John writing 10-30
On Monday October 28, we sailed from Trogir southeast to Split, where we spent one night aboard ship. After we left the ship on Tuesday morning, we checked into a gorgeous hotel (Cornaro) right across from the north wall of the Diocletian Palace. When Diocletian retired as emperor of Rome (around 300 AD), he and his family moved into his retirement home that he had built for the purpose. We only have photos of the basement, since the main floor has been re-purposed over the centuries to include homes, shops and several churches and open plazas.
Unlike other ancient ruins we have toured, this one is allowed to be lived in by the citizens of Split, so you can rent an apartment on the palace grounds! After touring the palace with a guide, we were released to explore the city on our own. Lois walked up to a viewpoint over the city, and I looked for an ATM that would accept my Independent Bank card, and then a gelato stand which was much easier to find.
Croatia cities are easy places to explore on your own, because it seems everyone knows some English - from the cab drivers to the store clerks. The cities are dense, so walking around lets you see many of the places you want to tour. The Adriatic coastline is really beautiful because the countryside is all rock, and the water is very clear. The prices are similar to those in the US, so compared to the rest of Europe, it is inexpensive.
On Tuesday morning our group of 26 left the ship and boarded a bus for Sibenik (pronounced Shi-ben-ick), about an hour’s drive. There we toured the old parts of the city with a local guide. Of course, there was a large church, but this one was special because it was built with only stone, not even any mortar. After the city tour, we again boarded the bus to visit an old homestead in a small mountain village, and had a traditional lunch. The bean soup was especially good. After the lunch we continued our bus ride back into Split, and checked into the hotel. Even though the boat we were on rocked very little and the seas were calm all the time, it has still taken our bodies about 36 hours to realize we are not swaying all the time.
The weather has continued to be great with temperature in the 60’s and 70's. However that is supposed to change soon with cold rain into the foreseeable future. Plitvice (pronounced Plit-vitch-ka) Lakes - where we are heading on Thursday - has a totally different climate from what we have been experiencing here on the coast. For example, the temperature here in Split today is about 70 degrees, whereas at Plitvice Lakes it is 40 degrees. It's only about a hundred and fifty miles from here.
Somehow I forgot to pack a fleece, so today (Wednesday Oct. 30) Lois and I took a cab to the largest mall on the Dalmatian Coast, and I bought a nice fleece jacket. The mall was like any big city indoor mall, but of course many store names were different. We bought my jacket at InterSport, which was similar to Dick's, though most of their merchandise was clothing. What surprised me was that VW had about ten different cars on display in the center of the mall, and you could sit in them, including the Porsche Boxster! I had always thought that Skoda automobiles were made in Russia. Not so, they are made in the Czech Republic, and are owned by VW.
Lois writing now
The scenery for the cruise was really magnificent; often we would sit on the top deck and just gawk at the terrain and small villages as we passed by. Tourism is the main economic force in this part of the world, and it's easy to see why. Last night at dinner, we were trying to recall all the places the boat had stopped, and it wasn't easy. Except for Mjlet NP, every town had big exterior walls, narrow lanes, a promenade along the harbor and lots of churches. Even Juge, our guide said she sometimes forgets where she was yesterday! We have neglected to mention in earlier posts that we had a second guide, Sandra, from the Road Scholar office for Croatia. She was lots of fun, and a good source of information about the country.
We know that tomorrow is Halloween in the States, but here it is not even mentioned. And there are no signs of the holiday season coming in two months.
Right after breakfast today I joined the group for a slide show and talk at the Ethnographic Museum a couple of blocks away. I returned later (after our trip to the mall) to view the excellent exhibits. We haven't mentioned the fact that we've had quite a few superb lecturers over the past ten days, including two university professors discussing topics from culture, history and agriculture. The other folks in our group are eager to learn, so the questions are usually very interesting. The last night on the boat we had a very elegant 5 course meal, with three musicians. There was a bit of dancing, lots of singing and even musical chairs; it was pretty funny.