From caves and castles, to canals and gondolas

Since my last update we’ve been exploring the northern Adriatic, from Zadar to the Istrian Peninsula, then across to Venice. The Bondy brothers joined Loki in Zadar. Apart from being a lovely old walled city, Zadar lays claim to a unique waterfront with a couple of unusual art installations designed by local architect Nikola Basic. Firstly, there’s the world’s first pipe organ that is played by the sea! The structure is seventy metres long and has thirty-five organ pipes built under the concrete. The wind and waves push air into the pipe organs producing rather random, but nonetheless harmonic sounds. It’s really about hearing rather than seeing the structure, so people loll about on the steps enjoying the somewhat hypnotic effect.  A few metres from the “Sea Organ” is the “Sun Salutation”, a 22 metre diameter circle made from 300 photovoltaic glass panels. The solar cells absorb energy from the sun then convert this into electricity, which is sufficient to light the entire waterfront at night. Very smart. At sunset the installation switches on a display of bright, colourful lights (which unfortunately we didn’t get to witness), which is connected to the Sea Organ. All very trippy apparently. The weather was quite rainy for part of our time in Zadar and from here we headed to the outer chain of the northern Adriatic islands stopping at Uglian, Veli Rat, Ist, Ilovik and Mali Losinj. A couple of days out of Zadar the weather cleared up again and we enjoyed some lovely walks on the islands. Many of the villages we visited are virtually carless, but their waterfronts are arranged in a somewhat higgeldy-piggeldy way, so that every little fishing boat seems to have it’s own private jetty. Or, there’s a concrete beach, where people pay money to hire a sun lounge. No wonder overseas visitors rave about Aussie beaches. We continued to enjoy the local food, including some of a rather tender suckling piglet. We then farewelled the Bondy boys before heading north to Cres then Opatije, on the mainland.

Whilst on the mainland we thought we’d take the opportunity to go inland and headed for Slovenia. This is a seriously lovely country.  At times you could be forgiven for thinking you are driving through the middle of a Walt Disney movie, with quaint castles and churches dotting the countryside. From Opatije we drove to Lubiana, via the famous Postojna Caves. The caves are an amazing network of over 20 kms of underground tunnels and galleries formed out of the limestone karst. The caves were formed about 4 million years ago as a result of underground water flow from the Pivka River. A trip on the tourist train lasts for an hour and a half and covers only about 4 kms, but is well worth the visit. The nearby, 700 hundred year old Predjama Castle is also a must see, built into the side of a vertical cliff. We particularly liked the story about the “robber barron”, the knight Erazem Lueger, who was held to siege in the castle in the 15th century, but used to duck out the back through a maze of secret passages that his would-be captors didn’t know about. He’d travel to the next village to get cherries that had ripened earlier than those outside his drawbridge, then would confound his adversaries by throwing ripened cherries upon them whilst they looked at the unripened fruits trees around them. They thought it was the devil’s work. Unfortunately he came to a messy end when they shot a cannonball into his crapper and was literally caught with his pants down. What a way to go! We then went up to Lubiana and Lake Bled, to complete the Slovenian tour of dragons, caves and castles before heading to Zagreb to meet up with the Sollys.

Having met up with Ben & Kath we then all headed back to Loki to explore the inner chain of the northern Adriatic. We had some lovely weather and memorable moments in Krk, Rab and southern Cres. We had to repel boarders when moored to the town quay in Krk at 0050hrs! (Yes, we remember when we were young once too). At Jadriscica our anchorage book advised us that if we wanted to go to the shop for supplies we’d need to strip off first as the campsite was a nudist colony. Hilarious! I dared Ben & Fitzy to nude-up, but they were too shy. Thankfully we managed to get bread anyway. The Sollys departed the vessel at Artaturi, Losing and from there we headed up to Pula at the bottom of the Istrian Peninsula to catch up with Donald and Judy. Pula has been continuously inhabited for twenty-three centuries, so it’s no surprise to find a Roman amphitheatre smack-bang in the middle of town. But they also have a hip vibe with a nightly light-show featuring their waterfront industrial cranes.

Our final leg was “Goodbye Croatia, Hello Venice”. We managed to find a marina on Certosa Island that was four vaporetti (waterbus) stops, and about 15 minutes, from St Mark’s Square. When we arrived the weather was calm and there wasn’t much shipping traffic around so we couldn’t resist the temptation to sail up to the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square. It was slightly frenetic with all the vaporetti, water-taxis, gondolas and whatever else running about, but we just had to do it! What a fabulous place for doing our boat pack-up and winterising. The last time we were there was 26 years ago; I’d forgotten how impossibly gorgeous Venice is. Lucky, lucky me……I spent my birthday there. We toured St. Mark’s Basilica (the mosaics are simply astounding) and the Doges Palace (one can’t help thinking of “The Merchant of Venice” as you traipse through one ornate room after another). I thought I saw Fitzy’s eyes watering whilst he was looking at the chastity belt on display in the armoury. Our timing also coincided with the Venice Biennale, so managed a visit there as well. As beautiful as Venice is, they still have their problems with high tides. I took a kayak tour of the canals and our guide told us they’ve spent 6 billion (dollars or euro?) thus far on a flood control system that doesn’t work. If it’s on your bucket list, go and see Venice before it sinks! An added bonus was catching up with the Sollys again one evening, complete with our silly hats!

We are now at Marina Sant’ Andrea, which is about as far north as you can go in the Adriatic. 45 degrees 45’ 70”N, 13 degrees 14’ 50” E is Loki’s home for the winter. After four and a half months away, six countries and 1819 nautical miles shared amongst 17 visitors, it’s time to come home! We’ve had a fab time cruising, but there’s nothing quite like home, so really looking forward to catching up with family and friends really soon.




4 thoughts on “From caves and castles, to canals and gondolas

  1. Great photographs and commentary Kate.
    You have outperformed.
    Loved the boys at the nudist colony and the hats xx

  2. Kate ,another brilliant travel log.

    Fitzy , no Reverie salute in the venezia cap pic!

    What a great winter away.

    Safe trip home, Regards, Middy.

  3. Thanks for your blog Katie. Have enjoyed reading of your adventures. All sounds amazing. I think that you have sufficient experience and knowledge to start up your own travel business! Cannot believe that you have been away for 4 and a half months – wow!
    Looking forward to a catchup when you and Fitzie return. It has been a cold and dreary winter back in old Melbourne town, but spring is here and the sun is shining. All good! Britt has turned 18 and now has her driver’s licence. Angie is away on the Firbank UK Sports Tour and staying with different billet families. Missing her! All for now. Lots of love, Mark and Toni xxx

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