Croatia, friends, restaurant reviews

Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part five

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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Germany, veterinary care

Meet the vet… and eat Cajun food!

Those of you who know me on Facebook and/or have been following my main blog might have read that a couple of nights ago, our dog Zane experienced a bit of veterinary drama.  Bill had to take him to our local vet because he was throwing up foam.  A couple of hours after they left the local vet, Zane had bloody diarrhea.  I asked Bill to take Zane to the Tierklinik Hofheim, which is not too far from where we live.  I first heard of the Tierklinik Hofheim from our former vet, Dr. Schube, in Herrenberg.  She said it was one of the best veterinary clinics in Germany.  I never thought we’d ever live close enough to use their services, but I was sure glad we had their services handy on Thursday.

Our new vet.  Up here, all of the vets have a little “V” sign by their office, indicating they are veterinarians.  I don’t remember ever seeing that near Stuttgart.

Bill brought Zane in at about 8:00pm and didn’t get home until almost 1:00am.  I was really worried about Zane, who really looked uncomfortable.  I did some checking online and it appeared that he might have suffered from HGE (Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis).  While this condition is very treatable if it’s caught early, it can be deadly if it’s not treated aggressively with supportive therapies.  Fortunately, Zane wasn’t as sick as he seemed and Bill brought him home to sleep off the medications and the effects of the illness.  He’s fine, now.

We’d already had an appointment for today, which Bill made before Zane got so acutely sick.  We went in today to drop off some samples from our dogs to find out if they have parasites… and if they do, what kind.  I have a feeling parasites might have been behind Zane’s attack, especially since both dogs have had a lot of gas lately… and it has a distinctively “wormy” odor to it.  I can’t describe it; and you probably wouldn’t want me to; but once you know that smell, you know it.  Arran was similarly sick a few months ago and deworming him fixed him right up.  That time, I had some dewormer from our Stuttgart area vets.

Our new vets are pretty high speed.  The male half of the husband and wife team was in the news for doing IVF on a dog in Dubai.  They have several vets on staff and even offer Saturday hours, which is pretty impressive.  I don’t enjoy visiting the vet, but I did need to visit so I’d know where to bring them when it falls to me to get them in for vet care.  I did most of the vet stuff when we lived near Herrenberg and I have a feeling that Bill likes it that way, even if I don’t.  Although Arran didn’t need to see the vet, we brought him along for the ride so he wouldn’t be stuck at home alone.  Actually, our vet appointment was pretty much nothing.  We went in, talked to the vet, and dropped off the sample.  That was it.  It took about an hour, though, because there were a lot of people waiting.

Our vets have a book “lending library” out front.  That scores points with me!

Once we were finished at the vet’s office, we dropped the dogs off and then visited our new friend, John, at Spirit of New Orleans, his fabulous Cajun restaurant.  I’ve written about this restaurant before and it bears a repeat write up.  If you’re in Germany and missing American cuisine, this is a good place to be.  John is from New Orleans and has made his home in Germany.  He’s been thrilling homesick Americans for years and, best of all, his restaurant is located just a few kilometers from our house.  Today was only the second time I’ve eaten in the restaurant, but I’ve had Bill go pick up food from there a few times.  He has everything from ribs to burgers, with some special delicacies like po boys, jambalaya, red beans and rice, chicken wings, and shrimp.

Today, I decided to have the steak special, which came with shrimp, macaroni and cheese, and a salad.  I finished half and will eat the rest later.  

 

Bill had spare ribs, which I’ve had a couple of times.  John’s barbecue sauce is homemade and delicious.  I love his “fries” too, which are really more like very rustic steak fries.  

 

As he was preparing our food, we could hear him in the kitchen cussing.  I heard him yell “Aw fuck!” just before he brought out my steak and almost delivered it to the wrong table.  I could tell he was a bit on edge.  Bill says he reminds him a little bit of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.  As long as you follow the “rules”, you’re in for a treat.  Not only is his food amazing, he also plays awesome music.  I was really enjoying Earth, Wind & Fire as I waited for my lunch!  He also offers regular events starring local musicians.  Someday, we’ll be in town when he has an event.  He’s doing a brunch for Mother’s Day next weekend, but we’ll be in Stuttgart… and/or on our way back from Stuttgart..

I had to get a shot Bill…

As well as our local Harley-Davidson dealership, which boasts a certain taboo symbol…

 

It’s always interesting to see the “stars and bars” in Europe.  The flag doesn’t seem to mean what it does in America.  I’ve seen it on cars, in Italian truck stops, and now at the neighborhood Harley dealer.  They probably think they’re catering to Americans with that…  An Italian friend explained to me that, for some reason, southern Italians relate to southern Americans and some have adopted the “Confederate Battle Flag” as their symbol.

A couple of shots from the hilltop looking down toward our neighborhood.  It’s not as beautiful as Jettingen was, but if you know where to look, you can appreciate lovely views here, too.

We left Spirit of New Orleans with my leftover lunch, plus an order of chicken wings, and New Orleans Crawfish Etouffee.  I think John’s restaurant is the only one we’ve been to in Germany where we regularly order lunch, as well as more food to go for later.  It really is a treat!  He went to New Orleans in April, so it’s great that he’s back in town.  He lit up when I told him we missed him.  Although he’s a bit eccentric and sometimes uses blue language in the kitchen, he’s a really great cook.  I’m willing to overlook a little nuttiness if the food is good.  It really is.

Well, in a few days, we’ll be back in Stuttgart to see our dentist and see Elton John perform.  With any luck, the dogs will not have any more veterinary dramas and we’ll be able to enjoy our old stomping grounds with a couple of new Stuttgart restaurant reviews.

 
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