Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013 Travels - September - Mediterranean Cruise

Continuing the look back on my travels during 2013, we come to September and our cruise in the Mediterranean. To keep the post to a reasonable length, I will split it in two, starting today with the first part of the cruise, covering Gibraltar, Dubrovnik and Koper, and I will make a second post covering Venice, Malta and Seville.

We set sail from Southampton and down the Solent, passing the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.  It is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, and  reflects Portsmouth's maritime history by its being modelled after a sail. The tower was opened on 18th October 2005 and is taller than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben.
Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower
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Half an hour later we saw the clouds roll in over Portsmouth - an ominous start to the cruise!
Clouds over Portsmouth
Clouds over Portsmouth
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A couple of days later we landed at our first port of call, Gibraltar. Rather than include photos of the Rock or the playful Barbary Apes, I thought I would post a couple of different ones. The first is of Gibraltar International Airport, which is the civilian airport that serves the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. The runway is owned by the Ministry of Defence for use by the Royal Air Force as RAF Gibraltar. The lack of flat space on Gibraltar means the peninsula's only runway is bisected by its busiest road, the Winston Churchill Avenue that heads towards the land border with Spain and the town of La Linea. A pair of flimsy-looking barriers closes vehicular traffic every time a plane lands or departs.
Gibraltar Airport
Gibraltar Airport
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The second is an unusual one of a Barbary macaque lying on a rock in Gibraltar, looking rather fed up. Otherwise known as the Barbary Ape, they are the only wild apes in Europe, and unlike those of North Africa, they are thriving. At present, some 300 animals in five troops occupy the area of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. A popular belief is that as long as Gibraltar Barbary macaques exist on Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule. In 1942, after the population dwindled to just a handful of monkeys, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill ordered their numbers be replenished immediately from forest fragments in both Morocco and Algeria.
Barbary macaque
Barbary macaque
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Leaving Gibraltar we were due to stop at Corfu, but a delay caused by the ship having to assist in the saving of refugees off the coast of Sicily, meant we were unable to call there, so three days after leaving Gib., we docked at Dubrovnik in Croatia.

We walked from the port towards the old walled city  along  the main road to the Pile Gate and came across the Dubrovnik Love Locks. Thirty five meters above the sparkling blues of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik lovers are pledging their love with Lock Locks – the declaration of eternal love. On a three-metre-high fence where the padlocks engraved with hearts and lovers’ initials have been put as a symbol of eternal love to which the lovers have pledged. 

The locks of love started appearing in February 2012 and they are interpreted as the intention to change Boninovo into a place of eternal love. The padlocks are placed on the fence secretly over the night and the keys to the locks are flung into the sea – the pact of love sealed with the waves. 
Dubrovnik Love Locks
Dubrovnik Love Locks
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Once we reached the old town we decided to walk round the walls of the city. The Walls of Dubrovnik are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the citizens of Dubrovnik, since the city's founding prior to the 7th century. With numerous additions and modifications throughout their history, they have been considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period.In 1979, the old city of Dubrovnik, which includes a substantial portion of the old walls of Dubrovnik, joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Dubrovnik City Walls
Dubrovnik City Walls
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Having walked around the walls climbing many steps along the way, and wandering around the old town, we took the cable car and enjoyed fine views of Dubrovnik and the outlying Islands. The new harbour is seen to the right with the small island of Daksa and the larger island of Kolocep.
Dubrovnik and Outlying Islands
Dubrovnik and Outlying Islands
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On leaving Dubrovnik, we passed the Franjo Tudman Bridge. Named after the first President of Croatia, the Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge crossing the D8 State Road over the Dubrovacka coastal inlet near the port of Gruz (a neighbourhood of Dubrovnik, Croatia). 

Design of the original bridge was completed in 1989, however construction was halted at the onset of the Croatian War of Independence. The bridge was ultimately completed in April 2002 and officially opened one month later, at a cost of US$ 31 million -- making it the most expensive bridge in all of Croatia. 

The bridge is 518 m (1,699 ft) long, consisting of a pier on the Western side of the inlet supporting a pre-tensioned girder and an anchoring pier on the Eastern side. The girder’s overall span is 325 m (1,065 ft), and the single pylon is 142 m (464 ft) tall.
Franjo Tudman Bridge
Franjo Tudman Bridge
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The following day, we visited Koper in Slovenia. This is the view of Koper from the cruise ship. Koper (Italian: Capodistria;) is a city in southwestern Slovenia, situated on the country's 29 mile coastline, approximately 3.1 miles from its border with Italy. It is Coastal Slovenia’s largest town, and while it is a workaday port its central core is delightfully medieval. Koper is the centre of the Italian ethnic community of Slovenia and the city is officially bilingual, with both Slovene and Italian as official languages, with the street signs in both languages.
View over Koper
View over Koper
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We sailed from Koper in the evening as the sun was setting.
Koper Sunset
Koper Sunset
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Look out for the second half of the cruise soon.

As usual, all of these photos are available to purchase as original  Wall Art, in a variety of formats including as greeting cards or iphone cases from Fine Art America and Photo4Me - just click on the links below each image.

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