Woo hoo the sun is out and the thermometer has pushed through the 6°C barrier! Breakfast was good - though down three flights of outdoor stairs to the restaurant and back up after brekky. Watered down Tang, cereals, eggs scrambled and/or fried and little frankfurter sausages as well as cold meats and cheeses. Yoghurt and coffee finished us off. The Germans were in for brekky too - some before us, some after. Anyway, it was well before 9 am when we had finished and we are out the door right on 10. Villa Nova was a nice introduction to Herzegovina. Neum is quite a surprise - there are literally hundreds of apartments and hotels. It is a lovely spot on a finger of the Adriatic Sea, but just not what I had expected!
Given that the sun is out and the wind is not, we are headed back to Ston to walk some of the walls and have a little look see. Now, when we get there, those walls look might long and very very steep. Michael is brave, Donna and I are not!!! So off he sets. Its not long before we see him as a mere speck in his bright orange jacket - if it weren't for that, we could not have seen him at all. Donna and I head off to have a look around Ston - and are done in about 20 minutes! I guess that it is their off season and not much is open - although it really doesn't look like there is much to open. There are quite a few restaurants, although we only see one open at this hour of the day. A couple of old buildings that house the remnants of rescued masonry from others that are either in ruins or no longer exist are all else that hold any interest. There is an old church, but it is in ruins and boarded off.
We walk through the only standing city gate to see the salt ponds across the road. While the ponds still exist, they do not appear to be the ones that are actively being used at the moment. However, on the rusted rail line at the front of the closest pool is a rusted and timbered salt cart - full of salt. It is dirty and caked and neither of us are keen to taste it, but it can be nothing else. Guess that before it would be used, it would be washed. This however is here as a display I would imagine.
(Michael here) Seeing the walls from a distance one could be excused from assuming they looking at a section of the Great Wall in China. This is no exaggeration, until you get closer to this wonder. Like the Great Wall, the walls of Ston scale the steep incline of the mountains and meet at a higher fort.
Before climbing the walls, you get a feeling that this amazing feat of engineering evolved through a siege mentallity. The whole structure possesses all of these elements: a Barbican, bastions, redoubts, listening posts, interconnecting towers and crenulations. However, it's these snaking walls which takes one's breath away.
Maria and Donna opt out from taking a stroll along the walls, albeit, I part with 30Kn for the priviledge to do so. As I hand over the fee, the ticket seller instructs me which sections of the wall I can explore and asks whether I suffer from a heart condition. It is sufficient warning to alert me for the type of exertion I can expect! Regrettably, I'm restricted to the lower walls, as those which snake upwards to the summit have been closed to the public due to ongoing repairs.
However, I set forth and brace myself for the upward climb. I must admit the climb is quite arduous, considering I have scaled towers with over 800 stairs during our travels. The acute gradient is not realised until see the angle of the incline and indeed walk it. 'Rest' stops are positoned at regular intervals which allow us 'wayfarers' to admire the view.
Upon arriving at the central bastion, you get clear image of the expanse of the fortress (and at the same time providing a respite for one to catch their breath). In the 'baillie', between the bastion and the old town, the foundations of mediaeval buildings can be discerned amongst the undergrowth. Many of the foundations have been converted into gardens by some residents. The vista rolling out beyond the old town also took in the broad acreage of the salt ponds. Anyhow, I continue with the downward journey which had taken me to the lower bastion and outer barbican. It is apparent that quite a large amount of consolidation and restoration work is ongoing. The outer barbican appears to have had extensive work completed on its walls and parapets.
It is at this juncture where my excursion along the walls ends...well, not quite, as I do an about turn and retrace my steps along the wall.
In the meantime, Donna and I have headed back for the car - the breeze is cooler still now. There is a dog who has taken a liking to us. I'm not sure whether he has been abandoned, or lives somewhere else in the town. He has definitely been trained to heel and sit though, and to follow - closely!! We can't shake him off. Anyway, we stop for some souvenirs and when I call in to the Tourist Information office the only book they have on the area is in French - ah well, guess I will be brushing up on my French again - just when I thought that I had finished with it for the moment. All good! Back to the car and we have to get in in a hurry as the dog goes off to check out a tour bus that has just pulled in - phew! We are not there long when we see Michael coming back. Talk about good timing.
So we leave Ston and head north back through the border crossing between Croatia and Herzegovina where this time we are stopped at both sides for passport checks. Sometimes I think they just like to see who is driving a car from the other 'side'. Anyway, back through Neum and we are back into Croatia headed north past the turn off for Split towards Zadar. We reach Zadar in good time after a trip of 3½ hours that included one fuel stop and a few brief stops for photos. Again we are surprised at the landscape both of this area of Croatia and of Bosnia Herzegovina that we are skirting. It is (all in the one vista) rugged mountains and broad open fertile plains. As we come down onto the delta of the Neretva River that is the main tangerine growing area, we stop to buy some at a roadside stall. They are a variety of mandarin and peel like a mandarin that we would regularly know, but have way way more flavour - more tart as well.
A lot of the trip was on the motorway that has been partly constructed that when finished will run the length of Croatia. There has been some comment on the local news lately about it with interviews with we think the Croatian Transport Minister with lots of signs that seem to indicate that it would be finished by 2008 with sad smiley faces. Don't know the full details - it was all in Croatian and double dutch to us.
Anyway we get to Zadar about 2 pm and went to have a look around. We found the Church of St Donat that brought us here, but it is closed. There are a number of other churches (all closed) and the ruins of a Roman Forum that we look at and Michael makes a foray up the Campanile. So, planning another day here tomorrow, we head to the supermarket for some supplies for tonight and then plan Kate to take us to Vinjerac where we are staying. It is about 40 minutes away, on the other side of the peninsula.
And as we are driving down there (onto yet another promontory that juts into the Adriatic Sea) we are greeted with the most amazing sight of the setting sun reflecting off the Velebit Mountains on the opposite side of the water - all pinks and greys. Oh yes, and bright whites where SNOW has fallen over the last couple of days - yes, winter is well and truly on the way! And again we share the road with a herd of sheep being moved to another pasture - in fact, judging by the amount of spoor on the road, these sheep are moved frequently - as they would need to be, the pickings are only some very slim shrubs.
We have booked accommodation at the Aparthotel Buratovic and when we arrive (thankfully it is well signposted as Kate cannot find any of the streets in Vinjerac!) we are greeted by Martjia who is very very warm and friendly and tells us that after watching 'McLeods Daughters' on TV she has wanted to visit Australia. She presses us for information while showing us the apartment. It is very comfortable and thankfully equipped with an air conditioner as the temperature drops.
The last light is fading as we cook up some rice with chicken in thai sauce and veges and tuck in. Tomorrow we are heading back into Zadar.