Saturday, April 28, 2018

Trip Notes # 2: Slovenia and Croatia

April 27, 2018

When it comes to touring groups, typically we see tourists from the Western countries, Japan and more so, now, from China. We were very surprised to meet a group from Malaysia. Likewise, they were surprised that we knew so much about their country. (Jerry's work has taken us to Malaysia many times. In fact, our first visit to Malaysia was in 1970).

After a full breakfast, saying our good-bys to the hotel staff and keeping our fingers crossed that three GPS devices would be consistent and keep us on course, we headed south and away from the advancing rain.

Our first two stops were a cave network and a castle.

Postojna caves 
The caves are a 24 mile network - filled with unusual formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

A tram took us underground - about 200 yards below the surface

We disembarked and walked about a mile or so up and down steep and wet walkways. Notice the people below. There were other visitors above us!

The formations came in all shapes and sizes. 

 The underground temperature was in the high 40's - low 50's

Water dripped on us only part of the time!

The unusual formations were quite a sight. 

A large chandelier hangs from the ceiling of a vast part of the cave. This area is used for special events i.e. weddings and government activities

Many of these limestone stalactites and stalagmites are tens of thousands of years old - or more!

Besides some insects, there is a unique salamander-like animal that lives in the caves. Food source is so scarce that these animals (able to live for a 100 years) can do without food for 5-10 years.

Predjama castle. 

The castle, known for "ghost-like sounds and movements" and its torture chamber is quite different in that it is partially situated in a large cave. Its defenses are better than most castles in that (essentially) it can only be approached or attacked from the front.

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Our GPS's took us to Croatia via the small, country roads. Even though the devices were programmed for the fastest route, we're not sure that it was the best way to go. There was a freeway heading (part of the time) somewhat away from our destination but freeways tend to be faster. In any event, the dense forests, the animal filled pastures and the overall countryside was beautiful. The green was unlike what we have seen at home. It was a bright lime green accented with a dark forest green coloring. The cows seem happy - eating or just sitting on the ground socializing. Birds chirped away. Horses took little notice as cars passed by.


Not knowing quite what to expect, we got a real "WOW! when we walked into our hotel room. Two balcony doors opened up to the Adriatic Sea and its beautiful coastline

Islands were a few miles in front of us. Looking down from our top level (6th floor) room, we could look down into the clear water and see the shallow water teeming with fish. 

Guests were throwing pieces of bread into the water. The water churned as hundreds if not thousands of fish fought for the food as the sea gulls dove from above for their share of the treats.

We had the feeling as if we were on the balcony of a ship - cruising the Mediterranean. 

 Containers are being staged to be put onto a soon to be arriving cargo ship.

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Toward dusk, we wandered over to the harbor in search of a place for dinner that served fish rather than heavy meats. We stumbled onto a fish restaurant overlooking the water. 

The server indicated that the restaurant was completely booked. Some (mostly men's) group took over the entire place.

Trying to help and never should a customer be tuned away, the server came up with an idea. There was a narrow table-top area with stools outside the restaurant geared more for people that wanted to smoke. 

No one was around. Place settings were arranged, menus were in English, wine was poured, the sun was setting - we were happy!

 Food in both countries is inexpensive. A glass of wine at this restaurant was $1.50. We splurged and followed up the glass with a 1/2 liter - probably 4-5 more glasses of wine. Fish (soup and entree) was fresh and prepared perfectly

What a nice way to end the day!
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Rijeka is a commercial, industrial-type city with a decent size port. On the surface, everything seems okay. It's not. There is very little commerce. There is no industry. Few cargo ships come and go. The fishing activity seems more for the locals than for export. Tourism, what there is, keeps things going - somewhat. Like Slovenia, the economy is not doing well.

The daily market is always fun to watch. Lots of high energy as the vendors are hawking their products, customers buy what they need and people like us simply watch all of the activity. 

All the vendors use an old fashion scale and weight system. 

Asparagus is thinner than what we normally see at home. and, it is sold in bulk!

It seems like most daily markets differ in the way things are set up. Produce is in an open area. Three separate buildings house the meat, cheese and fish. Wines, deli-type food, vinegar and oil were usually found with the cheese. Pastry vendors tended o be outside. 

Local wine is dispensed (sold) in bulk. Customers can bring their containers back to be refilled.

We were involved with one funny situation. We were curious about a pastry that was some sort of fruit filled dough. With limited English, the vendor and a real customer tried to explain what was being sold. The vendor wrapped up some pastries which we thought was for the real customer. This woman assumed that we would want to taste a little of everything. We indicated that we wanted only one type. The vendor unwrapped everything, we paid with Kunas (the local currency) and off went for more touring.

Second night: Our hotel is just outside the town center - situated in (what appears to be for this area) an upscale neighborhood. It turned out that a 15 minute walk from our hotel was a small, intimate restaurant. The sever customized everything that we wanted. We had fresh fish and seafood, local wine and a view overlooking the sea. Another good experience!

Driving in Europe or another country for that matter is always an interesting experience. Driving patterns will differ, getting used to the many round-abouts and understanding the signal sequence is important. In many European countries, the lights go "Red" to "Yellow" to Green." As soon as the signal turns "Yellow," it's time to start the car forward as "Green" will appear in a half-second.

When do Slovakians and Croatians eat? It's strange to see so many "locals" drink morning coffee at a outdoor cafe, drink an alcoholic beverage during noon, partake in some sort of beverage and a pastry in the afternoon and consume another alcoholic beverage during the early evening.

More later...

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