Image may contain: one or more people and text

Tonight was the premiere of a marvelous “ballet tryptych”–three different works choreographed by young artists from Macedonia and France, under the direction of the Split Ballet’s new director, Igor Kirov.

This is the kind of evening that really tests a company.  Lots of challenging lifts, intense physicality (try listening to Penderecki!) juxtaposed with deeply emotional pas de deux and lots of full company ensemble work–exhausting!

Unlike Kirov’s previous work at HNK, “5 to 12” which never got beyond its original concept, The Edge was visionary, clear and profound–with gorgeous, passionate dancing by the company’s best. Watching these lovers express their pain, joy and dreams accompanied by evocative live solo piano and violin music by Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi was pure joy.

Special mention goes to Irina Ciban Bilandic, in Isadora Duncan red gauze, a dreamy soloist, Ivan Boiko and a new company member from Malaysia whose name I do not have, who made time stand still with some absolutely stunning work.

What a triumph for all concerned–the lighting, costumes and lovely work by the musical soloists.

My only criticism is Kirov’s penchant for having dancers act like stagehands during some part of the performance, as if somehow this bit of stage business is an integral part of his artistic expression.  In one scene, inexplicably,  a solo dancer, crouched over as if to tell the audience please don’t notice me, starts to unroll a carpet directly in front of of a trio of dancers, who of course pretend not to notice that he is actually not waiting until they finish!  What’s the point?

.

The evening began with Sasha Evtimova’s Patterns.  A young Macedonian, her choreography was very visceral and pushed the company to its limits.  It didn’t work for me.  She clearly liked using as many dancers on stage as possible to create “patterns”.  But with so many dancers on stage you need to make sure the “patterns” clearly emerge.  Alas, they never seemed to get beyond a series of well rehearsed physical motifs that drained so much energy, the dancers couldn’t really express anything beyond.  And the lighting and costumes, which could have added some life and texture, did little to enhance the experience as they did in the evening’s second and final performances.

After a long intermission, probably to allow the dancers to recover, it was time for France’s Martin Chaix and Penderecki.  BOOM!, the piece started with alacrity and never stopped.  It was a terrific performance, clean and powerful, sinuous and nuanced when it needed to be–with great lighting and vivid costumes to match.  The reason people choose to dance is the joy.  The freedom.  And Chaix clearly understands this and that gifted dancers can fly.

I wish I had more images, but even on line there aren’t many.  The same program will done later this year as part of the Split Summer Festival and again in the fall.  It’s something Kirov and his company can really be proud of, bravo!

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | May 19, 2017

Fill out the form and get $200,000 from Donald Trump?


Every day we get lots of spam from all over the world promising vast sums of money from the World Bank, the UN, some zillionaire who is dying and somehow wants to give ME his money, etc. etc.

But today, we got this, and here it is, complete with mis-spellings. etc. etc.

Enjoy!

Slikovni rezultat za melania trump

MrsMelania Trump <mrsmelaniatrump87@yahoo.com>

ATTENTION  DEAR

Donald John Trump is­ an American business­ man and the Presiden­t-elect of­ the United States, h­e has pleaded with th­e whole world who vot­ed him in for­ a compensation notic­e.

My Husband is doing ­this for the world be­cause of his happines­s concerning­ the presidential Ele­ction that took place­ on the date of (08/1­1/2016).

I am Mrs Melania Tru­mp ,am the wife of th­e new president Mr Do­nald John Trump. we are offeri­ng the sum of $ 200,0­00.00 ( USD) to the w­hole  world­ who has contributed ­on the election that ­took place on the dat­e of 08/11/2016.­

My husband has assur­ed the whole people i­n the world who has v­oted him in­ to stand a chance of­ receiving the sum $2­00,000.00 ( USD). the­ amount  will­ be delivered to you ­through the Speed Height Delivery Service ­or the DHL­ service or even Fede­x courier service.

The office will not ­charge any much fees ­on the delivery but j­ust the registration fees as­ noted amount is ( $ ­270 USD ) must be pai­d to our agent who based at B­enin Republic. once t­he payment is done, t­he tracking­ code will be given t­o you immediately.

So try and fill the ­below details of you ­and your families mem­bers who also­
voted, they are all ­allowed to receive th­is funds too.

First name :­

Last name :­

Address :­

City :­

Country :­

Zip code :­

Age :­

Mobile number :­

Next of king :­

Mother’s middle name­ :

Once we have the abo­ve info, then you wil­l be give the Money G­ram  payment­
information on where­ to send the above su­m before the delivery­ will be registered.­

NOTE : you are not t­o send any penny afte­r the first payment a­nd you are­
also not to share yo­ur cash with any agen­t once the delivery i­s done.

Just make sure you d­o not delay to fill t­he receiver’s info, t­his is  very­
important and you mu­st do this within the­ next 48 hours becaus­e we have
just 2 months to get­ the whole money sent­ to whom so ever has ­complied  with­ the massage.­

Thanks.­
Mrs Melania Trump.­

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | April 24, 2017

Flights of fancy over Spinut Marina in Split


We took some friends to Re di Mare, the waterfront restaurant at Spinut Marina today and were treated to a fabulous air show–a squadron of six prop planes doing aerobatics over the marina.  Flying in tight formation, diving, splitting apart and even flying upside down over each other a la Tom Cruise in Top Gun.  When they swooped down, they were maybe 300 feet off the water!! All I had was my cell, so I just pointed, prayed and clicked.  They do look like small birds, but wow, what a great show!


The President-elect let's it all hang out

Like most of us, the President-elect doesn’t mind showing his anger

Living abroad teaches you a lot about your home country.

As I get older, I fondly remember growing up green as grass and how life seemed so much more simple, more wondrous–limitless possibilities!  Imagine my joy discovering sex, drugs, rock and roll all pretty much at the same time in college after having been way too skinny and miserable in high school. Talk about visceral experiences that shape a country, a character–what a couple of decades they were for me–from the Beatles, Kennedy, Vietnam, Black Panthers, Nixon, dot.com and my beloved Dodgers actually moving to LA!

I started paying much more attention to politics after college.  Hard not to.  So when Jimmy Carter put on his sweater and asked Americans to turn down their thermostat to help cope with the OPEC energy squeeze, I was impressed.  We began heating with wood and coal, recycling, doing our part to make America great again.

Alas, clearly I was in the minority, because Carter got booted out only to be replaced with Reagan and Bush–and ever since, American politics never quite seemed to get back on track.  Obama was the sea change we all craved, but he never lived up to his inspiring oratory and remained oddly aloof for a guy who can shoot 3 pointers wearing a suit.

This year, experiencing the US Presidential election from the warm confines of a 1,700 year-old Mediterranean seaside city was totally bizarre. Not just because I had to get up at 3AM to watch the debates but because American presidential politics had devolved into a mean-spirited, reality game show. Instead of substance we got one-liner put downs and tweets.

I knew Trump would win.  Not by much, but it did not matter–the nerve he struck was deep and wide and laid bare the wounds that I feel America has never really tried to heal.  And while it is pretty refreshing to see him poke a finger in the Establishment’s eye by “breaking with historic protocol” telephoning the President of Taiwan (which the NY Times and the US State Department reacted to with hysterical disbelief), his freestyle “my way or the highway” mantra scares the hell out of a lot of Americans.

Yes, I can be happy!

And like most of us, he can also be happy.

Trump’s US (as in us educated mostly white folks) vs. THEM (as in everyone else) rhetoric also caused more than a shudder outside America, where many people still remember hearing stuff like this from some of history’s most sinister figures.

The sharp right, global, neo-nationalist political shift is clear.  But its roots are less so, which made me think about what’s really going on here and why America seems to be such a very different country than it was when I was a kid….or is it?

What haunts me is the “us” vs. “them”.   We’ve all heard this before.  It’s the Jews, the Irish, the blacks….them.  Those people.  Monkeys, Micks, Kikes, Spics. Dagos. They just aren’t “real” Americans.

Could all of this posturing still really be about race?

The idea about creating “pure” Americans, Russians, Germans, Chinese, etc. has always been the Holy Grail of some truly warped minds.  Despite “experiments” to cull the weak, castrate “deviants”, inter-breed Aryans, etc. it’s disease, poverty, war, forced migration and inter-marriage that trump “purity” every time –but somehow a lot of people still believe that racial purity is something really worth striving for, and worse, “protecting”.

Worries about race, often obsessive, have been part of American culture since our forefathers arrived on the Mayflower.  Instead of celebrating their great good fortune that these “brown-skinned savages” taught them how to stay alive instead of killing them on the spot, Mayflower immigrants worried more about how to keep white and Protestant.

Although the Indians called these European newcomers, “paleface”, the epithet was benign.

Naive and gullible, native Americans signed treaty after treaty with the U.S. government, landowners, private companies and others believing they and their pure way of life would be “protected”. Betrayed by the “Great White Father”, it didn’t take long for their paleface oppressors to become “white devils”.

Tribe after tribe was stripped of its property and its pride, forced to live on worthless “reservations” and eventually tracked down and murdered en masse.

To me, America’s native Indians were white people’s first “niggers” and the planned extinction of almost an entire race is still the greatest of American shames.

But I digress.

No one argues that we are not a nation of immigrants, but the nostalgia many have for all those who arrived as “good people” fleeing “bad people” (as Trump likes to say), is yet another way America chooses to forget its often bloody, ruthless racist history against immigrants, people of color and the poor.

Instead of helping hands welcoming the waves of Greeks, Chinese, Italians, Irish, etc. who arrived, they were often met by some pretty nasty Americans eager to take advantage of them (watch Scorcese’s film “Gangs of NY” to get some idea).  Ghettoized and exploited, immigrant America was far more of a crucible than a melting pot.

Unlike the millions who have immigrated here, Americans born here have never lived under tyranny–worried about coming home and finding their parents “disappeared”; watching friends being butchered for not being the right tribe, religion, sect.

Fact is, most Americans take their freedom for granted.  Equality and justice are part of our Constitution. But for more than 80 years after the Constitution, blacks were still enslaved and still being lynched for as much as looking “the wrong way” at a white woman until the 1960’s.

Justice and equality in America for people of color on the lower end of the economic scale is not the same as it is for even poor whites.

Despite being a nation where most of us respect and follow the rule of law, some “justice” is too often at the point of a gun.  In some cities, murder is an everyday reality, no big deal. With tens of millions of handguns, rifles and assault weapons ready and waiting, along with the right to use them whenever you want, no wonder more than 1000 people a month are killed by handguns in the US and another 20,000 each year shoot themselves to end it all.

End it all?  Wait a minute, America is a country where you can be anything, isn’t it?. Where the 2016 average median household income was $55,000/yr.  Where the starting salary for college grads at Amazon, Google, facebook etc. this year is over $100,000!

How can a country that promises so much and makes good on many of its promises be so uncivilized to allow such carnage?

Because this election finally made it painfully clear to me that the root cause of what ails America is its racism–not bad trade deals or an economy built almost entirely on credit.

All Americans know what happens to white collar “criminals” who fleece stockholders for billions and whose Ponzi schemes and reckless management force thousands of employees out of work–a wrist slap or a fine.

For Americans with education, money and the right color, gentle justice is a given–compared to 69% of black American high school drop outs who risk going to jail during their lifetime (only 13% of their white brothers will).

In fact, one in three black Americans will actually go to jail. And despite accounting for less than 13% of the population, blacks are 37% of America’s inmates.

America is not the only country that uses violence to solve its problems.  But when it comes to mayhem and murder, we are really good at killing each other. For those of you who don’t know much about the only war to be fought on American soil since the American Revolution, the sheer numbers of Civil War dead still defy comprehension:

Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands died of disease. Roughly 3% of the population, an estimated 750,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty…”

And sometimes, like all of us, maybe a little confused?

And sometimes, like all of us, even a fearless leader may be a little confused

I believe that the aftermath of the Civil War is still with us.  Despite being beaten, the South was punished economically, politically and socially for decades.  Like Germany after WW1, there was no healing or even an attempt to heal.

As my friend, a retired college professor, poet and writer puts it, the “chickens always come back to roost”.

The peace that followed the “war to end all wars” lasted less than 40 years.

In less than 8 hours, 25,000 Americans lost their lives at the Battle of Antietam

In less than 8 hours, using just single shot rifles and bayonets, 25,000 Americans died at the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War

Although the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, American blacks, Mexicans, Asians and other people of color (and now especially Muslims), still suffer from wounds they have absolutely no responsibility inflicting.

The real American tragedy is that way too much of this abuse is now so woven into the fabric of everyday white American life it goes unnoticed.  Too frightened or privileged to understand it, we choose to become politically correct or incorrect.

Even today, when I go back to the states and into a department store where I could be stuffing my pockets with goodies, my black friends are watched like hawks—“can I help you?”

“No, he’s just looking and by the way, he makes $3,500 a week at Microsoft.”

For decades, banks and other “equal opportunity lenders” drew “redlines” to keep blacks and other minorities out of certain neighborhoods by denying them mortgages if they wanted to buy property there.  Now “illegal”, such practices still go on with a wink and a nod.

As does the practice of purposely selling homes or renting apartments in “white” areas to blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and others to purposely drive prices down allowing speculators to make a killing re-selling them at fat profits.

Even Jesus likes the Donald

Rapturous crowds, praising the Lord and Jesus, for their new savior

Whether it’s a KKK hood, priest’s collar, Brooks Brothers shirt, Muslims on the Haj–white has always been the color of innocence, of good, of purity.  Of all things righteous. 

Black?  The color of the devil–dirty, bad, evil, foul-smelling, foretelling of something nasty.  Not to be trusted.

Blacks couldn't sit at lunch counters and had to ride in the back of buses until 1964!

Unable to sit at lunch counters, in the front of a bus, stay in many hotels until 1964, blacks resorted to “non-violent sit-ins”.  Here angry whites pour food on them and sympathetic whites to show their contempt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember being 12 years old, living in New Jersey, going on a family vacation to Virginia Beach, We had to take the ferry from Delaware.  One side of the ferry the seats were totally filled with all black people and the other side with all white people.  And the two drinking fountains at the front of the ferry? One was marked White and the other Colored.  To me this made no sense because living for years in NYC and then New Jersey, black people were like, black.  Big deal.  Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella were still my heroes.  So I took a squirt from the Colored hoping maybe it was chocolate flavor.  

Nope, same as White.

So I get off the ferry waiting for my parents to bring the car and go up to a guy fishing and pull on his pants, “hey mister, why are all the black people on one side and the whites on another”

And he spits.

Then, in a southern drawl I will never forget, says, “well, lemme tellya son, yo here in da south and these people smell and carry disease, an that’s why we keep ’em separate and call ’em, niggers”.

Well, folks, this is the kind of lesson one rarely forgets.  And repeating it to my mother made it indelible. A tremendous slap across the face, accompanied by a “don’t you ever say that again!”.

The year was 1955.

Zoom ahead 50 years and my friends are still being followed around in shops and discriminated against in employment, where they can live, and on and on.  If you haven’t seen the 2013 movie “The Butler”, which begins with a black cotton farmer being murdered in front of his son because he dared ask why the farmer was screwing his wife whenever he wanted, it’s a history lesson of America’s racial sickness.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

black-lives-matter

Since Americans cannot talk about race openly, we masquerade our deep seated fears of being raped, held up, living next to, working with, marrying, etc. by using politics and religion to defend our “rights” to think and act the way we do.

What about the Constitution? The Bible?

Our racism is so hard-wired and pervasive, it allows us to watch Africa disembowel itself with murder, disease and tyranny while coming to the rescue of any European, South American, Balkan or even Asian country.

Black and white.

And yellow.

Enter China.

When it comes to racial purity, the Chinese are some of the truest believers on the planet, but they are neither black nor white.  It’s the reason I think they are so welcomed in Africa–yellow skin making friends with black skin–helping with education, training, economic support in return for getting raw materials they lack.

As Trump would tweet, “smart, very smart!”  And it is and they are.

Now compare how we whites deal with Africa?  Remember when Belgium owned the Congo? And how long Apartheid was openly supported by America and many European countries?

And what was the source of slave labor that created so much early American wealth and kept England rich?

Still blinded by our racism and our continuing failure to learn anything from history, we now pay others to do our dirty work–which basically means brutally repress and foment the wanton murder of non-whites all over the world who are either in the way of “progress” or simply don’t want to play by our “democratic” rules.

Eager to play proxy, our “allies” are so encouraged to buy American weapons, we are now the biggest arms merchants on earth.

No country is too poor or too rich.  Don’t have the cash?  We’ll lend it to you or take your commodities at dirt cheap prices to help pay for those advanced jet fighters you will never use “defensively”.  And it doesn’t even matter if  your country doesn’t really need our weapons–surely, you will know who to sell them to since our Congress may not allow us to do so.

So in Africa, we provide millions in military support to tyrants like Robert Mugabe and other despots who loot their countries and murder their citizens.  The reason is always to help them “defend” their country against”terrorists”–citizens who want to take their country back, and maybe even make it great again, like Donald Trump.

Who was one of the biggest buyers of our weaponry in 2016?  Peaceful, prosperous, “democratic” Qatar! Do they need them?  Do they have lots of enemies nearby?  Nope, they are our squeaky clean poster boy, quietly selling them on to friendly, sectarian religious fanatics to “keep the peace in the Middle East”, and clearly earning a fat profit in the process.

Pakistan and Egypt are also in the top 10–despite impoverished economies.  And both are brutal regimes where anxious citizens living in fear of their own government is a given.

So now we have a President whose dream is not Martin Luther King’s.  A President who thinks life is all about dollars and cents, getting the best deal, fighting force with force.

Bereft of nuance and basic political acumen, Trump is the proverbial bull in the china shop.  Yes, he will break a lot of stuff, but he will also be looking out for his own kind, which now includes folks he was never chummy with.

Maybe it is me who is still naive, but I really hope he comes around.

When he first met Obama, who he claimed wasn’t even born here, he realized he was smart, nice and even cool–but now thinks he was tapping his phones.  Born and bred in New York City, Trump has known and hired lots of blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and other minorities, so at least he’s not completely clueless.

And while he still sees things mostly in black and white, dollars and cents, he also believes that the people ALREADY here, the “good people” who are of all different colors, are way ok….Americans!

Maybe it will dawn on him that people who look and act like these multi-colored, multi-religious Americans living outside the US may also be good people…but their rulers “not so good people”.

Maybe he will understand that racism, not trade, is the great divide.

But unless he and the rest of us honestly make the effort to face our racism, we will be forever be at each others throats all too willing to blame “others” whenever things get tough.

Instead of worrying about a lousy trade deal or building a wall, Trump and the rest of us need to realize that way too often it really is all about race and that while it’s one thing to fund proxy wars abroad to keep us white, isn’t facing a Second American Civil War the far greater danger?

detroit-3-theguardian-co_-uk_-1


We get excited every Spring when the new season begins here in Split at the HNK national theatre.  This month its superlative ballet company began its season with La Sylphide, one of the world’s oldest ballets, first performed in 1832.  The version by August Bourmonville, dating to 1836, is the one that still survives today.  It’s been performed all over the world and its two main characters, a winged nymph and her entranced suitor, have been danced by the best–including a turn of the century Ballet Russe production with Anna Pavolova and Vaslav Nijinsky.  Imagine watching them dance surrounded by spectacular sets designed by Leon Bakst with music by Chopin!?

Irina Caban Bilandzic was supposed to dance the title role tonight, but was sidelined with an injury.  Sitting in the orchestra just two rows ahead of us, she was still as beautiful as ever.  We had especially selected this performance because we love her work and paired with the always fabulous Ivan Boiko, of course we got the best seats we could!

Ekaterina Kuznjecova was more than lovely as La Sylphide

In her place was Ekatrerina Kuznjecova, one of four soloists chosen to perform the role of the nymph this season.  Tall, elegant and inspired, like so many gifted Russian dancers, she was completely engaging with gorgeous technique.

The set and costume design by Mikael Melbye, a celebrated Danish opera director, designer and painter whose global career has earned him a knighthood, was beautifully executed by the HNK team–a baronial Scottish manor house (in one scene, the nymph steps delicately into a massive open fireplace and ever so slowly disappears up the chimney standing up!) and a deliciously spooky forest.  The subtle lighting by Srdan Barbaric helped illuminate both the magic and the mystery.

The story line for La Sylphide is simple….a young Scottish lad is entranced by a winged nymph at the same time he is to be married to a local girl.  An evil witch makes sure that doesn’t happen and in the end, both the he and the nymph fall prey to witchery and the ballet ends sadly with their deaths.

Sounds downright grim, yes?  But with all those lovely nymphs in the corps de ballet, which included a quarter of under 12 dancers, fluttering about to lively Scottish tunes…..Ivan Boiko’s soaring leaps and terrific dancing (the number of beats when he jumped was stunning), matched by the grace and en pointe magic of Ekaterina Kuznjecova was more than enough to chase away the tragedy sure to come.

And I have to lavish special praise on the witch, played normally by male leads, but tonight by Snjezana Radica with such malevolence and manic glee I was sure “she” was a man until the curtain call.  This is not a dancers role, per se, but just as demanding because wordlessly the character needs to weave his spell from his first appearance on stage.  Assuming the innocent pose of a poor, hunched over beggar seeking a warm fireplace in the manor house he eventually reveals himself to be a full blown demonic –at one point, presiding over a boiling cauldron bent on the destruction of two innocents.  Ms. Radica’s transformation was mesmerizing–in one scene, with gesture alone,  she literally commands the proud hero into submission.  And although Ms. Radica didn’t have to dance, her movement on stage was deft, compelling and enormously powerful.

With such marvelous international dancers, especially those Russians, I’m just surprised HNK doesn’t take this company on tour so the rest of the world can see how fortunate we are in a town of just 200,000 to have a ballet that would be cheered even in Paris.

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 17, 2017

Amazing Imotski!


Yes, those are BIG trees perched along the rim of this amazing sheer drop-off into Imotski’s Red Lake, the deepest and surely the spookiest, in Europe.  The tiny slice of water in the right hand side of this photo is part of the lake.

We’ve been wanting to go to Imotski for a long time.  It’s one of those hinterland villages like Sinj and Nin and others that have a fascinating history, but being off the coast an hour or so away, we and surely tons of tourists just don’t make the effort.

Now that we have been there–and it took just 45 minutes and 21 kuna ($4) on the highway–we’ll surely be back.

Once you are behind the hills and mountains that separate the coast from the interior, everything really changes.  Small towns, lots of farms, long deep valleys.  Quiet. Nature. And very few people.

As we swung off the highway onto a twisting two lane country road, it felt all too familiar. But then the road opened to an enormous valley with beautiful 200-300 meter high hills dotted with hundreds of red tile roofed houses–gorgeous!

Imotski itself is sitting pretty smack in the middle of all of this–surrounded by mountains, lush valleys and a surprising number of vineyards (Kundusa, a sassy white, is indigenous here).  The main street is wide and gracious lined with shops and angled parking–so many cars we couldn’t find a space and had to circle our way uphill to park.

taking it easy in one of the main town squares

Despite a city population of only 5,000 or so,  Imotski realy feels bigger…a lot bigger! It’s probably because the surrounding area has around 20,000 people and Imotski is clearly the political and cultural center .  Once you leave the main street, it’s  uphill all the way via a twisting series of streets and turns, at the top of which is the spectacular 10thC Topana Fortress.  I mean how many places have a town where you can have a coffee, go to the bank, do a little shopping on the main street and up a flight of stairs or two and a few minutes walk is a 10thC Fortress!??

lovely back streets like this make walking in the town really special

Lots of stepped side streets and staircases lead to upper levels of the town

Almost 350 meters above sea level, surrounded by all those valleys, the view from some of the hilltop streets is terrific, like this one:

still snow in the mountains, but 16C in Imotski!

With the new tunnel off the highway, the coast is now just 30 minutes away, so most visitors to Imotski come from the Makarska Riviera, an hour down the coast from Split. But let’s get back to that amazing fort:

Held by the Ottoman Turks for more than 200 years, today the Croatian flag flies from top of Topana

The town has made walking up the fort a real pleasure–well kept, wide path, gently sloping up and then a final set of stairs bringing you to the top.  Nice scenic overlooks and plenty of benches to sit, rest, enjoy.

Like Klis, just above Split, the people who designed and built Topana made it practically impossible to attack, perched at the very top of a craggy mount.

In front of the fort is a small ancient church, Our Lady of Angels, who is the patron saint of the town. Directly below the fort is the amazing Blue Lake, the “sister” of the Red Lake, about a kilometer away.

Although the lake was green the day we were there, in the bright summer light, it casts a deep blue hue.

The Blue Lake. Unlike the Red Lake, there is a series of winding trails that you can take to get to the waters edge–and even swim if you want. It’s about a 45 minute trek all the way down

One of the well marked signs around the fort that helps visitors understand the history here

All this rock, rugged nature, history, the fort, the Lady of Angels, and then our guide says look to your right, and we do:

More than its history and culture, Croatians love their football–let’s hear it for the NK Imotski club!

What??? Somehow shoe-horned in-between the rock and karst up here at fort level, just below is a well-watered football pitch and stadium in the middle of it all!

I have to admit one of the reasons I always wanted to come here was another “first” claimed by the proud citizens of Imotski–it’s the town with more Mercedes Benz’s per capita than any town on the planet–most of them geezers like my 1992

Three vintage Mercedes, plus in the upper left corner, two more. My 1992 beauty is out of the picture, but the very height of fashion in this town!

I wish we had more time to spend just discovering more of the back streets and churches and boy it was tempting to enter one of the meadow roads leading to a cave opening under the fort……next time!

Marijana and Natasha clearly enjoying themselves

A big thank you to Marijana Sucur of GAZ Travel.  Wonderful guide, English of course, and Zagreb eat your heart out because after going to university there, Marijana came back home because “I love Imotski and really missed being here”.  www.gaz-travel.hr  for tours, wine tasting, a whole lot more.

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 11, 2017

Our private Niagara Falls


What a wonderful sight–to be greeted by a waterfall as we drive to and from our house-remodel-in-waiting

We never fail to get excited when we drive past our own private Niagara Falls on the way to our house-remodel-in-progress just 15 minutes outside Split.  As we turn off the main road into a narrow, single lane that swoops down through a small tunnel built centuries ago, the world changes completely.  Just as you pop out of the tunnel, in the middle of nowhere there’s a real waterfall!  On the other side of the falls, a steep drop off into a deep wide valley that extends all the way to Split.  The sweeping, unbroken view from here is dazzling–all the way out to the the island of Vis on a clear day!

No wonder we can’t wait to move in to our little piece of paradise!

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 28, 2017

Cro dux gas stop–the best road food in Croatia for 50kunas!


In addition to this, a nice green salad, home made beef soup and a basket of bread!

In addition to this, a nice green salad, home made beef soup and a basket of bread!

As readers know, we went to Varazdin over the weekend and we always make it a point to stop at Macola on the way back.  Macola is an institution, huge stuffed animals, benches and tables, a cafeteria that goes on forever.   Buses stop here, truckers stop here, we stop here.  Because their food is not just hearty, but really good—huge chunks of beef in their stew, a mound of whipped potatoes to die for and home-made loaves of white bread that you can even buy to go.  They often have game, since they actually have a deer herd!  Quite a great place.

Alas, our hunger pangs were too intense and we pulled off an hour and half past Zagreb on the way back to Split at a Cro dux gas station which like all of them, had a small deli/restaurant.

The posters outside featured all sorts of prepared meals including the one above, on special, for 30-60kunas.

I had grah (baked beans) with a fat sausage–huge bowl, I think 30 kunas.

Natasha opted for two boneless grilled pork chops, home made sliced fried potatoes, grilled peppers and zucchini, ajvar on the side.  Plus homemade beef soup with noodles and a green salad.  50 kunas, about $7.12.   Clearly the winner for cheap, good, huge at that price.

In a word, restaurant quality at half the price….what a surprise!

But we won’t forget Macola, whose prices are pretty close to this too!

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 26, 2017

Varazdin, the city of angels and so much more!


Every year we celebrate our anniversary by spending a night…or two…at a different town in Croatia. This year we decided on Varazdin.

About an hour north of Zagreb, Varazdin is internationally known as a magnificent Baroque city. Smack in the center of the Old Town, still surrounded with earth berms  and moats (now dry) is a real castle and even a drawbridge that leads directly into the main square.

The town map, an aerial view, clearly shows the castle, surrounded with hilly fortifications and a one-time moat

The old town map, an aerial view, clearly shows the castle, surrounded with hilly fortifications and a one-time moat

An important bulwark against the Ottomans, the town grew rapidly and attracted the nobility as well as artisans and other folks who were drawn here by its natural beauty, access to the Drava River and its strategic position.   In 1756 it actually became the capital of all Croatia, only to suffer almost complete destruction 20 years later when a wildfire engulfed the city.

The city's famous castle high above the old town's main square--a perfect place for coffee!

The city’s famous castle perched above the old town’s main square–a perfect place for coffee!

Today the city, known as “Little Vienna” as well as the “city of Angels”, is a lively destination for lovers art, music, flowers and more.  The big events of the year, drawing people from around the planet, are Špancirfest – a 10 day street festival with concert stages, entertainment zones, street performers, musicians, all kinds of artists booths and places to eat and Varaždin Baroque Evenings which celebrates music with authentic instruments

A real drawbridge, alas, no moat, welcomes you into the town square

A real drawbridge, alas, no moat, welcomes you into the town square

Walking around the town is like being in a period movie–the architecture is so wonderful, the design of streets and walkways, artfully arranged to give you a real sense of space, beauty and purpose.  Practically everywhere you look, there is something fabulous to be seen and enjoyed:

Yes, a plain cast iron water main cover would do just fine, maybe in Zagreb, but here in Varazdin, it's all about celebrating the beautiful

Yes, a plain cast iron water main cover would do just fine, maybe in Zagreb, but here in Varazdin, it’s all about celebrating the beautiful

Walk along any street, look up, and what is that between two seemingly ordinary buildings is an amazing niche with beautiful carved figure…..saint? hero?

Look just to the left of the sheet-metal downspout between the two buildings

Look just to the left of the sheet-metal downspout between the two buildings

OK, here is it close up:

Well, at least we know it is religious!

Well, at least we know it is religious!

It’s a wonder I didn’t crack my skull walking into a light post from all my looking up.

I mean, have you ever seen a sundial as a CLOCK look so spectacular on the side of a town building ….and yes, it really tells the time quite accurately!

Hmmm, getting close to noon, time for lunch!

Hmmm, 11:15, time for another coffee!

The whole town is like an outdoor museum, but unlike so many museum-like towns, Varazdin has a real life to it so while you appreciate your unique surroundings, like I do here in Split, they’re not intimidating–you can run, jump, fly a kite, walk on the grass and be part of it all.  Not just file by, point and gawk.

A gorgeous sign over a chocolate shop

A gorgeous sign over a chocolate shop

I saw a big wooden door and pushed on it, and this is what it revealed

I saw a big wooden door and when I pushed, it swung open, and this is what it revealed–a garden museum secretly hiding out back!

If you like unusual doors, Varazdin is the place!

If you like unusual doors, Varazdin is the place–look at those hinges!

Boy would this look great on the house we are restoring!

Boy would this look great on the house we are restoring!

OK, so you know that Varazin is great.  Now a plug for where to stay.  Karolina’s place, an attic (3 rooms plus a sauna!!) that’s advertised on Airbnb. Young, bright, full of energy, she had maps, coffee and more ready and waiting when we arrived.  And she insisted that we couldn’t leave Varazdin without seeing its cemetery.

Now I know that around the world there are some very famous cemeteries, but to be honest, I never felt the urge to go to any of them–not even to the one in Paris where throngs to go hang out on famous graves and literally party. But I went…and I was glad I succumbed.  The dream of a park architect named Haller, the cemetery is a grand park, meticulously maintained, with thousands of trees, almost topiary like hedges and plantings, wide boulevards and some sumptuous crypts, carvings and even stained glass:

The cemetery's founder's grave is located in own beautiful. little walled garden

The cemetery’s founder’s grave is located in own beautiful,  little walled garden

Stained glass windows in a crypt

Stained glass windows in a crypt

A high wall surrounds part of the cemetery separating it from the outside world...

A high wall surrounds part of the cemetery separating it from the outside world..

A wonderful weekend discovering a marvelous new town!

To book Karolina’s place:

Cozy attic place

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 12, 2017

Stalla celebrates Croatian cuisine paired with Belgian beer


Paired with a zesty Belgian Karmelet Tripe. Stalla's chicken in a reduced sauce of chocolate and balsamic was superb

Paired with a zesty Belgian Tripel Karmeliet made from a recipe more than 350 years old, Stalla’s chicken in a reduced sauce of chocolate and balsamic was superb

What a Saturday night treat–dinner with 8 friends at a restaurant just off the waterfront in Kastel Stari that I never heard of serving gourmet food paired with Belgian craft beer!  For those of you living in Croatia, Stalla is a must.  The owners have taken an ancient stone horse stable (stalla) and have lovingly converted it into a spacious, handsome dining room, with separate upstairs seating, serving a highly creative menu that sometimes changes twice a month!

They spend a lot of time on social marketing, using facebook and other sites to showcase their latest creations.

Tonight;s four course menu--with a surprise ending, champagne beer!

Tonight’s four course menu–with a surprise ending, champagne beer!

The first course was a medallion of pork with cranberries and baby spinach, artfully paired with a Lindemans Cassis.  Very berry!

The cassis beer really worked well with the pork medaliion and cranberry

The cassis beer really worked well with the pork medallion and cranberry

The chicken course came next. followed by my favorite, a spectacular crunchy slow-cooked chunk of roast pork in a sublime puddle of celery/marscarpone with a spray of glazed baby carrots.  Paired with a hearty, dark Delirium Nocturnum that came with a 8.5% wallop, I was in a delirium!

With dessert we had a wonderful fizzy Framboise

With dessert we had a wonderful fizzy Framboise

During the meal, Peter Buggenhout, the director of the Marabu Group, the Belgian beer distributor who helped create the event, talked to our group, explaining that craft beer tasting is becoming as popular as wine tasting in many European cities and he was hoping Croatian restaurants would join in.  As a surprise, we all got treated to the “beer of the gods”, DeuS, a Belgian champagne beer that is made in Belgium and then shipped to France to be finished using the champagne method.  Six months later, it comes back in a gorgeous Moet-like bottle:

Deus, the drink of the gods!

DeuS, the drink of the gods!

My only disappointment was the dessert–a white chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate top that I wished was all dark–being the chocolate lover that I am!  But clearly a remarkable 5 star dining experience–and for fixed price of just $25, an astonishing bargain.  Go!

to find out more about Belgian craft beer:

https://www.facebook.com/belgiancraftbeersincroatia/

for the restaurant:

http://www.stalla.hr

 

Older Posts »

Categories

%d bloggers like this: