Metéora… .

I’m sure the drive from Ioánnina to Metéora is very scenic but we weren’t able to see much of it as it was a pea souper for most of the way.  We were mightily pleased we took the E90 motorway to get us two thirds of the way there as the original road would have been a twisty, windy up and down nightmare in the fog.  Numerous lengthy tunnels along the motorway confirmed we’d made the right decision and we were more than happy to pay the €6 toll.  The tolls in Greece are easy as it’s a human at a toll booth.  It would have cost us way more than that in extra diesel and stress taking the other road.  Fortunately by the time we’d come off the motorway to drive the last fifty kilometres or so the fog was coming and going in patches and there were plenty of places we could pull over to let the convoy of cars behind us get past.

Metéora features in the top ten sights to see in Greece attracting thousands of visitors a year.  I’d read about it from several other blogs and was hoping it would live up to my expectations.  Despite the poor weather and not being able to see them clearly the humungous sandstone rock formations towering above the towns of Kalambaka and Kastraki are quite imposing.  Driving through the two towns we wound our way up and up the road through the towers to a viewpoint five kilometres above the town. Arriving at our destination we sat looking at the greyness waiting for the weather to clear.  We’d had a glimpse here and there on the way up of what was to come but the fog/mist was still persistently hanging there obscuring our view.

The natural sandstone towers of Metéora, meaning ‘suspended rocks’, are pretty amazing just as they are but twinned with the monasteries perched right on top they are a wonder.  Hermits saught refuge in the rocks towards the end of the first millennium building small chapels for prayer.   However, the monk, Athanásios, from Mount Athos founded the first and largest monastery, Magálo Metéoro, on one of the pinnacles in the late 14th Century.  Another twenty three monasteries followed but just six are in operation now with others either uninhabited or deserted.

Sitting with a cup of tea looking out at the cars and coaches coming and going I felt very grateful that we had the time to sit out the weather and we hadn’t just got a short window of opportunity to see what we had come to see.  If that had been the case we would have had to leave very disappointed.  After a couple of hours of waiting there was a short interlude in the fog where I was able to jump out and grab a few photos and stand in awe of what was before me.

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Rousánou Monastery revealing itself through the fog.

 

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Vaárlam Monastery founded in 1518 is named after the first hermit to live on the rock in 1350.
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Vaárlam (left) and Magálo Metéoro (right).

It isn’t really known how the first hermits actually got to the top of the vertical rock faces but it is thought they hammered pegs into gaps in the rock and hauled their building materials to the top.  Other theories claim kites were flown over the tops carrying strings attached to thicker ropes which were made into the first rope ladders.  No mention is made of how many would have lost their lives in the building of the monasteries.  I suspect it was many but the H & S police wouldn’t have been invented then.

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The sandstone towers are a wonder in themselves.

It wasn’t until as late as the 1920’s that stone steps were hewn into the rocks to make them more accessible. They also now have a cable car going back and forth presumably as an easier way to get supplies across but there are pictures of monks travelling in them too.  Prior to that everything and everyone was winched up and down by hand in a rope basket.  Apparently the ropes were only replaced when they broke.  Mmm, a comforting thought.

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The rope basket.  Picture courtesy of Google images.
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The hand winch at Vaárlam.
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The cable car was toing and froing to Vaárlam with nothing in it!

We had hoped to stay a couple of nights at the campsite at Kalambaka, which is open all year, to do some washing and make use of the wifi but a sign on the gate said it was closed for repairs so we stayed in a quiet layby not far from Vaarlam Monastery.  Nobody bothered us and the police must have passed us as when we drove up to the viewpoint in the morning they were taking someone to task for using a drone for some filming.  There was a lot of form filling going on so it’s obviously a no no.

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You can just see ‘Ollie’ sitting in his viewpoint carpark below Vaárlam and Magálo Metéoro monasteries.

The six monasteries that are still operational are €3 each to enter so not expensive but there is some stair climbing involved to get to them.  I arrived at Vaarlam at 9.00 am when it opened and practically had the whole place to myself for forty five minutes.  Photos aren’t allowed inside so outside pictures only I’m afraid.  Skirts have to be worn by women but they conveniently provide very fetching stretchy wrap around floral curtains for the purpose.  It was the first time I’d worn a skirt in probably twenty years.  Nope, no photo.

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Picture taken from the winch tower of Vaárlam.
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The courtyard at Vaárlam.  I was lucky I had the whole place to myself.

After visiting Vaárlam I took a walk along the road which traverses the hillside giving epic views over the rocks and monasteries below.  Most people were driving and stopping at each viewpoint to take a photo but walking was by far the best way to take it all in.  Tim is currently on sick leave with another injury so he was back at the van putting his feet up!  I walked as far as Stéfános monastery but it was closed for lunch so I backtracked and had a look at Agia Triáda (Holy Trinity) which was very quiet.

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Agia Triáda (Holy Trinity) Monastery.

That might have been something to do with the one hundred and thirty steps to get up to it.  (I didn’t count them, I took that from Wikipedia)!  Agia Triáda featured in the 1981 James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’.

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Some of the 130 steps.

An hours walk on a footpath leading down the hill from Agia Triáda took me across country through the rocks and brought me out to the road below Rousánou monastery.

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The approach road to Rousánou where my walk brought me out.  Note the much better weather on day 2!

The following day I took off on my own again with the intention of visiting Magálo Metéoro monastery followed by another walk but when a tour bus overtook me just as I reached the top of the hill I decided to give it a miss and just do the walk.  Maps.Me came to my aid again showing me an unmarked footpath leading to what I thought would be a ruin but was in fact the restored Ypapanti monastery, which is currently uninhabited, suspended halfway up a rockface.

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View across to Ypapanti monastery.  Now no longer inhabited.
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Close up of Ypapanti Monastery.

What a treat that was.  I’d never have found it without my trusty Maps.Me app.  I had the most fabulous three hour walk through woods and open countryside passing another two churches.

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Views across the surrounding countryside.

Metéora then met our expectations and we thoroughly enjoyed our few days there.  Tim expects to be back to fighting fitness again in the next week but I think he is secretly enjoying his respite from me whilst I go out on my own!

καληνυχτα!

 

 

 

Our first foray into Greece…. .

It was fortunate that I’d read the Wanderlings blog on their experience of getting a ferry to Greece from Brindisi.  It wasn’t a surprise, then, when we turned up at the port to find hundreds of Bulgarian plated lorries parked up in the waiting bays.

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Spot the odd one out.

Learning from our Dubrovnik experience I trotted off to the Grimaldi lines check in desk to get our boarding passes.  Whilst waiting for the booth to open up I stoically endured the up and down stares of the fifty or so lorry drivers also waiting to check in.  They weren’t unfriendly up and downers just curious.  We were to be just one of two motorhomes on the ferry.  The rest was freight with the odd car thrown in.

Again, it was an interesting loading procedure.  Or I should say there was no loading procedure.  Without any lanes painted up on the tarmac all the lorries jostled for position spreading themselves six or seven abreast with no apparent order.  The poor little man checking boarding passes was running to and fro between them trying not to get flattened.  The drivers, all with cigarettes clamped firmly between their teeth and presumably well versed in this system, showed no mercy.  One or two beeped their horns shouting and gesticulating if they thought that someone else had jumped the queue in front of them.  Fortunately for us we’d been directed to wait on the left hand side and just watched them all fight it out between themselves.

The loading itself involved some going on forwards and some backwards.  Our turn came and we were relieved to be pointing forwards although we did have to go up a ramp to a different deck.  Once up on the deck the lorries in front were directed to do a U-turn and reverse into their spaces.  We had to turn around and parallel park into a space between two other vans.  At least it was a reasonable sized space and we weren’t packed in as tight this time.

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Safely parked up on the upper deck.

On board the facilities were more functional than fancy and none too clean.  Let’s just say it’s the kind of place you want to wipe your feet on the way out.  If you can get them unstuck from the floor that is.  Docking in Igoumenitsa in the late evening we parked up in the well lit car park at the port and went straight to bed.  No night driving in a new country for us.

The following morning a regroup and a day of planning was called for which required good internet access so we drove the six kilometres or so to Camping Drepanos around the bay from the port.  After twenty four hours of reading, researching and general acclimatising we had a loose plan and we were ready to hit Greece.

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Yay, Greece is now on the map.

After a stock up at Lidl where we found Cheddar Cheese, Chocolate Digestives and Ring Doughnuts (with proper sugar on them) we headed east on the E90 towards Ioannina.  We are using several sources for overnight stops which can be found here, here, here and here. Greece doesn’t really do ‘aires’ and there aren’t too many campsites open at this time of year so these resources, along with some other blogs are proving to be super useful.  Thank you to all of you for sharing your info.

Our loose plan whilst in Greece is to travel across the country inland from West to East then follow the coast in a clockwise direction with a few forays inland finishing up in either Patras or back in Igoumenitsa for a return ferry to Italy sometime in the near or distant future depending on how we get on.

We stopped over night at Ioánnina on our way to the Vikos Gorge.  Ioánnina, set beside the Pamvotida Lake, is the capital of the Epirus region and on first impressions seems to be just a long sprawl of built up urban chaos albeit set in beautiful mountainous countryside.   Parking four kilometres outside the town we walked in and explored the fortress area which dates back to the 13th Century but  was rebuilt in 1815 by Ali Pasha, the Albanian Muslim tyrant.

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Ali Pasha Mosque and tomb.  

It was certainly quieter inside the walls of the fortress which was a welcome relief after the walk in along busy roads.  Outside the walls of the fortress we sauntered around a really lively area with an eclectic mix of small businesses and cafes.  Many buildings were empty or semi derelict but the place had a real buzz to it.

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Downtown Ioannina.
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Lots of little cafes and small businesses in this area…..
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….also lots now closed down.

What we’d really come to this area for though was to see the Vikos Gorge.  With limestone walls rising to over 900 metres the gorge cuts through the Vikos-Aöös National Park.

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The gorge is quite simply spectacular.  We drove through the village of Menodendri up to the view point at Oxia.  All I can say is if you have any children or dogs with you then hang on to them as, apart from one small piece of manmade wall, it’s a sheer drop to the bottom of the gorge from the path.

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Vikos Gorge taken from the Oxia viewpoint above Menodreni village.
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Not a good place to be if you are afraid of heights.

We stayed a couple of days just outside the village of Monodendri as we wanted to walk part of the 03 Greek National Trail which tracks its way through the bottom of the gorge towards Mikró Pàpigko.  There wasn’t time to walk the length of the gorge as it is a six to seven hour walk one way but we did do part of it.

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On the 03 National Trail through the Vikos Gorge.

On the way back towards Monodreni village we found another fantastic viewpoint across the gorge with a birds eye view of the little monastery clinging to the rock face which we’d visited the day before.

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Another spectacular viewpoint not far from Menodreni village.  You can just see a little monastery perched on the rocks.
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Menodreni village.

Dropping back down to Ioannina we stopped for the night at the little hillside village of Lingiades overlooking the lake before heading off to Metéora.

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Our Camper Stop at Lingiades made available by the municipality as an official site for camper vans.

αντιο σας!

 

Buongiorno Italy…. .

It was an interesting ferry trip across to Bari from Dubrovnik.  We waited in the queue to be directed but when no direction was forthcoming, and several other vehicles seemed to be making their way to border control, we got out to investigate.  Apparently we were supposed to have been down to the Jadrolinja Ferries office a few hundred metres away to collect our boarding passes and then we could get in the queue for border control.  How were we supposed to know that?

Having got our boarding passes we then waited forever in the queue at border control.  In our queue it seemed to be taking about ten minutes per vehicle to get the passports and vehicle V5 document checked.  We’ve never been asked for the V5 before and I’m not sure what they actually do with them but the border man was tap tap tapping away on his computer.  Finally through border control we were directed on which lane to queue up in.  Lorries to the left, everybody else to the right.

The lorries were loaded first but oh look, they’re going on backwards.  Every last one of them.  Oh joy, it looked like we would be reversing onto the ferry then.  Yep, other than a few cars everyone went on backside first.  There was only one way in and one way out of the ferry.  Thankfully by the time it was our turn the bowels of the boat were pretty much full and just a fairly short reverse was required.  Just as well it was Tim doing the driving as my reversing is hopeless.  In all the ferries we have been on we have never been packed in so tight. It was all a little too close for comfort.

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We have never before been packed in this tight on a ferry!

On board we felt like we had stepped back in time by thirty years.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s we made several trips to France with Brittany Ferries from Plymouth to Roscoff and the boat felt like the same vintage.  I even said at the time ‘I bet Jadrolinja bought this boat off Brittany Ferries’ as there were a few French safety signs still lurking about.  So, I’ve just looked it up and Wikipedia reliably informs me that Jadrolinja did in fact buy the MF Dubrovnik from Brittany Ferries who had owned it from 1989 to 1996.  It was built in 1979 in Ireland for a UK company.  So there we are a nice useless piece of information for you.  It’s no wonder a blog post takes me so long to write when I get side tracked all the time.

Rolling off the ferry in Bari it was disorganised chaos as we were directed into oncoming traffic coming off another ferry which had just docked.   They went to border control to the left of our ferry whilst we went to border control to the right of theirs.  Once again getting through border control took an age but we were finally waved through by a man sporting jeans, casual jacket, shades and a big gold sheriffs’ badge pinned to his jumper.  All very Miami Vice!

Once out of the port the fun began.  We knew coming into a port city in Italy would be a challenge but you do really need six pairs of eyes to keep track of the potholes in the road, mopeds screaming up the inside, overtaking cars, cars coming at you on the wrong side of the road, pedestrians ambling across the road, road works and hundreds of billboards and signs.  It wasn’t really the best time for our free sat nav app to have an off day but an off day is what she had.  After sending us in the wrong direction back towards the city for a second time I switched her off with a quick jab.  We finally managed to get clear of the city and its suburbs using the Maps.Me app.  I know I mention that app many times but it has been a life saver.

We arrived at a Sosta (Italian aire) at the Area Masseria Rodogna visitor centre outside Matera after a sixty five kilometre bone shaking drive, much of it in driving rain, feeling a bit jaded and wishing we’d just stayed at Bari port to depart on the next available ferry to Greece.

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The sosta at the ‘Area Masseria Rodogna’ visitor centre on the other side of the gorge from Matera.  Paulo, the centre manager, was very helpful providing a street map of the city and marked a walking route on it for us to follow. He also runs a mini bus service into Matera for €1.50 each way.

But what a difference twenty four hours makes.  I hadn’t done any research on Matera.  I hadn’t even downloaded the Rough Guide to Italy at that point.  I had just picked the sosta from the good reviews it had on the Camper Connect App.  The consensus of opinion was that it was a beautiful area and a beautiful town.  We didn’t realise what a treat we were in for.  Sometimes doing no research and having no preconceived ideas about a place is a really good thing.  And so it proved with Matera.  We were quite simply mesmerised by the sheer scale of the place set on the edge of a gorge.

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The sheer scale of Matera is immense.

Benedictine Monks built rock-hewn churches and monasteries into the stone, now called the Sassi (literally meaning ‘stones’), during the Middle Ages.  Later the 1500 or so cave dwellings were taken over and dug deeper by peasants and farmers seeking safety from invasions.  The people lived alongside their livestock in their underground homes.

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Inside one of the caves in the Sassi.

By the 1940’s, though, Matera was seen as ‘the shame of Italy’ with masses of people living in the Sassi in squalor and poverty.  In the 50’s twenty thousand Sassi-dwellers were forcibly removed from their underground homes and rehoused in modern districts in the new town.  The Sassi was abandoned and left to the ravages of nature.

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The abandoned Sassi is slowly being restored again.

In the late 1950’s a group of students, who had grown up in the town, founded a cultural club to set about discovering Matera’s past.  Over the years the group identified over one hundred and fifty cave churches concealing priceless Byzantine frescoes.  As the students grew older and became lawyers and politicians and businessmen they lobbied for funding to restore the Sassi and by 1993 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It will also be the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

P1100384.JPGHomes, B&B’s, hotels, restaurants and workshops now make up a large part of it with restoration still ongoing.  It easily made it into our top ten spectacular sites on our trip.

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Cute little homes.

Next we trundled the seventy kilometres east to the village of Alberobello making a Lidl and Launderette pitstop along the way.

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I know washing is dull and mundane to most people but when you have three weeks of washing to do and you just happen to spot a sign pointing to a self service launderette like this one with ample parking you kind of get deliriously happy! 

The area surrounding Alberobello is home to over 1500 trulli. 

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A terrace of Trulli in Alberobello.

Unique to the Puglia region the origins of these mortarless dwellings are obscure but it is generally thought that the dwellings, lived in by people working the land, could easily be pulled down when the tax inspectors arrived thereby saving their feudal lords some dosh.

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Many of the Trulli have been restored but a fair number are still in need of a fix up.

The drive over to Alberobello was very picturesque with the little pointy houses, some with large extensions, dotting the farming landscape enclosed by neat low dry stone walls.

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Trulli rooftops in Alberobello.

Many of the trulli in Alberobello have been taken over by tourist shops with a growing number being snapped up for holiday homes.  You won’t find a bargain though as they aren’t cheap.

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€225,000 for a Trulli.

On the way to Ostuni, or ‘white city’, as it is known we had our worst narrow street encounter on the trip so far.  As co-pilot I wasn’t paying attention when I should have been and didn’t realise until it was too late that the sat nav was taking us through the historic centre of Cisternino.  No going back – it was one way.  All we could do was breathe in and hope for the best.  Nope not enough room without hopping onto the pavement being mindful of over hanging balconies and steps up to front doors.  The only problem was we couldn’t get enough angle to get both the front and back wheel up the kerb and the back wheel persisted in sliding along the kerb with Ollie’s back end skewing out getting closer and closer to the parked cars.  Nope still not enough room as one car had been abandoned in a space with the front end on the pavement and the back end sticking out into the road.  By this time we’d drawn quite a crowd of onlookers and were being beeped at by the increasing line of traffic building up behind.  No pressure then.  Just when we thought we weren’t in a position to either go forwards or backwards without damage to us or the other vehicles the owner of the sticking out car arrived and very helpfully nudged it a few inches further onto the pavement so we could get by.  Once clear we pulled over as soon as we could to let the queue of cars past and for us to breathe out again and regroup!  It was a close one.  Hopefully never to be repeated.  Until the next time!

After tackling the most complicated parking metre ever known to man at a carpark in Ostuni we had a think about our next plans.

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Ostuni – also known as ‘the white city’.
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Piazza della Libertà.
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The ancient streets of Ostuni’s old town.

Do we want to spend any more time in Italy?  If not, where for winter?  Greece, Sicily or Sardinia?  Greece was on the loose plan when we set out on season 2 back in April.  We were just forty kilometres from Brindisi where we could get a ferry.  Mmm, too tempting.  Yep, let’s do it.  Greece here we come……….the rest of Italy will have to wait for another time.

Arrivederci Italy!

Down to Dubrovnik…. .

After a couple of nights in Orebić it was time to make our way along the Pelješac peninsula towards Dubrovnik.  What a glorious drive.  Well, it was for me being the passenger with my head swinging left and right totally spoilt for choice on spectacular views.  Tiny villages dot the hillsides and sheltered coves reveal themselves on the rugged coastline down below the main road.  There are a surprising number of vineyards along the sixty kilometre stretch between Orebić and Ston.  Considering the rocky landscape it’s amazing that it’s viable but I guess all that sunshine helps.  Apparently Croatia’s finest red wines come out of this area.  Olives also are in abundance as are oysters and mussels.  It’s a beautiful area that isn’t really developed at all.

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The Pelješac peninsula.

We made a pit stop for a few hours at Ston.  Three kilometres of fourteenth century defensive stone walls, built by the Dubrovnik Republic to protect Ston’s saltpans from predators, climb up and over the hillside from Ston to Mali Ston.  They are quite a sight and the pictures don’t really do justice to how steep they are.

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The Fourteenth Century walls between Mali Ston and Ston.

More spectacular scenery accompanied us on the remainder of the journey to Dubrovnik.  The coastal road hugs the steep hillside in lots of places giving cracking views across to several islands and down onto Dubrovnik itself.  There isn’t much choice for open campsites at this time of year near Dubrovnik with just a couple open.  We pitched up at Camping Matkovica which is about ten kilometres east of the city.  It is small which suits us and has a large Konzum supermarket across the road.  There are several bus options into Dubrovnik too.  It would have been nice to take a boat to Dubrovnik approaching the city walls of the old town from the water but they’d stopped for the season a few days before we got here so the bus it had to be.

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The bay a few minutes walk from Camping Matkovika at Srebreno, 10km east of Dubrovnik.
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Derelict holiday apartments a ten minute walk from Srebreno which, I assume, were never finished.
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In contrast, a swanky new development the other way from Srebreno.

Billed as the jewel in Croatia’s crown Dubrovnik is its most popular tourist destination. It is also doubles as ‘Kings Landing’ in the Games of Thrones series and has featured in Star Wars and Robin Hood.

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Looking across to the walls of Dubrovnik old town from Lovrijenac Fort.

It’s on the itinerary of many cruise ships so we steeled ourselves before going in for it to be heaving.  According to an article in the Telegraph newspaper earlier this year 529 cruise ships called in at Dubrovnik in 2016 bringing 799, 916 passengers with them.  It goes on to say that generally passengers have only three hours from docking to disembarkation which means the whole contents of the ship descend on the old town en masse.  UNESCO, concerned about the number of visitors, has warned that the City’s World Heritage status is at risk.  In response a plan to limit numbers visiting the old town to eight thousand has been implemented.  Don’t ask me how they count them though.

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Pile Gate.

We arrived on the bus to see two enormous cruise ships parked up in the harbour.  Meh.  Thankfully though, once away from the Pile Gate and the Stradun (main street) it was very quiet.

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Stradun (main street) within the city walls.

By the time we arrived back in the Stradun after spending a couple of hours exploring the alleys and hidden away places that no-one else seemed to go to it had quietened down considerably and our fears of being crushed by the hordes had been unfounded.

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City walls from the harbour.
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Walls from the harbour again.
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Pretty courtyard away from the main street.
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The days washing viewed from below.
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Businesses aren’t allowed to display conspicuous shop signs so their names are inscribed on lanterns hanging over their doorways. 
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Very quiet away from the main drag.

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I love the narrow alleyways radiating out from the centre.
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Rooftop view – the old town suffered during the 1991 – 1995 war but reconstruction was undertaken swiftly afterwards and is evidenced by the brighter orange roof tiles.
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City walls.

Meanwhile in other news Tim has been whiling away a bit of time with his magnet.  The latest spoils are pictured below.

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What a haul.

I also have to fess up to having a little go myself.  It is quite addictive and I’m sure we will soon end up with ‘his’ and ‘hers’ magnet rigs before too long.

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I wanted a piece of the action.

The locals are a bit bemused by it all though which is understandable but neither of us are cut out for ‘proper’ fishing.

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My first catch.  No marine animals were harmed hauling in this catch!

So what’s next?  We’ve pretty much reached the end of the line here in Croatia with the border of Montenegro to the east and Serbia-Herzegovina to the north.  With no insurance for either of those countries we have two options. The first would be to retrace our wheels and head back up the Croatian coast but we don’t much fancy going back on ourselves.  The second is to catch a ferry from Dubrovnik sailing across the Adriatic to Bari on the coast of Italy.  Taking into account we’ll be looking for warmer climes throughout the winter months, we’ve booked the ferry across to Bari which leaves tonight.  Whoop!   In fact, I’m sitting at the ferry port now uploading this blog post.

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Ollie in the queue for the ferry to Bari, Italy.

This then gives us several options for the colder months.  The choices (all by ferry) are Greece, Sicily or Sardinia or a combination of two or three.  We think it is going to be Greece but, as always, we are keeping our options open and we’ll see how we feel when we get across to Italy.  I don’t think the ferries are going to be booked out at this time of year so there won’t be any need to book well in advance.

Time will tell.

Doviđenja Croatia!

From Yorkshire to Croatia…. .

My quick flit back to Yorkshire to visit my parents came and went in a flash and I’m now back in sunny Croatia.  I’d had a lovely week being thoroughly spoiled.  Days out, meals out and trips to the library!  Tim was able to luxuriate in the silence of my absence.  I’m sure he needed it.  After all, I can get on my own nerves.

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York Cathedral taken from the city walls.
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York city walls.
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York railway museum.
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My ‘office’ in Harrogate library.

Mum packed me off with a box of Yorkshire Tea, a tin of Heinz Spaghetti and a Pork Pie from their village shop for Tim and a magnet (more on that later).  What can I say, our needs are small!

As it was the last Jet2 flight to Croatia for the season I was one of only four passengers on the plane back to Split.  Us passengers only out numbered the cabin crew by one.

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Just four passengers on the plane!

After take-off I moved up and down the plane looking out of different windows revelling in the novelty of it all and had more leg room than I knew what to do with.  It was a bit of a treat as normally, because I don’t pay extra to book a particular seat, I am in the aisle with no hope of seeing out of the window and even if I could see anything the wing of the plane is always in the way.

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Coming into Split.
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Tim enjoying his pork pie brought back from the Uk.
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Camping Stobreč.

After a few more days in Split it was time to decide on where to go next.  We want to see Dubrovnik but a little twenty kilometre stretch of coast between Split and Dubrovnik (the Neum Corridor) belongs to Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is the second shortest coastline in the world.  Monaco is the other one.

Back in the late 17th Century, the city-state of Dubrovnik, afraid of a Venetian invasion, gave away this tiny strip of land to the Ottoman Empire, giving itself a buffer against Venice.  Following the break up of Yugoslavia in 1991 the newly independent Croatia was effectively chopped in two. This little strip of coastline in Bosnia-Herzegovina, then, cuts off Croatia’s southern most territory from the rest of the country.

But why am I telling you all this?  Well, inconveniently, Ollie is not insured to put his wheels in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  We are only insured to drive in EU member countries.  As much as it would be tempting to ‘wing it’ and scoot through the Neum Corridor we don’t think it is worth risking a huge fine, Ollie being impounded or worse an accident.  There probably are ways and means of getting the insurance cover but we’d just prefer to find an alternative route.

Conveniently a ferry will take you from Ploče, 110km down the coast from Split, to Trpanj which sits on the sticky out bit of coastline that is attached to Dubrovnik.  All we would then need to do is drive the 130 kilometres to Dubrovnik.  Problem solved.  We left Split then and drove for three hours along the coastal road to Ploče.  And very scenic it was too.

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The Makarska Riviera between Brela and Gradac on the way to Ploče. 

We purchased a ticket at the ferry port and got in the queue.

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In the queue for the ferry to take us to Trpanj.

The crossing took an hour and felt like being on the ferry to the Isle of Wight but at less than half the cost.

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The ferry, not unlike a Wightlink ferry in the UK.

We are pitched up now at Orebić, a little coastal village facing Korčula island, and we’ll drive down to Dubrovnic in a day or two.

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The view from Orebić town.
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Orebić.

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I spent some time updating the blog, doing some French learning, cooking and generally being lazy whilst Tim trotted off to pursue his new hobby.  Magnet fishing.  Never heard of it?  No, neither had I.  Back in Prague we watched as several teenage boys lobbed magnets attached to bits of line into the river.  They were having a whale of a time pulling out non-descript bits of metal clamped to the end of their magnets.  They had quite a hoard of filthy, oily lumps piled up on the quayside.  Who would have thought that such a thing existed?  Google it and you will even find forums discussing and sharing information with such titles as ‘show us your magnet’, ‘keep your cat away from magnets’ and ‘best knot for magnet fishing’.

Queue the magnet I brought back courtesy of my Mum.  After purchasing fifteen metres of line from a local chandlers in Split, and attaching it to his magnet, Tim was all set.  And here he is with his first catch………….a bottle top.

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First catch!

Two hours later and the hoard for the day was four bottle tops and a bit of metal.  Not bad!  Croatia, it seems, is too clean.  What he really needs is a manky bit of canal and I’m sure the spoils are there to be had.

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Today’s haul.

Of course, I will be laughing on the other side of my face if he brings up something of value like a roman coin or some such.

Bok!