Crossing into Slovenia
19.06.2015 - 19.06.2015 19 °C
Between the late night revellers, the church bells and the early morning seagulls, I had a dreadful night's sleep. We are up early this morning to explore Rovinj before most tourists wake up.
The light is very different this morning.
The seagulls that woke me at 04:30 this morning, are now following a fishing trawler.
The old town of Rovinj is built on a small peninsula, with the Church of St Euphemia at the top of a small hill. A number of steps lead up to the church, through narrow alleyways meandering between tall, ramshackle but quaint buildings. I am finding Rovinj much more agreeable today - probably because of the lack of other tourists and souvenir sellers.
The town is just beginning to stir, with a smattering of dog-walkers, delivery men and cafés setting up to serve breakfast.
From the top there is a great view over the harbour and the mainland.
The Church of St Euphemia
At the top of the hill stands the Church of St Euphemia from 1736, and you can see it from many angles as you climb the steps. As the largest baroque building in Istria, it represents the period during the 18th century when Rovinj was the most populous town in the area.
St Euphemia is the patron saint of Rovinj’s who was tortured for her Christian faith by Emperor Diocletian before being thrown to the lions in AD 304. She may even have walked on those very stones we stepped on in Pule yesterday.
Modelled on the belfry of St Mark’s in Venice, the 60m bell tower is topped by a copper statue of St Euphemia, which shows the direction of the wind by turning on a spindle.
Coming back down we decide to take the cobbled, sloping road (!) rather than the steps, to save any strain on my poorly knee.
I can't believe, however, that a small van just came up this road to set up a sales store in the car park at the top! There must be another (secret) route up, surely.
The cobbles under foot are shiny from many years of wear and tear, which worries me somewhat – one slip could ruin the rest of my trip!
The Balbi Arch is all that remains of the old town walls and marks the start of the old Venetian city – or rather the end of it for us, as we arrive back at the marina end of Rovinj.
Time for breakfast.
Time to check out and roll our cases down the cobbled streets to the nearest vehicular access point, where I sit on a bench waiting for David to collect the car.
We are heading north along the coast this morning; and while the original plan was to make several stops in various villages along the way; because of my knee and ankle injuries, we go straight to Slovenia instead.
Crossing the border is easy, and we make a small detour out into Sečovlje Salina Nature Park - a wetlands area which is said to have some good bird watching, large scale salt production and various hiking paths. Really? All we see was one small pile of salt, a large, luxury marina and five sparrows. Perhaps we are in the wrong place...
As soon as we arrive at the guest house in Lake Bled, we spot our friends Homer and Eddie from Miami, who we will be travelling with for the rest of this trip. We join them for a beer and a late lunch.
Homer and Ed's Mixed Grill
Despite the dreary and persistent drizzle, we go for a walk along the lake shore.
We watch a few hardy souls go out in the Pletna Boats, and try to take a few moody photos without getting too wet.
Eventually we submit and exchange the wet walk for a beer in the bar and later some dinner.
I order local sausages with cabbage – they are very tasty but with some rather large chunks of fat in them. I try not to look while I am eating, as although I can't taste it, the sight of the fat puts me off. The cabbage is lovely though – I love cabbage!
David has the tuna fish steak and Homer chooses a schnitzel.
Having heard about the Blejska kremna rezina – the famous cream slice from Bled – we all want to try it. Shock, horror: they have run out! Instead we try Prekmurska gibanica - another local cake which is full of dried fruit and nuts, and stuffed with cottage cheese.
I have a Cheese Štruklji – a kind of doughy strudel filled with cottage cheese.
David, as usual, sticks with his favourite – apple strudel.
Guest House Mlino
By the time we have finished eating the weather has cleared up some, so we venture down to the lake again for some more photos. Our Guest House Mlino is literally just across the road from the lake, so we are easily positioned to take in the sights on the lake.
The Pletna Boats
These are traditional boats that are unique to Bled. The origin of the Pletna boats dates back to 1590 and being a “Pletnarrstvo” - Pletna oarsman - is a respected profession handed down from generation to generation.
The boat is propelled with the special "stehrudder" technique where the oarsman is standing and rowing with two oars.
It is said that the Pletna boat gained its name after its roof which was once wickered. Another explanation claims that the name comes from the German word "plateboot", meaning flat-bottom boat.
As the “Blue Hour” approaches an eerie mist descends, hovering just above the surface of the lake, giving the scene a mystical hue and a fairytale atmosphere.
As the light fades, out come the tripods as Homer and I set up our cameras to capture the scenes around the lake on a timed exposure before retiring for the night.