I think the kids are having a slightly different experience than we are. Upon leaving the church bell tower in Rab, with its myriad of steps, then ladders, to arrive at a view only afforded in most people’s imagination, Quinn asked Justin, “How many throws do you think it would take you to get a basketball in that trash can?” Walking through these coastal medieval towns with their ancient walls and sacred churches, we are all awed at the magnitude of history. Justin and I marvel at how the new simply comes out of the old, how the shelled-out buildings now house gardens or parking lots, how yesterday’s palace stands somehow muted next to the stark and barren communist apartment building. But the kids have a fresher perspective, unmarred by the years of political transition and romantic nostalgia. They want to know how big the fine is for graffiti. Can you go to jail for that? Have we ever been to jail?
From the “moon”, we went deeper into the Kornati where the rocky surface transformed into a lush mountainous forest in the belly of the enveloping lakes of Otak Dugi. We designed to launch the dinghy, well worn and often deflated as she carries out her swan song this season, and hike up to the sheer cliffs dropping into the Adriatic, but our little engine that could simply would not. Justin bloodied his knuckles and offered up the necessary profanities and vulgarities, but nothing could convince our trusted two-stroke to keep an idle. Later, in Zadar, we found out that without flushing the engine with a special cleaner, there was no chance we could have started her (somehow that was reassuring). We dropped the mooring and motored back down through the Prolaz Proversa Mala. Justin was making some soup, possibly watered-down dip—we are still working out the difference in language for sour cream vs cottage cheese let alone soup vs dip, when I called out from the helm. “Um….I could use some help here. This is like Croatian Hell’s Gate!” Ships, boats, jet skis and swimmers flew through the narrowest of channels as the depth crept eerily shallow.
We found ourselves just on the other side at a peaceful little bay, Uvala Cuscici. A quick paddle brought us to shore for a hike, overlooking the inner lakes. As we descended off trail, hopping from craggy rock to shards of stone, our view shifted to the many Croatian islands packed tightly and proudly in the cleanest and brightest blue sea.
We headed to Zadar, city of many fortunes. Remains of Neolithic settlements have been unearthed. Liburnians, known as sailors and merchants, traded with the Greeks and Romans by the 7th century BC and by the 2nd century, the Romans thought, “Hmmm. I want that,” and invaded. And as Monty Python would say, “And what have the Romans ever done for us?” For Zadar, it was the aqueduct, the plumbing, the hot air central heating, and the roads. Remnants of the ruins decorate the parks. The forum was used as the foundation for the cathedral. The walls and arched gates stand strong and prominent. These rules were followed by Ostrogoths, Avar and Slav tribes, and the Byzantines. At last, Zadar was joined by treaty to Croatia in 1069, only to find itself often at war with the Venetians, the Hungarians, not to mention the Turks, the French and the Italians. Somehow through all this, the cultural and visual arts flourished.
As we gathered knowledge of the impending changes to weather, we decided to travel quickly up the coast so that we could explore the northern region of Croatia before the winds picked up. Whether by geography or seasonality, we have found a cool air in moving away from Zadar toward Rab. The sea is flat and the wind is light. In an area known for great winds once the pressure behind the mountains, abutting the sea, builds and sends the magnificent bora tunneling down the Velebitski Channel, we have arrived in time to enjoy the peace and beauty in settled anchorages. Our anchor sinks delicately in the sands and we let out only 3 times.
Our anchorage in Rab was truly stunning. The only boat set across from the harbor alongside the breakwall, Madame Geneva gave home to gorgeous sunsets and easy nights. We zipped about in our dinghy back and forth to town and walked the town, parks, and cemetery. We swam in clear water and climbed rocks.
Our anchorage in Uvala Zavratnica was nothing shy of harrowing. Brought in by the park ranger who was disappointed we did not speak German, Justin squeezed into the narrow pass between towering cliffs into the fjord. Through wild hand waving, we figured out we needed to drop our anchor and back into the rocky shore and secure a line to the bollard along a walled walkway. The sea was still and so we didn’t overly stress that our anchor just lay on its side and our chain had barely a belly. We certainly were not going to sleep like that. That we knew. A few hours of diving and swimming gave way to a few hours motor to Uvala Zabodarski, on the island of Losianj, for a restful night with only an occasional lulling swell of passing fishing boats. We have long been out of water (truthfully we have water, we just can’t seem to get it) and so we are thick with salt and our dishes are piled (neatly) high.
Sails up and motoring along, we are spending this morning traveling to the Isterian peninsula of mainland Europe, as far as we may go before we must turn around. All are writing and reading as we cruise along further north than we have ever traveled on Madame Geneva. At 44 degrees 42.718’ N, we are closer to the North Pole than Maine. And the best part, we don’t have to play “lobster pot or seal?”
Much love and stay tuned.