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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Kravike Falls, and back into Croatia

I am now writing from Split, Croatia. It is the last day of our trip. Tomorrow am we head to the airport, then back home thru Paris, with about a five hour layover. Usually I would dread that, but with reports from friends that it took three hours to get through customs, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
On our way here, to Split, we stopped at Kravice Falls, still in Bosnia. Our host in Mostar, when Loring asked whether people swam in the river, was that it was very cold, and that Kravice was a really nice swimming place.
It was, but it was also mobbed, as most everything on this trip has been. I didn't mind,  the waterfalls were beautiful, and amidst them was a lake,  which was filled with bathers of all kinds,  tourists, locals,  daredevil young men,  Muslim women in hijabs and burkas. I've seen women in burkas. full black coverage, go into the ocean before, in Israel,  but none of them did here.

 At first we thought there were no regulations and no lifeguards, but eventually saw a guy in a  canoe whistling at one person for climbing up the rocks to one of the waterfalls. One brief whistle, then he headed to under a tree with some shade and joined another  canoe with a couple of other young men it it.  They didn't seem to be doing much guarding, of lives, falls,  or anything else. 

If one had thought of it as a once pristine set of waterfalls, now overwhelmed by tourists, it could have been annoying and disappointing. But everyone was clearly having so much fun, together in one environment, it was a gathering of people of all kinds, kids going in the water for the  very first time, teenagers, dormant lifeguards, etc.  There were a few cafes, and many people just sitting on the grass and on the concrete, with towels spread out, lunches, etc. It was a fifteen minute hike down.  I had the feeling that many of the people there were local, as well as the myriad tourists.  

We eventually continued on to Split.  I had chosen it over Dubrovnik, because it had sounded like Dubrovnik was absolutely sieged with tourists,  between cruise ships, fans of Game of Thrones, etc.  Well, it's hard to imagine a place more inundated than the old town in Split. Diognenes Palace  is more than a ruin of a castle. It is a veritable  town into itself. It is massive, and a warren of little streets and alleys. Its architectural is impressive, and beautiful. But amidst the falls and alleys are shops,  some junky souvenir stands, lots of high end designer shops, jewelry stores, intermixed with restaurants and ice cream stands.  There were also a number of hostels and hotels within the complex.  A little of everything, and a lot of people. We had to elbow our way through.  Kind of depressing to see an incredible ruined palace turned into a veritable shopping mall. 
Beyond the castle is the waterfront, also lined with cafes, and people selling a variety of boat tours, from hour long to all day cruises with music and food. None of them seemed that interesting, though, because we were pretty sure they involved stops at various tourist places with more souvenir shops.  on one end of the waterfront was the beach we visited twice, and several other beaches after that.  On the other end, past the waterfront cafes and docks, is a park with a big hill, and supposedly stunning views overlooking the city and ocean. But we didn't make it that far.
We have been walking everywhere. Parking is almost impossible in the old part of town. We were incredibly lucky to find someone leaving just as we located our home, (a challenge and a saga in itself) and have left the car there for the entire three days we are herel. We would probably not find another spotif we were to drive anywhere.   We are just outside the palace, less than a 10 minute walk, and about a  15 minute walk to the beach, where we spend a couple of hours both yesterday and this morning.  Our apartment here is great, although tiny, has a small kitchen, bathroom,  bedroom, and a little sofa in the kitchen. There's also a desk in the bedroom, which is  where I am writing from.   Best, there is a large balcony right above us.Our house is just outside the palace walls, but is a different environment entirely. It is largely residential, alathough there are apts for rent mixed in.  The streets are narrow and hard to negotiate, or even to know if they are driveable at all.
I have tended to search for places with views and/or balconies, wherever we go, and have had a great variety of them, from garret studios with a view of the Eiffel Tower,  to a garden with myriad waterfalls surrounding us. in Rakove,  to a porch overlooking the town in Jajce.  
Only problem here, in Split, is that our patio is  in the sun, although there is an umbrella and a couple of lounge chairs. But the heat has been oppressive, everywhere we've gone. It was too hot to sit up there even at 9am today. But by tonite, it should be cool enough again. 
There are at least a couple of museums here in Split, although it may be pushing it too far to call the one we visited yesterday, Froggyland, a museum.  It is a couple of rooms filled with dioramas of stuffed (real) frogs in various activites, like having picnics, logging,  a schoolroom, with student frogs hitting each other with rulers, etc.  It pretty much defies description. I had heard about it a few years ago, on Atlas Obscura or some such site, and then a friend who visited brought me a postcard.  But I had forgotten that it was here, in Split, and would not have remembered if Loring had not mentioned it in reading an online site. I would have been extremely upset if I hadn't realized until we left.
It was all built by one man, 60 or 70 years ago.  I hesitate to  think about whether he used frogs that had already died, or  if the hundreds of them (500 plus in all)  had been sacrified for the cause.  But if you go to Split make sure to see it, you'll never see anything else like it.  And whether you like it or not, you have to admire the guy's creativitiy and skill.  I burst out laughing at pretty much every scene.We took a few pix before getting yelled at, hadn't actually seen the no photos signs. I will post one or two on facebook.

We haven't been doing much cooking here, or on this trip in general. Some of places didn't have kitchens at all.  And the food in Bosnia was so incredibly cheap that it didn't seem worth it ,  it was better to get more chances to sample the local cuisine. We've been having breakfast at home, then a big meal for either lunch or supper, and snacks in between.  The local cuisine features a lot of meat, and I've tried to order other things. But yesterday, we went to a restaurant for lunch that our host had suggested. When we first got here and found the restaurant the first night, there was a long line waiting to get in. So we decided to try to get a reservation the next day, or see if it was less crowded at lunchtime. 

That worked well. The second day there was no line at all, although the tables were mostly filled.  I had a lamb stew with peas, delicious, and Loring ordered the house specialty,  beef cooked overnight in a wine sauce, which came with gnocchi.   I chose "Croatian Swiss Chard" as my side, which was  also delicious.  I think they boiled it first, then cooked it further with olive oiI and spices.)  I gathered that most people order some kind of potato with the stews. I saw people  ladling stew over fries, as well as over mashed potatoes.  Luckily, Loring's had come with a huge bowl of the gnocchi, and I ate at least half of it with my lamb stew. 

There's a bandstand on the waterfront, and we've seen two events there. I am hoping there is something interesting there tonite. The first night, it was traditional women singers, then dancers. It was my first and only encounter with traditional music or dance on this trip.  I was delighted,  and got a couple of videos with the crowd, and a couple of children imitating and doing their own versions of the dancers' moves

 Last night the stage was set up for another event. We waited to see what it was. A  marching band that looked like high school students came from down the street.  That was followed by a lot of men, young and not, all dressed in white sailor uniforms. They filled about half the seats set up, including right next to us. For the next fifteen or twenty minutes, a man, probably the mayor, spoke, and of course we didn't understand a word.  He introduced a variety of men, and one woman, who came up to the stage to plant various flags.  People applauded at each one.  Some were wearing full uniforms, not the white navy ones.  Others were wearing military type shirts with jeans.  One was wearing a tee shirt and jeans, but a military hat.  It was not something we would have seen in the states. 

Eventually, a group of male singers came out and sang what must have been the national anthem, since everyone stood up.  Some people sang along, including the navy man next to me, but most didn't.  The mayor had his hand over  his heart, but most people didn't. I wish I'd been able to understand what was said, and what the occasion was.

We left before the event had ended, and strolled the waterfront, stopping for a fruit smoothie. They are big here, almost as popular as ice cream.  Mine was called hot lips, I think. It was watermelon and lemon. I may have to stop for one last one tonite.  We'll go out again soon, to a museum that we are not sure what to expect of, then probably dinner, and then take a look at the stage again to see if there's a performance tonite. I  imagine there will be, especially since it's Saturday night.  And then, hopefully, we''ll spend an hour or two on our very nice balcony. Which is, by the way, a level above our apt.  you have to go out of the apartment and up a flight of stairs. There's another apartment up there that opens right onto the balcony. So we share the big space with them, each with our own half. I haven't seen any others there, but have heard them, a man and a small kid.  By 8 or 9 pm it will hopefully be cool enough to sit out there.

I hope to write some more reflections about the trip,  and whatever awaits us tonite before we leave early in the am.  Perhaps from the airport or on the plane. 
As I said, we have a long wait between planes in Paris. So maybe then I will finally catch up by writing some highlights of my/our adventures in Paris.
Until then....

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