Sunday, 2 September 2012
The limestone in the capital forms a series of humps through the city (imagine the Loch Ness Monster). The city is built on the flat bits with wooded parks on the humps. The one area that is different is the castle that is perched high above the city. There is a train that will take you up there and the views from the top are spectacular with a series of churches, cathedrals and streets spreading out with the brooding mountains in the background. There is a tower to climb and a chapel to explore making the whole day well worth while.
It was tempting to put the picture of a bus here as this was the day we transferred from Croatia to Slovenia. We knew it was a long trip but did not appreciate that it could have been a lot shorter as we often parallelled the motorway travelling at a slower speed, behind tractors or peeling away to go and visit another small town. At first it was fine and we could see that Poreč and Rovinj were the stand out locations on the coast in Croatia. We then visited Piran and Portorož in Slovenia which look like lovely place to visit before heading to Ljubljana. The hotel was lovely and we were on the 9th floor with a lovely view towards the heart of the city, the castle menacing perched on the hill to the right, the river winding through the square and the sound of local klezmer music drifting in through the windows.
In 1895 there was an earthquake in Ljubljana and a lot of buildings were damaged. The city was re-built in the Vienna Secessionist style or Art-Deco as you might know it and this had led to a beautiful small city to visit and perfect for a city break.
We spent this day looking around Poreč fully as it was our last day especially the Euphrasian Basilica. There are lovely mosaics from the Roman era, a bell tower with fantastic views over the whole town and the church itself with the gorgeous friezes and gold leaf. The basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Euphrasius who was a 6th century bishop in this area who helped the spread of Christianity.
We liked Rovinj so much we went back and this shows the twisted street in the old city leading up to the church on the hill. The bus journey was straightforward and allowed us to drive down the side of the Lim Channel and bring back memories of Montenegran roads. The only problem with the bus journey back was the inconsistent air conditioning which meant that we sweated every minute of the hour it took to get back to the resort.
In Poreč and the rest of Croatia this was a National holiday as it was The Assumption of Mary (the idea that Mary was taken into heaven either dead or alive depending on the church you ask). Being a feast day we decided to go into Poreč and see what was going on. What a rock concert and big screen had to do with The Assumption was not clear but where there are tourists few people get the day off as happens in other more rural areas of Croatia.
On this day we took a boat trip to Rovinj. This area is full of Venetian aged towns that grew up around ports. On the highest hill there is a church/ cathedral. The old towns are a warren of pedestrianised streets that wander in a charming yet higgledy- piggeldy manner. Along these routes are a series of small cubby-hole shops selling souvenir knick-knacks, art, traditional craft items or cafes. Above the shops are shuttered flats and apartments, seemingly unchanged apart from air-con units and satelite TV dishes. Attached to these old towns are more modern city centres that instead are maybe 100 years old and surrounding them more modern developments. Fortunately the towns in this area seem to have avoided the evil Communist hand of brutalist architecture (either that or it has all been pulled down).
We stopped at the Lim Channel, this is inaccurately described as a fjord but as glaciers never got this far south it is in fact a ria (flooded river valley) carved when the Adriatic Sea was a lot lower.
This was a real lazy day around the pool where we swam, drank, read and chilled out. After a very nice dinner it was back to the pool side for entertainment. This was a variable feast, the highlight of which was the Croatian Elvis who sang phonetically making all the correct sounds but without actually saying words. He was dealt an interesting issue when he had to deicde whether to continue with pelvic thrusts when the only dancer was a 4 year old paying him very close attention.
The coast of Northern Croatia around the town of Poreč is stunnigly beautiful and geographically interesting. The rock is limestone which leads to rocky beaches. People then build platforms close to the sea so that you sunbathe and either walk into the water for a swim or climb the ladder into the sea. The limestone give striking red rendzina soils which are heavily stained with iron. They are also very quick draining which means that conifers are the only trees that grow but this gives fantastic coastal woodland leading to shady coves and tree lined walks. It is also leading to a bit of a water shortage in Istria. There is also minimum high rise development so there is a busy but not packed feel that a lot of resorts can have. The limestone will be a theme we will come back to.
When you arrive at a hotel by the sea on honeymoon there a few things you would like. These include a sea view and a balcony. Room 345 was not the kind of room that dreams are made of. What we got was a view of the woods, disappointing, and a dark room with a kind of strange window. After complaining we got an upgrade despite the fact that the hotel was full and this picture was taken from the window. This was not the only complaint about the rooms we had. In Lake Bled our room with a lake view balcony did not have a balcony, the next room had a good view of a car park and the final room was third. It just goes to show if you are not happy then you get nothing if you keep it to yourself.