Monthly Archives: September 2019

The Whole Town Is In The Palace

 My sister’s colleague had recommended we see Diocletian’s Palace in the city of Split Croatia. But where was it? It didn’t seem to have a website.  It didn’t seem to be a museum.  We walked through the Old Town of Split but couldn’t find it. But then we discovered……..

Ana was the dramatic guide who introduced us to the Diocletian Palace. 

on a tour with an enthusiastic archeologist and art historian named Ana, that the former Diocletian Palace complex is sooooo big over half of the Old Town of Split is located inside its walls.

The Diocletian Palace at the beginning of the 4th century when it was built.

Diocletian was a Roman Emperor and he built the palace on the waterfront as a place to retire after he abdicated as emperor. He only lived in the palace for four years before he died.

Ana told us that the Diocletian Palace is most famous today because it was the setting for key scenes from seasons four and five of the television series Game of Thrones 

The limestone palace is simply massive and might more correctly be called a fortress because when it was built it included housing for the emperor’s army. Now the whole interior of the palace grounds is filled with restaurants and shops and apartments. The fact that UNESCO declared the palace a world heritage site in 1979 has helped to protect it.That means any renovations or alterations must meet strict guidelines which can cause headaches for landlords but helps to maintain the beautiful old architecture. I’m standing in the window well of what was probably Diocletian’s living room. Ana told us only a handful of Split residents actually live inside the former palace walls now. Virtually all of the apartments have been turned into rental units for tourists and currently sell for around 3000 euros a square meter making them prohibitively expensive and out of the price range of most Split citizens. Here’s an artist’s rendition of the main square of the palace in the 1700s. Here is Dave in that main square today absolutely jammed with tourists many from the large cruise ships that pull into Split each day. The morning we visited a bridal couple was posing for photos in the historic square. 

Eating dinner at the Bokeria Restaurant inside the Diocletian Palace

Our VRBO host here in Split recommended places to eat inside the Diocletian Palace grounds and I have to say they have all been fabulous.  We had a cinnamony lamb ragu one night, mussels with figs and French fries another, a spinach pasta called agnolotti with cranberries and skuta cheese another, and last night Dave had a smoky oxtail and chateaubriand risotto and I had a melt in your mouth tangy grilled sea bass with cauliflower cream and zucchini. Ana took us into the Diocletian Palace grounds through the Silver Gate where the military would have entered And out through the Golden Gate where the royal family would have entered the palace. Probably the most visible landmark inside the palace complex is this bell tower on St. Dominus Church. The church was built on the site of the Mausoleum for Diocletian. The emperor was orginally buried there but his sarchophogus has since been destroyed.  Diocletian was a well known persecutor of Christians and ordered the beheading of Dominus, a bishop who lived in Dicoletian’s hometown of Salona.

Bishop Dominus statue near the church named after him. He is the patron saint of Split hence the image of the city beneath his feet.

So it is somewhat ironic that a Christian cathedral named for the bishop Diocletian had killed now stands on Diocletian’s burial site.

The St. Dominus bell tower was built in the 13th century.

One night after our tour with Ana when we already knew that basically most of the Old Town of Split was located inside the Diocletian Palace grounds we were walking and I heard another tourist say just as we orginally had, “But where is the palace?”  Someone nearby, perhaps a Split resident said, “You’re in the palace right now.”  

Other posts……….

Winnipeg’s Palace Theatre

Alone in the Castle

MaryLou’s Castle


Filed under Croatia

War is Hell Especially for Children

Croatian child at his father’s funeral in 1991. Photo by Ron Haviv.

At a War Photo Museum in Dubrovnik, I spent a long time reading histories and looking at photos illustrating a decade of war in the Balkans. There were three major conflicts during that period. At the museum, they had collected the work of renowned photojournalists who covered the wars. There were many photos on display but I decided to focus on the ones taken of children. The museum staff said it was just fine for me to take photos of the journalists’ work when I said I wanted to share them on my blog. 

Croatians including children being expelled by Serb forces after the fall of Vukovar. 1991 photo by Ron Haviv

The first war was the battle for Croatian independence from Yugoslavia. It happened between 1991-1995. There was internal conflict in Croatia between Croatian Serbs who wanted to stay part of Yugoslavia and the rest of the country that wanted independence.  The Serbs who had controlling power inside the Yugoslav army wanted to conquer as much of Croatia as they could so they could have their own large Serbian state inside Croatia.

Young girls in Dubrovnik collect rain water after the Yugoslav Army cuts off Dubrovnik’s water supply. Photo by Peter Northall 1991

By 1992 when a cease-fire was declared the Serbian state only occupied a quarter of Croatia. With the backing of the United Nations, Croatia launched a campaign to take over the Serbian state and in 1995 succeeded. 200,000 Serbs from the Serbian state in Croatia fled to Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. Croatia was intact and independent but had paid a huge cost in loss of property and some 20,000 lives. 

Serbian child prepares to leave his village in Bosnia after an attack. 1992 Ron Haviv

The second conflict was the Bosnian War for Independence from Yugoslavia. It took place between 1992 and 1995.  The Bosnia and Herzegovina regions which wanted independence from Yugoslavia were supported by the Croatians.  As in the Croatian War of Independence, there were Bosnian Serbs who wanted their own Bosnian Serb state and they were fighting with the Yugoslav forces.

Bosnian children in the no man’s land between Serbian and Croatian forces after an offence by the Bosnian army ended 1994. Photo by Emmanuel Ortiz

Women and children mourn after the  Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Photo by Ron Haviv

This war included the massacre at Srebrenica in which the Bosnian Serb army killed  8000 men and boys. In the aftermath 25,000 Bosnian women and children were forcibly transferred and abused.

A boy who survived the Srebrenica Massacre in a refugee camp- Photo by Tarik Samarah

The city of Mostar was the site of a siege by the Croatian forces for nine months during the Bosnian War.

Bosnian girl bikes past piles of rubble during a ceasefire in Mostar in 1994. Photo by Wade Goddard

The city was heavily damaged by the shelling that took place.  

Women and children find shelter in the basement of a damaged building after they are expelled from their homes in Mostar by Croat/Bosnian forces. 1993 Photo by Wade Goddard

The Bosnian war ended with a peace treaty and division of land between the warring factions in December of 1995. 

Kosovar boy looks through a bullet hole in a bus window in 1998. Photo by Yannis Behrakis

The final conflict was the Kosovo War which lasted from 1998-1999. Albanian Kosovo separatists supported by the United Nations wanted independence from Yugoslavia.

Displaced Albanian boy taking refuge in the woods as the Yugoslav army burns his village in Kosovo 1999. Photo by Alexandra Boulat

The Serbian controlled Yugoslav army expelled all western journalists and 800,000 Albanians from Kosovo. They again carried out mass executions, murders, and rapes.

Kosovo Albanians prepare to bury a baby who died of exposure after her family was forced to flee their home in 1998. Photo by Ron Haviv

On June 3, 1999, the Serbian president Milosevic suddenly accepted NATO’s demands for ending the conflict over Kosovo. When the war ended NATO helped the Albanians who had been expelled return home.  They were angry and attacked the Serbs burning their houses and destroying their property.

The only child left in the Bosnian village of Lukomir after the war. Photo by Ziyah Gafic in 2000.

It is sometimes hard to believe that the area of the world where we are traveling now was coming to the close of a period of horrific conflict just two decades ago. Today it seems like such a peaceful, beautiful place. My visit to the War Photo Museum in Dubrovnic was a sad reminder that human beings while capable of doing much good for one another, are also capable of being brutally violent towards each other.  Wars are hell for everyone, but especially for children.

Other posts…………

And the Crucifixion Has Continued

A Utah Massacre Remembered

Landmines Museum Visit


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My Husband Sits on the Throne And I Become A Bat

On the boat to Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island is just a short boat trip away from the city of Dubrovnik.

We took a long walk on the rocks and in the forest on Lokrum Island

It is a lovely place to walk and relax but also has two claims to fame. It was the site for many scenes of filming for the television series Game of Thrones and it is home to a large number of Kolombatovic’s long-eared bats.

Queen Cersei Lannister on the legendary throne

Lokrum Island was a key location for the filming of Game of Thrones so when the series came to an end its producers donated the throne used in the television show to the island. Now visitors can sit in the chair located in an old monastery on the island and imagine they are the center of the action in a Game of Thrones episode.

King Dave on the legendary throne

Since my husband, Dave was the only one in our party who had actually watched the Game of Thrones series he posed in the famous chair for a photo. You could watch a video in the monastery that described many of the locations on Lokrum Island and in Dubrovnik that were used for the filming of Game of Thrones. 

Photo of a Kolombatovic long-eared bat in the exhibition on Lokrum

Another thing Lokrum is famous for is Kolombatovic’s long-eared bat. It is found only in the Balkans particularly on islands in the Adriatic Sea. The species was first identified in the early 1980s. Lokrum Island has been a protected nature preserve for more than seventy years so the bats have flourished there.  A display in the same monastery where Dave sat in the Game of Thrones chair described a project where scientists had tagged a bat on Lokrum Island they named Beatrice and followed her behavior and flight for ten days.  Beatrice roosted in the old monastery during the day. Dave insisted I pose in a cutout of the famous long-eared bat in the monastery. 

One of the Lokrum peacocks

Two animals besides the bat abound on Lokrum. The peacock and the rabbit. They were everywhere.

Dave tries to make friends with a peacock

We were having a nice relaxing rest in the sun in these chairs on Lokrum until a young man came along and told us we needed to pay $20 if we wanted to sit in the chairs

Our afternoon on Lokrum was rather laid back and easy going but it was interesting to learn about Beatrice the bat and to see the actual throne from Game of Thrones.

Dave and I in contemplation mode by a natural pool on Lokrum Island

Lokrum used to be most famous for being a place where Richard the Lionhearted took refuge in 1192 when he was returning from the Crusades. Now a species of bat and a wildly popular television series have put it on the map for new reasons. 

Other posts………


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A Lovely Evening in Dubrovnik

 Classical music by candlelight in an ancient church, a traditional Bosnian meal, a carafe of local white wine and meeting some interesting folks made for a lovely evening in Dubrovnik. We found our way down a very narrow street in the Old Town to the Taj Mahal restaurant. You’d think they would serve Indian food but they don’t. The menu is traditional Bosnian fare. We sat at an outside table and enjoyed cevapi and shishkebobs, fresh bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar, baked potatoes with cottage cheese and a glass of local white wine. Then we were off to the St. Savior Church built in 1520 for a concert by a string quartet.

Waiting for the concert to start

We had an interesting chat before the concert began with an emergency room doctor from the southern United States and his partner. The doctor told us gunshot wounds were one of the most frequent injuries in his emergency room, so frequent in fact, that the American army sends its medics to his hospital for training.  We discussed American politics and the doctor and his partner shared their grave concern about the current situation in their country. One solution they thought would be for more Americans to be less inward-looking and isolated. They suggested more of their county’s citizens needed to travel so they could learn to see the value of getting to know and accept and appreciate people from different places and cultures. The St. Savior church was lit by candles for the concert and we listened to a nice mix of Bach, Elgar, Dvorak, Mozart, and Beethoven before making our way back to our rented home under the night sky in the balmy beautiful sea air of Dubrovnik. 

Other posts………..

On the Wall in Dubrovnik

You Can Get Your Throat Blessed in Dubrovnik

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You Can Get Your Throat Blessed in Dubrovnik

paula our guide in dubrovnikOn our walking tour of Dubrovnik, we were shepherded through the city by a delightful guide named Paula who told us the Croatian dialect spoken in Dubrovnik is unique.  We learned the city of Dubrovnik banned slavery some 600 years ago and that there are no homeless people or beggars in the city because the government and the church provide them with housing and the assistance they need. Very progressive! There is a limited police presence in Dubrovnik because there is virtually no crime. It is one of the safest cities in the world. We saw a walled fortress that was featured on the television series Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik was the site of a great deal of filming for the show and Game of Thrones fans flock to the city. We entered the Old Town section of Dubrovnik where no cars are allowed. and learned the cistern in the square first built in 1311 still provides clear clean drinking water to folks

My brother-in-law Ken waits for the rest of us to rendezvous with him at the Dubrovnik cistern

The cistern is a traditional meeting place for the residents of Dubrovnik.  

The fortress on the hill behind our group was built in a unique way

We heard a fascinating tale from Paula about a Dubrovnik fortress which was built in the 13th century. Every time a man, woman, or child entered the city they were required to carry in with them one stone from nearby quarries to be used in the construction of the fortress. Men had to carry big stones, women medium-sized stones and children small stones. We went to an open-air market where Paula treated us to some local sweets. We tried candied orange peels, chocolate almonds, and sundried figs.  Wonderful!

The church of St. Blaise

He’s the saint of throats!  The patron saint of Dubrovnik is Saint Blaise. He is famous for saving a child who had a fishbone stuck in his throat.   There’s a church dedicated to St. Blaise and the Dubrovnik faithful go there every year on February 3rd  for the blessing of the throats. Paula our guide learned her lesson one year when she didn’t go for a throat blessing and was plagued with colds and coughs and laryngitis many times during the next twelve months, not great for a person who is a tour guide. She hasn’t missed a blessing service since. 

St. Blaise atop his church

Paula said St. Blaise Day is a more important holiday than Christmas in Dubrovnik.  People dress up in finery and families have big meals together.

We looked at a map that showed the places in Dubrovnik that were hit during the Serbian bombings in 1991. Our guide Paula’s father was part of the 163rd Infantry that defended Dubrovnik from the Yugoslav People’s Army in December of 1991. Her parents’ house was destroyed during the bombing of Dubrovnik. Paula, who was four years old at the time remembers food packages arriving from other countries.  She told us about the ‘lost generation’- young people who couldn’t go to school during the war and couldn’t get jobs after the war was over.

These earrings are traditional Croatian jewelry. The smallest ones are for young girls, the middle-sized ones for married or engaged women and the largest for widows. 
It was interesting and fun to explore the streets of Dubrovnik with Paula. She taught us lots of neat things about the city and its history. 

Other posts………….

On The Wall in Dubrovnik

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Up on the Wall in Dubrovnik

With my sister Kaaren on the Dubrovnik wall

Up and down! Down and up! We certainly had a great workout yesterday traversing the ancient walls around the City of Dubrovnik. After a full day of travel, we were ready for a little exercise and we got it in spades on our two-hour trek up 25 meters and down 25 meters so many times! My fitness app said I had climbed up 30 flights of stairs yesterday but I think it was more than that! With the beautiful blue Adriatic on one side and the picturesque city of Dubrovnik on the other, it was hard sometimes to know where to look!

My sister Kaaren on the Dubrovnik wall with the Adriatic Sea behind her

Dubrovnik is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic and when you walk on the wall around the beautiful city it is easy to understand how it got that name. The wall around Dubrovnik was built over a period of time between the 14th and 17th century and its defensive purpose was made clear by the cannons and these forts and bastions.  There were fifteen of them built originally along the wall. You could climb up to the tops of the bastions and my brother-in-law Ken decided to scale this one. From the wall, you can look out on the island of Lokrum where many scenes from the television series Game of Thrones were filmed. There are homes and churches and offices visible from the wall.  I liked the way this line of laundry brought a flash of color to the more somber tones of the buildings. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this desk top through an open window along the wall! If a messy desk is a sign of genuis as some experts suggest, the person who owns this office must be brilliant! Some of the homes along the wall were no longer in use but they had a beauty all their own with mosses and greenery taking over their framework. Dave was usually way ahead of the rest of us but at one point he had stopped for some reason and when I got closer I found out why. There was a basketball court down below and a couple of guys were playing a little one- on-one. I might have known basketball would get my husband who coached and played the sport for decades to take a break. There is a really fascinating story behind these orange roof tiles you see on the buildings around the wall. Almost 70% of the beautiful terra cotta rooftops in Dubrovnik were destroyed by the Yugoslav People’s Army during the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. UNESCO which had recognized the city as World Heritage Site in 1979 decided to help restore the rooftops and they enlisted some help from another European country. 

My sister photographing the beautiful orange rooftops of Dubrovnik

Apparently, the buildings in Toulouse France have exactly the same kind of orange terra cotta rooftops as Dubrovnik and so factories there pitched in to assist with a $9 million project to restore the unique roofs in Dubrovnik. More than 200,000 tiles were shipped from Toulouse to Dubrovnik. It is sometimes hard to remember that war was a reality in Croatia so recently and caused such devastation to so many places and people here.  The roof tile story is a good reminder. We had to pay about $40 Canadian to walk along the wall and at first I thought that was a bit of a steep price but when I saw these workers fixing a section of the wall I realized that Dubrovnik probably has to foot a hefty bill to keep the walls safe and stable for the nearly 5 million tourists who come to Dubrovnik every year. The walls around Dubrovnik were originally wooden palisades that were replaced by the current limestone wall. The walls were built so sturdily that they even survived an earthquake in 1667. From high up on the wall we could see Swimmers and sunbathers and kayakers getting a different view of the wall but….. we were more than happy with the wonderful introduction to the City of Dubrovnik we received by trekking our way around the wall. Today a walking tour of the city should help us get to know the Pearl of the Adriatic in a different way. 

Other posts…………

Walls We’ve Seen Around the World

Having Fun Despite Wayward Paths, Closed Doors and a Chilling Wind



Filed under Croatia

Good News -Part 9

helping a strangerIt’s true!

Other good news posts.  

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A Puzzling Achievement

I finished before they did!  When we were in Mexico last winter Dave and our friend Rudy who was staying with us, did crossword puzzles together almost every day from a big book of New York Times crossword puzzles Rudy had brought along with him. Although I wanted to participate the puzzles were clearly too hard for me. Dave has been doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every weekend for over forty years so he’s an expert.  

Here in Winnipeg Dave has a regular Saturday morning date with his friend Les at a neighborhood coffee shop to do the New York Times crossword puzzle in the Winnipeg Free Press. After we returned home from Mexico in March I decided I would start joining them in an attempt to develop my crossword puzzle skills. Although the New York Times crossword was too daunting for me I would work my way up to it by doing the less difficult Premier Crossword in Saturday’s paper.  

Initially, I could get only a small portion of my puzzle done before Dave and Les had finished the New York Times crossword.  Then Dave would take my crossword and quickly finish it. 

Slowly but surely I improved and would get more and more of my puzzle done before the guys finished theirs. Then this past Saturday a miracle! I finished my puzzle before the guys finished theirs.  Granted they said their puzzle was VERY hard and I figured out the theme to mine quite early on so that made it much easier to complete.  But still…………. I was pretty pumped!

I may not be ready for the New York Times crossword puzzle yet but I’m getting there.  

Other posts……….

Sunday Morning At the Olive Mill

Coloring Books- Not Just For Kids


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Beginning With Respect

Last Sunday I gave a talk in a church and used the traditional indigenous teachings as a guide for approaching new beginnings. The first teaching I looked at was respect.  Respecting others and respecting ourselves makes new beginnings easier to navigate. 

In this 1796 painting, The Water of Life Discourse by Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann Jesus talks respectfully with a Samaritan woman who is leading a rather unorthodox lifestyle.

I talked about how Jesus always approached the people he met with respect. He met them where they were in their lives whether they were dealing with a medical problem, had a demeaning or demonized profession, were facing mental health challenges, were working too hard or were in a bad place financially. He listened to them. He was non-judgemental, and he offered people hope for a new beginning in their lives.

Whither Thou Goest a painting of Ruth and Naomi by Sandra Freckleton Gagon

I also talked about the Old Testament character Ruth who showed such enormous respect for her mother-in-law Naomi as the two of them traveled to Bethlehem to make a new beginning in their lives. Even after Ruth found a new husband and began her life again she continued to treat Naomi with respect.

My grade one class in our school on the Hopi Nation

I gave the personal example of starting a new teaching year and how important it was to respect where my students came from. I had to be respectful and understanding of my students’ current home and family situation, and where they were at right at that point in their learning journey, not where timelines and checklists said they should be. 

Christ in the Wilderness by Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino) 1515-1520 in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum

Respecting yourself during a new beginning is also important. Jesus did that. When the crowds got too much for him he would withdraw to secluded spots on boats out on the water, in gardens, in desert places to take time to pray and get away from all the demands being made on his time and attention.

On a junk boat in Hong Kong with colleagues taking time for fun and relaxation away from our busy and demanding professional lives

I talked about how when I first moved to Hong Kong I got really sick.  The demands on teachers at our international school were extremely high and I was teaching all-new curriculum and courses. I was adjusting to being far away from my children and parents, eating new kinds of foods, living in a very small space with my husband and using new modes of transportation. I was also struggling to handle the extreme heat and humidity.  I had to learn to treat myself with respect -to care for my mental and physical health, balance work and relaxation and give myself grace and time to adjust- so that a new beginning in a new place could become a positive experience.

Respect for others and respect for oneself are very important as we make new beginnings in our lives. 

Other posts………


A Time of New Beginnings

A Life That Adds Up to Something


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Filed under Reflections, Religion

C’mon Conservatives

I was with a group of people on Thursday night and we were talking about the various issues that will be important in the American election next fall as well as which Democratic candidates seem the most promising to us. One member of our group interrupted and said, “C’mon. Listen to us. Canada has an election coming up in just about a month and all we can talk about is the American election.”  I was properly chastised and went home to try to learn more about the issues in my own country’s election. I started with the Green Party. As soon as I opened their site there was a big bold invitation for me to read The Green Plan.  I clicked on it and there were eight banners with their eight main initiatives, each with several subheadings. It was easy to find issues I cared about and see a concise, colorfully illustrated statement about what the Green Party planned to do about it. Next, I checked out the New Democratic Party. Right under a big picture of Jagmeet Singh was a headline Our New Deal For People. I clicked on the ‘learn more’ button and seven key promises came up- each with an appropriate graphic. Each of these had a ‘learn more’ button.  When I clicked on the one in the Reconciliaition section for example, up came ten points succinct and clear about steps the NDP will take towards reconciliation. 

I moved on to the Liberal Party site.  As soon as I opened it I saw in big bold letters Our Plan.  When I clicked on ‘learn more’ up came six key initiatives with great photos.  Each had a ‘read more’ button that led to a full description of that initiative. At the bottom of that was another button ‘backgrounder’  and if you clicked on that you got even more information. Last I opened the Conservative Party site.  If I watched the banner at the top change and pressed on one of the banners before it disappeared, I could find an opportunity to donate or connect after reading an action plan to get pipelines built or a promise not to cut social programs or a statement of intent to cut taxes but………… there was no clear set of platform policies presented in an easy to access way like the other party sites provided.  Maybe it is coming. I hope so.  

Both the CBC and Macleans magazine provide easy to understand formats where they compare the country’s parties on a host of issues.  But I have become somewhat wary about trusting news sources to be totally fair and unbiased, so I prefer to hear about what a party believes straight from them. So far the Conservatives aren’t making that nearly as easy as the other parties. 

Other posts…….

We Both Talk With Our Hands

Should Women With Young Children Be Politicians?

Could I Join the Conservative Party?

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Filed under Politics