Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Novigrad and Groznjan

After days of rain and drizzly, we finally had a significant break in the weather.  We rented a car and headed for the hills. 

First Stop:  The end point of Lim Canal.  

Second Stop:  Novigrad, a town on the coast we had tried to visit two years ago.  On that visit, we were caught in a downpour of Biblical proportions.  Today, the sun was streaming.

The town is not nearly as picturesque as Rovinj, but it does have a colorful history.  

And it has a church! Many of the old churches on the Istrian Peninsula have been rebuilt so many times that the original structures are completely gone, but St. Pelagius, with its triple-naved basilica, dates from the 8th century.  The present church was constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Beneath the presbytery there is a Romanesque crypt. I would really like to see it.

So . . . OK.  On the first attempt, we couldn't even park the car for fear it would wash into the ocean.  On the second attempt, the church door was firmly locked with no indication of when it might reopen.  The young man in the gift shop shrugged his shoulders and told me that perhaps they would open the church for mass in the evening, but perhaps not.  Hard to tell.

I needed a drink! 

One last look at the bell tower, 

a quick walk around town and I was ready to move on.

Especially after I caught a glimpse of this huge cumulonimbus cloud. After all, I know what rain looks like in this part of Istria!

Back on the road

The two churches of Buje.  We've got to schedule a trip to this little town in the future.  But for now, we push on into the hills

until finally, the narrow gravel road came to an end. I can't imagine what was behind the detour sign, but it must have been dreadful.  The detour was an even more narrow dirt road full of rocks that our little rental could just barely clear.

 With storm clouds drifting ever closer

we could finally see Groznjan in the distance.

After considerable effort, we located the apartment.  It should have been ever so easy to find, but without any signs at all - no hotel sign, no street sign, it took some real imagination.

Well worth the effort. The apartment is located in the ruins of an old castle, on the far side of courtyard.  Beyond this door was an extremely efficient little studio.

with everything you could need

and a private garden. Just time for a brief look around the garden and off we went to explore the village.

I'll let you read all about the village and its complicated history at the link above. Here, I'll just share the photos we made that first afternoon and evening.  I think my readers will see why we loved this little village.

The clouds kept gathering in the sky and rolling through the valley all afternoon. 

One little detail of that afternoon was too humorous. I have to share.

This was our second trip to Groznjan.  Just as with Novigrad, the first trip was made in the rain.  Very few shops were open, and the church doors were firmly closed.

Clearly, the doors were open this time and I could hear a woman singing.  Happy Day!  Not too fast.  The inner doors were closed and locked.  I was not to be locked out of church twice in one day.  I put the eye of my little iPad up to the window and hit the video button.

You can lock me out, but you can't stop my iPad!

We had dinner at Bastia and it was delicious! Tomato soup, and two kinds of pasta that we cheerfully passed and shared and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Next morning, we had breakfast in our little apartment while listening to the rain.  When the rain stopped we strolled around admiring art work and taking a few more pictures of little scenes. 

I couldn't imagine living here, but the town has great visual appeal.

And it has ancient olive trees.  

The weather was not improving and shops were closing. It was time to drive back to Rovinj. We turned in the rental car and walked to Mario's for dinner.  

They are the folks with the great doggy bags. All of your leftover fish, bread, and a half liter of white wine in a water bottle.  I can tell you that the next day, the fish flavored up some creamy risotto, the bread got toasted, and the wine made it all better.

What's for dinner at your house? 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Things I Love About Rovinj

We are wrapping up our third extended stay in Rovinj and we have loved every minute, but not every minute is a blog-worthy adventure.  We do laundry, we go for walks around the neighborhood, we shop for groceries - all stuff that makes up day to day life.  But stuck in the cracks of the routine are little things I love but seldom mention. 

Except for sunsets.  I mention them a lot and here is one more for the books.
How about dried figs?  By the bag.  Yes, I've had more than one bag.

Language.  Croatians speak so many different languages, I can't keep track:  Almost every adult speaks three or more of the following: German, English, Slovenian, Russian, Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, and Italian. Then there is the odd smattering of French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and others that I can not begin to name.

The top part of this sign is in Slovenian.  It is a warning to beware of falling objects.  The bottom is quite plainly in English.  It makes you wonder who's been causing problems.

Crocus growing wild almost everywhere.  With enough patience I could bring all my friends a pint of saffron.  Yes, it's the real stuff.

The bluest sky you've ever seen!

Insects and boats that both look like they just stepped out of the Book of Revelations.

The yacht service center just down the street where something is always going on.

Gray, stormy skies.

I never get tired of looking at our little town from all the many viewpoints. 

We recycle EVERYTHING!

The boat that takes us to Lim Canal and on other excursions.

And the boat that takes us to Red Island.

The weather vane on top of the Basilica bell tower.  The figure you see on the top rotates to indicate wind direction.  St. Euphemia had quite a ride last night in the wind storm!

And an ocean that has an infinite number of personalities.

Of course, the food plays a big part in my life here in Rovinj.  

Going to the bakery

the meat market

the fish market

and the vegetable market and finding only the very freshest of everything is quite a treat.  Here, in no particular order are some of the meals I've made in my tiny kitchen during the last few days.

And then . . . 
There are lots of interesting fungi

And red berries a plenty.

The beaches are all rock which eliminates the two things I dislike about most beaches:  sand and that icky fishy smell.

Songbirds.  Especially the one hiding in this tree.  I have seen him fly away many times, but I have never been able to photograph him.  His song is beautiful and he sings all day.

I love the rooftops, coffee shops, solar powered dryers

and pedestrian streets.

I love the truffles.  The smell alone can put me into an emotional state.

Croatian olive oil is in its own special class.  Delicious!

I buy produce from several vendors, but these two are my favorites. 

 And then there's gelato.  I don't know what they put in that stuff, but it's powerfully addictive.    

I love eating at Mario's.  For one, the fish is delicious.  Two, the servings are way too generous which means there is always something to take home.  Three is the doggy bag itself.  I submit that all doggy bags should come complete with bread and wine.

Perhaps the thing I love best about Rovinj is discovering all the little details with Stanley.  He's about the best traveling companion you could imagine except for this insane need to find good beer on draft everywhere we go.  

Well, yesterday he finally found one in Rovinj: Valalta Pivo.  The poor guy just has no luck with this beverage.  He found it yesterday and we are leaving Rovinj today.  I can only hope he finds something he likes in Zagreb.