Sunday, December 24, 2006

Labin - Istria

Labin - a medieval warren of little cobbled streets, little cafes, get lost. See As with many old town centers, the parking is at a distance - and we walk. Be sure to write down where the car is. Better yet, we will try taking a picture of the street name and a landmark. How else to get help finding your way back?

What to get for a snack - I went for the teas, in glasses, many herbal varieties. There is always orange soda, or a local kind. See what is on other people's tables and ask for it, and ask to be shown where the word is on the menu, and jot it down. Menus can be daunting.

This site has a little map of the shape of Croatia, and where Istria is. Also photos. Again, search with stopping at the dot com, and only use the rest if needed to navigate.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Pula, Istria - that "raffish port"- James Joyce; and Cuisine

Dan Widing and James Joyce, Pula, Istria, Croatia

Istria is the peninsula from which Trieste was carved and given to Italy after WWII. Croatia retained most of the rest of the peninsula, with Slovenia keeping a port area and pathway to it.
.  It has a literary and kitchen heritage.
I.  Literary heritage.
Pula claims James Joyce, the Irish author, see; see also He lived there with Nora Barnacle (inexplicably misspelled as Barncale here and there), his significant other and then his wife, 1904 until WWI, and then on to Zurich and then Paris.  We found him by the Roman Gate in Pula, outside a pub.  Pula is variously spelled Pulj, or Pola.
Why was he in Pula? Joyce taught at the Berlitz school, established to serve navy officers.  He taught English to Italians, Germans and Serbians.  He was insulting as to the Slavs ("who wear little red caps and colossal breeches"), and Austrians (" ... this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages, governed by a parliament whih can transact no business and sits for a week at the most and by the most physically corrupt royal house in Europe."). See Richard Ellman, James Joyce, at p. 186, below.

The school apparently was by the Roman Arch, built by the Sergiii, a prominent family in Roman and Medieval times. He and Nora lived in a furnished room and kitchen, 3d floor, Via Giulia 2. See Richard Ellman, James Joyce: New and Revised Edition, Oxford Univ. Press 1982 (1959).  At page 156:  "Her name was a little comic, Nora Barnacle (she spells it Norah, see FN 1), but this too might be an omen of felicitious adhesion. (As Joyce's father was to say when he heard much later her last name was Barnacle, 'She'll never leave him.')"  See also

Read pages 186-87 for fine descriptions of the city.
A review of his life and work is in "James Joyce" by Edna O'Brien, Lipper/Viking, NY - reviewed in Vogue 1/9/2000; and more extensively in the New Yorker 1/7/1999. See

 Pula, on the southern coast of Istria: see overview at, and a history at

Pula is famous for its Roman ruins, including the arch, and a large amphitheater and two temples.  The Romans built the town as a port, then the Venetians took over, then the Austrians came in 1863 and built their naval arsenal and dockyard for torpedo boats, and men-of-war. Italians, Germans and Austrians.  Neither James nor Nora loved the place; neither did they love Austria. But the employment was acceptable, if borderline poverty.  A letter from Nora to James Joyce August 16, 1904, see FN 1

II.  Istria and Cuisine

 Many nationalities now come for vacations, and settle, says the New York Times in a foodie article 5/16/07, "In Istria, Fresh from the Land and the Sea," by Mark Bittman in 'Dining Out.'  Do a search for istria octopus potato stew and up comes the entire article and its recipes- at least as of 6/18/07 (today). There is also an asparagus frittata. It is becoming a culinary destination.
Lidia Bastianich, the chef, was born here, says the article. Look her up at .
This site calls it "raffish." See

FN 1

Plate XIV, XV, Copybook letter from Nora to James Joyce, from the Cornelll University Library, in the Richard Ellman Joyce:  Periods and commas shown as they apparently are or are not--

"Leinster Street
16 August 1904

"My Dearest

"My loneliness which I have so deeply felt, since we parted last night, seemed to fade away as if by magic, but. alas.  it was only for a short time. and then I became worse than ever, when I read your letter from the moment that I close my eyes till I open them again in the morning.   It seems to me that I am always in your company. under every possible variety of circumstances talking to you walking with you meeting you suddenly in different places until I am beginning to wonder if any spirit takes leave of my body in sleep and goes to seek you, and what is more find you or perhaps this is nothing but a fantasy.  Occasionally too I fall into a fit of melancholy that lasts for the day and which I feel almost impossible to dispel it is about time now I think that I should finish this letter as the more I write the lonelier I feel in consequence of you bein so far away and the thought of having to write write what I would wish to speak were you beside me makes me feel utterly miserable so with best wishes and love I now close

"Believe me to be ever yours
Norah Barnacle"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Karlovac, Interior. Food. Menu Deciphering 101

Karlovac. This was an informal pubby place in Karlovac, south of the capital, Zagreb. Live music - go down the stairs from street level. A large sit-down party came in soon after and the dancing started. Karlovac is more a crossroads, rather than a usual "destination." From Karlovac, roads divide for going to Istria, or the other direction to Slovenia, or another direction for the coast and Dubrovnik.

How to know what to order? You don't. Here are samples from a longer menu. The currency is "kuna." We either order from what we see other people eating (plate-spotting) or another foolproof formula, ordering the 6th and 12th, or other gap approach; or because the word looks interesting.

Here is a meat course selection. All Croatian. We learn some basics over time. Can't go wrong with the raznici (pork kebabs), or the cevapcici (meatballs).

It works. We are usually very pleased. We also do not follow guidebooks on where to eat. Trying to find specific places takes too much time. Go where the people are.

Here is part of the pasta section.

Pasta is easier - more usually multilingual. This pasta is stuffed with things, can be meat and rice, or whatever. For pasta, you can usually figure out what is what. If not, pick anyway. And, on the right is the pasta menu. This section is also multilingual - instead of just Croatian. A salute to global gastronomy.

This one is from pizza toppings.

When in doubt, pizza. You know that pizza is good. You know that at least 3 toppings are good. So pick any 3 and enjoy. Some words are worldwide - feferoni here is, of course p-------i.

One kuna is $.18
One dollar is $5.59 kuna.
See Europe Road Ways - How We Do It for the post on converting using your own handmade excel-type wallet cribsheet.

More blogs about Croatia Road Ways.

Karlovac, and Dubovac Castle; Interior. Frankopan family

We chose time in Karlovac and more time in Slovenia, rather than a quiet day with Nature at the World Heritage site at Plitvice Lakes National Park, see The waterfalls there are spectacular, show the photos. Hard choices. Never time.

Karlovac has an odd misfortune of history - its location is at a major meeting of roads to opposite destinations - people going to Slovenia, the Plitvice Lakes, or the Istria peninsula - Rijeke, Pula, and Trieste. Cars whiz right by.

Here is Dubovac Castle. It recently was used as a hotel and mistreated. The fortress now is being put back with great care. I wish I had the name of our young guide - he knew it all and so loved his work. The fortress is on a hill, and the hill itself was constructed by the people to increase the visibility from the castle - defense. It is listed among Croatia's castles at

City of Karlovac. The layout is a six-pointed star, also for defense - we saw that also in forts in England andIreland, making crossfire possible - with the old moats now public gardens. Overall, this is a gritty, industrial, needing-repair town. A recurrent theme in Croatia is the course of the Frankopan family - prominent in Croatian history and their palace at Karlovac is now a museum. Read more about them, and the intense nationalism of the Croatians ("We were once Trojans") at

Our surprise was going to a cellar eatery, see other Karlovac post, and finding a whole banquet arriving, traditional music and all. Never would have had that experience if we had gone elsewhere. Pays to just get off the road and explore. See more photos at

There is another elegant castle, Frankopans also, in the nearby area called Ozalj. Next trip.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Osijek, Tvrda - Agricultural panhandle, interior. Peace and War

Osijek, Croatia
Osijek, Croatia
1.  Osijek area and city
This is the biggest city in Eastern Croatia, see,  a lovely area of parks, greenery.  Osijek is capital of the region known as Slavonia, Croatia. 

Names may be similar, but this area is different from Slovenia, the country that once was part of the old Yugoslavia; or another country, that once was part of the old Czechoslovakia, Slovakia.  See its location at
Osijek is at the far eastern end of Croatia, toward Belgrade. There is a large agricultural plain between Zagreb and Osijek - that extends to the Hungarian border, and their agricultural plain beyond. Many invasions. Flat. No place to hide.
Our hotel was at the center of the old city. There was a walkway from the main hotel to the apartments behind. It faced a wall - and someone had put in a full store-front shallow display window right on the wall, with a little room all furnished and lit up. Martha Stewart idea. All this is outside, a decorative idea to light your way to your rooms in the secondary building beyond.

Outdoor promenade, Osijek, Croatia. Room like a full-sized shadow-box.

The cathedral's brick steeple is lit at night.

Osijek Cathedral, Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Osijek, Croatia
On the flatter lands, there is little big rock - so brick is the construction material used often. Brick means less height, and none of the wildly lacy flying buttresses of high Gothic elsewhere.
But that is not a matter of skill, it is the material. We saw no stone walls around, as though there are no rocky areas where frost from winter fields throws them up in the winter, as in New England. Less rock, less easy to build forts and fences, no handy weapon to pick up and pelt at your neighbor. Easier pickings, as the Turks and other invaders found out, whizzing through on horseback.

2.  The Citadel.

This area is a fort, with Baroque buildings, from the era of the Habsburgs.  It how houses several museums.  The past is not far behind: Bullet holes from the devastation of the 1990's.  .

Citadel, or Tvrda, Osijek, Croatia
On the outskirts is an old baroque fort area, known as Tvrda. See Tvrda World Heritage.

See the evidence of the devastation of the 1990's wars, in patterns of gunfire. See the sprays. Many buildings are still burnt out and bombed.

People have moved back into Tvrda, and it is being restored. Cafes are active, and evening is an excellent time to visit.

Verazdin - North - Stari Grad

The north of Croatia looked traditionally to the west - Europe and Austria/Hungary (or was compelled to because of conquests); and the southern areas looked traditionally to the Orthodox in the south, and/or Constantinople because of the Ottoman conquests.

This castle in Verazdin, in the northeast section, north of Zagreb, looks very Austrian. It was built for Sir Walter Leslie - a Hungarian who obtained his barony in the 12th Century, and he is one of the roots of the scottish Clan Leslie. Verazdin; he also had palaces in Slovenia. Verazdin is shown midway down this cite: for information on Leslie, and Scots connections and the Balkans.

Verazdin has been proposed as a World Heritage Site. See We left in a great rush. See calendars post here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A recommended photo gallery.

For fine photos, see I so enjoy professional-looking work. We used throw-away cameras, (pile a dozen in the backpack) and finally Dan got a beginning digital. At the beginning of our forays, we could get disposable panoramics. Excellent.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Trip's end. Calendar traps - When does a week begin?

Calendars. Watch out.
SMTWTFS. That is us.
MTWTFSS. That is them. Maybe some of them.

The months are often familiar-looking, but not the days. So here is PUSCPSN, for MTWTFSS.

This was from a tourist office in Mostar, Bosnia, so the days are probably in their language, not Croatian at all.

The point is that you may not know what day begins the week in the country where you are, and may get a day behind in your thinking for the time to leave.

For example, if you are leaving on a Wednesday, and you use your American calendar, a Wednesday will probably show as the fourth day in. Check it out on your little plastic wallet one.

On a foreign calendar, however, the Wednesday may be the third day in. But maybe you don't know the country's days of the week yet.

Upshot - Remember your flight out by the number-day, so you can glance at newspapers and check how much time you have left anywhere.

If you look for where Wednesday "ought" to be, you may suddenly smash heel of hand to forehead and think you are a day late for your flight.

Happened with us. Wednesday was yesterday. We were semi-far away in Croatia. So we zipped back to the airport, from Verojdin and its lovely castle that remain to us unexplored. Beeline back to the ticket counter. What day is this? Egg on face. See, or for that one. I like the egg-sucking dog explanation best.

Where to start the week is not a new issue. See, as a start on the issue,

Fair warning.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Car insurance issues - Side trips toTrieste, Bosnia, Montenegro

Side-trip car insurance. Your papers must state where you are permitted to go. In some countries, going in from somewhere else is not permitted, but leaving from there may well be.

1. To go to Trieste. I understand that car rental insurance works from Croatia as an origin, to Trieste but not from Trieste as an origin to Croatia. Do your homewok. We do car rental arrangements from the US and get specific countries listed as ok before contracting, so we are not surprised.

2. To go to Bosnia. Your paperwork must include it if you are driving from one part of Croatia to another, crossing that narrow bit of Bosnia in between at the coast. A port for Bosnia dips to the Adriatic just north of Dubrovnik, a waterfront span of Bosnia for about four miles, with Croatia on both sides. Your Bosnia permission may be limited, excluding Kosovo and Sarajevo. Know in advance.

3. To go to Montenegro. Add it in advance, as with Bosnia. No areas are excluded, however. Then be careful of the high mountain roads. Fabulous ski country, we hear, but on our own we avoided the highest areas.

If you go in the fall, road repairs may be more complete than in the spring.

4. To go to Slovenia. No exclusions. No issues. And, it now is part of the European Union, and that is wave-your-passport, if anything, uninterrupted passage.

Itinerary After The Fact

1. The most distance-efficient way to see the Western Balkans area: at least Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro.

Take a crescent route (as we roughly did with the loop up to Trieste) from Zagreb, Rijeke, Opatije, Labin, Pula, Trieste (Italy), through corner of Slovenia back to Rijeke, Senj (and the Uskoks), Pag, Nin, Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Sinj (and the 600 horsemen)

  • Then no change, but the same Bosnia: Mostar, Medjugorje, Capline.
  • No change and back to Croatia: Dubrovnik, Cavtat; and
  • No change, Montenegro: Kotor (on the fjord), Budva (on the sea), Cetinje (in the mountains), Ostrog (monastery in cliff at impossible height)
But then, once back in Croatia,

But then, on the way back from Montenegro-Croatia, drive north through Serbia - there is a straight line up - through Sarajevo and back to Croatia.
Serbia: just through checkpoints in mountains
Bosnia: in this part, the cyrillic alphabet is used

Croatia: past Dubrovnik, to Ston, Orabice, ferry to Korcula and back, then Makarska, Sibenik again, Karlovac

Slovenia: Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Kranj

Croatia: Zagreb (Strossmayer and Stepinac), Busevac, Lekinik, Sisak, Jasenovac, Osijek, Nasice, Orahovica, Topolje, Koska, Valpovo, Slatina, Verazdin, Zagreb
In Croatia, we saw most of the star-type attractions, but did not use this kind of list for more than general ideas. major attractions list, sample

Friday, December 01, 2006

Links, posts, archives

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For sites not linked, please cut and paste for your own search, paste in the bar those parts of an address given that get you where you need to go.

Dates of posts create an intended chronology, all packed in one month if possible, so the entire trip is visible with one shot. Archives continue the trip.

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