BOAT TRIP TO SUSAK

Susak is the most peculiar island in this area. Geologically different from any other island in the Adriatic, formed mostly of fine sand laid on a limestone rock base.

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This is a short story about my first visit to that place.

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This photograph taken from the boat nicely shows the island's basic structure - the limestone plateau and the sand above it. And here, you can also see the plants that cover practically the whole place …

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… reeds.

There is only one settlement on the island, named Susak like the island itself …

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... but is split in two well-defined urban areas.

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Donje selo (which can be translated as Lower village) is spread on the flat terrain along the large bay with the small harbor and long sandy beach ...

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... while Gornje selo (Upper village) ...

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... was built on the hill above the bay.

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I'll show you plenty of details from this interesting old town later in the post, but now ...

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... it's time to start from the beginning. This photograph was taken in the port of my hometown, Medulin.

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It was nine o clock in the morning when the boat left the dock.

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We drove out of the bay ...

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... passed by Finera, the furthest islet of the Medulin bay, you can see it on this shot ...

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... and continued across the big blue ...

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... that looked like the open sea, from my prospective, at least ...

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... but it was just another bay, actually.

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A much larger bay called Kvarner.

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While the boat was speeding ...

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... I was watching the islets and islands around us ...

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... through the zoom of my camera.

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Here I caught a glimpse of the only settlement on the island Unije, called Unije as well. I mean, I think so. My orientation skills and knowledge of the local geography are not so great.

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If this is Unije, and very probably it is, only about 80 people live here all year round, according to Wikipedia. With the tourists, in summer, the number can climb to 400 ... 400 and something. After this look at the distance ...

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... I took a couple of shots with people around me. All friends and family. Mostly family.

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The atmosphere was relaxed and sunny.

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The sea was pretty calm ...

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... various boats were sailing all around us ...

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... and after an hour or so, I think, not sure about the time ...

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... Susak was pretty close.

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I could see things turning from blue to green as we were approaching.

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You can notice the change if you compare this shot with the previous one, and the difference between foreground and background on each photograph.

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Here you can see a sandy hill covered with reeds, small shrubs and grass ...

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... and on this photograph, you can take a more up close look at the dense growth of reeds.

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Here is yet another generic shot that shows how the island is structured. A limestone base and the thick layers of fine yellow sand above it. And here, it's time to say a few words about the geological history of this place.

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There are still doubts on where the sand came from. One of the most plausible theories states that the first lower layer was supposedly deposited during the last ice age by the river Rasha that currently flows into the Kvarner bay on the eastern coast of the Istra peninsula. Another theory indicates the river Po in Italy. A long river with large estuary that still affects the whole northern Adriatic.
Some theories state that the sand was deposited by wind, and some others combine the impact of rivers and winds through a long period of time.

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Here you can see the traces of man - made terraces used for grapevine cultivation. Small fields were surrounded by reeds that helped hold the terrain and slow down the erosion.

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Vineyards are still present on Susak, in the central part, but once most of the island was covered with this culture, with the reeds surrounding the fields. Now the reeds cover most of its sandy surface.

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The boat was anchored about a hundred meters from the land, in the picturesque bay on the side of the island opposite to the Susak - the town. We spent an hour of swimming and snorkeling in this turquoise water ...

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... and then continued along the coastline ...

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... directed to the only sheltered bay on the island, with a port that can accommodate bigger boats. A place where you can jump directly to the dock and reach the firm land without any swimming.

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As the boat was slowly cruising, I was photographing stuff left and right and all around. Here you can take one more look at the generic blue distance ...

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... on this photograph I caught a man who was enjoying the sea on a smaller vessel ...

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... and here you can take a last look at the reed - covered hills ...

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... before entering the port, the town, and all that stuff.

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This is the first house in the bay, on the way in. On the way out of the bay, it's the last house of the Lower village. I don't know how old it is, but is made of stone, and looks great in the landscape.

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Near that house, glued to the wall of sand, there is some relatively big building made of concrete, but it doesn't look like a house. Not a typical house, at least. Maybe is something related to infrastructure, to water supply or canalization.

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A woman was passing by those concrete blocks, probably on the way to some deserted beach further from the town.

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This sign, on the shore across the bay, was more or less parallel to the aforementioned building, means the boats are forbidden to stop and anchor there.

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With each of these shots, our boat was closer to the dock.

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When I photographed the shallow water of the most popular beach on the island, the boat was roped and anchored.

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Soon we took what's necessary for a day in the town, and went for a walk.

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The first thing I shot, once on the land, was a seagull ...

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... resting high on the lamp. Right there on the large, concrete dock.

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This is the view from the opposite side of the dock, the side facing the open sea. Since the winds here can be very strong, especially in winter ...

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... there is a breakwater, built to stop the waves from that direction. If you enlarge this enlargeable photograph, you may notice a seagull at the top of the lamp.

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It seems that each lamp has one. After this shot ...

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... we left the port ...

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... and walked towards the Lower village. (Donje selo)

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On the right side of this picture, you can see the biggest grocery store here. The store is not that big when compared to the stores and supermarkets on the mainland, but it's visibly the biggest on the island.

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The building is here since the early 80', and was built on the place where once a fish processing factory stood. That factory was active from 1939 to 1964. On this photograph, taken earlier from the boat, you can see the entire building, that has some more stuff besides the grocery store in it. I bought a pack of cigarettes and the souvenir lighter for my father here, because he forgot that stuff on the boat.

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Passed the store, we continued along the Lower village promenade ...

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... and other tourists were passing us by. We were directed to the bar at the end of this small boulevard. At one point, while the rest of the bunch continued along this path ...

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... I turned into a narrow side street ...

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... and entered the small labyrinth ...

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... filled with cool details and a solid dose of some unique atmosphere.

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A man with the oriental hat passed me by, and ended up caught on these three paparazzi - style photographs.

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After some more rambling and shooting around the narrow, shady passages in between houses of that compact neighborhood ...

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... I reached the bar on the square, and the rest of the crew. After a drink ...

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... the rambling continued.

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Here you can take a look at the park near the bar, and some lovely plants that grow there.

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A bit further, a cat passed across the road, directed to the shade of another little park ...

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... the park in front of the post office.

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There are no cars or traffic signs on the island. The roads are made for cycling and walking ... and the occasional small tractors. Many people use these garden carts ...

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... and wheelbarrows, to move things around.

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The wheelbarrows are so iconic that one of those things was turned into an art installation high on the facade of a house in the Upper village. This photograph was taken later, when I visited the settlement on the hill.

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Here, back in time, and back in the Lower village, I passed by the deckchairs and parasols on the beach ...

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... then I walked by some Christian action figures incorporated in the wall of a big, white house near the beach ...

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... by the last houses ...

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... and gardens of the village beneath the hill.

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This is a steep and narrow path that leads uphill, to the Upper village. It's bordered mostly with reeds, but I saw also a couple of trees along the way, acacias and figs.

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This, and the following two photographs, were taken through the reeds, halfway to the top of the hill. Here you can take a better, elevated look at the harbor and the beach.

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The simple construction in the shallows, covered with reeds, with people around it showing how shallow this bay really is, looked pretty cool and photogenic in a Tourist brochure kind of way. So I zoomed in as much as the camera allowed.

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Here the tourists can rent paddle boats, ideal for slowly cruising around the bay.

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Here, I'm entering the Upper village. On this photograph, you are looking at the remains of the Benedictine abbey from the 12th century. This was the defensive tower and the castle of the much larger abbey.

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Passed the old walls of the medieval abbey, there is a lovely little square.

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Here I retreated a bit to take a shot from a different prospective.

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Now, while showing the photographs taken in the beautiful labyrinth of narrow streets surrounded by picturesque old architecture ...

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... I'll talk a bit about the history of the island, of its only town, and the population ... besides explaining you some details I shot along the way. Here, I was approaching some decaying, partially open window ...

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... and I saw some nice details of the kitchen's interior, once I looked inside. The island must have been known to Greeks and Romans, but no archeological remains from that ancient period was found on Susak, only on the surrounding islands. There are speculations that Susak has been settled for at least two thousand years by Illyrians, Greek sailors, and Romans. In the case of Romans, as a summer resort for wealthier Roman citizens, just like the area along the bay of my hometown, Medulin. The fact is that no material evidence to support these claims was found on the island.

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The earliest surviving text mentioning Susak was written in the early 11th century by Giovanni Diacono, a Venetian deacon, secretary to the doge of Venice and a chronicler. He wrote about the battle in which the Saracens have destroyed a fleet of Venetian ships, in the year 844. According to him, the surviving ships fled to Sansego. Sansego was the Venetian word for this island, and it's a current Italian name for Susak as well. Unrelated to that piece of history, :) I can tell you that the figs sprouting from the windows of decaying old houses look pretty cool.

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Here you can take a better, more up close look at one of those window - figs.

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Assuming that Susak was settled in the early Middle Ages, which is very probable, but we can't be sure, probably Slavs would have ruled the island as a part of the Byzantine Empire, during that period. Circa from the year 500 to the year 900.

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I don't know what these colorful little flags represent, but they look like replicas of some historic stuff, with elegant writings and heraldic illustrations on them.

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Continuing with the history, while walking along the street that leads out of the old town, I'll tell you a few words about the 10th and 11th century ...

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... when Susak was governed by the Croatian Kingdom. In or around the year 1071, the Croatian King Kreshimir gave Susak to Benedictine monks to build an abbey on the island. The Benedictine monks governed Susak until sometime between the late 12th century and the year 1267. A year in which Istra became a territory of the Republic of Venice, and it is likely that Susak was also ceded to the Venetians at or around the same time. Here I'll stop talking about history, until I enter the town again.

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I found this Opuntia ficus-indica by the last line of houses, just outside the shade of the small streets. This cactus can be found in my hometown as well, but I never saw it like this, tall and hard as some tree. Very beautiful plant.

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Here, you can take a look at the Lower village, from the top of the hill. From the edge of the Upper village. I was able to see only a fragment, because the dense growth of tall reeds was hiding the rest.

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On these four shots, you can see the reeds and the sandy soil along the road that leads to the cemetery. The road was too long for this excursion, and the cemetery too interesting for just a quick look, so I gave up and walked back.

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Once in the town again ...

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... I continued exploring the narrow alleys ...

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... in search of details, compositions, and atmospheres. And I'll continue my talk about history here.

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Between the 13th and 18th centuries, Susak is mentioned in various documents, charts and official papers of Venetian doges.

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Christiaan Sgrooten, a Dutch cartographer, was the first to chart a settlement on the island, In the year 1593.

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On this shot, you can see the interior of the old ruin from the previous photograph.

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The Republic of Venice ruled Susak until April 17, 1797 ... when Napoleon Bonaparte signed the Treaty of Leoben ceding the land between Istra and Dalmatia (including Susak) to Austria. Although the island was now part of the Austrian Empire, it was still under Napoleon's jurisdiction.

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After Napoleon's exile, the Austrian Empire annexed Susak and much of the region.

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The Austrian and subsequently the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled over the island for the next 100 years from roughly the year 1815 till the end of World War One, in 1918.

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After the war and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1919 gave this Island and several other Adriatic territories to the relatively new nation of Italy.

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This post is already too long and exhausting to put together, so I won't get into the details of these changes. How it affected the island's economy, the life of its population and stuff like that. Italy ruled until 1943. From 1922 to the capitulation in 1943, it was a fascist rule of course, and surnames of other ethnicities were Italianized.

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In 1943 The Nazis established the Operation Zone of the Adriatic Littoral and took control of the area including Susak. The Nazis remained on the island until the end of World War Two in 1945.

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After that war, in 1947, the island became part of Yugoslavia. Now, after the wars in the 90' that ended that Socialist state, this is Croatia. Although, it was Croatia before as well. The Socialist Republic of Croatia, part of the federal state of Yugoslavia.

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In between 1948 and the mid-1960s, the island experienced a mass exodus. After the war, the Italian population of this region was under big pressure to leave, especially following the killings of Italians in nearby Istra. Fascism wasn't easy, but for many people the liberation was hard as well. Further, the agrarian reforms and the new Socialist climate made the Winemaking unprofitable, so the Croatians followed the Italians. They emigrated to America, usually through Italy.
Right now, more islanders and their descendants live in the U.S. than here. And not just a few more.

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Here, my story about history ends.

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What follows ...

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... it's just a collection of details ...

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... stuff that I caught on photographs while rambling around the old town ...

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... stuff like shoes ...

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... shadows ...

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... lizards ...

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... and flowers.

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Plenty of flowers. This is the Campsis radicans, a climbing plant commonly known as the Trumpet vine, native to the eastern United States.

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Here you can see the small flowers of the Cymbalaria muralis, a native Mediterranean plant.

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While I was rambling around the Lower and Upper village, the others were rambling and swimming around the port. At one point, around the 3 PM ...

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... we met in the restaurant on the hill ...

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... and we ate local clams (Pecten jacobaeus), and a big fish from this area (Dentex dentex).

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After the abundant lunch and a bit of talking, teeth picking and stuff like that ...

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... we were ready to walk downhill ...

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... out of the Upper village ...

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... and then, across the flat terrain ...

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... through the Lower village ...

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... along the lovely promenade ...

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... bordered with tall, old palms.

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After an hour of swimming around the boat in the port ...

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... we were on our way home.

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The evening at sea looked fantastic.

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I took plenty of photographs from the moving boat ...

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... so this post isn't over ...

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... yet.

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The trip continues ...

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... as we're sailing into the sunset ...

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... I mean, we weren't driving towards the setting sun, but ...

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.... sailing into the sunset sounds cool :) so ...

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... the sun was sinking into the mist above the horizon ...

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... the golden light was dancing on the water ...

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... the night was getting closer and closer ...

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... and what else can I tell you? Well - THE END, I guess. This post is finally finished! I'm exhausted - Good night.

As always on HIVE, the photographs are my work.

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