Saturday, November 17, 2018

Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovinian, and Slovenia September 2018

All Pictures are at the bottom of this Post! 

Croatia and beyond. Before we get started on the trip I need to tell a crazy story. If you have kept up with my travels you know I usually travel business class on international flights. The way I do this is by sneaking into the business class section with a photo shopped boarding pass. For this trip, there will be three of us flying. Trying to sneak three people into the business class section is a bit risky. If one person gets caught you can claim an honest mistake, but three not so much. For that reason, I used miles to purchase 3 one way business class tickets USA to Europe, total cost, 405,000 miles.

A month prior to our flight I got to meet the dreaded business class "downgrade". The downgrade is the evil twin to the more famous and my favorite the business class "upgrade". A downgrade is when you are booked in business class and the airline moves you to stowage (economy) class. This is rarely done, and usually happens when a plane type changes and the new plane has less business class seats than the original plane. Thus the dreaded business class "downgrade". Yes, we were downgraded. Luckily after three weeks of calling, begging, pleading, and yes sweet talking, we got our business class seats back. I feel for the other three passengers that got our business class "downgrade". Such is life.

The big reason the business class was important for this fight is we were flying all night, arriving in Venice at 9:00 AM. The lie-flat seats in business class ensure a good nights sleep which would be cherished with our busy schedule upon landing.

Day 1

The Venice airport is on the smaller side making it rather easy to navigate. We rented a car for three weeks, picking up and returning to Venice. We would be spending our first night in Opatija, Croatia a several hour drive from the Venice Airport.

Before arriving in Opatija we had several stops to make.

First, we had to find a petrol station close to the Slovenia border. Slovenia has an automatic toll system. To drive on the toll roads you pay a flat fee it does not matter how much you drive on the toll road it just matters if you use a toll road. The way this is monitored is through what is known as a Vignette. If you plan to drive on a toll road you better have a vignette prior to using a toll road or expect a big fine. The vignette can be purchased at the border, but it is much better (no lines) if you buy it at a petrol station before the border.

The vignette can be bought for as little as a week or for as long as a month. In our case, we will be using Slovenia toll road in the beginning and the end of the trip so economically a 30-day vignette made the most sense. The cost was 30 EUR. The Vignette is a metallic sticker you place on your windshield. There are cameras on toll roads if the camera can not see the sticker you will be fined. Some rental companies will sell you a Vignette, but the price is usually marked up compared to buying one at the petrol station.

Buying and installing the Vignette was a none issue. We were now safe to enter Slovenia. We will only be in Slovenia for a short bit today transiting the small section of Slovenia that lies between Italy and Croatia along the Adriatic coastline.

Slovenia has been in the European Union (EU) for some time, for this reason, there is no border crossing (customs and/or immigration) at the Italian/Slovenia border. Croatia, on the other hand, has only recently been accepted into the EU. The complete integration has not been completed and we still had a border crossing to deal with at the Slovenia/Croatia border. We had been told the crossing can take hours if you hit it at the wrong time. In our case 11:00 am on a Friday must have been the right time, it only took about 10 minutes to cross. This includes showing our credentials on both Slovenia and Croatian side of the border.

Our plan after crossing into Croatia was to stop in a small village named Grožnjan for lunch and sightseeing if time permitted.

Until the mid-1960s, tiny Grožnjan (Italian: Grisignana), 27km northeast of Poreč, was slipping towards oblivion. First mentioned in 1102, this hilltop town was a strategically important fortress for the 14th-century Venetians. They created a system of ramparts and gates and built a loggia, a granary, and several fine churches. With the collapse of the Venetian empire in the 18th century, Grožnjan suffered a decline in its importance and population. In 1965, sculptor Aleksandar Rukavina and a small group of artists ‘discovered’ the crumbling medieval appeal of Grožnjan and began setting up studios in the abandoned buildings. As the town crawled back to life, it attracted the attention of Jeunesses Musicales International, an international training program for young musicians. In 1969 a summer school for musicians was established here and it has been operating ever since with annual summer courses, recitals, and concerts taking place in the castle and leafy squares.

We had a great lunch at an outdoor cafe. The weather was picture perfect no humidity and maybe 74 degrees. Unfortunately, we had a time constraint and had to keep going so we only got to walk the town for a short bit. We really did not get to appreciate the rich history of Grožnjan.

Our next stop was the main event for the day, “The Truffle Hunt”  we had read about Nikola the great truffle hunter in the New York Times. We originally scheduled to meet Nikola at 13:00 but had to give him a call to let him know we were running late. We thought we might arrive closer to 14:00. Nikola was more than accommodating.

We meet Nikola in the village of Livade a 35-minute drive from Grožnjan. When Nikola had said he would meet us in the center of the village we did not question how we would find him. Once we arrived we realized it was not hard to spot Nikola. Livade was a very small village, Nikola was the only person there. We introduced our selves and then followed Nikola to a small forest maybe a mile from the center of Livade. First Nikola give us some education on truffles and truffle hunting.

There are black truffles and white truffles. Black truffles can be found in many parts of the world. White truffles are only found in a small section of Italy and Croatia. No one really knows what makes the best environment to grow white truffles for this reason they can only be found in the wild. There are no white truffle farms.

Nikola explained how he hunts truffles. First, he must have well-trained dogs. I asked about pigs for hunting truffles, I had always thought pigs were the best truffle hunters. Nikola said that was an old wives tale, dogs are the best truffle hunters. The key is to start training the dogs as newborns. The way this is done is by put truffle oil on the nipples of the nursing mother. This will condition the dog to associate the smell of truffle with the reward of the mothers' milk. Nikola will also use his best truffle hunters to train the young pups. He said this is very effective and one of the best ways to train the dogs.

Truffle hunting is a team sport and the dogs must work together. For this reason, when one dog finds a truffle all the dogs will be rewarded. This way each dog will support the other dogs in the hunt.

Nikola is clear when you book this truffle hunt he can not guarantee the dogs will find truffles. Before we started the hunt Nikola reiterate this. He went on to tell us that if the dogs do not find any truffles he will give us some truffles to hide. This will allow us to see what a truffle hunt will be like. This made sense to us. We did have one question where are the dogs?

Nikola had driven up in a small compact car. It did not appear as if he had any dogs with him. We all walked back to where the cars were parked and Nikola opens his trunk and three very happy dogs jumped out. This give us a startle, we had no idea three dogs were in the trunk.

The dogs, Nero, Loki, and Mala, seemed to be of different breeds, in fact, I think they were all some
kind of mutt. Nikola explained that the breed does not matter it is all about the training. The hunt was not what we expected it was more like a casual walk in the forest with three dogs than a truffle hunt. The causal walk would have sudden bursts of excitement. As we walked Nikola would explain nuisances of truffles and truffle hunting. For example, no one really knows why truffles only grow in certain areas of even how fast a truffle will grow. Or why or when a truffle will start growing. While Nikola was teaching us about truffles he also had one eye on the dogs, always keeping them in front of us. This was the causal part of the hunt. Then we would notice one or even two of the dogs digging and shoving their nose into the ground. Nikola would shout commands at the dogs to stop.

The key, make sure the dogs do not inadvertently damage the truffle. Nikola would then use his tool that resembled a spatula to dig out the truffle, Most of the truffles the dogs found were black, but they did find a few white ones. Some of the truffles were as small as a dime and several inches under the earth, The largest was closer to a half dollar. It was crazy that these dogs could smell these truffles, several inches underground. While we found truffles on this hunt we did not find a ton but remember truffles sell for 600-3,000 EUR per kilogram. You do not need to find many truffles to make a good living.

Nikola was not just a great truffle hunter he was also a great educator. After a little over an hour the hunt was over, The dogs had done their job. We were still curious about the dogs and the trunk, but as soon as Nikola opened the trunk the dogs jumped in and laid down. Clearly, this was their comfort spot. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

After the truffle hunt was headed to the mountaintop village of Motovun just 3 kilometers from Livade. We walked up the hill of the historic village where we found a nice outdoor cafe and enjoyed a cold drink and the beautiful view. It was getting late and we did not want to get to Opatija in the dark so it was time to hit the road, we were still an hour from Opatija.

Opatija is located 18 km southwest of the regional capital Rijeka, about 90 km from Trieste by rail and 82 km from Pula by road. The city is geographically on the Istrian peninsula, though not in Istria County. The tourist resort is situated on the Kvarner Gulf, part of the Adriatic coast, in a sheltered position at the foot of Učka massif, with the Vojak peak reaching at a height of 1,401 m (4,596 ft). As of 2011, the town had 11,659 inhabitants in total, of which 6,657 lived in the urban settlement. The town is a popular summer and winter resort, with average high temperatures of 10 °C in winter, and 32 °C in summer. Opatija is surrounded by beautiful woods of bay laurel. The whole sea-coast to the north and south of Opatija is rocky and picturesque and contains several smaller winter resorts. Many locals and foreigners refer to Opatija as the Opatija Rivera since the rocky shoreline resembles the French Rivera.

It had been a long day we were tired and hungry, we walked down to the waterfront to find a place for some dinner. We found great place Osteria Continental. The food and service were great and they even had live music that played at exactly the right volume. We could enjoy the music while at the same time have a causal conversion about our days' experiences.

Though a great day we did miss a couple villages we had hoped to visit, Pula and Hum. Not knowing how long the drive would take we penciled in a few places as optional just in case we had time.

Pula is the largest town in the County of Istria, located on the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula in the northwestern part of the Republic of Croatia. In the context of cultural remembrance in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Pula is important as the main military port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Back then, it was the main naval base of the Austro- Hungarian marine as well as a shipbuilding center. After the long period of the Austro-Hungarian dominion, Pula and the rest of the Istrian peninsula was annexed to Italy at the end of the First World War. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, the German army entered Pula and occupied it as a part of the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast. At the end of the Second World War most of the population in Pula spoke Italian, and for many people, this was their mother language. In 1947 Pula became a part of Jugoslavia, and from 1991 until today it is a part of the Republic of Croatia. At the end of the Second World War, most of the Italians fled to Italy (this is called the "Istrian exodus"). Italian signs and symbols were removed from the monuments and streets between 1947 and 1953. The Italian minority in Pula is well accepted today and Pula became one of the bilingual cities in Istria because of numbers of Italians living there. This means that the names of the streets and monuments are again written in both languages, and Italian language classes are held in all elementary schools starting from the first grade and are also optional in most high schools. Except for the city of Rovinj, Pula has the largest Italian community on the peninsula. Pula would have added at least 2 hours of driving to our journey.

Hum is listed as the smallest town in the world by Guinness World Records. On its western side, the town is enclosed by walls and on the remaining sides, houses are built into the defensive walls. It was first mentioned in documents dating from 1102, at which time it was called Cholm which is derived from the Italian name Colmo. A bell and watchtower were built in 1552 as part of the town's defenses besides the town loggia. The town's parish church of the Assumption of Mary, with its classical facade, was built in 1802 on the site of an earlier church which was built by the local master Juraj Gržinić. The "Hum Glagolitic wall writings" are preserved in the church, written in the formative period of Glagolitic (the second half of the 12th century) and they are one of the oldest examples of Croatian Glagolitic literary culture in the Middle Ages. The town's museum displays a few Glagolitic writings.

Day 2

Today we will be heading to Split, Croatia to meet our skipper Luka and pick up our sailboat. Before leaving I went for a short run along the beautiful rocky coat while the ladies enjoyed a morning coffee.

I had found a couple of sites to visit on our drive to Split. The first site was the Torpedo Launch Station which is in the city of Rijeka just a few kilometers outside of Opatija. This is a site built during the Cold War by Tito the president of the former Yugoslavia. I had been told it would be very hard to find, though I easily found the station on Google Maps. Finding the station, in reality, was much harder than in the virtual world of Google Maps. In fact, I would say impossible since after 30 minutes of searching we gave up. It does make sense that a Torpedo Launch Station would be hard to find or in our case impossible to find.

Also in Rijeka was Trsat Castle. Much of the castle has been restored. We enjoyed exploring the castle.

Now it was time for some serious driving. There are two options to get from Rijeka to Split. The first is the original road along the coast, this route is a shorter distance and passes through many small seaside villages, but much slower, it is mostly a single lane in each direction with slower speed limits because of the small villages you pass through. The second is the route is inland on the newer toll way, this route is longer in distance by about 40 kilometers, though significantly shorter in time because of the higher speed limits. We choose the toll way mostly because of time but also we felt over the next three weeks we will see many small villages no need to have another long day in the car.

We covered the 400 kilometers in about 4 hours and spent about $33.00 USD on tolls. We did fill our 4 door smart car up once so far. I am not sure the gas mileage. It must be pretty good since we only filled the car once and the tank is fairly small maybe 15 liters.

We meet Luka at Marina Spinut not far from the old walled palace of Split. Luka will be our skipper for the next week. When sailing in waters that are new to you it is important to have some local knowledge. We find the most effective way to do that is hire a local skipper. It reduces stress and makes the sailing much more enjoyable.

Finding an excellent captain is not easy. You might remember Hot Spot from our trip to Japan. We also meet up with Hot Spot in Norway. When we meet with him in Norway he introduced us to Dina. Dina grew up in Croatia. At that time we had not found a skipper so we asked Dina for her thoughts. She recommended Luka her godson. This is a perfect example of why I love meeting people.

We later find out Luka has competed on the Croatian Olympic Sailing team as well as skippered boats for celebrities such as Madonna and Oprah Winfrey. We are fairly sure Madonna and Oprah were are larger boats than we chartered. Luka truly believes in skipper crew confidentiality as he would not tell us anything about his celebrity crews. In fact, if it was Dina who spilled the beans.

We chartered the boat from Adria Sail Charter the sailboat was a Bavaria Cruiser 41, with 3 cabins, 2 heads, and a salon/galley. The name of the boat was Lory and it was commissioned in 2017. Another great benefit of hiring such a well-recognized skipper, we had marinas/charter services dying to have us charter one of their boats. They wanted to be able to say, Luka, sails their boats. We would later find out this was true for marinas and restaurants on the islands we would be visiting. They would welcome us with open arms. Sometimes even kicking other guests out to make room for Luka and his crew.

After lunch and provisioning the boat, we headed to the island of Brač a 13-kilometer sail from Split. Luka had us provision the boat for a couple of days since some of the islands will have farm fresh products to resupply with.

With very little wind we decided to motor over to Brač about 2 hours. As we motored across the channel the sun was setting, it was a beautiful relaxing evening, perfect after two days of flying, driving, and sight seeing.

On our arrival, Luka had arranged to have a driver pick us up to take us to an exclusive private restaurant. Kapetanovo Lozje had just 6 tables all outside in the middle of an olive grove. The owner and waiter were awesome and of course friends of Luka. They made sure everything was perfect. We had grilled squid and local fish for our main course, both grilled and seasoned to perfection on an open fire. The main course was accompanied by freshly grilled local vegetables. Before the main course, we had several different starters one was an octopus salad that was to die for, the other starters all excellent in their own right, Fresh Cheeses, Tuna Carpaccio, and Brochette. They even picked local wines that were perfectly paired with our food. It was close to midnight when we returned to the boat.

Day 3

I took an early morning run, the ladies walked the town and Luka planned our day. Luka had a little concern as there was a slight chance of rain. Lucky for us it never materialized. We sailed from Brač to the Island of Vis. The wind was perfect we sailed at a close-hauled directly from Brač to Vis no tacking needed. As we approached Vis the wind shifted so we dropped the sails and motored to the marina. The busy season had just ended but the docks are still filling up by mid-afternoon. By motoring it allowed us to beat the rush and get a very nice dock. Once we were tied up, Luka arranged for us to get a tour of the island.

Marcus picked us up in a Cold War era Jeep. Marcus was full of local knowledge as well as the history of the entire geographical region. We learned the Island of Vis was and is a very strategic Island for whoever is in control of this area of the Adriatic Sea. For this reason, Vis changed hands over time depending on what country or empire controlled the area.

Marcus took us to a structure that was built during Tito's presidency when Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia. The structure was built into the side of the cliff along the bay. This structure was used by ships and submarines to hide during the Cold War.

Vis was also used by the allies during World War II as a refueling station and repair facility for damaged bombers coming back from bombing runs on the Eastern front of the war. The landing strip was simply and grass field in the valley in the middle of the island.

While Vis has a lot of history it is also a beautiful island. We returned from the tour at 17:00 and walked the village of Vis checking out the local shops and enjoying the local gelato.

Luka had arranged to have us picked up for dinner at 20:00. What would we do without Luka?

Dinner was at Konoba Magić a small local winery and restaurant. The specialty is Peka which is a local Croatian dish. Usually made with either Lamb, Pork, or Octopus, with potatoes and carrots. It is slowly cooked covered with an iron bell for well over an hour. Like the night before the cooking is done over an open fire. Luka ordered the lamb and octopus. Again Luka saves the day. If you want Peka you must order it earlier in the day since the cooking time is so long. Both dishes were really, really, good. So far the food in Croatia is not disappointing.

Day 4

Today we are sailing to the Island of Hvar but first, we made a stop at a beautiful cove at the mouth of the bay to take a swim and do a little Stand-Up-Paddleboard (SUP). The water was perfect, so clear you could see the bottom at 50 plus feet, fish everywhere and the temperature was refreshing but not too cold.

After a great afternoon of enjoying the water, we docked at the Island of Hvar at the village of Stari Grad on the North side of the Island. What a beautiful village historic stone buildings built around the harbor. We had dinner at Jurin Podrum just off the square in a small alleyway. As with the last two restaurants, the service was over the top. The waitress had a great wit about her and kept us in stitches, mostly at my expense. She knew how to put rude customers (me) in their place. We each had a different dish and everybody enjoy what they ordered.

Day 5

I took an easy run checking out the boats in the harbor as well as the historic buildings. Rather than having breakfast on the boat we decided to breakfast at a local cafe right on the docks before going to the farmers market to provision the boat for the next few days.

As we were getting ready to leave we could see a rain storm approaching. We (Luka) decide to wait out the storm. Great move, we hung at a local coffee shop while we watch the other sailors (the ones without great skippers) getting pummeled with very heavy rain. Once the rain let up we toured Peter Hektorovic home. Peter was a poet who lived from 1487 to 1572. His home had beautiful gardens and a fabulous fish pond.

The sky had cleared and it turned out to be a beautiful day. We were very happy we waited to storm out. Today we covered 30 miles to the Island of Scedro do south of the Southside of Hvar. We spent the afternoon swimming and using the SUP. There are just buoys in this small cove except for one space at the dock for the restaurant.

Yes, you guessed it Luka had arranged for us to have the one dock. This made life easier as we did not have to use the dingy to get to shore. This island is privately owned and has just two restaurants and no homes. Yes, a bit secluded.

Dinner at Kod Ive was really, really good. What a great day even the rain storm was great, it gave us a little break.

Day 6

When we woke and continued to enjoy the secluded cove swimming and paddle boarding. I even got a very hilly 4-mile run in. I think I saw the entire island, yes this is a small island. Our plan for the morning was to sail to the south side of Hvar and visit a local winery. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong and we could not dock, not even with Luka’s skill set. We continued to a cove on the Island of Sveti Klement. This was the first Anchorage we have visited this week that was crowded. Once we got a buoy and the boat was secure, Luka dropped us off at the dock using the dingy. We walked across the island from the south side to the north side. Once we reached the north side we took a speedboat over to the island of Hvar to the village of Hvar. The village of Hvar is known as the Monte Carlo of Croatia. What a beautiful village. The largest village we have visited since we got the sailboat. Very clean lots of open-air cafes and restaurants. We walked up the hill to the Spanjola Fortress. From the fortress, we could see all of Hvar. On the walk down to the main square, we stopped at many of the local shops doing a little provisioning for our last two days on the boat. Once back at the Hvar dock we caught a speedboat back to the Island of Sveti Klement.

When we returned from Hvar the crowds and boats had thinned. We had dinner at Toto’s which is right on the beach of the cove we anchored at.

The dinner and service were great as we have come to expect in Croatia, but being right on the beach was the prize for this nights dinner.

Day 7

We departed Island of Sveti Klement for the Island of Šolta. Our first stop was a beautiful cove where we used the SUP, swam, and goofed around in the dingy. From the cove we sailed to the harbor on Island Šolta. We had a great sail at a close-hauled most of the way until we dropped the sails and motored to the marina. The marina we docked at is Martinis Marchi, this marine is owned by a German family, it is a marina, restaurant, and hotel. As usual, Luka arranged for us to have a great dock. There is a section where the dock is not protected and the boats rock all night from the rough water. Not us, thank you, Luka!

Martinis Marchi is in the village of Grohote. This is a small village, the harbor is lined with shops and cafes. We had dinner up on the hill overlooking the island and the sea. The name of the restaurant, Restaurant Šampjer Maslinica. The view and the food were really, really good.

Day 8

Today will be our last day on the boat. We will end the day back in Split. First, we will make stops along the way to swim and sightsee.

We stopped at a cove as beautiful and all the ones we have visited before. We enjoyed the water and just relaxed. Taking in the last few hours enjoying these beautiful islands and the Adriatic Sea.

Before going back to Split we had to refuel, what a fun time. Luka earned his keep with this chore. We were so happy the wind and water were calm. We pulled into a small cove that had a fuel dock. We got in line behind nine other boats just floating feet from each other. Can you say stressful? Think about the next time you are in line for something. What if you were in a free-floating sailboat 41 feet long, trying to just stand still. It took an hour and a half before it was our turn to fuel. I would hate to experience this process on a windy day or with rough seas.

We arrived back at Split at 18:00. What a great week, a really, really great week. For dinner, Luka picked a great Pizzeria within the palace walls of Split. We all enjoyed our last meal with Luka though we hired him for his skipper skills and local knowledge we now consider him a great friend. Luka would be departing for Zagreb the next day as his charter season is now over.

Day 9

Duchess Finnegan, Margarite, and I toured the walled palace of Split visiting these sites:
Gigur Ninski Statue
Church of Saint Martin
Carrarina Poljana
Papalic Palace
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius
“Let me Pass” Street
Church of Our Lady of the Bell Tower

Yes, we saw all these sites and it was not even lunch time. The walled palace is a rather compact area, we are moving out of high tourist season but were still glad we got an early start as the crowds were building as we took our lunch break. After lunch, we checked into our apartment. What a great location just feet from the entrance to the walled palace and fairly close to the waterfront maybe 200

After an afternoon siesta, we walked the waterfront and did some people watching.

It was now time for our last meal with Duchess Finnegan, we found a lovely outside café. What a beautiful evening, perfect temperature and perfect company.

Day 10

After dumping the Duchess off at the Split Airport we enjoyed a nice breakfast inside the walled palace before departing for Dubrovnik. There is two way to drive to Dubrovnik. Actually, three if you count the ferry system. For the roads, the options are similar to our drive from Opatija to Split, highway or local roads. We had plenty of time so we opted for the local roads and were glad we did. Our first stop was a small village called Zadvarje far up into the coastal mountains.

The drive winds along the Cetina River. Yes, very windy and slow going with some very steep climbs. The views and sites were well worth the extra time in the car. The village of Zadvarje is best known for its outdoor activity, rafting, hiking, climbing, and canoeing/kayaking. We walked through the village and went out to the edge of the canyon to see the waterfalls and steep canyon walls. The Cetina River has cut a deep canyon through the mountains over thousands of years.

From Zadvarje we took the highway to save a little time until we merged back onto the local roads before crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Driving from Split, Croatia to Dubrovnik, Croatia is a bit strange. There is a 40-kilometer section along the coastline that dissects Croatia, this area is part on Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 40 kilometers you make 4 border crossings. First, you exit the Croatian border and enter the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. Then you do the 40-kilometer drive along the coast before exiting Bosnia and Herzegovina and entering the Croatia border. We were lucky and had no lines at the border crossings. People going in the opposite direction were not as lucky. I would estimate the lines were at least 30 cars deep. We had heard stories of people spending several hours at these crossing.

Our apartment is about a mile outside the walled fortress of Dubrovnik. It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the walled fortress. Dubrovnik has become a large tourist destination, during high season as many as 20,000 tourists arriving per day.

Once settled in we decided to take the walk to the fortress. During the medieval time, the Dubrovnik fortress was one of the most fortified in the region.
Some of the sites we visited:
Luza Square
Rector’s Palace
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin
The Ancient City Wall
Dubrovnik Synagogue

The walled city was very crowded, wall to wall people. We were just out of high season and the crowds were still very heavy. We still enjoyed the walk and seeing some of the highlights, but if you were to ask us when you should visit Dubrovnik we would say October would be better than September.

Day 11

For today we booked a cooking class called Pick, Cook, Eat through a small company (two sisters) called Dubrovnik Food Story. Marija (one of the sisters) picked us up at 9:15 we then picked up three other guests. There will be a total of five of us in the class.

We drove about 30 minutes (27 Kilometers) outside of Dubrovnik to a small village called Majkovi, not too far from Slano. Once at the farm we met our host Ano. Before getting started with our cooking class Ano shared with us a traditional Croatian breakfast of assorted cheeses and thinly sliced meats, and of course, several different fruity liquors made right on the farm. Two of which were Rose and Walnut both were delicious. While we enjoyed our breakfast Ano demonstrated how to prepare a traditional Lentil soup.

Now it was time for us to get involved. We chopped Onions, Garlic, Carrots, as well as potatoes all grown on the farm. These would all be added to the soup.

While we did the chopping, Ano prepared a dough that we would later make into small loaves of bread.

Once everything was chopped to the correct size we added it to the Lentil broth that Ano had previously prepared. As the soup cooked we started working on the main course.

First, we hollowed out green peppers, a tomato, and a zucchini. Once the vegetables were hollowed out we started to prepare the stuffing. We took ground beef, added uncooked rice, chopped onions, shredded zucchini, eggs, water, and of course plenty of salt. Croatians like their salt.

Once the stuffing was thoroughly mixed we stuffed it into the vegetables we had previously hollowed out. Yes, we stuffed the vegetable with the stuffing. We placed the stuffed vegetable in a skillet and cooked on the stovetop.

At this point, the soup was ready, which meant it was time to enjoy a traditional Croatia Lunch of Lentil soup.

After lunch, we got a tour of Ano’s farm starting with a walk through the gardens, which the vegetables had come from. We stopped at a beautiful fig tree and picked and ate delicious figs, right off the tree. The figs were very sweet and juicy.

Once we returned to the kitchen the stuffed vegetables were ready to eat. This would be a traditional Croatian dinner. Ano also made some mashed potatoes to go along with the stuffed vegetables, and of course, we enjoyed the homemade bread.

Now it was time for dessert. We mixed flour, eggs, water, yogurt, salt, and sugar into a smooth batter. We took the batter and made small balls, about 1 and a half inches in diameter. We fried these small dough balls in sunflower oil. Once cooked we sprinkled powdered sugar and cinnamon and ate them. A delicious way to end a day of cooking and eating.

We had been at the farm for four hours, we had breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert within that time frame. What a great experience. If you are in Dubrovnik I highly recommend FOOD Story of Dubrovnik, but make sure you show up hungry!

After the cooking class, we asked Marija if she could let us off near the old dock. The old dock is on the far north side of the fortress. Our goal was to catch the ferry to Lokum Island, we made the 15:30 ferry. It was only a ten-minute ferry journey from the small harbor in the old town of Dubrovnik. Going to Lokum Island gave us a great chance to escape the hoards of tourists which were swarming the old town.

Lokrum is an island in the Adriatic sea just 600 meters off the coast of Dubrovnik. In the 11th century, it was once inhabited by Benedictine monks, then greedy landowners banished them from the island. Legend has it that the Monks sailed around the island placing a curse on all of those who spend the night there. It is said that many of the greedy landowners died of mysterious causes soon after. People to this day are still frightened by this myth which is why there are no permanent residents.

The ferry ride over to the island was amazing even if it only took 10 minutes. The water of the Adriatic sea were crystal clear and the views which surrounded us were simply stunning. Straight away it felt like a paradise island as we were coming into the dock. Once we departed the ferry on Lokrum we were straight away confronted by a couple of wild peacocks, this wasn’t a massive shock as we had read about the peacocks on Lokrum. The peacocks were brought over, by Austrian archduke (and short-lived Emperor of Mexico) Maximilian, from the Canary Islands some 150 years ago. These exquisitely exotic birds have adjusted quite well to their new habitat. It was still weird to see so many of these peacocks roaming around and even pestering people for bits of food!

We waited until pretty much everybody had walked off the dock, before deciding to walk in the opposite direction of the main bulk of tourists. It was much more peaceful to stroll along the forested paths on our own, even if it meant taking the long way around to the main attractions of the island. Plus we got the chance to see things that most people missed.

The island is now used mostly as a park, a way for the locals and tourist to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik. If you do visit Lokum Island, bring your bathing suit we did not and wish we had. There are some beautiful rocky beaches you can sunbath and swim at. We grabbed the 18:15 ferry back to the mainland. One important note, the last ferry is at 19:00 if you miss that one you will be spending the night, and we all know what might happen if you spend the night on Lokum Island

Day 12 - Montenegro

To beat the rush at the border crossing, we departed earlier for our day trip to Montenegro. Montenegro touches the southern border of Croatia along the Adriatic Sea. We reached the border at 7:30 only to find we needed an insurance green card to enter Montenegro.

This has something to do with European countries that are not in the European Union. I knew we would need this card to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina (though the section of Bosnia and Herzegovina that dissects the Croatian Coast is exempt) but had forgotten about Montenegro.

The border patrol took our passports and directed us to a nondescript building where we assumed we could buy a green card. The sign alerted us that it would open at 8:00. As we waited no other passenger cars were sent our way, but many truckers would come by, but rather than wait with us in the front of the building they would go around back an up some stairs. At 8:05 the front door was still not open so we went and check out the upstairs. There was a guy in the office helping someone and a sign that says Green Cards 24h. We assume this means this is where you get your green card when the downstairs office is closed. We waited a good ten minutes while the trucker in front of us was being waited on. At 8:15 the clerk gets up and closes the door on us. Not a word is spoken. We go back downstairs and a clerk had just shown up to open the downstairs office. Maybe 30 seconds later and 15 Euros lighter we have our green card and not a single word was spoken during the entire transaction (we would later meet someone that bought theirs from the rental car company and was charged 100 Euros).

We went back to the border patrol and showed him our green card and he gave us back our passports which he was holding. We notice the green card was good for 2 weeks which was perfect for our drive we would be taking through Bosnia and Herzegovina later in the week.

We arrived in Kotor at 10:00 so much for beating the rush. Kotor is a smaller less touristy version of Dubrovnik. In Kotor’s case, the walled fortress is built high up into the side of the mountain. This gave Kotor a great strategic advantage in protecting itself. We walked to the top of the fortress climbing many stairs. We entered St John Fortress through the main gate where we were charged 8 Euros to visit the higher portion of the Fortress. On our return trip, we learned if you do not mind starting the hike up from outside the fortress you can save yourself the 8 Euros.

After we climbed to the top of the fortress we return back down and toured the old city visiting these sites:
Square of Arms
Main Gates
Clock Tower
Cathedral of Saint Tryphon
Church of St. Luke

We then had a nice lunch before heading back to Dubrovnik.

On our drive back we stopped at a small village just south of Dubrovnik by about 25 kilometers called Cavtat a little peninsula along the coast. The beaches and water were so beautiful Margarite could not resist a swim. After the swim, we had a nice dinner along the water before heading back to Dubrovnik.

Day 13

Our final destination today will be Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Before we will get to Sarajevo we have a few stops to make.

Our travels took us on back roads to avoid the larger border crossings. Our rental car agreement had very large print “THIS CAR MAY NOT BE TAKEN INTO BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA!!!” Somehow Margarite found a road that had NO border crossing guards, it was that easy. We crossed into Bosnia and Herzegovina with no issues. A side benefit of the roads we took, we got to see some beautiful and remote areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

You might be saying to yourself, “You drove into Bosnia and Herzegovina when you went from Split to Dubrovnik!” This is true, but with so many tourist driving through that section of Bosnia and Herzegovina the border guards are a little less diligent and we even think this section of Bosnia and Herzegovina is exempt for the rental car restriction like the green insurance card issue.

The night before we left for Sarajevo, Chelie asked if we would be going to Medjugorje. Never hearing about the village of Medjugorje we looked it up.

“Medjugorje is a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s been an unofficial place of Catholic pilgrimage since the Virgin Mary allegedly (witnessed by a few young boys) appeared on Apparition Hill in 1981. There is a “Queen of Peace” statue marking the site of the 1st apparition and one in front of the St. James Church. A liquid has been said to drip from the “Risen Christ” statue near the church.

Medjugorje sounded interesting so we decided to make it our first stop. We were very impressed with the number of pilgrims that were visiting. My guess there was over 100 full-size buses in the parking lot and hundreds if not thousands of people praying throughout the church grounds. Prior to the boys seeing the Virgin Mary, Medjugorje was a small sleeping village. From 1981 on Medjugorje has been a boom town, with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops lining the streets.

Just by luck, we happen to meet one of the boys that claimed to see the Virgin Mary, of course he is a grown man now. He was very open with us. We asked about the sighting. He said the truth of the matter is he and his friends were bored so they made up the entire story about the Virgin Mary. He went on to explain that the story took on a life of its own and got bigger and bigger. So the boys went with it and realized as people started showing up there was an opportunity to make some money. At first, they opened up a concession selling things from souvenirs to ice cream, eventually opening a restaurant and hotel. This village that was barely a dot on a map in 1981 now has thousands of visitors a day. These boys are profiting nicely off their sighting and laughing all the way to the bank.

Prior to making the decision to visit Medjugorje we had planned to visit two small villages Relo Bune to Blagaj. We will never know what we missed but wish we had time to do it all. From Medjugorje, we drove the hour and a half to Mostar. Mostar is famous for the bridge which had been around for centuries until it was destroyed in the 1990's during the war. It has since been rebuilt. Mostar was truly affected during the war, many of the effects can still be seen today. Prior to the war the different ethnic and religious groups lived in harmony, now they live segregated on different sides of the river.

Mostar was crowded with tourist. Since we were already there we took some photographs and a quick walk before we left trying to avoid the crowded streets.

The entire drive from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo was beautiful, all back roads, mostly empty windy mountain roads. We got into Sarajevo at 18:00 and hit a bit of rush hour traffic, the kind of traffic you might expect in a small capital city.

Day 14

We are staying on the Southside of the Miljacka River just across from the old city of Sarajevo. The Miljacka River runs through Sarajevo east to west. Today we have two walking tours scheduled.

The first walking tour called "East Meets West", happens every day at 10:30 we met at the National Theater Susan Sontag Square which is just across the river from our apartment. Literally a two-minute walk. Our tour guide Neno did a fantastic job. He was 7 years old when the siege on Sarajevo started and 11 when it ended. He explained what life was like for those 44 months. He and his family, spent them living in the basement of their apartment building along with 40 other people. The tour gave a good history of Sarajevo from medieval times to today. We learned about what triggered the start of world war one, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28th June 1914. I had always heard the assassination took place on the bridge but we learned it actually took place in front of the museum building to the right of the bridge.

Neno explained the different architecture and how depending who was ruling Sarajevo at the time what influence they had on the architecture of the buildings.

The tour lasted two and a half hours ending in the marketplace, Neno took some extra time at the end of the tour to go over traditional Bosnian food and which places in the marketplace would be good to eat at.

The second tour was called "War Scars & New Times". This tour happens every day at 15:30, we again met at National Theater Susan Sontag Square. While the morning tour was more about the history of Sarajevo and touched a little on the war. The afternoon tour was more about the effects of the war in Sarajevo.

Two very sad items we learned about. The first, Neno showed us where a mortar shell hit the marketplace killing 67 people. Until the point of these 67 deaths, the world had been ignoring the killings that were going on in Sarajevo. If you can call it a silver lining, a positive outcome of this bombing, was with so many people dying. This killing got NATO’s attention and involvement which helped end the war.

When a mortar hits it leaves a pockmark in the ground with shallow divots around it. Over time people have filled the divots with blood red paint. They call the result a mortar rose. There are several around the city but the one in the market is the largest. These mortar roses are reminders of what happened. The hope is the reminder will help keep history from repeating itself.

After visiting the market we walked west to see two memorials for the children killed during the siege. Sixteen hundred children were killed in the 44 months Sarajevo was under siege. The first symbolizes a mother looking over a child. The second has the names, birthdates, and dates of death of each child killed. For some of these children, the time period between birth and death was only months.

It was asked why was it called a siege and not a war? Neno explained that the Serbs never entered Sarajevo proper, they fired mortars from the surrounding hillsides and had snipers firing down on the people from similar locations. The Serbs goal seemed to be to break the spirit of the people of Sarajevo. Throughout our walk, we could see buildings that had pockmarks, mostly from the shrapnel from the mortars, but sometimes from the sniper bullets.

While the United Nations (UN) was strictly a peacekeeping force they would help in a few ways. The UN would strategically place their trucks between the snipers and the people of Sarajevo limit the targets for the snipers. The UN peacekeepers would also provide food for the people of Sarajevo. An artist even built a memorial to the cans of meat that were distributed.

Neno told us that Russia would always veto any UN resolution to have the UN peacekeepers get more involved in stopping the conflict. That is why it was NATO that finally intervene to bring the siege to an end.

Both tours were very educational and really gave you a great feel of the city and history. I would say there were about 25 people on each tour. Neno did a great job of conveying what has happened throughout the history of Sarajevo.

We had a great dinner at a restaurant just 100 meters from our apartment. The name Vinoteka, the service and food were excellent. We even sat outside and did not get overwhelmed with cigarette smoke. It seems that everybody smokes in Sarajevo.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina especially Sarajevo. It is a beautiful country and a great city.

Day 15

Today we leave for Zagreb, originally we had planned to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia’s best-known national park, listed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage sites. It is a popular tourist destination year round, and a must-see for every visitor to Croatia. Well known for its system of cascading lakes - whereby sixteen lovely lakes are interconnected by cascades and waterfalls. We had had a hard decision to make, still bordering on the high season we heard unless we got to the park very early we would be in crowds that could number in the thousands. The way the park is set up to see the lakes and falls you walk on a narrow wooden boardwalk. When it is crowded it can be very uncomfortable and the views of the Lakes and Falls are limited. Being several hours away logistically we could not get there early, before 8:00.

We made the decision to go the more direct route skipping Plitvice Lakes National Park, but visit two medieval villages to break up the drive. Travnik and Jajce both have medieval fortresses though Jajce also has a beautiful waterfall. Jajce was the center of Bosnia before the Ottoman Empire. Both villages were great places to stop and stretch our legs and break up the six-hour drive. Though the drive itself was worth taking winding through steep mountain canyons. We reached Zagreb at 19:00 and called it a night. It had been a nice day and we believe we made the right choice by skipping the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Day 16

Zagreb, what a beautiful city the capital of Croatia. Throughout history, Zagreb has been able to avoid any major bombings. This has allowed the city to retain much of its original architecture which has an Austrian / Hungarian influence.

Today we did an all-day bicycle tour with a company called Blue Bike Zagreb, we did the All of Zagreb Tour. Aiida, the owner and tour guide gave us a very detailed tour of the city. The tour was close to six hours in length. We learned a lot about the city and how a lot of the influence came from the Austrians and Hungarians especially the architecture. We learned about a famous Croatian and even visited a statue of him, Nikola Tesla. Nikola was born in Croatia though for a long time no one would claim him as theirs. But now many countries claim him as theirs.

In fact, in the early 1900’s he proposed to build a hydroelectric plant and make Zagreb the first electrified city in the world. He was laughed out of the city. He went to Buffalo, New York where they embraced his idea built a hydro plant on Niagara Falls and made Buffalo, New York the first electrified city in the world. Of course, now Nikola is famous he even has car named after him.

While tourism is growing in Zagreb, it is not yet a major tourist destination, plus we are a bit outside of the high season. For these
reasons we are not experiencing the crowds we had while in Split and Dubrovnik. The city is an awesome city to visiting and I suspect tourism will continue to grow. It is a beautiful city with lots of public squares and open space where the locals are out enjoying the great weather.

After the tour we walked the old section of the city before having dinner at a local restaurant called Kod Pere. Kod Pere was recommended by Dina who lives in Zagreb as well as Luka, our skipper from earlier on in this trip. My guess is we were the only none Croatians in the restaurant. We enjoyed our meal and the staff made us feel at home.

Day 17

Today we walked the city enjoying the beautiful weather. We toured the cemetery which was a few miles up the hillside. One reason we decided to visit the cemetery was the day before Aiida had spoken about life in Zagreb during World War II and the Nazi invasion.

There are several tombstones where the birthdates have a Star of David next to them, and the date of death has a Catholic Cross. During World War II, when the Nazis attacked Zagreb, rather than fight a battle they were sure to lose, the people of Zagreb simple surrendered. Before they surrendered any Jew that wanted to convert to Catholicism could. This would save them from being deported to the concentration camps and certain death. Thus they were born Jewish but later died Catholic, they wanted the correct representation on their tombstones, that is why there is a Star of David next to the date of birth and a Catholic Cross next to the date of death.

Just a few meters from our apartment was the Illusion Museum not unique to Zagreb or even Croatia, there are Illusion Museum throughout there world. We decided since we had never been and it was on our way we would stop in and have a visit. We were glad we did, They had very cool illusions that you could be part of. Both fascinating and educational.

Tomorrow we head to Slovenia. Specifically, Sevnica the town Melania Trump grew up in. From there we will go to Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia.

Day 18 - Slovenia

We left Zagreb for Slovenia. Our first stop Sevnica. Not the birthplace of Melania Trump but where she grew up. We stopped at the tourist center to get directions to the castle, this was the main reason we came to Sevnica, to see the castle. We got directions and started leaving the office when asked where we were from. We said, America. They told us to wait and then showed us all the First Lady branded souvenirs they had. No, they did not have any MSGA (Make Slovenia Great Again) hats. But they had everything else, chocolate, coffee, tea, wine, key chains, you name it that had it. Yes, we stocked up!

One of the restaurants had a sign, "Melania Burgers". Someone had crossed out “Melania” and wrote in “Nothing” get it “Nothing Burger”.

The castle was worth seeing and gave us a great view of the town and river below. The only negative it was a Monday and the castle is closed for tours on Mondays. Sevnica Castle is located on a hill high above the old town center of Sevnica. Where the current castle stands once stood a castle that was probably built in the first half of the 12th century. It was first mentioned in writing in 1309 as castellum Liechtenwalde. During the Croatian-Slovenian peasant revolt in 1573 it, unlike many other castles, avoided destruction. It was probably during this time that the Lutheran cellar was built on its slope. It was allegedly occasionally visited by Jurij Dalmatin (c. 1547-1589), who was the first that translated the entire Bible into Slovene. The cellar later became the tomb of some Sevnica lords. Now there are musical concerts and other events held in its acoustic space. In recent years, the castle and its surroundings underwent many renovations, so the castle and the old town center underneath represent a magnificent medieval panorama. Sevnica Castle is the central cultural, historical, political and ceremonial object in Sevnica, while also being the center of cultural events.

After Sevnica we headed to Ljubljana. Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. Our plan was to spend one night in Ljubljana and ended up spending three. About 10 years ago the center of town was closed to car traffic. At first, the locals were upset but now they love it. Where cars use to park there are coffee shops and cafes.

We arrived in Ljubljana just in time to grab some lunch. We picked a casual restaurant along the Ljubljanica River. The Ljubljanica splits just east of the city and the rejoins southwest of the city, making the old section of town look like an island when viewed on a map. At 15:00 we took a walking tour. On the tour, we learned that much of the building's design was influenced by a local architect named Jože Plečnik. Jože Plečnik even designed some of the many bridges.

We got a brief explanation of why the city is famous for its Dragons it’s the story of a Greek hero who, with the aid of his warriors, kidnapped his lover, a barbarian sorceress. They came to the Ljubljanica River, home to a legendary river monster, AKA the Ljubljana Dragon. It was here they realized the water was too shallow to continue on, they would have to dismantle their ship and settle
on the banks through winter. So they built a village right in the middle of the Dragon’s hunting ground. This is how Ljubljana became known as the Dragon town, the Dragon Bridge is a great illustration of how this myth was carried over into the architecture the bridge has 20 dragon sculptures on it.

We visited the cathedral on the tour. The cathedral door is both a door and a sculpture. This door was created for the May 1996 visit of Pope John Paul II. The top of the door depicts Pope John Paul II looking down on historic events that had an effect on Ljubljana. The tour gave us a great understanding of Ljubljana’s history, architecture, and geography.

In the evening we walking up to the castle which sits high up on the hill above the center of town. The walk takes 10 - 15 minutes and can be steep at points. There is also a funicular you can ride to get to the top. The Ljubljana Castle was built high up on the hill in the middle of the old city. Being on the hill strategically gave it some built-in defenses it was also surrounded by the Ljubljanica River. We arrived prior to the sunset which allowed us to view the sunset to the west of the city.

Day 19 - Lake Bled

Today we did a day trip to Lake Bled about an hour north-west of Ljubljana.

Before visiting the Lake Bled we visited and hiked Vintgar Gorge. Vintgar Gorge has a boardwalk / walkway installed to allow you to walk along the bottom of the gorge. By taking this boardwalk you
to get a different perspective of the gorge. Seeing the steep rock walls looking up from the bottom rather than looking down from the top. Being this close to river and waterfalls it made it very clear how powerful the rives is, from the top of a gorge it is hard to understand this. If you ever get the chance visit Vintgar Gorge get there before 8:00. When we arrived at 8:00 we had the place to ourselves. When we left at 9:30 the line to get in was twenty deep.

From Vintgar Gorge we headed to Lake Bled just 15 minutes away.

Lake Bled is a beautiful lake with a Church on an island in the middle. There is also a castle overlooking the lake. Slovenia has more castles per person than any other country.

We enjoyed Lake Bled as we walked the entire perimeter of the lake. Two highlights of our visit: We took a break from walking around the lake to go for a swim. The water was cool, clean, and refreshing. The second was the “Kremshnita” a famous traditional dessert that was created in Lake Bled. I had to try it. It was fantastic. A cream/custard cake. Worth every calorie.

The only disappointing part of Lake Bled was the castle. It was great to hike up, for the view but not worth the 11 euro to go inside. Our plan was to spend a few hours at Lake Bled but between Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bled, we were there all day.

Prior to returning to Ljubljana, we stopped at the Bee Keeping Museum. This is the worlds best Bee Keeping Museum with a real live beehive in the middle. It was worth the visited and it only added 10 minutes to our drive back to Ljubljana.

When we returned to Ljubljana we decided to venture to the alternative section of town, the Metelkova area of the city. We wanted to check out the cool street art tucked behind Hostel Celica. The abandoned military barracks, which has been taken over by the younger generation loaded with spray paint. There was artwork splattered over the converted buildings and the art gallery, Galerija Alkatraz.

This was definitely the alternative crowd of Ljubljana. For this section of the city to become a reality, it took nearly a decade of negotiating with the government not to bulldoze it and let Ljubljaneers do what they do best – regenerate!

Day 20

Today Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle two places I truly thought would be tourist traps. Both exceeded our expectations.

The first Postojna Caves was a huge cave over 24 kilometers in length. We only saw a small portion of the cave. We actually took a train inside the cave to get to where the tour started. The tour was a total of 2 hours and gave us a great perspective of how this limestone cave was created by underground rivers.

Predjama Castle is built into the side of a cave not Postojna Cave but not far away. On the outside, it looks like the castle is built along a cliff side, but it, in reality, it is molded to the cave with much of the interior of the castle is the cave. This gave the owners of the castle a big strategic advantage, basically, they had a back door no one knew about.

Both sites were well worth our time and money.

We had dinner at an outstanding restaurant back in Ljubljana the name is the restaurant was Peti 181 Restavracija. We started sitting outside until the sky opened up and it started pouring. The hostess kindly invited us to move inside. The hostess also suggested that she order for us. What a great idea everything was great. I highly recommend Peti 181 Restavracija.

Day 21

Today we leave Ljubljana, we had already extended our stay in Ljubljana two more nights than we had planned. It was now time to say good-bye. We departed for Idrija to visit the Lace School and the Mercury Mines. We found Idrija to be a small, beautiful, sleepy village.

We arrived at our first stop at 10:00 and got free parking directly in front of the Lace School and Museum (yes a small sleepy village). The Idrija Lace School was founded in 1876 (it's the biggest
and oldest lace school in the world) and continues to offer lace-making skills to the younger generations. We got a great education in lace making. We also learned that making lace was great for children with ADD. The reason, to make lace you have to stay focused for long periods of time. The mix in the school was 20% boys to 80% girls. The exhibit was full of lace items made by the children, all under the age of 15. Some items simple and other very intricate, all beautiful.

After the Lace school, we walked over to the Mercury Mine known as the Anthony Mine Shaft. The mine is a ‘living museum’, allowing you to get a feel for the working conditions of mercury miners in Idrija. The entrance is the Anthony Shaft, built in 1500, led to the first mine: 1.5km long, 600m wide and 400m deep. The tour covered 1,200 meters and lasted 11⁄2 hours; it began in the ‘call room’ of an 18th-century building where miners were selected each morning and assigned their duties. We were supplied overcoats and helmets; the temperature in the mine was around 13°C (55°F). The mine was closed in the 80’s due to lack of demand for Mercury. As the negative effects of mercury became know both on the people exposed to it and the environment, the use of mercury declined until it was no longer profitable to mine.

After the mine tour, we drive over to the old smelting plant, not very easy to find but worth the effort. At the smelting plant now a museum we spent time in a demonstration section where we could see all the different uses of the mined mercury from industrial uses to medical. After some time in the museum, we got a tour of the old smelting plant. There was a cable car system, much like a ski lift, it would bring the ore mined from the shaft to the smelting plant. The ore would then be crushed and heated, The heating process would release the Mercury Vapor that would then be cooled back into pure mercury. At the time there was little worry about the environment or even the workers. Vapor leaked into the air and the ash from the heated ore (which still had some mercury in it) was dumped into the river. The workers in the smelting plant and the mine had little to no safety equipment, not even respirators. The death rate of these folks was rather high most dying in their 30’s. The mine operated like this for over 500 years with only slight equipment changes as they became available, the smelting plant evolved as technology changed making the process more efficient but not really any safer.

After our tour, we headed to Venice to catch a flight Amsterdam

Cheers from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Slovenia,


All Photos