This is the seventh post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Saturday, June 21
At the end of our Plitvice hike, we made our way to the car and headed north on the highway towards House Tina, a small hostel recommended by travel guru Rick Steves. It looked new on Trip Advisor (an online source we use for finding hotels; I write under the name Letterpress) and we found it without too much trouble, using the map printouts from Google Maps that I’d printed out at home.
It reminded us of homes we’d stayed in on our honeymoon in Austria.
The hostel designation is an interesting one, for the standards they have to meet are different than those of a hotel. For example, there is no soap in the shower, nor cups in the bathroom. We’d brought along a travel bar of soap from Hotel Vrlic in Split so were good there, and used our water bottles for cups. I was happy they had towels, after learning about this, but extra amenities are not required.
Milan, the “owner-manager” with Dave. He lives there with his girlfriend and together they run the place, but her family owns it. They employ local girls to come in and clean and do laundry, which was in the garage area. When we walked by one time, the doors were open and it was quite a set-up with several washers and dryers, folding tables, iron and cleaning supplies all arranged on shelves.
Upstairs we had a “double,” which was two twin beds pushed together. We were used to this from our travels so were not surprised, but the construction of the beds (by a local carpenter–very nicely done) had a piece of trim which kept the beds about 4 inches apart, even when pushed together. There was a fan in the room, but no air conditioning.
The house was fully booked and we were the last to check in. Our room was in the front, overlooking the front car park area and the fields beyond. This is the view from the bedroom window.
To the side of the car park area were two family-style cabins.
Of course, the first thing we do is check to the internet, getting the code from the hotel owner and syncing up all our devices. We liked the news from home and had fun uploading to Instagram every day, seeing people’s comments. I realize that the advent of electronics and access to the World Wide Web has severely curtailed my journal-writing from these trips. I rue this development, but sometimes I’m just too tired to do anything else. When Dave and I first started traveling, there was no way to book hotel rooms on the Web (it didn’t really exist) so we’d travel around all day, stopping about 4 p.m. to find our hotel and dinner. The evenings were relaxing as we hadn’t “touristed” ourselves to exhaustion, which I think we do too much of now. Of course there is always this desire that runs strong in my husband’s DNA to see one more sight, knock off one more attraction, drive a few more kilometers. The old system was a nice counterbalance to those urges.
One lovely surprise about House Tina was the chance to eat dinner on site. Tired from walking, I thought this was bliss, so after we got settled, we went downstairs.
Around the side of the house was an outdoor patio and across the lawn was a massive outdoor barbeque set-up. It was obvious that this place, of recent construction, was built solely for accomodating tourists. Sorry about the photo above. We were so hungry that we dived right in before remembering to take a photograph.
We could have grilled meats or grilled fish. I chose one and Dave chose the other and we shared. Both were excellent.
Thankfully Milan boned the trout for us. He later sat down and told us that all their food was locally sourced.
He called this risotto, but we called it rice with gravy. After he cleared away the diners’ plates and got things down to a dull roar (there were about 5 rooms full that night), Milan joined us and we were able to get some more of his story. As a child, he moved to Karlovac with his parents to wait out the war, staying in a refugee camp there. “That’s where I learned all my languages,” he told us, as he learned to converse with all the different nationalities of soldiers stationed there. The family lost their home to the war, but later in the conversation we found out that they had re-established themselves, also running a tourist guesthouse a few miles away.
The guesthouses generally open up around Easter and stay open throughout the summer and some stay open into fall. At Christmastime, sometimes they re-open, but then are closed during the winter months because of snowfall, as “it’s hard to get food up here when there is all the snow” he said. When Easter coincides with the school holidays, everyone is happy, but when Easter is early, then they have to hire “the girls” early only to have nothing for them to do until school gets out. (I’m thinking this must have happened this year, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it.)
Milan had mixed praise and scorn for those run guesthouses, as “it’s an easy way to make money, and no one has cows or farms any more.” He alluded more than once to the easy-money making thing, and sometimes it was wistful, as if he were witnessing a sea change in the life of his fellow countrymen and wasn’t entirely happy about it. But he himself eschewed farming for this “easy money.”
We talked about Bosnia-Herzogovina and I found the distinction between those who had government jobs (“mostly relatives of the men who already have government jobs”) versus the rest of the population generated some harsher judgement about those who were the government fat cats. We’d read about this before coming — the clearly feudal system of regional governments taking up most of the country’s cash flow. “But the floods will bring us together again,” Milan insisted. “We donate clothing, money, our time to help our brothers.” Clearly there was some desire to put the divisions of the war behind him, and he felt that working together to fix the effects of the massive floods would be a tool to equalize them and bring them together. We don’t often get the chance to talk to those who live in these countries, these towns, making assumptions as we go. I don’t believe that one dinner table conversation will give us an accurate depiction of life there, but his willingness to talk to us about his life was helpful in understanding this country in which we were spending time.
We joined an Australian couple at their table for more visiting, finding out that they were taking three months to travel around and see the sights. And here we were trying to cram it all in to two-plus weeks. No wonder we were exhausted every night.
The next morning we went down to the breakfast room, where Milan served us “happy eggs” from local chickens, the scrambled eggs a rich buttery yellow.
We could also make our own toast in this fabulous machine. Jams and Nutella plate (above-above) were available, as well as juices.
And of course, Croatia memorabilia everywhere in honor of World Cup Soccer.
We paid and turned in our key.
And saw Milan’s car, all decked out, as we pulled out. We were our way to the Istrian Peninsula.
Next up: Buzet, a hilltown on the Istrian Peninsula