|Wednesday 20th May. Last night in Hotel Pino, which looked after us very well, they suggested we go back 5 Km to Slunj and the mill village of Rastoke. From the moment we left the car we knew it was something special. Parking on a hill on the opposite side of the river to the village we could see a profusion of cascades tumbling down the facing bank between and sometimes through the typical old Croatian timber houses. The village is sited where one river falls into another. The higher river under the travatine influence has created the equivalent of a delta of fast moving streams and rivulets many of which have had their power harnessed for centuries to grind flour and other purposes. The water wheels are quite different here from any others that we’ve seen in that they run horizontally and are shaped like propellers with the drive shaft attached directly to the grindstones.
The mixture of water, traditional houses and lush plants makes for a fairy story setting. We sat in the café with one of the information girls (Sarah, she looked just like Tracey’s Natalie) who after a while told us of the recent turbulent history. During the Civil war it had been occupied for five years and nearly all the buildings destroyed. When relieved it was decided to rebuild the whole village again as it was using the original techniques and materials. Much was salvaged from the wreckage including water wheels and an ancient washing machine used to clean carpets and large items. The place was so picturesque and restful that we just sat for ages listening to the sounds of water and taking in the profusion of roses, peonies and a million greens.
On again towards Zagreb but changed mind half way there and decided to go to Cigoc,the European town of the stork, to see them nesting. The guide book says that many villages in the area has nests but in Cigoc almost every house has nests. Our excitement rose as we neared with Judy taking photos whenever another nest came in sight with the huge birds sitting or standing high above us. Cigoc at last, a pretty, small village in the middle of nowhere full of ancient wooden houses all but one without a nest! Seeing our first sign for rooms for miles we decided to stay overnight. Where are the storks? This year the nests were blown off by a bad storm and the storks had moved into nearby woods.
Our hosts were very hospitable and served us wine, on the house, outside. While sitting there they told us that they were a watering hole for several coach companies and they had hosted 100 children that morning and that 60 pensioners would be there soon. With that the coach drew up and what emerged was a bit like a Round Table bun fight! The group of Istrians sorted themselves out with drinks and loos then an organist struck up traditional Croatian tunes, which everyone joined in and sang and in the end were all up dancing. This included Judy who was almost leading in the end. By the end of the forty minutes that they were there everyone including both of us and the owners family were at it. Then suddenly quiet. But not for long as the mosquitoes struck. What a wonderful World it would be if they had not been created.
We did have respite enough to raise our glasses to Sarah for her birthday.