We've been in Croatia for over two weeks now. The apartment we've been staying in in Medulin is getting well lived in. Neda is out all the time with her girlfriends and I am relishing all the time I have to sleep and do nothing in between sleeping. I even manage to get some blog posts written up!
The weather has been holding up very nicely. Everyone here remarks how unseasonably warm it is for Istria. This is good news. It means we don't have to pull up stakes and ride the bikes to some place warmer. I think Neda could stay in Istria for a very long time, she's very comfortable here. However we both would like to avoid the winter, and I'd like the option of staying mobile. Having the bikes snowed in for months is not too attractive a proposition for me.
But it looks like we don't have to worry about that for quite some time.
Rather than another "Didn't do anything. Life is good" blog post, here's a fun Istrian road trip we did recently:
The cast of characters for our road trip: The Pula Girls!!!
Yes, you can place the blame for the amazing weather we're having on the Pula Girls, Iva and Tajana. I remember just how sunny our Spanish tour with them was and how much fun it was to hang out with them on their vacation. They've offered to take us on a short tour to show us some other places in Istria that I haven't seen before. So on one fine sunny day (they're all sunny these days), we all jumped into Iva's car for a mini road-trip.
Our first stop of the day, the town of Roč
Roč (prononced "Wrotch") is about an hour's drive north of Pula. It's located in a area called the Glagolitic Alley, where artists have erected several monuments to celebrate the origins of the Glagolotic script, the oldest Slavic alphabet.
Walking through the gates of the walled city of Roč
Pumpkins everywhere tell us we're late in the harvest season.
Roč is the geographical centre of Istria and the town has been set up as a shrine to the Glagolitic alphabet and its inventors, two Byzantine monks who traveled to this area to do missionary work.
A statue commemorates the Saints Cyril and Methodius, the two brothers who came up with the Glagolitic alphabet
Saint Cyril and Methodius transcribed the Bible into the Slavic language, devising the Glaglotic alphabet, which is the precursor to the Cyrillic alphabet that countries like Russia and Serbia still use today. Neda told me that she studied all of this in her history lessons in school. When we first started dating, she transcribed my name in Glagolitic on a beautiful card that she had made up by hand.
Remembering this and the kazun she gave to me when we first met really made me realize how connected she was to her Croatian heritage. We had met each other during her very first few months in Canada.
"RideDOT.com" in Glagolitic. Not a phonetic translation, just the keyboard alphabet transliteration
Enjoying the beautiful weather up on the stone walls of Roč
After walking around Roč, we hopped back in the car for a very short drive to Kotli, just a few kms away. There's a small waterfall there where we could go hiking around and then sit at a nearby cafe overlooking the water.
Hanging out in old familiar haunts
There's a watermill at the falls in Kotli. Neda told me how when she was a kid, her dad used to get called out for field work in this area. She would accompany him and they'd pack a ham sandwich for lunch and eat it here out on the rocks by the falls. She told me that she remembered thinking that those were the most delicious ham sandwiches ever.
I could listen to Neda talk about her childhood all day. Her stories about the memories she made in all of these places are way more interesting than any wikipedia article I could cut and paste.
Tajana and Neda hanging out at the waterfall
I made a new friend!
Autumn leaves collect on the water
After the waterfalls, Iva and Tajana took us to the nearby town of Hum
Hum bills itself as the smallest town in the world. And also proudly boasts being part of the Glagolitic Trail
Walking through the gates of the medieval town of Hum
Hum is pronounced "Hoom". Population: 20
Childhood friends just chilling out
I'm a bit mystified by female friendships. They lack the common bonds that typify male friendships, like burping, farting and making jokes and laughing about burping and farting. Also, I've noticed female nicknames are more endearing. Usually they're a cutesified version of their real names. Tajana's nickname is Tayo. Iva's nickname is Zoof (for her last name).
Men's nicknames are usually bestowed after the least attractive part of their body or the most embarrassing thing their friends have seen them do (most often while drunk). They can get so insulting and demeaning that if anyone outside the circle of guy friends were to use that nickname, it would be instant grounds for a fist fight.
Neda and I have pretty much been each others sole source of companionship for over three years, literally joined at the hip for all that time. We're husband and wife, and each other's best friends. But it's difficult to fulfill the other's need for same-sex friendships. Actually, it's only difficult for me, since I've got a million nicknames for Neda (she's still not too happy about "My little Smartie") and I constantly make burp and fart jokes around her anyway...
I can see that being back in Pula with her childhood friends is really filling that need for gals-only time that she was sorely missing while being on the road. I suppose I could learn to paint toenails and talk and talk and talk for hours and hours and hours. And not burp and fart so often... No, that last part's a dealbreaker. Not gonna happen.
I see how Neda is when she's here and happy and laughing and enjoying herself. That makes me so incredibly happy myself.
Talking about girl stuff. And then minutes later, they broke out the toenail polish...
In comparison, men just like to hang out with each other and be dogs,
chase bitches around and sniff each others butts. Well maybe not that last part so much...
Watching the sun slowly move across the sky in a familiar country, the NedaLands
Thanks Iva, for the great picture of us!
Half the population of Hum live in the buildings in this picture
The other half live here...
What a great day, hanging out with old friends!
You can travel for years and years, turn miles and miles beneath your wheels. You can chase every burning sunset to the ground of a different country each night, lie awake till morning to breathe in the foreign sky of a brand new day. Laugh at how funny these new words feel when they're rolling around in that same old mouth that you use to smile at strangers and talk and drink their wine until nobody's strange anymore. Or until everybody is. Fall in love with this, and leave. Fall in love with that. And leave.
And then sometimes you can stay awhile. Laugh with friends. Tell stories that you've told a hundred times to people that have heard those same stories a hundred times before. Because they're in those stories. You can watch the same sun fall to familiar ground every night. And you can smell roses in your own back yard.
You can stay awhile. Laugh with friends.