Alternating our Current Path*

*Note:  The title refers to Šibenik, Croatia, being the first city in the world illuminated exclusively by hydroelectric power.  Croatia’s most famous favorite son, Nikola Tesla, invented the alternating current generator now used in power generating plants throughout the world.

*Note: The title refers to Šibenik, Croatia, being the first city in the world illuminated exclusively by hydroelectric power. Croatia’s most famous favorite son, Nikola Tesla, invented the alternating current generator now used in power generating plants throughout the world. This statue of Tesla sitting outside his childhood home near Smiljan, Croatia, is nearly life-sized –  he was 6’4″ tall.

As we prepare to move to Šibenik (SHE beh neek), Croatia, several followers have commented things like, ‘You guys are The 6 Monthers.  Are you going to change your name to The 3 Monthers?’  No, we are not going to change our name.  Our plans have always been flexible and six months in a country is a guideline, not a rule. 

The Botanical Gardens in Glasgow, Scotland

The Botanical Gardens in Glasgow, Scotland

Coming to Europe our original destination was Ireland.  When the people we attempted to connect with for housing did not respond, we expanded our search to include Scotland.  The same thing occurred as we were leaving Panama last January.  Originally, we were going to move to Costa Rica.  No one responded to our inquiries about an apartment there, so we expanded our search to include Mexico.  Our decision to move there is one that we never regretted. 

 

Rosslyn Chapel, just south of Edinburgh, Scotland

Rosslyn Chapel, just south of Edinburgh, Scotland

Florence had visited Ireland on her first trip abroad thirty years ago.  Scotland represented an opportunity to explore someplace new for both of us.  We had an amazing summer in the land of bagpipes, Scotch whisky, kilts and castles.  We attended the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at the Edinburgh Festival.  Among the many churches we visited on the ABC Tour, we saw Rosslyn Chapel, the 500 year old church made famous in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code where some of the movie was filmed.

A glimpse of the Dalmatian Coast from the nearby hills

A glimpse of the Dalmatian Coast from the nearby hills

The offer to visit Croatia as journalists in September was an unexpected opportunity.   We knew almost nothing about Croatia except that they and Romania were the newest members of the European Union.  We discovered a country more beautiful than anything we could have imagined.  We met people with smiling faces and open hearts that welcomed us.  We made friends that could hardly wait to see us again. 

When we returned to Scotland at the end of September the rain was regular. The days were colder and the nights were longer.  Popular attractions were closing for the winter.  When the opportunity came to finish out our current six months back in Croatia, it was a no-brainer.  The days are 20° warmer than Scotland, and we will save nearly half on our monthly expenses compared to the cost of living in Scotland. 

 

We made new friends in Croatia.

We made new friends in Croatia.

We had a great time in Scotland, and someday we hope to return to see some of the attractions we missed.  This weekend we are headed back to lower latitudes on the lovely Dalmatian Coast.  We will visit more of Croatia’s incredible sights.   We will party with new friends.  Then it is on to Spain in January where The 6 Monthers return to our regularly scheduled program to live in a new country every six months.  At least that is the plan.

100 Stories and We Have Only Just Begun

Entering Plitvička Lakes National Park, Croatia

On our September, 2013 trip near the entrance to Plitvička Lakes National Park, Croatia

This is my 100th post in the year plus since I started this blog.  Out of curiosity I went back over all of my previous stories to see which were the most popular.  I discovered the top five most-viewed posts dealt with some aspect of how we travel, how we budget, how we decide where to live and how we adapt to our living arrangements. 

Touring the islands of Lake Nicaragua - Granada, Nicaragua

Touring the islands of Lake Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua

As much as I would love to think readers wish to see our pretty pictures and learn about different places in various countries, it turns out what is most popular is to learn about the process of traveling.  This realization made me think perhaps I should use fewer words discussing ‘what’ and dedicate more effort discussing ‘how.’  I will keep that in mind.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are thousands, if not millions, of travel blogs.  I am a relative newcomer to the world of travel and the blog scene.  While I would dearly love to do distinguish myself in that realm, I have barely scratched the surface.  I feel fortunate to have several things in my favor.

Altar of the feathered serpent Xochicalco, Mexico

Altar of the feathered serpent
Xochicalco, Mexico

First, The 6 Monthers concept is fairly unique.  There are other travelers who choose a variety of destinations and stay for extended lengths of time.  However, I have not discovered anyone else taking our six-months-at-a-time approach, which is why we purchased the web domain.  Our challenge now is to increase our visibility beyond the few thousand people that have heard of us. 

Mike: 'What's that sound?' Florence: 'My teeth chattering.' Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Mike: ‘What’s that sound?’
Florence: ‘My teeth chattering.’
Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Second, I retired a couple of years ago and I now have time to pursue with a passion both travel and writing.  With Florence’s social media and photography expertise, we leveraged our skills to earn an invitation to travel for three-and-a-half weeks in Croatia as the guests of Dhar Media and Touristar.tv to help promote tourism in their country.  That was cool!  Our ambition now is to carry our experience forward to other countries to help bolster their tourism industry while saving on expenses.  Sharing those kinds of experiences would dovetail nicely with writing more about the ‘How to’ of travel.

On the main island of Antigua - Leeward Islands, Caribbean Sea

On the main island of Antigua
Leeward Islands, Caribbean Sea

Finally, I want to someday point back to something meaningful to say, “I created that.”  Perhaps it will be a book.  We have published one children’s book, and we have a dozen more waiting in the wings.  We would love to score a publishing deal so we could get our books illustrated for young readers.  We would love to teach children about the people and animals and cultures from around the world.  And we would love to build our name, The 6 Monthers, which might one day be worthwhile to the next generation of travelers.

We have our work cut out for us.  Every great idea that amounted to something required perseverance, creativity, and passion, things we think we have.  We now look ahead as we pursue our journey and continue our travels down as yet unexplored roads.  As always, I hope you will accept my invitation to join us and share your thoughts along the way.

Croatia’s Enchanted Islands

The Romans may have had this view from the Island of Kornat.

The Romans may have had this view from the Island of Kornat.

To fully appreciate Croatia’s natural beauty, one needs to visit some of the 1,000+ islands that make up the Dalmatian Archipelago.  Seagoing vacationers have long enjoyed the quiet coves, sandy beaches, hiking and biking paths and boutique hotels tucked comfortably in their secluded venues.  However, a charter boat or water taxi can open this private world to any interested traveler.

Fortunately, Croatia has seen fit to preserve some of their island treasures as national parks.  I explored two of these island national parks, and each could not be more different from the other.

Rock cliffs tower over our boat like giant sea monsters.

Rock cliffs tower over our boat like giant sea monsters.

Kornati National Park

Kornati National Park is about 30 miles up the coast from Šibenik (SHE beh nik).  The park includes the island of Kornat, largest of the 89 islands in the park.  Our charter boat took us around several islets with high cliffs that plunge 200 feet vertically down into the depths of the clear, turquoise sea. 

Other than scattered shrubs and trees, the islands seem largely barren.  On the main island, Kornat, we climbed to a promontory ruin believed to have Roman origins.  It is hard to tell, as we were informed by our captain, Emil, that a film company had rebuilt some of the ruins for a film set some years ago.  Even so, it was not difficult to imagine that the Romans had used this site as a lookout vantage point.

Some ancient ruins were probably part of a movie set.

Some ancient ruins were probably part of a movie set.

The magic of Kornati National Park becomes apparent below the water’s surface where you will find a diver’s paradise.  These protected waters feature 352 confirmed species of algae, 22 corals, 177 mollusks, 160 fishes, 55 crab species, plus indigenous sea grasses and countless organisms that have yet to be identified.  In addition, large numbers of bottlenose dolphins and loggerhead turtles make this habitat their home.  If you are a diver or snorkeler, you must discover Kornati National Park for yourself.

The saltwater lakes are connected by manmade canals.

The saltwater lakes are connected by manmade canals.

Mljet National Park

The western part of Mljet (mul YET) Island was declared a national park in 1960.  In brilliant contrast to the stark islands of Kornati National Park, Mljet features inland lakes.  They are not really lakes, but rather natural depressions that were flooded by the rising sea after the last ice age.  These are actually saltwater lakes connected by a small channel to the sea.  Because they are shallow and landlocked, the lakes are several degrees warmer than the sea and make for excellent swimming for nine months out of the year.  Visitors often rent bicycles to casually peddle around the forested shores of these lakes in shaded comfort. 

The monastery is accessible only by boat.

The monastery is accessible only by boat.

If you get too warm, there are lakefront café bars called konobas where you can stop to refresh yourself.  If you are seeking refreshment, you should remember these two words – Ožujsko and Karlovačko, the Croatian equivalent of Budweiser and Miller.  Every konoba will have one or the other.  I occasionally enjoyed a variety called lemon Radler, made by both Ožujsko and Karlovačko, which is only 2% alcohol and tastes a lot like San Pellegrino limonata – very refreshing!  It is also sold in grapefruit and orange flavors at the supermarkets.  If you are stopping for lunch, let me caution you to allow at least 1½ hours for eating.  Dining in Croatia is not a hit-and-run activity. 

Ruins of St. Paul's Church built on Mljet Island in the 4th century.

Ruins of St. Paul’s Church built on Mljet Island in the 4th century. I think they had a very small congregation.

Mljet Island has something for everyone – sandy beaches, Roman ruins, a 4th century church and the Santa Maria Benedictine monastery that is being refurbished and is open for visitors.  Even the Greek poet, Homer, wrote about the island in The Odyssey.  Some believe this is the island upon which Odysseus was shipwrecked.  There is a sea cave that could match the description in Homer’s story.  Mljet is also a great island getaway with lovely resorts and hotels suitable for families or for a romantic holiday for couples.

One thing is certain.  If you are interested in a special vacation of a lifetime, then you owe it to yourself to consider the islands of Croatia.  Once you go, you will be like me – looking forward to the day when you can return. 

What I learned on my Croatian Vacation

Vineyards are found throughout Croatia.

Vineyards are found throughout Croatia.

People are friendly in Croatia. Did I mention wines?

People are friendly in Croatia. Did I mention wines?

My wife and I were invited to join an international journalist team sponsored by Dhar Media in Zagreb, Croatia.  Our assignment was to help publicize to the world what Croatia has to offer as part of Dhar Media’s Discover Croatia web production while their video crew filmed the entire twenty-four day tour.  Like most of the team members, Florence and I knew almost nothing about Croatia other than its location.  Tourism is Croatia’s leading industry, and they want the rest of the world to discover their country.  Thus, with open minds and cameras ready, we set off for the capital city of Zagreb.

We were often offered something to eat on our tour.  This was not lunch, just a snack.

We were often offered something to eat on our tour. This was not lunch, just a snack.

I posted dozens of Instagram photos on Facebook as we traveled.  I have written about some of the special people we met and of the immense pride the people have for their country.  I continue to write about the treasures of Croatia’s National Parks.  I now wish to share some of the insights I gained from this travel adventure. 

I learned that there are a lot more swear words in Croatian than there are in English.  There are what – twelve words in English that will get you in trouble with your mother?  My friend Hrvoye said, “You English-speakers are like priests compared to the way Croatians talk.”  Croatian is a hard language to learn.  You may not know when someone is swearing, and a lot is lost in translation.

A choice of alcoholic beverages is optional.

A choice of alcoholic beverages is optional.

Lots of Croatians speak English.  It is taught in their schools starting in the first grade.  Lots of older folks speak German.  When I asked one of our guides why English is now taught instead of German, the explanation was straightforward.  He said, “We realized after World War II that English was going to be more important.”  I never found a place where someone in a shop or restaurant did not speak English.

Meals are served with wine and/or rakija as an option.

Meals are served with wine and/or rakija as an option.

I learned that Croatians love food and drink.  Croatia has vineyards scattered across the country, and their long tradition of winemaking produces both red and white wines which are remarkably good.  They also make grappa, a strong brandy distilled from grapes.  Also worthy of note is rakija (ROCK ee yah), a type of brandy which can be made of plum, grapes, figs or a mix of fruits and herbs.  Grappa or rakija is typically offered in a small glass before a meal or as a gesture of friendship or greeting.  I learned to always robustly shout “Živjeli!” (ZHEEV ya lee), meaning “Cheers!” as we tilt our glasses up and drink.  The cheering becomes more robust with each round if you do not stop at one drink, which reminds me of something else I learned.  Do not ever think you can out drink a Croatian.  You have been warned.

The prosciutto, cheeses and meats are all local and fresh cut.

A typical first course, the prosciutto, cheeses and meats are all local and fresh cut.

Then there is the food.  Mealtime is more than satisfying your hunger in Croatia.  Mealtime, whether lunch or dinner, is a time of gathering.  Do not spoil your appetite before lunch or dinner in Croatia.  Three courses are typical and five courses are not uncommon.  That does not include the artisan bread with local olive oil that accompanies each meal.  And do not even think of leaving the table in less than 1 ½ – 2 hours or people will wonder what your hurry is. 

The main course often includes several options of meats and vegetables.

The main course often includes several options of meats and vegetables.

Our guide in Dubrovnik, Anita, talked about the importance of mealtime.  She said, “The dining table is where we get together to share about our lives.  We laugh together because what is joy if we do not share it?  We cry together because it is sadder to cry alone.  This is how we share our lives.  This is what eating means to us.”  When she shared these words with me, I realized how much of the essence of living we Americans have given up by not spending more time together around the dinner table.   

ŽIVJELI!!

ŽIVJELI!!

Mostly, I learned to love Croatia.  The people are open.  The land is diverse and beautiful.  And, at least for now, Croatia is largely undiscovered and uncrowded.  If you wish to see Croatia before the world realizes its captivating appeal, do not wait too long. 

In the meantime, let me share some smiles from our Discover Croatia team:     

Discovering Croatia’s Krka National Park

Looking down the Krka River valley

Looking down the Krka River valley

In 1985, 45 square miles of the Krka River basin was proclaimed Krka National Park.  Flowing only 45 miles from its spring-fed source to the Adriatic Sea, the Krka River offers stunning scenery.  Like most of the rivers in Croatia, the Krka is clean and pure enough to drink, which may be why the Romans saw fit to build structures in the area now included in the national park.  Several sites are undergoing archeological study and preservation.

Skradin welcomes luxury yachts to its quiet harbor

Skradin welcomes luxury yachts to its quiet harbor

The coastal entrance to Krka National Park is via Skradin, a picturesque town just upriver from the Dalmatian Coast city of Šibenik.  Skradin is accessible by yacht from the sea.  The locals are known for respecting the anonymity of the rich and famous people who visit their town.  They are proud to drop a few famous names of visitors like Prince Rainier, the Sultan of Brunei, Bill and Melinda Gates, and assorted movie and sports celebrities who come to Skradin to escape the paparazzi and autograph seekers.

The Krka tumbles 200 feet over 17 falls

The Krka tumbles 200 feet over 17 falls

Just upriver from Skradin is one of Croatia’s best known natural wonders, Skradinski Falls, a series of travertine falls formed by calcium deposits.  A series of bridges and footpaths allow for year-round viewing of the falls, the renovated water mills, and the site of one of the world’s first hydroelectric power plants.  Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the AC generator, grew up nearby, and the power plant that provided electricity to the coast cities of Šibenik and Split incorporated his design and began operation only two days after the world’s first hydroelectric plant opened at Niagara Falls in 1895.  A nearby plant still operates as part of Tesla’s legacy.

The Romans based a legion along the Krka R.

The Romans based a legion along the Krka R.

Due to the rising sea level over the past 10,000 years, the water at the base of the Skradinski Falls is a mixture of fresh water and the salt water estuary from the coast.  All the water flowing over the falls is pure and fresh.  This unique environment provides habitat for over 800 species of plants as well as a variety of amphibians, reptiles and fish.  The Krka basin is also important as one of Europe’s foremost spring and autumn bird migration areas.

Opposing fortresses face each other across the Krka River.

Opposing fortresses face each other across the Krka River.

The Krka basin is often referred to as the cradle of Croatian History.  The Krka River served as the dividing line between powerful ruling families in the region during the Middle Ages.  Each family built fortresses along the Krka River, basically to keep an eye on one another.  Wars only broke out when invaders from the Ottoman Empire or Eastern Europe encroached on the territory.  The strength of the ruling families along the Krka allowed for stability and trade in the region. Economic growth gave power and prestige to the ruling families whose descendents remained in power until the 16th century.

The last fortress along the Krka was abandoned 500 years ago.

The last fortress along the Krka was abandoned 500 years ago.

Today, visitors to Krka National Park are treated to the natural beauty of the upper Krka River, the historical treasures of earlier civilizations, and the modern comforts of some of Croatia’s most charming villages and towns along the Dalmatian Coast.  When the weather gets hot there is the inviting clear water of the Krka River and the beaches along the coast.  And when you get hungry you can sample the great food, the local wines and the hospitality that makes people who discover Croatia keep coming back.

Discovering Croatia’s National Parks

Mike's mile high view of the Makarska Riviera and  beyond

Mike’s mile high view of the Makarska Riviera and beyond

Note:  I have been touring Croatia as a guest of Dhar Media in the role of journalist/blogger for most of September.  Due to constraints on time and internet connectivity, my blog has suffered some neglect, although I managed to post a couple of stories in fulfillment of the expectations of our hosts.  We return to Scotland at the end of September when I will explore in detail more about our travels through Croatia.  For example, we visited seven of Croatia’s national parks and I have posted only one related story to-date, the story about Plitvička Lakes.  This series continues with the following story about two of Croatia’s beautiful parks.

One of the most impressive qualities about Croatia is their preservation of the most beautiful public spaces for posterity through their system of national parks and parks of nature.  The distinction between national parks and parks of nature is the legal limitations on land use.  A good analogy would be the difference between a national park and a national forest in the United States.

Paklenice National Park

The steep canyon walls of Paklenica National Park

The steep canyon walls of Paklenica National Park

Paklenice (pawk-leh-NEES-eh) National Park is above all a climbers’ paradise near the Dalmatian archipelago island of Pag.  Solid karst rock walls rise 1,000 feet and higher in some areas to form a narrow, deep canyon.  Most routes are numbered and protection anchors are drilled permanently into the rock for clipping in carabiners for climbing ropes.  Small plaques on each pitch label the difficulty rating with a numerical designation.  Some pitches are no more than ten feet away from the next adjacent pitch, and during the Spring and Fall, climbing ropes lay about like spaghetti as climbers take turns climbing various routes.  Colorful names for the routes are given to each pitch, an honor reserved for whoever was credited with the first ascent.

Climbing walls tower overhead

Climbing walls tower overhead

The national park covers 95 km² (23,000 acres) and the terrain which straddles the coastal mountain ridges is an ideal setting for backpackers.  A ranger informs me that camping is only allowed in designated sites where shelters have been built.  Their purpose is primarily to protect surrounding areas undisturbed in their natural state.

A backpacker could hike the high country from one end of the park to the other in a few days.  This would make for an invigorating and rewarding outing and instill the desire to return to one day further explore the park’s hidden treasures.

Biokovo Park of Nature

View of the Dalmatia Coasts and Adriatic Sea

View of the Dalmatia Coasts and Adriatic Sea

Biokovo Park is named after the peak that towers over the Riviera town of Makarska.  The road to the summit winds up and up, switchback after switchback for 23 kilometers (14 miles).  Our drive climbs 1,700 meters (over 5,500 feet elevation) from the sea to a viewpoint marked by a radio relay tower.  The temperature drops 6°C (11°F) from our seashore point of origin, and a brisk wind reminds me I should have brought a jacket.

We can see all the way to Bosnia from Biokovo Mountain's summit.

We can see all the way to Bosnia from Biokovo Mountain’s summit.

Although weather can change rapidly and extreme weather is possible any day of the year, we arrive at the summit on the perfect day.  Looking east I can see Bosnia.  To the west I am able to see over the Dalmatian archipelago to the Adriatic Sea and beyond to catch a glimpse of the coast of Italy.

I should warn any prospective visitors who aspire to reach the summit of Biokovo Mountain.  The road is adequately maintained.  However, it is single lane over much of the route, and you will encounter oncoming cars.  Be prepared to find the closest wide spot in which you are able to squeeze past one another.  It may seem challenging, but the view is worth it.  Many tourists rent scooters for the drive, and that is a great solution on a typically warm sunny day.

During our trip I visited seven national parks.  You may be surprised by the diversity of natural settings as I share with you more of the natural beauty of Croatia in my next story. 

Meet The Incredible Croatians

The wooden Santa Barbara Church is over 400 years old.

The wooden Santa Barbara Church is over 400 years old.

On our excursion to the Santa Barbara wooden church we were met by Father Anđelnko. He explained the significance of the beautiful chapel built of native oak over 400 years ago and the unique craftsmanship that made possible the building of such a solid structure without the use of nails.  The interlocking logs are shaped such that the only way the structure could be built was like a puzzle, laying one log atop another one at a time from the ground up, and the weight of the logs was enough to bond the structure together.

The wood panels show original artwork from the 17th Century.

After we learned of the original artwork on the interior wooden panels and we observed a prayer before the handcrafted altar, Father Anđelnko invited us to join him in the reception hall where we were given food and drink, of course, because this is Croatia.  I do not remember exactly how the subject came up, but the priest said to those of us close at hand that there were two people he would most love to meet.  Not surprisingly, Jesus Christ topped the list, because he is after all a priest.  And number two on his list he said was Eric Clapton.

Father Anđelnko offers us gifts during our visit.

Father Anđelnko not only loves the blues, he also owns a Fender Stratocaster on which he practices blue guitar whenever he gets the opportunity.  He also owns over 500 CD’s including every album on which Clapton ever played.  He even confided to us, “I sent Eric an invitation letter to come to Croatia for a visit as my guest.  Unfortunately, he never responded.”  I think Eric would come to Velika-Gorica, Croatia, if he knew how blessed and fortunate he would be with the hospitality of Father Anđelnko.

Our guide, Vlatka, introduces Sister Beliclava.

On our visit to Lužnica and the majestic estate converted to a nunnery, we were greeted by Sister Beliclava.  Her warmth and ready smile were surpassed only by her self-effacing humor.  The sister, a woman of large stature, was asked to join us for a group picture with the lake in the background.  She said, “Oh no, your lenses are not big enough to include me.”  We finally convinced her to stand with us, and then it was suggested we do the ‘Ashley Jump’, Ashley Colburn’s signature celebratory cheer. (Ashley is our TV producer.) Sister Beliclava said, “Oh, please do not ask me to jump.  Our site does not have earthquake insurance.”  Such a quick wit and such an enjoyable personality!

“En Garde,Sir Ivan!” (Fortunately, I wore a helmet during the sword fight.)

Our day reached a climactic end with a visit to a partially renovated medieval castle and the gathering of the Knights of Zelingrad.  We were greeted by a local group reliving the traditions of the Middle Ages in period costumes.  After a demonstration of sword play and launching a replica catapult, we took part in archery and sword fighting.  Then we were invited to join the group for food and drinks because after all, this is Croatia.

I spoke with Ivan, my sword fight rival, about the history of the Croatia.  He asked me what I knew about Croatia, and I said, “I am impressed with your young country.”  He responded with, “Croatia is not a young country.  Our history dates back to the 6th century.  It is only now that the world is getting to know us.”

I continue to be impressed with the immense pride the Croats have for their country and their heritage, as well they should.  It is one of the most appealing and welcoming countries I have ever visited.

Discovering Plitvička Lakes in Croatia

The lowest of the Plitvicka Lakes is seen first as you enter the national park’s east entrance.

The lowest of the Plitvicka Lakes is seen first as you enter the national park’s east entrance.

Telling about Plitvička (pleet-VEECH-ka) Lakes National Park in Croatia is sort of like telling of one’s experience visiting the Grand Canyon in the United States, a place well known for its unique geological formations and natural beauty.  And yet, why not share the story, because both locations are worthy of being talked about again and again given that there is no other place on earth quite like either one.

What constitutes a waterfall is a matter for speculation.

What constitutes a waterfall is a matter for speculation.

Although there are streams that empty into the Plitvička Lakes, their primary source of water is from underground springs.  The string of sixteen successive lakes is like a giant necklace of turquoise jewels strung together with a series of waterfalls.  Visitors often ask the obvious question, ‘How many waterfalls are there?’  The answer is, of course nobody knows, partly because the definition of how much water constitutes a waterfall is a matter of speculation.  Also, the water level changes with the seasons.  The underground aquifer feeding the lakes increases in volume with the spring thaw and seasonal rainfall.

Fish swim alongside our path.

Fish swim alongside our path.

Schools of trout follow along as we walk the pathways bordering the lakes.  I imagine that a number of tourists have fed bread crumbs to the fish over time so that they are now naturally attracted to the movement of people.  That may be the only thing added to the water which maintains an amazing purity that makes it possible to see to the bottom of the lakes.  The government of Croatia has recognized the importance of the natural beauty of the area and has protected it as a national park since 1949.

Calcium deposits perpetually change the shape of the lakes and falls.

Calcium deposits perpetually change the shape of the lakes and falls.

The springs feeding the lakes contain calcium carbonate.  The calcium solidifies over time to create the rock formations that have given the lakes their unique shapes.  While this calcification typically produces rock at the rate of a few millimeters per year at locations around the world, at Plitvicka the rate of rock formation is 30-50 times that rate.  Scientists have not been able to fully explain this rapid rock formation.  It is a phenomenon exclusive to this one place in Croatia, which contributed to Plitvicka Lakes being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site.

Other features of the park are worth noting.  The highest falls in Croatia can be viewed as one enters the east entrance to the park.  Veliki-Slap Falls are nearly 300 feet tall.  Visible from across the canyon from the falls is a wood cabin, the remnants of the last watermill in the area used by settlers to grind their wheat and corn.  There are also campgrounds, motels and a luxury hotel near the park to provide a vacation experience for any budget.  The entry fee to the park is 110 kuna, less than $20.00.

Seasonal changes provide tourists with ever-changing scenery.

Seasonal changes provide tourists with ever-changing scenery.

Given the amenities, the beauty and the affordability, a visit to Plitvicka Lakes is too good to pass up.  When you take into account the warmth of the people, the great food, the enjoyment of wine country in the north and the Dalmatian Coast to the west and you can see the country beckons with open arms for you discover Croatia for yourself.

Discovering Croatia’s Proud Heritage

Looking down on Zagreb from Mt. Medvednic (Bear Mountain)

Looking down on Zagreb from Mt. Medvednic (Bear Mountain)

If someone were to ask you, “What do you know about Croatia?” your answer would probably be a lot like mine – not much. Today, that perception is changing as we were shown around by professional guide, Hrvoye Kuček, or just ‘Harry’ to us Croatian-challenged types.

Entering Mirogoj Cemetery near central Zagreb

Entering Mirogoj Cemetery near central Zagreb

We first visited the 150 acre Mirogoj Cemetery. What sets this cemetery apart from amazing cemeteries like Recoleta in Buenas Aires, Argentina, is the greenery of gardens, trees and lawns that give the site a park-like setting with over 30,000 gravesites. Harry tells us families will come to Mirogoj Cemetery to walk stroll. November 1st, All Saints Day, is when everyone comes to place flowers or light candles at burial sites for loved ones and national heroes.

One of the most famous Croatian heroes is former NBA star Drazón Petrovic, who died in a tragic auto accident at the peak of his career. He is pictured at his burial site in the uniform of the Croatian National Basketball Team, which he captained.

In a newer section of the cemetery is The Wall of Pain on which are inscribed hundreds of the names of the 16,000 soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the War of Independence in 1991. Not all of the names are known to this day. This is one of the memorials with an eternal flame honoring those who fell.

St. Stephen's Cathedral is undergoing complete restoration.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is undergoing complete restoration.

We visited the main square of Zagreb with its shops and banks lining the perimeter. This is one of the few city squares in predominantly Roman Catholic countries that does not feature a cathedral. One block away is the Cathedral of St. Stephen which has undergone complete restoration. Also within easy walking distance is the open air market featuring a vast array for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fresh breads and pastries. One floor below the street surface are the refrigerated stalls for fresh meats, cheeses, fish, and everything you could want for your kitchen.

We took in two museum tours, the Natural History Museum which sits on one corner of the medieval city of Zagreb, and the Technology Museum featuring the inventions of Croatian inventor, Nikola Tesla, whose contributions include neon and fluorescent lights and the alternating current induction motor upon which all generators and alternators in use today are based.

A warm summer day in Zagreb is perfect for water sports at the Jarun rowing center alongside the Sava River.

A warm summer day in Zagreb is perfect for water sports at the Jarun rowing center alongside the Sava River.

We enjoyed a feast for lunch prepared by our hosts at the family-owned Hotel Puntijar, which we were informed was a typical sit down lunch in Croatia. For the non-vegetarians there was a cheese-based soup starter, grilled pork fillet with bacon, a grilled veal steak in an egg yolk and pine nut coating, and veal sautéed in lemon sauce. Dessert was traditional apple dumplings served with a plum sauce and ground cinnamon.

Our tour took us to the Jarun athletic park which includes a two kilometer long rowing lagoon. Several of us got into kayaks for an invigorating paddling experience and an informal race. I am pleased to say they did not throw the victor in the water to celebrate.

We are in love with the people and the sights of Croatia, and we are just beginning this amazing adventure. I am learning this country offers an amazing quality of life. We look forward to living here one day.

Dunfermline, Scotland – Birthplace of Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie statue in Pittencrieff Park Photo credit: wikicommons.org

Andrew Carnegie statue erected in 1914 in Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org

While visiting Dunfermline we discovered the Andrew Carnegie Museum which was built around the humble cottage where Carnegie was born. The story of his youth makes his rise to become the richest man in the world* all the more intriguing.

The Carnegie's occupied the top floor, left half of this cottage.

The Carnegie’s shared the top floor of this cottage with another family.

In addition to telling the life story of Andrew Carnegie, the museum preserved the humble one room loft apartment where he was born and where his family cooked, ate and slept. Another family occupied the room across the hall. The first floor space was taken up by hand looms. Andrew’s mother, Margaret Carnegie, worked to hand weave towels and linens. Once textile factories mechanized the weaving process, the Carnegies fell on hard times.

Andrew Carnegie was born in this room, beds on the right, dining table to the left.

Andrew Carnegie was born in this room, beds on the right, dining table to the left, no kitchen, no bathroom. Cooking was done at the fireplace.

Against the wishes of Andrew’s father, Margaret decided they should emigrate to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania where she had a sister. Andrew was 12 years old when they made the journey. Although education was not mandatory, Andrew had voluntarily attended school starting at the age of 8 and learned the basics. He put his sharp mind to use on his first job at age 15. He earned $1.20/week as a telegraph operator where he became invaluable by being able to translate Morse code messages by ear without having to write down the words.

Two of these hand looms occupied the cottage's first floor.

Two of these hand looms occupied the cottage’s first floor.

Carnegie was hired as a personal secretary at $4.00/week at the age of 18 by Thomas A. Scott, owner of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, one of the largest railroads in the country. Carnegie quickly rose to the role of superintendent of the Pittsburgh office. Carnegie’s relationship with Scott made possible an investment in Adams Express, which carried messages to corporate offices as they came in by telegraph. Margaret had to mortgage their house for $500 against its $700 value to make the payment. The investment paid off. Adams Express later grew to become American Express with Carnegie getting in on the ground floor.

The Carnegie steel mill at Homestead, PA, 1905 Photo credit: documentarist.com

The Carnegie steel mill at Homestead, PA, 1905
Photo credit: documentarist.com

The outbreak of the American Civil War called for rapid, large scale expansion of the railroads. Carnegie did not invest in railroads. He invested in the companies who supplied railcars, locomotives and parts to the railroads. Carnegie used money from his investments to open a steel plant using state-of-the-art technology to sell rails to the railroads. He also invested in iron mines, shipping and refineries. Eventually, Carnegie’s expanding steel empire threatened the future of other steel producers because he now owned the entire supply chain as well as the finished goods.

The library at Homestead, PA included a swimming pool, a 1,000 seat theater and a bowling alley as free facilities for employees.  Photo credit: Explorepahistory.com

The library at Homestead, PA includes a swimming pool, a 1,000 seat theater and a bowling alley free for employees.
Photo credit: Explorepahistory.com

In order to stop him from overtaking the industry, the steel producers needed an investor who had the funds to buy him out. John Pierpont Morgan envisioned an integrated steel industry with efficiencies based on consolidation and minimizing waste. In 1901, Carnegie was 66 years old and ready to retire, so he accepted the largest corporate buyout in history.  J.P. Morgan paid Carnegie $480 million ($13.2 billion today) and U. S. Steel was born. Carnegie spent the next twenty years of his life funding public works including the building of over 2,800 public libraries. He endowed the Universities of Scotland with $10 million including scholarships for boys who could otherwise not afford a university education. The Carnegie Trust continues to endow numerous universities.

The World Court at The Hague, The Netherlands Photo credit: muntr.org

The World Court at The Hague, The Netherlands
Photo credit: muntr.org

As a pacifist, Carnegie had the Peace Palace built at The Hague in The Netherlands, which today houses the International Court of Justice (The World Court), and is still managed by the Carnegie Trust. The Trust also supported the Children’s Television Workshop. The Carnegie Museum displays Bert and Ernie puppets to commemorate the Trust’s support for the production of Sesame Street, now in its 44th year and broadcast in 140 countries.

Growing up in Dunfermline, Carnegie was excluded from entering the nearby private Pittencrieff Estate. In 1902, Carnegie purchased the 76 acre estate and gifted it to the people of Dunfermline. Today, as we depart Dunfermline, we pass Pittencrieff Park where now stands a statue of Andrew Carnegie, a self-made business mogul and philanthropist, a famous American and a favorite son of Scotland.

*Note: Using CPI cost-of-living statistics, Carnegie’s net worth would have been $13 billion today. Using GDP figures to determine the costs of goods and services at the turn of the century, Carnegie’s purchasing power would be comparable to $165 billion today.

Expat Scotland

Flashback Friday – A Twice-told Tale

Now that I have over a year’s worth of writing this blog under my belt and close to 100 stories posted, I wish to pull out an occasional favorite from the archives to share with readers.  This updated selection has little to do with travel.  It is a personal story about my father and a little about me.  Although I typically focus on places, please permit this rare indulgence to share something more personal.

Dad, what are you doing?

A hiking trail in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, my father’s favorite playground

I never thought I was much like my father, but I will admit I see more and more of him in me as I get older.  I was the child who favored my mother’s side both in looks and temperament.  Over the years, however, I took on this look. It was not so much a scowl as it was a deadpan expression, neither approving nor disapproving.  That’s my dad. (My mother constantly scowled, so this is not about her.)

My father (his name was Clyde) had a sense of humor that was quite dry.  He and his clan used to sit and tell whoppers all day and never so much as smile.  I remember a family reunion when I was a young boy listening to my grandpa and his brothers tell whopper after whopper, and I was captivated.  After one particularly outrageous fish tale, I asked in all seriousness, “Really?”  That got a smile out of them, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I made their day.

My father was kind of a loner.  That is not to say he didn’t have a lot of friends.  It was more like he did not connect deeply with others. The one exception in his life was his mother.  My grandma was the most caring, nurturing woman I knew growing up, and my father was absolutely devoted to her until the day she died.  Other than that, he was typically kind of distant.  And more than anything, I wanted to impress him.  I think I did in some ways, but he never came out and said so.

I remember one time coming up to him in the basement workshop where he was running the table saw. I was in junior high school and I approached him with my report card, my first one with straight A’s, and I said “Hey dad, what are you doing?”
“I’m building some shelves. What’s up?”
“I got my report card. You want to see it?”
He took the envelope and pulled out the slip of paper with the column of A’s, read it over briefly, and gave it back to me. Then he said, “I’m glad you got all A’s.  I just wish it wasn’t so easy for you.”
When he saw the stunned look on my face, he said, “Mike, I would rather you had to work your butt off and got all C’s than to see you get all A’s without putting out much effort.”

To say my father was stoic would be a tragic understatement, although in fairness, he was a product of his upbringing.  He never got anything without effort, some might say superhuman effort. He was born in 1919 and grew up in Selah, a rural farming town in central Washington, now a bedroom community to Yakima. He graduated high school (barely, from what I’ve been told) in 1937. There was no work except picking fruit in the summer, which he did. Later, he took a job with the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the federal work programs during the Roosevelt years. Then, in 1939, he joined the Army to get out of the middle of nowhere.

My father was always well-read. He knew war was imminent.  I think he knew before anyone in the country was even speaking about it.  He landed a desk job as a clerk at the Presidio in San Francisco because he was the only one in his unit that could type.  He could have remained there and prospered in this role, but that was not my father.  He wanted to see the world.  He told his CO he had applied for a post in Manila, which he got. Anyone who knows a little history will know that was a bad decision.  It was just over a year later that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Japanese troops next invaded the Philippines, and my father was on the island of Corregidor when it fell.  Atrocities like the Bataan Death March followed, of which my father was a part.  He always told me, “The lucky ones died first.”  I did not understand that until years later when I read numerous accounts of the war.

My dad did not talk about the war until he was in his 70’s.  His whole life was about living and getting the most out of each day.  For him, every day not hiking and climbing in the mountain wilderness areas so near to our Seattle home was another day lost.  He signed up for swing shift or graveyard shift as much as he could during his thirty years at Boeing in order to get up and take a day hike before heading to his job.  Vacations were for weeklong mountain expeditions, and he retired at the age of 60 in order to spend all the days he could in his beloved mountains and traveling to far off lands.  As it turned out, he outlived most of the POW survivors from WWII.

He gave up skiing at age 82 when he learned he had Parkinson’s disease, which he determined was what caused him to keep falling down.  He still went for day hikes with his pet beagle for a few years until it became too risky to go alone.  Both he and his wife, my stepmother, began displaying signs of dementia, and my stepsister moved them back east somewhere when he was 85.  There was no love lost between me and my stepsister, so I lost track of him when he moved, and I have no idea when he passed or where his remains are.  It does not really matter because he would not have remembered me by that time.

I remember on a four day hike in the Cascade Mountains I found an unspent .45 caliber bullet, which I picked up.  That evening around the campfire, my dad said, “Let me see that bullet you picked up.”  I handed it to him.  He inspected it, and then tossed it into the campfire. “Dad, what are you doing?” I hollered.  We looked at each other wide-eyed for a moment.  Then we both jumped up and dove behind a log. About thirty seconds later, BOOM!  We looked up and the entire campfire was blown out.  We quickly ran to extinguish coals that were burning holes in our tent fly and the clothes we had laid out to dry.  He never offered an explanation, and I never bothered to ask.  It was the most spontaneous, goofy thing I ever experienced with my father.

To know my dad was to know and love the outdoors, which I did from a very young age, something I tried to pass on to my own children.  I was 15 years old when I completed the Mountaineers Basic Climbing Course with my father.  I climbed Mt. Rainier for the first time that summer of 1965, a milestone for any outdoorsman in the Pacific Northwest.  And that was the legacy my father passed on to me.

More than anything, he taught me to survive. Granted, on Maslov’s hierarchy, survival is pretty basic.  There is much more to life than surviving.  On a higher level I believe I acquired some of my father’s sense of humor.  And often to my surprise, I find myself quoting my father – some of his philosophy, as well as some of his brain farts. Here are a few that come to mind:
“Show me a man who plays good pool, and I’ll show you a man with a wasted youth.”
“Humility is something you have until you find out.”
“A good loser is someone who loses consistently.”
And whenever I asked where we were or where we were going, my dad always said, “We’re taking a shortcut.”

Looking back, I can recall sort of smiling when my daughters asked me, “Dad, what are you doing?”

Travel Blogs
Travel blogs

Stanley Mills – 200 Years of Textile Production

We entered the Stanley Mills site on the same path used by employees for two centuries.

We entered the Stanley Mills site on the same path used by employees for two centuries.

Just seven miles north of Perth is the village of Stanley, a town that was originally built to house mill workers in the late 1700’s. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, workers were drawn from farm labor to factory work. It was often the women and children who took the factory jobs at Stanley Mills to supplement their meager farm income, at least at first. Less than 400 workers were needed in the first years of flax weaving. However, over 2,000 workers were needed at the height of cotton weaving production.

Carding tons of cotton was a huge job requiring big machines.

Carding tons of cotton required big machines.

Some of the buildings had been vandalized and one building was lost to fire – perhaps arson. Historic Scotland took possession of the mills to preserve them for posterity. Interpretive displays and period carding and spinning machines are exhibited to help visitors picture what the textile workers’ daily lives were like. Much of the work was mind-numbingly tedious, like placing spools on spindles and threading looms. Factory noise must have been nerve wracking given the number of machines at work.

Giant troughs housed waterwheels large enough to power the factory.

Giant troughs housed waterwheels large enough to power the factory.

The mills increased production capabilities based on technological advances throughout the Industrial Revolution. At first, a giant water wheel turned belts connected to drive shafts on all four factory floors, each with its respective task. As cotton became the most profitable fabric, one floor was for carding the fibers, cleaning out impurities. Another floor began the spinning process to make threads of various thicknesses. The top floor was for weaving fabric on huge looms. The factory also produced continuous belts of various sized loops and thicknesses to ship to other factories for use as drive belts for their own machines. Cigarette factories were important customers for drive belts from Stanley Mills.

Stanley Mill condos now overlook the Tay River.

Stanley Mills condos now overlook the Tay River.

The water from the Tay River provided the mill with the energy required. Water tunnels were eventually built from upriver because the water level ebbed and flowed with the changing seasons. The water wheels were replaced with water powered turbines for a more efficient energy source, and in the 20th century the turbines drove generators that provided hydroelectric power.

The mills went through several cycles of expansion and shutdowns based on fluctuations in the economy. When India gained its independence, they began their own cotton production and imposed tariffs on British cotton that cost Stanley Mills a huge market for their goods.

Women wove belts on these machines. Skilled hands sewed the belts into continuous loops.

Women wove belts on these machines. Skilled hands sewed the belts into continuous loops.

Eventually, cotton was displaced by synthetic fibers as the favorite materials in the marketplace. Stanley Mills made the conversion to synthetic weaving to keep the factory operating. Cotton made a comeback as a desirable fabric in the 1980’s, but the mill could not afford the cost of retro-fitting and Stanley Mills ceased operations in 1989.

Country living at stylish Stanley Mills

Country living at stylish Stanley Mills

Today, some of the buildings have been refurbished to provide housing. The condominium units overlooking the river now sell for £125,000 GBP, about $193,000 USD, plus grounds maintenance fees. There are still units available for anyone who might like to live in this historic pastoral site overlooking the Tay River.

Picturesque Pitlochry, or How Scotch is Made

The castle-like house marks the entry to the 5 star Athol Palace Hotel.

This castle-like house marks the entry to the 5 star Atholl Palace Hotel.

An hour long bus ride from Perth took us through scenic farmland, villages and towns on the road to Pitlochry at the foot of the Northern Highlands. We were seeking out Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland. However, the two mile trek through fields and forests to get there convinced us to take the more accessible tour of Blair Atholl Distillery instead.

Courtyard entrance to the distillery - no cameras allowed inside.

Courtyard entrance to the distillery – no cameras allowed inside.

As we arrived we were quickly slipped ahead of a bus tour group into a private tour with an English couple as we began to learn how Scotch is made. So as not to bore you with a lot of details, here are a few high points:

  1. 1. A 69,000 liter vat of mountain spring water is mixed with over eight tons of malted barley and fermented to make a ‘barley beer’ with 9% alcohol. After siphoning off the beer the remaining mash is sold as feed to dairy farmers.
    2. The first distillation comes out of the condenser with a 25% alcohol level. The liquid is then diverted to a spirit still where it comes out as a clear liquid at or near 70% alcohol.
    3. The amber color of Scotch comes from aging barrels of American Oak previously used to age bourbon whiskey. After four years aging Scotch takes on a pale yellow hue. After eight years it is a darker yellow, and twelve years later Scotch attains its classic amber color.
    4. Scotch aged longer than twelve years is not necessarily a superior product. Evaporation takes place during aging which alters the composition and thus, the taste of the whisky.
    5. Most Scotches are blends of up to 35 varieties to achieve a smoother taste. Blair Atholl, a relatively small distillery, produces 3 million liters/year of single malt Scotch, about 1% of the world market.
Pitlochry is a popular vacation destination and tour stop.

Pitlochry is a popular vacation destination and tour stop.

We sampled a dram of twelve year old Scotch with instructions on how to maximize the experience. For example, a single malt Scotch should be stored at or below room temperature. Never chill good Scotch over ice, or you might as well get the cheap stuff and add soda pop. You can enjoy a milder taste by adding a little cold water of the purest quality available. Warm a small serving of whisky by cradling the glass in your hands. Breathe the vapors as you would a fine wine. Then sip and let the liquid move slowly over your palate before swallowing. We enjoyed the experience. However, the flavor of Scotch is still not one of my favorites, and I certainly would not pay over $50 for a bottle of single malt.

The countryside outside of Pitlochry is lush and scenic.

The countryside outside of Pitlochry is lush and scenic.

After the tour we walked up the road into the town of Pitlochry and found out it is a major stopping point for tours. We saw busloads of Russians, Germans and Swedes during our walk through town. A drive through the outskirts showed that B&B’s, hotels and guest houses were numerous.

The town is bordered on the north by a huge national park, so the surrounding scenery is captivating. It is not difficult to see why it is so popular a destination. If we were to continue north from Pitlochry, the road would take us past Loch Ness to the northern city of Inverness, but that is a story for another day.

The Most Influential Blogger Award

Who won an award? Seriously?

You won an award?  Well, congratulations.  No, seriously.
Photo credit: Matt Pereira

My first blog award was such an important affirmation that somebody was actually reading something I posted. Within a few months, I began to feel like I was part of a community – the blogosphere. Another award or two came in and I soon found myself preoccupied with acknowledgements and questionnaires.

I stopped posting stories like ‘Look, I got an award!’ I am not one to hang certificates or wear lapel pins that announce accomplishments, although I posted the awards on my About page. I also did not know enough bloggers to pass the award forward to ten or fifteen people according to the rules of the awards. It began to feel like I was posting an electronic chain letter. Remember those? Now Facebook does stuff like ‘share this if you love your mother.’  So what, people do not love their mothers if they do not share a link?

most-influential-bloggerNevertheless, I like this award. I like the questions in the ‘Tell us something about yourself’ portion. I like Robin and her blog Witless Dating After Fifty who sent me this award. And I like some deserving writers out there, especially the newbies that are worthy of recognition. If you do not see your name on the list below it may be because I recognized you recently. Or if you just want another cool award, email me and I will add you along with some nice words. You know who you are.

Here is the questionnaire:

If you could create your own planet what would it look like?
I am quite fond of the planet we are on, although I would add more trees and fresh water, and perhaps a few more glaciated peaks with lots of waterfalls – big waterfalls!

If you could visit one nation you have never visited before, what nation would that be?
This is funny since I am embarking on a mission to accomplish exactly this – to visit lots of nations I have never visited. Instead, I will say my favorite nation so far is Chile because right now, if I were asked to choose one place to live it would be Chile. Or maybe Canada. Or Germany. Or Italy? Or…

Have you ever taken a long distance train trip?
Yes – in 1973 my fiancé and I reserved a Pullman sleeper compartment for a 48 hour trip from Chicago to Seattle.

What is something you would collectively change about humanity?
I would make bartering the only standard payment so that people would be rewarded for how hard they work at whatever skill they chose. I think I would also require term limits for every politician and appointee.

Huey LewisWhat is your favorite song?
I occasionally change my favorite song. After my divorce it was The Eagles’ Already Gone. I am in a wonderful relationship now, so my favorite song is Some Kind of Wonderful co-written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and first released in 1961 by The Drifters. I prefer the versions by Huey Lewis and the News and Grand Funk Railroad, which are quite similar. And I love anything a cappella.

Chris Berman, ESPN Commentator Extraordinaire

Chris Berman, ESPN Commentator Extraordinaire

If you could meet one person who is still alive who would you choose to meet?
I would pick someone with whom I could talk sports for hours. That would have to be Chris Berman, one of ESPN’s original announcers. He still does “The Fastest Two Minutes in Football” during the Monday Night Football halftime show, with his iconic saying, ‘He – could – go – all – the – way!’

otterIf you could choose one symbol to represent you, what would that symbol be and why?
I would be represented by an animal – the river otter. They are adorable creatures who know how to play and have fun, have beautiful fur coats, and they are incredible swimmers. Throw in some fresh fish and life is good!

Blogs I wish to acknowledge in alphabetical order:

Aja’s Northwest Life  – Aja’s stories and photos make me to think about my home.

A Lifetime’s Exploration – Sarah Ryan makes me appreciate how much she has traveled at such a young age.

Cô Kerri – Kerri makes me think about her profession as a teacher who chose to teach English in Viet Nam. My mother was a teacher. Enough said.

I’ve Got Some ‘Spaining To Do – Nancy makes me to think about living in different cultural settings.

Gallivance – James and Terri have already won every conceivable award and I hope my blog will one day be as successful. I also mention them because they have been many places I hope to go, and they are damn good writers.

Honk If You’re Vegan – Celeste is a friend and she has influenced how I eat. I cannot imagine a greater influence in one’s life.

Tales From The Motherland – My list of influential bloggers would be incomplete without my friend, Dawn, who reminds me about parenting, the Pacific Northwest and lots of other stuff.

Planning Ahead for Our Next Move

The Costa Blanca is known for its scenery and beaches.

The Costa Blanca is known for its scenery and beaches.
Photo credit: encyclopediatraveler.blogspot.com

As The Six Monthers, planning ahead is critical to adhering to our plan to live in a new country every six months. Our list of countries where we most wish to call home for one of these semi-annual stays is a list we put together a year ago as we daydreamed and brainstormed about where we most wanted to live.

map

Image credit: infocostablanca.com

As you might imagine with our Croatia trip coming up, their country has been on our minds a lot. Croatia was already on our list for 2015. However, we may want to make our home there even sooner.  We had anticipated would happen. We expected to update and revise our list as unforeseen factors arise and we would need to prioritize accordingly.

The Costa Blanca is rugged and beautiful.  Photo credit: wikicommons.org

The Costa Blanca is rugged and beautiful.
Photo credit: wikicommons.org

That having been said, Spain is still our next destination country. Many have asked us where in Spain we would like to settle. We met backpackers in Glasgow who were visiting from Madrid, and they were eager to sell the virtues of their home city. Barcelona has been well-represented among Spanish cities that people speak highly about. There are so many great cities in Spain that merit our attention, including Seville, Granada, Málaga, and Valencia, the only Spanish city I have visited. All of these celebrated spots add to the irresistible appeal of Spain, and we need to plan where to live in order to budget for our transportation, housing and living expenses.

Torrevieja beach Photo credit:  villarenters.com

Torrevieja beach
Photo credit: villarenters.com

So we decided our next home will be in Torrevieja. This young city on the Costa Brava lies in the southernmost part of the province of Alicante. A small town for many years Torrevieja, or Old Tower, has doubled in size from 50,000 to over 100,000 people since 2007 including a strong contingent of British, Germans and Scandinavians, many of whom live there all the year round. This rapid growth in popularity has made tourism the leading industry in the area. The Alicante Airport is now the sixth busiest airport in Spain behind Madrid, Barcelona, Mallorca, Canary Islands, and Ibiza. Less than half the population is Spanish, although so many Spaniards from Madrid have built second homes in Torrevieja that the city has earned the nickname La Playa de Madrid, or Madrid Beach.

I look forward to sharing much more about Spain in the months ahead as we weather the second half of winter along the Mediterranean shore. Average temperatures in January and February are typically near 15°C (60°F). I think if I am going to go skiing this year, it better be while I am here in Scotland.