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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dubrovnik back to Budapest

View from Cavtat Harbor toward the Hills
The owner of Villa Olav & Jo
 say their goodbyes

Today we left Dubrovnik, flying back north, to
Zagreb. Tomorrow we take a train on to Budapest, then it's... gasp... home. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Jo loves to swim, and she started the day with a hike down the thousand steps from Villa Olav to the ocean where she enjoyed a 'farewell' swim. Later we drove to the rental car depot at the Dubrovnik airport o return the rental car - sort of...
we got to the car return at the Dubrovnik airport where I asked if we could keep the car for few more hours, and miraculously - we got a yes. We'd wanted to drive to Albania, but didn't have enough time. Rats. The car agent suggested we drive to his favorite town, Cavtat instead, which we did. There we visited a little restaurant located next to the town's harbor.

The harbor with the archways of the restaurant in the backgrounhd
Walked around the harbor to the restaurant, stopping to photograph all the different fish I could see in the harbor's waters, loads more than I'll ever be able to identify. Will just have to appreciate them for the fishies they are.

Lunch for Jo was a massive bowl of fresh yummy mussels. For myself, I had the tastiest seafood salad I've ever had; fat morsels of shrimp, octopus, shelled mussels & clams. And every bit of crab was crab, with not a jot of pollock in the lot. Best yet, my meal came with dessert - yes, more chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce and a hot cup of coffee.  I'd be glad of the big meal as the day progressed.

Then we were off  to the Dubrovnik mini-airport.
Never saw a bus like that before - where are the wheels?

All passengers had to get on a bus to ride over to the jet. Here's the bus exterior....
Bus interior 

 By the time the bus left it was jam packed as it headed for the jet.
Our flight to Zagreb
On the flight I realized, Croatia is color coordinated 
with decor of matched terracotta and shell white
We arrived in Zagreb after dark, and we 'assumed' we would stay at Central Hotel where we stayed before. But reservations - we had none. There is a Croatian sort of convention in town and most hotels jam packed, we were out of luck. The hotel clerk recommended we head down the street, which we did, stopping at the first hotel we came across, the Premier Hotel Astoria. Don't be too impressed, it's owned by my nemesis, the Best Western Corp. At the Astoria there was but one room left unoccupied, a business suite that was already booked but not occupied. There was some hard core begging, resulting in the clerk lady checking computer thingies and making a phone call or two. After several anxious minutes, it was announced we had our selves a room for the night. HURRAH! The room only had one bed. RATS! The bed was big enough for two. WHATEVER!

Early the following morning, we shuffled our luggage back down the street to train station for a long day on the rails.
Pulling out of the Zagreb station
The train cars had cozy little rooms with sliding doors, no dementors
Croatian countryside
Budapest Train Station, Gate 9 3/4 (I can dream, if I like)
The Budapest train station
From the train depot we took a taxi, returning to the same little apartment complex where our trip had started.

Here is the apartment building, which is built over a little bar. Each evening the bar hosts a lively group of students and locals. Jo enjoyed an adventure or two there.
The Apartment Building
It was our last evening. We took a last walk around the old neighborhood, Budapest's Jewish quarter. The 5% of my genome that is Ashkenazi Jewish felt right at home. We went to a little restaurant across the way & a few doors down from our apartment. There we enjoyed a nice meal. We chatted with the people one table over, and raised a glass to an adventurous trip, well met.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Old Dubrovnik by Moonlight

After an afternoon on Lockrum Island, Jo and I went on a mini-shopping spree, followed by a short rest back at Villa Odak. Then we meandered downhill again to old Dubrovnik. There we had a repeat dinner not to far from the ferry dock.

Jo enjoying a little appetizer

While we nibbled at appetizers in the 'al fresca' setting, a bridal party waltzed by. Jo loves people and she called out to the bride, letting her know just how pretty she was - and as you can see from the photo, the bride is a treat in tulle!

After dinner we each took a walk around Old Dubrovnik. I knew something was being celebrated but was clueless as to what.
Lots of festivities and lots of music in Old Dubronik
I meandered over to one of the old buildings which was spectacular
The marvelous lighting added to the wonderment for me
Inventive clock tower
This spot was wanting a Gregorian chant playing in the background
Can't even imagine the purpose of  this beautiful hall

Turns out there was a festival in progress.  The Kinookus Food Film Festival, an international event, happening every September. Jo and I just stumbled into it. The festival celebrates the regional wines, purest olive oils, and my favorite, shellfish (yum!). Oh, and there is a marathon, I suppose is held to take off some of the food accrued festival fat. As the internet describes the event, it is a '....feast of diversity, unity, meetings, ideas, games and enjoyment. Now, I didn't partake of any of the featured food or film, but I did visit one of the displays, celebrating many film stars, old and new.

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A couple of the new stars showcased, no surprise, play characters in Game of Thrones. Lots of those kind of souvenirs were about.
Winter is coming. Spring too, if you only wait long enough.
I returned to roaming the old city
Night view of the Dubrovnik harbor
After touring Old Dubrovnik, I very nearly enjoyed hiking back uphill to Villa Odak. It's our last night. Tomorrow we begin a slightly circuitous route back to Zagreb, then on to Budapest.

Lockrum Isle and Old Dubrovnik

The Croatian Flag flying on the battlements
The mini-adventure on the Montenegro ferry was fun, so the following day we took another ferry ride. Leaving the Villa, once again we walked the gentle mile downhill, now a pleasant daily event. At the bottom of the hill we went through the gates into 'Old Dubrovnik'.
Entrance to 'the old world'

Let me begin here by stating, that for a spot on the famed Dalmatian Coast, old Dubrovnik was remarkably pup-free.

OK. Now that I've got that little joke, which makes me snicker more than necessary, I can tell you more sensible things I found out about Old Dubrovnik which is on the Dalmation Coast, as well as the Adriatic Sea.

Old Dubrovnik is cool, if for no other reason than it was used as an exterior setting for the epic Game of Thrones, most notably for the notorious 'Walk of Shame' as seen below.
When walking the same path, there was far less muck flinging and shite lobbing going on. None really. Rather peaceable. 

Not so much shame as shopkeeping

There was only a lady garbed in white, selling dolls in traditional Croatian dress. I could barely resist buying any of them. Am afraid if I buy one nationally dressed doll, it will lead me to yet another collector's passion, and I've passions enough, thankyouverymuch.
Barely resistible dolls

Yes, thankfully no shaming happened but I did however look upwards, often, in hopes of spotting the Kahleese's famed Dragons zipping past overhead. Alas, nothing zipped pass over me in the ancient corridors of old Dubrovnik other than flights of swifts.

Aw, you bet I identified them. Am I not the Queen Mother of birding? Protector of ABA lists? Queen of Oakes Fair? Khaleesi of the Great Gulag Garden? Mother of Sight Hounds? The Un-thin and Breaker of Diets? Lady of  Waldronstone?

Damn right I am.
and Ancient
The birds were Alpine Swifts. Must say they were every bit as exciting for me as dragons, and far less dangerous. What was my point, where was I?  Yes - Old Dubrovnik is...
And corridor-ed
White bricked

Fodder for the imagination.

I could carry on the theme for another day or two, but Old Dubrovnik is also, and formerly foremost, a sea port on the Adriatic. Taking advantage of such, we purchased ferry tickets and set sail aboard the ferry, over to the Isle of Lockrum. We's been eying Lockrum since spotting it two days ago from the balcony at Villa Odak.
the Ferry port
All aboard the ferry for the short, 15 trip to Lockrum
View from departing ferry
The shores and my B n' B is somewhere up there...

Approaching Lockrum dock
Docking - the pink building is a cute Visitor Center

A'shore, Jo photographing proud peahen with chicks.
Peacocks were brought to Lockrum about 150 years ago
There were also less fanciful paths to roam on foot - no cars on the island

Lockrum was originally a Benedictine Monastery, circa 1023
The monastery was founded after a fire, in the 11th century, burned down most of Dubrovnik. The locals fought back, not with a volunteer fire department, but with a Benedictine Monastery built on the offshore island. The Monastery housed monks for a whopping 800 years. Its buildings & ruins are still mostly standing. 
The Monastery aided by reinforcement for its pillars and buttresses

Bits of the old Monastery are everywhere
Today, Lockrum is arguably known for being one of the sites where Game of Thrones has been filmed, but it also just a great place for escaping to solitude.

Botanical Gardens

We found what Jo was looking for - Lockrum's 'Dead Sea'

The girl went right in for a swim
So while Jo got in her swim laps in for the day, I went exploring.

There were plenty of places to explore. I felt was falling down a rabbit hole. Heck, there were loads of rabbits around, if not holes.  

I'm not fussing - they were a friendly bunch of bunnies.


So many bunnies. Something that Lockrum is famous for.

And butterflies weren't scarse.

Was looking for birds though.

Alas - all I got were photos of this admittedly adorable & chatty European Robin. All the other birds flitting about stuck to high in the tree canopies.

When the little buggers did show up, they skulked about in the shadows.   Wicked little birdies - no eBird immortality for you!

Jo and I met back up after a couple of hours not too far from ferry dock. We were a bit hungry and opted for lunch, egged on by this adorable restaurant sandwich board.

The remainder of our day was pretty busy and slightly dizzy.  We wandered around Dubrovnik, looking for a yarn store that if it truly existed, it pulled a Hogwarts on us, disappearing and not-to-be-found. Roaming around netted us views of this lovely bridge.  

Then... confession time here. There was shoe shopping, and mid day ice cream eating. No more said on those issues that were unfortunate to the wallet. After resting up for a while back at the Villa Odak, we returned to Old Dubrovnik and that is a tale for an additional post.