30 December 2008

Leaving Croatia

After a nights sleep we got up and packed the last stuff to return to Zagreb and then onwards to Denmark. It had been a busy yet relaxing trip with lots of new experiences for the girls and lots of nostalgic moments for Daniel.

Saying goodbye to Inge.

On the way to Zagreb we pass the Gorski Kotar range, where plenty of snow had fallen during the cold and windy days. At some point we feared that the bad driving conditions might make us miss our flight, but fortunately we made it right on time - should we add 'as usual'!

29 December 2008

Leaving portoroz

On the final day in Portoroz we took a little tour of some of Daddy's familiar places and had a look at the promenade.

These stairs have been climbed by a young Daniel many hundreds of times. They lead from the road to Portoroz town up to the apartment (pink/red building) where he stayed with his parents many spring-times and summers as a child. True nostalgia to see Anais on the steps.

Portoroz' promenade and beach. Lots of boats and hotels.

We had a nice plate of deep-fried sardines and cooked mussels at a simple fish-bistro. We sat outside and here Anais is...

On our way back to Rijeka we pass by the town Buje, which is characteristically for many towns on the Istra peninsula built on the top of a small hill. The towns city walls protect against marauders while the pastures at the foot along with the stream in the valley provided food and water for the inhabitants.

Last evening and morning Slovenia

After returning from Postojna there was food ready for us and to even greater joy to Anais there was plenty of cake! The following day we were headed back to Rijeka.

All that cake and not enough space in the stomach!

Nighttime view from of Portoroz and Opatija from the house.

Nighttime view from of Portoroz and Opatija from the house. The ridge in the distance is in fact in Croatia.

First round of farewell photos.

Second round of farewell photos.

28 December 2008

Postojna Caves

Time to explore a little bit more of Slovenia... It being winter we thought that some "indoor" activity would be a good option. What better then than to go in to the famous limestone caves at Postojna. The caves are 20 km long and about 5 km is open to the public. Fortunately, one is not obliged to walk that far. A small electric train takes you from the cave entrance to the inner reaches of the cave system. These trains usually leave every half an hour, but we were in poor luck. Just as we arrived at noon-time the last train before the lunch-break had departed. That came a bit to our surprise because usually there is no break, but it turned out that this was no ordinary day... As mentioned in a previous post Croats and Slovenes (along with a host of other nationalities) love to set up nativity scenes and during the Christmas holiday the Postojna Caves featured a live version (tableau vivant) of this. Well, we headed for the blind pink fish and a lunch at the family restaurant on the premises.

The display of the olm also nicknamed "human fish" is part of the ticket to enter the caves. It is actually a salamander, which is blind, has no skin pigment, lives entirely under water, and has gills on the outside. Not to disturb these darkness loving creatures the display, located in a small section of the caves, is only dimly lit and everyone is handed a small torch. Anais Thima was quick to see the potential of the torch as a toy.

Alas, at 14:30 the trains started running again and we were transported deep underground. There we started to the walking trail talking us past the key scenes surrounding the birth of Christ Jesus. Here I believe we were witnessing the angel proclaiming the fortunate circumstances to Mary. The show included a colourfull light-show and resonating music.

Going down a hill inside the cave and looking at the ceiling.

Here Anais and Daddy are in one of the really pretty cave sections where the limestone formations are very delicate and crisp white.

Yet another scene from the nativity. Not sure what's going on there.

At this spot a girl was playing the flute, and that really caught Anais' attention.

What a rock! The stalagmites in Postojna tend to be really huge illustrating that the limestone caves have a considerable age.

27 December 2008

Blown away in Piran

The following day we wanted to (re)see Piran. The old history of the town is permeating every street and alley. Additionally, it used to host the mariners school that Anais' Nono (grandfather) used to attend.

Three girls, Daddy's second Slovenian/Croatian cousin Barbara, Pikki (Emma), and Anais. Piran is perched on a small peninsula and thus has a very long promenade. Even, on the sunny side of the peninsula the wind chilled us down. This picture was taken next to the hotel where Nono used to have a part-time job to pay for his living.

Anais Thima not happy about something! This is at the tip of Piran where a small lighthouse allerts sailors.

Piran's highest point is the location of the cathedral of St. George. Here's is a view towards the south-east of the town centre and the mainland.

Another photo at the cathedral, now towards the south-west with the tip of the Piran penisnula and the Adriatic sea.

Anais Thima with the beautifully decorated ceiling of the cathedral as background.

The Clouds in the cathedral of St. George, Piran, Slovenia.

Piran's main square named Tartinijev trg after Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini, who was born in Piran in 1692. In tha back the bell tower of the cathedral towers above the rest of the town.

26 December 2008

Family visit in Slovenia

Next day we headed for Portorož in Slovenia. This took us on a 2 hour drive first through the Ucka tunnel and then across the Istrian peninsula. This is a trip that Daddy has taken an uncountable number of times as he went with his parents from their appartment in Portoroz to visit grandmother in Soici. Now, for the first time, Daddy was behind the wheel with the next generation in the back seat. These days, Daddy's uncle, aunt and cousins live in Portorož, and that's who we were going to visit.

It's a long drive and a good opportunity to take an afternoon nap.

Anais and Luka meet each other. Luka is the soon of Anais' Daddy's cousin, so I'm not quite sure what you call that. Anyhow, they quickly got along very well.

Anais with Daddy's aunt Marina and his cousin Marin. She's not overly comfortable with the situation but accepts it for a while.

Luka pulled out his father's camera and started shooting some photos. Anais on the other hand loved to be a model. She has become really fond of posing in front of the camera and afterwards she desperatly wants to see the picture.

After first hello's we went with Marin and Luka for a short stroll around Portorož, but since the combination of low temperature and strong winds made staying outdoor a bitterly cold experience, we quickly entered a hotel cafe for a cup of coffee. Our walk lasted long enough to take this picture in front of Portoroz's oldest and finest hotel "The Palace Hotel".

A dusk-time photo of a few colourfully lit hotels. Portorož is Slovenia's most important coastal resort town and is packed with hotels, restaurants and sousvenir shops.

25 December 2008

1000000$ view

Stuff one misses in Denmark:

The view from the upstairs bedroom! You can see the whole Kvarner bay, Učka on the Istrian penisnula, and the islands Krk and Cres. On the picture it is Cres that is visible in the distance.

Rijeka - Trsat

What better thing to do on Christmas day than visit a church. In our case we headed for a very renowned church called "Crkva Gospe Trsatske (Church of Our Lady of Trsat)", which is a popular pilgrimage of Croatians and has been visited by Pope John Paul II.

The church with a large banner reminding all who enter that the Pope has been there. The day started out really nice with clear skies, but around noon clouds started to descend from the mountains a the wind picked up in strength. This would be the start of a long period of strong northerly winds, in Croatian called the "bura".

Around Christmas most churches set up a nativity scene and the one in Trsat is very elaborate. Anais Thima and Daddy are inspecting the Christ child together with his parents, the shepherds in the field and a whole lot of sheep.

Adjacent to the church is the Trsat Castle, which was built by the Frankopan rulers of Rijeka. Anais is struggling to climb the stone steps together with Mummy.

Anais and Daddy on their way up to the Castle tower. The Croatian flag witnesses the strength of the winds.

The overview of Rijeka from the castle is awesome. The river is called the Rijeka River or in Croatian "Riječka Rijeka" (Rijeka actually means river). In the distance one again sees Učka

Anais Thima strolling the castle grounds.

A walk by the sea

On Christmas day we first headed down to the beach just below Inge's house. Obviously, this was not the time to take a dip but with 15 degrees air temperature we had very pleasant walk along the beach trail.

With Daddy at the beach. In the background is Opatija and the tall mountain range Učka, which is an old volcano. You just don't get this kind of scenery in Denmark.

Anais Thima with Mummy, again with Opatija and Učka in the background.

I have no idea what to comment on this photo!

Camera smile!

Pushing Mummy up the hill.

Just a few cats

Inge shares her land with a bunch of "homeless" cats that graciously receive food and shelter.

The view of the Kvarner bay from the living room terrace door. Though the view is stunning, Anais Thima is undoubtedly more focused on the cats roaming and sunbathing outside.

A confrontation between a butterfly and a cat.

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve dinner - Croatian way

After a day of driving and sightseeing we were all set for a wholesome Christmas Eve dinner. As is tradition in Catholic countries we had seafood.

Daniel's Aunt Inge had bought some exquisite Adriatic squids that she baked in the oven with generous amounts of olive oil, garlic, and parsley. Accompanying this scrumptious dish was potatoes, bread, salad, and a bottle of Croatian wine. Anais, was not terribly delighted with the squids but munched on the potatoes and the bread. As Daddy was finishing up his meal with a serving of the salad Anais, surprisingly, joined in. Since, that day Anais has been keen to eat salad with oil and vinegar dressing. She even enjoys slurping the leftover sour dressing.

Inge and Anais having a conversation. Even if Anais doesn't speak Croatian, she quickly picked up the tone of the language. By the sound of her "Croatian imitation" she must perceive it as a quite "temperamental" language.

Additionally, Croatian is a language that accommodates bread-filled-mouth speech!

Inge serving some home made cakes (orahnjaca and mahovnjaca), much to Anais' delight.

Soici and Bakar

After our rendezvous of Rijeka we continued south to Daniel's grandparents' hometown of Soici. This is only about 5 km south of Rijeka. We went to the cemetery to put some flowers on Daniel's grandmother's grave and then went for a short walk around the village. Since, we had some time to spare we continued a bit farther to the town of Bakar.

Bakar is inside a deep natural harbour, and this is possibly the reason why during the Yougoslav period it was chosen as the location of a range of heavy industries. This decision has ruined much of the city's charm and certainly the environment, but the town is still worth a visit. Here we pose in front of Bakar on the grounds of a demolished factory.

A panoramic view of Bakar from the top of the hill.

Same as the previous, but now with a sunset!