Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dalmatian - Dog, Coast, or Island?

We did actually see a few Dalmatian dogs while traveling along the Dalmatian coast and on a Dalmatian island, but not a lot.

In Split, we continued our hiking theme by taking a walk on the Marjan peninsula. Which direction do you think we went? Up, of course.

A different red, white, and blue

Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in the 4th century and is an incredibly interesting area to explore. Shops, cafes, restaurants, and apartments are located in this historical area of old buildings and mostly narrow streets. Here's a view of the central square.

Surprisingly, we were able to meet up with a friend in Split. We've known Jonathan almost since he was born. He's a young man who moved from England to Wisconsin with his parents when he was very young. In May, he finished his fourth year of studies at St Andrews in Scotland and was about to head back home to Michigan but had planned a week-long respite (maybe party?) with 16 of his friends at a villa outside of Split. We found out about his trip just before we left on ours and made plans to meet, if possible. We connected in Split and enjoyed lunch together before meeting some of his friends and letting him go on his merry way.

From Split, we took a catamaran ferry to the island of Korčula where we would have spent two nights, but in May the ferry only runs four times a week, so we arrived on a Monday and had to leave on a Tuesday. If not Tuesday, we would have been there until Friday and we needed to save time for Dubrovnik. We stayed in the town of Korčula, just outside of the steeply stepped Old Town. Of course, we had our own steps that led to our little apartment in a 400-year-old stone building with very friendly hosts - daughter handled the booking, son met us upon arrival, mom was busy cleaning, and dad, who had lived in the US and Australia earlier in life, chatted with us later.

I had booked a table for dinner at Aterina Konoba and most of their tables are outdoors which would have been great if the winds weren't blowing at almost gale force. The restaurant was just getting an indoor seating area ready for the season but it wasn't quite ready for prime time. The extension cords and contractor's lighting just added to the ambiance and we had a lovely dinner in the mostly inside/not quite outside new dining room area.

The cutest Tourist Info Center - I love this former loggia that was built in 1548 and now functions as Korčula's TI.

Another ferry ride on Tuesday and we arrived in Dubrovnik for a three night stay. Of course, we spent one day walking the City Walls.

Dubrovnik's Old Town has steep "streets" and many restaurants with outdoor seating.

Apparently that wasn't enough steps, so we spent an afternoon hiking on the Lapad Peninsula while a storm brewed. Another day we took a bus to Cavtat for something to do on our one day of rain and we still ended up having a lovely walk around a small peninsula and then found shelter in an awning-covered outdoor restaurant where we ate lunch and watched the rain dripping off the roof.

Lapad Peninsula - Dubrovnik

We especially enjoyed the view of Dubrovnik's Old Town and its walls from our apartment. And yes, the apartment was up a few steps, but everything is UP in Croatia.

Our room with a view

"And miles to go before (we) sleep . . ." - Hiking in Croatia's National Parks

". . . and miles to go before I sleep" - Robert Frost

Our trip to Croatia had one must-see destination - Plitvice National Park. But as I researched our trip, I added Paklenica National Park and Krka National Park. All three parks were well worth the miles we drove to fit them in.

We stayed near Plitvice for two nights so that we had a full day to hike, view, and enjoy the park. We lucked into some great weather and spent 7 hours on the trails. The trails are on boardwalks across the water and near waterfalls or on paths along the edges of lakes with views of waterfalls everywhere. According to my phone's Health app, we walked over 10 miles in Plitvice.

We drove from Plitvice to Zadar but stopped en route at Paklenica, a park with mountains and canyons. We hiked a popular trail from the Starigrad entrance up the larger canyon (Velika Paklenica) to the Mountain Hut (#10 on the park map).

Along the way, we had a view of Anića Luka, the really large rock face (400 meter high face) that provides a surface for many adventurous rock climbers.

It turned out to be a scary day as we managed to lose each other on a hike above the Mountain Hut. You wouldn't think that could happen when just two people are hiking together. But, when one person says "let's go just a little further, up, up, up" and the other person has "had it up to here," it can happen. Neither of us had a cell phone signal and that made for an anxious hour or two while we each traveled up and down various paths trying to find each other. Next time, we need to have a contingency plan in place in case we get separated. Not surprisingly, we had our longest hiking day that day - over 14 miles on mostly mountainous terrain. We were glad that we took hiking poles along on the trip; they were helpful in all of the parks, but especially in Paklenica.

If hiking the park wasn't enough for the day, that evening we still managed to walk from our Zadar apartment to the Old Town, have dinner, and sight-see the historic buildings at night.

We also made a point to view a music and light show provided by two public art installations on the waterfront. The Sea Organ is an architectural object and experimental musical instrument whose sounds come from sea waves that meet with tubes located under steps on the Adriatic (Sea Organ YouTube video here) and the Sun Salutation or Greeting to the Sun is a plaza with multi-layered glass plates and photo-voltage solar modules which produce a light show (Sun Salutation YouTube video here). Both art installations were created by architect Nikola Bašić and many people gathered in the evening to enjoy them.

The next day, as we drove from Zadar to Split, we visited Krka National Park, another park (like Plitvice) of stunning waterfalls and convenient boardwalks. Swimming is allowed in areas of this park, but the day was a bit cool and overcast and we only saw a few swimmers, or more accurately waders, in the water. We began our hike of the Skrudinski Buk area of the park from the Lozovac entrance where we found some nearby free parking. Skrudinski Buk is a particular waterfall but there are many waterfalls that can be viewed from a circular one-way path with a connecting series of boardwalks. The walk takes 1-2 hours but we took our time stopping for many photos, a picnic lunch, and a museum area with a weavers' studio.

Traditional woven rugs, table mats, bags,
and one lonely knitted mitten on display

Having made good use of our little car to visit the out-of-the-way Istrian Peninsula and the national parks, we ditched the car in Split and used public transportation for the rest of the trip.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Croatia - A Lot Like Croissant, Nothing Like Donut, Definitely Like Burek

As we were leaving to fly home from the Zagreb airport, I saw a Croatian design shop and a very cute and clever tote bag with the slogan "Similar to Croissant, Different From Donut - Croatia." I should have grabbed that bag, but I had just spent all my kuna. An internet search when I got home shows that the Croatian Design Superstore website is currently under reconstruction.

I traveled with my husband around the croissant-shaped country for two weeks in the second half of May. How did I convince him to go? Just search on the internet for images of Plitvice National Park and you'll see the visual argument that sold him on the idea. Croatia is a beautiful country!

For me, dreaming about and planning a trip is almost as good as traveling. I spent a lot of pleasant time reading books and blogs, talking to friends, and thinking about what route would make the best two-week itinerary for us. If knitting isn't the main focus of my travels, then hiking oftentimes is. Here's the itinerary we chose:

Rovinj and the Istrian Peninsula
Plitvice National Park
Paklenica National Park
Krka National Park

We began with a short overnight stop in Zagreb, the capital, which gave us our very first Airbnb experience. Friends who had traveled in Croatia last year highly recommended Airbnb. Rather than booking a room, we chose to book a little apartment for ourselves in each town that we stayed. We knew that breakfast is not usually included with Croatian accommodations so having a kitchenette for breakfast in our room and a living room for lounging in the evening after hours on our feet worked out perfectly. We had a lot of great experiences with apartments and our hosts! In Zagreb, Zvonimir, our host from Olive Tree City Corner, provided transportation from the bus station, welcomed us to our temporary home with a homemade walnut liqueur aperitif and delicious dried fruits, and then offered to drive us to a special FloraArt exhibit at Bundek Park - it was the final day for the exhibit.

After FloraArt, we still had time for a walking tour and dinner before returning to our quiet and private one-bedroom apartment. After a good night's sleep and a very quick time zone adjustment, we were ready to pick up our rental car and make our way from Zagreb to Rovinj. We had the rental car for one week to make it easier for us to access the three national parks that we planned to visit. The second week we traveled via public transportation - ferries, buses, and a short flight that took us back to Zagreb from Dubrovnik at the end.

We broke up our drive to Rovinj by stopping in Pazin and locating a "chasm" hike that I'd read about. We found the start of the hike right near the platform for zip lining across the chasm. We chose the hike instead.

Rovinj is a charming little coastal town on the Istrian Peninsula. Istria is located very close to Italy and was under Italian rule on-and-off over the years. There is a strong Italian influence here and you'll find delicious pasta, pizza, and gelato. Our favorite gelato place of the entire trip was Gelateria Italia. We also had some wonderful pasta and seafood at Aqua 2, a restaurant right on the water with a beautiful view of the Old Town. Rovinj's picturesque and steep Old Town is located on a small peninsula, formerly an island.

Just like parts of Italy, there are hill towns in Istria. We spent a day driving to Motovun and a few other hill towns in the area. My husband will tell you, if there's a hill, it must be climbed!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Erna Jansons' Books on Latvian Mitten Designs and Latvian Textiles

Ordering information for Erna Jansons' books Latvian Mitten Designs and Latvian Style Wall Hangings and Pillow Designs can be found below.

Erna is a 96-year-old Latvian woman with a lot to share. I wrote about her in a prior blog post here.

Her first book, Latvian Mitten Designs (Latviešu cimdu raksti), was published when Erna was 85 years old. 100 original hand-painted mitten designs are featured along with some Latvian history and instructions on how to properly size a Latvian mitten. All photos are in full color for ease of color charting. This book is an inspiration for anyone in love with the brilliantly-colored patterns found in Latvian mittens. Specific knitting technique instructions are not included.

Her latest book, Latvian Style Wall Hangings and Pillow Designs (Sienas segu un spilvenu meti latviskā stilā) was published just this year. 73 beautiful hand-painted designs are featured along with some biographical information about Erna and historical information about traditional Latvian wall hangings. These designs are intended for use with weaving or embroidery techniques but would also be great for rug hooking and other textile arts. Traditional Latvian motifs and colors are used by Erna in her unique and beautiful style.


The books are written in both English and Latvian and showcase her unique hand-painted designs. The price for each book is $60 which includes shipping within the USA only. Limited edition copies are signed by the author.

Contact mgermain55[at]gmail[dot]com to order (a PayPal invoice will be issued) or for international shipping prices or with any other questions. Please include your mailing address with your inquiry. Please note that WI Sales tax will be added if the package is shipped to WI.

Alternatively, you can purchase Erna Jansons' books from my Etsy Site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Knitting Up a Storm!

Precisely at 4:30 pm on Saturday, September 10, 2016, the scheduled time for the third annual Walk & Knit Event at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival, the winds picked up and rain started pouring down. But rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of participants or spectators, nor could it stop the Walk & Knit event from happening. We grabbed our knitting bags and went into a nearby building for a short 5-10 minute delay before heading back outside to begin the race.

So many prizes had been donated to be distributed among the top three winning teams. The bags of prizes were popped into a nearby Subaru and kept dry during the brief downpour. Disaster averted.

Eight teams with a total of 31 people participated in this year’s Walk & Knit, trying to walk (or run or skip) as fast as possible while still knitting as many stitches as they could without making mistakes like dropped stitches. 

The Starting Line: Get Ready, Get Set, Knit!

Fifteen volunteers made the event possible by registering teams, organizing the start line, working the time clocks, recording times, photographing the event, judging the knitting, and counting the stitches. Sixty-five spectators (as tabulated by our volunteer accountant) gathered to cheer on their favorite teams. Thanks to all who came for making this a fun and worthwhile event, raising money to support youth activities related to wool.

The winning team was the returning championship team from 2014, Fox Valley Spinning Guild, headed by Ann Krieg and including Tracy Pokrzywa, Brian Howard, and Annie Modesitt.

The (Very Excited) Winning Team

The Madison Knitting Guild provided volunteers and also put together the second place team of: Susan DuCharme, Nicole DuCharme, and Mary Kaiser.

Madison Knitting Guild Members: Second Place Team and Volunteers

The third place team, “By the Shore,” was anchored by Paula Prim, Debbie Lloyd, Emily Roman, and Kendra Ford.

"By the Shore" Team Members, just before the storm hit

All teams safely crossed the finish line, due in part to our compliance with OSHA regulations mandating the use of circular knitting needles rather than double pointed needles when walking while knitting. ;)

You can find out more about prior Walk & Knit events in my previous blog posts herehere, and here.