Today we travelled from Mostar back into Croatia to Split. Going from country to country involves border crossings, with passport control; changes in currency, which is a bit of a pain as we finish up with coins that can't be exchanged and different languages - can't understand them anyway but we seem to be able to work out what some of the signs in the streets mean, then we move on and we're back to having to work it out again.
Arriving in Split just after lunch we were met by our local guide who took us through Diocletian's Palace. This palace was built around the 4th century for the Roman Emperor Diocletian as his retirement home. Lucky fellow! It is massive and is more a fortress than a palace as it also housed the military garrison. Its remains now house restaurants, shops and some residences.
After that very dry history lesson we were left to our own devices to wander and enjoy the sights of Split. It was lovely walking along the waterfront and then just people watching over a cool drink.
Tonight we had a very entertaining evening out at a restaurant right on the seaside. The entertainment was in the form of a large group of Chinese celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival. By the end of the night I think quite a few of them might have been a bit worse for wear as copious amounts of red and white wine were consumed. Every time they had a drink they would jump up and propose a toast to goodness knows what. It was quite comical to watch.
Tonight's destination was Plitvice but before getting there we spent some time in Trogir, a small island in the Adriatic Sea. This very pretty village is home to the 13th century Cathedral of St Lawrence and a mix of other ancient buildings. I find it fascinating to think that the Romans once walked these same streets!
Another dinner out tonight in a lovely Croatian restaurant.
Today we got to commune with nature in the forest surrounding Plitvice Lakes, known for its 16 terraced lakes which are joined by waterfalls, and it rained and rained. Just the day we didn't want it to rain! Despite being as wet as wet, it was a great excursion. Most of the group walked the boardwalks close to the lakes but some of us elected to take the high road through the forest overlooking the lakes and waterfalls. I don't think we got as wet as those on the low road but we all must have looked a sight in our voluminous bright blue ponchos!
Leaving the lakes we crossed yet another border to Ljubljana, Slovenia, Melania Trump's home country.
Today we had yet another tour through the city streets, over bridges, along the river, around the town square and then up to the castle. This castle sits on Castle Hill and was originally a medieval fortress but it appears to have been rebuilt in the not too distant past, so I wasn't all that impressed with it.
Lake Bled was one of our stops today and we had a trip across the water in a traditional "pletna" boat to visit the church which stands on Bled Island. These boats are propelled by an oarsman who stands in the back of the boat. Getting off the boat we were faced with a flight of 99 very steep stone steps. Thankfully there was a path that brought us to the top of the hill, so again a few of us took that - but I did walk down the steps!
Before we even arrived at the island we could hear the church bell ringing and when we went into the church we found out why. Inside there is the rope used to ring the bell and legend says that if you ring it three times and make a wish it will come true - well, for the life of me I couldn't even make it ring once!
The views across the water to the Julian Alps were breathtaking and it was wonderful to just sit on the steps and take it all in.
Back on the mainland it was time to move on to Otocec Castle for a very elegant lunch which was very enjoyable. This castle dates back to the 13th century but is now a luxury hotel, so apart from the dining room we didn't see much of it.
We arrived in Zagreb last night and this morning had a tour of the city on the coach to begin with. I found the city to be rather drab with all its grey stone buildings, but there probably was a newer area that we didn't see. Of all the places to be taken to was the city cemetery - but this one was a bit different to what we are used to. To start with there are over half a million graves dating from way way back to the present time and it has a very grand entrance with lots of domes and colonades where important people can be buried. It is a cemetery for all religions and there is no segregation. Christians are buried next to Muslims, Jews and Calathumpians. A pity they all couldn't co-exist like this while they were alive! Very different but very interesting.
Tonight was our farewell dinner so there was lots of chatter and noise. Apple Strudel was offered for dessert and when it was put in front of us lots of the men stared at it and wanted to know where the cream or icecream was and were bluntly told that it wasn't included! Some of them held out and eventually got icecream which they were told they would have to pay for!
Our last day of our Balkan adventure. We drove from Zagreb to Budapest where we will spend the night before flying to Amsterdam tomorrow for our 2 week river cruise. Both of us have done this cruise before but thought it was an ideal way to end our 4 month adventure.
We've been rather worried about the river levels being too low for the ships to get through, and to a point we were right to worry - we have to change ships at the half way point but that is preferable to having to do the journey on yet another coach.