Now that we are on the Istrian Coast, there is a much greater Italian influence. This is due not just to its proximity, but also because this area was part of Italy from the 1st to the 2nd World War. There is a noticeable change in the temperature, with more humidity and wind, and a definite sense that we are in the latter part of summer and nearing the shift towards fall.
The Istrian peninsula is fairly small, and so the many small towns are quite close together. In Novigrad we had the good fortune to rent bikes for two days, and really enjoyed cycling around the countryside, visiting the many small villages and farmland. The earth here is a remarkable bright burnt orange colour, and all the more striking in contrast to the rich green of the vineyards and sagey colour of the olive groves.
The bike map promises several clear options of routes to take, but in reality they are not so well marked, nor are the roads even that well marked for towns on some of the back routes, however we find our way to some semblance of our goal, and delight in the effort of finding the path. I have many funny photos of us pulled over to the side and pouring over the map.
By the second day we had figured out how to use the map better, and gotten a sense of the standard of trail to expect, thereby reducing our choices away from some of the more adventurous options. We cycled along the coast, past several seaside communities and campsites and finally found our way to our goal, a cave attraction marked on the map.
For only a small fee (50 Kuna), we were guided by a pleasant and humorous young woman who took us through the mostly horizontal cave and pointed out different aspects of the stalagmites and stalactites. She educated us as to their method of formation, and the visible history contained within them. In some of the areas the mineral growth had stopped, due to it being dried by a fire during past use of the cave for living in. There were places that the columns had been broken off and taken as souvenirs by tourists, and others where there was writing from the 1800’s. She pointed out different shapes in the formations, and talked about how they are formed. My favourite part was her definition of eccentric, which is a type of stalagmite whose growth is not determined by the forces of gravity, but grows in all directions at once. It sounded like a positive thing, at least for a human being trying to live a creative life.
Umag has the feeling of quite a modern place with mixed influences. Although fairly small, it has a fully developed European feel, but a fair amount of art and culture as well, which clashes with the numerous beach side resorts and theme style bars built for the fast food tourism industry. People who don’t want to adapt to their environments or another culture, but want to have all that they are used to at home in the place that they go and who are willing to pay whatever it takes to get this. It is this mentality that strips places of their uniqueness and leads us with a ubiquitous and homogenous face of tourism around the globe. Globalization, they call it. Unfortunate.
Here in Umag, we have our first rain since Hvar. In a way it is a welcome relief. The sky is beautiful in its stormy greys and wind. We celebrate the recent organization and cleaning of the fore hatch (a notoriously crowded area of the boat) with a spontaneous disco. Robbie the lighting operator sets up the new LED lights that have just arrived with one of our many visitors and plays dj with his mega mini speaker, and all take turns partaking in the joyfulness. It is a wonderful example of Caravan magic. Not only the spontaneity and creativity involved, but also the propensity to making meaning out of our own efforts and progress and celebrating those things that we work for, instead of celebrating in someone else’s creation to get away from work.
After the shows, the captain suggests we have a party to celebrate leaving Croatia; we decide on a Superhero theme. A group of people develop an elaborate murder mystery game that involves everyone present, Robbie sets up the fore hatch disco again, and the cooks plus a committee make delicious natchos and Sangria. We had the most marvelous time, and I have some hilarious video of both the creative costumes people came up with, and the fore hatch disco, which was only big enough for about 3-4 people comfortably at a time. One had to go down the long hallway of the companionway past all the bunk rooms to get to the small secret room of flashing lights, rocking music and people dancing. The game was also really fun, with a secret murderer picking off party goers, who would die spontaneous, dramatic deaths while teams of people looked for the Kryptonite (glow sticks) concealed around the boat by following clues in order to disarm the killer.
We had an early start the next day and sailed out of Croatia and on to Slovenia.