Within the first 30 minutes of landing at the airport, Croatia’s friendlyness reached wide into my traveling spirit and infused a sense of sunny pleasure, like spooning honey out of the bottom of a jar. In fact, the trip brimmed with sweet products: wine, beer, figs, grappa, honey, bread, cheese, truffles. Also, ongoing movements: hiking, biking, walking, yoga-ing, jogging, cave exploring and perhaps the biggest feat of all ….getting into bed at the end of 19 hour days.
Despite a history of constant political change, in a country about 20 years old, the people exhibit a sense of solid pride, and an easeful familiarity as we chatted about their personal lives. They have a history of sharing and adapting to the dictatorship of Greeks, The Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Dynasty and Habsbourgs, then Napolan for a brief time, and finally, the kingdom of Yugoslavia. But these changes only fortified authenticity: the people just love. and smile. and it comes naturally…with gusto. This jovality fostered exceeding “highs”
Rambling through the Istria region, the mountain region and the northern Dalmatian coast, the colors made this trip absolutely absolute….Her, a blue that hummed with disarming clarity and there, green that plucked with ripe intention. Wouldn’t mind retiring here!….I present my high moments of
1: Rovinj….especially, riding a bike along to the coast. The lovely people at the hotel provided a great bike map with three different trails (around 26K) and sights along the way. Now, I am not a big “biker” but who couldn’t feel carefree with sights like this along the route?:
About halfway into the bike, which veered into dusty farmland, there was a sign that said “VINO” on it. Little did I realize that the decision to stop (thank the fella!) would be a highlight of the trip. Two German strangers, retired for years, made friends with us. They told the story of their long summer friendship, where for over 40 years, they both take off 8 weeks and meet at the same campground. Over 90 minutes of their stories, philosophies, laughter…and LOTS of homemade brewed wine and grappa, left me with a sense of “random grace” and feeling connected….and woozy. Let me tell you that getting on the bike in 90 degree weather after three drinks was NOT my idea of a vacation. But the memory is pure magic.
#2….A visit to Kabola Winery
Within the first two hours of landing in Croatia, a visit to a wine bar brought some of the best tastes of the whole trip….plus a nice full glass of Teran from Kabola Winery. Teran is an Italian style grape that flourishes in “red” soil. From the first sip, I ACHED to get to go to the source of the plummy, rich fruit. Set in Istria (the area of Croatia nearest to Italy and known for its truffles) this region booms with great wines that don’t get a lot of press.
So sampling 6 of their wines, of course, was a highlight. But again, the random connection received from being at the right place at the right time, trumped even REALLY yummy, jammy reds. A local popped in quickly for a free glass of Teran, and started chatting with us. So upbeat, lively and happy, next thing I know, he has left the tasting room, and then returned with a guitar. What proceeded next was a serenade of Bob Dylan tunes, and a LOT of smiles. Who wouldn’t just be delighted by a private concert in a WINERY?
#3. Yoga in the Mountains with a Cat….The clouds coming in, the huge porch, the air pregnant with moisture….placing down a towel, I popped on YogAmazing and felt empowered to get a little stretching in. A roaming cat thought the idea was superb as well….Through 25 minutes of Chaz’s guidance, the kitty (whom I deemed”Jefferson”) curled around every downward dog and half moon. I am LOVING YogAmazing episodes while traveling.
#4. My early life unfolded in the wild of Wyoming, where space offered the wildness of my spirit to roam without bumping into boxed in buildings or fenced in definitions. A 4 hour hike through Pltivice Lakes Park spoke to an elemental aspect of my core: nature proclaims itself with arbitrary profoundness. Plitvice, now a UNESCO heritage sites, is surrounded by chromatic water, lakes, falls, green and blues and whites emerging as visitors amble along raised wooden planes. Never has a “hike” felt so….well, serenely stimulating.
Yes, such sights demand wonder and scream out to be worshipped. Through the hike, a keen sense of the impermanence of…well, of everything, surfaced in me. I rush, rush, rush…tick tocking items from the “lists” or plans, and yet…in Croatia, moments of simplicity made me SEE: a man humming one minute softly and then the next astoundingly hyper-nasaly proclaiming the presence of a DOUBLE RAINBOW! a snail on the path….the notion that something was being spent, something discovered, something savored and something shared.
The world is more extravagently dangerously colorful…and pulsing to me now, after this hike.
#5 A simple dinner, spanning over four hours, crowned by home brewed wine and grappa, multiple languages, the combining of family and friends that have loved and annoyed each other over the course of more than half our life time with those of us who met only minutes before…a cacophony of bread and mussels dripping in buttery saltness and pure, well, estatic welcoming. Every one at the table at once known and also foreign.
Unforgettable. And unrepeatable….
“What does it feel like to be alive? Living, you stand under a waterfall. You leave the sleeping shore deliberately; you shed your dusty clothes, pick your barefoot way over the high, slippery rocks, hold your breath, choose your footing, and step into the waterfall. The hard water pelts your skull, bangs in bits on your shoulders and arms. The strong water dashes down beside you and you feel it along your calves and thighs rising roughly backup, up to the roiling surface, full of bubbles that slide up your skin or break on you at full speed. Can you breathe here? Here where the force is the greatest and only the strength of your neck holds the river out of your face. Yes, you can breathe even here. You could learn to live like this. And you can, if you concentrate, even look out at the peaceful far bank where you try to raise your arms. What a racket in your ears, what a scattershot pummeling! It is time pounding at you, time. Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation’s short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.” — Annie Dillard