October 14, 2022

Crazy who you meet doing laundry.  Since it was our last day in Croatia, and our AirBnB had parking but no washer, we headed to a nearby laundromat.  We ran into other people from the US who were traveling full time, so we chatted and picked their brains.  Dominique and Marcos were from Chicago and taking a year to travel before heading back to their jobs.  They're doing a bit more whirlwind, visiting a new city every few days.  Michael has been living nomadically since 2017, although he's working remotely full time while traveling.  We were going to get pizza while our laundry washed, but we ended up hanging out and chatting for the full 70 minutes that our laundry ran.  Michael had already finished his, actually, and stayed to chat.  We had to immortalize the moment with a selfie.

October 13, 2022

Stephen failed to read the directions clearly about our absentee ballots, and there was something else that we needed to print and sign before faxing them back to the elections office in Palm Beach County.  So, today he went in search of a place where he could print.  Luckily, there was a Hilton hotel right around the corner, and he figured there would likely be a business center there, so that was the first place he checked.  After wandering around the property for a bit, he finally found it (while raising the eyebrows of some staff, although they didn't stop him).  They had computers and a printer, so we were able to get the extra stuff printed.  Now we just need to find a place to have them faxed or scanned so we can email them.

Stephen also took a walk around the walls of the city.  It used to be free, but now it's a whopping $25 to take the approximately 1 hour walk on the walls.  You do get a nice vantage point to see parts of the city, but he's not sure it was quite worth the $25 bucks.  There were a couple of schools built right into the wall.  If you look closely in the window picture, you can see students in a classroom.  How cool is that?  Afterward, we both headed to the Love Stories Museum (apparently the companion to the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb).  This one, though, looked hastily put together and lacked the emotional resonance of the one in Zagreb-- not worth the 4 bucks.

For dinner, we wanted to try Ston oysters, which are a local delicacy.  We went to Moskar Street Food (which is actually a misnomer because they don't really serve "street food"). We think it's just named this because it's on Moskar street.  The oysters were $14 for 6, so not much more than we would typically pay for oysters at our favorite place in Delray.  These were definitely briny and minerally and all the good things you would expect from an oyster.  Sometimes the oysters we get in the US get covered up by all the accompaniments, but these stood their own, even to hot sauce... well worth it.  For mains, Eli had the seabass again, which was excellent.  Stephen had a Pasticada, which is basically pot roast with gnocchi; it was just okay.  This was probably the most we spent for dinner other than Restaurant 360 since we got to Croatia.

As we get ready to leave Croatia, we definitely enjoyed our time here, and could see someone interested in a beachy or coastal lifestyle loving it here.  We much preferred our stays in the big cities so far, though.

October 12, 2022

Since we had seen everything that there was to see in old town, and frankly we were getting tired of being constantly in a crowd of tourists, we decided we would spend some time outside of old town.  We first went up the cable car to see what kinds of views we could get from up there.  You can also get up there by car, and it's far cheaper, but we didn't want to get our car out through the narrow alley until we absolutely had to, so we took the cable car (at $25 a piece).  Views were nice and we got a few photos.  They offer ziplining from up there down the hill with a view of old town on the way down as well.  

Since it was a nice day and we wanted to avoid the crowds, we ended up going to Lokrum Island.  It's a quiet place to walk around and be in nature.  There are ladders for you to descend the rocks in some places to swim, and it is the location of the nudist beach and de facto gay beach as well.  "Beach," though, is kind of a misnomer.  There isn't any sand (nor is it pebbly like many Mediterranean beaches).  It's more like laying out on a concrete pool deck; the rocks are large, flat, and smooth.  The island is still touristed, but you don't feel the massive crush of people that you do in the city.  You can be on a trail and not see anybody in front of or behind you for a while until they come walking in the opposite direction.  We picnicked on a park bench and were carefully watched by the local peacocks for any leftovers.  We spent about 3 hours walking around the island.  Boats run every half our or every hour depending on time of day and it's about $25 for a roundtrip ticket.

Tonight we went to our first official Michelin starred restaurant (as opposed to Bib Gourmand), Restaurant 360.  The restaurant is set on the city walls overlooking the harbor.  We thought we'd make a reservation for 6:30, even though that's kind of early, with hopes of catching a nice sunset.  The sunset, though, wasn't really noticeable at all (and we still haven't seen a sunset comparable to the two we had in Zadar).  Rather than doing a tasting menu, we ended up ordering 2 starters, 2 mains, and one dessert.  The meal also comes with an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser before dessert.  For our starter, Eli got the scallop tartare and Stephen got the langoustines.  For mains, Eli got the seabass and Stephen got the pigeon.  For dessert we shared the chocolate concoction.  Since we'll be in Egypt for our official anniversary, we figured this would be our anniversary celebration, and to honor that, the server brought out a selection of small dessert bites in addition.  Overall, the food was well balanced and flavors were on point and subtle.  As we talked about it, we didn't feel like it was significantly better than some of the outstanding meals we've had at non-starred (Bib Gourmand) restaurants, but it was certainly very good and well worth the money.  Was it 50% better, for example, than L'Aigle D'or in the Loire Valley (which was the difference in cost between the two meals)?  Maybe not quite, but both were awesome and we're glad we got to do both.

  October 11, 2022

We packed up the car and hit the road.  Along the way back to Croatia, we stopped at Blagaj, which is about 25 minutes from Mostar.  Blagaj has a fortress built way up on a hill, and also has a Muslim monastery built in the 15th century, know colloquially in English as the Dervish House (neither of us knew the origin of the term "whirling dervish" to describe someone who can't stop moving prior to this, but we will now refrain from using it).  The setting of the monastery is gorgeous, and it's interesting that the building is quite plain vs. how elaborately decorated mosques can be.  The other thing that we noted is how the rules for bathing and cleanliness were evident in the architecture of the building.

From the monastery, we drove up to the fortress.  It's still another 20 minute hike along a steep but well kept path from the parking to the fortress, but you are well rewarded with some great views over the valley.

The drive is about 2.5 hours from Mostar to Dubrovnik, and with our 2 stops we ended up arriving in town at our AirBnB about 2pm.  Again, because we needed parking, we're staying just outside old town and again we had a narrow alleyway to get to the parking.  This time there was maybe 3 inches on either side of the car (and that was with the mirrors turned in).  We had the flat owner get our car in, but we'll have to do it ourselves when we leave on Saturday.

We grabbed a quick lunch at Sandwich Bar Pile (our first time having burgers since we started traveling) and then went into the walled city.  The burger was so huge we ended up saving half of each of ours for lunch the next day.  The walled city, as anyone who has watched Game of Thrones knows, is quite stunning.  Again, though, we didn't see many buildings (other than the walls themselves) that stood out.   We did go into the Rector's Palace which has a fee.  There was a display of renaissance through 18th century artwork and furniture.  They also had a photo exhibit of the siege of Dubrovnik.  It was interesting to see this version of the war vs. what we saw in Mostar.  It was quite a bit more patriotic about the defense of the city (meanwhile Croatians were aggressing into Bosnia).  While there is certainly stability in the area now, it is hard to for us to tell how deep the undercurrents of what caused the violence still exist here.

For dinner, we headed to Barba for a fried seafood plate.  In particular, we were interested in trying the Octopus burger.  It ended up being much like a shrimp burger, if you've ever had one, and wasn't very particularly octopus-ly flavored.  All together, dinner was about $60.

After dinner, we thought we might check out a concert in one of the churches.  There were a couple going on, and we settled on the guitar concert.  They only took cash, though, and we didn't have enough (and we were kind of skeptical about the quality of the performance anyway for $20 a piece).  Instead, we decided to go to the folkloric music and dance performance group Lindo.  We were very happy with our decision.  Even more than the dancing, we appreciated the musical ensemble that accompanied the dancers.  The dancers in particular looked like high school or early college age students (the musicians were generally older, although there was a girl in the group who could have been maybe 12 or 13 playing one of the lute-like instruments).  This performance was only $15 a piece, and it was lively and enjoyable.  

October 10, 2022

We left Split early in the morning to drive toward Mostar, which is actually in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  On our way, we stopped by Kravice Falls.  It's not really worth a special trip to see it, but it would be a nice place to stop and have a picnic by the waterfall if you're heading that way.  

We arrived in Mostar at about 1pm (it took us a bit longer because Google sent us on a couple of dead-end roads thinking it would save us time).  We stayed at the SHM hotel.  For $36 for the night, we knew it wasn't going to be fancy, but it had free parking, and we figured we could make most anything work for one night.  We thought when we arrived that it was a youth hostel that had private rooms as well.  We saw tons of college age students about the building (but they all seemed to be speaking Slavic languages).  It ended up that the SHM hotel is actually a dorm or "student hotel," since there was a university right next door.

Mostar is known for its old bridge and the story of its bombardment and reconstruction.  Mostar was under siege during the ethnic wars following the breakup or Yugoslavia.  In order to gain some context for seeing the bridge and to learn more about the violence during the 1990's, we started at the Museum of War and Genocide Victims.  Note that the museum is at a new location about 300 meters south  and around the corner from the location shown on google maps.  The museum, in some ways like the Museum of Broken Relationships, uses items submitted by survivors of the war to tell the story of what happened.  We both found it very moving, but Eli felt like there wasn't enough of a through-line through the exhibits to understand how the wars started, what some of the precipitating factors were related to history, ethnicity, culture, and religion that caused the breakout of conflict, and what the status of the community was today.  This is another place we felt like doing a guided tour with a local guide may have provided us some of that information.

The bridge itself is very beautiful, with a graceful arch and very photogenic.  The town is known for its coppersmithing, but most of what we saw walking the streets of old town were just tourist trinkets.  We stopped in to see a couple of mosques and churches near the old town; the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque has a terrace with a nice view of the bridge, but there is an entrance fee to see that sanctuary and the terrace.

For dinner, we went to Sadrvan, a typical Bosnian restaurant with a meat and vegetable focus.  The mini plate was hardly mini, and that plus a small plate of dolma and lamb was enough for the two of us.  Again, dinner was under $60.

October 9, 2022 

We were trying to decide between taking the ferry to Hvar Town and driving to Trogir.  We decided on Trogir because its whole old town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Again, while cute and atmospheric overall, there were not really any outstanding buildings.  The most interesting thing was the soccer field in the shadow of the castle and town walls.  There were a bunch of youth playing club soccer on the fields and we wondered if it even connected with them that they were doing this in the shadow of buildings built in the 14th century.  We spent about 2 hours in Trogir in total and then headed back to Split.

Once we arrived back, we couldn't find any street parking so we had to use the parking available down the alleyway to our building.  Our AirBnB host suggested that we back in; that was much easier said than done.  There was about 6 inches of clearance on each side of the car, and there was an ever-so-slight curve to the alleyway.  Stephen drove and Eli got out of the car and coached him in.  Luckily nothing but nerves were damaged.

For dinner, we were hoping to get into the one Bib Gourmand restaurant in Split, but they were all booked up, but the restaurant across the street looked promising and Eli was jonesing for fish, so we went there:  Konoba Matejuska.  A Kanoba is a tavern, so it's very much the Dalmatian version of a bistro or pub, but with a focus on fish and this one was quite good.  We had an awesome octopus salad as an appetizer, Stephen has shrimp risotto, and Eli had a mixed fish grill.  

October 8, 2022 in Split

Today we hit all the historic sites in Split following the walking tour recommended in our Lonely Planet guide.  The area was swamped with tour groups, as there were 3 cruise ships all docked in town today.  We can't imagine what Split is like in July and August during high season.  We enjoyed seeing the Diocletian palace and walking around the old town.  We caught a Klapa group performing; they were just okay.  We heard them do one song, and then we swung back around 15 minutes later and they were doing the same song.  They probably just do the same two songs live as most people don't stay for very long to listen.  The music is very folksy in tune, rhythm, and lyrics.  We were expecting something more chant like given that they perform outside the church, though, as we didn't really know much about Klapa before hearing them.  It was more like Slavic barber shop. 

We checked out the local green market (Eli picked up some lemons), we walked around the harbor a bit, and then we headed back to the flat around 1ish to have lunch, relax a little while, and get caught up on stuff.  We're going to try and schedule massages for ourselves for tomorrow; we've been doing a lot of hiking and walking these last few days and we're sore!

For dinner, we were planning to head to a vegan restaurant that was near the place we went to last night, Pandora Green Box.  When we arrived, they were doing a special prix fix menu of 5 courses and 4 wines for 60 euros.  They had invited a special guest chef to join their regular chef as part of Taste the Mediterranean night across Croatia.  We figured, sure why not, and said yes.  The guest chef, Gabriela Filca has been working at a Michelin starred restaurant in Istria and got paired with the chef from Pandora Green box to prepare together a 5 course tasting menu.  Wow!  What an experience.  The two chefs together created an incredible meal.  Each course was well balanced with interesting flavors.  It compared favorably to L'Aigle d'Or and Table de Deux, which have been our standouts so far.  We would really encourage Pandora to move this direction in doing elevated vegetarian; we definitely think there is a market in a town like Split for this kind of vegan dining.  As a side note, the wait staff was super cute and friendly as well.

October 7, 2022 in Krka and Split

We packed up our stuff into the car and headed toward Krka National Park.  The park is long and runs along both sides of the Krka river, so there are many different sections you can visit.  We visited the falls at the southern section (you enter this through the Lozovac entrance to the park), the falls in the midsection (which we would advise skipping), and we went to see the Serbian Monastery in the northern section.  We drove between each part, but you can also take a boat.  We felt like the boat excursion times wouldn't allow us the flexibility we wanted and would have required a lot of waiting time.  The boats also require separate tickets vs. entry to the park.  We got an entry that covered all 3 areas of the park (south, mid, and north) but you can just buy entries to each of the sections separately.  We also bought a ticket for the bus up and down the hill from the Lozovac entrance in the southern section.  We only used it on the way up, but should have used it both ways as the path down is not well kept and we slid around quite a bit on the gravel as we made our way down.

The southern (Lozovac) entrance is home to Skradinski falls.  While not as epic as Plitvice, these are still very enjoyable, and we didn't feel let down at all even having been at Plitvice just two days earlier.  The falls in the middle, Roski Slap, were pretty disappointing and honestly hard to get to, so we would recommend skipping.

The Serbian Monastery, though, is a must see.  Architecturally it's not terribly impressive (other than the ornate screen across the altar), but its historical significance is monumental.  The monastery is built over caves from the first century AD where early Christians would gather, pray, and bury their dead during the period in the Roman empire while they were still persecuting Christians.  You go under the monastery to see these catacombs and see the graves and the early Christian wall art (mostly fish symbols) carved into the walls.  It is believed that St. Titus and probably St. Paul visited here to proselytize.  The park provides an historic interpreter, and the one that was there the day we visited was really energetic and you could tell how he cared about the history and information he was providing.  We wouldn't have appreciated half as much about the space had we not had his help.

We wrapped up our visit and then headed back along the narrow, winding road back to the highway and on our way to Split.

We arrived at our AirBnB, got settled, rested a bit, did laundry (we got to hang our clothes out on a clothesline from the balcony just like Croatians would), and then headed to dinner.  We ended up going to one of the recommendations of our AirBnB host, DeListes.  It's a tiny little hole in the wall, and they only take cash, but it is as authentic as you can get.  Eli had the squid with fava beans, and Stephen had the meatballs.  Eli didn't love his dish so much, although it was not because it wasn't well prepared.  He just felt like there was a bitter note in the sauce that he didn't appreciate.  Stephen felt like his meatballs were some of the best he'd ever had.  Service was convivial, and we loved the wine selection the waiter made for us.  All in, we were again less than $50 total for dinner.

October 6, 2022 in Zadar and Sibenik

Since we felt like we saw most of Zadar's old town yesterday, today we were deciding between heading toward Pag or to Sibenik.  Pag is known for its cheese and lace, but we ended up deciding to head to Sibenik instead.  Sibenik has a medieval old town that is built high on up onto a hill with a number of fortresses scattered about.  It's quite picturesque, although nothing really stood out to us. We chose Sibenik over Pag because it has a UNESCO World Heritage church, the Cathedral of St. James, and we've had pretty good luck so far with things on that list.  With that said, the church, apart from the incredible setting of the old city up on the hill was not our favorite UNESCO site.  It is also possible our view of the church was blighted by the 4-5 groups of tourists from the cruise ship that was in port on this day that were at the church at the same time we were.

We spend a lot of time wandering the steep steps of the town and both decided that while pretty, living in an apartment like this would be a challenge over the long term.  We also marveled at how they were able to get plumbing to these houses in the late 19th century.

We walked up the hill to St. Michael's fortress.  There was a commanding view of the city from here, but there wasn't actually much to see at the fort per se.  It's been converted into a concert venue.  They did, though, have a small informational display about fortress building in the medieval period.  It put the fortress here in context with some other fortifications around Europe.  There is another fortress even higher up in the town, but we decided to skip that and instead head back to Zadar, this time driving along the coast, so that we could get caught up on blogging, video editing, and other stuff.

We headed back out to the end of the old town for the sunset again tonight.  We thought we had wanted to eat at a tapas place, but when we got there, it didn't really look at all as it did on Google, and so we wandered around looking for a couple other places we had scouted online.  None of them looked appetizing as well, so we just dropped into a place that we found on the street that looked halfway decent: L'Osteria 12.  It actually was very good.  Stephen had the special pasta for the night, which was a porcini and cream pasta, and Eli had a squid in tomato sauce dish that was excellent.  From there we went back toward the water to check out the light show that we missed the previous night.

This is an elementary school built into the original town walls

October 5, 2022 in Zadar

Our second day hike at Plitvice didn't take as long as we were expecting, so we ended up leaving the park around 1pm and driving to Zadar.  As we drove, we hit a three mile long tunnel, and when we got on the other side of the tunnel, it was an incredible change in topography from green and forested to still green but much more rocky and dry.

When we booked our stuff to do in Croatia, we weren't really sure how much time we should spend where.  This is very different than what we had done up until this point having at least a month in one city.  We thought Zadar would be a good jumping off point for some of the other things around central Dalmatia before we got to Split.  Zadar is a cute port town with an old walled city.  We arrived about 3pm and checked into our room that we booked through  This wasn't an actual hotel, though, but more like an AirBnB, but just a room and not a full apartment.  They have converted an old apartment unit in a residential building to be hotel rooms and there are 5 private rooms after you go into the main door from the landing.  Can't say that this was the best experience we've had so far; there was a mix-up as it was unclear from the listing that we were required to pay in cash, and the WiFi was not working right when we got here. 

Late afternoon was the perfect time of day to walk around the city.  We were able to see most of the sights in a couple of hours walking through the old town, like the historic Venetian gates in the city walls and the Roman-era Forum whose ruins were used to construct St. Donatus' church.  In fact, you'll be able to see in the photos where old Roman columns were used to create the foundations for the church.  We also checked out the 11th-century St. Mary’s Convent, with religious art dating to the 8th century, and caught the vibe of the whole city.  We walked along the harbor out to the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun.  These are two art installations created by a Croatian architect,  Nikola Basic.  The Sea Organ creates haunting music from the waves, and the Greeting to the Sun comes alive after sunset, having absorbed the suns energy during the day and creating a light show at night.  This is also the place where people come to watch the sunset similar to how they do it in Key West.  There's also a nice bar with outdoor tables set up to watch the sunset, so we sat down and had a few drinks before the big event at 6:30.

After sunset, we walked back to our room, quickly showered, and went to a restaurant that had been recommended in a couple of different places.  It was fine, but not all that special, and we did spend more money here than we did when we were in Zagreb.  Definitely the coastal towns are oriented toward tourists.

October 4 and 5, 2022 in Plitvice

Since we were kinda done with Zagreb already yesterday and we weren't sure how much time we'd want to spend in Plitvice National Park (we had originally planned on driving to our hotel tonight and seeing all of Plitvice the following day), we instead decided to drive out this morning and split up our visit across two days; this would give us more than enough time to see the park and not feel rushed.  After October 1, entry prices go down by 50% also, so we were basically getting two days for the price of one anyway.  

We downloaded the Plitvice Android and iOS apps to our phones.  They have a list of different routes you can follow through the park.  There are short trips in the 2-3 hour range and longer journeys of 6-8 hours.  We decided to do two routes across two days that combined would cover the 6-8 hour trek but were listed as 2-3 and 3-4 hours separately.   There is a lot of discussion on blogs about if it's better to do the routes from entrance 1 or entrance 2.  The benefit of entrance 1 is that for many of the falls, you tend to approach from the front, so you don't have to walk down and then look back at them.  However, most large tour groups in the park for the day use entrance 1, and so if you get behind a tour group, you're kind of stuck with them all the way.  With entrance 2, if you run into a tour group, they may make it uncomfortable for a short while if they're in the general area with you, but then they go one way and you go the other.  While we did find it annoying to approach some of the falls from the top vs. bottom, we both decided it was much better to do this than to get stuck behind the many tour groups we encountered on our route around the park.  

We stayed at Villa Mukinja, which is a short walk from entrance 2.  We met the owner as he checked us in.  He's a young guy, probably in his late 20s.  The hotel has been a family business since the 1980's and now he is owner and manager.  We chatted about how the hotel developed.  His father was the first person permitted to have a non-state run hotel in the area.  During the wars following independence in the 1990's the hotel was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.  The owner is now working on upgrading the property a bit as well.  It has a hot tub and a sauna, which, while we didn't avail ourselves of them, were nice amenities to have available.  The place was spotless and clearly well kept.  

We lucked out that there was some fall color already developing in the valley.  Another week and it probably would have been peak.  As we started our walk, we heard someone remark that "Every time you turn the corner there is something new to see" and we couldn't agree more.  We both made the comparison to seeing Iguazu falls, but Eli liked Plitvice more.  He said top 3 travel experience for him.  We're throwing just a couple of photos here so you can get the idea, but we took so many overall because around every corner.....

October 3, 2022 in Zagreb

Since we felt like we had really seen most of Zagreb at this point, we figured we'd visit some of the places we couldn't get to the day before because they were closed and then head to a small lake that is local to do our picnic because it was such a beautiful day out.  We headed up to the Upper Town again, and alas, St. Mark's Church was again closed and cordoned off, so we got the best selfie we could.  We then went to the Croatian Museum of Naive (Folk) Art.  We spent about 45 minutes there.  It was a small collection of just a few different artists, but some of the work was very interesting.  As we were walking through the Upper Town, we ran into a dog sitting patiently outside a shop (not tied down at all) for their owner to finish shopping.  This was not the first dog we'd seen do this.  Clearly Croatia has the best behaved and well trained dogs we've ever seen.

From there, we did a little more shopping for souvenirs and then got the car to drive out to the lake. It was sunny but breezy and not too warm.  Eli said it was dangerous because this is the kind of weather that it's hard to remember you're still getting sunburned, but we stayed about 2 hours and moved around a bit so we weren't getting too much sun. 

We came home to nap and then we decided to head to Bistro MZ for dinner.  Since we did an all dairy dinner last night, tonight's meal was all meat so Stephen didn't need to use any lactaid pills.  Bistro MZ is no frills, but boy can they grill meat (and great bread).  We ordered the mixed platter plus 1 additional item that wasn't on the platter, and order of fries, and an order of bread and it was the perfect amount of food for the 2 of us (and no less, or maybe more, of a heart attack on a plate as the cheese dinner the night before).  This was all for under $40.

October 2, 2022 in Zagreb

Today was our day to explore Zagreb.  We started in the Upper Town, which is the original medieval walled city, by hiking up the steps from our flat in the lower town.  You can also ride a funicular, which is about 75 cents.  It was Sunday, so the streets, even at 10am, in this section of town were eerily quiet.  We started first at the Museum of Broken Relationships.  We were a little worried that this would be a little too much like the Museum of Disgust in Malmo, but it was surprisingly touching.  It had started as a contemporary art project early in the 2000's and has found a permanent home here.  People send in objects and some sort of writing, poem, or story related to what the object's meaning in connection to the end of a relationship.  The idea of "end of relationship" is given meaning by the contributor, so there were bad breakups, fond memories of relationships that ended for unpreventable reasons, mementos submitted by the children related to their parents' relationship, etc.  

From there we walked around the Upper Town a bit.  The area around St. Mark's Church, a 13th century original structure, was cordoned off.  There are a bunch of government buildings there, so we thought that could have been why.  They were also doing restoration work on the church.  In any case, we couldn't go in to see the interior.  The colorfully tiled roof was the most interesting part.  In fact, a lot of museums and other tourist sites were closed for renovation.  It's actually a good thing in some ways, as the city still visually is suffering from the neglect of the Soviet years and the effects of the violence following the breakup of Yugoslavia.  Hopefully these renovations will put a new gleam on the city (which could overall use a fresh coat of stucco and paint).

Moving on from the Church, we headed toward the Stone Gate, one of the original gates to the medieval city.  Stone Gate was damaged badly in a fire in the 18th century, but one painting hanging at the gate remained intact - the painting of Virgin Mary with baby Jesus.  The gate then become a pilgrimage site and lots of people were there on a Sunday lighting candles and saying prayers.

We walked through the gate and down the hill toward the street filled with the touristy shops.  We window shopped a little (many of the shops were closed, though, as it was Sunday) on our way to catch the bus to Mirogoj Cemetery.  Before you get creeped out, visiting the cemetery here is just like visiting the one in Vienna where the famous musicians are buried, or visiting the cemetery in Recoleta in Buenos Aires to see Evita's grave.  This one is quite beautiful and the many of the gravesites are quite elaborate.  The colonnade, done in an Italianate renaissance style and which is the most intricate part of the cemetery, though, was undergoing refurbishment and so we really couldn't get a great look through the fences.

We strolled from the cemetery to Art Park, which didn't actually have a lot of art in it, although it was a nice place to sit down and have our picnic lunch.  We did run into a community building in the park, though, where there was a youth orchestra rehearsing.  We got to listen to the Carmen overture while we picnicked.  

While yesterday was the marathon, today was the bike race, so the city again was cordoned off with all kinds of routes blocked.  When Copenhagen hosted the Tour de France, it wasn't such a big deal because Copenhagen has an underground metro, so you could still pretty much move unimpeded across the city.  Here it was a little more difficult since the tram and bus routes were all being truncated.  We wanted to visit the Contemporary Museum, but the transit directions that Google was giving us were clearly not working because no trams were passing by.  We moved around a little on foot, stopping by the National Theater and some other governmental buildings and closed museums, and then finally (after much consternation) found the temporary stop for the tramline to take us to the museum.

The Contemporary Museum is out in the newer area of the city, about a 30 minute tram ride (when things are actually running like they should) from the historic center.  It's in a beautiful new building with lots of vaulted gallery spaces.  The focus of the museum has been on contemporary art from the Balkans and most of it has been related to processing the trauma of the violence that occurred between 1991 and 2003.  In fact, one of the installations referenced Mostar, which we will visit on our way to Dubrovnik.  Also, there was an interesting video installation that referenced the violence during the first Gay Pride March in Zagreb in 2006.  While we wouldn't say that we found the art in the museum particularly "arty," we did appreciate the role the museum and the art displayed there was a part of the healing of the community.

After the museum, we headed back to the flat to rest for a bit before heading to La Struk for dinner.  They are the ones that make the Croatian things reminiscent of blintzes that Stephen took a whole bottle of Lactaid to eat (and they were worth it).  Eli had the one with truffles, and Stephen has the one with pumpkin seeds.  This and 2 beers came out to $18.  Definitely worth it!

October 1, 2022 in Zagreb

Sorry to start our posting from a new country in a rant, but what's up with Air France's carry on baggage rules?  We actually had our carry on bag and personal item weighed together, and if it was over 12 kilos we had to check the carry on bag.  Really, what difference does this make?  The weight is the weight whether it is in the cargo hold or the cabin.  It's not like either of our bags were oversized for the overhead bins.

Once we got on the plane, though, everything was good; it was an uneventful flight.  It did take us a while to get through passport control, but this concern will be disappearing shortly once Croatia enters the Schengen area.

We're renting a car for this segment of our journey as we'll be driving between a number of cities as we head toward Dubrovnik.  We had been alerted by our AirBnB host that the Zagreb marathon would be running today and the route would go right in front of our flat.  Unfortunately that meant we wouldn't get able to get to our flat with the car and our luggage.  We figured we'd wing it and try to get as close as we could and then just hunt for parking.  We got about 4 blocks away, found a parking spot, and took it.  The zone was painted yellow, so we were a bit worried that the car would be towed when we came to get it after the marathon was over.  There was a guy sitting in the car parked behind us, so we used our Google Translate to ask him if it was okay to park here.  He waved his hand to mean like it was nothing and said "sure."  As we walked down the street, though, we saw a sign that read 15 minute parking with an image of a tow truck, so we were a bit hesitant.  Unfortunately, we didn't have any other option.

We got ourselves settled in our flat and then headed out to get some groceries for breakfasts and lunches.  On our way out, we saw one of the route monitors lift and lower the police tape along the route for a car parked on the street to cross, so we asked him if would do that for us.  He said "yes," so we headed off to get our groceries and planned on picking up the car and heading down this street where the guy was.  Just one block further, there was a police officer blocking the street, though, so we thought we had better ask him as well if it would be okay, as we would have to pass by him to get to the route monitor.  Initially he said no, but then we said that the guy standing on the route said it was okay, and then he responded, "If they say it's okay, then it's fine."  Not sure how we would trust a police officer with that attitude more generally, but for us this time it worked in our favor.  We got the car, waved to the police officer as we drove by, and then go to the route tape to cross.  Except by the time we got there, the route monitors were gone.  Stephen ended up just getting out of the car, raising the tape himself and having Eli drive through.  Nobody batted an eye (although at this point after 5 hours of the marathon it was only the last stragglers every 30-45 seconds passing by this section).  

By now it was dinner time and so we headed off to the main section of the old town where all the restaurants and night life are located.  We had originally wanted to go to this place that specializes in what would be the Croatian equivalent of blintzes, but it was packed, so instead we headed to Curry Bowl, a Sri Lankan restaurant started by a couple of expats.  We started with lentil fritters.  Eli had a curry that was really good; it had a nice hint of clove.  Stephen had a traditional Sri Lankan dish that is made like a tower with shredded roti and cheese and either meat or egg.  It's also served with a cheese sauce.  It was interesting, for sure... very filling.  The cheese sauce didn't really add much to the experience, however.  Eli's dish was definitely the more successful of the night.  And the meal was all in, including two beers, for $35.