Monday, October 27, 2014

The Trogir Diaries:Day 2 - Monday 15th September 2014

Waking up to our first full day in Trogir, it's the simple things which bring the most joy.  The sight of the mountains from our hotel room window.  The idea that you can eat breakfast on the hotel terrace in September, when doing the same thing at home would probably involve thermals.  Blue skies and beautiful sunshine, without unbearable heat.  Life is good.

The Riva is Trogir's promenade, lining one side of the island all the way from the Kamerlengo Fortress at one side, to the busy Ciovo bridge at the other end.  In-between there's a long line of restaurants, (some pictured above) and many of which we will experience for lunch and dinner before the week's out.

One major must-do tip if you're going to Trogir: wear some very comfy, cushioned footwear as on almost every street you are presented with the Croatian equivalent of the 'Paris-Roubaix'!!

Today's mission is to investigate day trips and excursions available from Trogir.  We'd researched this in advance and one particular one jumped out: a full-day excursion to the famous town of Mostar in Bosnia.  With it being September though, there was less variety of excursions available due to the drop in tourist numbers.  However there is still a decent selection - Krka Waterfalls/Plitvice lakes for nature lovers, and numerous canoeing/kayaking opportunities for the more adventurous, and lots of different island-hopping options. 

Luckily, Mostar was still on the agenda.  It's a good job we checked it out today, as the trip leaves tomorrow!  Happily booked for our Bosnian adventure, it's time to check out some more views of Trogir from Ciovo and the bridge.

I mentioned the main square last night, where we rounded off the evening.  Here's what it looks like during the day. 

Time for a little Eurovision reference now: Trogir is the town where the video for Klapa s Mora's "Mizerija" was filmed.  Some scenes were filmed in the main square.  Later on in the week I would even sit on the same wall where Klapa s Mora sat :)  #starstruck

There are some little delights to be found down the little maze of streets in this town.  This is one of them: a much-photographed gem.

We've had a lovely relaxing day exploring Trogir.  The canal at the back of the island maybe doesn't get the same love as the Riva, but it has a nice park and lots of little boats on the canal.

It also boasts a very impressive footbridge which takes you over to the very busy main road which you cross to get to the Tommy supermarket.  Where we buy soft drinks and bottled water.  Rock on!

We have a very early rise - as in middle-of-the-night - for our trip to Mostar tomorrow.  So it's early dinner and early night tonight, but still time to fit in some Croatian white wine...

Early to bed - Mostar tomorrow!  Just one more thing - I can finally get a mobile phone network.  What a relief!

The Trogir Diaries: Day 1 - Sunday 14th September 2014

...or to borrow from Bill Bryson, should that be "notes from a small island"?

Croatia has been one of my unfulfilled holiday ambitions in recent years, and the opportunity arose this year to finally fulfil that dream.  Dubrovnik was the first destination I targeted, but with spiralling costs it looked as if it wasn't possible to get there without risking bankruptcy.  £700 for a week's bed and breakfast, and having to commute every day from the Lapad peninsula into a packed old town?  I think not.  Next on the agenda was Pula and its surrounding areas, but again the accommodation situation didn't really meet our needs. 

With the introduction of direct flights between Glasgow and Split, I began to check out the alternative destinations in and around that area of Croatia.  Do you ever see a picture of a place and immediately fall in love?  That's the way I felt about Trogir when I saw it for the first time.  Love at first sight.  Small, compact, historic, quaint and beautiful.  But would it be enough to hold our interest for a week? 

Then the city of Split came onto the radar, but Trogir just wouldn't go away.  And on revisiting the idea, Trogir became the ideal candidate for a holiday after 6 traumatic months in which life, work and health have all presented massive challenges.  Time to slow down the pace, relax and recharge....and the decision was made. After one of our best ever holidays I can honestly say that it was the right decision.

Our flight took just under three hours, and the descent is one of the most breathtaking and beautiful that I can remember, providing an unforgettable welcome to Croatia.  (Sadly I don't have any pictures of this).  You fly over the Dalmatian coastline and the numerous islands, and finally flying directly over tiny Trogir itself, before landing at Split Airport which is actually closer to Trogir - only a 10 minute journey, which is a very nice difference to all those holidays we've had when the transfer time is nearly as long as the flight itself.  Split Airport is like one of those very small, provincial but effective airports which you come across on European jaunts, and the process of passport control and collecting luggage is probably one of the quickest we've ever experiences. 

Croatia had a hellish summer, weather-wise.  One of my friends at work recently took a cruise calling at various Adriatic ports - with a thunder and lightning storm in every one.  But today, the sun was shining, and the weather just perfect; mid-20s temperatures.  It may be Sunday but we learn very quickly that it's anything but quiet....

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring like you mean it....

Trogir is very small but seems to have a disproportionate amount of ancient churches with big belltowers attached.  Like the 16th century belltower at St Lawrence's Cathedral (pictured above).  Bells ring out here not just on the hour, but at random intervals throughout the hour: six weeks on from arriving in Trogir I'm probably still hearing bells even if they're not ringing.  Anyway we are staying in a hotel at the rear side of the island, facing a park and the canal behind it.  I'll write more about the canal in a later post. 

I had wondered if, nearing the end of the tourist season, Trogir would have many tourists. I had never even heard of the place until a few months ago.  As it turned out, there were still a lot of tourists there - predominantly German or French-speaking, or from the Nordic area.  We hardly heard any British voices during our stay there.  I also wondered if there were many tourists in the town from other parts of Croatia or indeed the former Yugoslavia. 

Trogir is a town.  Or is it an island?  Well, it's both.  It's a town on an island, connected on one side by a bridge to another island (the much larger Ciovo) and on the other side, a bridge to the 'mainland'.  The appearance of the town is medieval and unspoilt, and the whole town is pedestrianized apart from the road which runs the full length of the back of the island, from the Ciovo bridge onwards.

Once you cross that road, you find yourself in a green space with this view. 

This was the beloved, serene Adriatic which I always imagined.  And now we are here, and it's amazing how very quickly we find the peace which we needed.  How could you ever tire of that view? 

Despite its size, Trogir is a town-planning triumph, with every inch of space packed with little shops and numerous restaurants.  I had done some pre-holiday research on Trip Advisor so was prepared for what the restaurants had to offer.  There's the traditional seafood-based Croatian cuisine, but fans of pizza and pasta will find much to enjoy here.  There is also one particular speciality named Ćevapi which is a type of kebab meat which is big in the Balkans.  So when faithful travelling companion's in the Balkans....

In other news, there is a minor cloud over the proceedings, as since arriving in Croatia, my brand new all-singing-all-dancing phone hasn't been able to connect to a network and enable me to keep in touch with home.  Technology - hmph!

This aside, it is a great feeling to finally be here, away from it all....and beginning our research into Croatian beer.  We are sitting in a little café-bar on the main square, which I would imagine is the main place to be on Fridays and Saturdays, but as befits Sunday it's a lot quieter tonight.  Still a few people around though.

Ah, a beer with a matching glass.  It's just like being in Flanders, eh??  Cheers!  Or should I say, Živjeli!

Hello again: time for a catch-up

Back in blogland again after a few weeks' break.  I thought it was about time that I finally published my Trogir diaries so these will appear on here over the next week or so.  Tonight I'm going to publish the first two days of what was a fantastic week in this little Croatian town. 

As usual I am very busy, and very tired, and don't always have the time or energy to blog.  I haven't even followed Swedish Idol this year - what's wrong with me?? - but one thing which is always a regular feature on this blog is my year-end chart which I've already started preparatory work on.  Bit of a challenge as I haven't really made much effort to seek out new music for most of this year, but I have about 35 songs so far so I'm on my way. 

I guess I've probably had PED (post-Eurovision depression) this year in addition to all the other crap stuff going on in my life.  But happily, Eurovision season 2015 is under way already, with the good news that despite Albania's lack of success at ESC over the past couple of years, they aren't quitting the contest after all so it looks as if Festivali i Këngës no. 53 in December will be choosing the country's representative once more.  Serbia and Bosnia are back - the latter rumoured to be represented by Hari Mata Hari again - and crikey, even Luxembourg's considering a comeback some time!  Turkey and Eurovision are never never getting back together: they stomped off in a strop and created Türkvizyon which many Eurofans hated but I really enjoyed and hope to watch it this year if time (and internet stream) allows. 

Of special interest to those who follow the United Kingdom's entries, is the news that the BBC has put an open selection out there and is accepting song submissions up to 7th November.  Given the increasing xenophobia and Euro-scepticism by certain politicians in this country, not to mention their increasingly xenophobic and Euro-sceptic followers, can you really ever see the UK winning ESC, ever again?  The EBU obviously had this in mind so to keep Royaume-Uni on side, we have been awarded the 60th anniversary special, to be held at the Royal Albert Hall and presented by Graham Norton and Petra Mede. (How many times do I have to say it - you should have chosen Glasgow!  The Hydro/SECC/Clyde Auditorium complex is a Eurovision venue just waiting to happen). 

Ireland's also going for an open selection but sadly not using "The Hit" format which I thought would have been a great idea. 

It won't be long until we find out the songs and performers competing in Melodifestivalen 2015.  The biggest news there so far is the return of Måns Zelmerlöw to the competition.  2014's Melfest winner (and faithful travelling companion's new fave) Sanna Nielsen will be back next year but this time as co-presenter with comedian and TV host Robin Paulsson.  Let's face it, they can't be any worse than this year's twosome who were probably the worst Melfest presenters I can remember in all my years of watching the contest! 

Over the bridge to Denmark now where the DMGP has a new logo (pictured above).  As usual in Denmark there's none of your heats and semi-final faffing about (watch and learn, several other ESC countries!!), it's just straight to the final, quality over quantity, and always a fabulous show regardless of whether or not you like the songs.  The DMGP final falls on 7th February, the same night as the 1st Melfest heat but I'm choosing Denmark this time round, particularly as I missed the DMGP final this year due to a spectacularly incompetent judgement call :(

I haven't heard any of the songs in the Swiss free-for-all so far, but another Sebalter-style surprise would be very nice.  Lots of rumours flying around about the Netherlands' representative next year.  They will have a lot to live up to after the success of Anouk and the Common Linnets over the past couple of years; another quality artist and song will boost their chances again and we could be looking at a possible Dutch ESC winner in the next couple of years.

Norway is also on a high, thanks to Carl Espen's success, and NRK has received a very high number of entries.  No dates or format info for MGP as yet, but I'd imagine they'd run with the same one as this year.  Jenny and Erik are great hosts so I'd love to see them back at MGP.  Talking of Norway, their most recent winner Alexander Rybak will be auditioning and writing for artists at the Belarus final which will be another national selection.

Finally, we learned last month that the slogan for the 2015 contest will be "Building Bridges".  Hopefully this will not be too literally interpreted, as I have visions of construction work going on behind the artists as they sing....!