After the incredible highs of yesterday, surrounded by the sublime beauty of the Plitvice Lakes, today runs at a much more sedate pace. We’re traveling to Rijeka, to visit my uncle Stipe.
It’s been around 18 years since I saw him last – in a delightful surprise he came to Australia to visit his brother, my beloved Buc. Neither of them could wipe the smiles from their faces the whole of that time. Before that, I would have been 3 perhaps, my sisters, years not yet born.
It’s a bittersweet moment leaving the lakes.
If the sun had been out I might have wept for the colours I missed, but it’s another overcast day.
Despite being autumn, it comes as a surprise. We’ve had the most perfect weather up until now. To be fair, it’s still pretty good, just sans blue skies.
The drive back to the coast is visually rewarding. Autumn’s glory continues – I spend most of the morning glued to windscreen, determined not to miss anything. The colours are spectacular, on such a grand scale, that I’m once again, effortlessly, hypnotised.
After five years of summer travels, I’ve fallen in love with autumn all of over again. It’s always been one of my favourites seasons, spring the other, but I’ve never seen it on this scale.
It’s a pleasant change of pace to be back in farmland.
We drive through a fertile valley with rich black and red soils, and picturesque farmhouses.
There’s a pertinent truth to tourism. Love it or loathe it, where it touches, people prosper. Here, the ravages of war lay in the past, there’s only an occasional abandoned house, and despite there being evidence of shelling, much has been repaired or rebuilt. Sheep and cattle graze peacefully, chickens scratch about, free range in the extreme – we even see piggies snouting around.
Just before we reach the coast, there’s a short mountain pass. We’re in moonscape again, amongst grey jagged edges, a harsh, unforgiving, if beautiful, landscape.
Croatia has offered up one visual feast after the other – I’m utterly drunk on it.
All too quickly, the sea reappears. With the overcast sky and a milky tone to the air, there’s barely a distinction between sea and sky. Colours are muted with only the occasional headland for contrast.
We push through Rijeka. Unusually, despite being on the coast, there’s no place to stop nearby, for miles. We drive a further 10 km to a motorhome site, but it’s closed, leaving us and a whole series of motorhome by the sea, nearby. Clearly, we’re not the only ones surprised by this site being closed. No great loss though – we’re fully stocked and the views over the bay are beautiful.
I’m nervous about tomorrow. Despite very much wanting to see my uncle again, language will be a barrier. He speaks no English, I no Croatian. We try calling him, as does my cousin, but he’s not answering. I’m hoping we’ll have more luck tomorrow, and that Google translate will save the day. Time will tell.