Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Dalmatian Coast and Greece

In May 2010, my fearless travel companion, Kit, and I took Overseas Adventure Travel's cruise down the Dalmatian Coast and on to Corfu, Delphi and Crete. We didn't always have the best weather, until we got to Greece, but we had good travel companions, wonderful food, and a great guide who showed us this part of the world with enthusiasm. We began our exploration of the former Yugoslavia in Slovenia, at Lake Bled near the Julian Alps.

Remember that I'm manipulating the blog format to keep the trip in order, so click "Older Posts" at the bottom of each page to keep going throughout the trip (and even beyond, to earlier trips!). Click any photo to see it larger.
A guide can make a huge difference in the quality of the experience you have on a trip, and Overseas Adventure Travel has, in our experience, the best. This trip's guide, a vivacious Croatian named Petra, was no exception:

Here, you can see the Alps beyond Lake Bled, with Bled Castle perched above the lake . Bled was, and still is, a desirable resort area, with lots of pretty villas set in lovely grounds all around the lake. At the end of the 19th century, it became known as a health resort, owing to the efforts of a Swiss naturopath.

Rather like Brigadoon, the Assumption of Mary pilgrimage church rises on a lovely little island in the Lake, which you can get to on traditional wooden barges. The church has 99 steps; local tradition obliges husbands to carry their new brides up all of them. Visitors of all kinds ring the church's bell for good luck.

Bikes propped against the flowering chestnut trees that ring the lake.

Around the town of Lake Bled

Lake Bled

Naturally, on the last morning we were there, the clouds lifted and the sun shone, and there was even a hot air balloon floating over the lake to make things that much more picturesque.

Bled Castle, one of the oldest in Slovenia, first mentioned in 1004. It's been added to over the centuries, the last renovation in 1700, and, of course, it has a drawbridge over a moat.

St. Martin's Gothic church, with it's lovely two-toned slate roof:

Lake Bled

The weather didn't hold, however, and soon St. Mary's slipped away into the fog...

Lake Bohinj

Beekeeping is done in this area, and they use these beautifully painted boxes so that each keeper knows his own bees.

Old hay drying sheds:

And I'm always alert for pretty botanicals...


12th century Radovljica...
...which is known for its ornately decorated gingerbreads, which are not, in fact, gingerbread at all:
These are traditional gifts at weddings and other special occasions and are not really edible.

Gostilna Lectar and the Postojna Caves

Gostilna Lectar, in Radovljica, is a major producer of the elaborate 'gingerbreads,' but also a restaurant with amazing food, including a traditional mushroom soup, served in little hollowed out rye breads...

...and a gift for presentation, as this baked stuff apple shows.

During our stay, we took a side trip to the Postojna caves, a very long Karst cave system opened to the public in 1819.

I found the buildings around the cave entrance to be almost as interesting as the caves themselves.

Postojna Caves

Predjana Castle

A Renaissance castle built into the opening of a cave, Predjana Castle is near the area where Lipizzaner horses hail from (no, it's not Austria). Cold and damp, it's nevertheless proved quite secure from invaders over the centuries (although a previous resident reportedly found the privies rather insecure from catapults).

Predjana Castle

The valley Predjana overlooks:
Rainwater was captured at the top of cliff and ran down channels like the one seen at right into cisterns: