A journey back to Middle Earth…

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Postcard from Zadar

Our 4 day stop in Zadar is represented by a myriad of experiences and images reflected in the photo collage in the link below. A time to reflect on our journey so far, consolidate and plan ahead, whilst also trying to imagine local life in a historic coastal town in Croatia: The history of the Old Town from its early prehistoric origins, the various attacks it has recovered from through the ages, its role as a key port for visitors and fishing hub, locals and tourists alike enjoying its cafe culture, its spectacular seaside scenery and modern architectural icons, and the local residents who must have experienced a significant sea of change in recent times. We have been lucky enough (despite the odd downpour) to enjoy the late summer(autumn) sun as we contemplate what lies ahead…



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The Sea Organ

The moon is shining on the blue sea,
While the boats hum on the rippling waves,
Crashing against the white stone steps,
Making the sound of sad whales trapped away.

The Red orange sets behind the twirling grey clouds,
Greeted by the the circle of lights coloured
People sitting on the piano keys listening
As the the organ endlessly plays its tune



This refers to the sea organ in Zadar Old Town under the steps into the sea where the moving waves create random harmonic sounds like an organ.
It was designed by the architect Nikola Bašić and opened to the public in 2005.

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Jezero Milanovac & the City of Waterfalls

After lounging around in the Funk Lounge Hostel, catching up on emails etc. , we left Zagreb heading for the Plitvička Jezera, a beautiful set of lakes connected by lots of waterfalls, varying in size. After about 3 hours of driving, we arrived at the site of the lakes and had lunch in Clifford. After some thought, we decided that we would come back the next day, greatly due to the fact that the weather wasn’t perfect, (it had drizzled while we were having lunch) and we wanted to get our money’s worth from the entry fees. We stayed the night in the nearby campsite where, as soon as we’d arrived, chosen a place in the campsite and set up, it started pouring down with rain. As soon as it opened, we went to the campsite cafe, primarily for some more space, but also to play some games, such as chess. Here, for the first time ever Nilay beat papa at chess meaning in the space of 2 days both of his children have beat him in chess!

The next day we tried to be as quick as possible packing up so we could have the most time possible at the lakes. After arrival at the lakes( at exactly 10:00) we decided to do walk C, the 4-6 hour walk which included a boat and bus trip. Straight away we got to see the biggest waterfall (78m) called the Veliki slap (slap means waterfall in Croatian). We walked past many other magnificent waterfalls and spectacular turquoise lakes. Just before our boat trip on the biggest lake, the Jezero Kozjak there was a lake and a waterfall named after me! The lake was called the Jezero Milanovac (we learned that Jezero means lake) and the waterfall was called Milanovači slap which linked the Jezero Kozjak and the Jezero Milanovac.


After our fantastic experience in this wonderful national park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, we headed down to Zadar where we are staying in a lovely apartment


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Yesterday was spent in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. After a hearty breakfast of eggs and omelette we set out to explore the city. Unfortunately it started to rain almost simultaneously and once we got out of the tram in the city centre, we had to run to shelter from the rain. As the weather was perfect for a museum visit, we made our way to the most curious of Zagreb’s museums: the Museum of Broken Relationships, which had been recommended to us ( and I had been intrigued by the idea that there was a museum with a focus on broken relationships, ever since I had read about Zagreb in the Lonely Planet travel guide. The exhibition was fascinating despite the stories that were sometimes quite sad. Later, we explored the centre of Zagreb by walking past many of the famous buildings, including St Mark’s Church with its colourful slate roof depicting the coats of arms of Zagreb and the triune kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia and through parks and the botanic gardens. We noted that many of the important buildings in Zagreb, such as museums and theatres, seem to be yellow. Back at our funky hostel, the evening was spent playing chess (and Milan beat J possibly the first time!), we cooked, and did some web-based research about Croatia and where to spend next week. Maria
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5,000 miles

It was great to see Michal again an old friend of ours whom we met in London over 20 years ago at Tent City. We loved the old farm house where he lives, and along with the visit to the caves, got to experience the local area with some walks amongst farmlands and rivers and of course some authentic local restaurant cuisine. A great opportunity to catch up & be in the Czech Republic again, however clearly not long enough as Maria & the boys were not a able to complete the 500 piece puzzle before we left and we only got to counting up to 6 in Czech!!
Yesterday was also a trip through a number of countries where en-route to Zagreb in Croatia, we would pass briefly through Austria and Slovenia. This is clearly evidenced by the motorway “vignettes” which are required for these countries which are now starting to cover the windscreen of the van! Somewhere near Vienna we also clocked 5,000 miles (8,000km), which I guess reflects a milestone of how far we’ve traveled, but probably more importantly, how well the van is holding out!!


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A Cave in the woods!

[9th Oct]
We are now in Czech Republic in Olomouc with Michal, a friend of Mama and Papas, and today he showed us a natural cave which you pay to go in and a guide takes you through. It had a path so you didn’t have to climb around. First we walked on the upper level and we could almost touch the stalactites on the ceiling. Then the guide, who spoke no English so wasn’t much use, showed us through onto the second floor down. On the second floor he showed us ‘the carrot’ a stalactite which was 2 metres tall and we learned that the stalagmites and stalactites, grow on average 1mm every 10 years! We walked on through the narrow passages and then we came to something that looked exactly the same as a curtain when it had a light behind it, but it was actually limestone shaped as a curtain. Then we kept walking through the passages and caves and then we walked out the exit into a forest and I found it interesting how such a big cave could be sitting in the woods. We took some great photos of the stalagmites and stalactites, here is an example…


PS: Stalagmites form upwards, stalactites form downward, and stalagnates form when stalagmites and stalactites connect together.


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Parking in Prague

On Tuesday we drove from Dresden 6 hours ( including stops) to Visky a village near Litovel which is a town near Olomouc in the Czech Republic. Part of the reason the trip was so long was our “dramatic” stop in Prague.
Before leaving Dresden, Dad had declared his “great” idea of stopping in Prague for Lunch (surprisingly as we seldom plan ahead!). After leaving the motorway and circling the city at least twice looking for a car park, we finally after about an hour found a park approx 20 minutes from Wenceslas square. Given we no longer had the the time for a “nice & relaxed lunch overlooking the square or the river”, we got some lunch in one of the food stalls in the Square. Nilay & I got a half sausage each and mama and papa got potato dumplings with sour cabbage and we had spiral donuts cooked over a BBQ for desert.
After we’d finished our food we headed back to the van in hope that we’d be back before one hour was up suspecting that we’d have to pay another whole hour worth of parking even if you were only a minute over time. Of course we ended up paying for the extra hour as we were about 8 minutes over time !!


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Transit in Dresden

We decided that Dresden would a good place for a “transit stop” for the ~600 mile journey between Hamburg and Olomouc in the Czech Republic. After a long day of driving delayed primarily by road works, we arrived at the campsite which will be remembered for blowing fuses and a wonky table tennis table.
Maria and I had last been in Dresden in 1999 which we had remembered as a picturesque city which was under significant reconstruction and restoration which we now saw had resulted in a dramatic transformation into a modern yet historically preserved city. Most notably is it’s most famous landmark the “Frauen Kirche” (Church of Our Lady) which was almost completely destroyed in WWII. Nilay & I decided that we would like to go the viewing platform on the tower above the dome (made from 12,300 tonnes of sandstone) where we had great views and a perspective of the whole city.


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In the footsteps of our ancestors

imageAs part of this trip we were thinking that it would be great if we could show the boys the places where their grandparents and great- grandparents had come from. One of those places is Husum in the north of Germany where my maternal grandparents lived and where my mother grew up.

I myself had not been to Husum for over 20 years and was curious to see this town by the North Sea where I had spent time during my childhood when visiting my grandparents.

So yesterday morning we set out early in the morning from Hamburg and drove for 2 hours through the landscape of Schleswig Holstein and North Friesland until we arrived in the street where my grandparents had lived. We spent some time looking at the house from the outside and taking some photographs. I also had a conversation with a very friendly employee of the next door petrol station who said that he had been working there for 20 years and remembered my grandfather well. (the owners of the petrol station now own my grandparents house and are renting it out).

We then walked past the Ostenfelder Bauernhaus, an old farmhouse museum, to the cemetery. After some searching we found my grandparents grave. Various other ancestors from the Schröder side of the family are also buried there. We decided that we would get some flowers and return later to put them on the grave.

After a little walk through the town and across a medieval themed market in the main square we arrived at the Nissenhaus Museum where my grandfather used to work. We spent some time looking at how the people in the coastal areas and on the small north sea islands called “Halligen” have been protecting their fields, houses and livestock against the sea with dykes, especially during storm tides, which have played a major part in Husum’s history. The museum also displayed very beautiful models of really large traditional North Frisian farm houses and windmills.

After returning to the market square we tried various delicacies for lunch, such as a “matjesbrötchen”, a bread roll with herring), “Wildbratwurst”, and cherry beer as well as very nice vanilla waffles.

Of course a visit to Husum would not be complete without a stroll down to the Harbour and the seaside. So after wondering around the Harbour area and looking at the souvenir shops and the fleamarket which took place there we returned to our van via the cemetery (where we planted pink and white heather). We then drove down to the seaside and wandered along the dyke before returning back to Hamburg where we stayed one last night with Gabi.