Dubrovnik – The Pearl of the Adriatic!!

Dubrovnik – The Adriatic Pearl!

Lord Byron once called Dubrovnik, Croatia “the Pearl of the Adriatic.”  Once you

City View from the Gondola
City View from the Gondola

visit this historic sea coast town, you will surely agree.  Its history is colorful, tragic, and heroic!  My husband and I have visited the city several times and LOVE it.  It’s our favorite Dalmatian Coast city.

Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th Century. For 700 years it was an independent merchant city trading with countries as far away as India and areas of Africa.  For centuries Dubrovnik lived in harmony with other countries and merchant cities.  Despite all this, the city has been devastated three different times.

Walking around the historic walled city is easy and impossible to get lost.  There

City Walls of Dubrovnik
City Walls

is an open gate (with a drawbridge) at each end of the placa.  On the placa you walk from gate to gate in just a few minutes.  But take some time and wander around the narrow streets; enjoy the many shops; and visit a few of Dubrovnik’s 13 unique churches, each with her own set of bells!

Views from City Walls
Views from City Walls

If you have free time in Dubrovnik and want an adventure of a lifetime, “walk the wall!”  At either entry gate you can pay just a few Euros (less than 10) and literally walk completely around the small city.  On your walk you will enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Adriatic and excellent views of the city below.

And.. if you’re even more adventurous, exit the city by the Pile Gate and climb to the top of the adjacent ancient fort.  From the fort you will get even better view of the old City of Dubrovnik!  You can purchase a combined ticket, or buy tickets separately.  The cost of the fort ticket is 50 Kunas.  Note:  The ticket booth is half way up the climb, so buy your ticket BEFORE you begin.  That is a note from experience!

The Tragic Earthquake of 1667:

1667 Earthquake
1667 Earthquake -Artist’s rendering

Dubrovnik’s tranquility was shattered by a catastrophic Earthquake in 1667.  Over 5,000 citizens were killed and a large portion of its priceless Renaissance art and architecture were completely destroyed.   Only two buildings survived this catastrophe.   The city that we see today still reflects the reconstructed baroque style that occurred after the earthquake.

The Arrival of Napoleon in 1806: 

The glory days of the historic merchant city were already declining when Napoleon arrived in Dubrovnik in 1806.  When Napoleon’s generals reached the city after they conquest of Venice, the city officials capitulated and handed the the keys to the city.  By 1815, like most of the eastern Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik became part of the Hapsburg Empire, where it remained until 1918.

Yugoslavia and Croatia

Following World War II Dubrovnik became a part of the new country of Yugoslovia led by General Tito.   General Tito led Yugoslavia was from 1945 until his death in 1980.  Tito loved Dubrovnik and often visited his favorite villa their. His rule was a combination of absolute allegiance to Marxism combined with a rather independent and combative relationship with the Soviet Union.  Tito was the last of the World War II Communist leaders. He was responsible for amalgamating the six different areas of Yugoslavia into a country, but with his death the country began to fragment.

The Siege of Dubrovnik: 1991 – 1992

Following the death of Tito and his dictatorial leadership, Yugoslavia’s six distinctive areas each began to seek independence. Dubrovnik was the city in Croatia that experienced the most devastation and continual bombardment.  The Croatian forces gallantly defended their city against Yugoslav’s Peoples Army  for 238 consecutive days.  During these days 194 of the Croatian army were killed along with 88 civilians.

Replaced Tile Roofs
Replaced Tile Roofs

This bombardment provoked international condemnation of the Serbs.  It became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to diplomatic and economic isolation, for them both.  Croatia officially declared its independence on June 25, 1991.  During this 20th Century Siege of Dubrovnik, 11,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed; in fact, in present day Dubrovnik over 70% of the tile roofs are new!

Tourism is now the Number One industry in Dubrovnik, and visiting the city today you will see little evidence of a war that occurred less than 30 years ago.  Dubrovnik’s proud and tenacious citizens have nearly completely rebuilt their beautiful and historic city!  Split and Sibenik are also interesting Croatian Dalmatian Coast cities that are great to visit, but Dubrovnik remains my favorite. You will LOVE your visit here; I promise!!!

I experienced Dubrovnic, Montenegro, and the Yangtze River on Viking Cruises. I have traveled on over 175 cruises and absolutely LOVE Princess.  But, Viking stole my heart as well.  If you like to cruise, you might want to try Viking!

Thailand: The Land of Smiles!

Thailand: The Land of Smiles

Thailand: The Land of Smiles

Kathy with Ron McDonald
Kathy with Ron McDonald

Visiting Thailand I quickly understood why it is called “The Land of Smiles.”  One visit to any country never makes someone an expert, but our visit to Thailand began to open up the brand new world of the Far East!  Thailand is a gorgeous, tropical country, and its people are extremely friendly.  Thailand is indeed a “Land of Smiles.”  Thailand is a Southeast Asian kingdom that has survived for generations.  The lush jungle atmosphere provides a Thailand visitor with beautiful vistas beyond explanation.  Be ware, though, the humidity is staggering!  Staggering!!

Thailand:  A Land of Buddah

Budha Army
Buddha Army

Beyond the weather and Thailand’s lush tropical environment, the first thing that is noticeable is the omni-present Buddha.  Buddha is everywhere in the form of statues, icons, and monasteries.  It was our privilege to visit several Buddhist monasteries and even visit with several monks.  Possibly the most memorable of the Buddhists shines for us was the Brahman Shrine near Hat Yai.

Brahman Shrine
Brahman Shrine

The Brahman Shrine is dominated by a huge statue of a Three-headed Elephant.  During our entire visit, firecrackers were being fired.  (Apparently, they are fired all day long).  We were told that the belief is that the noise keeps evil spirits away.  Not only were people shooting firecrackers, but they were purchasing dozens

Sacrificial Elephants
Sacrificial Elephants at the Brahman Shrine

of marigold garlands to wrap around the neck of the shrine’s many elephants. (If you want to visit, there is a cable car to the shrine, or you can drive up the mountain and park;  the cost is around 200 Baht, or about $6.00

Pattaya & the Sanctuary of Truth

Gulf of Thailand on near Pattaya Thailand
Gulf of Thailand on near Pattaya Thailand
Public beaches of Pattaya
Public beaches of Pattaya

After a week in the south near Hat Yai with its abundance of rubber trees and villages, we flew north to Bangkok and then took public transportation to the City of Pattaya  on the Gulf of Thailand.  The beaches were beautiful to see, but we

Pattaya Taxi
Pattaya Taxi

didn’t find them particularly clean.  The humidity was even more intense here, but instead of the rural setting, we found ourselves in a major city by the sea.  We found our way around well on the local “taxi cabs”–converted pickup trucks.  Even though we enjoyed the change to the urban setting with its modern malls and busy streets, we really enjoyed the Sanctuary of Truth.

Pattaya’s “Sanctuary of Truth”

The Sanctuary of Truth
The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya
Elephant Ride in Pattaya
Elephant Ride in Pattaya

The “Sanctuary of Truth” is situated on the Gulf of Thailand in the city of Pattaya.  It is completely constructed of wood and all hand-carved.  The different sides represent both Buddhism and Hinduism from several different Southeast Asian countries.  The site offers several tourist options that ultimately fill an entire day.  Touring the sanctuary itself is most educational and really a must.  In addition, the Sanctuary grounds offers cultural dances (included in the video clip above), elephant rides, tours of the Sanctuary craftsmen, and boat rides on the Gulf of Thailand.  Please ignore the heat, and take in this most unusual site!

A Day Trip into History

The River Kwai
The River Kwai

Early one morning on our visit to Thailand, we boarded a small van and began one of the most interesting days of our Thai journey.  This day trip took us north to the historic World War II site of the building of the Bridge over the River Kwai.

What a solemn adventure to actually visit the site where so many Allied prisoners of war gave their lives to “help” the Japanese build a bridge from Burma to the sea.

Thai Floating Market
Thai Floating Market

On our way to the site of the bridge we had another “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity when we visited a real Thai floating market.  That, too, was amazing and I highly recommend this entire experience.  When you visit Thailand,  please do your best to visit and experience one of these traditional and fully functioning floating markets.

Visiting Thailand – The Land of Smiles

Obviously, a two week visit to any country is merely a cursory introduction, but our two weeks in this beautiful land was enough to encourage us to return one day, especially to visit the Northern are of Chang Mai.   We were captivated by the people, the lush countrysides, the food, and the hospitality.

Other posts from Kathy Slamp

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy Cruising the Yangtze River by Kathy Slamp.  I am an experienced Alaska naturalist, so you might enjoy my Alaska posts on this site as well as my specific Alaska website, Alaskathy.

Cruising China’s Yangtze River

Cruising the Yangtze River

Cruising the Yangtze River

Yangtze River Boat
Yangtze River Boat

Cruising the Yangtze River is quite an education.  China was always on our “bucket list,” so in summer 2015 we booked a tour with Viking Cruises.   (As an aside, I cannot share enough good comments about Viking Cruises.  We have cruised a LOT, but this was our first time on an “all inclusive” tour/cruise. We loved it and highly recommend Viking!) Our China tour was two weeks, and everyday opened another world window.

David & Kathy on the Yangtze
On the Yangtze

After two bleary days in Shanghai and attempts to overcome brutal jet lag, we flew from Shanghai to Wuhan to board the Viking boat for five days and six nights on the Yangtze.  Navigating several hundred miles through the heart of China was informative and enlightening; because of this, we felt it was well-worth the exhausting humidity and heat that we endured the instant we stepped outside.

Cruising down the River!

Yangtze River Vista
Yangtze River Vista.

We peacefully cruised past small villages and brand new high rise cities and gorgeous bridges.  Once we cruised into the heart of China, ironically, there were few vehicles of any kind on the bridges and highways  The water was always muddy and murky and the humidity was often over 100%.  The ship provided interesting side trips into villages, optional Chinese cuisine, and cultural lectures, dancers, and singers for our entertainment.  One of the biggest highlights was the Three Gorges Dam. Continue reading Cruising China’s Yangtze River

Zambian Roadtrip – the “Real” Africa

Zambian Roadtrip – Seeing the “Real” Africa

A Zambian roadtrip is like noneother, and we were privileged to take three lengthy Zambian roadtrips, each time going a different direction.  As we motored through these different areas of Zambia, we understood why they call their country, the “real” Africa.  Once you depart the capital of Lusaka, you will experience the typical thatched roof huts of Africa, be able to visit several different game parks, and experience the magnificent and world famous, Victoria Falls.

Zambian roadtrip - A typical Zambian village scene .
A typical Zambian village scene. Zambia is a landlocked African country:

Zambia is a Landlocked Country:

Continue reading Zambian Roadtrip – the “Real” Africa

Cruising in Alaska – A Contrast in Beauty

Cruising in Alaska

Cruising in Alaska is one of the most beautiful and exciting experiences you will ever have.  On many levels, its breathtaking beauty, lush flora and fauna, and its varied animals can be a spiritual experience.

Alaska steamship Baraof
Alaska steamship Baranof, circa 1950s.

My first cruise in Alaska coincided with my 9th birthday, and I fell in love with Alaskan waters at that time.  My 9th birthday was many years ago, so that cruise was on the old Alaska Steamship Lines, on the Baranof! Later we cruised Aaskan waters on a Canadian Steamship liner, the Princess Louise.  Neither of these lines has been in existence for over 50 years now.

The Princess Louise
The Princess Louise

Many years later I hired on as an Alaskan cruise naturalist, and really began Cruising in Alaska.  In this capacity have now cruised in Alaska nearly 200 times.  Regardless, of the number of cruise, Alaska NEVER bores me.  In fact, in liberates me in a way that nothing else can. Continue reading Cruising in Alaska – A Contrast in Beauty

Whale Watching

Whale Watching in Southeast Alaska

An Alaskan cruise is not complete without a whale watching adventure!  Working on the cruise ships in Alaska was one of the most rewarding times of my life, and that definitely included whale watching. Since I was privileged to narrate and speak for nearly 200 Alaskan cruises with Princess Cruise Lines, I was also able to experience at least 50 whale watching excursions.  In addition, I spotted hundreds more whales from the cruise ship bridge for enthusiastic cruise ship passengers.

Where is the best place for Whale watching?

If you are in SE Alaska, Juneau is the place.  Humpback whales come to Alaska to feed, and they feed in the icy waters of Stephens Passage 24 hours a day.  You can also do some amazing whale watching in the Kenai Peninsula in South Central Alaska or near Hubbard Glacier. In fact, though, you may see them randomly anywhere in Alaskan waters.

Why do whales come specifically to Stephens Passage?

Humpback whales feed on krill and herring.  These tiny fish migrate to narrow waters, consequently, they are in this passage in abundance!  Like humans, whales are intelligent so they go where the “getting is easiest.”  Why feed in open ocean when all the food you can eat is one relatively small area? Continue reading Whale Watching

College Fjord in Prince William Sound

College Fjord in Princess William Sound

 College Fjord in Prince William Sound is one of the most gorgeous settings on the planet.  Of all the glaciers and fjords in Alaska, College Fjord and Hubbard Glacier are hands down my favorites.  Truly, there are NO words for either region.  As an experienced Alaska naturalist, I urge you to move both of these sites to the Top Ten of your bucket list!

The Harriman Expedition catapulted College Fjord into the news:

Even though dozens of glaciers have been in Prince William Sound for centuries, it was the 1899 privately funded Harriman Expedition that put the region on the map.  (It is

College Fjord - Prince William Sound Map
College Fjord – Prince William Sound Map

significant to note that much later in 1964, Prince William Sound made news again when it was the epicenter of the major Alaska earthquake). But notably, the Harriman one year journey was monumental on many levels.  In fact, it was the expedition’s “discovery” of College Fjord that became the most outstanding geological contribution in the 20th Century. Continue reading College Fjord in Prince William Sound

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