Croatia has quite a few national parks that Mike and I are enjoying visiting. We have just spent five nights in the vicinity of Krka National Park. Again, there was lots and lots of water everywhere. In one area the water was cascading down multiple drops in the landscape for quite a distance. They called this “The Necklace”. Costs are much lower at this time of year for all sorts of things. We paid a $6 entrance fee at the park whereas in the summer the cost is between $20 and $26. This isn’t an exact comparison since in the summer a small boat ride is included which wasn’t open in March. We often get free parking in towns and in the park, it looks like they usually charge to use the washrooms in the summer, but not now. A few times recently Mike has been really pleased that we were here out of season. We have travelled on multiple one lane, two-way road/paths, which didn’t have hardly any pull over spots. This isn’t a big problem right now with no tourists and very little traffic. We would hate to try and travel on them in the middle of the summer.
I think I am becoming anti-social which isn’t a good thing. When you enter Krka National Park you initially take a bus four km into the park. There were probably 30 or 40 of us on the bus and we all got off the bus together. I really prefer wandering around almost on our own. Luckily after about 10 minutes everyone was pretty well separated.
The park contained the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre and military training grounds. They are rebuilding the amphitheatre based on the ruins that they have excavated. It is slightly elliptical in design. Mike and I where standing at the far end when four men came in directly across from us. It sounded like they were yelling at each other. We figured out that it was just the acoustics in the amphitheatre. If you were in the right position you could hear whispers from far away.
Another interesting building in the park was an old hydroelectric station with a plaque that intrigued Mike and me. It basically said that this station was opened within two days of the Niagara Falls station that Tesla had been involved with. Neither Mike nor I had any clue that Nikolai Tesla was involved in the initial Niagara Falls electric station. The only name that we knew was Sir Adam Beck which is what the station on the Canadian side of the border is called. We did a little research and thought that the results were quite interesting. Here is some of what we found out.
As we have mentioned in earlier articles, the inventor and brilliant electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla was born an ethnic Serb in Croatia which was then part of the Austrian Empire. There are various memorials and museums dedicated to Tesla throughout Croatia. One of Tesla’s greatest inventions was his system of alternating current (AC) which enabled power to be transmitted great distances. Prior to Tesla’s discovery, electricity was sent by direct current (DC) no more than 100 yards, yielding only enough power to light a bulb. His invention of AC power changed the way electricity was used throughout the world.
Tesla’s AC or alternating current system was competing with Thomas Edison’s DC or direct current system to be used in the new Niagara Falls hydroelectric station. The press dubbed this competition “the War of the Currents”. In 1895, Tesla’s design, with the backing of Westinghouse, was selected for the Niagara Falls hydroelectric station. At the same time, the AC system was also selected in Croatia, for its first ever electric station. Both hydroelectric stations opened within two days of each other. Niagara Falls had the honour of opening first but Croatia (Krka River) had the honour of being the first to actually distribute electricity to light up a town. Šibenik was the first town in the world to receive electrical lighting. Electric light bulbs on alternating current lit up the streets of Šibenik on 28 August 1895. It wasn’t until November 15,1896 that electric power was transmitted from Niagara Falls to Buffalo.
Mike and I enjoyed our only bike ride near Šibenik. We had hoped to do some bike riding in and around the national park itself but since we have no interest in mountain bike riding (or even hill biking) this didn’t happen. Our one ride was planned to be along the coast, through a park, and into the town of Šibenik. The first part was quite uncomfortable, riding on rocky paths and cobblestones through the park. I am getting spoilt and like biking on asphalt. In the park we ran into a Walt Disney looking mountain. It was quite unusual. I wish we had taken a picture. It was almost a triangle with a definite peak. All up the side of the hill was what looked like a well-maintained path consisting of nothing but S-bends all the way up. You were expected to push your bike up this path to the top. We did see one young woman doing this. Mike and I both looked at each other and said, “not a chance” and turned around. The problem is that there wasn’t any other path through the park. We had to return, on the bumpy paths, almost to the car before we could find a different route into the town of Šibenik. We never made it right into town. I was getting tired. We found a nice local restaurant for lunch on the outskirts of town and then rode back to the car. It was only our 2nd ride this year and 30 km, much of it uncomfortable, was enough for my legs and my tailbone even with our electric bikes. Still we did enjoy being out on the bikes and riding in the lovely weather.
The campground that Mike and I stayed in for 5 days was quite small. Each night there was one other camper in the campground, and they were always from Germany. We spent an interesting evening in our RV with Nico, Vanessa and their 8-month old son Yannick talking about the differences between Canadian and German social programs among other things. Our Canadian programs are similar to theirs with Germany being more liberal. Germany’s health insurance includes dental and optical, their maternity/paternity leave is somewhat more generous and flexible than Canada’s but still fairly similar. Of course, all Europeans have way more liberal vacation policies than US or Canadians have. Nico had just purchased a brand-new drone, a Mavic Air. We all tried to use it together. Mike and I have talked about buying a drone on and off for the last two years. Even enjoying ourselves with Nico, we really don’t think that a $1,000 – $2,000 drone is cost justified for the use we would get out of it. The next couple that visited with us were also from Germany but hadn’t lived there for many years. Peter was in the UN and he and Gabi had lived and worked in many countries around the world. Peter and Gabi are also supposed to be in our next campground near Split. They would have gotten to Split yesterday. So, we may get to say hi again tonight.
After a few days of warm and sunny weather we put away our warmer coats. The next morning Mike came into the bedroom and told me to put back on my long johns since the day had turned colder with the wind that was blowing. We also had to unpack the coats we had just packed away. This was our last day near the national park and we were going to visit the ruins of an ancient Roman and Medieval town that you can see at the top of this article. The ruins looked really interesting but there was a problem. The ruins were on the very top of a tall hill. What was cool and windy down below was extremely blustery and cold high up in the open. We were buffeted all around. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have done if the weather had been like the previous day when we were biking in short sleeved t-shirts to Šibenik. Mike and I would like to have had a chance to return and visit on a more “normal” day, but we were leaving the following day for Split.
Many of the smaller, old towns in Croatia are just a warren of narrow passageways. You never know if you are going to actually get somewhere or end up on someone’s front steps. It is fascinating to those of us used to North America to see the entrances to all these homes on these narrow paths with no access for cars at all. There is a lot less graffiti in Croatia than you would find in North America which is good. The towns and villages look nice and clean.
I mentioned earlier that many of the graves in the cemetaries had photographs on them. One cemetery that we were in recently had the pictures actually engraved on the headstones. Strangely enough, of the four people whose names and pictures are engraved on the headstone shown here, two appear to be still alive.
The area that we are now traveling in is often referred to as Dalmatia which is really a historical reference that is still used today. Within the Austria-Hungarian empire was the Kingdom of Dalmatia. It comprises of the counties around Zadar, Šibenik, Split, and Dubrovnik. Dalmatia includes the vast majority of islands along the Croatian coast and the southern half of the country. I mention this now in case you see me using the term Dalmatia or Dalmatian instead of Croatian in the future. I see that term a lot on the internet.
Here is some miscellaneous trivia that we have noticed on our travels in Croatia.
We find the use of the word “free” on English signs quite humorous. You will see “free apartments” “free parking” “free camping” advertised. We talked to one camper who was a little upset to realize, after he camped, that this had nothing to do with money but translated to “available” i.e. camping is available here (not sold out).
Mike just loves the clarity of the water in the Adriatic Sea. It is amazing how clear it is absolutely everywhere that we have been so far.
Croatia is full of cats. You do see dogs occasionally but nothing like the number of cats around. The cats do not look feral or wild. They appear well fed, they don’t come up to you looking for food and they won’t let you pet them.
Something else that we have run into this year for the first time is cigarette smoke. For the first two years in Europe we never thought about cigarette smoking. In Croatia it is often a problem in restaurants and cafés. Given how few restaurants there often are, it is difficult to leave and go elsewhere. There are no separate smoking areas. I actually gave up my cappuccino yesterday because the smoke was overpowering in the café.
I thought you might be interested is some of the pricing that is different from home. The beer here is the same price or cheaper than pop. We looked at the menu in one café. A draft beer was $1.60 and regular beer was $3.40. Coke Zero was $3.40 and soda pop ranged from $3.40 to $6.40. With these prices you got twice as much beer (16 oz.) as you did pop (8 oz.). My cappuccino was $2.20 just to put it in perspective.