Road Warrior on a Road Scholar Trip Through Slovenia and Croatia

Since my husband has retired we are traveling at an amazing pace, attempting to see the whole of the world in as little time as possible. I love travel and it’s really fun and an amazing opportunity. We are extremely lucky to be able to do this. And it is very disruptive to my studio practice. I am embracing my journal as a portable studio, an idea I got from Micah Bornstein, who designed the pages for The Robin Makes A Laughing Sound: A Birder’s Observations. He said he thought of his laptop as a portable studio. I don’t usually travel with my laptop, but I am almost never without my journal, watercolors, ink, and fountain pen. I can sketch very quickly. When we are traveling and the guide starts to give a short lecture on a landmark, I begin to sketch. All I need is 5-10 minutes of standing still. I might even be able to pull out my paints and splash some color on the sketch before it’s time to move. Below are the sketches I made on our most recent Road Scholar Trip, to Slovenia and Croatia. It was a wonderful trip, that began in Lake Bled, Slovenia, included a week on a boat sailing the Adriatic coast with stops in many small hill towns, and ended in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

Getting started is the hardest part. We were in Lake Bled several days before I began to draw more than the birds I was seeing. And I wasn’t organized enough to have my paints on me when I found a cafe with a good view of the lake.




Ljubjana, the capital of Slovenia, is a wonderful walking town. I definitely hope to get back there, with more time and with my paints.




On the day we were leaving Lake Bled, I realized I had not pulled out my paints. So I sat down in the lounge of our hotel (Park Hotel) and quickly made sketches of the castle and the church that sat above the lake. I did not make time to sketch the church that sits on an island in the lake.




We made a walking tour of the town of Rijaka, in Croatia, where we boarded our ship, MY Cassanova, and, the next day, traveled by bus along the Croatian Riviera to the town of Pula, a former Roman settlement with a well-preserved Amphitheater.




Below is a sketch of the Adriatic coast (image on left). I love the red tile roofs on almost all the buildings, which are painted in soft pastel colors. The second sketch is of the port of Zadar, seen from our moored boat. Zadar was one of my favorite towns. There is a “Sea Organ” built into the boardwalk along the coast. Waves from the wind and wakes of boats enter holes in the breakwater and force air through pipes like an organ. The sound is eery and appealing. There also was a model of the solar system built into the boardwalk with solar panels so that in the evening the panels create a random light show. Both the organ and the solar panels draw the public to the water front.




The Bell Tower, below, is on Dugi Otok, “Long Island.” The Kronati Islands are some of the 1000+ islands in the Adriatic off the Croatian coast. Sheep and goats have grazed them to a near barren state. Of the approximately 1200 islands along the Adriatic coast, only 44 are inhabited.




Sibenek was a fairly large town with a good harbor, lots of forts and churches. From our stay there we traveled by bus into the hills to visit the estate of a priest who lives a very traditional life, with fabulous gardens, grape vines, and vegetables. We were fed a delicious traditional meal and drank lots of homemade red wine. I slept really well that night. The next day we explored Krka National Park, where the river was roaring and the falls bursting with all the rain we’ve been having.



In Primosten we had beautiful weather and even took a dip in the Adriatic, just to be able to say we did. The last sketch was made in Zagreb, on our last night, when Chuck and I went out for one last drink at an outdoor cafe. The evening was lovely. The sketch not so successful, but worth a try. Whether the drawing is good or not, the act of sketching puts me more firmly in a place and creates memories that my snapshots do not. I draw to remember, to slow down, to understand, to enjoy.

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