Coming Home to Canada – MAYBE

Surprising hill top village of Roc, Istria, Croatia

Mike and I recently bought our tickets to return to Canada for 3 ½  months arriving on Nov 27.  Since then we have been listening, with much concern, to the Canadian coronavirus news.  In addition to the two week quarantine that we have to endure, we live in an area that says that they are going into lockdown and that the rules will be tighter even than the Canadian rules for Covid-19 red zones.  The mayor and the premier keep saying “Don’t Travel!” on the news broadcasts.  Multiple of our friends have told us that they will continue to see us over Google Duo when we are back in Canada, but it is clear they don’t want visitors. We won’t be driving long distances to visit family and friends in person which means no big Christmas parties, family get togethers or New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Mike will be 70 in a few weeks and we intend to stay as healthy as we are right now. 

We have two choices to seriously consider. The probable but not definite choice, is coming home and celebrating Christmas with our very immediate family.  This would mean 5 of us.  Other than that we would be in lockdown like everyone else, so no seeing our friends and the rest of our family.  The other choice is coming home as soon as we can, after the current lockdown ends and we can visit in person with family and friends.  We know that we will have to quarantine no matter what.

If we don’t come home we will join with my family via an 18” monitor with Google Duo on Christmas Day.  This isn’t the same as being there, but it is what we would do if we had to.  The area we are staying in currently has an average daily high of 8°C in the winter.  While this isn’t hot, it means that we can still dress warmly and get outside on our bicycles and stay healthy.  We need to finalize our arrangements in the next 8 days.  Poland’s LOT airline allows us one change to our booking without charge because of Covid, which is good of them.  We will post our final decision on the website as soon as we can figure it out.

So, when I ended the last article I mentioned us being uncomfortable on one ride.  Mike and I were riding on a small gravel trail that couldn’t really be called a road.  We don’t really like riding on bumpy gravel but sometimes that is where our route takes us.  We were surprised when two cars came past us on this small trail and turned down another even smaller laneway.  About two minutes later four more cars came by and turned down the same laneway.  One of the cars was towing a trailer with a number of hounds in it.  All of the drivers and passengers were wearing bright orange vests.  We assumed that they were about to start hunting.  We were pleased that we were wearing our fluorescent vests but we weren’t very comfortable, concerned that we might end up as targets.  We continued riding a little faster than before.  A little further down the trail we saw a man, maybe a warden or lookout, standing at the side of the road.  He was wearing one of the bright orange vests and had his shotgun breach open in his hand. 

On this route, we were supposed to turn around at a certain point and return on this same trail to get back to the car.  When we got to the end we decided to change our route both to avoid more of the gravel road and to avoid being in the middle of hunters and hunting dogs and guns.  We decided to take a 7 km (4.3 miles) longer route that stayed mainly on the paved road.  We were a little surprised, after a few kilometres, to see one of these wardens or lookout hunters (or whatever they are called) on the side of the road.  A little while later we came upon a group of hunting dogs beside the road.  At least one of the hunting dogs had on a bright orange collar with a radio antenna sticking out of it.  We decided that our 7 km diversion probably hadn’t been far enough to avoid the hunting party.

View of inland Istria, Croatia

Speeding tickets are interesting in Croatia.  Most of the time, these hilly, winding roads have a speed limit of 90 km/hour.  Mike doesn’t drive anything like these speeds on these roads.  It therefore surprised us quite a bit to get a speeding ticket recently.  For some reason, the winding road we were on had a speed limit of 40 km/hour and Mike was doing 63.  The process was interesting and similar to what we have seen in other countries.  They start out by telling us that the fine is 500 Kuna ($100 Cdn) at which point I gasp.  They then tell us that if we pay them in cash, the fine is only 250 Kuna.  Now this sounds like quite the scam except that there were three policeman involved in the process.  One of them  gave us a very official looking ticket and a receipt for paying it in cash.  As far as we can tell this is quite proper and legal, but maybe not.  Nonetheless it was better than a 500 Kuna fine, and we were speeding.

On these drives we sometimes pass multiple large buses parked together in a small parking lot off the side of the road.  We always wonder if they have brought a group of tourists for a day trip and if there is some site in the area we are missing as we drive by.  We often never find out. 

On our drives and e-bike rides, we are seeing more sunsets than ever.  The sun actually sets at 4:30pm or 16:30h here.  This means that even before 4pm the sky starts turning pink.  We are always still out at this time either riding or in the car.  The sun is very low in the sky all afternoon which means that it is often in our eyes when we are cycling.  We don’t have very bright headlights on our bikes and we don’t like riding in the dark.  This means that we aim to be finished our rides by 4pm giving us a bit of leeway for diversions.  We don’t start out very early, my fault, and we often drive an hour to get to a different area to cycle around.  With a 4pm finish the rides feel a little rushed at the moment.  I could do without daylight savings time.

Sun sets and shines on Fazana, Croatia

As I mentioned in the last article, Istria has two sides that jut out into the Adriatic Sea.  We are camped on one side.  I had wanted to find somewhere to camp for a week or two on the other side but, that didn’t work out well.  Everything is closed over there.  This means that when we want to explore that area we have a good 1 hour drive to get to the east coast of the Istrian Peninsula.  The drive is interesting but it makes for a longer day.

Whether or not we stay in Croatia longer than expected, we aren’t planning on moving our RV for a few reasons.  One is, we have purchased a winter package here where we can stay as many nights as we want until April 5 without any additional costs.  The other reason is that the coronavirus isn’t just hitting Canada, but cases are also increasing in the countries near where we are.  Croatia’s numbers are also increasing a lot at the moment.  The good news is that Istria, where we are, seems to be one of the safest areas in the country.  The life we live also helps.  We see a few other campers and that is it as far as interacting with other people is concerned.  We often eat outside on restaurant patios and there are never many other customers.  We talk to the waiters and waitresses but they are always in masks.  We are staying safe I think.

Mike is somewhat infatuated with truffles at the moment.  Truffles are outrageously expensive, especially the white ones which Mike favours.  We bought some truffle flavoured salt that really does add the truffle flavour to whatever you are salting.  We are going back to Motovun tomorrow, to buy some more to bring home to Canada.

Sometimes when we go driving we have a definite agenda in mind.  Often we just see interesting looking towns and villages on the top of hills and decided to drive up and wander through them.  One such village was Beram.  Leading up to Beram was a one lane road with two way traffic without any room to pull over most of the time.  At one point Mike had to back quite a ways down the hill backwards in order to let the oncoming traffic pass.  We expected to find a largely deserted little village, possibly in ruins.  Instead we saw a nicely kept village with a proper restaurant with tablecloths and candles.  There were two or three other sets of customers, all of whom I think were locals.  Considering that lots of restaurants are nearly empty these days, that was good.  The food was traditional Istrian, which usually means meat and vegetable or beef soup.  Apparently Beram is one of the longest continuously occupied towns in Istria.  That means that it is VERY old!

High tech suit of armour in Pietrapelosa Castle

Another town that we visited recently was called Buzet.  It was built many centuries go and today it is a fully occupied, functioning town on the top of another steep hill.  A few kilometres from Buzet was Petrapilosa Castle.  The castle was largely in ruins but some renovations are under way.  They are not trying to reconstruct or restore the castle.  I think they just want to make the ruins safer and interesting for tourists.  They have used a fair bit of digital high tech in the castle.  There was a suit of armour and behind the visor there was a small screen that was activated when someone walked nearby.  On the screen, you could just make out the face of a man behind the metal visor.  The suit of armour would then give you some information about the castle.  I think that it rotated through different languages because we did hear English at one point in time.  The information boards where digital and touch sensitive (interactive), even though they were outdoors.  Petrapilosa was also up a very, very steep winding one lane road.  One advantage to Covid is the lack of tourist traffic on these roads.

I will post our decision about returning to Canada now or after the lockdown is over, as soon as we make it.  Not a nice decision to have to make.

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