Olive Orchard

Not far from the old stone house and vineyard it looks like this.

A small hike-walk down the hill (I say that because it is not strenuous enough to call a hike, but flip flops wouldn’t do.)  are olive trees- some in clusters, some lone, like this one.

A closer look reveals what appear to be yummy little appetizers.

To my disappointment, one cannot simply pluck an olive from the tree and enjoy it. Nope. Totally bitter. These olives are mostly pressed into oil, but a few are usually cured in a salty brine to be eaten. I always loved olives, but as a kid I knew them to be black olives, from a can, and of course without the pit. Usually eaten on pizza and tacos, and on Thanksgiving ten in a row off of my fingertips. Now I know where they come from.

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October Harvest

Here is what’s happened in the Vineyard since spring.

The grapes got big an juicy and sweet. These little guys are so delicious, I learned the hard way how not to eat them. They crush easily if you pluck a handful off the bunch – they aren’t your typical crunchy seedless grapes from the grocery store. The best way to go about it (to avoid totally sticky hands) is to gently pluck a whole punch, and then eat them very carefully one at a time. Perhaps it’s better this way–slow down and enjoy what your eating!

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A sandy beach

View of "the beach" we were headed to in Nin

Most beaches are rocky, which as I mentioned, is perfect if you like clear water for snorkeling and splashing about. If you want to have a sandy beach, however, you’ve really got to want it. Why? Because its not like you can just drive up and park at the sandy beach. No my friend. You must commit.

This sandy beach is actually more like a sand bar surrounded by shallow water. I am actually surprised I got out here with my camera intact, after tripping through a few random sea-plants and sudden drop-offs of the sandy sea floor.  Again- we have the dilemma of no shade, but its manageable because I really slathered on the SPF 50 before hand. Perhaps I should invest in a sun-umbrella. Wait a second- most people go to the beach specifically to lay out in the sun, so this might only be relevant to me.

Arrival at our destination

Anyways, although it’s pretty sandy, there are also some patches of grass, and also thick, black mud. Hillary’s piggies would love it, and so did a few “health conscious” people. Naked except for a nice black mud suit. The mud is healing/detoxifying apparently. I didn’t try it and cannot report back the healing effects, but maybe next time. Or not. 

Here are some people playing about in the shallow water, and when the setting sun hits just right and reflects, it looks like they are walking on water. Sort of like magic.

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Take me to the beach!

Pinja Beach

When it’s hot out, there is no better place than the beach. And what I love about this beach-Pinja Beach- is that its got…Pine trees! And for a fair skinned girl like myself, shade is not only welcome on a hot day, but quite necessary to avoid the dreaded sun burn.

Pinja is only about 15 minutes drive from Zadar, and in the heat of summer tourist season, it is packed with people. There are a few bars, cafes, and ice cream stands for refreshments. Also a few sand volley ball courts, if you are into that kind of thing. I personally like laying down  and relaxing at the beach, and if I am feeling brave jumping into the cold water and doing some snorkeling. You might notice however, the beach is not soft and sandy, but rather ROCKY. Yes, this means its a bit un-comfy to lounge and lie and laze about on the beach, unless you happened to bring a mattress along. Which most of the well informed locals did. I did not. Not on my first trip to the beach anyways. But I learned quickly. On the plus side- rocky beach= no sand= clean clear water. Very nice for snorkeling.

And if you snorkel, you will see lots of cool fish and some interesting sea creatures. And after all that swimming, you might decide to hang out on the beach and read a book. Just keep your eyes out for little visitors!

Pinja Beach

Well, then….I just got a drink at the beach bar and lounged on one of their outdoor couches.

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Spring Nature Walk

I love spring, it just makes me happy. And its even better when I can get outside to enjoy the sunshine, blossoming flowers and trees, and fresh spring air. One of the best things about being in Croatia is spending so much time outside. Out in the countryside–about an hour from Zadar–is where we go when we want to be in nature. The drive itself if beautiful- through rolling fields speckled with stone houses, vineyards, olive trees and  fruit orchards. My boyfriend loves to go fishing, but when I don’t join him at the river, I like to wander around by myself. My hobby is more in the direction of taking photos and then enjoying the grilled trout that he has caught. I am not so much an enthusiastic fisherwoman myself.

When I was a kid, my uncle used to take us for nature walks and point out the different wild flowers, trees, raspberry bushes, and BEWARE: poison ivy (leaves of three, let them be!). Practicing my with my macro camera setting, I was able to get some little wild flower close ups (for the UB!).

I believe this is a dandelion.

Typical traffic. At least I know my lunch has had a happy life, roaming the countryside. A nice long nature walk if you will.

Surprise Salad

Our scattered lettuce seeds not only grew, they survived the winter and by April were begging to be picked and made into a salad!

Wild Asparagus

Wild asparagus abounds! It just takes good eyes and a little bit of patience. And experience. That’s my excuse, I have no experience asparagus hunting. My boyfriend and his grandma are pros. So we had plenty to eat.

The Vineyard

This is the vineyard in the first week of April. Stubby vines. It’s hard to imagine that at the end of summer they will be heavy with grapes, ready to be crushed into wine.

That’s it for now.  Enjoy the sunshine!

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Zadar Archipelago: Ugljan

Sitting at our favorite cafe in Zadar, we can look out  across the water and see the island of Ugljan. When we want to have an adventure, Ugljan is a nice place for a hike. Of course, the term hike is relative–for those of you who are fit and actually hike “for real” this would be more like an after-dinner stroll. But for us, its a nice hike. Not too strenuous that we pass out at the top, but still, a good workout.  And definitely worth the view.

The Jadrolinija Ferries run throughout the day, and the boat ride itself is a lot of fun. Once on the island, we just sort of find our way through the narrow, winding streets, heading roughly in the direction of “the top.”

A fishing boat on Ugljan

I love boats, and obviously, they are everywhere around here. I love it!

Walking up Ugljan

I like to stop a lot and take in the view. I love the colors: the bright blue sea and sky, the white and terra-cotta houses, the green plants and trees. And the air is so fresh.

Getting closer...

And we made it to the top! This is the view looking back towards Zadar. You can see the city on the coast, and the mountains jutting up in the distance. Looking out onto the other side of the Island, you see another chain of islands before the sea expands across to Italy. It is truly an awesome view, and worth the climb.

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Learning the Language: day one

I started taking Croatian lessons at the local community school. On Thursday evenings after work, I meet up with a small group and learn Croatian. The trick is, I joined a little late. So I jumped into chapter 7– ordering food at a restaurant. The textbook is themed  around a German family going to Croatia for vacation, which is fitting, considering my 5 classmates are Germans who like to vacation in Croatia. My motives are more focused on communicating with my future in-laws than ordering a schnitzel in a restaurant. But its  a lot of fun!

On my first day,  my classmates introduced themselves to me and told me a bit about themselves (in Croatian of course). One sweet lady introduced herself and then said “ja sam domacica.” I perked up. I know that word. Domacica!

Of course it figures I would remember that word, although I always seem to forget other important words such as zucchini. Domacica is the name of the cookie that  grandma always has on hand when we visit. So this woman said “I am a chocolate cookie.” Can that be? Well, if its true that “we are what we eat” then indeed, I too could introduce myself with “ja sam domacica.” But alas, its also the word for housewife, which doesn’t really fit my current status.

In any case, I have now memorized the word for “housewife” although I have already forgotten the word for “financial analyst.” Oh well. Perhaps it  would help me learn faster if I eat the cookies while I study. Just a thought.

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Happy Spring!

Well my friends, spring has officially begun! The sun is shining, the trees are budding, and  the flowers  are popping up all over the place. I am so happy that is finally warmer and sunnier,  I am just ignoring the fact that all this pollen is making me sneeze.

I brought some bulbs with me to Croatia a couple Falls ago. Longing for a garden of my own where I could plant tulips and daffodils (two of my favorites!) I did the next best thing- ask my boyfriends dad to plant them. And he did. And they grew! It’s quite a nice surprise to see what pops up in spring; a few bright flowers along the garden by the stone house. I would secretly like to plant LOTS of them down by the vineyard- what a pretty surprise that would be!

Surprise Flowers at the Stone House

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Where is Zadar, exactly?

A postcard view of Zadar

Zadar is on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It has a mild Mediterranean climate, lots of sunshine, and an abundance of fresh, delicious seafood.  You can hop on a ferry and visit many of the islands in the Zadar Archipelago – perfect for a hike, a visit to a secluded beach, or snorkeling. The old town Zadar is a half-island/peninsula, with many beautiful churches and  ancient Roman ruins.

There is an airport (Zracna Luka Zadar) just outside of the city , and from spring to fall a good deal can usually be found on Ryanair or Germanwings (from within Europe).

Map compliments of CIA Worldfactbook

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Pine Nuts

Where do pine nuts come from? Well, as the name suggests, pine nuts come from pine trees. These large pine trees are a common sight along the Dalmatian coast. On the beach in summer, they provide welcome shade and an outdoorsy-piney scent that is not to be found on the beaches of SoCal. I had wondered if the giant pine cones contained those yummy edible nuts (or seeds as the case may be), but it didn’t occur to me that regular people (such as myself) could crack ’em open and eat the contents. But indeed, it is possible! It’s quite amazing to figure out where your food is coming from (precisely) and now I realize why these little gems are so dang expensive at the store. Its a bit labor intensive, but worth the effort.

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