Friday, October 16, 2009

Going places we didn´t expect to

One of the comments Donna made in the first couple of days she was here was that she pleased that we spent some time relaxing because when she read the blog she got the impression that we were running flat out all day. Let me assure anyone that is of the same thought, there are plenty of hours for us to relax. On average, we spend 6-8 hours most days exploring which leaves ample down time! We tend to rise late and then do brunch before heading out some time between 10 and 12! Some days are a little longer than others, but we are very relaxed - for all intents and purposes, this is a holiday after all!

You know when we awoke this morning on the
Island of Vis the day was clear and beautiful. That was, until we opened the door on to the balcony and then we realised it was cold, bloody cold!

It had been cold overnight - much colder than we had expected, in fact so much so that Michael had to go up to the car to get our blanket as there were no extra blankets in the room. We had hoped to go over to the island of Biševo, but we were given a few pieces of advice:
(i) the weather is not very favourable - too windy,
(ii) it takes just over 1 hour to travel to the island of Biševo and then to the Blue Grotto - more if we have to go by motor launch instead of speedboat;
(iii) the boats do not leave until 10 am; and
(iv) the ferry leaves at 1:00 pm on Fridays, not 3:30 pm. Additional to this info, we had not expected it to be this cold. So we decided against even trying to go - especially because we might miss the ferry. And - speedboat! Me, in a speedboat? I don't think so!!! So, bugger - that makes twice we have lucked out on the blue grottoes.

This now gives us some time to have a look at the church just up the road from Komiža as well as the township of Vis itself. The church and former monastery of St Nicholas reputedly dates back to the 13th century, but we find a date of 811 AD on the lintel over a lower door - maybe this relates to a church that stood on the site formerly! Anyway, the church is closed, although there are men working on restoring the back wall and clearing away weeds growing around and in to it. There are also a couple of people working in the attached cemetery - one clearing weeds and an older parishioner lady who seems to be visiting. We create quite a point of interest and conversation amongst them - I think they are unsure of why we are there!

Then its over to Vis by the fast road so that we have a little time to look around. We passed again a small round chapel high on the hill on the road through to Vis. Like many small towns, parking is at a premium and taken up by the locals. God knows what it must be like in summer when the hoards are here - although I was surprised by the number of people who arrive and leave Vis as foot passengers on the ferry - certainly many of the locals do. Vis hugs its protective bay for some distance around the coastline.

Vis, like many of the Adriatic towns was settled by the Greeks and was originally known as Issa in the 4th century BC. There are a few remnants of this time, but we have trouble locating them. In the Franciscan monastery that adjoins the Church of St Jere on the peninsula of Prirovo there are ruins also of a roman theatre, but this is now the presbytery for the Church and the gates are closed, so we don't go in.

We take a walk around the pedestrian area (dodging local drivers who seem to ignore the signs!) having a look at the few shops, stopping in a marine themed one for a little something for Bella. Unexpectedly we come across the Fish Market - don´t know how long it has been here - but its a long long time we suspect. Then we see signs for the archaelogical museum 150 m away and Donna and Michael head out for a look (the time is getting short so I make my slower way back to the car) but after walking until they come across the signs pointing back the way we have come, they return to the car a little disappointed as the bells of one of the other churches are chiming the noon.

The ferry trip back to Split gives me enough time to complete the blog from two days ago. The day is lovely and sunny, but a little windy so the trip over is certainly more choppy than the one across yesterday. The ferry gets us back to Split just after 3:00 pm and by the time we all offload and get through the city centre and out on to the motorway it is almost 4:00 pm. Kate says that it will take 3.5 hours to travel the 324 kms to Dubrovnik so we will travel the motorway.

The motorway is so new that it is not even completed. Great road at first, and then we are off and travelling though real country roads. We have in fact crossed into Bosnia and Herzegovina travelling on a road that is cut into the hills. Eventually we come across the border controls and through the coastal town of Neum. I am not sure what we had been expecting of this area (especially given that we had not realised that we would be travelling through there), but it was not the lush valley growing the diverse basket of vegetables that was spread beneath the high mountains. They appear to be growing everything that we expect and then some. There are vendors after vendors lined up in small covered stalls selling oranges, onions, apples, pomegranates and corn along the side of the road into Neum.

We are told later (by Maya at our apartment) that most locals would be offended if we had referred to them as Bosnians as this area is actually Herzegovina. Whew - that would have been handy information to have even before we set out! After about an hour we cross back onto the motorway, passing the turnoff for Ston (that we also want to have a look at) and continue in the dark now, to Dubrovnik 54 kms to the south.

We stop when Kate announces our arrival and Michael heads out on foot to find the right building - turns out it is half a kilometre away up a huge hill. He got lost once and was quickly put on the right path by some local uni students. The manager of Villa Antea where we have booked accommodation is Maya, and she is there ready to greet us with a welcome drink and an apology for the cold weather. She pours generous shots of Pelinkovac (herb based with a rosemary sprig inside the bottle) and Donna and I sip it. For once Michael is the lucky one as he doesn't drink and so his oesophagus escapes the harsh burning as it gratingly slides down our throats. She then pours me a Maraschino to try - Donna begs off, she has had enough. She should have had it though - it is milder and helps to soothe!

Maya sets out a map and shows us all the key sites including the bus route that leaves from nearby. we get chatting and ask where we can get dinner tonight. By now she knows we prefer to try the provincial cuisine and so recommends two nearby restaurants. Then she takes us down to the aparment that we will call home for a couple of days. Very comfortable - double bedroom and a sofa in the living area cum kitchen. TV with a movie channel where the movies are still in English (and sub-texted in Croatian) so Michael is really happy.

So, basics out of the car, we head a little further up the road in the suburb of Babin Kuk to the Restaurant Komin that Maya had recommended. There is an open grill on which food is being cooked that radiates warm air through the room on what is fast becoming a cold night. The menu is a diverse mix of seafood and meat dishes. Michael and Donna's first choice of meat under a bell is only available with a mimium 3 hour notice, so bugger it will have to be seafood tonight!
Seafood pate and fresh bread
Domaći fuži u umaku od gambora I šparoga (Pasta with shrimp and asparagus sauce) Donna
Krem juha od scampa (Cream shrimp soup) Michael and Maria
Skampi na žaru (Grilled scampi) Donna
Lignji svježi na žaru (Grilled squid) Michael
Jastog na žaru (Grilled lobster) Maria
accompanied by a fresh mixed salad and some boiled vegetables.
Oh my god what a meal - so good we have booked again for Sunday night and requested the meats grilled under the bell! The wait staff were excellent too and fun to chat too after our meal. One even waved goodnight as he drove past us a few minutes later at the apartments!

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