30.06.2011 25 °C
Well after the Pula excursion my leg was not in any shape to do anymore walking - for today anyways. Besides, they were predicting rain and it is badly needed around these parts. I decided to relax and take it easy.
It was looking exciting outside today. The sky was overcast and it surely looked like it was going to rain. Yeah right! It rained about 10 minutes a good downpour then nada - nicht - niente - rien - nuthin'. It barely wet the earth ;0( So yes the sky was originally exciting as people here rely on the rain to fill the cisterns and if the cisterns run too low - then ... no water - period! You can turn on the tap as much as you want but it won't provide. Many families have enlarged their cistern capacity as they reside here year long. Irma and Laura still have the original cistern that was built waaaaaaay back when! It is not small but not large either so ours will run out before others do. Horrors! But do not fear - if that happens there is this number that one composes and then one can ask for water to be delivered - yay! We do not need that service .... yet. There are many houses that are supplied with city water but not yet for us who are higher up in the hills. Perhaps it will come one day to Brdo as well.
Now, what to write for today --- hmmmm. Ahhh - I know! How would you like to see some of the creatures I have either seen or been in contact with? You would? - great because I have some anecdotes to share ;0) I'll also share other tidbits such as Istrian delicacies with you as well. Since I am currently writing this entry in later July, what you will read spans practically the five weeks I have been here.
Let's start with first the lovely scenery of the valley from the second floor hall window. Impressive I must say --- I was mesmerized by the cloud formations over the valley. This photo shows a lot of cloud dispersion already - earlier in the day you could not see the valley at all - it was a pure mist of snowy white ;0) This cloud seems to be hanging in suspended animation....
Now I knew that europe is known to have things like scorpions. I just didn't know they like to inhabit houses and climb walls - yikes! I've had my share of seeing them thank you very much ;0). These are known as Scorpio Europaeus and once I knew what I was in for I practically crossed the ocean on foot to get the remedy should I or anyone else get bitten by one. The specific remedy I wanted is found in Austria. Working with homeopathic remedies can save many a hospital trip and I made sure I had this remedy with me along with the homeopathic first aid kit ... as well a select choice of others such as one for jet lag and airplane radiation.
It came in real handy when a wasp decided she wanted a bite of me - oh my! What a memory to take home with me - a wasp sting ;0( I didn't know that this beast was on my back near the strap of my top. I went to adjust my top and unknowingly trapped her between my top and skin. The burn started slowly and increased in intensity - I called to Irma and asked her what was on my back and to take it off - it felt as if some insect was biting me (I could never in a million years fathom a wasp). She swatted away the wasp but informed me that I was indeed stung and the welt was raising quickly along with a surrounding redness. The intense burn was proof I was bitten. Quickly I ran to the cupboard and prepared the proper remedy to take. I sipped on the concoction for a little while and voila - no more welt, no more redness and no more burning sensation! Kudos for homeopathy ;0)
Now back to my scorpion. Scorpio is my astrological sign and in spite of potentially being bitten I was anxious to see a live one. Well my wish was granted fairly quickly - actually on the second day of our arrival. Laura and I were moving a table to the patio and geez this black thing crawling on the wall had me back up a few feet. I didn't recognize it right away as it was a baby - well, maybe a teenager. I ran out saying there is a scorpion on the wall. Laura said not to worry - heck I wasn't worried ... I was running for my camera to capture this memory in digital form - lol.
Here is the pic of the teensy scorpio. To note: I have seen many since this one ... a teensy one (I almost didn't recognize it as a scorpion till it moved) was found in Irma's shoe; A much larger one (not quite full grown) was on the wall one night - that one was scary; a few here and there ... mostly at night and on the walls. They are common and like to come indoors especially when wet outdoors - usually.
Now get this! This is NOT the kind of relationship I am looking for! Although it kinda did work out in the fairy tales, I doubt my kissing the frogs here would result in a handsome prince coming to my rescue - lol. I should have tried it ... for fun (now don't take me seriously folks - it's not the kind of kissing game I like ;0)
Irma and Laura said they hadn't seen a frog around here in quite some time. Well, it took me to bring them out - lol. Actually it has been the dry weeks without rain that has them seeking alternate routes to water ... even if it is indoors. There are a couple of windows at ground level and both of them have louvres but only one has an additional screen. One evening when I went to close my father's window I saw this cute tiny frog clinging to the screen (from the outside) -- it made it through the louvres and if the screen wasn't there he might have had an evening companion. I tried to take a photo but it was so blurred due to the screen.
Well that was the first encounter but I assure you the second one was much more interesting. Irma and I were going out early for one of our jaunts to some place or other and she called to me from the bathroom. Come here she said - I want to show you something. I didn't know what to think so I simply went to see what she wanted to show me. From the angle I entered the bathroom I could only see a blob on the wall. I jumped back and let out a little 'eek'. She laughed at me and asked what was the matter. I said I couldn't see what was there but since she was quite close to it and the blob didn't move, I ventured closer. A froggie! Oh how adorable --- it clung to the bathroom wall tile, perhaps it more frightened of us than the other way around.
Irma suggested I catch it and redirect it outside. I said why me? She said she had other things to do. So, I tried to catch this slippery little green amphibian - not an easy task I assure you - lol. It jumped to and fro and it left slimy tracks all around (so that is how they stick to stuff). It finally landed near the top of the toilet tank.
I was able to grab it finally and hold it gently in my hands but s/he did not want to stay there ;0) After a couple of hops along my arm it landed on my shoulder. I called Irma and told her to take it off (I could not reach it from that angle) and she said no - just go outside with it and let it go ... so that is what I did. It jumped off my shoulder and within a couple of jumps s/he was gone.
The frog stories are not ended ;0) Two more quick more anecdotes to share and then I move on to another creature! The next evening as I entered the shower, out of the corner of my eye I saw this thing squished in the corner of the shower stall. Hah - I was about to take a shower with a frog. I got dressed and grabbed the little thing and brought it outside. As of that date it was so dry here I am surprised the whole family of frogs didn't come in. They come in through the bathroom window because there are only louvres there = easy access ;0) There is a window to shut it for the night, however no screen cover for the daytime. So far all these frogs have had the same coloring and all three were different sizes - teeny, small and a bit larger. I guess the day after all this was my last chance meeting .... I opened the front door and felt this light feathery leathery thing flop against my ankle. I jumped back - what the heck was that I thought? A leaf? An insect? What? Nope - a froggie with different colorings --- longish and brown - olive greenish. I watched it hop away ;0) Ahhh - the country ... you never know what you will encounter.
The next thing I am sure most of you are familiar with. You see them almost in every hot place. I am not sure of their official name so I call them little lizards or little gecko's. There are many here and most are too fast to capture on film. I was lucky on the first day I was here to have one sit pretty for me and be patient while I focused in on it and took its photo. I am sure it felt safe as its colorings matched its background (old stone wall of the barn) and by being still it appeared almost invisible.
One evening I saw a larger lizard lounging in the branches of the rosemary sunning itself. It too stayed still while I took its photo. It stayed there a while till the sun moved out of its range then it meandered off into the garden. That has been the only time I have seen a lizard of this size here. Irma, dad and Laura said this was only a baby ... kinda big for a baby if you ask me ;0)
If you recall, this newer house (over 80 years old) is attached to the older house (around 200-300 years old). The doors to the house and old chicken coop are opened on almost a daily basis to allow for air circulation. The old house had a window with a broken screen and before Laura could fix it - some bats found their way in and made the old house their home ;0) Three bats took up residence for goodness knows how long.
Well, didn't my dad's sister put him to work - earn his keep as they say - lol. Laura took out the old window and gave it to dad and away he went. He plugged away at it till the window was repaired. Laura waited till evening when the bats left and then she closed the window. They have now found a new residence elsewhere. It is fun to watch the bat show. Insects are drawn to the street light (lights are only placed where houses are located = far and few inbetween) and the bats are drawn to easy food and hence - bat show ;0)
We all went to dinner last night at Restaurant Riva in Plomin Luka. If you ever get the chance to do so - go there. The food was exquisite and the service divine. They are the owners of the restaurant at the lookout (vidikovac) in Plomin. Our waiter was the owner's son and he spoke English extremely well - along with Croatian, Italian as well as a working knowledge of German. Cheers!
The reason this is plugged in here is because on the way home after practically rolling out of the restaurant, we saw another four legged creature and how beautiful it was. Going uphill into the mountains one never knows what animal will show itself. This time it was a fawn. From a distance the first impression was a rabbit but no - an itty bitty fawn. Irma stopped the car as we didn't know what this thing was going to do. It stepped lightly onto the road and then bounded gracefully across and bounced into the bushes on the other side. You should have heard all the ladies in the car --- awwwwww how cute!
I did see though one heckuva large rabbit one day when we went to fill up with drinking water on Mount Ucka. As we turned the corner, that big sucker lazily went into the bushes. I had only seen a rabbit that big one time before but not in the wild.
One night as we were sitting outside enjoying the night air, Morica jumped from her ledge and took a curious interest in something near her. I could hear mini huffing/puffing type of noises and wondered what it was. I could only see a shadow so called for someone to get a flashlight. Wasn't it an itty bitty baby porcupine! It's noises were its attempts to ward off predators and that indeed included a most curious dog ;0) We decided to go in and bring Morica in with us because we figured if baby was here then momma couldn't be far behind and we didn't want a dog with a snout full of quills - lol. The baby hid herself in the corner of the patio and Morica kept wanting to go and investigate and just like a child, the more we said no the more she wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
Of course like anywhere else we have the four legged creatures known as canines and felines. Almost everyone has one or the other or both! Morica is the black doggie who lives here at the house while Irma and Laura are here. She is looked after by another family until my aunts return. The other dog in the picture is Terry and he likes to come down from Brdo proper and visit Morica from time to time. They are both old codgers but can still enjoy each others company. After he visits, she accompanies him either down to the street or back to where he lives and then comes back home.
Bruna and Jolanda sure enjoy their feline companions (Terry is their dog). They are outdoor cats and play in nature with abandon. Watching them reminds me of when I was younger and visited my grandparents here in Istria. Those cats were working cats and although they tolerated being held to a degree, they soon squirmed out of my grasp and did what cats do - or are supposed to do anyways. They were so tuned into nature it was amazing to see (of course that is my perspective now but as a kid I only wanted to play with them and there were a few around - the mice hunters!). Here is a picture of one of their (Bruna & Jolanda) cats.
I also wanted to share with you and show you a couple of food items that are traditional here in Istria. Lina and Tony shared with us a plate of freshly prepared sardines. No they were not raw - lol. As Lina said, there was not much in the day to make fancy dishes so all was needed was flour, a bit of salt and pepper and you were good to go. Get the sardines fresh off the boat at the Labin market and prepare them with a little bit of flour and salt and pepper and fry them. Deelish! Thanks Tony and Lina for sharing such a traditional dish with us (this was a first for me).
One fond memory I have from having visited here as a preteen was enjoying my grandfathers homemade cheese and prsut (prosciutto). I remember seeing the prsut hanging to dry and the cheeses all on a shelf in the kanoba (cellar). Hmmmmm --- I can still smell and taste them. I was so looking forward to enjoying that kind of cheese again and my wish came true.
This cheese was made by a local not too far away from the house. Mmmmboy!! There is nothing but nothing as good as this cheese I gotta tell you. I admit that I still think my grandfathers cheese was better, however, this came in as a close second. Nothing like fresh Istrian cheese - too bad Canadian customs no longer allows us to bring back cheese or else..... Most of the prsut was bought from a store but it was such a good quality one - ever so thinly sliced that it melted on your tongue ... ahhhhhh. I truly enjoyed the home-made prsut from my relative Sirena (pictured below).
Another traditional fair here is gnocci - but what gnocci! I have had a chance to taste Bruna's home made gnocci and how tasty. Irma and I stopped for a bite to eat at one of her favorite haunts after a day of sightseeing. What did we have - yuppers ... gnocci! The taste was delightful - we both had the beef sauce. The camera had a hard time focusing in on the dish but I think it is clear enough for you to see how good it looked. One interesting tidbit --- at most standard restaurants the waiters do not set out the cutlery for you. They bring you a plate that has napkins and cutlery on it. It is up to you to set your own place. Quirky but interesting --- guess it saves them time and service maybe is sped up as a result - dunno.
There is so much more traditional fare here, however this blog page could go on forever so I will stop here. Ooops - oh yes ... just one more thing! Truffles. Yup - Istria's gold it is said. There is truffle hunting most of the year and there are many varieties. The two categories are dark and white with a grading system within each category. The white truffles have a lighter taste and are more highly prized than the dark ones that tend to have a more intense flavor. I will be tasting one tonite. There are many dark ones on this property and people hunt them. Not by choice mind you but what is one to do when policing is out of the question. There is too much land to watch over it all. Laura knows who are the ones who hunt them on her land. Not too long ago she spoke with some of them and usually they offer her some of what they find on her property (as a token of payment almost) but she usually declines as she prefers the white ones over the dark ones. This time she accepted so she could show me and other relatives exactly what they were like freshly picked from underground. Here is a prime example of a dark truffle - I just can't tell if it is a common truffle or if it is of another designation.
And that ends today's entry. Hope you enjoyed ;0)