A Travellerspoint blog

The End :(

We knew that we had to head back to the real world eventually...

semi-overcast 16 °C

Our train ride from Florence to Venice was delayed slightly due to fog, seems to have stuck around since we left the ship. Would have been a real shame if we had been stuck on the ship this whole time...

We got to our hotel on the dry-land side of Venice only to find that the hotel wasn't really close to anything. The only restaurant we could find was the one in the hotel and not that it didn't look like it would be good, neither of us wanted to sit in our hotel room for the rest of the night with nothing to do so we hopped on the bus and headed back to the island portion of Venice to wander around some more and to grab our last dinner of the trip.

Heading from the bus station towards the island was much easier this time since we weren't lugging our suitcases around with us so the high arching bridges didn't seem like a forced workout this time. We picked a destination and started to follow street signs to make our way there almost feeling at home when it was pretty easy to navigate the city this time around. There were a couple of times that Alyssa wanted to pull out her phone to get directions but that was frowned upon - we can get lost on our own and figure out where we're going just as easily. After making our way to the far side of town we were both admittedly getting hungry and a wee bit thirsty so we turned our attention to finding a place to eat.

We were in St. Mark's square and saw some fancy looking restaurant patios set up with bands setting up for the evening's entertainment and thought that it might be nice to sit and have a beer and listen to the music for a while. That all changed when we thought to look at the menu before sitting down - we should have been sitting down to look at it! 26 Euro's for a beer and not even a big beer at that. That would have been $70 Canadian for the two of use to sit down for a beer so we kept on trekking and decided to head back to the area near our first hotel in Venice since prices seemed to be reasonable there.

After walking the twenty minutes to make it to the other side of Venice we settled on a restaurant and enjoyed some good, fresh pasta with some fantastic house wine. As we sat and ate we took note of how calm Venice seemed to be compared to when we were here last. We don't know if it was because there were fewer cruise ships in port or if it was because it was the middle of the week but it was noticeably quieter.

We made our way back to the hotel and packed our bags as tomorrow morning is the start of our last travel day. Pretty sure Alyssa is already trying to figure out where to go next.

Posted by SammCroghan 08:28 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day at sea

Not much to do while you floating at sea - unless you're on the Norwegian Star!

sunny 20 °C

Our ship headed to sea after leaving Piraeus and we'll be at sea until tomorrow morning when we get to Split, Croatia. We realize now that we haven't really touched on the cruise ship itself and have been focusing on the ports of call instead. Since that isn't an option today I figure we had better fill you in on the highlights of our ship.

The ship we are on is the Norwegian Star. A relatively new ship, refurbished in 2015 and we're on board with some 2400 other passengers and 1200 crew. We decided to upgrade our cabin for the sake of it being our first cruise and our honeymoon so we have a room with a balcony which has been a nice perk for this trip. Now I'm worried that it has bumped us up to a higher price range should we ever cruise again, being stuck in an interior room without a window and being cramped for space doesn't seem like it would be nearly as much fun.

Boarding the ship was a breeze. Arriving at the terminal we stepped up to one of the 30+ check in desks to provide any last minute information and to then receive a boarding number. During our wait we took advantage of the time and booked our dinner reservations for a couple of our nights on board. We only had a short wait until we went through security and passport control and then we were set loose on the ship. It was a different experience really, you just get set free on this massive ship to do whatever you want. No check in desk, no orientation, just free to wander the ship until our room was ready. In the interest of making sure that our unlimited beverage package was working we headed straight to the 13th deck for a drink and to get ready to say goodbye to Venice.

Throughout the cruise the service has been great, the food much better than we had expected, the staff have all been super helpful, and cleanliness seems to be the top priority. Getting on the ship we had our hands spayed with some cleaning solution, anytime we got off the ship, entered a dining area or sometimes in between there were employees with spray bottles with the familiar "washy washy".

The ship and the whole cruise experience has been great for the both of us so far and I think that it will be – at least for me – the highlight of our honeymoon. Now we just have to decide where to go on a cruise to next!

Posted by SammCroghan 08:22 Tagged honeymoon ncl norwegiancruiseline Comments (0)

Our second day in Greece - in Athens!

We headed off the ship to see the sights of Athens

sunny 23 °C

Our second stop in Greece was Piraeus which is pretty much as close as we could get our little cruise ship to Athens – or so we were told. Piraeus is the busiest passenger port in Europe yet limits the port traffic so that at most cruise ships are only allotted 20% of the docking spaces. The other 80% of that traffic goes almost exclusively to ferries and some of them are huge! There was one in port that ferries to Crete and it was almost as big as our cruise ship.

To get to Athens it was easiest and cheapest to hop on a shuttle arranged by the cruise line. There is so much infrastructure work being done in Piraeus that I was surprised at how quickly we got to the heart of Athens. As we walked to the bus there were quite a few people wearing Piraeus shirts that were handing out little booklets that outlined everything there was to do in Piraeus with absolutely zero mention of anything outside of Piraeus. I guess that they're tired of just being the transit point for people heading to Athens and want a piece of the tourist-money-pie too.

Once in Athens our bus had to take a bit of a detour as the usual drop off area was already packed with other buses. Our quick trip around town took us past the parliament building and all the way around the Acropolis before returning us to the bus pick up/drop off point. This area was well prepared for the arrival of hundreds of tourists – there were selfie sticks waving in the air, fake Acropolis tickets being sold left and right, and women selling fancy table cloths to anybody that dare make eye contact with them. There were many wives proudly showing off the new tablecloth that they had bought for such a good deal and many a husband displaying the look of 'oh great, another tablecloth...'

The area surrounding the Acropolis is mainly pedestrian streets that are packed with dozens of shops selling the same souvenirs just arranged differently with a couple of jewelry stores mixed in. Somehow I took a wrong turn and wound up on the south slope which turned out for the better as the lines for ticket sales were much shorter and there weren't nearly as many people as I thought there would be – that didn't last for long. As I took my time slowly wandering around the southern slope and reading the information panels I started to notice more and more people... As I followed the paths that led up the Acropolis I was soon joined by what seemed to be fifty tour groups, all waving their selfie sticks in the air with no regard for anyone around them. I remember when my Cousin Jenn went to Greece this past summer and was posting to snapchat the lineups that she was facing at the Acropolis but only in 35+ degree heat, thinking of that made me think that this wasn't so bad.


Once we made it to the top without giving in to the urge to push people off of the edge of some of the steep paths the initial views made it all worth it. The first sight of the facade of the Parthenon is not nearly as impressive as it could be as there are cranes and scaffolding all over it to restore it but it is still awe inspiring knowing that it has been there basically forever. After we made out way around the grounds seeing the smaller temples we were treated to a nice surprise. We had seen some military officials and a brass band heading up the steps at the same time as us and as it turned out it was Greek independence day! This day marked Greek independence from the Nazi's after WW2 and on this day they celebrate by raising the original Greek flag atop the Acropolis. The mayor, the President's Guard, and a whole bunch of dignitaries were in attendance for today's celebration. At 11:30 they raised the flag and every church bell in the city of Athens went crazy.


After hanging around to get some more pictures we made our way down the northern slope with the rest of the herd. Waiting at the bottom were loooong lines of people and another couple dozen buses of tours waiting their turn. It would have been nice to stay longer but seeing all of those people made me thankful that we were leaving. Next stop was the Acropolis museum.

The museum was built in the early 2000's to compliment the Acropolis as a site to preserve artifacts removed from the main site during restoration and to still have a place to display them. The museum itself was built on top of the remnants of a settlement that was around when the Acropolis was being built and you could see parts of it that were excavated as you walked up tot the museum entrance and through clear panels in the floor of the museum. The museum had all sorts of pottery recovered from around the site of the Acropolis and statues and carvings either removed from the acropolis or from the surrounding areas. The visit to the museum was well worth it.

After a short wait to be picked up by the shuttle bus and being asked to buy a table cloth at least five times we were back on the ship and enjoying wine and beer poolside. It was an early return to the ship around 15:00 which left plenty of time to spend in the sun by the pool. Once we leave Piraeus/Athens we'll be at sea for a day before we reach Split, Croatia.

Posted by SammCroghan 12:34 Archived in Greece Tagged honeymoon greece athens acropolis piraeus ncl norwegiancruiseline Comments (0)

Katakolon, Greece

Quiet Greek port town

overcast 20 °C

Today wasn't too exciting. It all started last night when we tried to book a shuttle from the port in Katakolon to Olympia only to find out that there were no more spots left. The only available tour was something like $109 a person, left super early and didn't get back with much time to spare. We were both a little disappointed when we found out that we wouldn't be seeing much of anything at our first stop in Greece.

Fast forward to the next morning. Admittedly after sleeping in a bit we were both woken up by the announcement that we had arrived in Katakolon and that we were free to disembark. I got out of bed and pulled the curtain only to see an unpleasant grey sky paired with a light rain. All of a sudden sleeping in and getting a later start to our day didn't seem so bad.

After we had gotten up and had a quick breakfast we made our way ashore. We weren't sure what Katakolon had to offer but we were going to find out. Just our luck that another cruise ship had pulled into port so the race was on to get off the pier and into town before things got too busy.

We didn't find much to see or do in Katakolon. It looked like there would be a lot to do in the middle of summer as there were restaurants with large areas on the beach full of loungers but they all sat empty during our visit. Hopefully for the towns sake things pick up in the summer as there were many fishing boats pulled up on shore and floating docks that had been pulled out of the water too. What we did find was a small, well developed area that was ready for the arrival of the cruise ships. Horse drawn carriages, small motorized trains to take you on a tour of the city, and souvenir shops galore. There was a nice string of restaurants lining the waterfront too. It was funny to see the patios packed with seniors tapping away at their iPads taking advantage of the free wifi – definitely not the crowd that we thought to see glued to their phones and tablets.

Once we had finished our quick tour we headed back to the ship to take advantage of what had turned out to be a nice day by the pool. For a ship with 2400 passengers it hasn't really felt that busy or congested at any point yet.


Posted by SammCroghan 09:13 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Kotor, Montenegro

City of cats!

sunny 20 °C

When Josh and I decided to book a cruise, we knew nothing about Kotor, Montenegro. It just happened to be part of an itinerary with other ports of call that we knew we wanted to see.

When I opened our balcony window this morning to see what outside, the view was absolutely breath-taking. Kotor is nestled at the base of a mountain, in the Bay of Kotor. We arrived early in the morning, and the water in the bay was like glass.

Like Dubrovnik, Kotor is a fortress, and there have been inhabitants there since 2500 B.C. Being sheltered by both the bay and the mountains made it a safe and ideal place for settlement. The old town looks similar to Dubrovnik's as well, but the fortress walls are what makes it quite different. The bay is fortified with two heavy walls, and then the walls continue to climb up the mountain.

Since the best views of the bay must be at the top, Josh and I decided to climb the three miles up the walls. The trail zig-zagged back at forth up the mountain, with 1,355 steps in total to the Fortress of St. John at the top. Once at the fortress, you have an amazing 360 degree view of the bay. The views were well worth the climb!


As with most port towns, Kotor has a lot of cats. However, they believe cats are good luck, and there's even an organization that cares and feeds for the cats. Cats and kittens were everywhere! I wanted to pet them all! If I could haven taken that kitten with me, I would have... However, I don't think kittens would be allowed on the cruise ship. There was a gift shop filled with cat-themed things, so I settled on buying a Christmas ornament there.


The old town was small, but we strolled around and played with more cats, before we headed on to the cruise ship.

Once again, we grabbed the drink of the day, and sat on our balcony to enjoy the scenery in the Bay of Kotor as our cruise ship departed from the port.

Next stop: Katakolon, Greece!



Posted by SammCroghan 08:42 Archived in Montenegro Comments (0)


Medieval City and King's Landing

sunny 20 °C

I was very excited for our first port of call, Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is actually what inspired us (ahem, me) to pick Croatia and Italy as our honeymoon destination. My desktop wallpaper has been a photo of Dubrovnik's old town for the last couple of years – for inspiration. Then, with Josh and I being Game of Thrones fans, we wanted to walk through King's Landing, see Blackwater Bay, and walk up the famous "shame, shame, shame" stairs. Of course, we also wanted to learn about Dubrovnik's actual history, and walk along the city walls.

Dubrovnik's old town was a few miles from the cruise ship port, so we hopped on a bus to take us closer. Dubrovnik looks like a typical coastal Croatian town like other's we have seen – until you get to the old town. In the 15th century, Dubrovnik was a major maritime power, with the third largest navy in the Mediterranean, and the whole town is surrounded by thick, medieval era walls. It looks like a fortress.

We decided the first thing we had to do was walk the impressive city walls, and see the beautiful view of the whole town. Much to Josh's chagrin, I hummed the Game of Thrones theme song for much of our walk. As you make your way around the town, you can look down at the sea of terra cotta roofs on one side, and the clear waters of the Adriatic on the other. I'm sure the photos won't do it justice, but it feels as though you have travelled back in time in this medieval fortress. Dubrovnik sustained some damage during an earthquake in 1667, and during the 1991-1992 conflict. When they rebuilt, houses were rebuilt in the same style with the same materials originally used. The only telltale signs of any damage are the bright, new roof tiles mixed amongst the original tiles. From the city walls, you can also see the Fort of St Laurence (Blackwater Bay for the GoT folks) which assisted in making Dubrovnik impenetrable against any attacks from the water.

While on the wall, we realized that we didn't have a single photo with the two of us yet from our trip. I asked a group of other tourists taking photos if they could take a photo of us. Unfortunately, I think my volunteer photographer was intimidated by my camera, and after several minutes of attempts, this is the photo we ended up with. At least we're both in it.


Once we had our fill of the beautiful scenery, had snapped more than enough great photos, and had baked in the hot sun, we made our way down into the old town to get some shade and wander through the streets. Even with very limited suitcase space, we (I) shopped for souvenirs. We started collecting Christmas tree ornaments a few years ago, so we searched for an ornament. I've also been searching for something to bring back for our new niece, Fiona! Josh thinks babies don't need 'things' (because she doesn't technically know what things even are yet) – but this will be her first souvenir of her life! I can't come back empty handed... somehow she'd know one day. Josh wouldn't let me buy her a tiny sailor suit, so I'll have to keep hunting at the next few stops. :)

After a few hours in Dubrovnik, we were hot and tired, and hopped on the bus to get back to our cruise ship. We relaxed on our balcony with whatever the cocktail of the day was (I think it was 'rebellious fish'? God only knows what was in it) to watch our ship pull away from the port and to enjoy the setting sun.

Cruise life is pretty good so far. Our room is comfortable, and we love having our private balcony. They take sanitization super seriously, which as a germaphobe, I am a big fan of! And even though we are in a minority demographic- we are definitely younger than the majority of the other cruisers, and the ones who are our age have kids – we've been enjoying ourselves! We have lots of restaurants to choose from, the entertainment at night has been excellent, and we are making the most of our unlimited beverage package.

Next stop: Kotor, Montenegro!



Posted by SammCroghan 08:40 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Cruise Time!

sunny 20 °C

My list of things that I'm afraid of is pretty long... Horror movies involving demons, birds, most things that fly, flying, being in confined spaces, being in spaces that are too wide open, boats, barfing, etc. So, I'm not sure why I came up with the brilliant idea of spending a week on a boat (Josh would quickly interject that it's a 'ship' and not a 'boat'). It covers the fears of: 1.) boats; 2.) barfing (people can get sea sick!) and 3.) spaces that are too wide open (aka an ocean). That being said, I was very excited to get on our cruise ship today! Fingers crossed that it will be relaxing - my favourite part about cruising is that everything is already planned! I didn't even wear my life jacket all day!

We set sail today with perfect conditions, and cruised passed Venice during sunset, which resulted in more wonderful photos.

Here's to hoping for more perfect weather and smooth sailing!


Posted by SammCroghan 14:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Exploring Venice

sunny 20 °C

I've begun to realize that I'm slowly turning into my father – at least when it comes to some aspects of travelling! Namely, the need to map out many possible public washrooms before heading out on an excursion, and a strong dislike for large crowds of people. That being said, Venice lives up to all the hype, even despite the droves of tourists who HAVE to stop on every bridge to take selfies and block the path for everyone else. I'm pretty sure I saw someone using a selfie stick to take a picture of someone taking a selfie with a selfie stick. On top of a bridge.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, on to the positives of Venice!

Venice really is breath-taking, and an engineering marvel. I took 320 photos... the most of any day on our honeymoon so far!

We started the day by wandering from our hotel to the Piazza San Marco, with a stop at the Rialto bridge to enjoy the view and do a little shopping (there is no way I could visit Venice without shopping!). We toured the beautiful Basilica di San Marco, and then visited Palazzo Ducale (the Doge's Palace).


After all our sight-seeing, we sat by the waterfront and watched yet another beautiful sunset. We've been lucky so far to have been able to see so many beautiful sunsets in so many great cities.


When it was time to head back to our hotel, and find a place for dinner, we hopped on a vaporetto (water taxi) to get a different view of the city. Plus, taking a water taxi also meant that we wouldn't get lost in the dark on our way home.

We both enjoyed our time in Venice, and are looking forward to our cruise tomorrow!


Posted by SammCroghan 13:45 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Another Travel Day

We had to get to Venice somehow!

Since Croatia doesn't have the same efficient train systems that the rest of Europe gets to enjoy, we had to choose between flying and taking the bus. Taking the bus would have let us see some of Slovenia before transferring to a train in Italy - but we ended up choosing the former. Even though there were no direct flights from Zagreb to Venice, flying was still a quicker option. It was also a good excuse to use up some Visa travel points that we saved up paying for wedding expenses!


Travel days aren't very exciting, and we really don't have much to say about today - but we took some time to compile our musings about Croatia.

1.) Food and drink was super reasonable, and very good. Like a nice dinner, with drinks, would cost $40 Canadian or less. We're definitely in for a shock once we get to Italy!
2.) Croatia is beautiful. Our favourite part of this week was driving through the country in our little rental. The coast was beautiful, the countryside was beautiful, the mountains and waterfalls were breath-taking. We especially lucked out with the time of year and that the leaves were starting to change colour. Photos will never fully do justice for how picturesque Croatia is!
3.) We're going to assume that cigarettes have to be free or something here, because every Croat chain smokes, all day every day. I know I mentioned this before, but it's actually shocking. Just trust me on this one.
4.) If you can't find a parking spot, you just make your own. This includes the sidewalk. Josh and I are going to test this out in Winnipeg and see how it goes.
5.) Everyone should visit Croatia! The atmosphere, the people, is all so good. We are happy that we aren't saying 'good-bye' quite yet to Croatia, as we will still visit Dubrovnik and Split during our cruise.

We arrived safely in Venice, and promptly got lost trying to find our hotel. You may be noticing a re-occurring phenomenon here. We eventually found our way safely there, dropped off our bags, and headed for the closest restaurant we could find.

Since it was already dark, and somehow flying in a plane siphons all of your energy, we headed to bed early so we'd be ready to fully explore Venice the next day!


Posted by SammCroghan 13:22 Archived in Italy Comments (0)


overcast 18 °C

When we woke up this morning, we didn't feel like doing much because it was cloudy and raining outside. We also wanted to spend some time enjoying the fancy hotel that we had treated ourselves to. When we checked in, we got a voucher for credit at the spa, and since Josh wasn't interested at all, I decided to treat myself to a pedicure. So, for the morning, Josh lounged around the hotel room, and I got some pretty feet in anticipation of our cruise. :)


After I came back from the spa, the weather had improved slightly. Josh and I walked up and down the 12 km of boardwalk that follows the beach. It was very quiet, given that the weather was bad, but we could picture how popular this beach is during the summer months. Opatija isn't a traditional Croatian beach town - the architecture is Austro-Hungarian, and it resembles upscale-Californian beaches. It was a very nice place to visit, but one day was enough to see everything we wanted to.


I'm sure this pretty sculpture has some pretty name, and is supposed to be peaceful - to the untrained eye. What I see is another victim of a seagull attack:

Once we were done our time in Opatija, it was time to head back to Zagreb in anticipation of our flight to Venice tomorrow. The plan was to check into our hotel (that was supposed to have a laundromat), eat dinner, and then do laundry while we watching a movie and caught up on blogging - or something equally relaxing. Unfortunately, there was no laundry (as opposed to the hotwire description I got which stated it did!)... Thankfully the hotel staff were able to direct us to a laundromat nearby. We dropped off our laundry and set off to find a nearby restaurant where we could have dinner while we waiting. Except... the only thing in near proximity was McDonald's. So, for our last night in Croatia, we sat at a laundromat and ate McDonald's for dinner. Travelling is not always glamorous! BUT we are both happy because we have a suitcase of clean clothes for the cruise.

Now it's time to pack and get ready to fly into Venice tomorrow!

Posted by SammCroghan 04:16 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

On the road to Motovun!

Heading from Rovinj to Opatija we stopped in to see this awesome castle on a hill

sunny 17 °C

Today we packed up our pimt-sized car to leave our little apartment for another move. This time we were headed towards Opatija with a planned stop in Motovun along the way. Our move took us back to the autoroute for another tour of the picturesque Croatian countryside. We couldn't believe what a difference only a couple of days made in the colours that we saw. The yellows, reds, and oranges of fall were much more pronounced throughout the forests that we passed. We forgot to mention in the previous entry but this section of highway took us though a five kilometre long tunnel - the Učka tunnel - along the way. 30 kuna was pretty expensive for a toll to take the tunnel when compared to other prices in Croatia but was well worth it.


We saw Motovun well before we arrived there. The town sits 300 meters above the countryside and it's quite a steep incline. Originally Alyssa wanted to park at the bottom and hike up to the town but by some miraculous mistake we took a wrong turn that took us on the road to the upper parking lot that saved us a good portion of the hike.

Once we got to the top we took a quick walk around the old city wall and took in the panoramic views. There wasn't a whole lot to see or do in Motovun but we did learn that the famous race car driver Mario Andretti was born there. As we took our time leaving Alyssa managed to find a shop that gave free truffle tastings and she was hooked, she ended up buying a sampler pack of three little jars each with truffles prepared in different ways to bring home.

After a quick picnic lunch we set our course for the coastal town of Opatija. For our stay in Opatija we opted to stay in a fancier hotel, only able to justify it by reasoning that we only get to honeymoon once. We checked in to our 'junior suite' on the fourth floor of an Austro-Hungarian styled building built in 1905. The high ceilings, over decorated hallways, and marble floors reminded me of a railway style hotel similar to the Fort Garry. For the first time on our trip we had a full mattress and not just two twin beds pushed together.


Being that it was our last night sea-side in Croatia we had thought it would be a good idea to find some fresh seafood for supper. Following the recommendations of the front desk at the hotel we headed out on a walk to check a couple of places out. The first place that we stopped at had been referred to as a 'place for Kings' by the front desk and just at first glance seemed way too fancy and expensive for us. We kept on walking along the waterfront and ended up at a place called Roku. After all that talk about seafood, Alyssa went for a hearty helping of lasagna (still pretty good since northern Croatia is basically Italy) and I got the biggest helping of calimari that either of us had ever seen. With no room for dessert after all of that food we headed back to the hotel to call it a night. Tomorrow we are off to Zagreb to get ready for our cruise!

Posted by SammCroghan 00:53 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia rovinj opatija motovin Comments (0)

Trip to Pula

rain 16 °C

Today we hopped in the Peugot and drove to the southern point of Istria to visit the little town of Pula. The town is fairly industrial (now) but the reason for our visit was to see the Roman ruins, including a colesseum similar to the one found in Rome.

Being the uber-tourists that we are, we did a walking tour from my guide book, and checked out a few interesting artifacts from the Roman Empire here in Croatia.

Our walk began at the ampitheater. Apparently, it's the sixth largest in the world, and one of the best preserved. It's a strange site when you are driving down a busy, modern street, and then out of nowhere appears this ancient Roman amphitheater! It's an unusual juxtaposition.


The amphitheater was build in A.D. 80 (so, similar to the Colosseum in Rome), and remained active until the fifth century. We wandered around, sat on the seats, stood on the centre of the arena, and debated as to who would have been the better gladiator. My vote is for me. Female gladiators did exist, which I learned today, but they would only fight other female gladiators. No males or beasts of prey.




Before leaving, we visiting the sub-terrarean hall, where the gladiators and animals were kept in between fights. There were no gladiators there today... but there was a nice display of how olive oil is processed, and a large display of first century amphorae (ceramic jugs used to carry oil, wine, and fish).


Wandering around town, we came across the Forum (main square). This one was built in the first century, and was dedicated to Augustus Caesar. The original forum took a direct hit during the first World War, but has since been restored.


After the square we saw a Roman floor mosaic. Apparently it has been quite common for construction projects to begin, and then halt once ancient artifacts are uncovered. This roman floor mosaic was found in this way, and has since been blocked off and left intact. The floor tells the story of Dirce. According to the Greek legend, King Lykos of Thebes was bewitched by Dirce and abandoned his pregnant queen. The Queen gave birth to twin boys, who then grew up to kill their father and tie Dirce to the horns of a bull to be bashed against a mountain. A real, heartwarming story.


Our last sight before leaving Pula was the Arch of Sergius. This arch was also from the first century AD, and was built to honour Lucius Sergius Lepidus, who fought alongside Augustus during the civil war.


After our damp walk, we ended the day with a traditional Croatian meal. Josh ordered the 'meat' platter' which featured: a chicken skewer, pork chop, veal cutlet, two types of sausages, and one European wiener - with a side of fries. He's well on his way to eating the cast of Bambi and Finding Nemo. :) I was a little less adventurous, but I did have medallions in a mushroom gravy with rice and it was phenomenal. I love that the garnish for my meal was olives. Can every meal include olives, please??


Now time to relax and pack, as tomorrow we are heading to Motovun and Opatija!

Posted by SammCroghan 05:29 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Laid-back day in Rovinj

19 °C

We were slow to get moving this morning due mostly to the 24,000 steps from yesterday's hike though neither of us would admit to being sore in the morning. However, once we did get moving we headed off to the grocery store to stock our apartment with food and a beer or two. We learned some interesting things about Croatia while grocery shopping - that all toilet paper seems to be scented (ours smells like green tea), beer is the same price as Coke, milk isn't refrigerated, and there are big dried fish just sitting in open-air bins at the ends of the aisles. The most popular flavour for chips seems to be paprika and we got the Croatian sausage flavoured chips too.


I had mentioned to Alyssa shortly after arriving in Rovinj that it almost seemed like we were in the 'little Italy' of Croatia. Our host had greeted us with 'ciao' the night before, outdoor brick ovens were in most backyards, and the signs for Rovinj all said Rovinj/Rovinjo... It turns out that Rovinj was part of the Venetian empire for quite some time, changed flags a bunch between 1500 and 1850, and was officially a part of Italy from 1911 to 1945. Unlike Zagreb where the official languages are Croatian/English, here in Rovinj the second official language is Italian.


After a quick lunch at our apartment we walked the twenty minutes to the coast to see Old Town Rovinj. The area surrounding Old Town is well prepared for the arrival of cruise passengers and tourists. Big waterfront warehouses are left abandoned except for the ground floor which is packed with all sorts of shops that sell sunglasses, bathing suits, and anything that could possibly have Rovinj/Croatia written on it. Alyssa has been talking about our upcoming cruise with much excitement/anxiousness and pointed out that there were cruise ships 'just like ours' in the harbour... The ships in port were tiny six deck vessels compared to the 14 deck behemoth that we'll be sailing on. Five more days until the cruise!


We toured around Old Town for a couple of hours checking out the old fort and St. Euphemia's Basilica which overlooks the town. We got lost/adventured walking down the narrow winding streets that seem to have been laid out with zero organization stopping in to check out the many olive oil/truffle/wine shops along the way. We made our way to a nice spot by the water to take in the sunset and weren't disappointed. There was one other person at this spot waiting for the sun to go down and at one point he came over - very excitedly - to point out that there was a dolphin in the bay. Neither of us saw the dolphin... It wasn't until five or so minutes later that he came over to again point out the dolphin as we're pretty sure that he knew neither of us had spotted it the first time. Turns out he wasn't kidding, there was a lone dolphin cruising around the harbour. Sadly we didn't get a picture of the dolphin but the sunset was amazing.


After waiting for the sunset and walking around some more we settled in at a restaurant called Scuba. Fitting that with a name like Scuba that the menu would feature an extensive variety of seafood. Both Alyssa and I had a hard time deciding so we went with the Seafood bake for two. We got to sample some stuffed calamari and two types of 'class I' fish. Not sure what the 'class I' entails but all of the fish was delicious. Paired with the seafood was a generous helping of oven roasted veggies. To finish our meal the restaurant offers coffee/tea/a shot on the house. Alyssa went with tea and I opted for what the waiter told me would be a somewhat sweet yet strong shot... I was presented with a glass filled with ice, some dark liquid, and a sliver of lemon. I can only describe the taste as a mix of Sambuca and Jägermeister with a very very very slight taste of lemon. Let's just say that I'm glad it was free. Tomorrow we're off to Pula to check out some Roman architecture, hopefully we wont get too lost!


Posted by SammCroghan 13:51 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Plitvice Lakes National Park

sunny 12 °C

Today we visited Plitvice Lakes National Park - a UNESCO world heritage site.

Our original plan was to do an hour long hike at the upper lakes, take the ferry to the lower lakes, and do another hour long hike. Somehow, we ended up doing a 10 km hike in the upper lakes... and the ferry ride and lower lakes went as planned! This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as our long hike was beautiful and we had perfect hiking weather. The longer hike also meant we had some reprieve from the crowds. The park was absolutely beautiful - however, there were hundreds of people walking along the boardwalk-style trail. Every time there was a waterfall, everyone would stop to take photos and completely block the path. We were stuck in this slow shuffle for over an hour. Although the scenery was stunning, the crowds were insufferable. Despite the crowds, Josh and I both enjoyed our time here, and the autumn colours added to the scenery.


By the end of the day, we had walked almost 20 km, and still had a 3 hour drive to Rovinj.

Getting lost was apparently the theme of the day, as we somehow our 3 hour drive took 5 hours. Things went badly when we took a winding, rural road in an attempt to find the auto route (main highway). It got worse later on when we missed our exit on the autoroute, and had to get a little lost before we found our way back.

Bonus photo of our car while we're visiting Croatia:


In the end, everything was fine. We found our apartment in Rovinj, our hosts were waiting to help us find parking, and we had the best wood-oven pizza. We also rewarded ourselves with wine and beer to help recover from all the hiking. :)

Tomorrow will be a relaxing day in Rovinj!


Posted by SammCroghan 15:11 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Zagreb - Day 2

sunny 15 °C

After recovering from jet lag, we spent some time exploring Croatia's capital.

We didn't have a plan, or much of a map, but decided to just go wherever we saw something interesting. The first place we ended up was the cathedral (Or the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saintly Kings Stephen and Ladislav - if we want to use it's proper name). We wandered there because it's spires were so visible, but it ended up being a great place to spend some time. We never went into the cathedral, but the square outside was bustling with activity. There were musical groups dressed in traditional clothing, some kind of military dragoons (we never figured out who they were, but they had horses, uniforms, and cutlasses - and were worth watching), and some really weird tourists.


After we had spent enough time at the cathedral, we continued our walk and ended up at an outdoor market. This market was two stories high, and had everything you could imagine - produce, olive oil, wine, meats, cheese, crafts. I LOVE markets, but we couldn't buy much, as we have tiny little suitcases and couldn't buy anything that would spoil. I bought grapes to snack on because there is no way I could go to a market and buy nothing. :) We finished our walk by strolling by the University, a museum, and the Parliament building.


Zagreb was a great first stop because there are almost no tourists. We got to see Croatians just being Croatians: being super fashionable, shopping at markets, and spending the afternoon at cafés drinking coffee and chain smoking like we've never seen (and keep in mind that we've been to Paris!).

Once we had our fill of Zagreb, we hopped in our rental car and drove to Grabovac. We stopped at a beautiful town named Slunj along the way, because it was so pictureque. The drive from Zagreb to Grabovac was interesting, as this area of Croatia was greatly impacted by the Serbian-Croatian war (the first shots were actually fired in Plitvice Lakes - the place we are visiting tomorrow). Many houses along the way were abandoned and riddled with bullet holes.


Tonight, we are staying at a quaint farm house, and tomorrow we will be getting up early to hike through Plitvice Lakes National Park.



Posted by SammCroghan 14:38 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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