Awaking in idyllic Grahovo (grah-hoe-woe), we enjoy a leisurely breakfast with our Irish expatriate hosts. Then we plan our route to the next point of interest. I’ve been wise enough to avoid upgrading to iOS 6, but apparently a “small road” means something different in Slovenian; we drive for several hours on steeply winding, one-lane, occasionally-paved roads through the wilderness, spying only a few other human beings.
We emerge from the alpine wilderness to find a pub/coffee shop, and our biological necessities took over. We stopped for bathrooms and caffeine. We also learned to ask for coffee with milk (kava sa mljeka [“ml-yay-ka”]) in this part of the world; “cream” is usually served on cake or ice cream.
We quickly get back on the freeway, travelling at speeds that were totally unthinkable 10 minutes ago.
Our destination is the Škocjan caves (that’s “shkoh-tsyan”) which are at once terrifyingly underground and floodworthy, and gorgeously impressive. Photos are technically prohibited inside, but I snuck one or two without a flash.
I so wish I was good at HDR for this place. Standard photos don’t do it justice at all. Nor do they convey the rude obliviousness of our fellow tourists; it took a lot of mental effort and discipline to maintain decorum and still hear what the guide had to say.
Getting down into the caves is pretty easy. Getting back out involves hiking a cliff-hugging path…
… and the first of two funiculars we’ll be riding during this trip.
By now it’s mid afternoon, and we still have 150km to drive to our Airbnb for the night. We hit the road, and are soon nervously approaching the border to Croatia. We’ve both seen lots of movies where this goes badly, and while we didn’t have a single bad experience this trip, we never lost our sense of vulnerability.
Our bed for the night is in Rovinj, an amazingly beautiful town on the Istrian coast. Think Cannon Beach, but Venetian, and 50 times as old. Scratch that; think Venice, but smaller, and no canals. That’s closer.
Most of the city core has streets too narrow for cars, so we call our host for directions, pay for an hour’s parking, and schlep our baggage through the windy cobbled alleys. Our room is three janky flights of stairs above the waterfront, and inside it’s as comfortable as can be.
We venture out to explore this charming place, and to fill our bellies with seafood, wine, and gelato. We are successful on all counts. One thing we’re adjusting to is the smoking. The lady at the table next to ours at dinner goes through 5 cigarrettes while waiting to order.
Here’s the view from our room around 10pm. It’s about as noisy as it looks.
Morning dawns too early. We’re finding that breakfast isn’t really a thing in this part of the world, and it takes some effort to find someplace to eat every morning. Today it’s a hotel which lets non-guests partake of the buffet for a nominal fee.
Here’s a view of the perilous stairs leading to our flat. The building is old.
And here I am after having discovered that the washer-and-clothesline method we had used for laundry the night before has its flaws.
We took one more stroll around the town in the daylight before moving on.
Our flat is on the top floor; we left a window open.
This is what all of the old city center looks like; narrow streets crowded with buskers and hawkers.
We stop for some groceries and snacks at a supermarket on our way out of town, and discovered that beer comes in two-liter sizes here. Hmm.
Our second set of scenery today is provided by the Istrian hills, and the towns built on them. I mean seriously, can’t you imagine any number of fairy tales set in a place like this? It’s a little ridiculous.
The town we’re visiting is called Motovun (moh-toh-voon), and it’s beautiful.
This region is known for truffles, so we make sure to make the most of it at our lunch spot. Even with dessert: panna cotta with honey and truffles.
Seriously?! Seriously. I don’t even. Seriously?!