Wed 21 Jun 2006 - Fri 30 Jun 2006 33 °C
The trip ahead:
We left a chilly Melbourne a week or so ago, unfortunately taking the head cold it had conceived along. Head colds are no fun on a plane, where the additional pressure of altitude creates a horrible sinus headache that no amount of decongestant can get rid of. After 7 hours of such a headache, we touched down in Singapore and, considering we had an 8 hour stopover, decided to check in the transit hotel. Not a bad deal actually; S$50 pays for a room for 6 hours, just enough time to get a good sleep and a nice shower before boarding the next plane. The next leg I somehow managed to transfer my head cold to Janelle. It was also the first flight that I had been on that had in-flight internet available! Of course, I couldn't resist and logged on and checked my emails and read The Age for an hour or so.
Finally we arrived in a hot Rome and checked into the same hotel we stayed in last time. Having been in Rome, we didn't feel the need to see the major sights again. We enjoyed a few days of just wandering around; we went to Trevi Fountain again and wandered into the Pantheon. Last time we had missed going to see Palatine Hill, so we did that this time as well. It is a nice peaceful place to visit compared to the hustle and bustle of Rome and the throngs of people just next to it wandering around the Roman Forum. It's amazing what an entry fee can do! It is a bit of a let down though, due to a real lack of any signage (in Italian or English), making it very hard to work out what is what. Probably worth getting a guide to it from somewhere beforehand. Nonetheless, we did enjoy wandering around just looking at the ruins.
We watched Australia progress to the next round of the World Cup in a controversial match with Croatia at an Irish pub full of other Aussies. The atmosphere was very tense due to the atrocious refereeing, but thankfully it all ended well despite his many bad decisions!
We also purchased a new camera in Rome, after discovering that the one we had with us wasn't working. I haven't had the chance to take many photos yet (only a couple of hundred ), but I'm very pleased with the results so far.
Ancona harbour - check out the fancy boat!
We have now successfully made the crossing into Croatia. The ferry ride was extremely pleasant; the calmest waters I have ever been on and because it was an overnight trip, we just slept through it all. We disembarked in Zadar, a nice town, but very quiet due to us being there on a Sunday / Public Holiday. Some interesting photos in the papers showing some very disappointed Croatians and jubilant Australians!
Of course we were very saddened when both Holland and Australia were kicked out of the competition consecutively. On the bright side it means we won't have to worry about missing games (I know; clutching at straws ... ).
After a day in Zadar, we went to the beautiful Plitvice National Park. It did not disappoint in the slightest. The lakes and waterfalls are simply magnificent. I could try to find some more superlatives to describe it, but those can just sound insincere. Some photos might do the trick though.
After a couple of days in the national park, we made the rather long drive down to Dubrovnik. The first few hours to Split were easy due to a very nice motorway (with a generous 130 k/h speed limit), but directly afterwards we got lost for about an hour and a half and ended up driving down dirt dead end roads that only led to construction sites. Finally we found our way back on to the highway along the coast and were very pleased; the drive from there was probably the most amazing I have ever been on (better than the Big Sur and Great Ocean Road even!) We drove along it for several hours and almost the entire way the scenery was breathtaking; there are picturesque Croatian towns scattered along the road nestling amongst the cliffs, there are beaches and there are mountains on the other side. And to cap it off we pulled into Dubrovnik late in the evening; one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
After spending the evening last night in the suburb our hotel is in, Lapad, we went into the old town today. The hot sun bore down on us while we wandered the streets, enjoying all the old buildings and history evident everywhere along with a drove of other tourists. Old buildings do have a way of all blending into one and perhaps that lessened my appreciation of them somewhat. At the end of the day, our visit to the War Photos Museum was actually the highlight for me. They had an exhibition of photos by female war photo journalists, which was both heartbreaking and eye-opening and of course there was a special focus on photos from the Balkan conflict of the 90s. Tomorrow we plan on going back again and doing the walk around the walls, which should give some nice views of the city from above and a chance to take some good photos (I think).