For a week in May, 2018, my adventurous, SoulStrolling friend, Kayce S. Hughlett and I hiked from one hilltop town to the next in Istria, Croatia. It was filled with new adventures, laughter, thundershowers, mud elevated shoes, copious amounts of food, shots of espresso, abundant hospitality, stunning landscapes and conversations with animals.
The chickens say hello in their informal Croatian, “Bok, Bok,” as we pass by, attempting to follow the undulating, indistinct waymarkers.
The frogs chuckle at us from their muddy banks alongside the swollen Mirna River “Eerp, eerp, nema problema, no problem,” as they watch us cross the river barefoot, with pants, socks and shoes tied on our daypacks. Note to self: when the neatly printed trekking packet for the day states, ‘river crossings’ it may mean there won’t be bridges (yes, I am a novice hiker).
The bees in their hives below Motovun, rest quietly undisturbed below the torrential rain and thundershowers while I, in my bright pink North Face, rain soaked coat, crazily think they all might storm out and surround us. Frantically beckoning to Kayce, with my finger to my lips….shshshsh!!! The bees quietly hum, “Živjeli! Cheers! You’ve made it across the glurping, rain soaked ground.”
As the hovering morning fog lifts from the valley, unveiling sunlit puffy cloud patched blue skies, the small lavender blue butterflies flit back and forth along the Parenzana Trail whispering, “Welcome, walk this way, dobro jutro, good morning.”
The ginormous earthworm stuck in the middle of the trail says, “Hvala, thank you,” as Kayce moves it out of harms way.
The truffle hunting dogs say, “Molim, please eat all the amazing fresh black truffles we find – freshly shaved atop scrambled eggs, in pasta, and even mixed in ice cream.”
We walked from Brtonigla to Buje, Grožnjan to Motovun, Oprtalj to Buzet (well, we tried, but walked 3 miles the wrong way, downhill, then back, got drenched in a thundershower, and were provided a lift by a kind local), attempted Buzet to Hum (an early sunshiny morning hike in which we had to turn around because the river was too high) and then Poklon to Vojak Učke to Lovran, ending at the Adriatic Sea (my calves have never been so sore).
What a journey. I was thrilled to use my camping headlamp for daytime hikes through old railway tunnels and now understand why the staff at REI really wanted to sell me packable hiking poles. The trails, pathways, forests, hillsides, sea and landscape of Istria are remarkable. I paused often, slowing down to listen, feel, breath and witness the beauty of nature.
“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are is here…The forest breathes. Listen…The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.” David Wagoner
There is something about my experience of walking the paths and trails in Istria that is difficult to put into words. Not from the geographical context, but from the inner emotions, silence, hush of wind, rustling of leaves, sense of history and perception of other’s who have walked these forest floors. Croatia has a turbulent history; as an intuitive, feeling sole, my sense is that I was ‘feeling’ some of that history. Here, at home, in Lake Forest Park, WA, I can close my eyes, imagining myself on the trail, like I’ve wandered through a time traveling portal.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien
The Croatian people are some of the most hospitable folk I’ve encountered. From our gracious drivers, to hotel staff, the team with Fiore Tours, Natasha at the distillery tasting in Buzet, the server who set up a table in our hotel room for lunch because of a sudden storm – Hvala, thank you.
Kayce S. Hughlett, thank you for the invitation. We are stronger than we think, funnier than other folks feel we are, and resilient.
For my readers who appreciate details and links; if your heart is nudging you to Istria, say, Yes!