Friday, April 30, 2021

Krka Zadar Zagreb and other totally normal Croatian names

"You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck."
 ~ Rumi

I'm writing today from Belgrade, Serbia, but this post is from a "Road Trip!!" with the lovely Julieta, who came to visit me in Split, Croatia, in January. Her preference is to buy a flight 30 seconds after we agree on when she comes, and my preference is kinda always for her to fly into one location and out of another. Cuz: road trip, hello! The weather forecast wasn't really favoring a wild camping road trip, but I stubbornly insisted, and Julieta is nicer than me, so that was that! She'd fly into Split, in the pretty-far south of Croatia, and we'd work our way up to the capitol, Zagreb, in the pretty-far north. It's not a great distance, normally, but you can squeeze in some good misadventures if you try. There's a map below.
We stayed in Split a few days and went on some great hikes. Hiking, wild camping, road tripping, lovely Argentinian lass - come on, that works. Enjoy the pics!

The powerful Julieta, who controls the weather, more or less. When she comes to visit, it's going to be raining or snowing. Sometimes both.

Do we have any commercial farming in the US that uses plots this small? I'd be surprised if we do, not that I know anything about it.

Some type of lettuce, I guess. Ask someone who eats salad - I'm more of a pizza guy. Salads are for rabbits.

We went for a nice hike up the mountain, beginning and ending here.

Another hike. You may recognize the peninsula in the distance. That's the ancient city of Split, built in 305 A.D. as the home of a retired emperor, Diocletian. It's incredible what they built, including an aqueduct from about 7 km (4 miles) away to bring spring water to the town.

Sunset on the way back to Split.

Does anyone recognize this? I'm not sure you would. But...

It's featured in a famous TV show in the US...

Game of Thrones! The real name is Klis Fortress. The setting is spectacular. That's Split in the distance.

Here's our little road trip, starting from the bottom of the map in Split and heading north. You can click the map (or any other photo) to see a larger version.

This was the first day of a road trip from Split to Zagreb, over 4 days. This little affectionate furball started following us like a dog as we walked along the wooden path. It didn't last long.

This is Krka National Park, famous for its waterfalls.

The water is rich in calcium bicarbonate, which turns to stone when it's under pressure, such as going over the edge of a waterfall - or coming out of a faucet in your home. That makes the stone terrace walls naturally seek their own level, so you get these spectacular curtain waterfalls.

I imagined these waterfalls being really ancient, like many thousands of years old. But a sign says they were formed about 7,000 years ago. Relatively recent. Um, what was there before??

This scene in high season is usually absolutely packed with swimmers. The government recently decided to ban swimming in the park.

It's not unusual for thousands of people to come through daily here. On this day we saw five people!

Downstream from the waterfalls I had found this small boat dock a few years ago, and I've wild camped here several times. We spent one night here.

Windy and sunny the next morning.

We visited Zadar, which, come on, sounds like somewhere that Superman from. It's one of the oldest cities in Europe, founded in 900 B.C.

We wild camped on the sea just down the road from here. It was a beautiful spot - and I didn't take a single photo of it. Oops.

It didn't seem very cold, and as we were driving towards Plitvice (the other famous waterfalls) into the mountains I thought I saw snow. Impossible! By the time we got to the apartment we'd booked, up this little hill to the left, it wasn't clear we would make it. And the little van that could, couldn't. The tires spun and we couldn't get up to to the place. We ended up cancelling and driving a couple more hours to lower elevation and no snow.

And the next night: Zagreb. Here's the view from the 8th floor of our hotel. Julieta needed a coronavirus test to fly home a couple days later, and I was leaving "soon" to drive to Turkey! Cool idea. But Bulgaria was, and still is, closed to Americans, and I needed to cross it. So two nights in this hotel turned into 36 nights as I decided what to do. I never decided, I just left! On to Serbia...

The spa area on the 10th floor. No complaints.

The evening view from the window. 

(The End)

Wednesday, April 07, 2021


April 7, 2021

"Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” 

 ~ Alan Watts

When did I last send a newsletter - October??!! I’m pretty sure the internet is broken. I’m searching for a scapegoat as I write this…

I’ll save my allotted “reader attention span” for the many photos posted below. But to almost-not-really update you since I last wrote, I present:

Statistics since my last newsletter on October 5, 2020:

184: days since I’ve posted (checking my math, it seems impossible)

32: different places I’ve slept

36: longest hotel stay, Zagreb, Croatia

12: average hotel stay in days

75: days in hotels with a spa (losing all my “traveler” cred...)

6: borders I’ve crossed (Italy - Slovenia - Italy - Slovenia - Italy - Croatia - Serbia)

4: shortest visit to a country, in hours (Slovenia)

1: times escorted out of a country by the police (that’s a story)

4: PCR tests for COVID

1: vaccination! (AstraZeneca, in Serbia)

lots: hikes I’ve done

0: borders that are open to me driving now (I think)

9.9: embarrassment level that I haven’t posted for so long

Enjoy the photos.

My first stop in the far north of Serbia was Novi Sad, the European Capital of Culture for 2021.

The old city is magic.

It’s a big city, like 500,000 people, and mostly not so interesting, but the center is great. 

Serbia isn’t rich, the per capita GDP is about half of Croatia’s, but it definitely has a culture of cafes and dining out. 

This is a Catholic church, though the country is 85% Serbian Orthodox (Christian) and only 5% Catholic.

On a long city hike.

Oh, that makes it easy to navigate. Going to Corporal Kamenahua, (sounds Hawaiian,) turn right. Pyma, go straight, or maybe it’s also right. Come on, how hard could it be? Wonder what Beorpaa is. 

A famous river, though it’s not blue and I don’t see people waltzing. It’s the Danube!! Just imagine how important these mighty rivers were historically. They were the first interstate highways. Across the river is the massive Petrovardin Fortress. Ruins of a Paleolithic settlement were found there that are 20,000 years old. Wait wut? Twenty THOUSAND years old. If you’re into that kind of stuff. I am SO into that kind of stuff! 

Oh, cool, a creepy little trash-strewn tunnel-place with a low entry! These scary places draw me in like a magnet. I have no idea what I’ll find, but at the last door I came across a makeshift bed and a little dog sleeping. Dang it, he heard me and came charging! Fortunately he just wanted to scare me and didn’t chase me for long. Good job, buddy.

This clock at the top of the fortress is famous for having the clock hands reversed - the long hand is hours and the short hand is minutes.

Massive walls and ditches and what you can’t see, an incredible 16 km, or 10 miles of underground tunnels. I had no idea why, until I read later that it’s to keep the enemies from tunneling into your fort as a method of attack. The tunnels are called counter-mines, and the attackers who tunnel into them are called sappers.

You wouldn’t know that Serbia has been having high coronavirus infection. But from what I’ve read, very few people get infected outdoors, or by physical contact. It’s almost exclusively transmitted indoors, from sharing recycled air. Does that mean I’m right? Only maybe.

One of the entryways from outside the walls to the inner fort area.

There were pillars of another bridge just near this one. I found out the other bridge was bombed by NATO in 1999. Photo here.

The amount of history in Serbia is mind-boggling. For example, 18 Roman emperors were born in Serbia, and Serbia was part of the Roman Empire for 600 years.

On a little road trip to visit a monastery, I saw this still-under-construction Orthodox church. It reminds me of a dollhouse.

The next few photos are inside the spectacular KruĊĦedol Monastery, founded in 1509.

And this massive church/temple in Belgrade is the Temple of Saint Sava. It’s been under construction for years, but only recently opened to visitors.

It’s inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which is currently an Islamic mosque, while it had been an Eastern Orthodox church, and was the world’s largest cathedral for almost 1,000 years. 

The lower floor of Saint Sava. Incredibly elaborate and ornate artwork!

A bakery.

Walking through Belgrade.

Oh, that guy’s famous. That’s why they built a massive statue of him. Yeah, I forget his name.

The lovely Julieta came for a visit from Germany, and we stayed in the suburbs of Belgrade, just a stone’s throw from this landmark, the Tower of Gardos.

Our apartment near the tower. Shmancy.

A religious shop.

A restaurant cafe just next to the Tower. A few days later all the restaurants and cafes were shut down for Covid. But Belgrade is famous for its food, and they have an amazing network of restaurants which deliver through an app that translates the menu. 

This is Buddha Bar, Belgrade. Does that ring a bell? Famous groovy music compilations back in the 90’s, I think? It was started with a restaurant in Paris, and made uber-groovy music compilations.

My cousin Adam, on the left, has been filming a fantasy TV series in Belgrade. And the hot chiquita? Julieta, who would never be called the Argentinian Aggravator. I would never say that, publicly.

Oh, that is my kind of museum, cuz I’m livin’ for the selfies. I’m kind of a master at them. Check me out, but don’t hate me because I’m accurate.

Julieta and I headed north a couple hours drive to Subotica, just near the border to Hungary. It’s famous for a burst of art nouveau architecture between around 1890 and 1915. 

Some artwork is fancier than others.

This is near my current hotel in Belgrade.

And… YES! After being convinced that no one would give me a Covid vaccination, Serbia surprised me. I’m delighted. But it means I need to leave the country and come back in 12 weeks to get the second shot. I’m not allowed to stay that long on my tourist visa. Where should I go??

I was incredibly impressed by how efficient the whole system was, from the online registration to the in-person verification, kind and friendly people, and Bam-Zoom it was over.

They said to wait 10 minutes in this area to make sure you don’t faint after the shot. I thought about it! But I haven’t had any side effects other than a sore arm.

Another giant fortress in Belgrade, this one at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.

Two weeks ago, spring is here! Last night - it snowed.

There’s a long, beautiful pedestrian way in Belgrade, filled with shops and cafes. San Francisco has been talking about that, and not making it happen, for years. When you visit a place where they’ve implemented it so well, it seems a really obvious choice!

A bookstore.

Live music and maintaining social distance. Kinda sorta.

(The End)