Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Today we travel to the island of Mljet. We're all delighted that Matthew wants to take us there directly, so we'll have the whole day to explore. (Usually we arrive at our destination towards the end of the day.) Mljet is a small island (population about 1000) with a long history, which you can read about in the Wikipedia article in the link above. We docked in the village of Pomena, which abuts the Mljet National Park.

Jonathan and I walk through the park and take the ferry to the Benedictine Monastery, while our cabinmates go swimming and rent motor scooters.

Our full day on the island is punctuated by a midday break on the Arburat for lunch, so this is a good time to talk about food. Our passage included breakfast and lunch, and I expected coffee and bread in the morning and ham and cheese in the afternoon. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In the morning we have coffee (brewed or espresso) or tea and fruit juice; fresh bread from the market; a main dish which includes eggs, meat and/or pancakes; fresh fruit and sometimes an extra special goodie. Lunch usually consists of a pasta dish, a salad usually fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, a cooked vegetable, fresh bread, a main dish of fresh fish and as much wine as we can drink. We had a different main dish every day, for example, octopus, squid, shrimp or flat fish.

This is prepared in the tiny ship's kitchen and served to us on ceramic dishware, up a steep flight of stairs from the kitchen. I have no idea where the fresh fish, vegetables and bread came from, it just seemed to appear. The food was always served with grace and good cheer.

The little critter in the photo was our lunch one day

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Today we move forward to Korcula. I'm especially interested in Korcula because many of our San Francisco friends are from this island, and because I visited it ever so briefly on my 1990 trip to Yugoslavia.

Korcula City is a wonderfully restored walled city, and the alleged birthplace of Marko Polo. We were there late in the day, when the sun appeared from above the cloud cover, right before it set into the sea, to give an incredible luminous light to this magic city.

The first photo is of me in a bar on top of a tower on the city wall. You can't tell, but we had to climb up a narrow ladder to get there. The second photo is of Jonathan standing against the city wall at sunset.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Today we travel around the island of Hvar, to Hvar City. The sea is choppy, and we are not permitted to dock at the city harbor because of the weather, so we must dock at a private harbor nearby and take a water taxi to town. All part of the adventure.

Our third day at sea, and I start to pay attention to the yachting culture that surrounds us. The water taxi is filled with yachtspeople. Many Brits, a good number of Germans, and a lesser but significant number of Scandinavians. Since the weather is bad I notice a lot of sitting around, a lot of drinking and a lot of eating. I suspect that within this culture, there are groups and subgroups, little caravans of yachts that form and make their way from one port to another.

Yet another subculture I know nothing about.

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Monday, May 28, 2007


By this morning the wind has calmed down enough to travel, but barely. Matthew tells us we need to skip the island of Vis, and will go directly to Hvar. I remember Hvar from my 1990 trip to Croatia, when I saw entire side of the island covered with lavender (I came home and covered my garden with lavender plants). More recently, I hear about Hvar as the new Italian Riviera and the place-to-be-seen if you are a movie star or a wannabe.

We didn't experience any of this.

Our first stop is Jelsa, another charming village, but much more "lived in" than Milna, that is, we saw ugly new apartment buildings, busy roads, and a subdivision of tourist homes, as well as walking paths in among vineyards and along the beach.

We experienced a sudden storm (thank goodness we were safely in the harbor and under cover). The skies just let loose and dumped everything they had into this little village. We were sitting in the patio of a pizza house under the cover of an umbrella, but the rain was so strong it bounced off the pavement and got us and our food all wet. As a result, all of us outdoors folks had to double up at tables with the indoors customers, and shared a table with a very interesting Swiss couple who organized ski trips in the winter and mountain climbing and sailing trips in the summer.

This photo shows Jelsa right before the storm.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007


Milna, Brac: An interesting turn of events: this morning Matthew announces it is too windy to travel. We must alter our itinerary and spend the day docked in Milna. Since none of us know the least thing about the islands we would travel to, or at this point could possibly tell one island from another, we were quite satisfied to stay safe and sound in this charming village.

As for me, I fell in love with this village, and, first impressions notwithstanding, no other village except Cavtat, captured my heart so much. We spend a lazy day walking through the village, and up behind it into the agricultural area, imagining what it must be like for folks to live here .... and what it would be like for US to live here...

Something about the weather: We experienced less than perfect sailing weather throughout the trip. Matthew said he has never seen so much rain at this time of the year. We also had some extremely windy times. We spent more time than we wanted inside the cabin of the boat, and had to certain adjustments in our itinerary because of the weather. Most disappointing to Jonathan is that we never -- not even once -- go to raise the sails and go sailing.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007


This evening we leave on our 7 day cruise, but we still have a day in Split to explore. We spend some time doing laundry, picking up some seasickness medicine (which we didn't need), and going to the bank -- always an adventure in a foreign country. Then we hang out near the harbor, checking out the boats and wondering when ours will pull up.

Finally it does, and we meet all the folks who will be our companions for the next 7 days. Stipo is the boat owner, and the guy generally in charge. Originally from Bosnia, he's a teacher turned boat owner, a lover of Dalmatian folk music, and most important he is a chef to match all chefs. More about the food in following entries, but suffice it to say here that I've never had such consistently marvelous food and he made this magic in a boat kitchen about 4 x 6 feet.

Matthew is our skipper. He is young, handsome, smart and 100% Croatian. Matthew lived many years in the US, where many members of his family have emigrated, but by choice has returned to his family village of Omas, Croatia. When he not skippering tourist boats, he owns are operates a fishing trawler.

Daniela is the third member of our crew. She is quiet, competent, and very sweet. She also is in charge of the wine, which just kept flowing.

Our passenger companions are a group of 5 Australians. Sean and Katrina currently live in London where Sean has a job in IT. They spent a year at UC Santa Cruz so know all about the SF Bay Area. Brett and Ailsa are also currently living in London and working in IT. Steve is the only one in the group who is actually living in Australia. These thirty something folks were the best of companions -- intelligent, lively, interesting and respectful of our older folks' needs.

Our 1st destination: Milna on the island of Brac - -about two hours from Split, so we arrived by sunset. Read on to see how lucky we were to have made this short trip the first night.

The first photo is the Rivas in Split; the 2nd photo is our group as we set out on our trip. You can click on the photos to blow them up to full size.

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Friday, May 25, 2007


Today is our layover day in Split, famous for Diocletian's Palace.

Diocletian was born nearby and built this as a retirement place after he abdicated from the Roman throne in 305. The area called the palace is really constitutes the old town, or Stari Grad. The interesting thing about the Diocletian Palace area is that it is not architecturally or culturally intact. It has been used, misused, abandoned, and restored by whomever came along in the past two milennia. Which is what makes it so alive and interesting. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

We spent most of our time in the Palace area or on the Riva (walkway along the harbor.)

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


Today is travel day. We left the hotel at 5 a.m. to catch an early train that would take us through the absolutely most beautiful country in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia all the way to Split, on the Dalmatian coast. I noticed subtle changes as we crossed national boundary lines, for example, the Slovenian farms seemed slightly smaller than the Austrian ones, and every one had a vegetable garden, and the pattern held as we continued south into Croatia.

We had a layover in Zagreb the capital of Croatia, enough time to walk around the train station, get a bite to eat, and to purchase strawberries from one of the almost 50 vendors selling them. Between Zagreb and Split is one of the areas most deeply affected by the war. In fact, we went through Knin, where it is generally agreed that the whole thing started. We saw abandoned fields and homes an area of industrious people and fertile soil, but I didn't know enough about the whole situation to make a direct connection. Now I know more, and wish I could go back to make a better connection between what I saw and when I know to have happened.

The photo is a scene from Zagreb -- part of our European streetcar series.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Today we visited the Schonbrunn Palace. I had visited many years ago, but wanted Jonathan to see this example of conspicuous consumption, and to experience it myself through older and more cynical eyes.

The Schonbrunn site and some form of this "summer cottage" was in the Hapsburg family since the 1600s, but Empress Maria Theresa gets credit for its current look and feel. Maria Theresa was really something else -- not only a great head of state, but also a kind and generous person, a lover of art and culture, a loving wife, and the mother of 16 children. If you are interested, be sure to read the article in the link above.

Since photos of the Schonbrunn and Maria Theresa are all over the Internet, I'll post a photo of Jonathan eating torte mit schlagg at the Schonbrunn Kaffee. We had a lot of fun sitting in the cafe people watching and tempting the birds to come eat off our plates.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Today we did more exploring. In the morning we took a cultural detour and went to an exhibition of the Chinese Terracotta Army. Wow, did that emperor have an ego!! We saw a few lifesize replicas of the soldiers and a miniature model of the entire tomb. Really amazing. Then back outside into a Vienna heatwave.

Most of the city is dominated by Hapsburg structures -- massive, substantial, colorless, and somewhat unimaginative (we saw the same buildings throughout Europe wherever the Hapsburgs placed their footprint). However, here and there are examples of the Vienna Secession Movement architecture, much more to my liking. My favorite is the Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, near our hotel. It was designed by Otto Wagner, and if I remember correctly, he faced some opposition to the design, as being too radical.

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Monday, May 21, 2007


We wake up in Vienna surprisingly free from jet lag. Our charming little hotel, Wiener Staatsoper, is centrally located at the foot of Kartnerstrasse, just a few blocks from the opera house.

Vienna sure knows how to appeal to "culturally inclined" tourists, and I suck it all in. The Kartnerstrasse -- a pedestrian only strasse -- has scattered cobblestones dedicated to the famous musicians who made their home in Vienna -- Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms, and the list goes on and on. Such a thrill to be walking in the footsteps of these greats. To push this cultural tourism to an extreme, there are young students planted around town who are dressed up like Mozart. They are selling tickets to a Mozart concert in the Weiner Musik Verein, a grand music hall built by Franz Joseph in the late 19th century (as are a great number of other Viennese structures.) I bought us tickets and enjoyed the concert (and the setting) very much, though I think Jonathan thought it was a little too much show and not enough Mozart. Here is a photo of the inside of the Musik Verein.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


We land in London the next morning, but of course for us, it's 9 hours earlier, in the middle of the night. Just enough time in Heathrow to spend my leftover British pounds on a cup of espresso and the Sunday Times. It's six years since I've stood on European soil, but that same smoky indoors smell brings back all the wonderful associations. Indoor smoke is everywhere, but somehow this Smoking Kills display caught my attention and is our first European photograph.

Then back on the plane for a few more hours travel to our final destination in Vienna.


Saturday, May 19, 2007


We fly today! I'm so excited. Awake at 5 a.m. and must find some way to fill the next 8 hours -- I go for coffee. I go for a run. I repack and double check my documents. Still not time to leave, till finally ....

It is! We decide to take BART to the airport. So convenient!! and $6 instead of $40. Jonathan is detained at security because of the metal buttons on his overalls; and I lose my sunscreen, but we are in such a good mood it matters not at all.

And before we know it we are in the air!!