We wanted to hike the upper lakes before we departed Plitvice National Park, so we woke early, had a so-so buffet breakfast with masses of tour groups (always perplexed that German tourists think it’s ok to jump a queue) and walked down to the lake….once again, down those 275 steps.
We took the boat across the lake and began our hike up the log steps toward the upper lakes. In the early morning, all was quiet and serene…..we walked along in silence, enjoying the peaceful scene, looking forward to seeing the phenomenally beautiful waterfalls that we had read about.
Sadly, the falls were phenomenally disappointing….at the end of summer, there just wasn’t enough water flowing through them. But with gentle streams and lush greenery, the park was beautiful nonetheless. We walked softly through this tranquil landscape, returning to the hotel….and the 275 steps….in less than 2 hours. We packed up, checked out and headed on to our next destination….Rovinj on the Istria Penisula.
The drive took us up mountain roads, past rough terrain with roaming cattle, down to rolling pastures (and more stands with cheese, honey and medovina) and into pastoral farmlands. As we drove along, absorbed in the gentle ambience of this beautiful countryside, we began to feel a subtle agitation. Something seemed amiss. We surveyed our surroundings….slowly it came to us…..in the midst of all this bucolic beauty, there were the same signs of destruction that we had seen in Mostar.
Farm houses were pockmarked with bullet holes….some had been repaired, some had been abandoned, but none had been spared. The nearby town of Otočac showed even more vestiges of war…..such devestation in such an idyllic landscape jarred our senses…..why here? We rummaged through our guide books looking for an answer and discovered that this rural countryside was the frontline in Croatia’s war for independence from Yugoslavia. For us, with our Civil War a distant memory living only in history books, it was unfathomable….we talked, we thought, we guessed, we imagined….but we couldn’t understand the war, the deaths, the destruction.
The journey took us up and down mountains with serpentine roads (never a good thing for someone with a proclivity to queasiness) and finally landed us, once again, on the coast. We drove through Senj and Rijeka (where we unintentionally joined a motorcade….guess that’s why there were police on every corner), then took a wrong turn and ended up heading toward Pula (remember, we were going to Rovinj) along a winding, twisting coastal road.
Driving to Rovinj via Pula would have added hours to the trip….it was already past lunch and I was getting queasy and testy….not a good combination. Craig spied a road sign and quickly veered off toward the central Istrian peninsula…..that didn’t solve ‘testy’ but ‘queasy’ was now subsiding (sometimes Craig must think he’s travelling with the Seven Dwarfs….Testy, Queasy, Hungry, Grumpy, Chatty, Bossy and Sleepy).
We drove through gentle, rolling farm lands dotted with white homes, their windowboxes overflowing with colorful flowers. The change in route shortened the journey by hours and, before too long, we were nearing the coastal town of Rovinj.
A passcode is required to enter the (mainly) pedestrian town of Rovinj so, as instructed by our hotelier, we parked outside the town gate and called the hotel. Uncertain what to expect, we were told that an associate would arrive soon…..and, indeed, in about ten minutes a young man rode up on a scooter….not a motor scooter, not an electric scooter….this young man arrived on a kick scooter and told us to follow him. He scooted over to the town gate, inserted a card that opened the barrier and waved for us to follow him. We followed him on shiny stone streets, under a stone archway and around pedstrians who wouldn’t budge, stopping at a wide spot on a narrow street. We handed the keys to Steven, our “scooter” man, and walked up a steep street to the reception area where we were greeted with a welcoming glass of juice as we were checked in.
Casa Garzotto is somewhere in between a hotel, a B&B, a gite (a French holiday house) and a sobe (a room in a Croatian home). Our “room” was actually a small apartment in a building around the corner. It was charming….with a living room, kitchen, bathrom and bedroom. Outside, clotheslines were strung across the narrow street with freshly washed laundry swaying in the breeze. The homes across the way seemed close enough for us to reach out and shake our neighbor’s hand. This would be our “home” for the next two nights.
Too late for lunch, we decided to take a quick walk through town and choose a place for dinner. The options were boundless….with each restaurant more quaint than the last and each menu offering some special delicacy that sounded fabulous, it was hard to decide which one to choose. Ambiance was the determining factor when we settled on Puntulina…..with it’s terraces built along the town’s cliffs.
Fortunately for us, they had already started serving dinner and, this early in the evening, there were tables available. We were seated at a cozy table for two with views out to the Adriatic and into the port.
We were there for hours (with that much food, we had to be!)….watching ships pass by, fishing boats sail to nearby islands, swimmers resting on the rocky beach below us and then, finally,the sunset. It was magical.
“Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven” ~ John Lubbock