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Montenegro and the Ferry of Kotor

Montenegro Majesty! Montenegro Apartments that reminded me of New York City "As long as we're here" is a questio...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Montenegro and the Ferry of Kotor

Montenegro Majesty!
Montenegro Apartments that reminded me of New York City
"As long as we're here" is a question that resulted in an afternoon visit to the country of Montenegro.
Mall on the left with apartments in the distance
A view towards the north of Kotor Bay
We had a bit of adventure because we decided we needed some local money. So with a local villager's direction, Jo drove us in the inner corridors of a little village in search of a bank. When we found the bank the parking was impossibly sparse and tight. A passel of local children joyfully shouted directions to guide Jo out of the tight spot (WHEW! That was a tight spot).

The bank was an adventure in and of itself, with a long line but it ended with honest-to-god Euros, which have thus far been unseen, considering we were solidly in European Union countries.

After loading up our purses with Euros we enjoying a nice scenic drive. Soon we were at the Kotor Bay ferry port around noon. For the sake of fun & adventure we bought tickets and soon were all on board. We didnt take the car with us, as we were told the town was small enough to get around on foot.
The Kotor ferry dock
The ferry ride was pleasant and short, perhaps 20 minutes tops. It ended in at a little village on the far side. I was hoping to see some sea birds but alas, of birdies, there were none. *lip trembles*
One of the Kotor Ferry Boats with cars aboard
Jo on Board
Approaching the far shore
Reaching the other side of the bay, we walked along the waterfront, heading towards what we 'guessed' might be the center of the town. Two things stuck in my mind. First was the bay's fishies!
Lots and lots of fishies

And a cat.

In my defense she was a pretty puss.

We walked on and on, passing lots of buildings made of pale gray stone.
The streets of Lepetane, Montenegro
Finally, Jo asked someone where the restaurants were located, receiving the reply, "Restaurants?"

Ooo... not a one on this side of the Bay, in Lepetane anyway. Realizing it was either knock on a door and beg for food or head back to the other side of the bay, we strolled back to the ferry.

Back on the western shore, we drove back along the coastal road, stopping for lunch at the Zotto Capellino Restaurant.

The Zotto Capellino

The upper floor was as empty of patrons as the bottom floor was crowded. We settled in, ordering our meals from the waiter. The second story had its own kitchen.

Far more memorable than our meal, I was side tracked by a wayward European Robin that flew in one of the windows, then skipped about, making itself at home. I helped a waiter shoo it out of a wide open window.
Can you see the birdie, on the back of the foremost chair?
The remainder of the afternoon was spent winding out way back to the Villa Odak which frankly, is feeling a little too homey for me. I want to live there and that isn't going to happen. Rats.

Here's a 'just do it and say ya' did' video of the crossings.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River
Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' because unbelievably, that's what was playing on the dining room's giant flat screen TV - un-subtitled at that.

Post breakfast, and my short exploration of the neighborhood, we were off driving south of Togir on our way to Dubrovnik. As we drove along, a map was scrutinized and Jo said she'd been told by a local that we'd be crazy to not visit Mostar, which required entering yet another country. Mostar was only a song and a dance up the road from the freeway we were on. No arguments to the contrary from me. Soon we faced the international border to Bosnia Herzegovina.

When we reached the window, we obediently handed over our passports to the crossing guard. He eyed them idly, then attempted to hand them back.

"NO! STAMP THEM! STAMP THEM!" shrieked to eager traveling women.

He obliged.

The International Border to Bosnia Herzegovina
As we entered the new country - new to us - we both remembered there had been a vicious war there not too long ago really - in the mid 1990s. It was the nastiest of wars too, an genocidal war. Crazy to see beautiful scenery and imagine that any ugliness could dwell there.

The 14th century castle of Počitelj aka 'the Citadel'
Cute countryside church
 Mostar was only about an hour from the international border, and soon we were looking over the city sights as we searched for the 'market place' Jo had heard about.

Bombed out or just wrecked?
A little public square protesting
Finding the market place, we discovered the nightmare of parking there. We were busily ordered into a teeny parking area off a teenier street which once upon a time probably only hosted donkey carts. Once parked we were told a parking fee was due. I offered Euros, and was told, 'No Euros! Marks!' Really... are there any European Union countries that actually use the Euros? I know, but still. After promising we'd return with the parking fee, walked a quarter mile or so back up the narrow road to an ATM. We each got 'markas', then headed back, there paying off the parking fee.

Must admit, the walk was pretty.

Uptown Mostar
The atmosphere was pleasant
Lots of 'Mostar' silk was for sale

The cobblestones were quite a challenge to walk on

The Gelato was as tasty as it was pretty
We were all walked out by the time we toddled back to the car and drove for the border. It was time for even more pretty scenery. Honestly, at one point we were on a mountain road, and looking down from it, we might have been overlooking California's central valley farmlands.

Irrigated farmlands stretched out as far as we could see
Along the mountain drive there were several small wooden, open air shops that also overlooked the valley below. There, honey, lavender oils, dried fruits, and other local products were for sale.

Lots of fresh and dried fruits
Honeys of all sorts, pomegranates, dried figs, nuts and fresh grapes and lemons
Samples of candied fruits & nuts - I hate candied citrus peel but their's was so good I bought a bag
Oils, suffused with rosemary and other herbs
Headed south to Dubrovnik

Our darling Villa Host playing with Jo
We finally made our way down the coast and into Dubrovnik. As we drove there were tantalizing glimpses of a super modern bridge, and even peek at the older part of the city where they film some portions of Game of Thrones.

It took a bit of GPSing to make our way to the Villa Odak where we are booked. The villa is high up on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea.  Parking seemed dicey so Jo fetched out host, a tall gentlemen with a sunny smile. He unlocked a huge bow shaped metal bar that blocked anyone parking without permission. Then, he carried our luggage to our room, or rather, our suite. We were both grateful he did the lugging as there lots of stone stairs down, then steps up to the villa. Yay! I do not enjoy hauling luggage up and down stairs.

The dining room in the Villa, facing the patio overlooking the sea
This is the other view from the dining room, pointing to the entrance and the stairs up to our suite

 We had thought we'd be sharing a room but what we got was two beautiful and separate rooms. We each had  own large bed, desk area and flat-screen TV. We shared a bathroom with shower and a little kitchenette. We are so happy with our suite it is amazing.

Half of my enormous, vault ceiling room
Jo trying to look tiny in her not-as-large but still awesome room
We got ourselves settled into our rooms. I lucked out and got the biggest room with a vaulted ceiling.

Our Suite's cute Kitchenette

From my room I could hear persistan chirping. Outside were hundreds of swifts gliding and calling as they had their last hunt for insects before nightfall. It wasn't only the swifts that were in want of a meal. Jo and I got the scoop from our host on where to eat and we headed out and downhill on foot.

On our left the Adriatic, on our right, the stone wall and walkway downhill (or up!)
The march downhill was about a mile, which I as horrified to realize I was in for an uphill march later. No worries though, the hill was a long, long, gentle slope so I knew I could do it. It was a beautiful walk. High stone walls to the north along a long downhill road. On the south we could peer over low stone walls to see the ocean below or look at the various little hotels and family dwellings along the route. At the bottom of the hill we saw the restaurant we think our host told us about. It was only a few thousand feet more to the old city of Dubrovnik but that's for another day.
Down the hill is a view of the old Dubrovnik - can you see the Khaleesi on the parapet?

At the little restaurant we ate on the patio. We were daring in our choice of meals. I had a special wedding beef served with gnocchi. Looked dreadful, tasted wonderful. Jo had a meat 'sampler' plate of different types of sausages and meat cuts served with French fries, and she said it was pretty good too.

This is what the beautiful walk downhill looked like on the way back up
So it was a nice and fairly energetic ending to a long, long day. Tomorrow our southern Croatia adventures really begin!
View of Lokrum Island from the Villa back patio

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Zagreb to Togir

Who knew that Croatia uses Monopoly Money for most transactions?

After a good night's rest, I was up early, headed back across the wide street  to the train station. There I withdrew some Croatian money from an ATM machine and arranged for a rental car. I was told a car rental agent would meet us. So an hour later Jo and I were at the station with our luggage.

Rental Car arguing with HQ on our behalf

A friendly car rental associate showed up and no surprise, he spoke better English than we did. He had all sorts of gizmos and electronics to gather our information & payment. So when our passports and such were all checked over we signed the rental paperwork.

 After a cursory examination we drove off in an serviceable little white car.
Final check by the train station, just before zipping off with our Croatian Rental Car
The town of Zagreb was large and it had loads of apartment buildings that strongly reminded me of New York City's project housing. The similarity ended in that the Zagreb buildings were dour, gray and are probably a hold over from the World War II era when Croatia was still a part of Yugoslavia.

Once we left the bustling little city of Zagreb, we drove through lots of countryside. I was today's driver so it was Jo that took most of the shots.

 For me, the only maddening bit of our journey was there were lots and lots of  hawks along the highways, but no shoulders to the roads, ergo no possible way to stop so I could view or photograph the birds.
We drove past at least one national park 
We drove through lots of tunnels, one of which took several minutest to pass through. Some of the tunnels, like the one below, were labeled as overpasses that connected wildlife habitats. Sadly, we saw no wildlife at all, not even a squirrel or bunny.
Wildlife Overpass

After a few hours driving we hit the Mediterranean coast and began the drive along the sea, headed south.
Croatian flag on a private yacht along the Croatian Adriatic.
We'd gotten by most of the day with snacks or chips whenever we stopped for gas or a bathroom break. So we were getting pretty peckish by the time we reached small town called Zadar. It's a small town that we hear is quite young for these parts, having been founded only 3 thousand years ago. In Zadar, we managed to park - never an easy thing. We seated ourselves in a little open air restaurant Restaurant Kornat. There the waiter was v. kind to the two tired ladies. He treated us to free appetizers - some tuna pate with olive oil and fresh bread. Yum!
The Kornat Restaurant by a bay
The starters were followed by tubs - yes tubs - of fresh mussels. Don't believe me?

Yep, we had tubs o' mussels

I had a split order of the mussels &
 'Venus warty clams' as seen above. 
Refreshed, we climbed back in the car and headed south again. We drove on 90 minutes or so to a second little town on the sea, Togir. By now it was getting dark and we were getting fuzzy brained.

Fuzzy or not, it was Jo to the rescue. She went into a nearby BnB and secured us two rooms, which so late in the day was yet another miracle. We each had our own room as there were none left with two beds. So, Jo took an upstairs room, and I took one on the street level. Whew! It was a long but pleasant day.

Sunset over Togir