and visiting relatives!
04.07.2011 32 °C
Although I am now home from my lovely Croatian/Istrian vacation I will continue to blog on what I have experienced for the balance of my days spent there. After all, I came back home on July 23rd so there are still things I wish to share (I am only on July 4th to date) - so continue on this journey with me if you choose ;0)
Today will be an interesting day - visits with relatives (three to be exact) and a tour of the Baredine caves near Porec. Irma and Laura visit many relatives when they come to Croatia and they thought it would be nice for me to meet some of them before the reunion on Sunday. These are all my second cousins - on my fathers side (his mother). Well actually two cousins and one cousin by marriage. I will tell you now that I was thrilled to meet each one of them and see their style of living - all different to be sure ;0)
A few days earlier though both Irma and myself headed into Labin to do some grocery shopping as well as other things that beckoned. We were planning to do a little touring but it was alternating from drizzling to raining and I am NOT a happy camper to sightsee under threatening clouds and besides, my regular camera is not waterproof and I did not want to risk damaging it. As it was we sort of did a run about of Labin and a quick tour of Rabac but did not stop anywhere to investigate. On the way back home we did stop by two lovely lookouts (vidikovac = pronounced vidikovats) right near Plomin.
This is the Hotel Flanona and its restaurant is owned by the owners of the Riva restaurant in Plomin Luka. This is main lookout for Plomin.
We stopped here for a bite to eat and to enjoy the scenery. It really is known locally as the Vidikovac Cafe. It was hazy and overcast so the view wasn't as clear as I would have liked it (hey if you want clear then you need the cool air and I like hot and steamy;0). I came twice to this lookout (once for ice-cream = yumm) so the pictures I am showing here will be the best of the two days. One of the nicest views (other than the Mt Ucka lookout) of the surrounding islands (Cres for example) is from this lookout.
The food was amazingly good and really inexpensive (compared to what I am used to paying in Montreal that is). Irma had the calamari and I had a most fantabulous prsut pizza (I took most home and my dad devoured it ;0). My meal with a drink cost around 12-13$cdn = awesome. This was a large pizza mind you, and Irma's meal with a drink was under 20$cdn -- double awesome. Remember that tips are included in the price - it's up to you if you wish to tip more or not.
Plomin is another hilltop town that is typical of the villages one sees. Many houses are boarded up. Plomin luka (port of Plomin) is down below and used to be a viable fishing port. Today it is parent to the electrical plant easily identifiable by the tall red and white striped chimney which can be seen for miles around. They still use coal to ultimately produce electricity and this chimney had been built as a more efficient and less polluting option versus the original chimney. The word is that at some point they are going to build a much more improved chimney that will be even more energy efficient.
This view of the chimney and electrical plant is from the first lookout just as soon as you pass through Plomin. The cafe vidikovac is further down the road. All that black you see is coal - yup, you heard right ... coal. Would you believe that it is shipped in from China? I was surprised a bit considering that this area (around Labin and Rasa etc) was prime for coal mining. I had heard conflicting stories of why the mines were shut down --- were the mines really exhausted or was it no longer profitable? From a very reliable source it is said that the mines still have enough coal in them to sustain a mining operation to last many years. The thing is that nowadays it is inexpensive to import coal from China than it is to sustain a coal mining industry. On one hand this is sad - but I am also told that the imported coal is of a better quality than what could be mined here.
In this photo if you were to go straight down this steep and sheer drop into the sea and bear a little to the right once you reach bottom, you would be at the Plomin Luka Beach (more about that in another post). It is the closest to us to access and is not that bad ... really ;0)
In this photo you can see a ship (or is it a barge?) unloading coal that travels along a conveyer belt (strictly guessing this but it sure looks like a long covered conveyor belt type of contraption) that leads all the way to the electrical plant. I had a good look at this sucker when I was at the beach --- impressive when you are staring at this beast from water surface level - lol.
Anyways on to the topic of today ;0) --- Relatives and Baredine caves. Let's start with the caves.
Caves are underground you know. Getting into the caves means climbing down, down, down and down some more into the bowels of the earth and praying like mad that an earthquake doesn't happen - lol. I didn't think like this going into the caves, however, when the guide showed us a piece of rock that had fallen from above and crashed down ..... well then a teensy part of my brain started to wonder about the possibility and somehow her voice saying not to worry as this boulder fell over thousands of years ago did not immediately stop my brain from wandering off thinking about different scenarios ;0)
I have visited a few caves and this one is quite different - as they should be. I was expecting the flash and briliant display of stalagmites and stalactites from what I recall of another cave I had seen here 30 years ago. Nope - this wasn't it. This cave was more 'realistic' in its colorings- earth tone with strong hints of reddish due to the high iron content in places. There were five large caverns to explore and our lovely guide spoke three different languages with the small group of people I was with - Italian, English and German. Quite a chore to repeat the same thing three times over.
Flash photography was strictly prohibited as to protect the organisms living in these caves - after all they have been used to living in the dark (or relative near darkness) that the flash could damage them. I tried my hand at regular photography, however, the minimalist lighting provided in the caves was really not enough to capture well exposed photos. Here are a couple of examples of the better shots I was able to get.
One lady had a wicked lens that I drooled over ..... she was able to snap as many pictures as she wanted without a flash. She loved the cave I could tell. I liked it but didn't love it. It was interesting to me though to see how beautiful nature could be even underground. Surface pottery had been found indicating ancient time usage. The first documented cave explorations were from Trieste speleologists. There is even a jumping off platform for spelunking to the deepest part of the cave .... I tell you here and now that I could not see the bottom of that abyss.
I thought it was interesting and sort of regret (not really) not going down into the last chamber. I let everyone else venture down but I didn't. The descent was very steep and as you know my leg is not that strong (in spite of great physio work having been done on it). I don't cringe at heights and under normal circumstances I would have gone down there but the thought of having to come back up gave me the heebie jeebies - would I make it or not - would I have to live there with the human fish that everyone went to see (Proteus anguinus)? I did not want to test that theory so I let the rest of the party gingerly (and nimbly for some) climb down that really steep ladder into the fifth chamber. The german family had it right --- go down the stairs backwards as if they were going down a ladder.
At some point we were told that we were now under the grape vineyard of a mr so and so (darned if I can remember his name). The earth is red here and that is something to see - not plain brown earth I am used to seeing. As I looked upwards I could imagine climbing up there and starting to dig --- wonder if I would break earth and come out in his vineyard? --- Geez I hope not or else let me outta here NOW!!!
All in all I enjoyed the caves ---- and it sure was a testament as to how much better my leg did become because I made it all the way down (minus the last chamber) and geez ... all the way back up too!! I truly had my doubts at some points but slowly and surely my leg held strong and I now live to tell the tale - LOL. The temperature always is a pleasant 14 degrees celsius in the cave but I will tell you that I was dripping by the time I made my way out --- I stripped off my sweater a long time ago (I brought it along as I knew it would be cooler but didn't know how cold at the time).
Of course since this is a tourist destination - souvenirs abound. Irma and I looked around and I found a couple of things that were indeed different. One of the unique souvenir items (that I did not find anywhere else on my touring btw) was a precious photo of Irma, myself and Stjepan (Stephen) .... the mule ;0). See all those postcards on Stevie's right (lower left of the photo)?
Well those are replicas of postcards. What you do is select the postcard of your choice. The gentleman manning the booth then takes your picture (alone - with other members of your party or everyone along with Stevie the mule). He then superimposes that photo onto the postcard of your choice and voila - indeed a most innovative souvenir as far as I am concerned. Irma and I and Stjepan are now the main characters of a postcard I picked out to reflect the places I have been to. The choices are endless and in the end you have a photo-postcard of your choice with your picture on it. I likee ;0)
Okay - relative time ;0) First relative/cousin (by marriage) to see is Sirena. Ahhhh --- chickens = yay! I really, really, really wanted to see free run chickens during my visit here. The neighbor down the hill from us in Brdo also has them, however, I did not see them until much later in my visit so that is why I was so really thrilled this time. This was and is such a distinct and fond memory for me.
I remember way back when when I visited here chasing the chickens - picking them up and holding them (as if they were my pets) and going on egg hunts. Boy what lovely memories. Hah - I laugh even now at the time I thought my room was haunted ;0) As a kid on a visit I slept in a room that was sort of next to the chicken coop - well actually the door was connected to the old house and the chicken coop was downstairs between the old and new house. I could hear one day some weird sounds and couldn't make them out. Then I thought I heard the clucking of chickens --- yup ... reverberating sounds from the chicken coop <smile>. I had always thought they were into the dry corn bags. There is another neighbor who has chickens, however, he runs it more like a business so had been surprised to see them cooped up versus free run. This made my visit to Sirena all that more enjoyable.
Heck I even remember a neighbor long ago who had given me a miniature chicken and miniature rooster to have while I was visiting my grandparents. I promptly named then Chickadee and Kiki - ;0) Chickens are wont to have dirt baths (for pest control) but I didn't know this as a kid - I could only see them as getting more dirty ;0( So I did what any consciencious kid would do -- I bathed them ... in water - HA! I remember eliciting such heart felt promises from my grandparents to take real good care of them when I came back to Canada --- I really needed to know that my 'pets' would be ok. So - now you see why I have such an affinity for these free run chickens - they elicit such warm memories for me.
Sirena prepared a nice snack for us --- home made prsut (yup - they have their own pigs and smoke house to make the prsut) along with yummy fresh bread and some cool refreshments. She has three pigs and boy are they humongous!!
I spoke a little with her, however, most of the catching up was between her and Irma. I was secretly thrilled that someone in the family was still pursuing a traditional lifestyle (through choice mind you) and living off the land. This does not mean being backwards here ---- it is long and hard labor working the land but oh so rewarding. One of her son's also keeps dogs - a couple for wild pig hunting and the other for truffle hunting. After chatting a bit it was time to move on to visit another cousin.
Not too far away (literally) is where we find Edo. He is retired and he too has his own land, however, he chooses to cater to tourists and has a couple of apartments he rents out to tourists around the world. He has a private garden as well as lovely landscaped property. He really loves upkeeping the land and it shows.
His fruit trees lovingly bear him huge and luscious fruit for his efforts (white figs and peaches ripe with dripping juices and as big as your fist --- and NOT GMO either). He brought some of these to the reunion and geez Louise --- I cannot recall eating figs or peaches this delicious ---- melt in your mouth fruit .... no wonder my brother as a kid would go balistic when he saw a peach = yummmmeeeee ;0) My father recalls he would tremble in his arms when he saw the peaches on the tree in front of the house (that is no longer there) - he craved them to no end (the resulting rash curtailed the peach inhalation process - lol).
Edo's wife Ana was working and did not have the pleasure of meeting her until the reunion. We did partake of her lovely home made cookies and fruit juice - a sour cherry juice that was simply out of this world ---- I could have drunk two to three of them myself (freshly made and without preservatives - ohhhhhhhh how good it was). I must remember to get the recipe!
After enjoying Edo's company for a while we headed off to visit one more cousin. He shares some common land with Edo and grows his garden there. Bepo and Milka welcomed me warmly as did the others ;0) They are in the residential part of Pazin and from their home you can see Pazin down the mountain - what a nice view to look at everyday.
Bepo makes his own wine and he had prepared five Litres for my dad - and Bepo let us know in advance he was going to give it to us. My dad was drooling just at the thought --- Bepo has a reputation of making excellent wine (Malvasia-white) ;0) His wife Milka loves to work with flowers and in spite of being sick that day - she was trimming the hydrangea bush when we arrived. It was so lush and gorgeous that I cannot resist sharing with you its beauty ;0)
We spent only a little bit of time with Bepo and Milka as she was not feeling well. We took our leave and they promised to see us again in a few days at the reunion. What an enjoyable day. We had originally planned to go to Motovun early in the morning, however, Irma's alarm clock did not sound and she did not wake up in spite of my trying ;0) I was a little shy to try harder to wake her up so Motovun is left to another day. This mishap however did leave us more time to spend with the relatives and at the caves and we didn't have to rush through it all.
Oh yes, one other thing I did today was visit the graveyard where some of my relatives are buried from my grandmothers side of the family.
One interesting feature of the town Tinjan is the judging table found in a nearby open space. In days gone by a group of people would gather at this stone table and stone chairs and render judement on people. They decided then and there if the people in question were guilty or innocent. No trial and no jury - your fate was left in the hands of a few people. Hmmmm......
And now this concludes this day ;0)