Monday, May 2, 2011

Croatia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia.. Road Trip

From Hungary to Croatia to Bosnia back to Croatia to Slovenia and back to Hungary
Thursday -Sunday  April 28-May 1, 2011

Thursday, April 28 2011 Croatia
      We left southern Hungary crossing the border at Barcs around 2:00pm into Croatia. The border patrol asked for our passports and vehicle rental information....kept us for about five minutes and sent us on our way. Nothing like the crossing in Nicaragua. We took a two lane road that went through the countryside. It continued to see massive farms with many, many farmers out and about on their tractors, in the road that we were traveling and in the fields. We would passed through small villages of farmers homes. They seemed to live all together in a village area. Their homes had small yards that were close to the road with their barns almost attached to the house in the back. You wouldn't dream of a farmer having a next door neighbor that you could spit in their grass right next to your own home in America, but in Croatia, that was the norm. It was very rare to see a house sitting off by itself. Where we drove, the farm land must be very valuable because every inch of cleared land was plowed. They even tunneled small hills for the road to continue so that crops could be planted on top of the hill.

We made it to Croatia!

Notice how the sidewalks are empty...just this elderly lady.

Every small village has a church.

Typical farm village...note the blinds outside the windows. 

Lots of tractors and farms in northern Croatia.

      The vast majority of homes were built with brick...small and large brick....a few buildings had the stucco type structure, but predominently all were red brick. They all had outside blinds that could be opened and closed from the inside. Because the homes were so close, i feel sure they were needed for privacy. Also, several of the homes that we passed had gunshot holes in them. Some looked like an automatic machine gun just let loose. Scary! These are reminiscent of the war that took place back 17-18 years ago. We have been told that some villages were totally wiped out and that when you passed through the town you would see the cemetery with the whole towns graves marked as the early 90'.s
      After traveling down the country roads, we got on a super toll road highway. The first one that we entered, we thought that we should pay something and the toll booth collecter just kept saying the same thing over and over to us in Croatian....How were we suppose to know what he was saying? We tried to give him money, our passports....nothing worked and you could tell that he was getting pretty perturbed at us. Finally he came out of his booth and pulled the toll ticket out of a slot and he opened the gate so that we couldpass through. Oh well, we took it and kind of went "Whew!" The toll booth operator had no patience at all!
After going through two tolls we ended our day in Karlovac, Croatia spending the night in a little hotel on the second floor around 7:30 in the middle of the town square. What a day of sights!

Friday, April 29, 2011 Croatia to Bosnia
      After a good nights rest, we had breakfast and started our journey towards Bosnia. We left Croatia and passed through border patrol to go ito Bosnia around 11:00 am with no difficulty. One quick look at our passports and we were on our way. After crossing the border a few miles the land became mountainous, where we came directly into the town of Velika Kladusa. What did we notice immediately? The people.The town was full of people walking around and standing around talking to each other. After traveling seven hours through Croatia the day before and this morning, we noticed that there very few Croatians out and about. Those folks that we did see in Croatia were sitting on a tractor or tending to their garden....the streets there were empty and in Bosnia it was quite the opposite, even as we traveled down the roads.

Bosnia-Croatia border

    We stopped in the town to take a few pictures. A gentleman standing next to our car tried to ask us a question. Larry said, "Hello" and he said, "Americano?" with a big smile on his face. We had an immediate friend.
       The homes that we passes along the way were extremely colorful...canary yellow, orange, red, purple....bright colors. They were also much larger than the homes on the back roads in Croatia....leading us to believe that Bosnians have money. Each town also had a mosque, sitting on a hill and directly in the middle of the town with speakers on each steeple. We heard the operatic music coming out of it and remembered how we had lived with hearing its annoying sound five times a day in East Timor.

Mosque dome and towers....see the speakers on the towers.

                                                                  Look at those colors!
Farm in Bosnia...they plant on hills as well.

The vast majority of Eastern block Europe hang clothes to dry.

      We came up on an old, old castle that looked abandoned. What a shame! It was still spectacular in our eyes. The road turned into one that was meant for two wheels...curvy, but today was raining so we were happy to be in four wheels. We came across a stream following it till we came to a beautiful little waterfall. The water was crystal clear enough to spot some fish. The overcast clouds were starting to dissappear as we enjoyed our lunch.

Old Bosnian Castle

Wonderful Waterfall

Great hairpin curves!

      We came to the town of Bihac and still noticed lots of people out and about. After journeying about four hours through Bosnia's spectacular countryside,we passsed through the Bosnian-Croatian border just outside of the town. It was interesting to see a little old border crossing that had been closed as we went into the more modern one. We passed through the Bosnia booth(the patrol guard looked only at one pass port and handed them both back) around 3:00 and then the Croatia patrol guard just flagged us to continue on without stopping. They were housed in the same complex.

The Bosnian town of Bihac...note the two ways of spelling it!

Bosnia -Croatia Border

This is the sign to Croatia...Don't you think a name should be a name? So why isn't this Croatia?

More  hairpin curves...yippy!

      Traveling back into Croatia was a mixture of mountains with large forests, valleys, mountains with many tight hairpin turns, and and more mountains with views of the sea and coast. We passed by the National Park Pitvucka Jezera , the small village of Vrhavine, and Otocac. Upon reaching the town of Senj, we passed a huge old ciity wall that reminded us of the 2 foot thick wall in Cadiz, Spain. Continuing down the coast we had a marvelous drive of scenic shores and European buildings. It was incredably gorgeous. Large motorcycle groups were passing us and traveling the other way. It was easy to see why. It was a motorcyclists dream road with lots of fantastic views and curves to enjoy... and the temperatures went back to the 70's along the coast. We were envious of not having a bike to travel this coastline road.It is one of the few roads in the world that hug the sea for many, many miles with mountains on one side and sea on the other. You are only twenty or thirty feet from the shoreline the whole time.

I love the Croatian Seaside! I am looking at it :)

      We took our little car past Sibinj, Novi Vinodolski, Selce, Crikvenica, Kraljevica and Rijeka...don't you enjoy the spelling of those towns.....let alone the pronunciation. Many of the Eureopean Eastern block countries have the Russian influence but they all have their own language and some have their own money system.

Old Wall of the City of Senj

The Croatian Coast !

What a view....these people must enjoy this view 24-7!
      We had booked a hotel through expedia so we had no idea where it was. Although we had planned to stay in Rijeka, Larry had selected a hotel that was on the sea through the pictures on the internet. We ended up taking about an hour drive through Rijeka ( a huge city and then another hour to Moscenicka Draga) . Oh my GOSH! What a gorgeous ride through these quaint European villages tucked along the seaside. The hotel ended being in a little resort area that was probably packed during the summer season. Lots of outdoor cafes and a wonderful little cobblestone sidewalk with high rock walls on one side and the sea on the other. After dinner we strolled along this was very romantic. 

The view from our hotel room....the Adriatic Sea is to the right.

This is just too gorgeous to believe.

Moscenika Draga on the edge of dark.

What a wonderful walk!

Looks almost like a painting.

        We had a good night sleep and a great European breakfast, lots of breads, yogarts, fruits, musalige cereal, eggs, weirners, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheeses, teas, cappachino, machiano and other kinds of coffee. They love their little cups of expresso....that stuff is really high octane! We took a few more pictures of this beautiful place before heading out for the next country.... Slovenia.

Saturday, April 30, 2011 Croatia to Slovenia HAPPY BIRTHDAY KRISTY (29 and Holding)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     Leaving this area was hard to do. Larry kept saying let's stay one more day...If he had had a motorcycle I know we would have stayed...Oh well, we had made plans to meet our old friends, Glenn and Suzanne, in Ljubljana, Slovenia for dinner on Saturday night so we had to mosey on. It was another beautiful day of bright sunshine and the road back to Rijecka was even more striking with a good nights rest under our belt.

We want to come back here!

Quaint European looking villages all the way back to Rijecka!

      After several photo stops we made it to the border. The Slovenia patrol guard ran our passport through a machine....that hadn't been done since we left Hungary. The road went from 4 lanes to 2 lanes passing through tunnels and through some gorrrrrgeeeeeous mountainous forested countryside with small red roofed homes nestled here and there on the hillsides.

Croatia and Slovenia border

Slovenia is one of the countries that belongs to the European Counsel...we can use the euro here for money.

Two lanes went to one lane through small villages.

Lots of nice curvy roads.
Slovenia had scenic forests and mountainsides.

      We arrived thanks to the Tomtom right on time at Glenn and Suzanne's lovely( Yugoslavia) home. They gave us a tour of it and introduced us to their fat cat, Baby. They had rescued Baby when it was a kitten in Slovenia eight years ago. Baby was the Queen of the house.
      Glenn and Suzanne took us to Ljubjlana, the capital and largest city in Slovenia about ten minutes from their home.On the way we passed a large tall pole. On top of the pole was a Christmas fir tree. On top of the tree was a Sloven flag. They told us that this was an indiction that a wedding had taken place at that house and this was an old tradition.

Sloven wedding tree.

      Upon reaching the city, they gave us a tour of the QSI office, the world headquarters of the company that we worked for when were operated the school in East Timor. It was a renovated home that had been made into nice working offices. They were certainly proud to working in the Central Office.

Glenn and Larry

Suzanne and Kay

Glenn and Suzanne at QSI Headquarters!

       Next they took us on a walk to the City Center along a river that went right through the middle of the town. The buildings were typical European style and had lovingly been restored and taken care of. We walked to part of the remaining Roman City wall that dates back to the 1400's.

Old Roman City Wall

Roman Columns next to the wall!
       Every direction that we walked was fantastic with views of small cobblestone streets, shops, outside cafes, and river scenes on both sides of the river.

Gorgeous walk through the City

Castle on the hill from the city below.

       We rode a modern funicular to the renovated castle that towered the city on a large hill. Some parts of the castle had been stuccoed over...too modern for a castle.... and other parts were very original with old stones. We went into a little chapel that was original and into an original dungeon like area. There was an art exhibition that showed pictures of the history of Ljubjana....incredibly we were able to spot some of the same buildings during our walk after seeing the pictures. It was interesting to see Bill Clinton in one of the pictures making a speech around the time that this country became free of Communistic rule in 1992.

Bill Clinton addressing the Slovenians

       We had dinner in a little Slovane restuarant. Larry had trout in paper...eyeballs and tail in tact.... and I had roast pork . The waiters were dressed in Slovane outfits. The food was yummy and what I would call down home eating.

Slovenian dinner

      We walked through other parts of the city center to a special dessert restaurant where we in indulged in slices of thick chocolate cake...probably the sweetest thing that we have eaten on our whole trip....sugar is used sparingly in Europe. We walked on to the city park that we understand is so large that you can get lost in it. On the ride home, Glenn told us about this day....April 30. In Slovinia it is call the Night of Fires. Traditionally the people build a large bonfire in the evening. This is to burn away the evil spirits of winter. We saw many of these bonfires on the drive back to Glenn and Suzanne's home. We got home around 11:30 and finally made it to bed around midnight.....WHAT a WONDERFUL day and evening!

Sunday, May 1, 2011 Slovania and Hungary

       The evil spirits of winter must have been burned away because we woke to a marvelous sunny day. After Glenn showed me a three minute CNN highlights version of the Royal Wedding of William and Kate on his new Ipod, Suzanne suggested that we have brecks, a Slavanian breakfast of Phillo and goat cheese, at a little cafe restaurant down the street from their home. We walked there and had this delicious treat with Cappochino. Then we took about an hour walk to the forest in hopes of hearing the cukoo birds that they have been hearing when they go for their weekend run. No luck : ( I never dreamed there was such a thing as a cokoo bird...just something that was on the German Cokoo clocks.
       Around 11:00 after hugs and promises to visit again, Larry and I set the Tomtom for Zalakaros, Hungary, about three hours north west of Slovenia.

Glenn and Suzanne's home.

      We traveled through the counrtyside of Slovenia....what beauty! Snowcapped mountains of Austria in the distance. Fog was setting in on them as we continued on toward Hungary. Strangely, there was not a bordering crossing from Slovenia to Hungary. We then went into a little village of Zalakaros. Homes were placed side by side in a row on both sides of the streets with floral pink trees blooming. The side walk ran next to the homes, not the road. Hungarians were out walking and riding their bicycles. We followed the old Route 7 along Lake Balaton through the towns of Sarmellek , Balatonszentgyor, Balatonkeresztur, Balatonfenyves, Fontod, Balatonboglar, Balatonszemes,  Balatonszarszo, Balatonfoldvar and a few more Balaton Towns...HA! You could tell that many Hungarians came here for vacations because there were lots of little hotels, restaurants, and resort looking areas with the lake following along the road. The day had turned into overcast and rain. I feel sure that it would be a nice area to visit when the weather is much warmer and the sun is shining. With the Tomtom pointing us to Budapest we easily drove the car right to the Elizabeth Bridge and found a remarkably close cobblestone parking space to our apartment. Parking is free in the city on Saturday and Sunday and anytime from 8:00pm till 8:00am during the weekdays. The problem is usually finding an empty spot...during the working hours. We found cars parked on the sidewalks. Parking costs as much as renting a car for a day in the city during business hours. Anyway, our rental was parked and we were back in our apartment happy as clams about the wonderful four day road trip that we had just experienced.

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