Sunday, June 3, 2007

Destiny, Magic and Family

KIM: Friday night, just before heading back to the apartment to pack for our journey home, we observed the changing of Dubrovnik's town guard. Like other cities, it is a ritual intended to symbolize the centuries of security and strength in this community. It only lasted a few minutes, but I found that it was a nice way to wrap up my memories of this wonderful journey. We learned so much about the history and culture of this region during our visit. All of the people we encountered were generous in sharing their knowledge and experience, and we are committed to finding a way to return some day to learn more. Both Anastasia and I felt connections here. Sometimes it was as simple as seeing someone on the street that had physical characteristics similar to our own. In my case, there are not a lot of people in the US with dark hair and skin and light blue eyes, but in Slovenia and Croatia they are everywhere. We will all miss hearing the Slovenian and Croatian languages spoken. At first it was so strange to hear, but we got more used to the rhythm and melody of the language each day we were there! Our experiences were guided and punctuated by the local people we met who participated in this exploration by helping us find the people, places and things we needed. Many people even made suggestions, guiding us toward unanticipated results! Almost everyone we met was friendly. Many times we found ourselves committing a cultural faux pas, but each time, we laughed it off and apologized to the person we may have offended and were instantly accepted and assisted. We only missed a few of our intended destinations, but each time we did, the experience was replaced with an equally or more impressive experience. I think all three of us had the sense of being guided on this trip by a benevolent force in tune with our objectives! The final result, of course, was not just a sightseeing tour of the countries of our ancestral roots, but real and lasting connections to family and the land. And, we developed as family between ourselves as well. Anastasia and I knew that we had to be related somehow, since we shared the same last name. While we didn't find much evidence of the exact nature of the specific relationship, we did come up with information that speculates on the possibilities, and we deepened our personal relationships just by experiencing such a fantastic voyage together! I really feel lucky to have had this opportunity and to have shared it with Anastasia and Shelley.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dubrovnik: The End of the Line

KIM: We have spent two lovely days in Dubrovnik and have one day remaining. I think all of us feel that this city is a spectacular end to a fantastic journey. We have not only thoroughly enjoyed each adventure we have had, but also gotten a real kick out of being able to share our adventures in real-time with our friends and families. So many people have corresponded with us through this blog, and we plan to follow up by answering all of the questions you all have posed during our travels. Plus, Shelley has been drawing and painting like crazy and has quite a bit of work to do once we get home. We can't wait to see the results! I have lots of photos to process and hope to put together some type of show. I have purposefully not posted a whole series of photos that I want to share in another manner. Anastasia has a dream of using this blog as a basis for a multimedia presentation of a more complete description of our tour. Whatever ends up happening, this has certainly been the trip of a lifetime and I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say that we all agree that we must come back now that we are familiar with the land, the people, the languages and the work and research we have left to do! The photos here represent Dubrovnik in several of its moods.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Takin' the ferry and visiting Hvar, plus Dubrovnik!

ANASTASIA: We have connected with my family and I am still jotting down notes of stories Branko has told us, as well as Brankica. Brankica also told us of older women that are healers in Croatia. I have emailed her to ask what the name is, as I have forgotten it. The way things sound in Croatia is hard for me to remember how it would be spelled! When Brankica is sick, she eats ½ kilo of honey each day. I am going to try this. She says you have to buy the good honey, directly from the beekeepers. A lot of the healing traditions and herbs that are used are exactly what we use in the Northwest. St. John’s Wort is put in oil (and it turns red when it is in the sun), and is used for the skin. Lavender, sage and rosemary are also used. The healer also helps produce ritual to help with ridding one of spells. I will write in more detail about this after I get the words spelled right from Brankica!

We have begun our travel to the islands, spending a day on Hvar. We then took an all day ferry to get to Dubrovnik and here we are! These pictures were taken on Hvar, the island of lavender, which, by the way, the lavender fields were burned in a fire about ten years ago and not many have been tended to come back. The weather is overcast so we are taking in some museums here in Dubrovnik. We are staying in the old town, which is the part that is within the old walls and it is so beautiful. The woman we are staying with (we have been staying in sobes, which are private homes of a local person), used to be an economist and is now in school in restoration. I asked her what she thought about the change in politics and if she agreed with the new Croatia. She said things are much better now. In northern Croatia, people could go to Italy and buy things but in Dubrovnik, they didn’t have many choices. Now they do and it is so much better. There are many choices of shoes, and beer from all over the world. She said she came from a rich family before communism and her family were intellectuals. The communist party wanted to jail her father, a professor of music, because he didn’t want to join the communist party. Now things are much better. I enjoyed hearing her perspective.

Ferry to Dubrovnik

KIM: We departed the islands for Dubrovnik Tuesday morning on a huge Jadrolinija ferry. We had wanted to stay in the islands for a few days, but found that the ferry schedule would only allow us a single day. One is better than none, I guess! So we will have four nights and three days in Dubrovnik instead. I think that’s a good trade-off. There was a huge rain and thunderstorm last night before we left Hvar. In the late afternoon the wind rose and the boats in the little boat harbor began to roll violently. In fact, two large sailboats moored at the dock were tossed around so that their masts actually tangled. It caused quite a commotion until various people were able to disconnect them and move the boats out into the harbor a ways. After this, and as the sky got darker, we decided to go back to the apartment for the evening, but Anastasia and Shelley decided to go out again for a pizza once we got back. As soon as they left the lightning began. I could tell it was going to rain, but no telling when it would begin. It probably took at least 30 minutes, but once it started, it steadily increased until it was a huge downpour. I thought about Anastasia and Shelley and wondered if they were trying to hike up the narrow lanes in the rain. I understand that these lanes turn into waterfalls during heavy rains. Also interesting is that when the lightning began, the church bells began to ring, apparently alerting the townsfolk to prepare for the impending storm. After the storm, when Anastasia and Shelley returned, they reported that rather than attempt to return in the rain with their pizza, they decided to remain in the pizzeria (picerija in Croatian) until the storm had passed. They also said that folks were running around frantically preparing for the storm and that the restaurant owner kept apologizing for the weather. The storm lasted for about 90 minutes and then it was over. During the night, all of the standing water ran off or dried and by morning it all seemed back to normal. We headed for the ferry dock by way of the northern round-about route, having heard that the old lavender farms were in this area. Unfortunately, most of them had burned during a fire about three years ago. But, we saw some beautiful scenery, including some amazing ancient terraced fields and made it to Stari Grad well in time for the ferry to Dubrovnik. The ferry is enormous. I would say at least three times the size of the largest WA State ferry. There are two or three car decks and four passenger decks, although we could only access three of them. The route wound among the islands, but there was a substantial bit that was through what felt like open water. In the on-board restaurant, the waiters were pitched around like everyone else, but they seemed to have developed such great sea-legs that they didn’t have any trouble hanging on to plates of food and beverages they were trying to serve. There were several times we thought they would surely drop food into the laps or faces of the diners, but each time, they expertly placed the dishes and glasses precisely on the tables! Amazing. It was almost like watching a circus act!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hvar Island

KIM: We departed Split early this morning for Hvar Island. The large state-run car ferry, Jadrolinija, seems to work very much like the Washington State Ferries, except we discovered this morning that they only do two runs each week between Hvar and our final destination, Dubrovnik. We were lucky to arrive in Split yesterday so that we could catch the Monday am ferry to Hvar, but the only two that go on to Dubrovnik are Tuesday morning and Saturday morning. Saturday we must catch our flight to London and then home from the airport in Dubrovnik. Today's ferry ride was about two hours and we rode in the salon or main cabin of the ship as we understood that it is not allowed to remain on the car deck during passage. As in all public places in Croatia, the salon was filled with cigarette smoke, so we tried to breathe normally. Ha. We were already exhausted and less than ideally nourished from the long day of travel the day before, and Anastasia (and Shelley to a lesser degree) has been suffering from severe allergies to the various tree and grass pollens in this area, so it wasn't our best day! At least there was coffee and "food" on the ferry! Last night, storm clouds rolled in as we got closer to Split, and by the time we went to bed, the lightning and rain had begun. It rained much of the night and was still windy and rainy when the ferry departed. But as we got closer to Hvar, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Once we reached Hvar-town and found a small apartment in which we could stay, it was actually hot. The apartment is actually two bedrooms in a small house with a private terrace and a separate kitchen off of the terrace in the old town on the hill above the harbor. Looking at the photo above, it's near the top of the hill on the left side. There is a fortress on the opposite hill, across town on the left, and our terrace has a nice view, which I have not photographed yet. The streets are pedestrian-only, so we are getting lots of exercise dragging and hauling our bags up and down the lanes and steps. It's gorgeous, so we don't mind too much! More photos later, and we're headed for the ferry and Dubrovnik tomorrow morning!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Plitvice Jezera National Park

KIM: Wow, we had a wonderful day today in Plitvice! From the Brncic's home in Tribalj/Pecca near Crikvenica we traveled about two hours southeast over the mountains into lake country. On a whim, we invited Anastasia's cousin Brankica. She turned out to be a really great travel partner! We all felt we had known each other for a lifetime. She even shared our rather twisted sense of humor! Her English is superb, so we learned a lot from her and we all had a great time! We arrived at a large, touristy and over-priced hotel in the park late last night. After an over-priced meal in the hotel dining room, we all fell into bed anticipating an early breakfast and an early start on the park trails in order to beat all of the commercial tour groups. Our plan was sound and we had a three hour, nearly solitary hike through some of the most beautiful scenery any of us had ever scene. No words can do this justice. The photos help, but you just can't imagine how overwhelmingly beautiful the view is at each turn of the trail! Just amazing. It got to the point after just a few minutes that we couldn't remember the last most beautiful thing we saw! Brankica even told us about some of the folk legends specific to each of the lakes. Stories about gypsies, trolls and gnomes. Very cool! The trout in the lake were lazy and fat, some were about two feet long! There were bullfrogs, blue butterflies that we called jewel-bugs, snakes, and even these amazing lizards on neon colors! We left the park about 1pm and drove Brankica back to Senj, just south of her parents' home, where they graciously picked her up, saving us about an hour of backtracking. Then, after a tearful goodbye with Paula, Brankica's mother, we were on our way to Split... nearly 300km to the south. It was a long trip and we didn't have a place to stay set up ahead of time, but we found a local woman at the ferry terminal fishing for houseguests like us. She has a tiny little apartment in the old part of town which is just perfect (and fairly cheap) for folks waiting to head out on the am ferry for the islands. The trick was finding it! We had to navigate narrow and winding little cobblestone roads and park at the top of a narrow lane, so tight that we're not sure that the cars parked beyond our rental can get out! Well, we're leaving at 6:30am, so maybe we won't inconvenience anyone. After parking the car, we still had to drag our bags down several blocks of pedestrian-only stairs and lanes. It's quite a place! Hopefully we will have a bit of time in the morning to explore Diocletian's palace (an ancient Roman ruin right in the main part of the old town) before we board the ferry in the morning for the Island of Hvar!

Brankica's Plitvice Photos

KIM: Brankica Brncic, Anastasia's cousin joined us for our side trip to Plitvice. We took a nice 2.5 hour hike through the upper lakes and waterfalls and all took many photos. Brankica is very artistic and got these. We will post more later!

The Brencick Family in Croatia

ANASTASIA: The purpose of our trip was to find our Brencick family. We found that although this last name seems sparse in Washington State, Brencick is a common name in Croatia. We found lots of Brencicks in the phone directory! Yesterday we met Brankica, (pronounced BRAHN-kee-tza). She was just finishing up a 36 hour work shift at the children’s hospital where she is a laboratory technician. She met us at a cafĂ© in Crkvenica, which is just south of Rijeka, where she lives. What a fun and wonderful person. She is 35, lives on her own, and we have already been bribing her to come for a visit in the U.S. We then drove to the village,Tribalj, where our Brencick family lives in the area, Pecca (pronounced PAY-tzah). Her parents, Branko and Paula are retired here now and live right next door to where Ivan Brencic was born. His name is above the door and we took lots of photos. It has the year, 1730 on the house. This is exactly the place Susan Doll and her friend came to visit in the 70’s. Susan, I didn’t see many grapevines,[as I am editing this, I remember taking pictures of their grapevines in the BACK yard. Sheesh!] but I saw the primary school that Branko went, and we visited the cemetery. Branko showed us the gravesites of our family: Danica Brncic, Branko’s mom, and his dad who died in WWII, Mate Brncic. The priest who baptized Ivan is buried here, too, and Branko showed us his gravesite. Above the cemetery were the beautiful mountains and he told us stories about how he would go over the mountains with his mother to cut hay, and to trade figs and salt for things that grow on the other side of the mountain, such as potatoes. He said he was young and one time his mom walked out of site and he was scared because of all the animals that are found in the mountains, so he climbed up a tree and waited for her to come! There are bears here, so I think that was pretty smart. I had a copy of the family tree he made in 1998 and I asked him why Martin died at 21 years old. He said Martin was a pacifist and did not want to go to war, so he was trying to make himself sick enough to not go, but accidentally killed himself by drinking petrol. We so enjoyed meeting Paula, Branko’s wife, who fed us a wonderful lunch and told us how she was a survivor of an Italian concentration camp. She was recently honored and given a certificate by Croatia from this. She said she was five years old and there were 64 children taken from Independent State of Croatia (now Croatia), during WWII to a concentration camp in Italy. She was in the camp for two years and was able to reunite with her parents after that. She said out of the 64, only 23 children survived and her sister was also one of these survivors. There are so many wonderful stories and will continue sharing them with you.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Opatija Istria

KIM: Today we landed in an unexpected place: Opatija. This is a small but famous resort town just west of Rijeka and feels like the French Riviera, but is smaller and less crowded. We drove a lovely coastal route to get here and stopped because we knew that Rijeka would be our last opportunity to meet with Anastasia’s family, but hadn’t been able to get in touch with them yet. A few days ago we had what we thought were some good leads, thanks to the help of the receptionist in the geriatric-militant-socialist toplice, but none of them panned out. On the drive today, we stopped in a town called Labin where we thought we might find an enclave of Brencics. While it’s likely that there are some family there, we had a very difficult time finding anything in that town so we gave up and continued on. Beyond Labin, the coastal views were wonderful, and though the weather is very warm for traveling, it is perfect for swimming… yes we swam in the Adriatic today!

Upon reaching Opatija we checked into a hotel that was far too expensive, but since we have managed to stay in very nice but inexpensive lodging all along, it seemed like a reasonable splurge. This hotel is old opulence and right on the beach. It’s probably at least a hundred years old, and has seen better days, but still manages to feel elegant. After a late lunch, we walked up the main street to get a feel for the town and almost passed by the local tourist office because we have consistently had more luck asking for help and advice from people on the street than from the professionals (like the guy working at the petrol station today who sold us a phone card and then helped us figure out how to use it). But, we decided to go in to the tourist office anyway. It’s a good thing because the young Croatian woman at the front desk, Sandra, was just about as helpful as anyone could have been! She listened to the reason for our visit and immediately picked up the phone to call the Rijeka relatives and translate our request for a visit. It’s all set for Saturday. We will visit Brankitca (who speaks English) and her parents, Branko and Zdenka (who don’t) in their home in a small town on the coast south of Rijeka. Without Sandra’s help, we may not have been able to schedule this on our own! Tomorrow we will likely visit a nearby island called Krk, and then after the family visit on Saturday, head for Plitvice Lakes and then further south on the coast.

We have had many reasons to smile on this trip. Of course we crack ourselves up often, attempting to communicate. A few days ago, I toasted my hosts by saying “goodbye” instead of “cheers” (“nasvidenje” /“nasdravje”). Today, our new friend Sandra made us giggle. When we thanked her for her help she said in excellent English “it is my will” meaning that she wanted to help us. When we said goodbye, instead of replying with “enjoy your stay”, she said “please enjoy your permanence”.

This post is being uploaded two nights after we were in Opatija. We have been staying in places without Internet access, so will have to catch up!

Photos: The southeastern coast of Istria, just after leaving Labin, and the view from our hotel room in Opatija.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Istria: red earth, olive trees, disintegrating Roman walls

This is what we see out of the car window as we drive ourselves from the toplice, to Rovinj and then to Pula. The roads are open and never crowded. And I am sneezing every three minutes or so. I would think that if I were in my homeland, my body would be more welcoming to the pollen, dust and whatnot, but this is not the case. I have been taking some sort of antihistimine, but I am sick of it, so today will be interesting.

I was so interested to visit the archeological museum in Pula yesterday as it has artifacts from the First Peoples here. I am curious how they lived and even more curious about the spiritual traditions they might have had. Often times I can get an idea of health and healing traditions from this. But, this museum was like opening up a textbook from the 1950's. Just the facts. Which is refreshing, really. There was no mention of the spiritual, health or healing traditions whatsoever. There was quite a bit written about how the dead were buried, though.

The Istrian Peninsula has been populated for about 40 thousand years. The museum showed a map of settlements and said it was difficult to find a hilltop that had not been occupied. Most of the information and artifacts had been collected from gravesites, and although the curators did not comment on the spiritual beliefs of the people they did mention about slavic burials "this grave had a stone slab over the head and neck to protect the corpse from vampires"! Hmmm....

The museum was divided into pre-history and history, history meaning Roman and on. They have a fantastic array of artifacts, and the Roman ruins in Pula are far more complete than those in Rome.

There are so many possible subjects to draw and paint it's hard to know what to do. The blue Adriatic, the limestone islands, the old tile roof buildings, the narrow alleys, the Roman ruins, the fieldstone walls and small round houses.... It's enough material for a lifetime!

Yeah, the small round houses are still used to this day as dwellings. They are limestone and look very tiny. In prehistory, they were used either as dwellings or as a burial site. One area was explained as having old oak groves that is now replaced by shrubs and pine. Shelley remembers that used to be a way the Romans would occupy an area; they would cut down the groves that were worshipped. I wonder if this also happened here?

The amphitheatre ruin was fantastic, with a museum in its basement that showed how the sewage came from the spectators upstairs, and how olive oil was made. There were excavated vessels that held the olive oil and I took a picture of it....

Pula, Istria

KIM: Today we visited Pula, at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula. Our goal was to see the Roman coliseum and the history museum. We arrived before 10am and parked at the waterfront, adjacent to the coliseum, where we were immediately pounced on by the local tourist boat operators who wanted to take us on a two-hour tour of the Brijuni Islands. It sounded like fun, so we said we would think about it and return later. The location of the museum was a mystery, so we set out on foot looking for signs and asking directions. A couple of blocks away, there was a sign and a city worker of some sort, both of whom confirmed that the museum was a ways uphill. Setting out again, we wandered up a small city street lined with very old buildings and soon saw a sign for the Kastel. Not exactly what we wanted, but our map confirmed that the museum was located adjacent to the kastel. At the top of the hill and crossed a bridge over a dry moat and entered the kastel via a drawbridge where an electronic sensor alerted a severe middle-aged female ticket-taker of our arrival. She seemed rather put-out when we asked the location of the museum, but she indicated it was “around” and “down”. So we took a rather precarious walk around the castle ramparts until we found a goat-path down the side of the hill into an ancient Roman amphitheater. It was really incredible, and it was in the backyard of the museum, just up the street from the coliseum. We spent about an hour learning about the regional inhabitants from Neanderthal to Roman times. It even touched upon the local development of the Glagolitic alphabet, which was the first written Slavic language and a precursor to the modern Cyrillic alphabet. After this we headed back to the docks and took a lovely two-hour cruise around the Brijunis, where the former president of Yugoslavia, Tito, had a private compound that he used to entertain celebrities and world leaders. Many guests brought exotic animals from their native lands as gifts, and so the main island is home to a safari park, which is now open to the public. We did not stop in the islands, but instead took a boat tour around the islands. The weather has been very warm for the past few days, so the cool salt air on the water was a welcome respite. A very nice gentleman provided commentary to all of the boat tour guests in at least four languages, and did a great job in English as well as what we could understand in German and Italian. After the boat tour we visited the Roman coliseum, which was built 2,000 years ago and seated 20,000 people at one time. It is the sixth largest in the world and probably the best surviving ruin. We spent a very interesting hour listening to an audio tour and learning about the Roman influence on the city of Pula. Anastasia has just found the first actual phone numbers of her family in this area, thanks to her cousin Tom, and is attempting to contact them, although our phones don’t work too well in Croatia. Tomorrow we plan to head northeast toward Labin and Rijeka. We hope to make the family connections there. Greetings to all of the Brencicks in the US, who we understand are having a rather large reunion this week in St Louis. Wish we could be there!

Photos from top: one of the Brijuni Islands, the Roman coliseum at Pula, a tiny oak and bracken growing between the stones of the coliseum

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rovinj Croatia

KIM: We spent a lovely day yesterday exploring the cobbled lanes of old Rovinj. The cobblestones here are made of old limestone and are worn slick and smooth from literally centuries of foot traffic. It is really beautiful. The apartment/villa we are staying in is just a short walk above the old part of town, near a Franciscan church, whose belles seem to toll hourly. This is a real local neighborhood, so there is lots of noise from daily life. Our host Korinne, is a very nice woman, who speaks Croatian and Italian. Today we are headed into Pula to see the Roman coliseum and other ruins. The photo at the top is of one of the two views from our villa. The other one our waiter took at our harborside lunch yesterday. Hello to everyone!

Zagreb and Istria

May 22
Zagreb and Istria
KIM: We left Zagreb on Monday at noon in a rented car. It was just wild trying to navigate our way out of a mysterious city with no knowledge of the traffic rules or language of the directional signs. Fortunately, we made it without incident and headed for the coast. Rijeka is a city in the north coastal region of Croatia and we had information concerning one of Anastasia’s relatives in that city. Since she is particularly interested in the indigenous healing traditions of this country, we decided to go a bit further, into Istria, to an old health spa to sample the cures. The closer we got to the sea, the more excited we all became. The sea air and the potential of meeting Brencick relations caused great anticipation! Mid-afternoon, we reached the spa, called Istarske Toplice. It is in a gorgeous setting in a small valley surrounded by the fortified hill-towns of the region. The location is at the base of a limestone massif, maybe a thousand feet tall, and it was just gorgeous. We had high hopes for the hospitality and the services we would find at this spa! Calling ahead, we found there was an apartment available for all three of us at a very reasonable rate, and that thermal pool soaks were included in the price. Massage services and board could be purchased separately. The building facility was a bit dark and a little bit like a university dorm building from the 50s, but we weren’t discouraged because the setting was so beautiful. There were cats everywhere, the cottonwood trees were blowing fluff all over and birds could be heard singing in the trees. Plus there was a pervading smell of sulfur coming from the thermal pools around the facility. We were really getting excited! After check in, we boarded a teeny elevator for the second floor and found it wouldn’t move until one of us exited. OK, we took two separate elevators! Meeting on the top floor, we found an unnumbered room that corresponded to the location of our room number, if it had been numbered, and tried the lock. Success! Long dark hallway, bathroom, plain bedroom to the right, another basic room to the left that functioned as bedroom #2 as well as kitchen dining living room. And bingo… another door leading to a terrace with a great view of the massif… and a violently barking guard dog. At least we can dry our wet towels and bathing suits on the terrace. We changed into suits and towels and headed for the pool. We attempted to ask the routine, but no one understood our questions. Lots of folks spoke Croatian, many spoke Italian, and quite a few guests spoke German, but no one spoke English. We were also beginning to notice that there were no guests of our ages. No problem. We headed for the pool, passing an empty reception kiosk. No sooner had we passed when the receptionist came tearing after us, frantically asking us for something in Croatian. We smiled and nodded our heads emphatically. No good. She wanted something we didn’t have and/or didn’t understand. Finally, we figured out that she wanted the equivalent of 50 cents each for bathing caps. Fine. We headed for the showers and then to the pool. Stares. Everyone was 70 or older. Fine. The water was green and warm, and HEAVY. The sign said, in Croatian, Italian and German: Please limit bathing to 30 minutes per day - radioactive. What??? Anastasia and Shelley said they felt a bit strange after the swim. I didn’t in particular, but I must say, the sense of heaviness upon exiting the pool was unusual. Massages we scheduled later that evening proved to be uninspired, and dinner was a truly memorable experience. After an incredible lunch the previous day in Zagreb, we had high hopes for a lovely spa dinner. At the prescribed time, we gathered with the other guests at the dining room, and again were chased by the maitre d’. Once he determined that he could communicate with us in German, he ushered us to a table in the back of the room (where we wouldn’t embarrass the other guests?). I think we behaved quite well under the circumstances, because it got very surreal after that. The buffet meal, being greedily consumed by the other guests consisted of hot dogs (no buns), mustard, sauerkraut, salad, pasta with meat gravy, overcooked broccoli and bread. No beverages, although some folks had bottled water on their tables. But only some. We didn’t ask. We clearly were expected to keep quiet about it. Later we went to the front desk with gifts for the receptionist and asked her to help us do some Brencick detective work. She agreed and was very helpful and agreeable (unlike the hotel receptionist in Zagreb, who we initially annoyed and finally befriended). As we got some leads for Brencick relations in the area, live synthesized music began in the community room. A live cover duo playing American music began to play and the old folks began to dance. Colored lights began to flash. Everyone seemed to be having a really great time, so after exhausting our research, we sat down in the atrium to listen and watch. The cigarette smoke was thick, but we tolerated it for a while before retiring. Upon reaching our room, we opened windows to the din of the birds, or so we thought. It was long since dark, but they appeared to have no intention of sleeping, and indeed continued to make noise throughout the night. We got up at 5am, with the intention of checking out and finding a place where we could feel more at home. Anastasia turned on the water for the first shower and waited. No hot water. Ugh. That sealed the deal. We headed for a coastal town called Rovinj, where we have now spent a lovely afternoon exploring narrow streets and tiny medieval shops. More on this later.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Kim's Week in Review

KIM: Here are a few photos I took over the past week that I haven't yet had an opportunity to post. In no particular order... The shrine to the Russian POWs that built the Vrsic Pass road during WWI, a Brencic family tomb in the cemetery in Podlipa, a popular tourist(?) eatery in Ljubljana, one of many beautifully decorated buildings in Ljubljana, Kozjak Slap (waterfall) near Kobarid and the Soca River.