Monday, 3 August 2015

Family Vacation: Omis, Croatia

Family Vacation: Omis, Croatia

Many years ago I sat on a toilet and read a poster that had a list of quotes. One quote from that moment stuck with me: "Take a vacation every year even if you can't afford it." I thought this was brilliant wisdom and lived by it every since. In fact, many years ago I was in Kelowna on a retreat with the Student's Association of Red Deer College and found myself on a boat discussing marriage with a couple men that were twice my age. I remember also this moment in which he said that if I want my marriage to stay together I need to go on vacations and make memories.

So, here we are living one of my life philosophies: a family vacation to Croatia.

But first, Becca's year end garden party for her Little Flowers group:

The girls played a rousing game of croquet. No one was injured.

The girls won prizes (potted plants) for attendance and homework completed.
Back: Becca, Theresia, Antonia
Front: Winter, Anna, Magda, Brenna

Croatia: Day 1: The 12 hour Drive

The drive to Croatia was, according to google maps, 7 hours. We planned for 9-10 due to bathroom breaks and so forth. We were told to leave early (we left at 4am) in order to hit the Slovenia/Croatia boarder crossing early or we'd have a major wait times. Well, everyone had the same idea. The cars were backed up for miles and it took us over 2 hours to get through the boarder crossing. We could've had a bbq during that time if it wasn't for the constant need to inch ahead every 10 min.

We rented a 7-seater car from Bratislava, Slovakia (way cheaper than renting in Austria) and rented an apartment in Omis. Our 2 bedroom apartment was workable and the location was great. Right across the street was a supermarket, down the street was the bakery, and behind the supermarket was the family beach.

Omis, as you'll see in later pictures, is nestled in these mountains right on the coast and a long a great river. Our apartment is below (white and on the street level).

Omis is a half hour south of Split.

After our long day of driving we just wanted to see the ocean and relax. We arrived at 4:30pm so we went to the family beach, relaxed, and enjoyed some pizza. The island across from us is Brac.

Day 2: A meeting with old friends

Sunday came and we went downtown to find the Church. 86% of Croatians are Catholic so we figured our hosts would know when Mass times were. Our host thought he knew, but was wrong and we arrived half through the Mass. Alas.

Here is a picture of the river flowing out of the mountains and into the ocean. Below you can see the remains of an old fortress overlooking the city.

We hunted down many little streets until we found St. Michael's squished in amoung all the buildings downtown.

Our plan was to meet our friends Jarod and Bexi Graham in Makarska so we didn't make it a full out beach day, but relaxed until it was time to go.

The stubby palm trees on the beach.

A celebration day on the beach - though we aren't sure what holiday or feast day it was:

The little ones napped and the big ones played.

We drove south on the beautiful coastal road for a half hour to Makarska to meet our friends Jarod and Bexi.

Jarod is a sailor and had rented a sailboat for the week and just happened to be settling in for the night in Makarska on our 2nd day. This was our only chance to connect.

Here is Jarod and the Maria.

We had great conversation on the pebble beach whilst the kids played, had sausage in a bun Croatian style for dinner, and enjoyed the sunshine until a crazy wind blew in.

Jarod and Bexi are leaders with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and have given their lives to spreading the Good News about Jesus.

Our kids loved Jarod and his goofiness and his friendliness. They talked about him for days after.

Day 3: A full day at the beach 

This peer was built where the river runs into the ocean. The Adriatic Sea is on the left with warm water and the river is on the right with cold water.

From the peer we could see the old fortress on top of the mountain - we'd climbed up a couple days later.

Day 4: Day Trip to Split

The only thing we did in Split was to visit Emperor Diocletian's (284-305AD) retirement palace. It is a UNESCO heritage site and an important part of Christian history. Under him was the 'Great Persecution' (the most violent of them all) of the Christians and the final one as Constantine came on the scene next with the Edict of Milan in 313AD and stopped the Persecuting.

Here is the outside wall of the palace.

At the Golden Gate (there are 4 gates each named after a metal) there was a gigantic statue of the Bishop Gregorius of Nin who fought for to use old Croatian in their liturgical worship.

And if you rub his big left toe you'll have good luck and come back to Split again some time.

The Golden Gate:

Here inside the walls of the palace is the Cathedral of St. Domnius originally built as mausoleum. We were able to walk up to the bell tower for a spectacular view.

We did a nice tour through the Church and into the crypt. I don't think there was anyone buried in the crypt, just a small shrine to St. Lucy and wishing well.

Then we walked up to the top of the bell tower to see the city of Split and the beautiful Adriatic Sea.

Here below is the old temple of Jupiter converted into a baptismal chapel.

Yes, doing historical tours with daddy is a bit exhausting when it is 37 celsius outside.

The solution is simple: ice cream!

And back to Omis to watch the sunset on the beach.

And to eat a donut!

Day 5: Hike to the Fortress Starigrad

This morning we got up relatively early - well actually, in this Biffert family we are always up early - what I mean is that we tried to get ready faster so it wouldn't be so hot on our hike up to the fortress. The Adventurers 4 headed up together around 8am.

Of course, Tristan and Benedict have energy oozing out their pores and basically ran up the mountain. Winter is still regaining her energy after not being able to run for a year because of the tumour in her foot, so she was a bit slower. Which was fine, because daddy was even slower.

Here you can see where the river runs into the ocean and how the peer steers the water to the north to keep the beach on the south having warmer water.

And, as is our tradition: a treat at the top!

The fortress was built in the 15th century as a protection against the Turks.

The kids had fun pulling up water from the well.

Then, our favourite thing to do as a family: play at the beach!

Fresh fish from the fish market:

Day 6: Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

As Medjugorje hasn't been officially approved as a Marian apparition site we didn't go as pilgrims but simply, on the advice of many, to come and pray.  At the boarder crossing we were asked to show our green card for the car. I pulled out the international insurance card and it turned out to be expired - the rental companies fault. So I had to purchase a new one for 20 euro to get into Bosnia. However, when I tried to get my money back from the rental company they would only give me 10 euro back as they said the cost was only 10 euro and I was ripped off the other 10 euro. Arg.

It was extremely hot and dry and there were hundreds of people here.  Here is the Basilica.

We were not entirely sure what to do when we arrived. We checked out the events board and Holy Mass was happening right then in Italian so we joined in for the liturgy of the Eucharist at the outdoor altar.

After Mass and lunch we walked around. Here is the image of our lady of Medjugorje.

Here is one area for confessions. When we arrived there were confessions happening in about 6 languages (but not English), after Mass I guess they stopped and went for lunch.

We offered up intentions at the foot of the cross.

And after ice cream and purchasing some religious articles we headed back to Omis (about a 2 hour drive).

We made it back to Omis, had pizza on the beach, and the kids played till 9pm non-stop in the water and sand.

Grumpy faces of Winter and Kate.

Day 7: Relax Day

The water in Croatia is very clear and the kids had a wonderful time snorkelling and looking for shells and crabs.

For our last supper we purchased 2 kilos of shrimp. It took an hour to shell them all, but they were sure were delicious in our pasta!

Our last sunset before heading back to Austria.

My Family!

Day 8: Driving Home

Because our great idea of waking up early and trying to hit the boarder crossing early was a flop on the way here, we decided to keep just a normal pace in leaving. We left around 10:30am and arrived home 9 hours later. There was no wait whatsoever at the crossing on the way home!

Here is a view of the apartment that we rented.

And here is a view of the river cutting through the mountains into the ocean where Omis is situated.

The next day after arriving, I had to take rental car back to Bratislava. Benedict and I were filling up the car and driving back onto the autobahn in Slovakia when a guy desperately waved us down from behind. We pulled over and he came running over. He opened the passenger door and began to beg desperately for 200 euros. He needed the 200 euros for gas to get back to Turkey. He wouldn't let up and gave me his ring, then his bracelet and then his chain claiming them all to be gold. I didn't know if he was conning me or not so I gave him 90 euro. Then he asked me to follow him to a bank to get another 110 euro. Hiya! He really was adamant on this sum of 200. I told him 90 was enough for now. So, now I have jewelry I won't wear, and a ring that won't fit - I'll have to head into a jewelry shop to see if they are fake or real gold.

Summer Reads:

The French Revolution by Hillaire Belloc
Fatherless America by David Blankenhorn
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla

and I finished my first book in German! It was a bit of an accomplishment I must admit. 210 pages.

Pictures for the Grandparents:

Katie is practising for the big times:

Well, from here we enter our summer in Trumau. The goal is to work on my thesis and work at ITI to try and pay off a couple months rent. We wish you all a blessed summer with much relaxation time, nights on the patio, and reconnecting with your kids.

God bless.

Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate, and Tavi

Mailing Address: Schloss Trumau Schlossgasse 21 2521 Trumau, Austria 

If you would like to financially support us - the easiest way is probably by Paypal.  Our email is Or online via the ITI website: - in the space provided just write that the money is for the Biffert family.

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