Palace, the main tourist attraction in Split. The Roman ruler, Diocletian, built this palace in 295 AD for his retirement. It’s a huge square fortress about two city blocks on a side, containing some Roman structures and many other medieval buildings. I think he would have had more fun in his retirement if he had gone backpacking!

I had visited Split in ’79 and remembered two black Egyptian Sphinxes that were 5000 years old, which I had photographed. Not seeing them now, I asked a gray-haired man if he knew about them, and he directed me to one, but the other had been moved elsewhere and I couldn’t see it now. The one I saw was missing his face and the ticket taker said it had been shot off by Napoleon’s soldiers 200 years ago. Do you suppose he had it mixed up with the big Sphinx in Egypt? Maybe the soldiers shot off all the faces they encountered.

The next morning was a treat with full sunshine and a beautifully clear blue sky. I did my siteseeing in earnest, visiting the Temple of Jupiter, the Peristyle, the Baptistry, the medieval Cathedral (I couldn’t visit this until 12 noon as they were having their Sunday Mass), and many other landmarks. It was wonderful to just walk along the lanes and byways and into plazas, all of which were super photogenic.

Eventually I needed a rest and so sat overlooking the beautiful harbor,

drank a mineral water and

read my newspaper.

At noon I decided I would now visit the Cathedral but the guard wouldn’t let me in and told me in halting English that it would be another hour. I firmly reminded him that he had said I could visit at 12:00, which it now was so I showed him my watch that said 12:17. Again he said more about it not being time yet and I really got quite prickly. Finally it became clear to me that what he was saying was that the time changed last night (October 25) and I needed to change my watch back one hour! “Well, oh—OK”—sheepishly from me.

While Split has lots of tourists, it feels more like a real city—even the Diocletian Palace seems to have some daily activity outside of tourism. But then Split is four times as big as Dubrovnik, too.

Monday I made a day trip by public bus, first to Salona, an important Roman site, and later to Trogir. Salona has extensive Roman ruins including burial chambers where early Christian martyrs were buried in the fourth century. Also there were ruins of a Baptistry, a Basilica, a covered aquaduct, a city gate, a theatre, the Forum, Public Baths and finally, a 17,000-seat amphitheatre. On some of these ruins one really has to use one’s imagination but—I’ll take their word for it, these really are what they say. The amphitheatre was unmistakable although ruined by the Venetians in the 17th century so that the Turks couldn’t take refuge there. Just like New Orleans—using the amphitheatre for refugees! The weather was picture perfect, short sleeved weather.

On the highway I flagged down a bus to Trogir, my second destination. This is another pearl of a medieval town on a peninsula—Croatia has a surfeit of these! The highlight here was the Romanesque carved stone portal to the Cathedral of St. Lovro from 1240. Wow! Talk about intricate and beautiful. Life sized nude figures of Adam and Eve were on either side along with many smaller Biblical scenes (and some not so Biblical, I think) that all melded together to make a beautifully effective doorway. I really have never seen anything like it.

While going to Trogir on the (slow) bus I was really agonizing as my (old) Lonely Planet book said the church was only open until 12:00 but a) I got there by 11:00 and b) it was open until 5:00. After looking at the church’s other attractions, climbing a Venetian watchtower, walking around the small town following whatever lanes and byways I happened upon, stopping for a beer to rest my feet, I got the bus back to Split. A wonderful day!

The night before I had the room all to myself, but the next day I got two roommates and the three of us went for a beer in the evening. Joshua (Singapore), Claire (Winnipeg) and I had a great walk/talk.  For breakfast the next morning I bought a croissant (10 kn) to eat sitting on a park bench in the beautiful sunshine overlooking the harbor. A young woman approached me, telling me that I had paid with a 100 kn bill and hadn’t waited for the change, which she now gave me. It cost $2 but I had given her $20 by mistake.

She had to come out of her little store to find me seated some distance away. Wasn’t that great? I gave her a tip and took her picture!

I visited the Cathedral, which was open all morning on a weekday. Joshua had told me that it was the oldest Christian church in the world which I had poopooed. When I visited it I learned that he was right and I was wrong because this building originally was Diocletian’s mausoleum and it was very obvious inside that it was a Roman building. However, now that I think about it, the Cathedral in Syracusa, Sicily was a Greek building from 500 BC, so I think probably THAT one is the oldest.

Tuesday evening I boarded a huge ferryboat to go to Ancona, Italy. I had bought a berth in a four-bed room, but it turned out that I was alone, so had a Nice stateroom!

Yes, the bathroom was down the hall, but I’m used to that! I slept well, and from 9 PM to 7 AM we were on the Adriatic. At 6:00 we had breakfast (!) and so I was well satisfied when I got off the boat at 7:00. I walked to the train station, about two km, and got a train to Rome at 8:10, arriving Rome about noon. I had to search a bit for the hostel that I had reserved over the Internet, but finally found it, only 3 blocks from the train station.

Yesterday I had a wonderful (last) meal in Rome of pasta, pork roast and good Italian wine, in a restaurant that I used to eat in quite often when I was in Rome. (Remember, Jeanne and Bob, where we ate breakfast a number of times?) Tummy satisfied, back to the hostel to vege out until 7:00 this morning when I got the train to the airport and then checked in for my flight home. I had tried to check in over the Internet, but got some message that it wasn’t possible. Well, the reason was that the time of my first flight to Amsterdam had been changed to much later, and I wouldn’t make my connection in Amsterdam. Luckily the agent was able to change my flight to an earlier one, although the plane was full except for a seat or two, and so I was able to make my connection.

Now I’m home, and that’s nice too. Until next time—-


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