You need three elements to come together for a perfect weekend. First is good weather. It is not the most important thing, as any Puget Sounder will tell you. However, it does make ‘good’ even better. Second is a fun and interesting activity to do. Third, and perhaps most important, is sharing the time with good people.
I was invited to go olive picking with a couple of buddies. I love spending time and going places with Florence. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for male bonding time. I soon learned that ‘olive picking’ is a euphemism for a picnic. After a couple of beers and exploring our surroundings, we picked several kilos of dark olives. Then we enjoyed a small feast of fish grilled over an open fire and some Babić (BOB ich), a local varietal wine.
After picking olives we returned to town where I met Karmela, my friend’s mother. She showed me into her kitchen and pointed to the chair at the head of the table where her husband always sat, and she invited me to sit there where soon we enjoyed more food and drink. Although she spoke not a word of English, we communicated well enough for her to announce proudly that she was 82 years old, something she apparently wanted me to know. There is no stigma to asking someone’s age in Croatia, and if you do not ask they will usually tell you anyway. I was dropped off at my apartment after as much food, drink and male bonding as I could manage in a single day.
The next day Florence and I met our friend, Tina, who helped us locate our wonderful apartment. She contacted her tour guide friend, Biljana, who prepared a daylong tour to nearby Primošten (pree mosh TEN), a twenty minute drive south of our hometown of Šibenik (SHE beh nik). It was the perfect mid-November day with cloudless skies and no jacket needed. We had the picturesque Old Town almost completely to ourselves as we strolled to the graveyard and 15th century hilltop church of St. George.
On our drive a bit farther down the coast, Biljana pointed out the hillside vineyards overlooking a local marina. The vines are planted in a patchwork grid marked by stone borders. The locals are proud that a photo of the area once hung in the United Nations Building in New York City to portray the beautiful results of human labor. These vineyards, famous for their Babić grapes, are now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our route took us to an agro-tourism site called Šarićevi Dvori (shar ee SHEH vee di VOR ee) named in honor of the Šarić family who have lived here for 350 years. Zoran Šarić welcomed us in traditional Croatian style with rakija (RAH kee yah), a Croatian brandy, and we drank to one another’s health. After a tour of the courtyard and house, we sat to eat a traditional dinner from our outdoor dining area perched overlooking the coast.
All the food and drink is prepared by hand using traditional methods. Zoran even revealed his callused hands from pressing grapes for wine and pressing olives for olive oil. Our main course was cooked in a peka, a lidded iron pan that is buried in the coals of a fire to stew for an hour or more and then brought directly from the coals to the table where the food still sizzles as it is served.
Since meals are not rushed in Croatia, we sat with our wine glasses and watched the sun go down, which is early at this time of year. We then gathered around the indoor fireplace to crack open fresh almonds and sip brandy while we sang songs and enjoyed new friendships in the hills overlooking Primošten, a place that time forgot.
It looks like you guys are settling in nicely Mike. You and Florence must be terribly gregarious to have established yourselves so quickly, and made such interesting local contacts already. These are very good qualities for 6-monthers. You should post photos of your cool apartment. I’m glad to see that you had nice weather. We visited Dubrovnik in late Oct, and had very cool and windy weather for the entire week. In fact, (shameless, geek post alert) they were katabatic winds, which I had heard of but never experienced. Like most other things that happen to us when we travel, here’s the post: http://gallivance.net/2013/04/12/a-poltergeist-in-dubrovnik/
Wow, katabatic winds – great term! What I have learned about winds from locals in Croatia is there are basically two, Yugo and Bura. Yugo is a south wind that brings warmth and moisture north across the Mediterranean from Africa which often means clouds or rain. Bura comes south from the continent and brings clear skies with cooling winds in the summer and cold air in the winter. Croatians talk about Yugo and Bura as though they were mythological characters. Still, ‘katabatic’ takes the geek award!
Thank you for the shared link. I am going there now! 🙂 – Mike
PS – Apartment photos to follow in a week or so.
I think this is my very favorite post ever that you have written! I like the way you set it up, that you were heading off to pick olives, but the ultimate result was a lovely time of male-bonding and meeting a friend’s 82 year old mother, to boot! I think that the fact you have made such wonderful friends, each place you have stayed, indicates how great you and Florence are at making friends and allowing them to become close and warmly related to you both. I enjoyed the sunset and the the way you have the lighting from the top of the hill, looking at the grape plantings and the seaside, along with the special hilltop cemetery with its brightness contrasting with the shadows. Great job at making this not just a perfect weekend for you, but a perfect post for us to read!
Robin, this must be one of my all time favorite reader comments. I like to clue readers in on what it feels like to live in someplace new and different. I enjoy writing about my experiences. You bring fulfillment to the activity because it is only when I get a comment like yours that I realize I have made the connection. I also have to say that Florence has become quite adept at capturing images that bring my words to life, so much credit goes to her for her photography. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts. – Mike
It is a pleasure to be friends with you both, that makes a difference in our stories. You always add to mine, I appreciate the power of kind words, Mike. I also, truly enjoy the way you have added history, emotion and the factual side of your trips. I am not so interested in just one side of the picture… you enhance the pictures with your words. There are photography “travel” books, but the words bring meaning. Your words are definitely brought to life through the vivid colors, your friends and the views that Florence takes and matches with your words. All so wonderful. It is nice to open your posts and feel included in the trip!
It sounds like you guys are really making some good friends in Croatia, which is wonderful. Is it hard on you to make friends knowing that you’ll be moving someday soon? Then again, I suppose that you can always keep in e-contact (like we’re doing!). 🙂
The friends we make while traveling will always be our friends. Like you said, we can always stay in contact via Facebook and blogs. Croatia is one of those countries that we will always want to return to someday, so we will not say goodbye, but rather ‘until we meet again.’ – Mike
Gosh I love reading your posts about your travels! I miss traveling and hope to get back to it again one day – that is, if I can convince my darling ‘rooted-in-one-place’ husband how wonderful it would be. In the meantime, we will continue to pray for safe travels for you and Florence. Blessings!
I know of couples where one is glued to the home front. In that case, you can always go with a friend. Your husband might prefer it, and you will be happier when you travel if that is true. I hope you get the opportunity to show your husband how interesting travel can be. – Mike
Talk about the sweet life! That first photo is like a dream… gorgeous! Again and again, I’m sooo happy you and Florence ended up in Croatia! It is spectacular and so fun to read about!
We are making the most of our time in Croatia, currently touring Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also have not yet seen Istria, a situation we will correct at the end of November. Further accounts of our adventures are soon to follow. Thank you for following along. – Mike
Great story and experience!