Category Archives: Croatia

Two Little Observations From Our Trip

Here are two observations from our trip that didn’t make it into any of my blog posts about our Croatia adventure.

I wish I had a bib. I am notorious for getting food stains on my clothes. I do try to eat carefully but inevitably while I’m enjoying a meal I get a spot or two on my outfit. I was surprised when I ordered pasta in a Dubrovnik Restaurant that they brought out this lovely, huge white bib for me to wear. I could eat with gusto and without worry. Sure enough by the end of the meal, there were some spots on my bib but not on my clothes. I think I’ll need to invest in a bib of my own.

Towels can be too soft. I noticed in Croatia that towels aren’t fluffy and soft like they often are in North American hotels. They are rougher and stiffer and I kind of liked that. I think they did a better job of drying you off and kind of invigorated your skin.

Other posts………

Aprons

I Had My Toes Read

Let’s Talk About My Haircut

 

 

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I’m The Menu

We spent the last night of our holiday in Monfalcone, Italy and a highlight of our time there was having a fabulous lunch at a restaurant called Lo Sputino.

“I’m the menu,” our waitress said.

We sat down at a sunny table outside and asked our waitress for a menu. “I’m the menu,” she said and she proceeded to describe all of the various dishes their restaurant offered. Dave and I opted to share a Caprese Salad and eggplant lasagna. eggplant lasgna monfalcone italyOur waitress was worried. Were we sure that would be enough? We assured her it would be. And it was.  It was fabulous.  Quite different than the food we’ve been having in Croatia but great. 

We left Rovinj Croatia yesterday morning. Our cycling company had arranged for a driver to take us to Trieste Airport in Monfalcone Italy. In order to get to Italy, we had to pass through the country of Slovenia. This morning we are flying to Frankfurt Germany and then on home to Canada. Five countries in just over twenty-four hours.

I’ve loved our trip but after all that country-hopping I will be glad to get home and look forward to all the exciting family, work and community activities that await us. 

Other posts……

No Christians Fed To Lions and Other Things You Might Not Know About the Colosseum

Visiting Pompei

Michelangelo’s David

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And Just Like That It’s Over

Our last day of cycling in Croatia was stellar. The weather was perfect for biking- cool and sunny. We didn’t get lost. The bikes worked great. We continued to enjoy the stunning scenery of this loveliest of places. Our cycle ended in the seaside city of Rovinj.

Dave takes a break in Rovinj as my brother-in-law Ken tries to find directions to our guest house on his phone.

With my sister in front of the Baron Gautsch Guesthouse in Rovinj

Our guest house here is called The Baron Gautsch.  It is named after a ship that sank during World War I. The Baron Gautsch was a merchant vessel that had been pressed into service by the military to transport evacuees to safer destinations. That’s what it was doing on August 13, 1914, taking refugees and the families of military personnel from Kotor to Trieste, Italy.

A mural of the sunken ship on a window in our guest house. The Baron Gautsch wreck near Rovinj is popular with divers.

Due to an error by an inexperienced second officer left in charge of the bridge, the Baron Gautsch ran into a minefield and it sank in just a few minutes. Sadly 130 people, most of them women and children, drowned. Many of the crew survived and were accused of different acts of negligence including putting themselves into the lifeboats before the passengers.

Drawing of the Baron Gautsch in the hallway of our guesthouse

After checking into our guesthouse we went for a stroll through the city. Rovinj has been inhabited for thousands of years and has been in the hands of the Romans, the Venetians, the Austrians, the Italians, the Yugoslavians and now is part of Croatia.
Rovinj is a tourist mecca and the harbour was crowded with boats. Most of them were leisure craft but we also saw some people working on repairing their fishing boats.

Dave and Ken survey Rovinj

The sea wall is crowded with restaurants advertising fresh fish and even in the ‘low season’ now in October, there were plenty of tourists walking the sea wall with us. I wrote yesterday about how every city or town in Croatia used to have a tree at its heart which served as a meeting place for residents. Sure enough, I found that tree in the centre of Rovinj. We stopped for a gelato break and sat by the seaside to people watch and enjoy our cones. Dave insisted his pistachio cone was the best.

View of Rovinj from our guesthouse balcony

We had e-mailed our friends Bruno and Caroline whose children lived in Rovinj for several months and we had dinner in a restaurant they recommended. It was a good choice. I took this photo of Dave actually walking by a wine and spirits shop in Rovinj.  He has been on a bit of a quest in Croatia to find the best brandy.  He has already tried mint, mistletoe, cherry, plum, pear and peach and really wanted to get another kind to try from this shop, but realized since it is our last day in Croatia that he wouldn’t have time to finish even a small bottle.  So he walked on by!

And just like that our bike trip is over. Tomorrow our cycling company will come to take our bikes back. Dave wondered if he shouldn’t scratch his initials into his bike somewhere since he has become quite attached to it in the last week.  

Other posts…….

Pearl Harbor – Sleeping with Torpedoes

House Barns and Gelato

 

 

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Getting my Cycling Mojo Back

What a fabulous cycle we had today. Several factors combined to make it a near-perfect ride. Our tour company brought over a new bike for me this morning before we left and it worked beautifully unlike the one I’ve been using up till now that required several repairs to its chain each day. Secondly almost our entire trip today was on designated cycling paths, so there was no need to worry about traffic whizzing by me. The weather was perfect for cycling and although there were still some road inclines to conquer they were gradual ones I could handle easily. Almost our whole ride was along the waters of the Adriatic Sea and it provided us with a different kind of scenery, equally stunning as the forests and mountains we have cycled through on previous days.  It was a Sunday so there were lots of locals out enjoying the last days of summer, playing basketball, tennis and going snorkelling and water skiing. We saw folks on their way to church, attending weddings and picnicking. We decided to alter our route somewhat to make it shorter and that left us time for some pleasant stops. We had a coffee break in a lovely town called Vrsar. The coffee bar where we stopped was called Ladonja and we learned that ladonja is actually the name of a certain kind of tree. There was a gorgeous ladonja tree we parked our bicycles under right across the street from the coffee shop.  I discovered the name of the tree comes from the word in the local dialect that means shade.  Most towns and villages in Istria used to have a centrally located ladonja tree with stone benches around it where people stopped to rest and visit with one another. Often public announcements were made under the ladonja tree and it was the site for civic elections and important political decision making.

From the ladonja tree site, we had a great view of the town of Vrsar and the sea

This sculpture of stone hands was right near the tree. You could say a prayer or make a wish and leave a coin in the open hands. I did both.

We looked at the work of a local artist on display in the old church right across from the coffee shop

Because we weren’t in a hurry today we had time to take some nature photos.

There are so many interesting looking mushrooms in season right now in Croatia.

Fall is approaching but……..

There are still plenty of wildflowers to enjoy.

We stopped along our way to stroll through a unique sculpture garden that covers some twenty-five acres. The work here is all by a Croatian sculptor named Dušan Džamonja whose pieces are displayed in famous galleries of modern art all around the world. None of the sculptures had names so you could use your imagination to think about them. I called this one Bridges.

This one reminded me of the sails on the Sydney Opera House.

My sister said this sculpture made her think of the ancient stones in the television series Outlander. When the heroine of the show stood among them it allowed her to travel back through time.

This one looked much like all the mushrooms we are seeing here in Istria

 

I thought this one looked like a loaf of sliced bread.

This one was my favourite. It was kind of sphinx-like and I discovered it walking in a forested area at the back of the sculpture park. I sat down on a mossy stone step in the shaded wood to look at this piece for quite a while. I could hear birds chirping a symphony around me, the ocean surf in the background, and squirrels rustling the leaves as they scampered through them. Because of our more leisurely pace today there was also time for Dave to chat with this man from Germany who had made a trip to southern Ontario where Dave grew up. 

As those of you have been following my blogs about our biking adventures in Croatia know, this trip has been a little challenging for me but today……… I definitely got my cycling mojo back in spades!

Other posts………

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

Art in the Garden

A Winnipeg Coffeeshop Named For a Saint

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I Have My Own Mechanic On This Bike Trip

This photo is one my sister took of me yesterday when I reached the end of my long climb up to the top of the mountain where our hotel was located. It is appropriate to illustrate today’s trip as well because although we started out with a swift downhill section our route turned almost immediately into another two and a half kilometre steep climb. So just like in this photo, I was off my bike and pushing it up another hill. Dave even walked his bike part of the way up the hill too- he said, of course, he only did it in solidarity with me. But after that initial hill was conquered we were headed to the seaside city of Porec so our trip was primarily downhill towards the ocean for the rest of the day. Wonderful!  Our route generally stays away from major highways which is great. But our bike company’s promise that on country roads we would only see one car every five minutes hasn’t really been true especially today. And…. practically no one sticks to the 70km speed limit posted on secondary roads. Most cars whiz by going at least 100km or more on twisting hilly highways and sometimes it seems when they pass our bikes they are only missing a car coming in another direction and/or us by milliseconds. It is a little scary. Dave says I just shouldn’t think about it.

The stunning scenery all around compensates for some of the challenges of biking in Croatia

Construction on the road today meant we sometimes got off our bikes and walked them, squeezing by big trucks and bulldozers and once we had to bump our way across a construction site parking lot to get back on our route. Due to the construction, for a few kilometres, the traffic was one lane going both ways around our bikes. Just a little disconcerting.

Stop in the village of ‎⁨Višnjan⁩ to replenish our water supply.

I have been having trouble with the chain on my bicycle. It keeps coming off the ‘groove’ and Dave has to fix it. It happened quite a few times today and Dave got so greasy from his repair jobs that even after several washings with soap and water his hands still look like those of a hard-working mechanic.

The upside of all those stops to fix the chain on my bike means I have a chance to take some photos. I love all the old stone buildings and tall wild grasses.

The bike company has replied to an e-mail about my concerns and will bring a new bike tomorrow morning. Apparently, I am not the only customer to complain recently about a chain problem. One of the interesting things about each day’s trip is figuring out the route using the maps our bike company gave us.  Sometimes it is helpful to consult with the local folks. This man didn’t speak English but tried to show us the correct way to go.

There was a tractor museum at the spot we had lunch today, but we had already seen the real thing on the road so we didn’t stop for a tour.

Our cycling trip in Croatia is proving to be a little more challenging than I expected but we are having a great adventure that’s for sure!

Other posts………

Construction Crazy

A Walk in My Old Neighborhood

The Driedgers Bike Boblo Island

 

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It Was The Best of Times – It Was The Worst of Times

I knew before we set out on our third day of biking in Croatia that it was probably going to be our toughest ride of the trip. For the first thirty kilometres or so we would be steadily climbing upward, then we would plummet down for about five kilometres and finally do an incredibly steep five-kilometre climb up to our hotel.

I thought I did pretty well on our first thirty-kilometre gradual climb. Our ascent was broken up by a stop in the village of Groznjan. It was an absolutely beautiful place.

Church in the village of Groznjan. We parked our bikes beside it. 

Exploring a wineshop 

Dave playing hide and go seek in the streets of Groznjan. Can you spot him?

Learning about truffles in a truffle shop. This area is a truffle hotbed and you can actually go on truffle hunting expeditions with experts

Dave listening in as a tour guide describes the town to visitors from Germany. She told them truffles taste like old socks. 

Having a drink in the sun, enjoying the spectacular scenery.

This part of our day was definitely in the “best of times” category

Band tuning up in the Groznjan square

I caught Dave staring up at a tree and wondered what he was looking at

He was fascinated by the one lone green leaf in the bare branches

Groznjan was the kind of picturesque town where you could take endless photos

After leaving Groznjan we worked our way up to Oprtalj. We had a delicious lunch of thick hot mushroom soup, fresh bread and a lovely salad with olives and cheese. I had been a little apprehensive about the plunging trip downward from Oprtalj to Livade. Would I be able to keep control of my bike all the way?  But it was an absolutely glorious ride. The wind stinging my face, the scenery all around me so stunning it moved me to tears and a prayer – the lush greenery, the orange roofs of the ancient village buildings, the rolling hills, the blue of the Adriatic in the distance,  the warmth of the sun- it was the best of times!

See the tower at the top of the hill. That’s our hotel. We needed to ride up to that hilltop at the end of our day.

But then came………… the ride up to our Kastel Hotel at the very top of the hill in the city of Motovun. It was five kilometres and I only managed to bike a short piece. Mostly I walked that steep hill pushing my bicycle up, up, up. Just when I thought I might be getting there I’d turn the corner and see another hill to climb. The sun was hot and I was soon drenched in sweat. Cars and buses and trucks were whizzing by me. It was the worst of times. Luckily Dave was waiting for me with one kilometre left and he had a bottle of water for me! Hallelujah! My legs were pretty rubbery after that steep ascent.

Kastel Hotel in Motovun

The one good thing about it is that I will be able to glide down that mountain tomorrow morning when we set off on day four of our cycling adventure

Other posts……….

The View From the Church in Vik Iceland

William’s Rest- A House with a View

A Roof With a View

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We Had A Little Off- Road Adventure

On our second day of cycling in Croatia’s Istria Peninsula, we had a little “off-road” adventure.  It all started when we stopped at the local winery we had selected earlier as the preferred lunch spot on the day’s route.  They were closed!! What next? A helpful man who lived nearby brought out a map and pointed out some other places we might try eating. We decided the Veralda Winery was our best bet.  But how to get there?  Dave and Ken consulted their maps from our bike tour company and Dave was sure he’d spotted a shortcut to the highway that would take us to the Veralda Winery. Off we went on what seemed a reasonable road, only to have it turn into a gravel lane, then a rocky trail full of broken branches, mud and water puddles that wound through thick forest, leaves and twigs brushing our cheeks as we rode, till finally……. we reached the highway that would take us to the Veralda Winery. But wait a minute!! There was a high wire fence separating us from the highway and it stretched as far as the eye could see.  Dave joked about wishing he had wire cutters to make a hole in the fence but we knew there was no possible way we would be getting on to that highway! So……..we turned around and retraced our way along the less than ideal driving path and then followed the directions from Ken’s Google maps app on his phone until we found the Veralda Winery.  By now it was nearly 2 o’clock and we were pretty hungry after a long morning of biking. Our host at Veralda was a nice gentleman who launched into a wine demonstration immediately upon our arrival getting us to swish the wine in our glass, sniff it, roll it around our tongues and then swallow it. He instructed us to sip the wine slowly to receive maximum pleasure from the experience.

Dave sniffing his wine as instructed

Thankfully Ken, my brother-in-law, had the nerve to politely interrupt our host’s well prepared presentation.  We were hungry! Did they have any food?

Well, the chef wasn’t there but perhaps they could do something for us. Soon two young women were putting baskets of fresh bread, different kinds of cheese, olives and platters of prosciutto and ham on the table. Perfect!! We sampled both a white and red bottle of  wine from the Veralda vineyards and then we were fortified enough to finish our journey.

Though our “off-road” adventure didn’t seem that funny when it was happening by supper in the evening we could laugh about it.

It was kind of overcast again for most of our ride.

Dave had brought along his trunks hoping to swim in the Adriatic Sea but it was way too cold for that, although the water was fairly warm.

Many of the churches on our route had these high cedars dwarfing their bell towers.

There were so many beautiful flowers along the road

The villages we cycled through were filled with old stone houses

There were lots of pomegranate trees growing in people’s yards along our route

The olive trees were thick with fruit

We biked along the Adriatic Sea for a while

Other posts………..

I Got Lost Twice Yesterday

My Dad Hasn’t Lost His Green Thumb

My Nephew! My Hero!

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