27.12.09

Croatia Trip - Split - Baptistery & Mt. Marjan










In the 5th morning we visited the temple of Jupita (Baptistery), Meštrović museum and hiked up to Mt Marjan.  The baptistery is for total immersion.  It is beautifully crafted.  Next to it is a statue of Saint John the Baptist. 

Meštrović museum is detailed in another section.  Please refer to Day 5 Split - Ivan Mestrovic

We started the climb of Mt. Marjan around midday.  The sun was high.  The ascend was quite steep.  But the view over the town was spendid.  The path was barren.  We hardly saw any people, perhaps one workman who was on duty.  There were some Romanesque churches along the way.  The first one looked bright white under the sun.  It's beautiful.   Continued on the white 'sandy' path, second and third churches came into view.  Hu hu, destination reached!  For a while the sky turned cloudy.  It did not rain, fortunately. 

We went to a public swimming place to immerse into the water after the sweating walk.  Yeah yeah we did not know previously nice beaches are on the western side.  It's far to walk back.  But we still had another day.

26.12.09

Croatia Trip - Day 5 Split - Ivan Meštrović

Ivan Meštrović is one of the most important artists in Croatia.  A very nice museum of him is found in Split.  It is situated on the western side of the city, nearby gorgeous beaches.  The museum is Ivan Meštrović's residence.  The villa is at a wonderful location, overseeing the sea with fresh air.  It was built between 1931 and 1939.  Unfortunately, the artist lived there for two years only.   The white marble statue right at the middle of the display hall got my attention.  It's so beautiful.  The tranquility and a dash of frozen sadness caught my admiration. 

Some of the artist's sculpture were displayed in the garden of the villa.  They are huge and realistic.  If you were there, you would be amazed.

I was touched by his version of Pietà.
 



Heading further west, you will arrive into Kastelet, the artist's chapel ornamented with his wooden scuplture of Jesus' life.

It is a pleasant walk from the city centre to the musuem.  Nearby the museum are beautiful beaches.  Be sure to take your bathing clothing with you.  Here is much nicer than the public swimming place nearby the bus station. 


13.12.09

Croatia Trip - Day 4 Split


Day 4, it's time to leave Dubrovnik.  Our next destination is Split.  Long distance buses leave from the Gruz Harbour.  The bus terminal is easy to find.  It's one of the most efficient bus terminals we've ever been in Croatia.  If you stay in Dubrovnik, it is just a bus ride.  Bus from Durbrovnik to Split leaves every half hour.  It's a 5-hour journey.    Beauty is all the way long.  We passed by nameless beautiful spots along the coast. 


The sister of our landlady was waiting for us at the bus terminal.  It's the busiest place in Split. She took us to our little apartment, passing by streets with figs on the ground, hawkers selling all sorts of things outside the palace wall.  Then we were at our little paradise with a lovely garden outside.    A supermarket was nearby.  We stocked up food for our breakfast quickly and started our sightseeing.


Split is the second biggest city in Croatia.  It is also the spot of one of the unesco sites - Diocletian's Palace.  It was built between the late 3rd and early 4th century AD.  Emperor Diocletian built this palace for his retirement.  Barbarians invaded the nearby villages in 7th century. Lots of residents fled to the palace.  It then evolved to become an important commercial and residential centre.


Our apartment is close to the palace but retains its quiteness.  Croatia's famous sculptor, Ivan Meštrović has its Statue of Gregory of Nin guarding the city.  The statue is a giant.  Then we hopped to the main streets, key squares, esplanade.  The shopping street was quite empty, relative to most European cities.  The esplanade was more welcome.   Citizens and their families spent a lazy afternoon there.  Beautiful buildings, hotels, shops and restaurants line up the Esplanade.  Unfortunately, there is no tree shade.  We climbed the cathedral tower to have a fabulous view of the city.

21.11.09

Croatia Trip - Day 3 Lokrum


Sun shone again though thunder and rain roared in the night.  Another nice day began.  Only I forgot my camera.  So, pictures of the day were from my trip mate.

We took a boat to Lokrum, the nearest island to Dubrovnik, from a little port.  Since it was not yet high season, boat frequency was on hourly basis.  The 15-minute journey took us to a little haven of tranquility.  Sightseeing points include botanical garden, monastery, a fort on the island's top with fabulous view of the suurounding and a little salty lagoon for a relaxing swim after a summer walk.


Peacocks wandered around. You heard and saw them walking with pride everywhere, even next to swimmers at the jetty.  We first walked to the sea with cliffs.  Soon we arrived at the lagoon with beautiful crystal green colour.  It seemed like an invitation, 'come into the nice cool water'.  We could not decline the invitation.  Like other tourists, we relaxed under the sun and enjoyed floating on, swimming in the salty lagoon.     We continued the walk around the rocky coast and slowly arrived at the monastery.   It is Romanesque style.  Rock music was playing but the restaurant was not opened.  So, we continued the day with a hungry stomach. 


No problem, we were rewarded with the beautiful blossoms at the botanical garden.  There were species that we did not see or know before.  Some trees with strange shapes stood there for ages.  Slowly we climbed up to the fort located at the top of the island.  We enjoyed a gorgeous panoramic view of Dubrovnik.

Croatia is a country catered for swimmers, at least along the coast and the cities we visited.  Along the rocky coast, ladder is provided to ease the going into and out of the sea.  Wow, the height between the floor and water surface surpasses my height, right at a short distance from the rock.  We saw lovely little fish around and creatures on the sea bed.


Then we headed back to Dubrovnik, walking through the small lanes and looked for our last dining place. The dinners in the previous two nights could be summaried as very touristic. We dined in a rustic restaurant which was highly regarded in a local magazine. The salad with roasted almond and cheese was excellent. But the main courses, prawns and local famous stewing meat were disappointing. Nevertheless, the stay in Dubrovnik was great, a very good impression on Croatia.

17.11.09

Croatia Trip - Day 2 Dubrovnik & the City Wall

A friend nicknamed me 'Mango smuggler' because I bring Mangoes to Europe every every time because my trip partner loves it.  We enjoyed it during our breakfast in the garden.  It attracted the cat and dog of the owner.  A surprise! 

Dubrovnik was full of tourists during the day.  Tonnes of tourists arrived by big vessels.  Crowds were everywhere.   The folks left in the late afternoon, leaving the city quite barren in the night.
Dubrovnik is a pearl of the Dalmatian Coast, a favourite city of many people. The compact town is surrounded by hills and sea. Beautiful squares, buildings, monasteries reflect its richness. It's comparable to any rich little towns in western Europe. Mightly city wall protects it. People can climb up the wall to have a gorgeous panoramic view of the town and the surrounding. Walking on the wall is very enjoyable. We walked 1.5 round trips to reinforce the memory of the impressive walk.
 
Dubrovnik enjoyed years of prosperity.  But it was very damaged during the internal war in the early 90s.  Roofs blown off, houses destroyed.  The city was so beloved by many people.  After the war, funds for rebuilding the town rushed in.  As of today, many roofs are new.   The war left hardly a trace.  But climb over the wall.  You can see the reminiscent, a few old roofs dotted in a sea of new roofs.   Enough to imagine the destructive power of human violence.  On the other hand, it's just amazing how quick it could turnaround.



15.11.09

Croatia Trip - Day 1 Arriving Dubrovnik

I met my trip partner at the boarding gate in Munich Airport.  It was a pleasant flight.   We had a fairly good view of the coast prior to the landing.

Temperatures in Munich and Dubrovnik were of two extremes.  It's cold in Germany but nicely warm in Croatia.  We managed to change some money at the airport at a much higher rate and headed towards our accommodation. 



The bus journey was enjoyable with a fabulous view of Dubrovnik. See the picture and you will agree. Our bus stopped at the bus terminal at Gruz. It's only a 10-minute ride to Dubrovnik. The owner was very nice. He gave us an apartment instead of a double room without a private shower. He also showed us ways for restaurants and supermarket. The apartment is enclosed by a lovely rose garden. We enjoyed our evening tea, breakfast at a table outside our apartment right next to the garden. It's a blessing!


We did not go to Dubrovnik the same day.  I was just too tired to do so.  Instead, we walked around Gruz to have an impression.  We picked a terrace restaurant facing the sea.  Dinner was simple.  Next, we stocked  food at a big supermarket (Tommy) for our breakfasts and drinks (no alcohol).

In the night we heard thunderstorm and heavy rain.  But the sun shone for us the next day.

31.10.09

Travel Photography 4

Over the years I used Nikon SLR cameras to shoot photos. Nikon cameras are good for taking fine colours and texture. Once one has got it, it is difficult to switch brands. Switching brands necessitates buying new camera and lens. Investment on good lens can be higher than the camera. Canon's edge is speed. It's the choice of most sports reporters.








Details, texture and colours are shown optimally with Nikon D70 Camera, Nikon 24-70mm and Tokina 80-200mm lens.

The best handy lens fitting most occasions is 28-70mm. It's good for taking landscape photos. I moved into digital photography in 2004. With the smaller framing constraint, 18 - 55mmis a better choice of wide angle lens. With the advance of technology, a lot of automatic digital cameras can achieve very good photo quality. I owned two. Samung L700 and Fujifilm F70 EXR acquired in 2006 and 2009. F70 EXR comes with 10x Optical Dual Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD. It can take quality pictures in extreme situations, e.g. low light.


Rocky Mountain  by Samsung L700.  Passionfruit Cheesecake by Fujifilm F70 EXR.

Wanna acquire a latest model of digital camera?  See my Digital Camera Store:


Travel Photography 3

Shutter Speed
Shutter is a small plastic sheet that opens and closes to allow light onto the film/sensor or prevent light from reaching the film/sensor. Shutter speed controls the amount of time that your film/sensor, is exposed to light. It is measured in fractions or units of seconds. The lighter the environment, the shorter the time the shutter is needed to open for the light to reach the film or sensor, e.g. 1/250, 1/1000. When it gloomy, a slower shutter speed is required to maximise the time for the light to reach the film/sensor, e.g. 1/30, 1 second.

Focal Length / Lens















The focal length of a lens determines how much the subject will be magnified or distant. Lens are categorised as standard, wide-angle and tele. Standard lens is 50mm. It does not magnify or distant a subject. Wide-angle lens allows to take lots of things into the framing of a photo. It stretches the perspective and make the object closer to the len look bigger. Wide angel lens start from 10 and cand can be up to 28mm. Focal length higher than 28mm and below 50mm does not accommodate lots of things into the framing.

Tele lens draws distant objects closer to show details. The range starts 70/80mm. It can be up to 800mm. The higher the mm, the closer the objects is drawn for clear details.

Lens can be fixed or zoom which the focal length can vary within a range. For example, a wide angle lens ranged 10-24mm, a tele lens ranged 80-200mm. The more zoom a focal length becomes, the smaller the aperture is resulted. Say, a lens ranged 10-24mm. Its aperture value is f3.5-4.5. When 10mm is selected, the maximum aperture is 3.5. When it is zoomed to 24mm, the maximum aperture will be 4.5. The higher the aperture value, the smaller the amount of light can enter into the camera. Zoom lens with fixed aperture (i.e. whatever the focal length is the maximum aperture measure remains the same) is much more expensive than those with varied aperture.

With technology advancement, you can leave the shutter speed, aperture to digital cameras. However, you should practise more on leveraging the light, compose photos with optimal perspectives, utilise the metering and focal length to create stunning photos.

25.10.09

Vigevano - North Italy

Vigevano is famous for its beautiful cathedral façade lying at the end of the Ducal Piazza. It is just a 27-minute train journey from Milan’s Porta Genova station. The city dates back to the middle ages. It was a thriving trading centre of textile but gave away to shoe manufacturing industry.  Our first sight visit is a building formerly used as a stable. It is enormous and part of the Sforzesco Castle.











Slowly we arrived at the Ducal square. It was designed by Bramante and it is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. The square is an elongated rectangle and enclosed with arched porticos supported by 84 columns. Cafe and shops are on the two sides. The floor is tiled.  The central pathe path leads to the cathedral facade.

Sight seeing points were closed at lunch time. We and other tourists had been waiting for a long time (the staff came 15 minutes late) to climb the Bramante tower so as to have a panoramic view of the town. One roof has many chimneys – interesting!

Did you ever hear that the great Saint Francesco could talk to birds? Check out the evidence! A beautiful fountain of the saint in front of the Church of St Francesco tells!

18.10.09

Taking Great Photos 2

Basics of Photography:
Light / Exposure
- the subject should face the light source
- exposure compensation / ISO to adjust the strength of light





Click the image to magnify it.


Composition












Metering
Centre-weighted and Multi-zone are the common metering methods.  The previous assigns the greatest weight of metering to the centre of the frame.  The latter measures the light density of various zones, combines the results to find the best metering.  Normally, I take multi-zone.  When contrast of light is emphasised, I will switch to the centre-weighted mode.

Aperture
Aperture controls the amount of light entering into the camera.  One can adjust the aperture if aperture-mode is available or at manual exposure mode.  It ranges from 1.4 to 32.  The lower the numeric the bigger amount of light can be taken for shooting. 

References:
Kindle version with big savings is available!

No theory, jargon or complicated concepts but simple instructions to shoot dramatically better-looking, sharper, more colorful, more professional-looking photos. Wanna take a person with blurred background. Use a telephoto lens, set your f/stop to f/2.8, focus on the flower, and fire away. It’s that easy. It is written by Scott Kelby, the author of no.1 best selling book The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographer.
What's more?  Volume 2 and 3 are available!
The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2
The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3


Need a kindle? The latest version is available.  Thousands of customers love it!
 Kindle allows you to surf internet, select, download from 350,000 ebooks and store up to 1,500 copies.  It can read out books, newspaper and is easy to carry around.  Reading is such a pleasure!  What's more?  Kindle books are more cost effective and environment friendly than paper books.

Taking Great Photos 1

Taking great photos is not a privilege of professional photographers. You and I, whether with an automatic or high end camera, can do it. Photography is communication. It conveys what you see to the audiences. A good photo gets people’s attention because it tells a story, invites imagination, delights, freezes the moment of beauty, memories…..

Once or twice a year, I take photos when I travel. I acquire basic photography knowledge by reading, seeing others’ photos and practice. Before taking a photo, think yourself what you want to communicate, record. A purpose helps shooting great photos. Then consider the light source, composition, perspective and focal length. Most cameras optimise the combination of aperture and shutter speed well. Unless you aim for special effects, you can let the camera do its job. It’s a pleasure to share some basics and tips for taking photos.

Photography is.....
- Memory / Reporting
- Creativity / Art
- Communication







Essence of taking great photos is:
- Capture what is happening
- Convey a message
- Tell a story
- Create imagination beyond what is seen

Here are e-references on cameras, what makes a good photo, ways to take stunning photos.......
http://www.learndigitalphotographynow.com/Shoot-Digital-Pics-Like-the-Pros.pdf
Digital Photography Success
Digital Photography Secrets
Take Better Digital Photos (Photography)

13.10.09

Accommodation in Croatia

Order: upper left to right:
Exrta dining area outside our apartment at Gruz, Dubrovnik.
Room in Zadar located in the centre.
Spacious apartment in Pula next to the Arena. 
Compact apartment in Split.  Outside our room is a garden with a dining table.

Referred by a friend, I tried out Hostelbookers.com for this trip.  Don't be misled by 'hostel'.  Registered accommodation places are private rooms with full facilities.  We made our daily breakfast tea and cooked our dinner occasionally.  Hostelbookers.com provides instant availability check, location map, accommodation photos, rating and reviews by guests.  It eases the decision-making.  I compared prices against other web-based booking sites.  It's the cheapest at time of comparison and does not charge booking fee.  To confirm the booking, one just needs to pay 10% deposit.  No worry, you can book accommodation in over 2,500 destinations.

Our apartment in Dubrovnik is located at Gruz.  It's close to the bus terminal.  Arriving or departing from here is a big convenience.  The dining area outside our apartment is a luxury.  We had our breakfast and evening tea in the lovely garden.

We had a little garden outside our apartment in Split.  The location is central, just cross a street from the palace.  We accessed all tourist spots on foot.

Our room in Zadar is very central.  It is private accommodation and has no sign.  Thanks to a jewelery shop owner downstairs who knocked the door of the owner's mother to let us in.  At time, the owner was out of town.

There are only a few hotels in Plitvice.  Most accommodations are far away from the national park.  We picked our accommodation from Adriatica.net.  The advantage is you can contact the owners directly and save the commission charged by booking engines.  Our accommodation is a few hundred metres away from the park entrance.  Our host, Ivana, was very kind.  The buffet breakfast was gorgeous.  She drove us to the bus station to catch our bus departing before 7am.

It's a long trip from Plitvice to Pula.  We were rewarded with a large apartment.  It offers a fantastic view of the Arena.  We cooked and dined at home every night.  It's like home.

Our last accommodation in Poreč is half-board in a hotel.  Choices of the dinner buffet were identical in the three nights.  The central location, €59 for two and friendly staff leave no room for complaint.  Overall, we are very happy with the accommodation.

12.10.09

Major Cities and Unesco Sites in Croatia

There are many attractions in Croatia. With two and half weeks, we picked the cities along the coast to maximize the resort feel combining historical sites. Here summaries the characteristics of the key cities in Croatia:

Split – A lively city and Diocletian's palace is located (Unesco site)

Dubrovnik – The pearl of Croatia (Unesco site)

Šibenik – Gorgeous white St James church with superb sculptures (Unesco site)

TrogirUnesco Romanesque city

PorečUnesco mosaics and very tourist town

Rovinji – A bit like Venice and its cathedral tower is the highest found in Croatia

Zagreb – The capital and cultural hub

Motovun – Romantic hill town with lots of artists

More About Croatia

Apart from wonderful beaches scatter along the coast, Croatia is blessed with countless beautiful islands, cities with different characters, national parks and Unesco sites. The many resorts to relax, archeological remains and cultural heritage will please all sorts of holiday makers.

Here are some recommended sites to have impressions of the country and facilitate itinerary design:

http://www.croatiatraveller.com/
It provides practical information such as transport, when to go….along with cities / regions of special interests.

http://www.planetware.com/croatia-tourism-vacations-hr.htm
It shows tourist attractions by city and the surroundings

http://www.croatia.hr/English/Home/Naslovna.aspx – official site

I’ll post key cities, islands, beaches, national parks and Unesco sites in the upcoming updates.

Cheers!

Croatia Itinerary

The only airline connecting Hong Kong and Dubrovnik conveniently is Lufthansa. I transited at Munich. Instead of waiting 7 hours boringly at the airport, I visited a nearby medieval town, Freising.

A bus connecting the airport and the town runs every 15 minutes. Once stepping into the town, all sorts of teddy bears greet you in every corner. Houses have different pastel colours and exist in harmony. I enjoyed the walk although it rained,  Don't miss out the best bread in the world and German cheesecake (made with Quark, a white soft cheese which is unique in Germany).

We started the trip from Dubrovnik and headed up along the coastline to the north. Below is our itinerary May 2009:

~3 nights in Dubrovnik + day trip to Lokum
~3 nights in Split + day trip to Trogir
~2 nights in Zadar + visit of Šibenik
~2 nights in Plitvice Lakes
~3 nights in Pula + day trip to Brijuni Island
~3 nights in Porec + day trip to Rovinj

Hong Kong Independent Traveller - Croatia














I am a Hong Kong resident but never join arranged tours. As an independent traveller my footprints have been to Europe, Asia and America. This blog is created to share tips to make independent travel planning easier and more cost-effective.

I visited Croatia in May 2009 and will share the tips on planning this trip. Croatia is part of the former Yugoslavia. It is a very popular holiday destination for Europeans and packed with visitors in summer. I chose May to avoid the crowd. It is not yet well known for Asians.

I take pictures as an amateur. If you would like to take more stunning pictures, feel free to leave comments and your email, I will send you an ebook on the tips of taking great photos.

Click here to view my photos taken in Croatia http://picasaweb.google.com.hk/meyanyeung/2009Croatia#

Valued accommodation is a key concern for independent travellers. My chosen double room accommodation in Croatia ranged between €36 and €59 (Half-board). I will share tips in the upcoming articles. Look for information of my visiting places. 



Interested in learning more about Croatia?  Here are some recommended books:
Time Out Croatia (Time Out Guides)
Croatia (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
Lonely Planet Croatia
Best of Dubrovnik