01.07.2013 - 01.07.2013
Our plan today was take an early drive to Plitvice (PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes to hike the lakes, and then take a long drive to Rovinj and stay the night.
Day 10 Plitvice
Spent a lot of time driving today, which means we listened to a lot of Croatian radio. When we rode to Mostar, some of the radio stations seemed strait out of the US. The one I listened to today was also very American, but also threw in some wildcards to my delight (Monty Python’s the ‘Bright Side of Life’ from the movie Life of Brian) and to my dismay (the Baywatch theme, yes the WHOLE song).
When we arrived to hike at the lakes I notice another widespread case of unpractical fashion (probably by other Europeans, many of these people were tourist like me). Many of these people like to hike in crocs with socks. I had to laugh.
The lakes were beautiful, as were the waterfalls and rock formations. However, living near the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, I'm not as impressed by these things as others might initially be. What makes this landscape unique to me is the incredible blue of the water against the white limestone background of the rocks, and how seamlessly the boardwalk has been incorporated into the landscape.
Funny restrictions on our ticket. I guess no matter what language you speak you can understand these.
Aerial view of the lower lakes.
On our way driving out to Rovinj we briefly visited in a couple of Istrian towns. The first was Pazin and the Pazin Chasm. Pictures of the chasm were seen by Jules Verne and inspired him to write ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, and as a result they have a celebration of Verne every year.
What looked really fun is that they had a zipline set up that flew people over the chasm. If I ever get back here I’m definitely doing the zipline.
The second stop was at nearby Beram, a small cute, quiet, but nondescript hilltown. Just outside of town there is a church that contains unique 15th Century gothic frescos of the dance of death, the style of which is only found in one other church. To view the frescos, you had to ask around town to find the lady with the key to the church. It’s a small town, so the first person we asked immediately knew the woman we should talk to. The key keeper spoke Croatian, German, and a little Italian. We spoke English, Jen a little French, myself a little Spanish, so we had all Europe covered but still couldn’t talk to each other. Even so, she got in our car and we drove out for about a minute on a little dirt road to this small, plain-looking old church in a forest. As we entered the church we saw amazing frescos covering the walls. The frescos were preserved because they were covered in plaster until the early 1900’s, when they were rediscovered. It is amazing that despite the language barrier, we could understand much of the woman's descriptions of each biblical fresco scene (annunciation, last supper, ect.). Also interesting is on a couple of frescoes there is ‘graffiti’ written in Glagolitic text, an ancient Slavic alphabet used before the adoption of the Roman alphabet. I believe we were told the text said something like “hit him” in response to the action in the fresco it was written on it, kind of an ancient ‘take your medicine!’. Ultimately we hit a language roadblock as we were leaving this incredible place. The woman told us than once in May and August, everyone in town makes a procession down to the Church in celebration, and it only took literally 10 minutes for us to understand what she was saying. While the hand signals were flying and we were talking back and forth in vain, a man who had been at the church when we arrived, and I thought was some kind of security guard was laughing at us. As we went to get in the car he began trying to sell us infused olive oils and homemade brandy, which lucky for us everyone seems to make in Croatia. We had a couple of small tastes of different types: grape, carob, walnut, pear. . . we felt so bad that this was probably his only way to earn a living out here, so we settled on the cherry brandy and bought it even though there is no way we could come close to drink even half of it before we leave the country. Then we got in the car and tried to back it up. The reverse on this stickshift is in an unusual spot. Thinking it was in reverse, I looked backward and went forward a foot. The man and the woman teased me saying ‘too much brandy’ a couple of times. We all laughed together for awhile, I recalibrated, and we were off. By the time we returned the woman to the town there was another tourist couple looking for the woman with the key.
Dance of Death mural
We got incredibly good customer service from the place we stayed at in Rovinj, Casa Garzotto. Rovinj is a traffic free town, only locals are allowed to drive cars in town. So over the phone, the host and hostess tells us to park at the side of the roundabout near the town square, the farthest into the town non-locals can drive. There we will meet Matteo to show us where in the tangled web of narrow Rovinj streets Casa Garzotto is. As we check in, Matteo will park the car in their special parking place. Jen and I arrive at their lobby and they promptly offer us drinks while we check in. Time flies as we chat and relax with the staff and other guests for what seems like a long time now. After the hostess offers to make us dinner reservations, she gets a call from Matteo, who had been parking our car. He wants to know if we want our wine taken up to our room also. I respond, “where is the car parked so we can get our bags.” Matteo has already parked the car just outside of town and has taken your bags to you room. Poor Mateo, I feel guilty at this point. Our bags were very light, but as soon as we rented the car we started buying wine, souvenirs, and presents, so now the bags are very heavy. Many of these items could have been left in the car if I had known what was going on. Matteo finally returns to show us to our room and says “I only ask because you might want it, it is very good wine”, like he ‘appreciated’ our wine enough to be nice and drag it a half mile for us. I think it made me appreciate the wine even more, if that was possible.
View from our room.
Upon arrival in Rovinj we really felt the Italian influence with everyone using Ciao as a greeting all of the time instead of Dobar Dan. We grabbed dinner and walked around town.
Cuttlefish risotto and Chicken with spices
Our room was a little off the beaten track, up some windy streets and just outside of the touristy base of the town. We returned to our room to get some much needed sleep. The door to the building was on a small square at the foot of a church, and this night a small group of locals were playing music in the square. We went upstairs and opened our window so we could listen to the music while we settled into bed. Meanwhile we had a small glass of the wine from a bottle that we purchased on the Peljesac Peninsula, and Jen read her book. Finally they played a song I recognized, a laughter filled version of ‘lullaby’. Afterwards the locals went their separate ways, I closed our window, and we went to sleep.