Cruising the Dalmatian Coast


You might think that traveling for pleasure in Croatia in January 2018 would be a bad idea, but though the temperature hovered in the 40s and 50s, and it was cloudy and rainy as much as it was sunny, it was a very interesting and pleasant trip. The fact that there were very few other visitors made it all the better.

We didn't spend much time in the capital, Zagreb, but rather headed right out to the Dalmatian coast on the Adriatic Sea, where we would spend eleven days on a small ship (50 passengers).

Our first stop was Mostar, in Bosnia, one of the cities most devastated by the civil wars of the 1990s. Its famous bridge was destroyed in the war and then rebuilt as a symbol of unity. Unfortunately, that unity has not yet been achieved.

Korkula in Croatia is a charming island. Its old town, right across the street from where our ship was docked, was pleasantly accessible. The cathedral and Bishop's Treasury museum are notable. That evening we appreciated a concert of klava, traditional a Capella singing.

Kotor, Montenegro, was also part of our itinerary. Like several of the places we visited, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Montenegrins are the tallest people in the region, and indeed we saw many statuesque people there. They also have the reputation of being lazy, and they capitalize on this deprecation humorously in their souvenir stores. A notable attraction nearby is Our Lady of the Rocks, a shrine built on a man-made islet. The church contains some remarkable paintings.

Dubrovnik is regarded as Croatia's crowning jewel. The solid fortress of the former city state which allowed the inhabitants to successfully resist the powerful Venetians for nearly 500 years is indeed impressive. The fine old Franciscan monastery houses one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. That evening we enjoyed dinner with a village family not far from Dubrovnik.

Split, the largest town we visited, is home to the huge ancient palace/fortress where the Roman emperor Diocletian retired. I would say it has been remodeled more than restored: much is still in disrepair, but people live there, businesses prosper, Diocletian's mausoleum has been converted into a cathedral, and the temple of Jupiter is now a baptistery with a fine modern sculpture of John the Baptist. It is very interesting to ponder what the place used to be like. Also, in Split, Sharon and I found a little church which contained the most intricate and amazing nativity scene I have ever seen: it portrayed a village rather than merely a crèche.

The island of Hvar was to me the most charming place we visited. It is the longest island of the Croatian archipelago and has been occupied since at least 3500 BC. Our bus drove along a very narrow, winding road overlooking steep cliffs. I have to say I was a little nervous. We enjoyed a terrific wine tasting and some wonderful young Dalmatian folk dancers that evening.

Sibenik has a marvelous cathedral; I especially admired the impressive carvings in its baptistry and the 71 human faces in stone around the outside of the building.

From Sibenik we drove to Krka National Park, where the Krka Falls, dozens of cascades flowing over the landscape, are spectacular.

Zadar is one of the oldest cities of Europe. As with all the places we visited, we spent a lot of time in the old town. An interesting sight was the foundation of the medieval cathedral, which partially rests on old Roman columns. A unique attraction in Zadar is the Sea Organ, which uses the waves to produce organ-like sounds through pipes built into the riva (seaside promenade).

An interesting and enjoyable trip.