Monday, 3 May 2010

101 dalmatians

Written 1st May

Dalmatian islands that is.  Although I don't actually know how many there are.  And we haven't been to most of them.  But we have seen lots in the last couple of days, scattered across the horizon, suspended somewhere between the sea and the sky in a haze of blue.



On leaving Brela, we headed to Ploce for the night and caught the first ferry out in the morning to Peljesac, a mountainous peninsula which juts out north of Dubrovnik.

The ferry choice was part direction of travel, north to south it is the most direct way to get to Korcula, and part necessity as not all of Croatia is connected by land, there is a little bit of coastal Bosnia i Hercegovina (BiH) in between and sadly, much as we would like to visit, we can't as we have no car insurance.  :(  this is also why our onwards journey to Greece will be by way of Bari and Brindisi in Italy instead of driving down the coast through Montenegro and Albania.  Which is a real shame as we are loving our former yugoslavia tour so far.

Still, not to be and lots of other world to see too.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, parked high up in a layby with a glorious view down over the Peljeski Channel and over to Korcula island. 

So beautiful we kinda got stuck there, lingering over breakfast and chatting to various people who pulled up in cars or small tour buses, and didn't make it down to Orebic, whichwas to be our jump off point for a day trip (well afternoon by this point!) to Korcula, until midday. 

To expensive to take Jules on this jaunt - no need to take a small van to a maze of typical streets if you can avoid it! - we nearly ended up on the car ferry as foot passengers, but for the intervention of a girl in a newstand, of whom we enquired about the advisableness of parking in a suspiciously free (in both senses of the word) and seemingly unrestricted parking space, right next to the pay parking, and a random bloke who asked if I needed help whilst I was looking for the (closed) tourist office.  Both of whom directed us to the completely unsigned passenger ferry which dr drops you right in town, rather than the car ferry which doesn't - very good of them!

As another mediaeval, walled, seafaring town, crammed onto a peninsula, Korcula is lovely.  Alledgedly the birthplace of Marco Polo (and the town doesn't let you forget it! "Marco Polo ate great food here and the tradition continues to this day', 'Marco Polo sailed to India and brought back the secret of sweet ice, try our ice cream' etc, etc), it is quaint and pretty, especially when basking in golden sunshine.  

Surrounded by walls punctuated by towers, the old town is built in a fishbone pattern, with a central spine street leading straight through from the Veliki Revelin Tower (the southern land gate),

up to St Mark's Square and the church and down the otherside to the sea, with all the other narrow side streets coming straight off it at right angles and down to the sea walls. Apparently, the streets on the eastern side are slightly curved to minimise the effect of the cold winter bura which blows in bitterly from the northeast, and straight on the western side so that the refreshing maestral could cool the town in the heat of summer.  This is probably true but the streets are so narrow and stepped, it is hard to tell...

It is a very pleasant place for a wander, with ye olde artsy crafty shops and nice smelling restaurants, but extremely small - our enforced 3.5 hours due to ferry times was definitely more than enough, so much so that we had time to walk round the bay

and  to the watchtower at the top of the hill and take in the beautiful view from the road up to the top.  We are so used to working to our own timetable and going when and where we please, it is a bit odd having to work to someone else's!

Back on dry land, we headed onwards and southwards and through Postup and Dingac where both our original Pazin atlas-circlers and Valentine  -someone else who very kindly responded to our electronics appeal yesterday, thank you! - had recommended vineyard visits and the very best wine.  Sadly they were all shut by the time we passed through and having since found some Dingac in a supermarket, probably very much out of reach of the van-dwelling  budget.  Definitely something to come back for!

And so onwards to Ston, where we parked in the noisiest layby yet.  But not traffic or catcalling yoof noise, a cacophany of bird calls, crickets chirruping and massive toad belches like a frogs chorus - simply amazing!

This morning the sun was shining gloriously again - although we have since been told  that this is unseasonably hot weather for the time of year, makes a change from the usual chorus about how unusually bad the winter has been which we've had everywhere else! - and we set off into Ston, a town which is famous (so it says) as having 'the Great Wall of Europe' and 'the West's answer to China', in the form of its 5.5km stone walls which carve up the hillside and encircle the town. 

Impressive it is but Great Wall of China it is not - or so Will says, having been - and what about Hadrian's wall in your survey of great walls in europe??  It is impressive nonetheless, and our first walled mountain which makes a change from walled cities :)

It seems they are renovating the walls, so, contrary to the indication in the lp, they are no longer free to visit, in fact, one of the first bits of renovating they have done is the big shiny signs with the price - they missed putting one up in the near vertical set of crumbly steps we climbed though :) 

Fab view of the salt pans though - a salt museum, it is open but we have run out of money this week!  typical - the quest continues...

it looks like, once they've finished, you will be able to climb right up to the top which will be pretty cool.  We tried to find a path up the neighbouring hill for a view, but failed and walked along the shore instead.

The next idea was a trip to Mljet - again recommmended by Valentine and somewhere I fancied as it is apparently the island where Odysseus was held captive by Calypso for 7 of his 10 year odyssey  - yep, I finally finished it the other day, pretty epic!  Having a trash break before I embark on Dante :)

But in the end, with ferries to italy in mind and eating up the budget, we decided not to and instead spent the rest of the day on the beach looking at Mljet - well, we can't risk getting ensnared there and staying for seven years!!

Beach lazing done, we headed southwards with the glorious islands always in view.  Kiri had also recommended the arboretum at Trsteno but we got there just as it was closing so another one we will skip for this trip - lots to come back for!

Stopping just before the big bridge for the glorious view down to Dubrovnik, over the Gruz and Lapad areas of town, we headed high up above the town to Srdj mountain, where Kiri recommended we could park undisturbed.

Turns out, as well as a supplier of bits, Kiri is a bit of a kindred spirit in terms of van parking, suggestions of lovely places to go and unlikely fettling projects - he and Will are now communing unintelligibly about things electronic on some higher plane (or at least a higher frequency, he is an rf engineer after all... ;) ).   

The only slight worry, to me anyway, is his view of Will's project "OMG, so you are making something like a homebrew ECU... Don't get me wrong, your efforts are great, but electronic circuit development without available parts, equipment and electricity hookup, while travelling in a 1978 VW Van, that is just a bit too much, even for me :)" apparently makes his various crazy projects seem perfectly normal... (although if you put it like that...) As Will says, the problem with the internet is that there is always someone wierder than you out there - I'm just not sure about Will being the 'someone wierder' who justifies everyone else's craziness... ;)  

But anyway, Kiri was spot on with his parking suggestion.
And wow.

What a view!

The switch back road is not for the faint hearted - bit of a white knuckle ride, willing Jules up and round the corners - but wow!

We got there just in time for the most amazing sunset - what a show!  I don't know why the whole town wasn't up there.

The parking spot was exactly where Kiri said, and as he said, it is Dubrovnik's make-out mountain...  So there was briefly another car there, but for some reason they left once we started wandering round the undergrowth with torches trying to find somewhere we could get a view.... Of the town of course ;)

So Dubrovnik tomorrow - can't wait!

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