Monday, August 31, 2020

A wander though the lanes of ancient Split, Croatia

A wander though the lanes of ancient Split, Croatia

Is there really such a thing as bad news?

August 31, 2020

"Peace isn't an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth; it's an experience that's expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened."

 ~ Pema Chodron

What a week! As in, wow do I get a do-over on this week? And the usual answer: no amigo, you don't. My 1991 VW camper van, with 355,000 kilometers (220,000 miles) has always used a fair amount of oil, but it recently started burning more oil, and putting out more visible exhaust from the tailpipe. I took it to a mechanic and he gave me the unhappy diagnosis - the engine needs to be rebuilt. How much does that cost, how long would it take, where should I get it done, can I still drive it, I'm on vacation how dare you give me this bad news! Is it still a vacation when you've been at it for 10 years? Hey it's my vacation and I get to set the rules!

There's not enough time to repair it before I have to leave on the 11th of September, yes I can still drive it, yes I will be embarrassed by the amount of smoke it puts out, no I don't know where I can get it repaired. One possibility is that I buy a new-to-me/used camper van in Germany. Details to be determined, but that's a cool idea. And probably still get the engine redone, who knows. It depends on me being allowed back in Schengen, which isn't a given.

The day after I got the news about my van I went to see the local glaucoma specialist and got another unhappy diagnosis. My glaucoma is worse, my eyes are for shit, and it wouldn't be so bad if I was 80 years old, according to the doctor. If I got to choose, which I don't, I would rather have two broken vans in exchange for two eyes that worked.

But what does it mean to have bad news? Is there objectively such a thing? Bad news really means nothing more than: this is unpleasant, and I wish it was different. I have a simple saying that I like: "That's not a problem, that's a condition." No one wants their car to break down and no one wants to have problems with their eyes. But vans break down, and bodies break down, and one day, sooner than we would like, it all breaks down, everything, without exception. Make peace with that fact! You don't have to wonder if it's true. 

So what's the best solution for me and my broken down van and my broken down eyes? Duh, it's to go hiking in the Dolomites in northern Italy, one of my favorite places in the world to hike. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to hike like that. (Neither do you, by the way…) So get at it while the getting's good! As I like to say, don't go hiking to be happy; be happy, and go hiking!

I'm not quite as casual as I sound. I'm really not happy about my new conditions. But it's all kind of obvious if you think about it - I just don't get a choice, and neither do you. Live your fleeting and precious life like it's temporary. Because it's temporary! 

Love always, lovely people!


Just after my glaucoma diagnosis I was sitting in my van pondering the news and wondering what to do, and I decided to go visit the ancient old town of Split.

It was built in 305 AD as a palace for the retiring Roman emperor, Diocletian. It really was a massive undertaking, parts of which you can still see.

I always find these things funny, a museum based on TV show that's a few years old in a city that's 1,600 years old. It reminds me of when I went to Salzburg, Austria and saw all the Sound of Music tours. Seriously?!

This is one of the entrance gates leading into the old city.

I'm trying to work on my addictive stone obsession. Just kidding, I'm not working on it at all! I love it.

The Roman legions happened to be walking by. 

This is one of the main fortified entrances into the city. It's designed so you could easily surround attackers to defend the palace.

Look at the thickness of those stone walls! Incredible.

This is a fancy carved arch above an entry door to a palace that was built in the middle of the 15th century.

Most of what you can see here is supposedly from the original construction of the palace. It all looks ancient to someone like me, but a lot can change in 1,600 years. Some of it might be only like a 1,000 years old.

This is a central square of the palace. There are red marble columns that were brought in from Egypt, along with Sphinx statues. A guide could talk for an hour about what you can see in this photo. I'm not that person. So, walking forward and underneath that arch you come to...

… the sea front, which has been greatly expanded since the original construction. Back then it was a relatively small stone dock which they think was built primarily for a quick escape in the event of an attack.

This is one of the most popular and visited parts of the old city, called the Riva. Lined with restaurants and bars, and just behind them is the palace walls.

(The End)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Croatian Conundrums: Plitvice National Park

Croatian Conundrums: Plitvice National Park

August 15, 2020

"Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return."

 ~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

I realized 10 days ago that I had been in Europe for a full year, a first for me. I also realized that I have been traveling without a laptop computer for that same amount of time. The things I'm able to do on my phone would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago. I'm able to procrastinate at a really incredible pace, not many people can keep up. Are you just a beginning procrastinator? Well don't aspire to my lofty attainments, because it will just leave you frustrated. Don't put off everything at once, spread them out.

I've been in Croatia now for two full months, which leaves me only one more month before I need to exit. I've spent most of my time in the mountains, around a thousand meters elevation where it's dramatically cooler and more comfortable for me. Plus I love hiking in the mountains, and I think laying in the sun is a kind of torture anyway. I still haven't been in the sea once the whole time I've been here.

For the last couple weeks I've been working my way south, in the direction of Split, one of my favorite areas in Croatia. I've been mountain-hopping on the way, but yesterday I realized that I was driving through Plitvice. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations, and deservedly so. I'd been there four years before and thought about not going at all this time. At the last minute I thought, why not, just go in for a short visit since you're here. Hence, this scintillating text followed by some photos that may be worth your time.

Does it really make a difference, ultimately, what holiday destination we choose, or where we go for dinner, or what dish we order when we're there? Sometimes it seems like it does, but I can tell you with some degree of certainty: it does not. These fleeting experiences, they may seem magnificent or special or boring in the moment, but none of them persist. They come, last for some time, and then go. 

"Confronting with passion the conundrum of life," Mr. Baldwin says. What do you think he means by that? More importantly, what would YOU mean by that?? It's worth a ponder…

Love always, even when I don't write,


The river that runs through this park is really incredibly clear, and parts of it are an amazing turquoise blue.

I didn't boost the colors on these photos, although I can't speak for the intentions of my camera. You may know that modern camera phones are designed to produce photos that are pleasing to our senses. 

Some phones will try to capture more realistic colors, while others will boost the intensity of the colors. But enough of that for now, it looks like some waterfalls are peeking through the branches of the trees.

That seems a little unlikely now, doesn't it?

More like impossible! The water is filled with a mineral that tends to bind and grow where there is pressure, for example the water running over the top of the rock. As a result it naturally tends to level itself out and make these amazing waterfalls where the flow is not centered in one spot.

This waterfall is challenging the theory from my last paragraph.

It looks like I'm here by myself taking photos. What you don't see are oh-so-many people taking selfies and posed couple photos, blocking the rather narrow wooden boardwalk. I think they may have been overcome with their own beauty and couldn't simultaneously contemplate that there were others in their world. It must be dangerous for Narcissus to be surrounded by so much water.

I'm not sure what makes this photo thinks that he belongs in this collection.

The up close and personal waterfall. Perfect for: Narcissus selfies! I don't have any false teeth yet, but I kind of whistle when I say that.

This waterfall works its way through the forest in a place where it doesn't seem like there should be a river.

There are kilometers of boardwalk that run through the park, and endless pools.

At 2:02 p.m., here comes the little ferry to take us across this narrow part of the river.

By 2:06 p.m., it was raining buckets.

Good job Dad! I walked from that little boat to where I'm standing to take this photo, and within that short period I was soaked to the skin. Seemed like a good time to call it a day...

(The End)