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you gotta love these quaint goddamn medieval villages

We’re spending three nights in the village of Rovinj. Our hotel is in the middle of the medieval old town where attempting to maneuver a car gives mere mortals a nervous tic. You don’t see many SUVs let alone Hummers in this part of the world.

The Angelo D’Oro, is probably the closest thing to a boutique hotel you’ll find in this neck of the woods. It’s a converted townhouse. Homey. Small. Decorated with antiques. It’s got a garden where breakfast, drinks and dinner is served. There’s also a tiny covered porch area near the roof great for kicking back and enjoying the view or a book.

The other recommended hotel options are outside the walls of old Rovinj in big old communist block buildings which offend our sensibilities. The main downside is instead of having the luxury of a paved path to a pool, our hotel choice forces us to walk up the narrow street past the church courtyard to the edge of Rovinj and climb down some rocks to swim in the Adriatic. Here, People sunbathe on the rocks that jut out from the cafes bars homes and churches overlooking the sea. They look like happy flesh colored seals in unbecoming bathingsuits. I love the picturesque-ness of it. And the sight confirms my deeply held belief that humans are not meant to be a sunbathing species. But damn that water looks good.

I particularly like the outdoor market in Rovinj (just outside the wall). The fruit and vegetables all look particularly luscious, big and ripe. And they have great looking bottles with herbs and fruits in them that facinate and tempt me even though deep in my heart, I know they’re grappa. It’s the only market I’ve seen that sells colorful strings of various whole, raw seasoning…laurel, different colored hot peppers, garlic and other stuff that are really beautiful in the simple arrangements The first day in Rovinj we bought fruit and stuff from the market and had lunch on the hotel roof porch.

I’ll always remember Rovinj because my first work of art is acquired here. For my birthday present (like the trip isn’t enough) my parents bought me An oil painting done by a local artist of a couple of rowboats parked in front of a pair of shuttered townhouses in “downtown.” Rovinj. The painting seems kind of impressionist, so I particularly like it. But I’m sure I’ll curse is existence when I have to take it back to Paris, or worse, the US (not going to think about it).

On our second morning in Rovinj, my dad and I break from the pack and drive to Pula to see the ampitheatre and a medieval village or two. We find our way easily and check out the well preserved remains of the roman colloseum. It’s up there with Rome, Verona, but this is probably the nicest location. Kind of a northern Naples. There’s an old town, an old church, an old forum and old medieval streets. And the school where James Joyce taught for five minutes and developed an aversion to the region (he must have had the same problem with Zagreb airport we did).

On the way back we take the scenic route. The road winds along a rocky green shores dotted with picturesque medieval villages and steeples. It’s a Sunday but we figure we’ll stop at one of the little restaurants in one of the villages for lunch. Obviously, my dad and I are the crazy adventurous ones in the family on this trip.

We wisely opt for parking outside our chosen village and look for our restaurant. We can’t find it and everything looks closed. We look confused and an Italian family visiting Croatian relatives offers to show us where the restaurant is by walking us there.. It gives the 10 year old girl a chance to practice her English. She is also the only one in the group with any crossover translator abilities (except me, with my new Auvers inspired gift for mime).

After a few minutes of trying to draw the girl who has clearly been put on the spot out of her shell, she tells me haltingly in English that “it is very important to be good at another language.” I nod encouragingly. “ Yes! That’s very good! And true!” Unfortunately, those are the only words she knows in English and 10 more than what I know in Croatian or Italian.

Nonetheless, It’s a lovely interlude. Visualize it: two families from different cultures strolling along the Croatian coast (maybe in silhouette) together on a Sunday afternoon. One of them is gesticulating wildly.

The restaurant is closed like everything else in this damn medieval town. We escape to the car before the family can invite us to have lunch with them. All this pantomiming is more exercise than I’ve had in years. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted.

We escape to the car, and the moment I let my guard down, I take the wrong turn.

I’m suddenly driving in the pedestrian area of the goddamn medieval village, with no apparent legal exit (of course there’s no legal exit, there’s no legal entrance). And since it’s Sunday, there are no helpful vendors directing me towards the correct exit in an effort to keep me from backing into their displays. Fortunately, there are a couple of kids and cops out, who direct us when we get our car wedged between several goddamn quaint medieval buildings. Is the air-conditioning on? I’m sweating like a pig.

On the way back to Rovinj, all I can think of is how nice it would be to have an ice cream cone and a paved path to a swimming pool. But noooooo, because we’re staying in a goddamn quaint medival village I have to walk up the street carrying a towel and climb down some rocks to swim. Which also requires wearing a bathing suit in a public place.

Once we get back to Rovinj and have a quick lunch, I resolve to brave it. The street, stairs and rocks are easy. It’s the bathing suit and water part that are hard. I finally am in position to dive in. I dip my foot in and goddamn, the water is cold. Goddamn unheated Adriatic water. I take the plunge and dunk my whole body in. It’s blue. It’s clear. It’s refreshing. I’m swimming in the Adriatic. I can see my feet and fish. But they’re not scary fish (in fact, they look delicious). My feet are another story.

I look up and see the quaint little medieval village looming above me. The sun sparkles on me and the water around me. Goddamn, this is good.

 

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