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Monday, October 5, 2015

Solvania and Croatia...Better Than Expected!

Saturday,  Oct 3, 2015

Time check 3am. No, the alarm hasn't gone off yet, but my biological clock certainly has and that is a normal occurrence for me. I didn't get up until a little after three thirty. We all did our bathroom thing and were ready and out the door by 4am. The bus pickup point is just three hundred feet around the corner. It was already there and we were first to board. A total of 12 people were signed up and all were early. Francesca, our tour guide, spoke Italian and oddly enough English with a pronounced British accent. Later we found out that her mother was Italian and father British!

The bus no soon started than it started to rain heavily with thunder and lighting. Francesca said that the boat Captain would cancelled the boat part of the tour if it was to choppy or visibility up to par. After dosing of for two and a half hours the bus descended into the town of Trieste. This is the last major city in Italy before we crossed into Slovenia. This is also a Euro National State and no border restriction or stops were encountered. 
From this sea level port our journey took us up into the mountains again. The road twisted and turn around many valleys and ridges. There were many farms with vineyards of grapes and orchards of olive trees. It had stopped raining and we now had a little hope that the tour would be a success or partial success and not a total washout.   
A little information here about the Croatia and the Istrian Coast. The length of the Istrian coast, along with islands and inlets is 324 miles. The west coast of Istria is more indented, and, together with islands, it is 202 miles long. East coast, together with inlets  is 131 miles long. The above information comes from the pamphlet  that Francesca gave us upon entering the bus.
Another interesting fact is on the Karst and the limestone grounds. The sinking of Karst recess created specific and branched bays, such as the Pula port, the Medulin bay, the Rovinj coast and the Porec coast that we visited. Lost in the spelling and pronunciation of the words above? So are we! (Above taken from tour literature)
The coast is well developed with lots of bays, deeper small bays and rivers mouth. 
The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. During the 2nd century BC, Roman Castrum was built on a tiny peninsula. 
Ok, enough of history of the area! Upon arriving at Paranzo (Porec) we walked towards the boat that we would be taking on our land and sea tour. Being a small group, we were early and had an hour to spend exploring the old port town. 
Many of the villages and towns in Europe have small cobbled stone streets, but Porec was very unique in that the street, in the old section, were narrow, but the cobbled stones were above the rest as far as patina is concerned. They were still wet from earlier rain and just had that magical glow that a photographer is looking for. It was  early and just a few people were out and about. This added to the charm of the pictures that I took. Francesca, happened to be walking in our direction and guided us to an ancient church. Some of the original mosaic floor was discovered three feet below the existing and was left opened to view and photograph. 
It was good to have the extra time before the cruise. As we walked toward the boat Monvi, the locals were opening their shops, hand sweeping the cobble stone streets, some were hosing their street dining areas and a few little old ladies were heading off to the market. 
One of the first things we did on the boat was checkout the best spots for viewing. Here again, Francesca gave us help hints. She said that the open top deck might be to hot if the sun came out. Speaking of sun, once underway we stopped at two other pickup points for more passengers and by than the sun came through for us again! The temperature climbed into the high seventies by the middle of the afternoon 
In about an hour an a half we made our first stop. Has we pulled in port of Rovigno (Rovinj) the towering church steeple came into view. Wow, what a view! 
A little history about Rovinj. Rovinj was already a settlement of Illyrian tribes before being captured by the Romans. This makes it very, very old. The town certainly has a long history. We disembarked from  the boat and Francesca gave us a couple of options to get to the church on top of the hill. She said, basically take the low (long gradual road) or the high road (up a quick, but strenuous) road. The first thing that we encountered was the local market with vendors begging you to sample food items. We did managed to sample some, but weren't interested in carrying larger bags around for the rest of the time in Rovinj. Walking through the many side streets, actually no main street to go up to the church, we were overwhelmed with the artist, vendors and photographic opportunities on the way home. 
A wedding in the church was about to take place. A lot of people were mulling around and taking photos. Francesca had told us that we could climb the bell tower, 192 steps, for a small fee of 3 Euro. Up we started, the first three steps were a foot high. The next 189 steps were all little steps of three to four inches. We took our time and  Joan, Helen a I made it to the very top. Sam, who has had two hip replacements elected to wait in the shade in front of the church.
Wow, what a view! All four sides were simply spectacular! We were five or six people at the top. I just happened to look at my watch, 12 noon it read. I wonder if they ring the bells? Bong, Bong! The giant bell four feet above my head was rocking back and forth as a huge hammer, three foot high inside the bell, did its thing! This wasn't bad enough, a pigeon just above, on a beam, let go! I don't mean let go of the beam! The adventures I put myself through!
Going down the stairs was a little harry also. Because the steps were not constant in height, one had to step over one foot while holding on to the railing and slowly head down to meet Sam.
From the church we took a direct path, well as direct as possible down to the bay. When we arrived we got twisted around for a second and headed for the other side of town. We quickly turned around toward the boat. One final stop was to buy some Chestnuts roasting on a propane fire at the outskirts of the market. 

Half Time

Back on board the Monvi, the crew had prepared our included lunch. A choice of fish or meat. Three of us took the meat and Joan took the Mackerel! One thing to remember, here in Europe is that fish is served complete with head and bones. Our meat was chicken and sausage with some sort of juice similar to Tang, back in the states. They also had wine, but not the best of choice. 

The boat had a good contingency of Germany tourist who had  their own liquor, and on deck, with the sun now beaming and warm were having a marry old time singing and dancing. There was a keyboard player, with the crew, that got the passengers going and singing. We pulled up a chair, on deck and enjoyed the cool breeze, warm sun.
The next stop was Vrsar. This is an old finishing settlement with beautiful beaches and marina. In  a shade of thick pine crowns is located a famous camp Valkanela, with one of the most beautiful beaches. The beach spreads 3 kilometers along the coast and is covered with small white stones and surrounded with an arranged promenade. 
The first thing you are encountered with is the Gelato catching, at the end of the pier. The Gelato server grabs a scoop of Gelato (similar to ice cream, back in the states) and hurls it some forty feet through the air. A local person reaches and caches the Gelato in his mouth! Amazingly he does this several times with success. We are now all in the mood for a, reasonably priced,  Gelato!
Time to stroll down toward the beaches and toward camp Valkanela. This is an RV campground and like the literature says, it has beautiful beaches. We walked along the paved, shaded path, looking at people enjoying the afternoon sun. In the literature it said you could bring your bathing suits. We didn't, but many people were in the water enjoying nature. 
Our time here was limited and soon we were on the Monvi heading back to Porec. It was a day tour that we will remember!

That is what we did and saw!
Wedding Photo Shoot in Croatia
German Tourist having a good time on the "Monvi"
I'm guessing WWII Bullet Holes?
Remittance of WWII...Pill Box Bunker! 
Our First View of Rovinj...Also Climbed
to the top of the Belfry!
The Patina of the  Cobble Stones...Polished
through Centuries of Wear

Our Tour Boat "Monvi"

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