Well, I epically failed at writing my blog in real time this go around. In my defense, Dan had our days racked and stacked….so here we go!
We had a number of activities planned that began on the mainland of Croatia and ended with us dropping Jacob and Brianna in Trieste, where they would make their journey to Venice and then onward to the U.S. On Sunday morning, we all walked the mile to the city center of Cres to catch the catamaran to Rijeka, on the mainland. The ferry was suppose to leave at 9:20. Apparently, this was not a hard and fast time as the ferry did not arrive until 9:50. We quickly boarded this cattle car of the sea for an hour and a half ride to the mainland. We then trekked uphill for awhile to find the rental car place. The car company upgraded our car to a nice size SUV type which you’d think would be awesome, but in this land of extremely tight roads, small parking spaces, and curves only big enough for one small car….this was more of a curse than a blessing. We started our journey at the ancient Roman citadel of Kastav which had breathtaking views of the Adriatic and island of Cres.
Earlier in the week, we had made arrangements to go visit more of Dan’s family on their farm. This was on the Istrian Peninsula of mainland Croatia where Dan’s mom had grown up. We drove through the lush, green countryside where the farm was located. After a few failed attempts, we finally found the right property (it’s not like there are street signs, you know) 😂. As has always been the case, the family rolled out the red carpet and spoiled us rotten! After warm hugs and greetings, they ushered us to the house where we shared a toast of their homemade brandies. We then went out onto the upstairs patio that overlooked their farm and the beautiful valley floor. They brought out their own homemade wine from grapes grown right there on the farm. Then came the homemade prosciutto (butchered and cured right on the farm) and homemade cheese. This has always been the best prosciutto I have ever had. I have never liked it anywhere else I’ve had it due to its fatty nature and slimy quality. Their prosciutto is similar in texture to a hard, dry salami….amazing. Next came a cabbage salad, tomato salad, mashed potatoes (you guessed it! All grown right there on their farm). The star of the show….roasted lamb….slaughtered earlier that day and also raised there. Talk about your true farm to table experience! We were in heaven!
After the meal, we went for a walk around the farm. We wandered through the ruins of the house Dan’s mom grew up in which currently is used for various things. One room contained a number of hanging pig legs being dried and cured for prosciutto. We met the cows, the pigs, two orphaned baby ducks, the lambs and sheep, and the chickens. We wandered through the cellar where the wine vats were fermenting the wine. It was such a cool experience for us urban dwellers. After this tour, we strolled their property and down to their vineyard where we learned about the different grapes they used for making wine. We then sampled the various grapes, straight from the vine. After that, we wandered to the “swimming hole” that Dan and his cousins grew up playing in. From there, we were shown an area of their property where infamous black truffles can be found. Black truffles sell for upwards of 1000 euros per kilo and are found using pigs or specially trained dogs. When they found out how much I loved truffles, they graciously brought out their truffle hunting dog and puppy in training. Next thing I know, I’m being handed about 6-8 beautiful truffles to take home with me! It was such an amazing day of laughter, experiences and love. It was a sad moment when it was time for us to go….but we were due to meet with another of Dan’s cousins back in Rijeka (about an hour from the farm). After a long, exhausting day, we found a little apartment to rent and crashed for the night.
The next day, we made our way to the medieval hilltop fortress of Buzet (which also happened to be the truffle capital of Istria). We spent the evening wandering the ancient walled fortress and taking in the amazing views. We then decided to head to Motovun, another ancient walled fortress. Dan and I had been here once before and fell in love with the place. On our last visit, my truffle addiction began. We had enjoyed a beautiful sunset, overlooking the valley below, while enjoying a bottle of wine and plate of truffle cheese. When we arrived, it was immediately noticeable that things had changed. No longer could you drive to the top. You had to park at the bottom and take a shuttle bus to the top. Needless to say, the place was packed 😢 As we wandered the fortress, we noticed that every table at every restaurant along the wall was reserved. My happy place was quickly disappearing. We headed to an area where you could actually walk along the ancient wall, only to discover that turnstiles had been erected! And, of course, ticket sales were closed for the night. What happened to my wonderfully, romantic place?! I was so sad. We headed back to our quaint little family owned hotel in the fortress of Buzet (6 whole rooms). It was a wickedly toasty night and then the raging thunderstorms rolled in. As you can imagine, none of us got a whole lot of sleep.
Once we all got moving the next day, we headed to one of Croatia’s biggest truffle producers before setting out for Trieste. We had stopped in the day before, but it was too close to closing to do the tasting. The very nice woman told us to come back the next day, and we would be shown an amazing tasting experience. She did not lie! It was phenomenal. In the beginning, we were the only 4 in the place. She began by showing us the black truffles and explaining how they are rated for pricing. I showed her mine and asked for advice in keeping them safe and tasty until we returned to the boat. She then showed us a replica of a white truffle that had been found there weighing in at a hefty 3 pounds! If I remember correctly, she said it fetched an amazing 3700 euros! The white truffle (which I had never tasted up to this point) is VERY expensive because it is only found in 3 places in the entire world (Istria being one of them) and only from September to January. The first thing she brought us was a truffle infused beer. It was okay, but none of us really cared for the taste. Next, she brought out a tray consisting of bread with white truffle dipping oil, 6 rounds of bread each topped with a different truffle product, 3 types of truffle cheese, and a truffle sausage. Of course I liked almost everything 😜 The final part of our tasting involved sweets. We sampled a white truffle infused honey brandy and a black truffle infused cherry brandy. Oh YUM! We also tried some cookies, fig jam, honey, and chocolate….all infused with truffles. It was such an incredible experience! Then it was shopping time…..poor Dan….he knew it was coming. I walked out with 8 different products and recipe dreams for everything!
We made our way to Trieste which took about an hour. The worst part was the border. I crossed this border several times in April and was the only car going through! Today, we sat in line for about a 1/2 hour. We decided to take the kids to the Piazza Dell’Unita D’Italia (this has been in existence for 700 years). We enjoyed some yummy Italian coffees before making our way to the train station where we would part company. We got the kids onto the train to Venice (they would have that evening and the next day to explore Venice before catching their flight home). Dan and I then began our journey back to Croatia and Zoe. We opted for a really nice scenic drive we had discovered once before. This also contained a tiny, little known border crossing. Guess what? We were they only one there! We got back to Croatia about 8 that evening and decided to get a room in Opatia for the night. Opatia is a seaside, luxury tourist town on the Istrian riviera. We strolled the boardwalk that evening until the crowds of tourists overwhelmed us, and we retreated to the quiet and solitude of our room.
The following day, we had to return the rental car by noon and then kill 5 hours until time for the catamaran to take us back to our home on the water. We were both more than ready to get back to Zoe and some much needed relaxation (well, that would come after the chores).
So here we are, enjoying a quiet evening in the cockpit. We have been hard at work getting Zoe prepped to head out on the sea again. Our plan, weather permitting, is to set sail in 4 days. We will be heading far south on this adventure where we will be picking up new visitors in the city of Split. We are planning to take a week to 10 days to get down there where all new adventures await. If all goes well, we may head to Montenegro once our visitors depart us. We hope you will stay with us as this adventure unfolds!
Since this is my first go at blogging, feel free to provide feedback in the comments to help me improve the quality of my blog (just be kind with your suggestions 😝). Please subscribe if you’d like to continue following us, and we love getting your comments.