Escaping to Marjan Hill, the ‘Lungs of Split’ Croatia

Marjan Forest Park is often referred to as the “lungs of Split, Croatia.” The park’s pine forest exhales fresh oxygen into the nearby city — which is removed, but within walking distance. Marjan (or Marjan-Park Šuma, in Croatian) has been a popular recreation spot since at least the 3rd century. Back then, Roman Emperor Diocletian (who had his retirement palace built in Split) had sections of Marjan reserved as park space.

Shawn and I were drawn to the lush park for many reasons. First, it has magnificent views of the Adriatic Sea, as well as the neighboring islands of Brač, Šolta, and Čiovo. Part of Marjan is south-facing, meaning that the sunsets are extraordinary! (See Shawn’s video below for a peek.)

Marjan also has extensive jogging, cycling, and walking trails, as well as picturesque stone churches. Many of the peninsula’s tiny chapels were built centuries ago.

And if you’re lucky, you might even bump into some of Marjan’s resident donkeys.

Whenever we felt the need to escape our home away from home in Split’s bustling Old Town within Diocletian’s Palace walls, we made a pilgrimage to Marjan. On a few occasions we did a bit of foraging for wild asparagus. Other times, we enjoyed a picnic among the agave plants. Most afternoons, we’d see residents walking their beloved dogs or biking. We’d also spot ferries bound for the islands of Hvar, Brač, Šolta, and Vis. And sometimes we’d even glimpse a string of tiny sailboats being piloted by sailing students out on the twinkling Adriatic Sea. The latter two sightings tempted us to embark on an island escape ourselves.

Continue reading “Escaping to Marjan Hill, the ‘Lungs of Split’ Croatia”

A Day Trip from Split, Croatia: Hiking Mosor

 

If you spend enough time in Split, eventually the surrounding mountains will start calling you to explore, and rightfully so…

Two weeks into our stay in the stunning seaside town, we met up with our local friend, Srđan, eager to retreat to the rugged mountains that so dramatically frame the metropolitan area around Croatia’s second-largest city.

Continue reading “A Day Trip from Split, Croatia: Hiking Mosor”

Conquering the Kofel, Oberammergau’s Signature Mountain

Towering over the village of Oberammergau is the Kofel, a Matterhorn-shaped mountain with an elevation of 1,342 meters (4,400 feet). The name Kofel means ‘cone-shaped mountain’ in Celtic, and so hints at the tribes and peoples that once passed through this mountainous part of Germany.

The Bavarians we’ve met in this picturesque town are well-versed in the art of hiking, known as wandern, in German. As a result, they’re able to call off the names of these mountain peaks with the same sort of ease with which they ascend them. Coming from the Midwestern United States where hikes are typically through flat terrain, and well aware of my distaste for heights, I wasn’t sure I would have the fortitude to reach the Kofel’s summit.

Continue reading “Conquering the Kofel, Oberammergau’s Signature Mountain”

Hiking to Greece’s Majestic Meteora Monasteries

It is a perfect marriage of nature and of manmade beauty. Crowning the tops of otherworldly rock formations are Eastern Orthodox monasteries, some constructed more than 700 years ago. Built by monks who were trying to escape persecution, there were once more than 20 monasteries. Over the centuries, however, weather and neglect took their toll, leaving today’s six active monasteries, several that are closed to the public, and others in ruins.

Continue reading “Hiking to Greece’s Majestic Meteora Monasteries”

Stairway to Heaven: Hiking Through the Batad Rice Terraces in the Philippines

Ifugao tribesman carved the Batad Rice Terraces out of the Cordillera Mountains more than 2,000 years ago. Often cloaked in a mysterious fog, these magnificent rice paddies are located on the Philippine island of Luzon, about 470 km (290 miles) from Manila.

Thanks to their grand scale and their amphitheater-like appearance, the terraces have been dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world.” It’s believed that if the Batad terraces were connected end to end, along with those of neighboring Banaue and Bontoc, they would reach around the world. Their combined length is about 17 times that of the Great Wall of China!

Continue reading “Stairway to Heaven: Hiking Through the Batad Rice Terraces in the Philippines”

Snails, Wild Boar & Fairy Tales: Exploring Heidelberg’s Enchanting Forest

The forested hills cradling Heidelberg’s Old Town have been one of my favorite settings in which to explore and escape for the past decade. Before I met my husband, Shawn, I often made the ascent there independently to ponder life goals or jot hand-written letters to family and friends. Sometimes, I’d take friends or my parents along for the serene hike. Now, Shawn and I go there together — whether to escape the hustle and bustle of the city or to commune with nature under the trees’ exquisite canopies.

Continue reading “Snails, Wild Boar & Fairy Tales: Exploring Heidelberg’s Enchanting Forest”