Seline & Paklencia - Croatia
Are we there, yet?
Where has this taken us?
25th September to 3rd October, 2019

This trip has proven to be a different experience than we'd imagined. Not in a bad way, just different. We had bought our tickets back in April and planned the things we wanted to do along the way. The details have changed a few times, but generally we've just ticked along. We tried to make the most of being in every place we visited, seeing as much as possible. The notable exception was our time in France. There, we stopped for a while to rest and help our friends.

Now, almost three months further on, we've come to realise that arriving in a new town is no longer a unique experience. It has become our norm. The fact that it is the privilege of the few to be able to travel, hasn't escape our notice. We needed to re-think what we wanted to get out of it, and not just be tourists ticking boxes.

That chance to reflect came, unexpectedly, at Seline. We'd booked an AirBnB for an eight-night stay. It seemed a long time to be in one place, but in the end we were glad of it. I was still coughing up chunks from the cold I caught in Vbrnik, and we were both generally weary. There was a list of things we'd planned to do in Starigrad but, instead, we just stopped for a few days and put our feet up. This thing of travelling non-stop and squeezing the juices from the marrow of life is easy to talk about, but bloody tiring to do.

Seline Retreat
Sunshine and flower pots, with a donkey out of sight over the fence
The place we'd booked was perfect. It was a renovated traditional farmhouse, made entirely in cool stone, with a flagged courtyard lined with flower pots. The bedroom was outside-access and on the second floor. We had the whole place to ourselves.

Nestled under the foothills of the Paklencia National Park and some distance up a small side road, it was well away from all the traffic. The only sounds came from the donkey next door, and from passers by who always stopped to admire the place.

The first night we were treated to a violent, crashing thunderstorm with pelting rain that washed rocks down the road beside us. It made us feel very snug. The next morning, the normally dry gorge of nearby Mala Paklenica was running in a flood, so we only walked up it a short way before turning back.
Back at the house, we had a coffee or two and watched the donkey. He was tethered in an olive grove next door, and progressively tied himself up in knots with the rope. He seemed to untie himself just as easily, and he wasn't our donkey. Although, A would have smuggled him out if she could.

For the next couple of days, we did little more than sit outside and enjoy breakfast or go for some short walks. Once, A went for a swim in the sea, which was colder than expected. I made chicken noises until she got in. The only excitement was when the donkey got out on his own (honest, he did) and had a good snack on our lawn.
We thought we should go and see Zadar, at least. It turned out to be a bigger town than expected. We walked out to the promenade and listened to the sea organ wheezing out its wave-powered tune through various holes in the pavement. We also saw more churches and some Roman ruins, one of them complete with a lizard. It was a warm day, so we gave into temptation and had a couple of gelatos. They tasted pretty nasty, so we wished we hadn't.

On the way back through the town, we were treated to even more polished pavements and another city gate. In the marina outside the walls was the usual lineup of super-yachts with one a replica (or was it original?) of an old sailing ship. Either way, it was a lot of money tied up.

I took a peek inside the Museum of Glass, while A enjoyed the sun. Some of the pieces on display were from the first or second centuries and, despite their age, very delicate and beautifully coloured.

A tiny, two-thousand-year-old vial - about 6cm high
The day after was closed in, with heavy rain and lightning. We sat on the couch, watched some movies, and talked about what we were going to do next. Not "next" in terms of tomorrow, but "next" in terms of after this trip. We now have a plan, that will (all going well) be a subject of this blog.

After all that deep and meaningful stuff we needed a good walk, so had the only really active day on the whole time we were there. We walked up to a mountain hut at the upper reaches of the Velika Paklenica gorge. It was superb being in karst country again, and near the limestone pavement.

My blog name has its origins in limestone. Lapiaz is slang for "The Pavement" and refers to the karst landscape I've been wandering over for a lot of years. It's dramatic and beautiful, and always finds its way into my heart.
Feeding time
“We also saw an old fort, and a lot of cats."
On our last full day at Seline, we decided to go out onto an island chain as far as the town of Pag. From afar the islands looked completely barren, and I was curious to see them up close. I can report that they are mostly barren rock, with tiny patches of grass in the low bits. It was like the moon.

We also saw an old fort, and a lot of cats. They streamed out from nowhere and gathered near our car. They looked well-fed and there was a piece of concrete nearby that had had water bowls set into it. Someone had to be looking after them. Seeing how barren the place was, I couldn't imagine much prey being there.
The Bora
“Waves were whipped into being then slashed flat, all in the same moment.
Salt spray surged across it like smoke."
The closer we got to Pag, the more remote it felt. We drove to a high point just past Pag town and looked out to the barren islands reaching back up the coast. I've never seen a place like it. Beyond were some vineyards and a salt factory was set up as well. But most of the economy looked to be tourist-based.
The day that we finally left Seline was punctuated by a vicious Bora wind, that blasted out across the bay. Waves were whipped into being then slashed flat, all in the same moment. Salt spray surged across it like smoke.

The motorway was closed because of the wind, so we figured to make our way slowly south, and took the old coastal road down to Split instead, enjoying the view and the small towns along the way. After a while, spaces between the small towns became filled in with more buildings and holiday apartments until, by the time we got to Trogir, it had blended into one endless tourist-processing facility.
This part of our journey has made me think that travel no longer has to broaden your mind. It seems that now we can choose to go wherever we will be comfortable. Nothing needs to be challenging, or even a surprise. We know what places will look like before we arrive, and can choose to have experiences within our comfort zones, or comfortably just outside of them, if we want a bit of excitement.

But, we lose the chance to have our perceptions questioned or enriched. We don't have to interact with people who live there, for example. We can, instead, stay connected to people at home who we already know, and will agree with what we already believe.

I have come to think that travelling means taking yourself to new and strange places, and hopefully finding a better perspective on how big and diverse the world and it's people are.

Maybe tourism is about ticking boxes and getting a better tan.
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