Tuesday, 11 September 2012


Well, I apologise to all my readers who expected the usual day-by-day account of our travels in Dalmatia - but due to weird keyboard experiences and very difficult internet access, I just gave up. Now that we're back home I can summarise a bit for you.
Some observations.
The rock formations along the coast of Croatia look rather nice from a short distance - you can see the squidgy effects, the folding and sheering, the slumping and erosion. It makes the rocks look a bit like toffee, or some other malleable stuff. But the fact is, the closer you get, the harder and more unrelenting the material is. In fact, it is extremely hard, gritty, scratchy and painful if you get your skin (or your boat) anywhere near it.
Compared with our visit last year and a couple of times before that - admittedly in an area we had not been to before - I think the development rash is spreading along the beauteous coast... there are more houses, more apartments, more building projects, extensions to marinas, etc.    It is startling what a relief it is to find a stretch of coast without any houses on it. Some are in fact settled with ancient buildings - a little church, or a monastery, or maybe a farm building - but these have weathered and sunk into the landscape, and do not poke themselves forward with bright paint, smooth concrete, etc.
We visited two separate waterfall systems during the week - both worth visiting, if you have the chance. The first (as reported) was at Plitvice - up in the mountains and forests, where there is an absolutely extraordinary sequence of large lakes and smaller pools which seem to be held in place by enormous natural vertical dams. The water finds its way down either in cascades over these dams, or through sinkholes, or sometimes just by flowing over the ground over the roots of trees. The dams are forming in front of your eyes by the calcification of anything that crops up in the lakes - fallen trees, little animals, whatever. This rock-formation leads to that lovely marbley kind of stone called travertine - which is used in grand buildings like my beloved Bush House.
The other waterfalls were near Skradin on the R Krka (there's a name for you), and are more normal - that is to say, the angle of the river's descent is about 30 degrees, and the water tumbles down as you would expect. Both of the parks where these marvels are to be found are well run, with access by bus, boat, what-have-you. There are clean loos, cafes, etc. and I think it would be advisable to go a bit out of season if you can, as the numbers visiting are colossal.
The Croat language is hilarious - either the letters form into something reminding you of a funny English word such as 'slob' or 'slag', or alternatively the letters are arranged in totally unpronounceable sequences of zfjkvlnzjs with the addition of various accents and diacriticals, and I found myself just boggling at the whole thing.
It was a relief to find that voda = water, and pekari = bakery, and I just hope that these two words at least arrived in the Croatian language by a kind of English pidgin, perhaps thus: "I said, bring me a glass of WATER!"  "Ah, ladksfjsdl, skf, gjksl, VODA!"    And, "Can you tell me, where can I buy bread? I'm looking for a BAKERY!" "Ah, skjfhdkl, sk gng n slob PEKARI!"
There is no shortage of pointy, shiny, fast speedy boats knocking about down there, and we could only imagine what sort of people might be in them - Russians, for the most part, I imagine.
Yesterday we saw a very interesting little group.  We had arrived back at the marina in Split, and our skipper was refuelling (to leave the tank full of diesel to minimise the risk of condensations during the idle winter months). We had to wait for another boat to finish - this was an inflatable, but my! what a boat. Long, sleek, light.  There were five people on it, a grey-haired American guy, on the phone arranging for his bank card to be activated. He was serious, cool, quiet, quite alarming in some ways... powerful.  The others were two guys and two girls, all in their late 20s, mostly in camouflage gear, they looked purposeful too.    As they finished up with their fuelling and set off across the huge bay towards Hvar, they went tremendously fast - really faster than anything I've ever seen on the water. And their boat left  NO WAKE.   The fuelling guy told us, they were from the Norwegian Army.
So, what is the Norwegian Army doing in Croatia? That little crew, on their very fast rib, which leaves no wake..... on a Monday afternoon in September.  I love it.
Top pleasures of the week in no particular order - walking round Trogir - a World Heritage city - SO BEAUTIFUL - do go and see it - it's only a bus ride up from Split Airport.
Listening to Klappa Music here and there - it's a kind of random busking thing - a small group of harmonising singers, sometimes m and f, sometimes just m, standing in an echoey doorway and just sending out this marvellous music.... a cross between Portuguese fado and Welsh Male Voice Choir, or maybe something like Ladysmith.....  Really lovely.
Swimming with NOTHING ON in the sea - a completely liberating feeling - as a middle-aged woman I am so conscious of the need to be covered, in our society - being undressed is a sign of looseness, or shamefulness.  And yet, paradoxically, if you are naked you must be beautiful (young) and so being slack, or fat, or with vein-marks, or wobbly in any way - this makes you feel you cannot be naked - and I am caught both ways. But, to be on a boat in a remote place, and no-one looking - ah! the pleasure, of swimming, of feeling unconstrained..... it is wonderful.
We ate simply wonderful food.  The price of restaurants is amazingly low, the way the currencies are at the moment. For instance, we had a wonderful and memorable meal last night, 4 of us, with a litre of wine and bottles of water, and ample amounts of delicious fishes of various kinds, risotto, lasagne, salad and vegetables, and marvellous home-made breads, etc.... and it all came to £36.... that was in quite a luxy restaurant, by the sea (at the Ballet School, if you are interested, at the end of the Kastela Bay, which is west of Split).
The waters remain clear and sparkling. The people are friendly and getting on with their lives - we saw SO MANY young couples and families, and little children.  The churches are full. The streets are clean. Lots of people speak English, or will find someone who can.  It's a very nice place... 

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