This year instead of dealing with the craziness on Villagio (on post housing) for trick or treating, we decided to just do the ward trunk or treat. It was much more pleasant.
My parents’ last few days in town we stayed local. We explored a little bit of Vicenza (while waiting for the next train the Venice, as we missed the last train before reposo). Then jumped on the train to Venice in the late afternoon for a quick walk through Venice and a boat ride back to the train station through the grand canal.
Venice can be very exhausting (i.e. the time Nick made Nicole and Dustin walk probably ten miles all over it…) And I’m pretty sure I had already run my parents ragged. So we simply walked to San Marco square, then jumped on the grand canal and called it a day. It is so amazing to me that we live close enough to Venice to just spend a half day there on a whim. I’m not sure I could count on both hands the number of times we have been there now. I think my parents enjoyed it, it is a unique experience. I got them to kiss under the bridge of sighs almost at sunset. (It is said that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss by doing this, granted I think you’re supposed to be in a boat actually under the bridge, but I think this counts.) This bridge is said to be the most beautiful bridge, which is interesting given it’s history of leading prisoners to their death.
A ride on the grand canal at night is my favorite. You can see inside all of the beautiful villas by the light their glowing Venetian glass chandeliers.
And on their last day with us, we went to our favorite olive oil place and then took an easy hike on the Grenadiers loop up near asiago. This is like a mini version of the 52 tunnels. It also includes tunnels built during WWI, but it’s a much less strenuous hike, and still gorgeous.
And since we were near Asiago we of course had to go see it and buy some delicious cheese! YUM.
My parents were troopers! They dealt with a lot of fun kid issues on this trip (not so much a vacation when you’ve got kiddos along). They were so patient. We really loved having them here and exploring some new territory in Croatia with them. Ciao for now, we’ll miss you!
Just a little off the road on our way home, we stopped to see a really cool castle in Slovenia. You can see from these photos why it’s neat. While it may look like you’d be cornered in this castle, there is actually a tunnel through to the other side.
A story I just found on Wikipedia about the castle that is too funny not to share:
The castle became known as the seat of Knight Erazem Lueger (or Luegger), owner of the castle in the 15th century and a renowned robber baron. He was the son of the Imperial Governor of Trieste, Nikolaj Lueger. According to legend, Erazem came into conflict with the Habsburg establishment, when he killed the commander of the Imperial army Marshall Pappencheim, who had offended the honour of Erazem’s deceased friend, Andrej Baumkircher of Vipava. Fleeing from the revenge of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, Erazem settled in the family fortress of Predjama. He allied himself with the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus and began to attack Habsburg estates and towns in Carniola. Thus enraged, the Austrian leader commissioned the governor of Trieste, Andrej Ravbar, to capture and kill Erazem. This is when the impregnability of Predjama Castle was tested.
For a year and a day, Erazem was besieged in his fortress. But to the dismay of his adversaries, he continued to survive and taunt the attacking soldiers by pelting them with cherries. They could not understand how he was obtaining supplies. As far as they knew, there was only one way in and out of both the valley and castle; but the Erazem knew better. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Erazem knew of a secret tunnel leading from the castle, which allowed him to travel to the nearby village of Vipava and collect supplies, including hoards of fresh cherries when in season.
But it seemed that the soldiers were to have the last laugh. With the strategic placement of a small signal flag, a servant of Erazem was bribed to reveal when his master was in attendance at that place where the elusive knight and even the noblest of men needed to go after consuming lots of cherries and wine: the outhouse. Unfortunately for Erazem, the toilet, situated on the top floor and at the very edge of the castle, was the one place that was not impregnable. When the moment came, the flag was placed there by the treacherous servant. A single cannonball was launched, and Erazem was literally caught with his trousers down.
And our last stop on our way home on Sunday was in Ljubljana, Slovenia. We did a free tour of the town and learned lot’s of interesting facts which I now cannot remember (Mom? Dad? Do you remember any highlights??)
The tour started in front of this “red” church. While waiting for the tour to begin we met an Irish lad who had a childhood friend who fell from the cliffs of Moher and survived. The story sounded very familiar, a woman we had stayed with in Ireland near the cliffs had told us a similar story about her son. Turns out, it was the same guy. Random connection.
AMAZING street performers. Possibly the best we’ve encountered in Europe.
I remember how loudly these leaves crunched under Jonah’s feet as we struggled to hear the tour guide.
I do remember that this building was designed to look like fabric.
And this dragon bridge is very symbolic of Ljubljana. The same dragons are on the castle at the top of the hill in the middle of the town (we did not venture up).
When we first got out of the car, I could have sworn I saw a white rat come out of a tree for some locals with a piece of bread. No one else saw it so I am not sure they believed me, but I convinced them on our way back to the car to wait with me while I attempted to lure the rat out again with some food. Sure enough, there is a white rat living in this tree.
Saturday we spent much of the day driving up the beautiful coast and stayed the night on the island of Krk. I had heard good things about it, but it was pretty much a ghost town when we arrived. I am thinking it is more fun in the summer, as there are beaches and whatnot. We did however stay at the house of a VERY nice German man and his Croatian wife. They were so hospitable, he insisted that we drink his favorite beer that he brings back from Germany (we told him we do not drink, but he was very insistent and left it in our fridge anyways). They were so sweet.
We wandered the little town and found it charming despite the millions of cats. I lost count at about 30 cats. There appeared to be some hikes around the island, and I have heard there is good diving…but we pretty much just spent the night.
We arrived in Split Thursday evening. We were able to find parking a few blocks from our downtown apartment that we rented. If my Dad had not been along for the ride, I am not sure we would have been able to utilize the small parking spot we found with our large van, but he made it fit. (My Dad can parallel park like nobody’s business, I should have taken a photo).
Friday morning we set out to discover Split’s market scene. It was bustling. There was all kinds of produce, nuts and lot’s of lavender oil. And of course since it is a tourist destination there was some “stuff” as well. I loved their scales for the produce, and all the old ladies(just makes you want to know their stories). There was also a fish market a few blocks away, with some fun looking and stinky fish.
Split, Croatia is probably most famous for “Diocletian’s palace”. A palace built by the Roman emperor Diocletian. It is really interesting to see as the city of Split is essentially a medieval city built in and around the ruins of the palace. Many of the streets are what would have been the hallways of the palace.
There is this big room with a round ceiling with a big hole in it (did not originally have a hole, would have been a complete ceiling with some beautiful artwork), it was once the impressive entry to the living quarters in the palace. Now it makes for some wonderful acoustics for klapa singers.
Nick, Jonah and my Dad decided to climb the bell tower to burn some energy (mostly Jonah’s energy…) Upon returning, Nick informed me that the windows were all wide open and a bit scary (easy to fall out of for the likes of Jonah). But everyone survived and got an amazing view of the city.
Mom and I decided to use the other “half” of the ticket from the bell tower climbing to go check out the Cathedral of St. Domnius. Originally, it was built as Diocletian’s mausoleum. In the middle ages the Christians in the area decided to kick out Diocletian (who was notorious for his cruelty to Christians) and create a church. It is considered the oldest church still in it’s original form, and if I remember correctly, is also the smallest.
Towards the end of the day we wandered up the “Marjan hill”, the large city park and wooded recreation area. It was beautiful up there, a bit of a hike (especially with two kiddos), but a nice break from the city below.
After our stroll in the park we wandered our way down the hill to find some dinner and stroll the boardwalk along the sea.
And last but not least, my favorite moment in split. This young man with down syndrome was enjoying the didgeridoo immensely. He was smiling and just taking it in. I love that the street artist was so willing to engage with him as well. And you can see the people in the crowd looking on as well, everyone passing would just smile. I love this picture. It’s just so universal, every where you go in the world people are still people. Even when they speak different languages and maybe do things a little differently.
Thursday, October 24, 2013….
After staying the night in a nice little apartment (for super cheap, love Croatia!) in Broderica, we explored Krka falls. It was not as expansive as Plitvice falls (which we went to with Taylor on his visit), but still gorgeous! There was a fun zipline to play on near where we caught the boat. Then we got on a boat and road up the river a little ways to where all the falls started. There were some big boats on the river, as it connects to the Adriatic sea.
After Krka falls, we made our way to Split. On our way, we became fascinated by the stone fences that appeared all over the hill sides in strange patterns. We came to one spot where there were lot’s of tiny squares formed by these stone fences. After looking at google maps, I discovered that it was a vineyard. I then googled the vineyard and found it is possibly one of the oldest vineyards in the world, dating back as far as the 11th century. So we stopped. And we discovered a cute little town next to it called Primosten, with a great beach for skipping rocks. The town was not too lively as everything touristy in Croatia shuts down at the end of September, but it was still fun to see as it is situated on a piece of land that juts out from the mainland. Apparently it used to have draw bridges and big walls. I just love the history behind all these towns.
For dinner we stopped in Trogir, a touristy little town outside Split. It was originally settled by Greeks, but then influenced by Romans, Venetians and many others. It has a high concentration of historic castles and churches and is a delight to stroll around. Although we spent our time looking for food…and getting hungrier by the minute (hence the lack of good photos..). There were not a lot of options (I think maybe things had closed due to the off season) and we sat down in one place and then discovered the prices and had to bail. (Which is Nick’s FAVORITE thing to do, lol, not really). We did eventually find something, right on the waterfront, with street “entertainment” if you can call it that…this guy was singing along to a recording, it was pretty bad.
My purse broke while we were there and we happened to stumble upon a shop where you could watch them working with leather and my Dad had the great idea to ask them to fix my purse, which they did, for a few bucks. I love all the local, hand crafted shops that you can find all over Europe.
Our next adventure was finding somewhere to scuba dive. We were successful in finding the worlds SLOWEST boat to take us out in the Kornati islands for a dip. I kind of feel bad making fun of their boat because the guys with the dive shop were super nice. They even let Jonah drive the boat (remember, it was super slow so this wasn’t really a problem…although it may have taken us some extra time swerving all over the place on the way back).
Look closely at this photo. This is the last time my Dad had his sense of taste on the trip. Poor guy! After the dive he lost all sense of smell and taste and it didn’t come back until he went to the Doc after getting home and took an antibiotic for the sinus infection he apparently had (not fun to be sick on vacation!). And if you know my Dad, tasting things is really important to him. I felt really bad for him…but we got to scuba dive!!! The guys saw an old shipwreck which is really cool. And then I did the second dive with Nick, which was super shallow and they made us come up after not very long because the waves were getting too big and we were close to shore, but we saw some sea horses. Diving is a different experience every time.
After our Tuscan trip with my parents, we took a day to get regrouped and geared up for a trip to Croatia. We were able to rent a big van so that we could all fit in one vehicle. With Nick driving we made our way down the Croatian coastline. First stop, Zadar.
Zadar has a really cool solar powered changing light display every evening called “Greeting to the Sun” and a hauntingly beautiful sea organ that is soothing enough to put my dear old Dad to sleep on a warm Croatian afternoon.
The waves push the air up through the holes of the organ creating sound.
Our accommodations. Not five star but it was beach front property. And a shot of our big trusty van!
My beautiful Mama at a beautiful pit stop along the coast.
Zadar was beautiful. White stone everywhere, beach front, boats, fruit market, medieval walls and a neat old church named after an Irish saint. What’s not to love?
Look at these two young folks “hangin” out with the cool kids. I think they are doing a pretty good job of blending in, just need to work on speaking some Croatian. Jonah made a friend at this park who yacked his ear off in Croatian and Jonah talked right back in English and somehow it just works. Play is the universal language. And I’m not just saying that because I am a recreational therapist…it’s just true people!
On our way to Perugia for the Europe’s biggest Chocolate festival we stopped in a random little town on lake Trasimeno that was really pretty. It had the world’s largest frying pan where they apparently cook some fish up every year for a festival.
And on to a HUGE festivale di Chocolate! It was a bit crowded and crazy, but we did get to eat lot’s of chocolate. Jonah got a balloon sword, and then popped it by swinging it at a stranger, he was very upset. Grandpa got him a new one and then he didn’t want it…the joys of children. (And of course the patience of Grandparents!)
Some of the booths were swarming with bees, which scared business away…I felt bad for them! I think it was the booths that had real fruit flavored chocolate.