Posted by: viewfromtheriva | November 30, 2016

Tesla charges into Croatia


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It sure was a surprise today when I visited the Katarina Hotel in Dugopolje, about 15 minutes from Split, to see a shiny row of Tesla supercharger stations in their parking lot.  Although you can’t buy a Tesla here–you can rent one in Zagreb–there are two charging stations in Croatia.  Both are in Dalmatia, the other is in Sinj.

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Not sure why the company chose these two sites, but good to know that the country that was Nikiola Tesla’s birthplace, the father of alternating current,  has two supercharging stations ready and waiting!

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | November 17, 2016

Giant lobster swims into Split….and maybe escapes!


lobster-head

Today I visited one of my favorite restaurants, Re di Mare, located smack on the wharf in the Spinut Marina. In addition to their outdoor waterside seating, their indoor seating features a pretty nice size aquarium stocked with local fish.

As I was leaving, there was a big commotion around the tank, with the chef and his crew struggling with–holy mackerel, what is THAT—a giant lobster!

you should see his claws!

you should see his claws!

The beast took up half the tank and weighed at least 8 kilos….and according to marine scientists, anything this big is more than 50 years old.  At 700kn for a normal lobster dinner here, around $110, I was looking at a $1000 plus meal, alive and swimming!

Having lived in coastal Maine, where lobsters are part of the local landscape and monsters like this are caught every year, it was an eerie reminder of what lurks beneath us and how magical it is seeing creatures like this so close up.

But a big part of me still wants to sneak back in, grab it, and put it back where it came from…..

 

Update Nov . 28

 

Went back today and the beast was gone…I asked “was it eaten?”  Thankfully, it was “given away” and the understanding was that it “was released back into the sea”

Let’s hope so!


For those who read viewfromtheriva often, my fascination with flea markets is well known.  It was a sad day when the local inspectors put an end to the impromptu Green Market weekend flea market last year (since replaced with only a handful of sellers showing their wares on the stone tables near the flower sellers).  So when a friend who lives in Brda (a tight-knit ethnic neighborhood full of impossibly narrow streets with zillions of houses of every stripe from barely functioning to gorgeous, each with amazing gardens and grape arbors) told me about the Solin Sunday market in a huge open lot just behind the Nirs Hotel /Retail store in Solin, on Dracevac St., I was there!

And not just me, there was a steady stream of cars all happy to pay 5 kuna to park close to the action–for those who don’t want to pay,  you can park for free and walk about half a klick.  The actual “entrance” to the large open lot itself is free.

From antique brass clocks to pussycat houses on top of a scratching post....yes, we bought it!

From antique brass 78rpm record players to pussycat houses on top of a scratching post….yes, we bought it for our beast.

What’s wonderful about places like this is the sheer diversity of stuff people collect and sell and the immense pleasure that comes from discovering their treasures as well as their trash.

Today for example, there was a guy from Zadar with a truck full of amazing old wooden trunks, carved stone olive oil vessels, huge gas-fired lamps (probably lit some factory decades ago), buckets of terrific antique hand cut nails and more…..behind him, all on the same table, the perfect cat house/scratching post for our 7 kilo beast next to a mint condition old Victrola with its shiny brass horn.

Some stuff is displayed on tables, others on the ground.  You can even buy live birds and rabbits!

Some stuff is displayed on tables, others on the ground. You can even buy live birds and rabbits!

Around the fringes there are quickie cafes with outdoor tables serving up home cooked sausages, fritule (Croatian donut holes but better) and other goodies.  As you enter, a slew of sellers hawking fresh picked mandarins and sensational Fuji apples trucked in from farms 200km away–the Fuji’s were 20kn for 4 kilos.  In the Green Market, not as fresh, 10kn a kilo!

Yup, you can even buy a car here--today they ranged from a Russian Neva to a 25,000Euro Mercedes Benz!

Yup, you can even buy a car here–today they ranged from a Russian Neva to a 25,000Euro Mercedes Benz!

In addition to produce, food, clothes, hand tools, bicycles, old military uniforms, hand-forged wrought iron tools there’s even  a guy who does nothing but take your windshield wiper and put in new rubber (his collection is impressive, so no matter how strange your wipers are, this dude has a replacement). But the most surprising “item” sold here is cars–twenty or more, plus scooters, cycles and we hear even a big semi if you want!

Mint condition, take it for a test drive, yours

Mint condition 200o Opel–the owner was happy to offer a test drive–yours for just 1900Euros!

What a great place to poke around for an hour or two.  Even if you don’t buy a single thing, there’s just something about seeing so much stuff all in one place and maybe or maybe not, picking up a bargain.

The weirdest item today? A really handsome, large aluminum water pitcher or maybe milk jug, with a brass handle and slender spout.  It had a certain style that would make any bouquet of flowers look terrific.  I picked it up and tried to make out the markings and holy cow was that a double eagle mark with a cross under it….uh oh….no….it was more.

So I asked the seller to verify my awful realization and cheerfully she says, “yes, you’re right, this is a WW2 German kitchenware water holder, with the SS mark.”

OK, thank you, pass…..quick, Natasha, give me one of those Fuji apples to wash the taste out of my brain……….even now can’t stop thinking, what if I didn’t look at it more closely and brought it home?!

Another exciting day in always surprising Croatia!

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 30, 2016

Split’s 4th Mediterranean Archeological Film Festival, Nov. 3-4


Franka Resic, an art history student, handing out fliers to the film festival on the Riva

Franka Resic, an art history student, handing out fliers to the film festival on the Riva

For the past four years, Split’s Museum of Archeological Monuments, at the end of the Marjan hill tunnel, has hosted a biennial international film festival.  The festival consists of international and national films in competition as well as an accompanying program made of lectures, restrospectives and/or exhibitions. All foreign films are subtitled in Croatian.

This year the festival is on Nov. 3 and 4th and admission is FREE!

To publicize the event, a group of students studying art/history/archeology donned vintage Renaissance costumers and handed out fliers along the Riva.

For more information, show times and program:   http://www.mhas-split.hr, telephone 21 323 901

Franka and her "court" out and about on the Riva promoting the festival

Franka and her “court” out and about on the Riva promoting the festival

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 23, 2016

Croatia’s Peljesac peninsula–paradise found (along with coyotes!)


My sister and her husband live in Florida and each year they visit us here in Split, bringing size 11AAA New Balance sneakers, chewable vitamin C tablets from Costco, Excedrin, Good n Plenty candy and other American wonders that I still crave.

They arrived last week and we decided to do a three day holiday to Peljesac–a gorgeous peninsula between mainland Dalmatia and the island of Korcula which is home to more than 40 wineries, including Croatia’s premier red, Dingac; spectacular scenery, distinctive cuisine and local folk who love living here and are eager to welcome you and share their pleasure.

The car ferry from Ploce takes you to Tripanj on the peninsula in about an hour

The car ferry from Ploce takes you to Trpanj on the peninsula in about an hour

Although you can reach Peljesac by car, passing through the coastal border with Bosnia and continuing to Ston, the coastal drive from Split to Ploce, where you catch the ferry to Trpanj,is more fun and adventurous.  The serpentine road just meters from the sea, the stunning images….a dozen wooden sailing gulets, the season over, now moored lined up hull to hull waiting for winter in Krilo; a storm squall racing in over Brac;  a burst of sunshine through the clouds turning the water a dazzling aquamarine; mandarin orange sellers lining the road (now is the season!)….and a ferry crossing!

|Our home in Vrbanj

Our home in Viganj, Petra Apartments, owned by the Matic family who live on the top floor.  The two lower apartments each has their own terrace with this glorious view.   Want to come?  Call Dusko at +385 20 719 301!

After arriving in the small seaside town of Trpanj, the drive across the peninsula to Orebic, the largest settlement on the peninsula, takes under an hour.

What an adventure!  Living on the coast here in Split I feel like a real flatlander–so all those majestic hills, deep canyons, switchbacks and steep climbs were fabulous fun.  And the sharply cool weather had created the kind of colors I hadn’t seen since I lived in Maine–wild oranges and reds, vineyards turned yellow and rust, lush green suddenly yielding to vast stretches of wildfire-blackened forest…the sea, dark, vast, endless.

Saic Winery cellsar outside Orebic

Saic Winery cellar outside Orebic

We had planned to visit Saint Hills, Matusko and Milos wineries during the three days we were here.  But when I saw a small sign for Saic Winery, I made a wicked hard left and snaked my way off the main road outside Orebic to their shop. Hard to find for sale in Split, their Plavac Mali is really splendid, rich, full-bodied and to my taste, much better than the same varietals from Hvar which are so popular.

The shop was locked up tight…so we banged on a couple of doors nearby and yippee, the winery owner’s wife comes out and invites us in to taste!

Yes please we'll take a case

Yes please we’ll take a case…that’s Natasha on the right with the pooch, a Russian toy terrier too cute for words but I still love the cat more.

Our first tasting and we hadn’t even arrived in Viganj yet, the small town where we had rented two apartments in a three floor family house smack on the water.

An hour or so after our Saic experience, Dusko, his wife Perica and their son Tomislav greeted us like relatives….sit down, enjoy some cheese, home made wine, cake!

More than yummy–Natasha actually asked and got her cottage cheese cake recipe, light as a feather and dee-lectable.  Dusko told us he had spent 30 years in the merchant marine, seen the world and then some and now his son Tomislav, studying in Split, will follow his dad’s footsteps as an marine engineer,

The whole family made us feel like there was absolutely no other place we could have possibly come on Peljesac other than Petra.

There are so many things about small seaside villages in the off season that make them and life, truly blissful.  Like the 7km “road” between Orebic and Viganj.  More like a private driveway along the sea….romantic at night and beautiful during the day, wide enough for only l car, it just kept following the shoreline all the way!

Unlike Split which still get a cruise ship or two deep into November, the Peljesac season is much shorter, with many places here folding up on Oct. l.

So for us and others like the Austrian couple who have been coming to Petra for more than 20 years off season, such peacefulness….hearing the water lap at the pebble beach, no sound of cars or people, is paradise.

Until it turned dark and the full moon came up.

What is that sound!?  OOOOOoooo!  OOOOOOOOOoooo!  Coyotes?  In Viganj?  Where is the pooch?

Sure enough Dusko tells us that there ARE coyotes up in the hills, but they leave folks alone except then they are hungry and like dogs, come down and sniff around for food.  Harmless? You bet.  Scary sounding?  You bet.

Frank Milos winery in Ponikve

Frank Milos winery in Ponikve

Next morning, still thinking about coyotes, we had a great home-cooked breakfast (my omelets are famous) and then set off for one of the premier wine growing areas on the peninsula, anchored by the town of Ponikve.

The Milos winery, a family affair like so many of them here, was open and happy to see us.  Their wines are top shelf, more expensive and worth it.  The tasting included some decade old plavac and under the expert guidance of one of Frank’s sons (sorry, forgot his name–the one with the beard!) we quickly appreciated the nuances between the vintages.  While I was lapping up the wine, Natasha was eyeing the handmade stone sink.  Milos exports 40% of their production, selling the rest locally to better restaurants.  In Split you can enjoy their Stagnum and other premium wines at Paradox, just behind the Croatian National Theater.

Although we couldn’t get to sample the wine at Saint Hills, we did stop at Matusko, one of our favorite wines–their Posip (white) as well as their Dingac and Postup are really delicious and considering the quality, far more reasonable than many others.  A big place, the cellars were underground and went on forever, with gated brick “reserves” as well as barrels stacked chock-a-block for aging.

Cavernous cellars at Matusko Winery

Cavernous cellars at Matusko Winery

Making the wine

Making the wine–this photo was taken through a glass pane on a door to the production area.

I do have to mention our quick trip to Korcula town.  After an easy ramble around the walled Old Town, we stopped in at one of my favorite places in Croatia–Konoba Komin.  Owned by Frano Gavranic, if it isn’t grown or caught on Korcula, he doesn’t serve it.  I don’t even bother asking for a menu–he looks at me, I look at him, and that’s it.  Our meal began with a mix seafood plate of various marinated delicacies, some tuna pate, homegrown greens, figs and more….and then the main course was several kinds of sea bass and a pair of pilot fish, rarely served, but sensational with Frane’s mashed garlic potatoes with just enough blitvah to make it extra tasty.  And the wine?  Posip of course.

Me, Natasha, sister Judy in the sunglasses and he husband Alan behind her

Me, Natasha, sister Judy in the sunglasses and he husband Alan behind her

On our way back to Trpanj we had some time to catch the ferry back to Orebic so we walked around the town and took this very weird photo using a road mirror–cool, eh?

But this next one of me and Judy is even stranger

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If you like our blog, take a peek at our website:

http://www.sightseeingcroatia.com

 

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 23, 2016

Amazing “palm” plant looks extraterrestrial!


Although the foliage sure looks like a palm, this "tree" was on the ground in a flower bed--so it may not be a "tree" but in fact something else

Although the foliage sure looks like a palm, this “tree” was on the ground in a flower bed–so it may not be a “tree” but in fact something else

On our recent getaway to Peljesac peninsula with my sister and her husband from the the states, we took a quick hop on the 15 minute ferry from Orebic to Korcula town.  Along the ramparts, close to the lookout with a mounted cannon, I saw this really strange palm plant with an enormous “flower” in the center.

the central flower of this palm plant was amazingly intricate

the central flower of this palm plant was amazingly intricate

The closer I got, the spookier it was…and the close up of what is inside this “flower” is practically extraterrestrial.  I’m just happy my mobile phone camera was able to get such cool shots…..thankyou Blackberry for my Z10…probably the only one in Split who has one!

Wow....it's alive!!!

Where is Sigourney Weaver? It’s an Alien spawn….and wow….it’s alive!!!

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 4, 2016

Sudden rain storm sweeps into Split


As I was doing some work on our back porch, which faces the hills behind Split and the bay where the city’s big shipbuilding plant is, a rain storm suddenly swept in from Kastela….it happened so fast that all of these photos were taken with a phone camera within 5 minutes!  The last photo was a complete “white out”…..amazing!

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and-the-deluge

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 3, 2016

Split’s Jewish community welcomes in the new year, 5777!


Last night, the Jewish community here in Split celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, with an ecumenical gathering at the synagogue that included the city’s Muslim imam and his wife, visiting tourists from Buenos Aires and one of my good friends, a Catholic.

Thefestive Rosh Hashana table with traditional sweets, cakes and wine

The festive Rosh Hashanah table with traditional sweets, cakes and wine

As a kid growing up in a small town in northern New Jersey where there were only a handful of Jewish families, I remember being taken to the synagogue 20 miles away for this holiday and marveling at the rabbi blowing a hollowed our ram’s horn–truly a blast from the past!  So when I saw the shofar  (the Hebrew name for this horn), on the table last night, I was really tempted to blow it.   It was small–but as you can see, they can be enormous!

Like a lot of other new year celebrations, Rosh Hashanah is a day to make a lot of noise—literally a “day [of] shouting/blasting”, sometimes translated as the Feast of Trumpets.

It’s also the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, ending with the Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, where religious Jews fast for the day as a sign of their piety to seek forgiveness for transgressions from the previous year. 

Rosh Hashanah is surely the “sweetest” Jewish holiday of the year.  A day where we all celebrate the eating of symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”, dates, pomegranates, wine, challah (traditional braided bread eaten on the Sabbath and holidays) and other goodies.

Traditional serving of challah, a twisted bread, dipped in honey for hopes of a "sweet new year"

Traditional serving of challah, a twisted bread, dipped in honey for hopes of a “sweet new year”

Before each sweet, a short prayer is said to give thanks.  It was a lovely evening–a celebration that has gone on for thousands of years and a living reminder of how tradition plays such an important role in all of our lives, no matter what our faith.

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | September 25, 2016

Going nuts in Croatia–peanuts!


Our first crop!

Our first crop!

Ever since I was  a kid  I have loved nuts…almond, walnuts, cashews and above all, peanuts…..it’s probably why I voted for Jimmy Carter, love the Dodgers (never forgot the hot bag of goobers in the shell from my first visit to Ebbets Field when I was 13)….I even SOLD peanuts from a home made cart in front of Brown University because I thought it was cool (unfortunately, only sold 5 bags, so had to roll 20 pounds back home).

So now that we have bought our first house here in Croatia, we decided to take some store bought peanuts, sprout them and do a test—Natasha planted THREE of them back in late May.

Peanuts usually take 100 days, so now that we are pushing 120, I decided to dig them up today.

And wowee–a nice fat clump of about 30….I couldn’t resist, so peeled one and ate in raw on the spot.

Several hours have passed and I am still alive and Natasha says I absolutely do not have peanut breath.

The guide on peanut growing says we now have to hang them out to dry for two weeks and then we can eat them, roast them, or if you like boiled peanuts like folks down south, boil them with salt.

Next year we plan to do peanuts big time….just too bad I don’t have that cart anymore. Peanuts here in Croatia are $2 pound and most are imported from as far away as Argentina!

We have three terraced parcels of land, and this one, the first, has almond and walnut trees!  So next year, we'll plant peanuts here and really go nuts!

We have three terraced parcels of land, and this one, the first, has almond and walnut trees! So next year, we’ll plant peanuts here and really go nuts!

 

 

 

 


20 meters down, the 1,700 Roman Aqueduct that brought water from the Jardo River, 9km away from Split and Diocletian's Palace, still works!
20 meters down, the 1,700 Roman Aqueduct that brought water from the Jadro River, 9km away from Split, to Diocletian’s Palace, still works!

What an amazing day–exploring more than 500 meters of the 1,700 year-old Roman aqueduct built by Roman and Greek slaves to bring water from the Jardo River into the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace here in Split.  Re-discovered by Tonci Radja and his son Jurica, experienced spelunkers, we were one of the first “outsiders” to actually experience this unique architectural wonder in more than 50 years!

Beginning 9km away at the Jadro River from a height of 33 meters, the aqueduct still works, although parts of it have been diverted and modern filtration and pumping stations have been added. The Radjas discovered an anonymous above-ground entrance with steep steps leading  20 meters down to a pristine section of the aqueduct and have been working clearing it out and exploring its length for the past several years.  They recently got  permissions to share their experience with others.

The water may look muddy, but when  you stand still it is clear--and has tested to still be drinkable!!
The water may look muddy, but when you stand still it is clear–and has tested to still be drinkable!!

The adventure started with getting suited up in waders, hard hats and lights. And then a work jacket to keep arms from getting scratched up by the walls.  Once we were off the steep steps leading down to the aqueduct itself, it was like entering a new world….the sheer number of rock cuts necessary to hollow out a waterway so deep underground was astounding….you could see how workers literally chiseled their way along a rock face and when it became impossible to cut more, simply moved in a different direction, sometimes creating almost 90 degree turns.

As the temperature dropped, we went from standing height to practically sitting on our ankles. Despite the spookiness–no rats or bats though–it was mesmerizing. From time to time, bricked arches and every 300 meters or so, we could see how the the clever Romans dug a vertical overhead shaft to the surface to haul out debris rather than carry it backwards.

At one point Jurica told us to feel the terra cotta tiles under our feet–terra cotta tiles?!!! And in one stretch of the cut you could clearly see waterproof plaster that the Romans had covered the walls with to make sure the water remained fresh–what a marvel of engineering!

And consider this:  when it was designed 1,700 years ago the water flow was sufficient to supply 175,000 people–but the number of people actually living inside Diocletian’s walled fortress was only 2,500. The population of the city of Split today? 178.000!

Tonci getting ready to lead us down into the aqueduct.
Tonci getting ready to lead us down into the aqueduct.
Diane, one of the two Americans with us, in her waders getting ready too!
Diane, one of the two Americans with us, in her waders getting ready too!
In many places parts of the walls were covered with stalagmites
In many places parts of the walls were covered with stalagmites
One of the many bricked arches
One of the many bricked arches
Note the clearly defined water level stains
Note the clearly defined stains revealing the water level 1,700 years ago!
The group taking a break
The group taking a break, yours truly on the left

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