All posts tagged: Croatia

The Cities of the Dalmatian Coast

With their mixture of architectural style and layered history, the magnificent cities of the Croatian coast are like film sets. Each turn of a corner and each new vista reminiscent of some half-remembered scene from a movie watched long ago. Today they feel like tourist towns, their beating hearts muffled by the constant pounding of traveller feet; their stones polished underfoot to a slippery shine by the passage of infinite hordes. Every few paces there’s a cafe, restaurant or souvenir shop, clamouring for your tourist penny. But if you look up, the stories of the buildings still soar above – painted shutters, tiny garret windows looking across endless rust-tiled roofs, carved faces peering eerily from unexpected corners and the exotic moorish curves of Venetian era windows – knowingly watching the garish comings and goings of the modern world below. And if  you escape the crowds and go peeking about the hushed hidden alleyways of the city you can find lines of washing hanging, perfectly mundane against their crumbling backdrop of slow and graceful decay. So …

Friendship, a story (For Julia)

At first glance, we may not be an obvious match. She, with one more child than me and therefore two years extra sleep deprivation, always looks a million dollars. I favour the dishevelled look. Her home is spotless, with shiny crumb-free surfaces and clothes smelling laundry-liquid-fresh. Even before my home was a van, my hygiene standards were ‘relaxed’. She moves quickly and busily, I slower and more ponderous. It’s no surprise that her thyroid is over-busy and mine can’t be arsed. She and I met when we were pregnant, her body coping well with the extra demands of gestating a life, mine struggling to support my disproportionately massive belly and the behemoth growing inside. It was at an antenatal class which fortunately turned out to be full of people who got along. We were but a roomful of innocents, our heads still full of fuzzy images of snuggly sleeping babies and ‘family’ times. We couldn’t have known that we were standing at the threshhold of a world full of chaos. In those first awful weeks …

The Bears of Kuterevo

I’m a bit obsessed with bears and wolves. One of the reasons I’m spellbound by deer is that the idea of something so big wandering around wild in the woods is just so exciting. They’re so big! And they’re owned by no one! So obviously being in places where there are wolves or bears, which are way more exotic and wild and potentially dangerous, is pretty mind-blowing for me. The chances of us actually seeing a bear in the wild though are thankfully fairly slim, so we opted for the next best thing and went to the bear sanctuary in Kuterevo. The Kuterevo bear sanctuary was set up in 2002 by Ivan Crnkovic-Pavenka to give a home to orphaned bears that  otherwise wouldn’t have survived in the wild. It has since grown to accommodate four large enclosures and supports a permanent community of international volunteers. The site provides trees, pools and caves for the bears to live a life as close to wild as they’ll ever know and simultaneously a sense of community and purpose …

Tomo, Tomo, Tomo

I just had to write a little post about our wonderful stay at Buffet Butina in Kuterevo. We don’t eat out all the time as funds generally don’t allow it but sometimes, when we’re tired,  we just can’t resist. Particularly when the restaurant in question looks like the cosiest, most Tolkienesque place you may ever indulge in a plate of food. Fortunately for us, not only was the food delicious and the surroundings bewitching – our host, Tomo was also a superstar. We were given a sweet and safe place to park the van for a couple of nights, more homemade rakija than we really should have drunk, a family of hand carved spoons, and a welcome that makes a weary traveller’s heart thump with joy. Tomo’s place, like the rest of Kuterevo, feels ancient and magical. The light seemed to fall with intentional care and the combination of old wood with old embroidered and woven textiles cast a time-travelling spell. We ate vegetable soup, the best mixed grill of our lives and ustipci (a …

Travel Wonder in Kuterevo

In an effort to be more dynamic (!) and current in my despatches from afar, I’m going to try and alernate between what’s going on now and places from back down the road. So right now! Or rather, yesterday…ok maybe the day before. we visited a really special place in the Croatian mountains. I’d been feeling somewhat jaded of late, ‘road weary’ is as good a description as any. The inconveniences and frustrations of living in a tiny space with one’s nearest and dearest, with ne’er a moment of peace (not to mention the homesickness) was proving a challenge. This is nothing new. Throughout this long journey, there have been many moments of questioning, days of tension and enough bouts of sadness to have fully excorcised the idea that this was some kind of extended holiday. These moods always move on eventually, often helped by a large dose of travel wonder. Travel wonder is what I’m calling the feeling brought on by coming across a place that gives you a fluttery stomach, when you can’t …

On Homesickness

It comes in waves. Today is a bad day. We are seven months or so into our travelling adventure and I’m aware that each bad spell feels a little harder; each new start after visitors have left takes a little more energy. Poring over maps feels daunting rather than uplifting on days like these. We’re in Istria still and have been here for around three weeks. After Rob’s parents left us near Trieste we had a couple of weeks to kill before our friends, the Parry family, were due to visit. Hanging around without a clear plan, with very little money for fun or luxury camping, kills momentum. We struggled, or rather I, struggled. The many frustrations of living a life within a few square metres were getting to me, along with grumpy children and nowhere to escape to. On a bad day the list goes on and on. Then our friends arrived and we spent a blissful week of children playing together, swimming in crystal waters, eating out and drinking too much. All was …