Myra and Dennis Classen

Now that Dennis is retired and Myra (Myj) is nearly so, we have time to explore new places and meet new people. And at journey's end, we also love coming home to family and friends in Oregon. "A journey is best measured in friends, not miles."
Living in: Newberg, United States
  • Day21

    Doviđenja!

    June 18 in Croatia ⋅ ⛅ 75 °F

    Our trip is almost at an end. We left Dubrovnik this morning on Croatian airlines and are now waiting at the Frankfurt airport for our flight home. This has been an amazing journey. One guidebook refers to Slovenia as "Europe in miniature " because of the German, Austrian, Hungarian and Italian influences and geography of Alps, plains and seacoast. We experienced an amphitheater and an emperor's palace built by the Romans, early Turkish tombstones, castles of Germanic kings, medieval cities built by the Venetians, Austrian cathedrals and villas, roads and bunkers from World Wars I and II, towns destroyed by more recent wars, and religious sites of several religions. Mark Twain said "Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer" and these experiences have definitely made us richer in unforgettable memories.
    For Myj, seeing and learning more about her ancestral homeland, and renewing connections with some of her relatives was priceless. More than just being "along for the ride" Dennis fell in love with Ljubljana and Slovenia too.
    And of course, we met some fun and interesting new people. The quote we put on our profile is fitting: "A journey is best measured in friends, not miles." We are still fans of the Rick Steves travel mode. If you want luxury, it isn't for you, but if you want local experiences in the thick of things and a little learning along the way, go for it! The hotels are comfortable, close to the action, but are sometimes "quaint and quirky." You do need to travel light, as you may have to carry your bags a half mile down a narrow lane or up a hill to a castle where the bus can't go. The guides are amazing!
    We're ready to go home to beautiful Oregon and see our family, friends and pets. The PDX carpet will be a welcome sight! But...there are still a few places on the bucket list. Where next?? Hmmm, Myj did hear Dennis say "Maybe Ireland next year" and there were a whole table of tour friends as witnesses!
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  • Day20

    Walking the Walls of Dubrovnik

    June 17 in Croatia ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F

    We were up early to say one last goodbye to some of the tour members who hadn't left yet, then to conquer the City Walls of Dubrovnik. We did the entire circumference of 2 km (1.24 miles), which doesn't sound like much, but it's the steep ramps and 1080 stairs that get to you! Additionally, it was about 84 degrees with about 80% humidity. But we made it to the highest point: the large round tower of fort Minčeta. The views of the Adriatic and the beautiful city were amazing!
    Part of the fun of these medieval cities is getting lost and finding interesting corners, shops and konobas (tavern/restaurants) that feature rustic local cuisine. We have enjoyed the wonderful seafood, vegetables, cured meats, and great wines. Myj has had lamb prepared multiple ways. With the exception of our splurge at 360 Restaurant (which wasn't much more than we'd pay at a good, but not Michelin restaurant at home) an excellent meal in Croatia and Slovenia is very reasonable.
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  • Day19

    Last Day with Our Tour Friends

    June 16 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 86 °F

    Today was the last day with our tour group. We started early to beat the heat, with a walking history tour of the Old City of Dubrovnik. The Old City is completely surrounded by the walls. Local guide Roberto, who was born and still lives within the city walls led us through the narrow streets, relating stories about life here in the Middle Ages up until now. He is passionate about his home and recounted the stories with humor.
    We did some shopping along the Stradun, the wide main street, and explored the narrow side streets to find a good spot for lunch. It's hard to capture all of the charming small nooks and crannies, as well as the impressive architecture of the large squares, fountains churches and the Rector's Palace. And of course, all around are the massive walls and towers familiar to fans of Game of Thrones. We might have to watch a few episodes, just to say "hey, we were there!".
    A little rest back at the hotel and then it was time for our final dinner with our Rick Steves Tour group. We were so busy talking and eating, Myj forgot to get pictures, but we have the memories. As with our Scotland tour, everyone got along, there weren't any grumps, and we formed good friendships with several people.
    Some of the tour members are leaving first thing in the morning, some are traveling on for a few more days or weeks in other Paris, Munich, Dublin or other destinations. We have one more day in Dubrovnik before we fly home.
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  • Day18

    Restaurant 360 Dubrovnik: What we ate

    June 15 in Croatia ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F

    There were too many photos of the view to fit the pictures of the food. Look and drool!

    Not pictured:
    Myj asked the Sommelier (female, by the way) to pair a wine with her courses. She chose a beautiful Slovenian rose' to balance the salt of the cheese in the risotto, and a Syrah for the lamb.
    We didn't get a picture of our "pre-dessert" gelato (to refresh the palate) or our "post-dessert" sweets. Yes, there were THREE dessert courses!Read more

  • Day18

    A Once in a Lifetime Meal

    June 15 in Croatia ⋅ ⛅ 84 °F

    We are fortunate to be able to travel, but we do mind our budget. So while we opted for the more moderately priced Condor Airlines flight, we did splurge for a dinner at a Michelin star restaurant. Because a flight is just transportation, but this dinner was an experience!
    Myj had researched and made reservations a month before we left at Restaurant 360 Dubrovnik. It is the only restaurant allowed on the UNESCO Heritage Dubrovnik Walls. Entering through an opening in the 1000 year old walls, we were led up the stairs through the contemporary lounge area, up again to another interior level where we could look down through the windows surrounding the kitchen below to watch the chefs in action. Finally, we emerged onto the dining terrace, with a jaw-dropping view of the harbor and the stone fortifications.
    While you might expect the atmosphere to be snooty, the staff perfectly balanced approachability with attentive professionalism. Initially, we thought that 6:30pm was a bit early for dinner (in Europe) , but as we relaxed and enjoyed each course in the changing light from daylight to dusk to moonlight, we were glad we began our four-and-a-half-hour meal at that time. Of course, it also took time for the server to explain each item on the exquisitely presented plates.
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  • Day18

    Donkey Milk, Anyone?

    June 15 in Croatia ⋅ ☁️ 86 °F

    Our brief vacation in idyllic Korcula over, we continued onward toward Dubrovnik. Traveling along the Peljesak Peninsula, we detoured from the main highway to visit a donkey farm. Of course they were adorable! In addition to preserving the Croatian donkeys, which were scarce when the Antunović family started the farm 20 years ago, these donkeys produce milk. Mr. Antunović explained the health and medicinal benefits of donkey milk. He only takes one deciliter per day from the mothers, saving the rest for the baby donkeys, so it is expensive.
    After our visit with the donkeys, we walked into the tiny village where the family also runs a tavern. We were offered a taste of the milk with our lunch. It was fine, but Myj preferred the Plavac Mali wine they also produce.
    As we returned to the highway, we were treated to panoramic views of the Adriatic. Our last stop before Dubrovnik was a break in Ston, where we could see the 13th century salt works pools as well as the walls built to protect this precious resource. These are the longest defensive walls in Europe, and the third longest in the world. Since it was nearly 90 degrees, we opted not to climb up to the gate at the base of the wall, but one or two of our group did so.
    When we reached Dubrovnik in the late afternoon, we said goodbye to our bus driver, Klaudio, as this is our last stop. Dennis expressed his admiration for Klaudio's ability to navigate the narrow roads and especially the hairpin turns in the Alps.
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  • Day17

    A Vacation from Our Vacation in Korcula

    June 14 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

    We crossed the border back into Croatia and after two ferry crossings, we arrived on the island of Korcula on the Dalmatian coast Thursday evening. Our agenda for the next day and a half was to relax and enjoy this beautiful and serene setting, or as guide Darija called it: "our vacation from vacation." We followed her instructions to the letter, sleeping in, shopping a little in the windy streets and alleys of the old town, and enjoying more excellent local food and wine. Myj braved the pebbles on the beach for a swim in the warm and very salty Adriatic Sea, while Dennis watched from the hotel terrace with a few gin & tonics.
    Korcula is one of the only places where it is still possible to see the traditional Moreska sword dances. We went to a performance one night that included a version of Moreska as well as traditional Dalmatian singers. The following night, a Moreska troup representing five different villages marched throughout the town , stopping to perform different dances from each village. At first I thought the swords the dancers used were fake, but as they twirled and dipped n the intricate movements, I realized there were actually sparks flying when their swords clashed.
    A sunset cruise around the island before an incredible dinner at Aterina Restaurant capped our visit to Korcula. We left reluctantly Saturday morning to finish the last few days of our tour in Dubrovnik.
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  • Day16

    Mostar: Cultural Crossings

    June 13 in Bosnia and Herzegovina ⋅ 🌫 82 °F

    In Mostar, we continued learning about the three ethnicities and cultures that lived together peacefully for centuries until the wars of the 1990s that were driven by politicians who used the religious and cultural differences to promote their agendas. Today our guide Adisa took us on a walking tour of the city. Like the villages we visited yesterday, this city was 90% destroyed in the war, but is rebuilding. You see bombed out buildings next to newly reconstructed hotels. Adisa too had stories about living in Mostar as a teenager during the war, walking five miles to the hills at night to ask at each house for food because it wasn't safe during the day. Her brother was turned over to the Croats and put in a concentration camp by his childhood friend.
    The most iconic feature in Mostar is the beautiful Stari Most, or Old Bridge. The original bridge, built in 427, was another casualty of war. The original stones were retrieved from the river and the bridge was reconstructed with assistance from UNESCO and the international community. It reopened in 2008.
    We were able to visit a mosque that had been restored, and a traditional 16th century Turkish house that was mostly unharmed from the grenades. Of course, we enjoyed more coffee, tea and Turkish Delight sweets in the peaceful courtyard. On the way from the city of Mostar, we stopped at a Serbian Orthodox monastery. Although there has been a monastery here for 400 years, the last one was destroyed, so the existing one was reconstructed, using as much of the original stone as possible. A young monk explained the history of the chapel and the Orthodox service.
    As Americans, we read or heard about the wars in Bosnia, but seeing the results almost 30 years later and hearing personal stories helps to put in perspective how senseless it is. Adisa and Edin are near the ages of our girls, so it struck my heart what a different life they had. Our guide Darija, who is a little older, shared her perspective as well. Of course, she remembers that time, as a teenager in Zagreb. But her feeling is that it is time to stop talking about it so that today's young people will be able to look forward instead of past. One thing that all three share is a mistrust of all politicians! It did make me think about some of the political craziness happening in the USA right now.
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  • Day15

    Bosnia and Herzegovina: Life Lessons

    June 12 in Bosnia and Herzegovina ⋅ 🌫 86 °F

    This morning we left Split very early to cross the border into Bosnia Herzegovina, although we stayed primarily in the Herzegovina area. So far, we have visited areas with Austrian or Italian influences, but in this area, there is a strong Turkish influence, as it was controlled by the Ottomans from the 15th to the 18th centuries.
    A local guide, Edin joined us a  stećak  necropolis located near Stolac. These huge 13th century gravestones are notable for their engraving, which denote the person's occupation rather than their name.
    Before our traditional Bosnian lunch in Stolac, Edin walked us through his home town, which he obviously loves. He recounted his experience during the wars of 1991-1995, when all of the Bosniaks (Muslims) were expelled from Stolac. His parents were away, as his father was a soldier and his mother a nurse in Mostar, so at 8 years old, he had to walk with his young sister nearly 25 km to the next town of Blagaj to take shelter in the Tekija (Turkish monastery) there. Much of the town of Stolac was destroyed in the wars, but the people are working to rebuild and restore it.
    We were able to visit the the Blagaj Tekija after lunch. The tekija was used by the Muslim dervishes as a house of prayer. It sits on the cliff above the springs that are the source of the Buma river. After enjoying strong Bosnian coffee or tea, we continued to Mostar for the night.
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  • Day14

    Diocletian's Palace

    June 11 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 86 °F

    The Roman Emperor Diocletian chose Split as the site of his "retirement" home. This morning we were guided through the remains of the palace and the Roman history of Split by local guide and Split native Maja. It is truly amazing that the engineering and construction techniques of the Romans survived from 304 AD. Parts of the palace we "recycled" by medieval inhabitants who used them to build new homes on top of the foundation. The temple to Jupiter and Diocletian's mausoleum were "rehabbed" by the Christians and are still in use as the world's smallest cathedral. In fact, the residences built into the walls over the original palace are also still in use.Read more

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