This post won't deal with Terroir so much. I'm not WWOOFing at the moment. I'm just traveling independently in Croatia, and actually getting some of my own work done during the day.
But if I had to write about the Terroir of my current location, Rovinj (Rovigna in the region's other official language, Italian), it would probably say something about how the land here must make for some pretty tough feet or a booming podiatry business. Read the following Croatia travel tips to see why.
|You won't see cute little plastic pails for sale at the beach-side shops. But maybe wheelbarrows?|
1) Do enjoy the beaches, but do also buy the extremely dorky water shoes to protect your feet from the rocks. If you're worried about looking cool, remember that you will not appear cool when you cry like a baby as the stones dig into your tender American feet.
1A) Also remember that if you are an American, we are generally never as cool as we tend to think we are, anyway.
1B) And when the guy selling you those dorky water shoes (perhaps the lead singer of a Zeppelin cover band out of Zagreb, as mine was) tells you to give him 40, make sure he's talking about Croatian Kuna, not dollars or euros, and rest easy. Because 40 Kuna (currently $5.41) is a bargain for something this useful.
2) When you enter the water (which is the perfect temperature, as you would expect in Paradise), remember it's a natural environment with living things in it. Some of those things might be curious about you, perhaps wondering where you got those dorky water shoes, and how much you paid for them.
When those little bastards. . .I mean, delightful sea creatures start pecking at your pasty-white legs (in my case) like piranhas at an all-you-can-eat buffet, don't shriek. This will mark you and make you a target for snickering from other, more experienced Adriatic beach-goers. And don't try to tell me the fish are just bumping into people.
They're attacking. Slowly and gently, like underwater butterflies, but they're attacking. They have all the time in the world, and they know it. Mark my words, they will devour you, slowly.
2A) If you forget the shoes and you also let a shriek escape, might I suggest, as a face-saving measure, you begin to audibly sing to yourself the theme song to "Team America" (the chorus of which is simply "America, f**k yeah." You may add a fist pump if you so desire) just to remind onlookers of your status as a member of the world's [overly zealous] police squad, as you make your way quickly, but oh-so-nonchalantly toward shore.
Maybe this will make you feel better and less humiliated.
But probably not.
3) Though Croatia is famous for its long and beautiful coastline, do not imagine that you will get a boat to the next place you want to visit on the coast. There are a gazillion islands here. They want tourists. But you are either going to take a very long and meandering bus, or rent a car at rates that would make Citibank blush (Ha ha. Just kidding. Nothing makes those guys blush. But, on a good day, it might make a mafioso blush).
Oh, you wanted transport to make sense and be efficient? Then you clearly forgot that this part of Croatia (Istria) used to be part of Italy.
|Rovinj's old harbor, by night|
4) Also, under no circumstances allow yourself to succumb to homesickness or nostalgia when you see the sign at the concession stand that says "American cheeseburger".
Do not do this.
Simply, do not.
Because I can promise you that the proprietor of this establishment has never been within 100 miles of an American cheeseburger (perhaps why he's still alive, but that's beside the point). You are going to be made very sad if you do not listen to me about this one. This is especially important if you've ever had a 5 Guys or Shake Shack burger.
|The Horror. Do not let sentimentality cloud your judgment. |
I mean, will you look at that bun, for crying out loud? No. No. No.
5) Do not for a moment imagine you can escape from or defeat a Croatian sales person in the market or tourism center of town. Just like the Highlander, in the end there can be only one.
And I'll give you a hint: it's not going to be you or your wallet.
Oh, you'll just pretend you don't speak the language, you say?
Unless your native tongue is Inuktitut or Basque, good luck with that strategy.
Because somewhere among these Dalmatian islands is a secret school where they clearly send every Croatian child at the age of five to learn how to say, in fifty different tongues:
"Come in, I give you good price "
"That looks good on you "
"Don't worry. I have very small jar that will fit in suitcase".
If words don't work, they will give you a witheringly sad and disappointed look to rival a golden retriever puppy; to rival even your grandmother's Precious Moments figurines.
That's right —they'll guilt you into a purchase, because dammit, how is this well-dressed polyglot going to eat if you don't buy that adorable wall hanging made of painted Adriatic stones? (At least, I think it was paint. It could be blood from tourists too cool for dorky water shoes. See above).
|Charming, but very slippery stone streets in historic center.|
5A) Leave some room in your suitcase for a lot of crap you don't need, or avoid areas where jewelry, clothing, truffles, souvenirs, postcards or even fine dinners are sold.
Because in this battle, you're going down. Just learn to say "hvala" when they finally release you from the grip of their mesmerizing charm and impressive command of virtually every language known to mankind.
6) If you find you suddenly need a popsicle, an ice cream, a cold Fanta, or a Hello Kitty purse, by all means stop in the post office. Because that makes perfect sense.
Oh, and if you maybe want to mail a letter, you could do that, too. Rather inexpensively, I might add.
|It's so hard to choose the perfect paving stone.|
7) As you ride along the shore on your very inexpensive bike rental, which you got from a blue-eyed, smiling man who said, "you bring it back whenever, and you pay me then, no problem" make sure you breathe deeply to catch the scent of lavender and rosemary that grows everywhere here.
You'll be breathing more deeply anyway—and contentedly sighing a lot —as you let the beauty of this place and these people sink into your own lightened, softened form.
Don't let the Adriatic piranhas screw it up for you.
|Passionflower and passion fruit grow along a stone wall.|
|Grapevine grows over a narrow street|
|Rovinj, from the sea.|