Croatia and Albania Vacation

I have been lucky to do lots of traveling over the past eight months, but decided it was time for a beach vacation. Michael agreed that a beach vacation was a good idea so we decided on Croatia. However, the lesson I learned on this trip is that we are not good at beach vacations. We had activities and excursions every day and the latest we slept in was 9:00 am, one day. I did make up for it my first day back in Moscow when I didn’t get out of bed until 11:00 am.

We started our vacation in Dubrovnik, the center of which is an old, walled city on the Adriatic. The city is so pretty and the apartment we rented had gorgeous views over the Sea and on to the Old City. From there we took an island cruise to the Elaphiti Islands. To get to the best beaches on the island, we did lots of hiking. For lunch on the boat we were served a whole, fried fish with a side of cabbage; it reminded me of the meal I was served twice a day in the Khabarovsk Hillel basement. At least this time, the scenery was breathtaking.

One of the highlights was our road trip to Albania. Albania was one of the most repressive Communist regimes. To get there we drove through Montenegro and made a few stops along the way. One of the more interesting things we saw on in Albania was lots of bunkers. Their leader was paranoid and built 700,000 bunkers for a country that had only 3,000,000 people. They have begun to disassemble many of them, but driving through the country, it was possible to see bunkers in front of homes. We stopped to take a picture in front of one. During Communism, there were only 600 cars in the whole country, reserved for local party leaders. Today, there are many cars, but you can also see the poverty, witnessed by a man using a donkey for transportation. Despite the poverty, there were some surprisingly beautiful sites including the Rozafa Castle, which is built on a mountain above two intersecting rivers. Our tour guide said that Albania will be the next hot spot tourist destination in ten years. It has a long way to go. We had two hours in the middle of Shkodër, one of the larger cities, and there was very little to do. We walked around the main street and saw two churches and a mosque, but there were very few shops open.

We spent three days in the town of Korcula, which is in some ways a smaller version of Dubrovnik. It is on a pretty island, also called Korcula, about a 3 hour ferry from Dubrovnik.

There are many wineries on Korcula, almost all are used just for families to make their own wine or for local restaurants. Rarely is any sold to distributors. We went on a tour of the island and stopped at a winery where we were given a tasting by a young man who recently won a trophy for being the Best Young Croatian Winemaker. Croatians love grappa and his family produces elderberry flavored. It was better than most since I didn’t cringe that much after sipping it.

In Korcula, we saw a Moreska performance, which is the traditional sword dance. It was a very intense dance with swords that people hit against each other, and the force was so hard there were sparks flying everywhere. It was set to the music of a live brass band. The costumes were incredible, and it is a family tradition passed down from father to son.

In addition to the usual souvenirs of a mug and magnet, we came home with two boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. A rare treat since it is not sold in Russia.

You can see some highlights in the pictures below.

From Russia with Love,

Heather

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