The countryside in Croatia is green and lush and beautiful. Lots of high cliffs, incredible amounts of clear, turquoise water everywhere. The streets, on the other hand, are not so fun... very difficult to navigate with the help of street signs or memorization of maps. For some reason, they put far-away cities that are indicated as tiny on the map as the ending-points of roads, forgetting about big cities (e.g., Zagreb) in the middle. Strange. It was pretty hard to navigate on my own. Lilach barely reads English.
We drove to the Istrian Peninsula, miraculously getting on all the right roads, to the beautiful town of Rovinj (pronounced Ro'veen). It is considered the Croatian Venice. Having never been to Venice, I wasn't sure what this meant, but the town is very picturesque. Most of what we did the first day in Rovinj was to book a ferry to Venice for the following morning.
I called home from Rovinj and found out that the trip my mom wanted to take Hadas on filled up. She waited to tell her until it was a sure thing. Imagine being told that in a little over a week you're going to Beijing... (they left this morning, my mom is the accompanying tour guide)
Back in our zimmer (35 Euros a night) we made ourselves dinner (we brought all of our food from home, since we keep kosher) and awoke to a ridiculously loud thunderstorm. The thunder was so loud that it sounded the whole world was exploding. It was also pouring rain. In Israel, it doesn't rain all summer. You might get a drizzle in June, but thunderstorms in August? No way... I spent the rest of the night trying to figure out whether the ferry guys would give me my money back... Of course, in the morning we awoke to a bright day and the ferry to Venice left right on time.
The ferry ride was 2-1/2 hours, after which we took a short guided tour (about 1-1/2 hours) of Venice, ending up in St. Mark's Square.
Venice was amazing. We had a total of 6-1/2 hours there and we didn't stop walking the entire time. It was interesting and beautiful and different...
The next day we set out to Trieste, Italy, where we spent Friday and Shabbat. The synagogue there is the largest in Europe. It was surprising to see how large it is from the inside, and how decorated it is. We went there both Friday night and Shabbat morning. Unfortunately, the people there weren't particularly friendly and I was disappointed that none of the tunes were familiar (I've been to plenty of synagogues) but I did feel like I was doing the right thing by showing Lilach that we are Jews no matter where we travel... Shabbat afternoon we walked around Trieste, mostly in the rain. I really liked Italy :-)
On Sunday morning we set out to Bled, Slovenia. Bled reminded me a lot of Bear Mountain, NY. We walked around the lake (about 4 miles) and stopped in the middle to rent a rowboat and row out on the lake (the pictures of me rowing are so silly I haven't let anyone but Ohad see them).
Later that day, we drove past Postojna and stayed at the campground called Pivka Jama. (I believe Jama means 'cave' in Slovenian.) There's an incredible system of caves in that region and we took a tour of two of the caves. I really wanted to take the whole cave home with me, but wasn't sure what the guys at Customs would think about it... Ohad would have loved the cold, it was about 54 degrees inside.
Monday night we slept in Plitvicka, using my broken German to rent a zimmer (actually, a private apartment, 8km from Plitvicka Jezera National Park, 30Euros for the night). In the morning we went to the park - a string of 16 lakes, connected by waterfalls. (The pictures on the above site do the place justice far more than mine do. I did, however get a good shots of a moth/butterfly.)
That night, we drove up the coast to Senj and then continued north, to Kraljevica, where, again, the tiny bit of German I remember from nearly 30 years ago, helped us rent a room for the night. Lilach had been dying to go to the beach the whole time we were there and we finally got our chance. She didn't count on the water being cold, everything being rocky and there being crabs in the water. Oops.
I took this picture with my hand practically in the water - I couldn't see anything at all - and was really surprised something came out :-)
At the airport, Ohad, Matan, Abigail, Nomi & my mom were waiting for us. It seemed as if we had been away for much longer than just a week...