Northern NJ SKAL and affiliated clubs embarked on their yearly Friendship Tour in April.
We began with a meeting in Venice, Italy which was a perfect start to our journey. As SKAL members arrived from multiple destinations, we recieved a warm welcome from the president of SKAL Venice; Armando Ballarin.
Our first stop in Venice was a visit to the observation deck atop the luxury department store known as Tedeschi Plaza. We followed that with a trip to a local pub where his Home club provided us with the opportunity to provide a SKAL toast by both our clubs. On the eve of our departure we were invited to a fellow Skålleagues restaurant, The Al Colombo. A special thanks to our host and owner Domenico Stanziani, who provided us with a phenomenal evening.
April 23, 2017
At 8:30 am, we all met by the waterway next to our hotel. On Sunday morning the once busy streets and shops were now quiet. As we stood by our hotel in the morning sun, numerous speedboats rounded the corner and loaded passengers and luggage. We were off on a fast but short trip to the mainland where our luxury bus awaited.
Once on board our motor coach, we headed to our next destination where our ship was awaiting our arrival. Once we arrived in the beautiful city of Opatija, Croatia, we were warmly greeting by the wonderful crew of the Majestic, a Katarina Line classy new ship with approximately 20 cabins. We were immediately assigned cabins and an hour later we were on our way touring the city. As the tour of the city concluded, we were escorted to a fine restaurant overlooking our ship and greeted by our Hostess Katarina, President of Katarina Lines as well as the president of SKAL Croatia. We thank Katarina for her gracious hospitality and the assistance with local tourist boards throughout the journey.
April 24, 2017
The Majestic pulled anchor early in the morning, most were sleeping in their berths after a quite eventful evening on board. Eventually, most of us came topside for our 8 am breakfast. We spent the next hour or so dining and viewing the beautiful coastline of Croatia. Shortly after breakfast we had sight of our first stop, the island of KRK which is an island that is inhabited by 4,800 people year round, and 10-20,000 during peak season. KRK was one of the oldest islands on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, it boasted of Roman ruins as it appeared to be carved out of the hillside. As our ship pulled into dock the beauty of the island was panoramic. On the dock we were warmly greeted by Turisticka Zajednica, from the KRK tourist board. Our first tour was a mere 500 feet from our dock we were introduced to Tatjana Franciskovic, Director of marketing for Hotel KRK. A beautiful 4 star hotel with 10 luxury rooms that boasted spacious balconies with spectacular views. We thank Hotel KRK for their warm greeting and lavish spread of Hors d’oeuvres set up for us in the main dining area as well as their local beer, wine and Champagne. We concluded out visit at the KRK after viewing the hotels amenities and rooms. From here our tour director proceeded to take us on a very detailed tour of the town of KRK.
The history was everywhere and the town was beautiful. We explored the basement of a local restaurant where we were able to view and touch the original foundations hand built by the romans in the in the 17th century. A special thanks to Turisticka.
A few hours later that afternoon and we were underway once again, we followed the Dalmatian coast for the next two hours until the view of our next island came into sight. The dock was within 100 feet of shops, pubs hotels and the Rab Cake factory. Upon our docking we were immediately greeted by our next tour guide courtesy of the Rab tourist board.
April 25, 2017
We all enjoyed breakfast together as the crew prepared for our departure to our next destination, this would be one of the larger cities in Croatia, called Zadar. Of course this was the largest city so far with a busy harbor containing numerous ships. Cars and busses lined the streets of the harbor as what appeared to be a quite busy port.
Upon docking, we took a short walk to the Old Towne to enjoy some shopping until our scheduled 1 pm walking tour of the city. The shops in the Old Town were plentiful but with no coaxing or peddling by vendors. We quickly toured the town on our own and returned back in time for the walking tour.
As we strolled down the alley ways with our guide, we were given a very elaborate history lesson on the city, as well as the local culture. One very interesting attraction was “The Sea Organ”, a design by where slots were created in the bulkhead and holes were melded on the boardwalk above the slats.
The result here was that as water entered these slats, it would force the air up through the holes giving out sound like an organ. But that was not all, the slats and noise from the organ manipulated this large cylindrical solar panel that was maybe 50 x 50 feet and controlled the colors that emanated it at night.
April 26, 2017
We were greeted in the morning by strong winds and rough seas, a little disappointing as we learned that it was just not safe to travel by sea. Of course we were not going to let the sea interrupt our plans, so we arranged for a tour bus to drive us to a small vineyard where we sat as a group tasting wine, prosciutto and cheese. It was the Family Farm Butić, located in Ravni Kotari place Briševo, only seven kilometers from the city center of Zadar.
The family farm`s 150 years of tradition in hospitality, transforms the smells and tastes of local specialties into the harmonious fusion of aromas and flavours typical of an autochthonous Dalmatian tavern.
We ended our day with a guided tour of the town of Nin, known to have the smallest catholic church in the world
April 27, 2017
The Sea was angrier than the day before and we were not allowed to leave the dock. Our plans had changed once again, we would leave on a bus to SKRADIN for a tour of the KRKA Waterfalls.
This was a scheduled trip and we were determined to make it. As we boarded the bus we experienced a calm effect as we viewed the high seas and set off on our land excursion. Upon arriving in SKRADIN we wasted no time as we jumped on another sightseeing boat for a short trip to Sibenik where the waterfalls would greet us. We arrived at the park after a short boat ride, our guide was very well versed in the history of the park and explained everything in detail.
As there was no resting, we were off to our next stop, the BIBICH winery for our wine tasting tour. At the end of the day’s events our bus was on the move again taking us back to Zadar for another evening on board the majestic.
April 28, 2017
As daybreak greeted us, we could feel the boat move slightly as we stirred in our cabins preparing for breakfast. As we came topside we could see the waves in the harbor, sailing today was not an option.
We would be boarding a bus once again for our journey to Split. The crew of the majestic would brave the angry ocean a rendezvous with us in the town of Split, our final destination.
Although the bus ride was quite comfortable and it allowed us to see more of the city life, we were still disappointed that we were not on board with the crew heading to Split. Upon arrival we were greeted once again with a tour guide showing us the town and history of Split.
As time wore away, we were summoned to our dinner meeting courtesy of the Split tourist board. It was a quaint place with music provided for our evening event. Shortly thereafter we were back on board the majestic for our final night on board.
April 29, 2017
Our final day on board was greeted with breakfast and farewells to the crew and a few fellow Skålleagues a we prepared to disembark. A sad farewell led to a glimmer of excitement as we transferred over to our waiting motor coach drive to Dubrovnik.
On schedule we parked in front of Hotel Lapad, which was right on the waters edge. Hotel Lapad, a 4 star is one of the oldest hotels in the city which was built in 1912. The hotel has 6 floors and 193 rooms is one of the largest hotels. During the Homeland War, the hotel housed refugees from Dubrovnik and the surrounding region. The first guests recorded to the hotel after the war arrived in 1993. The accommodations were modern and tastefully done.The trip took approximately 2 hours as we toured through the local cites and mountainous countryside, breathtaking views of coastal towns were prevalent on the majority of our trip. A few hours later we caught a glimpse of the largest city of Croatia, Dubrovnik.
Evidence as clear as the gouged holes in the stone walls were prevalent from use of bullets and shrapnel. You are able to walk atop of the wall which encompasses the fortress if you can handle the approximate 3 mile walk, although the views are spectacular and well worth it.In today’s numbers, approximately 4800 people reside within the walls, an area that was hit hard by the war we saw televised on TV in 1991. A placard is evident on the inside wall showing every location where ordinance penetrated and struck.Our next scheduled tour was the Old City of Dubrovnik, a fortress of magnificence with its stone walls rising in excess of 100’ were built to defend the city from attack both land and sea. As we entered the old city through a drawn bridge it was overwhelming to mentally visualize the construction of this fortress by the venetians well before Christopher Columbus discovered America.
A special thanks to Mirjana Kovacevic, President Skål Club Dubrovnik for the wonderful meet and greet festivities, as well as the Hotel LaPad and their staff.