A Travellerspoint blog

Birthday week begins in Hvar

sunny 30 °C
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"Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you" - Walt Whitman

Foodie moment

Not a foodie but a beer moment today, and im not even sure if it is a good one! As with most countries, Croatia has many types of beer, but there are many distinctive flavoured ones that caught our eye. You can get orange, lemon or even grapefruit flavoured beers - we tried the orange one and consensus was that it smelt horrible but was pretty drinkable especially on a hot summers day!

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Cultural moment

Our bemusement in regards to what is called a beach in Croatia continued in Hvar as we walked to some along the coast of the island on our first day. The beaches are actually just big rocks on the side of the water. The crazy thing is people lie on the rocks to sunbathe as if it is perfectly natural, which looks terribly uncomfortable! If you want more comfort you can hire a chair to lie next to the water but in Hvar this can be very expensive!

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Wow moment

Hvar Town is stunning, and the best view of it was from our hotel balcony! We had some amazing accommodation whilst in Hvar, we had to climb up some steps to get there (and with our sore muscles from canyoning that was easier said than done!!) but the view was actually breathtaking! We were even lucky enough to have a large old fashioned sail boat framed within the harbour in our first glimpse of the view, which added to the wow factor even more! The town itself is really pretty to walk around, with sail-boats and mega yachts bobbing in the harbour, big open cobble-stoned squares, the sapphire blue sea shimmering in the distance and tiny stalls selling home-made products made from lavender and honey, as well as tables full of fresh fruit, smoked meats and cheeses.

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What we learnt today

Hvar claims to be the sunniest place in Europe with a uniquely sunny microclimate and an annual average of 2724 hours of sun. We certainly cannot disagree with that as the sunshine and blue skies in Hvar seemed to be never ending! It was interesting when we asked our host if they had got any rain from the crazy storm that had battered us in Split the day before (only a one hour boat ride away) and she replied that they had been told they might get some rain but it just never happened! Hanging onto that sunniest place title once again!

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Posted by travellinglise 07:15 Archived in Croatia Tagged hvar Comments (0)

Crazy Canyoning - Croatia style!

storm 20 °C
View Euro trip 2013 on travellinglise's travel map.

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."- Helen Keller

Foodie moment

Situated with only the Adriatic sea separating Croatia and Italy, Split has many Italian influences, especially in regards to food. There are as many pizza and pasta restaurants as those that serve the national cuisine. We decided to try one of them tonight, and we were not disappointed!! A tasty pizza and delicious gnocchi bolognese had us rolling out at the end of the meal!

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Our other foodie moment was me sharing one of my childhood memories of a favourite food with Mark. When i was younger, and living in England, my Aunt Barbara lived in Spain and whenever she visited she brought Turron with her as a treat for me. Turron is a nougat type sweet which is made of almonds, it has a crumbly texture, and as i told Mark the best way to eat it is crumbled on ice cream. He agreed!

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Cultural moment

Today we came up against an annoying cultural moment. We wanted to get tickets to get the catamaran out to the island of Hvar, there were limited seats available and we really needed to catch that particular one (the ferry took us twice as long and dropped us in the wrong part of the island meaning we would have to get a bus). We went to the office two days before when we wanted to get the boat and we were told that they only sell the tickets on the day! I'm not sure why - but i do know its a massive inconvenience!! Tickets go on sale at 7am for the 11 am catamaran so we will have to get up at 8am to get the ticket, then go back to our accommodation and have breakfast/check out.. the worst thing is not knowing if you are even going to get a ticket.. because its so last minute it will throw all our organisation out.

Wow moment

We wanted to try something different and we saw that there was a canyoning tour available, so we booked it in. We were picked up in a mini van and taken for a 1 hour drive into the mountains. There was a group of about 15 of us and we all had to kit up into wetsuits and safety gear. Looking very professional, we made our way down into the canyon, clambering over rocks and sheer cliff faces. Once down into the canyon, our guide told us all to get into the river. We apprehensively jumped in, lucky we were in wetsuits, the water was cold! We rode rapids and swam over waterfalls, climbed over rocks (in and out of the water) and up and down cliffs (including pitch black caves!). We had the opportunity to do a cliff jump which was about 10 meters high and we both did it! The views above and in the canyon itself were amazing! After about 3 and a half hours, the tour was over, lucky for us as we were absolutely knackered! We got back into the van just as a huge storm rolled in, perfect timing! I highly recommend anyone to do canyoning if you have the chance, it was really fun and a great work out!

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What we learnt today

Today, thanks to canyoning, we learnt that we have muscles in places we never knew we had muscles, and they will hurt (badly!) after canyoning!! And I'm sure it will only get worst tomorrow...and the next day...and the next!

We also learnt that Croatia is entering into the EU as of the 1st of July. This will be a big boost for their tourism and economy. I think most people were happy about it, but there is some hesitation from residents about what the expectations will be of them after they join. I guess it is understandable after you learn how hard they fought to become independent from Yugoslavia, and now they perhaps worry they may lose some of that independence.

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Posted by travellinglise 10:18 Archived in Croatia Tagged adventure split catamaran canyoning turron Comments (0)

Split[ting] hairs on the definition of a beach?!

sunny 28 °C
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"I brought sand to the beach 'cos my beach is better.
You can keep ya beach 'cos that beach whatever." - Jay Z

Foodie moment

Tired of walking, we found a restaurant close to our apartment which looked popular called Bistro Toc. Little did we know it was mini Australia as all the tables inside had groups of Australians eating! The food was good though, we tried the traditional stuffed peppers and the not so traditional Taco Salad (trying to ward off scurvy!).

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Cultural moment

We were excited to get to Croatia to hit the beaches, and as the beach was just near our apartment we set off to check it out. This was a culture shock! The beach was a series of concrete steps with swimming pool type ladders that led into the water. There was a a small strip of pebbles, but the majority of the area was made of concrete. This was perfectly normal for the people though, as they all lay and sun-baked on the concrete steps! Another entertaining moment was created when some big cruise ships went past the normally calm bay. It caused waves in the beach, and the children went crazy, hoards of them sprinting madly into the water throwing themselves into the waves, jumping, diving and screaming. It made us laugh to think what they would think of Torquay or Portsea!

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Wow moment

Diocletian's Palace is the 'old town' section of Split, and until the 14th century all residents of Split were contained in its walls. It was built at the start of the fourth century by the Roman emperor Diocletian. It is an amazing place, completely enclosed in walls and entered by a series of ornate arches and gates, or in one case, by going under the walls via stairways. The inside is a maze of tiny laneways and streets leading onto tiny courtyards and large squares. One of the main attractions within the Palace is the Christian Cathedral. The interesting fact is that it was once a a mausoleum and a place of Pagan worship for the Romans. Diocletian was known for being particularly cruel and brutal towards anyone who was Christian instead of Pagan. Once the empire fell and the Christians returned to Split, they built a Christian cathedral right on top of the old Octagonal mausoleum as a statement of the end of their persecution by the Romans. The cathedral also has a large bell tower that you can climb and get amazing views of the whole palace, as well as the ocean and port.

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What we learnt today

Croatians have invented their own sport called Picigin. It was invented in 1908, and was developed because the Croatian water polo team wanted a game to play in the shallow waters at the beach. It is played with a small rubber ball, and has only two rules: Don't let the ball touch the water and You can only use the palm of your hand. There is no winner or points, but the main objective of the game is to pull off amazing aerial manoeuvres in order to keep the ball in the air, and to have fun! We saw lots of groups playing it at the beach, and it was fun to watch with lots of dramatic dives into the water after the ball! Kind of like Hacky sack but with your hands.

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Posted by travellinglise 06:16 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Hmmm.. we may need to 'Split' this bill.....

sunny 30 °C
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Foodie moment

Our first taste of Croatian food was good. A cheese burek for lunch was a quick tasty snack. For dinner was an ok seafood risotto and a new delicious meal - Pasticada. It is a stewed beef meal cooked with carrots, cloves, nutmeg, red wine and diced prosciutto for hours, it is then served with home made gnocchi- yum!!

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Cultural moment

The most distinctive cultural moment that stands out in Split happens at twilight. As the sun goes down, every park bench, pier and wall near the marina has a group of men sitting, drinking beer bought in the convenience store and chatting about the day. It is just a guy thing, and it seems to be taken pretty seriously!

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Wow moment

The promenade in central Split is a great place for a wander, checking out the market stalls and enjoying a sunset beer. The interesting thing is that this one of the few harbours in the world that is able to cater for small local fishing vessels as well as huge cruise ships. Everything has its place and it all works together.

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What we learnt today

Biggest learning curve of the trip so far - Croatia is not cheap! The rising popularity of the country has meant that prices, particularly in the tourist areas, have risen dramatically. It almost seems like Croatia was a country that struggled economically for so long, that now they have a chance to make money they are jumping at every opportunity. Whilst there is still cheap options around, the prices match those in Australia and London - not the Eastern European ones you might be searching for!

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Posted by travellinglise 14:07 Archived in Croatia Tagged split Comments (0)

Bye Bye Barcelona

sunny 22 °C
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"Catalonia: The Next Independent State in Europe." - Banner in the main square in Barcelona. Hmmmm maybe....?

Foodie moment

Time for another delicious, good value 'Menu Del Dia'. As always we ordered different things so we could try more of what was on the menu. Starter included both of us trying Squid ink risotto for the first time... it was actually nice but definitely not a first date food...black dyed teeth and tongues are not attractive!

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Cultural moment

As we travelled around Spain something became more and more obvious to us.... Catalonia (The region where Barcelona is situated) and the rest of Spain (particularly Madrid) don't really get along. We thought it might be a Melbourne vs Sydney type of thing but we found out there is a lot more to it. Until the 18th century, Catalonia was an independent state with their own language, political power and traditions. This ended when the new Bourbon king, Philip V of Spain imposed a unifying legislation and administration across Spain meaning an end to the Catalan ways. The independence of Catalan fluctuated and fell over the following years, depending on the leadership of the time. The most difficult time was under the dictatorship of Franco, where the Catalan language was banned and made illegal, only being kept alive in private conversations. Since Franco's death a level of autonomy has been brought back to Catalonia with the recognition of their language and promotion of their culture, a majority of those that live in Catalonia still fight for Catalonia's full independence. Our guide said that there is a referendum next year, and he is certain that the number of people who will vote for independence will be in the high nineties. Having said that, ultimately it is the government's decision so the voting may be completely irrelevant. So in the meantime, the Catalan people protest by flying their own official flag, often in the place of the Spanish flag!

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Wow moment

Barcelona is filled with many cathedrals, each with their own style and features.

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Wow in a different way was visiting one of the squares in central Barcelona. The walls of Saint Philip Neri Square are spattered with the scars of bullet fire and shrapnel, which occurred during the Spanish civil war in 1938. 42 people, including 20 children, where killed as they sheltered from the bombs in the church. The building has been left with the scars of the war to remind people of the impact of war.

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What we learnt today

Eulalia of Barcelona is the patron saint of the city. She was a 13 year old Roman Christian girl who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians, in the reign of the Romans. The legend of her execution is a great one. She was sentenced to death by being put in a barrel full of blades and broken glass, which was then rolled down a hill 13 times (one for each year of her life). It is at this point that the legend makes her a saint, because when the emperor opened the barrel he was shocked to find her still alive. He was so angry that he then strung her up naked to humiliate her, but at that point it started to snow and her modesty was protected by the cover of snow (hmmm snow in Barcelona?). Then the Emperor was really angry and he chopped off her head, and when he did a white dove was said to fly out of her body and off into the sky. Hence started the legend of Saint Eulalia. It is also said she shares the patron saint title, and is not too happy about it. As you know we went to a festival a few nights back in honour of Saint John, so when it rains on the day of the feast of Sant Joan the people say that is is Eulalia crying that, for one day, she is forgotten and someone else is being worshipped!

Posted by travellinglise 13:33 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (0)

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