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Friday morning, we woke up to fog and chilly weather. On Thursday night, I had turned on The Crown, Netflix’s series about the British Royal Family. I had seen all of the episodes, but Bill hadn’t, so we quickly got hooked. While we ate breakfast, we watched another episode of The Crown as we made our plans for our time in Croatia. In retrospect, we should have made more of an effort to make plans before we got to Croatia, but I think COVID and the uncertainty of what might happen at any border, kind of made of reluctant to book ahead.

I knew we definitely wanted to see the lakes, but it wasn’t possible for us to visit on Friday. Visitors can purchase tickets online at least 24 hours in advance or at the gate on the day of the visit– but tickets can only be bought on site if the tickets haven’t already sold out. We had already tried to buy tickets for the Krka River National Park and found them sold out online, which is why we didn’t also visit there during our trip. In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t buy tickets for the other park. I’ll explain why in the next post.

So we decided to take a drive, eat lunch in a restaurant, and have a look around. That wasn’t a bad compromise, as there were a lot of leaves changing color. There are also some sites nearby that, if we had been more curious, we might have stopped and looked at. I was content to enjoy very fresh trout, likely from the lakes, which I could see were brimming with fish.

First, we had to find a restaurant that was open. We stopped at one place, but Bill said he didn’t have any Kuna, which is the Croatian currency. Although Croatia is a very card friendly place, we found our in Wels, Austria that not every place takes credit cards. The Greek restaurant where we ate was a cash only establishment. So Bill decided to look for an ATM, only to find TWO of them at the first restaurant and at the place next to it. We ended up eating at Plitvice Holiday Resort, which had a huge menu, friendly service, and it looked like a lot of lodging options, particularly for active types.

The cheerful blonde waitress spoke excellent English and happily brought us a couple of Croatian beers while we decided on lunch. For me, it was easy… I was having trout. Bill decided to have pork skewers. Unfortunately, both dishes came with mushrooms in the garnishes. I noticed that the Croatians are very fond of mushrooms, which is not fun for a person with mycophobia. The restaurant at the resort got mixed reviews, but we had a good experience there. We also enjoyed watching the Croatians at a neighboring table. The wine was flowing very freely, even though it was early afternoon.

After lunch, we kept driving for awhile, checking out the beautiful scenery and interesting scenes in what was once a socialist country that most Americans couldn’t visit. Having lived in the former Soviet Union, I am kind of fascinated by Eastern Europe, especially when there are still signs of the past. Slovenia doesn’t look at all like it was once part of Yugoslavia. It’s very westernized. But Croatia still has some reminders of the past. As you can see from the photos below, I concentrated mostly on the natural beauty of the region.

It was almost dark when we got back to the house. It was chilly and the wind was blowing. We were almost out of wood, so Bill went over to the caretaker’s house to ask where the wood was. He ended up getting invited over for homemade brandy. He called me, and I went over to the caretaker’s house. We sat outside, drank brandy, and talked. It turned out brandy was the only spirit the caretaker, name of Duje, would drink. He told us he had once been a pilot for Yugoslavia, and had flown all over the world to places in Africa and South America. He met his wife in Belgrade, and they eventually moved to Korenica, where they’ve been since 1968.

Duje showed us some of his hunting trophies, as well as the chickens he keeps. He has a couple of dogs, a small black one that had a house in his front yard, and a larger black one who was penned up near the chickens. We saw the bigger dog frolicking in the field behind the house one morning. I felt a little sorry for him. He seemed lonely.

Duje’s wife, whom he called “Babba”, was adorable. She brought out cookies and made Turkish coffee for us. At one point, Duje shouted for her attention. He muttered that she doesn’t hear so well anymore. But she does make a hell of a fire. After we visited, she came back to the house with us, helped Bill gather wood, and made us another roaring fire in the fireplace! We got back to watching The Crown and enjoyed Croatian wines and snacks, since lunch filled us up. Maybe we should have tried to do more on Friday, but there’s something to be said for resting and soaking up the atmosphere… especially since Saturday was the opposite of restful!

I love how, on our travels, we somehow always manage to meet interesting people. When we lived near Stuttgart, we heard many stories from Greeks who had prestigious careers before they came to Germany and opened Greek restaurants. Our old friend, the late “Mad Scientist” in Entringen, had been an engineer in Canada before love brought him to Germany. And the proprietor at the Greek restaurant at the Sportsplatz in our old town of Jettingen had been a pilot for Lufthansa. He had a Korean wife. Probably met her in his flying days… but who knows?

Anyway, Duje and his wife are now country folks who are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of Croatia. We were glad to meet them and share brandy with them. We probably would not have had that experience at a hotel in a bigger town.

Stay tuned for part six, which will feature beautiful photos… and many complaints about my aging and aching body.

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