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
Posted by: viewfromtheriva | August 25, 2016

A dog day afternoon in Split, Croatia


 

While lots of people here have motor scooters and sometimes even take their kids and pets, today was a first–seeing a dog with his own goggles clearly enjoying the ride!

doggy

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | July 7, 2016

Olive Tree Restaurant opens on Split’s waterfront Riva


The handsome interior of the new Olive Tree restaurant on the Riva in Split

The handsome interior of the new Olive Tree restaurant on the Riva in Split

Last night, Split’s newest “fine dining” restaurant opened–the Olive Tree, smack on the waterfront Riva.  The interior is quite handsome with a lovely balcony and filigree wrought iron screen, exposed stone walls, comfortable seating and large aquariums soon to hold all sorts of delectable sea critters.

Not in the photo above, but in the center of the restaurant, is a single, gorgeous, mature olive tree that looks to be at least 25 years old….I ‘ll ask the owner when I go for a meal.

The place is open long hours (9AM-2AM), seven days a week and once again proves that Split is finally becoming a year round restaurant city.  Although a lot of new restaurants are smaller bistros, with the kind of rent that is being charged for prime Riva/inside the Palace locations (10,000Euros a month has been mentioned as the going rate for Riva property),more and more Split restaurants will be open year round to help pay the bills.

sign

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | June 11, 2016

2016 Split Restaurant Guide is published!


The cover of the new 2016 Split  Restaurant Guide

The cover of the new 2016 Split Restaurant Guide

After months of planning, DiscoverSplit’s 2016 Restaurant Guide has finally been published!  With more than 250 restaurants in and around the city, the diversity of what to eat here has really mushroomed.  Rather than be a review or a ranking,  the guide covers 32 restaurants (“from Apetit to Zora Bila”) that the editors feel represent the “tastes” of Split.  Designed to help tourists get a good overview, make a reservation, etc. the editors met with the owners and personally ate at every restaurant.

To ensure impartiality, each restaurant is showcased with the same size photo and equal amount of text and appears in alphabetical order.

In addition to giving tourists contact information, ambiance, specialties, history, house specialties, etc., each restaurant has a special offer– from discounts if you dine before 8; a welcome glass of wine to KoBaje’s “kiss any waiter and watch what happens!”.

The last two pages features emergency contact info, web addresses of the ferry/airport etc. and helpful info on what to do if your car gets towed, 24 hour pharmacies and even where to get emergency private dental work 24 hours a day!

Kiss a waiter and watch what happens!

Kiss a waiter and watch what happens!

The guide is available at tourist offices, hotels without public restaurants (like Art, Globo, President, etc.) at each restaurant in the guide and at apartments/hostels in and around the Old Town.

The press run is 40,000 copies, which if the first few days is any indication, will just about last for the summer!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 31, 2016

Split Ballet’s La Fille mal Gardee–witty, charming, wonderful!


 

The cover of the program of the Split Ballet's new production of the classic French comic ballet La Fille nal gardee

The cover of the program of the Split Ballet’s new production of the classic French comic ballet La Fille mal gardee

La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter, literal translation: “The Poorly Guarded Girl” also known as The Girl Who Needed Watching) is a two act comedic ballet that is one of the world’s most continuously performed works, premiering in 1789 in Bordeaux.   Based on a French painting, music and country manners, it’s fun to watch and probably even more fun to dance.

The two principals (rotating pairs depending on the performance dates) were Evan Karpilovska as Lisa, La Fille and Ivan Boiko as Colas, her ardent suitor.

Eva is such a joy to watch, wonderfully alive, light, expressive and winning.  Despite her diminutive size, she is a stunning dancer who commands the stage with her presence and style.

Eva Karpilovska and Ivan Boiko light up the stafe as Lisa (La Fille) and her suitor Colas

Eva Karpilovska and Ivan Boiko light up the stage as Lisa (La Fille) and her suitor Colas

But it was Ivan Boiko who really dazzled….it’s rare to see a male performer with so much elegance and charm leap and dance with such power and brilliance.  As wonderful as it was to see Eva soar, Ivan’s leaps were breathtaking.

LA Fille has some juicy principal supporting roles too–Simone, Lise’s ever-watchful mother, intent on marrying her off to the oafish son of a wealthy farmer, is usually played by a male and here it was Igor Gluskov who practically stole the show with his hilarious caricature.

At one point he dons real wooden clogs and somehow manages to do a version of tap, jazz and ballet–wow!  It’s choreography like this and some deft handling of meters of ribbon to spell out “I love you” in Croatian as well as being used to wrap the lovers in a sinuous duet that make you appreciate the witty, inspired adaptation of LA Fille by choreographer Dinko Bogdanic and director Hari Zlodre.

Igor Glusko as Lise's mama dancing up a storm in real wooden clogs

Igor Gluskov as Lise’s mama Simone dancing up a storm in real wooden clogs

Another wonderful performance was by Aleksander Korijakovski as Alain, the hapless son of the wealthy farmer who threw himself into his role with giddy abandon.  This is the kind of role where dancing takes a back seat to tightly controlled shtick–you have to look like you can’t dance at all–falling down, making giant hops with an umbrella between your legs as if on a horse, etc. etc.  And Korijakovski was spectacular!

The chicken chorus

The chicken chorus, sorry for the poor photo!  

And let’s not forget the chicken chorus who opened the show–a gaggle of fowls led by a rooster, all in full chicken regalia, wagging their feathers and their butts to the delight of the audience.

Since the music is such an important part of the ballet, I was happy to see a live orchestra–this is one of those ballets where musical cues, especially percussion, are critical to what’s going on stage, so dancers and orchestra really have to be in sync or we in the audience will know something’s amiss–and the musicians were spot on. Although I wish the production has some stagehands with follow spots up in the balcony loges to capture Karpilovska in her opening, the scenic design, lighting and special effects (a thunderstorm) all worked in beautiful harmony to make the evening another magical night with the always impressive Split Ballet! 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 27, 2016

Skradinske Delicije, keeping tradition alive and yummy!


Katarina Paic in traditional dress with her family's products

Katarina Paic in traditional dress with her family’s products

One of the more wonderful things about living here is getting the chance to discover not only Croatia’s rich everyday culture and traditions, but those hidden small wonders in villages and towns, like Skradin, a gem of a coastal village at the mouth of the Krka where it meets the sea just a few kilometers from famous Krka National Park.

It’s the kind of seaside village that gets a lot of visitors since the park gets hundreds of thousands.  Bill Gates has been here several times and Anthony Bourdain, the irreverent chef host of the very popular TV show “No Reservations” was not far away getting roaring drunk at Bibich Winery (the video went viral since at one point Tony actually fell off his chair!).

I was with friends who took a winding back road up to Skradinske Delicije, a family-run enterprise built around an ancient stone house compound that they use to show groups how life was lived in more simpler times.

There’s clearly a lot of passion here, mom Miranda Paic not only bakes authentic Skradinske torte, but hand sews authentic period costumes, including millinery, that she, her husband Ante and daughter wear to events celebrating eco-tourism.

The Paic family has received numerous awards for both the quality of their products and their dedication to preserving local Skradin traditions

The Paic family has received numerous awards for both the quality of their products and their dedication to preserving local Skradin traditions

We weren’t able to enjoy legendary Skradinske risotto, cooked at least 10 hours with an array of mouth-watering ingredients that made me want to ask if I could please sleep over just to see it being cooked!   But we did get to sample some divine fig cakes, sugared almonds (impossible to stop eating, if I only didn’t worry about my teeth, I could have eaten handfuls!) and lots of other goodies.

Many regions of Croatia have their own unique folkoric costumes that in some areas are still worn at weddings and other ceremonial events. Matilda researched the original design, the tight circles, and then created entire costumes incorporating these images, silver filigree jewelry and the colors and textures representing Skradin.

Many regions of Croatia have their own unique folkoric costumes that in some areas are still worn at weddings and other ceremonial events. Miranda researched the original designs, the tight circle motif is one of them, and then created entire costumes incorporating these images, silver filigree jewelry and the authentic colors and textures representing Skradin.

The Paic compound is only “open” a few months of the year to small groups.  The main “business” of the family is a nearby campground that caters to the legions of Krka visitors from June-September.

After some homemade hooch (I think it was Orahovac–walnut liquer), out came the signature confection, Skradisnke torte (Skradin Cake)–an amazingly light cake first made in the 14thC when this tiny town was actually the capital of Croatia and Bosnia!

Although the recipe can differ from family to family, the key ingredients are honey, walnuts and almonds (the family has a lot of almond trees and sells them sugared or salted) as well as using them in cakes and pastry; some rose liquer and I think the rest is simply magic.

fireplace

Sitting around a gorgeous hearth on simple wooden tables listening to Katarina and her mom (the whole family is gorgeous!) talk about their love affair with Skradinske delicije, enjoying those sugared almonds, fig cakes, chocolate covered who know’s what, but please give me more, was such a privilege.

Katarina and her mom Matilda sharing their love of Skradin tradition with us

Katarina and her mom Miranda sharing their love of Skradin tradition with us. In the background is one of Miranda’s hand-sewn costumes.

If you have friends who want to camp near the park or will enjoy what you read about here, please send them to: www.skradinske-delicije.hr  so they share at least some of our experience!


Part of an old door, with iron window bars, chain and an old lock

Part of an old door, with iron window bars, rusty chain and an old lock and well-weather boards–junk to some, treasure to us!  It measures 2 x 3 feet.

Now that we have finally bought a house here in Croatia, which needs wall to wall renovation, we’ve been spending time looking at everything from toilets (self closing lids seem to be very in these days), stove tops, sinks, doors, floor tile, wood floors, under floor heating, photovoltaics, staircases, iron cookware, roofing tile, woodstoves, gas or electric powered weed-whackers, chain saws, upholstery fabric, kitchens and more.

Although we look at new stuff, we also look at used and boy, are there some deals out there if you are patient!

We have already aced a new floor model $10,000 designer Knoll kitchen for $2, 700 and a used, but in perfect shape, enormous top of the  line Velux skylight for $125 that lists for over $1,000

Our $10,000 designer Knoll kitchen at 75% off--and no interest for 12 months!

Our $10,000 designer Knoll kitchen at 75% off–and no interest for 12 months!  It takes time to sleuth these bargains out, but it’s well worth it!

Since we both love found objects, second-hand clothing (I have two brand new Hugo Boss jackets, both bought for less than $5 that online sell for $600 and Natasha has designer shoes and handbags that retail for even more insane amounts), we are now more than ever on the lookout for cool stuff that can adorn our walls, garden, etc. besides old nautical charts ($3 each), our wonderful Russian mechanical clocks (see our other blogs about these) , a chunk of the Trans-Siberian railroad (still in Russia, 4 kilos) and the one painting we actually paid for–Mario Vrandecic’s gorgeous modern oil of olive trees on Brac.

Today, leaning up against a dumpster near the Green Market was this terrific ancient chunk of an old door, probably from a garden shed or who knows, complete with rusty lock and chain, iron window slats and beautifully weathered wood.

It was asking to come home so of course we rescued it….. I pulled out some nails and straightened them and then gently hammered them back in place to make sure what was left of this artique would stay in one piece………….. boy will it be stunning on our wall!

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 4, 2016

Now see this: $5.94 eye surgery in Croatia


Visit your local clinic, get referred to the hospital for a surgical visit and appointment

Visit your local clinic, get referred to the hospital for a surgical visit and appointment

Going to the hospital for even minor surgery is always time for anxiety.  Even a routine procedure could cost well over $1000. But here in Croatia, I happily pay $15 per month for my health care because it not only gets me a primary care physician in my neighborhood to take care of simple things–but if I need the hospital for tests, minor or major surgery, she refers me to an MD there where the charge is a fraction of what it is in America.

A simple sty that would not go away became infected and the eyelid had to be cut, pus drained, and aftercare drops and creme to make sure all was ok,

A simple sty that would not go away became infected and the eyelid had to be cut, pus drained, and aftercare drops and creme to make sure all was ok,

So today was my first experience with actual surgery.  Like a Little Leaguer looking forward to his first at-bat, I made sure I showed up on time at 8:50AM, paperwork ready, to win the game.

Here's your gown, put these plastic booties over your shoes and wait, the hair net is coming!

Here’s your gown, put these plastic booties over your shoes and wait, the hair net is coming!

After presenting my paperwork I was told to sit and about 15 minutes later, I was ushered into the dugout–er, pre-op room–to put on my uniform, booties and hat.  Oh boy, I’m, next!

OK, so there's no logo and I can't keep it for the next time, but for the next 30 minutes it's mine!

OK, so there’s no logo and I can’t keep it, but for the next 30 minutes it’s mine!

The doctor came out, and despite being gowned and masked, I could tell she was young…..and did she speak English?  Of course!  Having lived here for years not speaking the language is something I am not proud of.  Another example of absolute laziness because pretty much everyone here does.  No excuse.  But it was still nice to chat her up about her education, how long she had been doing this, etc. and it was clear she loved what she was doing and was all business when it came time to operate.

She opened a door and the last words I remember hearing were–come lie down here, and put your head under the sun.  Sun?  Oh my God! it’s an operating room, with huge blinding lights and sharp instruments and uh oh, this isn’t like being in a game at all….it’s really going to hurt and I am completely unprepared.  Can I use the toilet? Oh, are you sure this is the right day?

” Lie down, please, place your hands here and don’t talk…” and tof course the line every patient loves to hear “now this might hurt a little because we are going to give you an injection”

What? in my eye…are you crazy, is this legal? Help, I want my manager!  This isn’t what they told me when I signed up………

So much for the happy smiling face, OUCH, it hurts!

So much for the happy smiling face.  Press on this, she said, for 10 minutes

The injection was an exquisite bee sting–hey, YOU try not to blink with a needle in your eyelid.  OK, they had antiseptic drops and some other gunk to kill the pain, but it didn’t stop me from wailing “whooowwwww!”

I think in Croatian the doctor and her assistant said “told you those American’s were real wusses….so how come they like Trump?'”

See, I told you it hurt!

Like any small trauma, it always looks worse than it is…but I am really trying to get your sympathy 

After a  bit of poking to get the pus out, it was all over.  And they even asked, “would you like to see it?”  Wow, talk about complete service!  But alas, it was just a tiny bit–and gee, my eye felt better already…..but when I looked in the mirror I was impressed!

Not quite a pirate, but cured

Not quite a pirate, but cured

The whole shebang took 20 minutes.  Then came the bill.

41 kunas, about $5.94

41 kunas, about $5.94

I had to run downstairs to the coffee shop to get change….when I returned, and paid, we shook hands, I told her I would send her this blog.

All in all, another amazing experience here…….an oh yes, the bill for drops and creme for a week was also 41 kunas.  So now the big question, dear readers from America, how can Croatia do all this for its citizens and the red, white and blue continue to screw it up?

I wonder if my insurance here covers plastic surgery, those bags under my eyes could use a little pc, yes?

 

Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 28, 2016

Day trip to Pula from Split–by seaplane!


Normally a 6-8 hour drive up the coast and around to the port city of Pula in Istria, it’s a bit over an hour from Split harbor with the new seaplane service from European Coastal Airlines.  So for our 10th anniversary, we took the seaplane to enjoy a 24 hour overnight trip to this wonderful city.

An 18thC painting of Pula’s iconic Sergii gate, built in 27 or 28BC to commemorate the famous Roman victory at Actium and honor the three Sergius brothers who fought there and were part of the powerful nobility in this area of Istria.

We always enjoy coming to Istria since it’s so distinctively different from Dalamatia.  The food, the streetscapes, dreamy medieval interior, are all such pleasures.  The cuisine here is often described as being like “the new Tuscany”.  Again unlike Dalmatia, the wine, olive oil, bread, fish, meat and even the vegetables are distinctive and delicious.  The dinner we had at Alighieri, just off the main post office square, was terrific and like a everything in Istria, much less expensive!

Gorgeous pate of bakalar (dried codfish) with sun dried tomatoes at Alighieri

Gorgeous pate of bakalar (dried codfish) with sun dried tomatoes at Alighieri

Although Pula is one of the country’s major shipbuilding ports, with tens of thousands of square meters of warehousing, dry docks, fitting yards and gigantic cranes that pretty much consume most of the waterfront area near the city center, once past this industrial maze, the city is really quite beautiful.

In addition to having a vibrant, very sophisticated art community–lots of galleries both public and private (a Milton Glaser exhibit was on while we were here!), the in-city parks, gently sloping streets, pubic squares and world-class Roman monuments make the city a compelling destination.

The Pula Colosseum, the 6th largest in the world. erected during the reign of Vespasian

The Pula Colosseum, the 6th largest in the world. erected during the reign of Vespasian

Just a five minute walk from where the cruise ships and many ferries dock is the monumental Pula Colosserum,  the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved.  Unfortunately, in the city’s zeal to restore and protect this ancient treasure, lots of things were done “improperly” so the structure has never been included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.  Considering its extraordinary construction and importance, this is a shame.  We live in Split, a 1,700 year city, which is on the list and Pula’s Roman legacy is hundreds of years older and far more glorious in terms of the ornamentation that is still intact, like the amazing reliefs on the Sergii Arch, the city’s “Zlatna Vrata” or golden gate entrance–classic gorgeous stonemasonry long gone from the Zlatna Vrara of Diocletian’s Palace.

The central "white"part of this photo is a reconstruction that ties together the entire edifice. There is a debate among professionals that if part of a monument is "lost" it should be left "lost" and not be re-built with modern materials. It's hard to Imagine Pula's arena without this "piece" however!

The central “white”part of this photo is a reconstruction that ties the entire edifice together in unbroken symetry.  There is a debate among professionals that if part of a monument is “lost” it should be left “lost” and not be re-built with modern materials.  With such a gorgeous structure, so intact, no wonder it was hard for town father’s to leave this “piece”  out!

Every summer, the arena is used as an international concert venue, featuring everyone from Elton John to illustrious opera singers.

Stunning winged angels with chariots above and under the arch, a wonderful relief of a serpent

Stunning winged angels with war chariots above and under the Sergii arch, more a wonderful reliefs.  And note the extraordinary crenilated Corinthian columns

This part of the city is really thrilling. Parts of the original Roman wall once attached to the Sergii arch swoop up a graceful tree-lined street to the left as you pass through the gate. Just a five minute walk away is a terrific town square with an enormous covered meat and fish market arcade almost as large as the one in Zagreb

File:Pulska tržnica.JPGThe enormous glassed in covered meat and fish market has lots of outdoor stalls for veggies, etc. in the summer

The 8 meter high Sergii gate as it looks today.  Although it has not been laser cleaned like much of Diocletian’s Palace here, personally I like the character of seeing the patina of the centuries!

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