After leaving Eastern Europe our last stop was Dubai. It was the most amazing experience to fly over the desert at 6 am in the morning and all of sudden huge skyscrapers seemed to emerge from nowhere…
Dubai is a city of contrasts…mosques and towering uniquely designed skyscrapers; traditional dhows sailing on Dubai Creek and sleek automated trains; gold and spice souks and massive shopping malls, ex-pats from around the world and Emiratis wearing traditional dress; a city surrounded by sand and oases of colourful gardens and lawns; Old Dubai and the brave new worlds of Atlantis and Palm Jameirah….
This is just a small taste of Dubai through my eyes…
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Croatia is a beautiful country and my friend Jacqui and I explored it mostly by car. Some of my favourite places have been…
Plitvice Lakes National Park which is the largest national park in Croatia and home to some spectacular waterfalls. There are 16 lakes separated into an upper and lower section. The colours of the lakes change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight. The snow from the higher mountains was thawing when we visited and the water was incredibly powerful and loud rushing over rocks and even walk ways into the Korana River. The water was freezing, crystal clear and clean. At one stage it felt like I was surrounded by waterfalls in stereo! When the sun came out the waterfalls were a sight to behold.
Split is a coastal city on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. This is where you will find the Diocletian Palace built by a Roman emperor for his retirement and finished in AD 305. The palace is being restored and it was fascinating to explore its huge rooms and imagine what life would have been like living there. I was very surprised to see they were having a huge Book Sale in the palace! I also discovered one of the oldest book shops in Europe called Morpurgo in the old town. We climbed to the top of Marjan Hill to see the view of Split which has a big port filled with ferries to go to the islands and a long esplanade by the water for people to walk along or sit and enjoy a cool drink or ice-cream. Split is very popular with tourists!
Dubrovnik is a sea port city on the Adriatic Sea and home to a beautiful old city surrounded by 2 km of stone walls that are between 4-6 metres thick – we walked along the top of them! The wall has lots turrets and towers that were built to protect the city. We walked along The Strund (main street) and explored and climbed lots of steps in the little side streets and alleys that were filled with restaurants, shops and galleries wherever you looked. We rode the cable car up to the top of Srd Hill and enjoyed a bird’s eye view that was breathtaking (you can enjoy it HERE too!) Finally we took a short ferry ride to the little island of Lokrum where you can swim in the Adriatic Sea or enjoy wandering the island and meeting the peacocks that live there. In the Botanical Garden we felt right at home with the smell of eucalyptus from the gum tree that had been planted there!
I hope you enjoy some of my photos…
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Tags: Croatia·Dubrovnik·Plitvice Lakes·Split
Slovenia is a beautiful country filled with friendly people and amazing scenery and places to visit…
As we drove towards Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia, huge snow-capped mountains appeared in the distance and looked spectacular with the sunshine glistening on them. The cobbled streets of the Old Town of Ljubljana are nestled around the Ljubljanica River. Lots of bridges cross the river including the famous Dragon Bridge and the Triple Bridge. We walked up to the medieval Ljubljana Castle that sits on a hill high above the town and offers fabulous views of the mountains and Ljbuljana.
Bohinj is an alpine valley at the base of the Julian Alps. We visited both Lake Bohinj and Savica Waterfall. Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. The snow was thawing after winter and the river that flows into the lake was flowing rapidly with water from the melting snow. We walked 553 steps to reach the Savica Waterfall and it was worth the effort! It is a double waterfall in the shape of the letter A and at the base of the waterfall it is an incredible green colour!
Lake Bled is a glacial lake in the Julian Alps. It is a popular place with tourists who enjoy hiking and for people who want to visit Bled Island in the middle of the lake where you will find the Church of the Assumption. A man rowed us over to Bled Island in a wooden boat. Bled Castle is a medieval castle that sits on a high cliff overlooking the lake and we walked 280 steps to see the fabulous view of Lake Bled and the Alps from the top.
Next stop was Postonja to visit the Postonja Cave where we went 150 metres underground on a little train and walked for about one kilometre. It was like being in another world! The cave is about 21 km long, but we only saw about 5 km of it. It was created millions of years ago by the Pivka River. The cave was filled with stalactites and stalagmites of many different shapes and sizes that grow about 1 cm every hundred years. If you used your imagination you could see lots of interesting things when you looked at them! Next we visited the Predjama Castle. It is a huge castle built into the opening of a 123 metre high cave. It was a very clever idea and made the castle into a fortress, complete with a secret exit. It would have been very cold to live in the parts where the cave was part of the castle.
Our final place to visit in Slovenia was the coastal town of Piran on the Adriatic Sea. The main square called Tartini Square was filled with lots of little stalls of local produce to celebrate their Salt Festival. As we wandered around the port looking at the boats we were actually interviewed and filmed by some people who must have heard our Australian accents and asked us what we thought about Piran! I loved following the winding streets of Piran and seeing houses so different to ours (and washing lines with clothes above my head!). My favourite by far was the view from St Francis’ church over the town of Piran and the ocean.
These are some photos of the places I’ve written about…
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Spring is definitely in the air at last in Eastern Europe. The sun shone and the skies were blue for two days of exploring Budapest the capital of Hungary. Ten million people live in Budapest. It is split in two by the Danube River. Buda on the West side is hilly and old with narrow winding streets. Pest on the East side is more urban and where you will find the city.
There’s lots to see in Budapest…
I also found a gorgeous children’s bookshop just down the road from where I was staying. I bought this water colour illustration by Agecs Irisz. You can see more of his illustrations here.
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As a young girl I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and have continued to read many books about the Holocaust. I have never ceased to be inspired by the courage and the power of the human spirit displayed by the Jewish people. On Monday I visited the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was bitterly cold, the sky was steel grey, a thick blanket of white snow covered the ground and there was a deep sense of desolation – just as I have always pictured it in my head. Walking around and seeing for myself what the Jews had to endure at Auschwitz and Birkenau will be etched in my heart forever…
Today I went 135 metres underground at the Wielickza Salt Mine. We walked 380 steps down a wooden staircase to reach the first level and then walked for 2.5 kilometres along winding passages and through huge caverns carved from salt. Salt has been mined here for over 900 years, but today it is more of an underground museum. It was fascinating to learn how salt has been mined over the centuries, but even more impressive are the statues, carved scenes and chapels including the magnificent Chapel of Saint Kinga all chiseled and sculpted out of salt (even the chandeliers!).
We only saw one percent of the mine. It has 2000 chambers that would take 7 weeks to walk! I can’t imagine living in the mine like the miners did and was quite relieved when the elevator finally took us up to the surface. Our guide Isabella counted us all regularly to ensure nobody got lost or left behind along the way. During the busy Summer period over 8000 people a day visit the mine…I can now definitely understand why they do!
It was tricky taking photos…this is a beautiful salt carving from one of the chapels.
The Wawel Dragon sits at the bottom of the famous Wawel Castle. All Polish children know the legend (see below) of the most famous dragon in Poland. I wish he was breathing fire when I was taking his photo!
As the popular folk legend has it, during the reign of King Krak – the legendary founder of Krakow, an evil dragon had a cave under the Wawel Hill. It used to kill the locals and devour their livestock. Every month, a young woman had to be sacrificed to appease the ravenous beast. As a result, only one young woman was left in the town – the king’s daughter – Wanda. The king got desperate, because all of the brave knights failed to kill the beast. Eventually, he promised the hand of his daughter to anyone who would kill the dragon. One day, a poor cobbler’s apprentice – Dratewka stuffed a lamb skin with sulphur, sewed it up and put in front of the cave. When the dragon swallowed the animal, it became extremely thirsty. To quench its enormous thirst he started drinking water from the Vistula river. When he drank half of the water from the river, its belly was so swollen that the beast blew up. Dratewka married Wanda and they lived happily ever after.
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Tags: Auschwitz·Dragons·Krakow·Salt Mine