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Eastern Europe Tour

Day 14 Saturday June 2, 2007

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I rolled out of the sack at 5:30. I anticipated leg cramps during the night, but I only experienced a small one when I stretched before leaving the bed. I did feel quite a bit of guilt about not checking my e-mail before supper the previous evening.

Another triumph of Yankee ingenuity.

I worked on the journal a while, and then I shaved. This was the second room that we stayed in that had a sink with no stopper. I once again used the glass in the sink trick to get enough water with which to shave. Sue had suggested using the bar of soap, but by this time it had worn down enough that it no longer served very well as a stopper.

I went down to breakfast at 7:15. Angela and Rawlins were just getting off of the elevator. We were the first people at breakfast. I was smart enough to take some scrambled eggs right away. Other people complained that the eggs were cold. There was a pleasing selection of sausage, bacon, lunch meats, fruit cocktail, hard-boiled eggs, and cereal. Several types of bread were on the counter, but no pastries.

Breakfast at the Ros Maris.

They also had a juice machine and a coffee machine. The juice machine was straightforward, but the Italian coffee machine was a real challenge. There were buttons for espresso, macchiato, long coffee, white coffee, and cappuccino, but none of these seemed to produce plain old coffee, and each produced only about half a cup. I could not remember whether caffè lungo was strong coffee or weak. [It is weak.] My favorite combination was a base of cappuccino followed by espresso and long coffee, all in one cup.

Eventually Liane, Tony, and Lyle sat with us. By 7:50 quite a few members of the tour group had set up camp at a second table. Angela and Rawlins were excited by the prospect of waffles, but what they thought was a waffle maker was actually just a toaster. Maybe they will be able to find a Waffle House in Rab so that they can feel at home.

Lyle informed me that he had come out ahead after a dozen or so transactions concerning the bill last night. He also left a tip of four duna. He then said that neither the lighting nor the bathroom in his room functioned properly. We seemed to have been pretty lucky; our rooms had all been pretty nice, and the only remaining hotel was the one at Lake Bled, and it certainly looked good on the Internet.

I puzzled over the meaning of the hotel's name, Ros Maris. I figured that it must be Latin. "Maris," if it does not refer to the Yankees' slugger, is obviously the genitive of "mare," which means "sea." I had to look up "ros" in my computerized Latin dictionary. It means "splash of water." The dictionary also noted that the combination "ros maris" means "rosemary." I should have guessed this; the Italian word is "rosmarino." I told Sue of my discovery, but she had already figured it out based on the hotel's logo.

Sue went down to breakfast with Patti. While they were eating breakfast, I rested my eyes for about thirty minutes.

I got up to brush my teeth. One of the spokes on the cold water handle came off in my hand. I also noticed that there was a rubber stopper hidden behind the huge basin. My brilliant trick with the glass was unnecessary.

I worked on my journal for a little while. Somehow the Windows program tray setting had been changed. It collapsed my two lines down to one, and for a while it was making it disappear based on the position of the cursor. I could not remember how to change the setting back. I rebooted it, and the settings reverted to what I was used to. As everyone knows, Windows often seems to have a mind of its own.

It was still sometimes difficult to get the power switch to work, particularly if it is running on battery power. [I think that the battery v. electric speculation was wrong. The switch probably worked better with electricity because the machine was flat on a table. The key factor seemed to be the angle of the PC was held.] I will have to get this fixed when I return home. It will undoubtedly be a major inconvenience because I will have to send it to Dell and use a different PC in the interim. [It was nothing. The support person at Dell told me over the phone how to remove the strip of plastic surrounding the on switch and reattach the wires.]

The path through the park.

The weather did not seem to be too bad. It was a little cool and overcast. There were threatening clouds, but only the seasoned sea salts could read the winds and the clouds in this part of the world. I put my umbrella and the pancho in my backpack.

Tom and I decided to scuttle our previous plan of renting bicycles in favor of hiking. I did not want to get caught in a downpour on the other side of the island. It would be one thing to walk a few miles in a pancho, but I did not want to fight a strange bicycle in such a get-up. It was just as well. We saw several people struggling with their bikes. A couple of old guys like ourselves would have looked absolutely ridiculous. Another issue was finding somewhere to ride. There were paths in the park, but the only exit to the rest of the island seemed to be via a long staircase. The streets were narrow and dangerous. The paths were unpredictable and difficult.

Sue and Patti wanted to do a picnic for lunch. They volunteered to pick up the fixings. We agreed to meet them back at the rooms at 12:30 or so.

The cemetery.

I bandaged up my ankle, and we went down to the lobby. Tom picked up maps of Rab Town and the island at the reception desk of the hotel. We began our hike with a walk through Komrčar Park, a very enjoyable experience. We found it much more heavily wooded than I thought that it would be. We could not understand why they did not clear a few areas to make it more usable. There is a playground near the entrance and a single round table between two benches. A few benches are scattered along the paths, but that is all.

No sign of Frankie and Annette at this beach.

The path led to a cemetery. It appeared to be full of very well-maintained above-ground crypts. The people on the island seem to share the Italians' enthusiasm for elaborated displays for the dead. [I think that I have misinterpreted this. We heard later that many European cemeteries charge a fee for keeping up the graves. If you pay, the grave looks nice. If not, it goes to pot. They may even reuse it for a paying customer.]

Boats in the marina.

The stairs leading out of the park were above and on the far side of the cemetery. They eventually led down to a dock and something that vaguely resembled a beach. It consisted of an area of sand perhaps ten yards wide on a sloping area on one end of a concrete dock. There are undoubtedly better beaches on the island, but they are probably somewhat difficult to reach from Rab town.

We kept going on a paved path that led up through a village and then intersected a narrow road leading further inland. The flower and vegetable gardens were nothing less than spectacular. Based on my reading I had not been sure that anyone even lived in these areas. In point of fact there was a good deal of development, and virtually every unused inch was devoted to gardens. We saw corn that was nearly ready to harvest - on June 2! We also saw peppers that were full grown. Almost any vegetable imaginable was to be found in one garden or another.

This place offered salt-water therapy, unless I missed my guess.

A long-haired feline with nothing but disdain for American hikers.

Grapes on the vine.

One car would be a tight fit on this road.

Corn that had already tassled.

An inlet behind a garden.

Flower gardens galore,

matched only by vegetable gardens,

and still more flowers.

The road eventually led to a fairly heavily traveled road. Tom and I argued about where we were. After many hypotheses were proven erroneous, we concluded that we must be on the main road headed west through Palit towards Kampor. It was not a pleasant place to walk. The road was narrow, and stone walls, sometimes bearing overhanging foliage, often came right up to the edge of the road. The traffic was somewhat heavy, and it even included an occasional bus or truck. Everyone drove much too fast for our taste.

No snails were injured in the shooting of this sequence.

The church and monastery of St. Eufemija.

We eventually arrived at the church and monastery of St. Eufemija. It had two cemeteries similar to the one in the park and a museum that we chose not to patronize. The Rab website had mentioned that one of these churches held a silver box that contained the head of St. Christopher, but it mysteriously did not disclose which church it was. I wonder who sold them that head. There are dozens of legends surrounding the life and death of St. Christopher. They don't even agree on where or when he lived.

You don't often see driveways with switchbacks.

Tom leads us on the road less traveled.

As we approached this area, we could finally see slivers of the water again. We took a detour into a little development that had a restaurant named Lungo Mare. Despite this it was quite a ways from the sea.

We were shortly thereafter passed by a man and a woman who were at least ten years our senior and bore packs much larger than ours. We had the impression that they might be Scandinavians. The man's backpack had the kind of beach mat that is prevalent in Hawaii. Since Tom was vaguely interested in finding the beaches, we followed them as well as we could as they headed south on a path that apparently would bypass the village of Pidoka. We were surprised when they eschewed a path along the shore in favor of two ruts made by a tractor in a field. The former headed into a bog, but the latter led to a strange path through a field that at first looked like eight-foot high corn stalks.

Could this be the rightpath? Those plants were much taller than we.

The trail through the woods.

Our trailblazer friends then walked along a paved but lightly traveled road for a short distance before abruptly turning right on a path through the woods. It had a sign on it that said something in Croatian and "2 km." It was nearly eleven o'clock, but we eleced to follow the path as far as we could.

The path went uphill. The last sign of civilization that we saw was a house with two old cars in the back yard. One of them was a blue Volkswagen convertible that reminded us of Tom's car in the early seventies. It had a "manual defroster." When the windshield frosted up in the winter, Tom would put his bar hand up on it to warm it up. After a minute or two he would move his hand to a new spot and peer out through the spot that he had just defrosted.

We saw a surprising number of stone walls in the forest. In some ways it reminded us of New England. However, the Yankees were much more fastidious about how they lay the stones one on another. Maybe that judgment is too harsh. New England granite might be easer to stack than the rocks of Rab Island.

The Volkswagen brought back memories.

Who expected stone walls in the woods?

Our turnaround point.

The peppers were ready, and the tomatoes were not far behind.

Bocce on Rab.

We never reached the end of the path. We calculated when we would be fashionably late if we turned around. We accidentally took a slightly different route back to Rab Town. It led us by a bocce court. We did not expect that.

We had to stop a few times in the hike because Tom had pebbles in his shoes. This never happened to me. I was secretly congratulating myself for my superior pebble avoidance when Tom pointed out that my shoes had a raised doohickey on the back of the heel. I had never noticed this before. I have brought these New Balance trail running shoes on three Rick Steves tours. They have served me very well as hiking shoes. I had more appreciation for them than ever.

We located the ladies back at the hotel. Patti had lost her enthusiasm for the idea of a picnic. She and Tom went out to a restaurant for lunch. I sat in the hotel room and worked on the journal for a few minutes while Sue put the finishing touches on our tuna salad sandwiches and the condiments. Sue had found some real Hellmann's mayonnaise at the grocery store, and I suspected that her love for that product had inspired her to go the tuna salad route. She also had purchased some faux lettuce (chard), Lorenz flavored potato chips (ranch? sour cream and chives?), and tomatoes. Sue had an iced tea and a vanilla pudding with whipped cream. I had a Fresssh (not a typo) beer and a chocolate pudding with something on top that resembled cottage cheese but tasted like whipped cream.

Picnic preparations.

Some birds that lived under the eaves.

Sue sets the table in the park.

Sue put all of this into the collapsible plates and bowls that Brian Corcoran had given her as a present. We packed up all of our foodstuffs and toted it out to the park's one table. I was able to move the benches around enough to make it suitable for the two of us. Tom and Patti showed up just as we were getting to dessert. Tom helped Sue with her beer.

Add salt to taste.

The grey-haired guy feeds his face.

Fresssh beer.

Something in the lunch did not agree with my digestive system. This was the only time that this had happened to me in the three or four months of traveling that I had done in Europe. It has occurred on more than half of my domestic trips.

The people of Rab dressed up for the evening mass.

After lunch we made it back to the hotel without any difficulty. Shortly after we reached our room, however, a vocally and visually impressive rain storm descended on the island. There was a downpour, several lightning bolts, and one tremendous thunderclap. For the umpteenth time I thought to myself how lucky we had been with regard to weather on our trips to Europe. I could not remember us forgoing a single activity on even one trip because of the weather.

Four churches on one short street.

I took advantage of the break in the action to take a nap for about an hour. I awoke and looked outside. It had cleared up. I got my stuff together and headed out to walk up to the upper street to look at the churches. However, as I walked out of the hotel, it started to rain. I headed back up to the room and worked on my journal for a while.

A conversation in the church's doorway.

The maids never cleaned our room. This was not for lack of trying. Sue was busy putting together our picnic lunch during the usual cleaning time. We did not care much about the cleaning, but we wanted fresh towels, so Sue called the desk to request them.. They delivered them after her second call.

At the grocery store Patti picked up a treat called pocket coffee, a bite-sized burst of chocolate and caffeine. I had overheard Susana say how much she loved them. When I told this to Patti, she evidently made a special trip to the store to pick some up for Susana.

The southernmost church.

I took a shower. I had to redo the placement of the clothesline. I had previously tied it to a round vent (or something) in the corner of the ceiling of the tub area. The whole thing came loose in my hand. I stuck it back up in the ceiling. It seemed to stick. No harm; no foul.

St. Marin's little park.

I was not as careful with the showerhead as I should have been. When I got out of the tub, I discovered that I had got my underwear all wet. I had another clean pair, but this carelessness upset my underwear schedule, which at this point had been carefully calculated to get me through the remainder of the journey.

I intended to try to use the Internet café that afternoon. However, I read that the hotel in Bled had Internet access. Since it was Saturday, I decided that it was more sensible to wait and use the connection in Bled. On previous trips I could not wait to get on-line. This time I have been quite apprehensive about what the e-mail might bring.

Fishing net on the dock.

Why is the Croatian flag on one end and ours on the other?

The sunshine returned at about 5:15 I went out to discover what the rest of Rab Town was like. It turned out that the High Street was full of churches. On the steps that led up to that street I encountered quite a few well-dressed people going to Saturday evening mass. Some of the men were wearing elaborate scarlet v-shaped sashes. I was hoping to pop into the easternmost church, which did not seem to have a service in process, but I heard someone inside, so I did not risk disturbing them. I satisfied myself with some unremarkable exterior photos.

I walked down to the small park devoted to San Marino. It was a very nice little place, perhaps the most relaxing and esthetically pleasing place that I had encountered on the island. I took a picture of the monument and then walked back to the hotel by way of the seaside promenade. I passed a guy working on a very large fishing net.

Susana directs preparations for the party. Those blinding white sticks are Ray's legs.

There was no shortage of food, drink, or conversation .

A little party was scheduled for a patio on a roof right under the window of our hotel room. All of the tour members brought drinks and/or snacks. This was our opportunity to find out what everyone else had done on Rab and to dump some of the food and wine that we had been porting around. We brought two box of chocolates and a bottle cabernet sauvignon from the Kohari winery in Hungary. Someone else brought an identical bottle. One of the box of chocolates remained unopened at the end.

I tried a few types of wine and some of the snacks. I spent more time taking pictures than making small talk. For some reason I was not in the mood to socialize. While the party was in progress, a wedding procession went by with horns a-blasting. We also saw some kids dressed in traditional costumes came by. They must have been performing somewhere.

The hotel's entrance and its pool.

Tomislav, the king of the Croats.

Kids in costumes.

I learned at the party that Rawlins had been an insurance agent on the property and casualty side. At one point he realized that he had enough money set aside, so he cut off the jam. That sounded like a good strategy to me.

The Ros Maris.

Everyone was shocked when Liane suddenly fainted. After a few minutes she was a little better. By the end of the evening she had recovered entirely.

The Pizzeria San Marco. We sat at that table on the left.

The four New Englanders decided to go to the Pizzeria San Marco. It was a pleasant little place on one of the side streets. They had some tables outside, but after the experience of the previous evening, we opted to go indoors. I ordered a Napolitano, a pizza with anchovies and an olive right in the middle. Tom had lasagne and red wine. Sue had a Di Bosco pizza that had mushrooms, white asparagus (misspelled), and egg. She and I both had beers. Patti had Vesuvio, which had prosciutto and cheese. I wrote down in my notebook that Patti had an orange coke, but I have quite a few strange notes from this meal.

Are you going to play or eat pizza?

For some reason I was fascinated by the fact that a family at a nearby table played rummy during their supper. One guy brought his dog with him into the restaurant, and it lay quietly under the table. Neither of these things is likely to happen in the U.S. I once pulled out a deck of cards at a bar. All that I was doing was practicing (false) shuffles, but the manager told me that the law did not permit any cards at all.

After making short work of his lasagne, Tom helped Patti with her Vesuvio.

The total cost of the dinner was 255 kune (the plural of kuna). We all pitched in all of our remaining kune together. We had twenty or so to spare. Sue asked our waiter to wrap up her leftover pizza. We still had a tremendous amount of food. We had a bottle of wine, one and a half bags of Crunchips, three knoppers, a can of beer, some tuna, a box of chocolates, and now leftover pizza. This always seemed to happen to us.

Sue took half of her Di Bosco back to the hotel.

As we left the restaurant, the waiter told us that the Croatian national soccer team won their game against Estonia that night. He said that they would be partying all night. Sue asked him if we should lock our doors. He said that we should leave our door open and our lights on. The party would come to us.

We chose not to follow his advice.