June 26, 2017 Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj Harbor

Rovinj Hotel

Rovinj Hotel Room

Rovinj Hotel Room Bath

After a quiet relaxing morning at leisure we departed Trieste, Italy by private coach bound for Rovinj, Croatia. We had to cross into Slovenia and from Slovenia into Croatia. The weather has been very warm with what the locals called a heat wave. With the humidity the temperature felt like 103 degrees. The border of Slovenia was just a ten-minute drive from our hotel in Trieste. With both countries being a part of the European Union, there was no border control, we just drove across the border.

About an hour after leaving Trieste we arrived at the Croatian border where there was a fairly long line of cars waiting to enter the country. The lines moved fairly quickly and it did not take long for the border patrol agent to collect our passports, stamp them and send us on our way.
We arrived at our destination Rovinj within two hours of leaving Trieste. A smooth and easy drive on a toll road constructed about four years ago. Along the highway there were many grape vines and fruit trees growing including beautiful looking figs plums. Once in Rovinj we had to disembark the bus and walk into the old town where our hotel was located. The tiny narrow streets and alley ways are not large enough to accommodate a bus so our luggage was transported by car to our hotels. Even with a car there are very few streets within the old town that a car can get down.

Kent and Christine directed us to a local bar and restaurant where we ordered lunch and drinks of our choice. Mark had a pasta with a prosciutto and Kent had a Greek salad. After lunch we checked into our hotel rooms around the old town. Due to the small hotels within the old town, our group was scattered between three hotels and six different buildings; each hotel room within an historic old building and each room unique to the next. Our room was a third floor walk up a steep staircase to a very large room on the top floor of a small building. Our room was quite large with an antique bed with head and foot boards. A pair of antique night stands with marble tops, a small desk with a chair, a sofa and an armoire for hanging clothes. The floors were hardwood, the walls stenciled with light blue flowers on a peach background, and natural rustic beamed ceiling. A small bathroom with a small modern corner shower, sink and a toilet. Not fancy, but very manageable.

After lunch Kent and I explored a bit of town including the old church at the top of the hill. The narrow winding streets in the old town are paved in cobble stones that are well worn and many of the alley ways have many steps to climb the hill of the town. Charming art galleries, shops and restaurants line many of the streets and alleys along the way. The narrow streets and tall buildings create shade from the afternoon heat.

At 7:30 we met up with Kent and Christine and the rest of our group for a short orientation of the old town and drinks at a waterfront bar and restaurant. It was Salsa night at the waterfront so they had a DJ playing Salsa music and many of the locals and tourists were dancing the night away. The waterfront is lined with small gelato shops, restaurants and bars all filled to capacity with tourists. Ferry boats bring passengers to town from nearby cities, including Venice. They may come for a day, a week or a month but the streets are very busy.

After drinks we found a small pizza restaurant on a narrow alleyway where we had a mixed green salad and a pizza. The Kuna is the local currency and the current conversion rate is about 7 Kuna to one US Dollar. Our pizza, salad and soft drinks cost 115 Kuna.

Located on the Adriatic Sea and the Istrian peninsula, this Croatian city of about 15,000 is a popular tourist town. The town is officially bilingual with Italian and Croatian being equal.

Rovinj was once an island just off the coast called Mons Albanus, with the first archaeological traces of Rovinj dating back to the Bronze Age, while the old city started developing around the 3rd century. In the 18th century, the city began to expand towards the mainland and the channel between the island and the mainland was filled in creating a peninsula out of the island. The limited space caused the city to build narrow streets with narrow homes and small town squares.

Kent and I were here in 2008 and found it to be a charming town then and now.

June 25, 2017 Trieste, Italy

Trieste Harbor


Trieste Map of our walking tour

Trieste Museum

Trieste – Kent and Mark at the Castle

Trieste – James Joyce Statue

Trieste – Sunset

Trieste, with about 240,000 inhabitants, is located on the Adriatic Sea in the north-east portion of Italy, near the borders of Slovenia and Croatia. During the 19th century Trieste was the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after Vienna, Budapest and Prague. By the end of the 19th century it emerged as an important hub for literature and music. In the 1930’s Trieste underwent an economic revival and was an important spot in the struggle between the Eastern and Western blocs after the second world war. Today Trieste is one of the richest regions of Italy and is a center of shipping, ship building and financial services.

We had a leisurely morning after our long trip arriving yesterday. A wonderful breakfast was served at the hotel between 7:00 and 10:30am. The hotel dining room is an old world style room with large glass windows overlooking the main square of Trieste. They served fresh fruit, assorted pastries, cheeses, cold meats, eggs, bacon, coffee and juice.

At 11:00am we met up with Kent and Christine, along with the rest of our group, to get a brief update on the agenda for today and our trip to Rovinj, Croatia tomorrow. We were given audio devices for the day with a self guided walking tour map of Trieste. The tour took Mark and Kent all around the central part of Trieste with selected stops where we could listen to the audio device for the history of the stops. Along the way, we picked up another member of our group, Nancy, and stopped at a museum with many artifacts brought to Trieste from Egypt, including a variety of mummies in beautifully ornate sarcophagus. The three of us stopped at several churches and explored those along the way. There is a triangular shaped castle at the top of the hill where we got great views out over the city. The castle had an armory museum as well as a lapidary museum where we saw many artifacts from previous civilizations. There were many mosaics floor remnants, busts, statues, pillars, and carved remnants from local buildings. We visited the old Jewish quarter where some 6,000 lived in times gone by and now only 700 reside in this area of town. The Irish writer James Joyce once lived in Trieste and so there are many statues and references to places that he frequented around town. There are still remains from a Roman amphitheater that seated about 3,500 people. The night that Giuseppe Verdi died in 1901, the city counsel convened a meeting and re-named the local opera house in his name.

We stopped along the way to have a small bite to eat and drink before proceeding on our way around town. By late afternoon the sky had turned a dark gray and it began to rain. We returned to the hotel for a short nap as the rain and wind strengthened and an electrical storm passed overhead.

Kent and Christine had planned a roof top dinner for us this evening at a local restaurant on a pier not far from our hotel. After the rain and wind had stopped we were still able to enjoy a wonderful evening on the pier. With the warm weather things dried out quickly and all of the sidewalk cafes were busy serving dinner outside. There was a DJ playing music from the 60’s and 70’s and people were dancing.

For dinner they brought us pitchers of Mojito’s with potato chips followed by small squares of pizza as an appetizer. Then came a very large bowl of black and white rice mixed with carrots, peas and corn. Next they served an octopus ceviche with olives and small bits of potatoes. For the entrée they served bowls of lightly battered and deep fried squid and sardines. Not exactly our favorite but plenty of food for all.

The large town square was sealed off for the evening concert and people waited for hours in the pouring rain to get into the square for the free concert. Back at the hotel we enjoyed the remainder of the concert on the square from our hotel room just by opening the window.

June 23 – 24, 2017 Leave San Diego Bound for Trieste

Italian Aperol Spritz

It was a long travel day. We left home for the airport about 10:30am. Our first flight was from San Diego to Los Angeles where we caught a flight to Rome, Italy. The flight was about twelve hours and the Alitalia plane was not very comfortable. There were ten seats across the plane and there was little leg room. Mark was seated next to two large young men with broad shoulders and you couldn’t help but rub shoulders the entire time. Our last flight was from Rome to Trieste, Italy where we landed about 5:00pm and were picked up by Kent Zimmerman, one of our program mangers. The drive from the airport to our hotel was about 30 minutes.

Our hotel is the Grand Hotel Duchi D’Aosta which has 55 rooms and dates back to the year 1873. It is located just off the coast on a lovely town square of stunning majestic buildings of carved stone. Our room is very charming with high ceilings, faux finished walls, a gold ornate mirror, an antique desk and bedside tables, an easy chair and some old world style oil paintings. The colors are red carpets and light green walls and printed draperies. The good thing is that there are modern conveniences of a large flat screen TV, a modern bathroom and internet service included.

After checking in we had a nap for 90 minutes or so before heading out to find an ATM to get some local Euro currency and a gelato. At 7:30 we met up with the others in the group (28 in all) for a welcome drink on the square. Kent recognized several of the folks in our group from other trips that he has taken with our program managers Kent and Christine. The local popular drink is an orange colored spritzer called an Italian Aperol Spritz. Although it is a wine based drink, it is a very brightly colored orange and comes in a wine glass with ice and a slice of orange. They served olives, potato chips, Doritos, and small squares of pizza as snacks. By 10:00pm we were ready for bed.