Winter Dilemma

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Winter plans? It has gotten pretty cold in the last week, and for several days all transportation to and from the island was stopped due to the “Bura” ( north-east mountain winds). On one particularly windy day a large tree in the center fell on the super market and all food shopping was suspended for three days. The winds have gotten up to 240 km/hr!

 

Hanging out in a windstorm in the center of town. This is what it is like on a busy day here

Hanging out in a windstorm in the center of town. This is what it is like on a busy day here

 

I have become good friends with my hosts (Nino and Ljbinka). They call me “Bojidar”, blessed boy, because I share the same December birthdate as the prophet. No longer in America, I now introduce myself as “Bojidar”, and have become quite popular in the rarely frequented Zen yoga classes. Since the end of the Serb-Croat war Croatia has become extremely Catholic and in many small cities it is considered taboo to practice yoga. Here on Krk there are only a few people willing to go against the church and most of the classes are empty.

Ljubinka, Nino and Marko my Croatian family

Ljubinka, Nino and Marko. My Croatian family

I am really enjoying staying in Omisalj. The town is small and people leave their bikes and their personal property unlocked and out in the open. When it rains people frantically run around gathering their laundry off the lines and stuffing all their possessions in their tiny apartments. . I see the same people walk the streets everyday, and I am always greeted with the same genuine smile.

View from the highest point of the Omisalj

View from the highest point of on Omisalj

My hosts have a second home, used for rentals and retreats, about 20 km south of Omisalj. They often make trips to the house and I am always invited to lend a hand in preparing things for winter. The house is completely off the grid, and was built from the rocks of an ancient cow barn. The impressive structure incorporates  two rain catch basins, 4 solar panels, compostable toilets, an organic garden and a cow powered grain mill! For extended relaxation there is even a solar-powered Jacuzzi. Nino built the house himself mixing several tons of concrete and building each wall out of hundreds native rocks.

Stone retreat house with two water catch basins

Stone retreat house with two rain catch basins, solar panels and a compostable toilet

Meditation loft inside

Meditation loft and dining room

Fireplace stove and oven

Fireplace stove and oven

An ancient grain mill

An ancient grain mill

I have been invited to stay the winter here in Omisalj and I am considering accepting the offer. The island, although windy and cold is extremely beautiful. With several neighboring islands easily accessible by ferry, and many ancient ruins of Roman temples, I think I can keep myself occupied till early January.

Regardless of how cold it gets the beaches are still beautiful, this is one of my favorite hangouts on clear days

Regardless of how cold it gets the beaches are still beautiful, this is one of my favorite hangouts on clear days

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI am planning a winter de-tour adventure, and will explain in further details once I secure transport. Hint: “The Holy lands”. I am plan to be gone for the entire month of February, and with the next few weeks off I can start thinking about visas and the trip across Central Asia. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are deserts and will be extremely hot in the summer months, while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will be covered in snow until June or July. The visa situation is also be rather problematic in that several countries only issue them when applied in one’s home country. Meaning that when I enter Turkey I will have to send my passport to Washington DC, and hope that I can get all my visas by the time I exit and enter Georgia.

Silhouette of Omisalj

Silhouette of Omisalj

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

Croatian Hospitality

Church of St. Lucy, the  Baska tablet is on the left

Church of St. Lucy, the famous Baska tablet, written in the oldest known alphabet of Slavic is on the left

A 4 day storm raged the beach city of Baska, and finding a camping spot proved a bit difficult. The high tide made beach camping impossible and in the open land large puddles soaked my shoes. I cycled around the small city for close to an hour searching for either a guest house or some hidden shelter to pitch my tent. With the tourist season over most guest houses were closed and my only  option was a ritzy 4 star hotel. Ready to fork out the 30 euros for a room I stumbled across an abandoned campground with an unlocked restroom. The men’s room was trashed and stunk like urine, but the woman’s side was clean and had a working hand dryer. I set up camp on a bench that was propped up in the corner, and found that the campground had free internet. I cooked a hot dinner of oatmeal, apples and banana and watched a BBC documentary on the author(s) of the Old Testament.

A comfortable campsite in a women's restroom. The hand dry was a great way dry my clothes

A comfortable campsite in a women’s restroom. The hand dry was a great way dry my clothes!

Cooking and washing with rainwater.

With no running water in the restroom I cooked and cleaned with rainwater.

The next day, while searching for petrol (the nearest gas station is over 20 km away) I met the owner of a local trailer park. He was working with a construction crew demolishing an old building, and offered to fill my fuel bottle. We talked for a little bit and he asked me where I was staying. After I told him about the cozy restroom and functional hand dryer he offered me a trailer to sleep in. I accepted and between rain spells moved into a tiny trailer.

Just like old times at the UCSC trailer park

Just like old times at the UCSC trailer park, a new friend lets me stay in one of his trailers

Baska has one of the most beautiful beaches!  A large cove protects the beach from rough waters, and the pebbles in beach reflect a beautiful turquoise blue color. Once again I found the city almost completely deserted, and roamed around during the a sunny afternoon.

A few hours of respite from the rain, cycle path in Baska

A few hours of respite from the rain, a beautiful cycle path in Baska

View from the rocky cemetery

View from the rocky cemetery above the city. The retreat was held in the mountains hidden by the clouds.

The city cemetery is located on the hills above, and offers a beautiful panorama of the area. After climbing a long 18% grade hill I came upon ancient graves marked by stacks of rocks. A beautiful view but an otherwise creepy place I enjoyed the view while listening to the call of crows.

Once again a completely deserted beach

Once again a completely deserted beach

This the color of the Adriatic sea

The color of the Adriatic sea

The island is extremely hilly, this was one of my steepest climbs since the Rallarvegen in Norway

The island is extremely hilly, this was one of my steepest climbs since the Rallarvegen in Norway

Close up of the Baska tablet. It is written in Glagolitic ( one of the old forms of Slavic language) And was used to introduce Christianity to the Balkans in the 9th century.

Close up of the Baska tablet. It is written in Glagolitic ( one of the old forms of Slavic language) And was used to facilitate the introduction of Christianity to the Balkans in the 9th century.

Yesterday I departed my trailer and cycled to the northern part of the island. Upon leaving Baska, I past the city of Jurandvor, and viewed the famous “Baska Tablet” in the Church of St. Lucy. From Jurandvor I cycled west through the cities of Vrbnik and Soline, climbing hills covered with vineyards. I arrived in Omisalj, the northern most city on the island before dark and I met up with an acquaintance from the retreat named Ljubinka. She invited me to stay in the basement of her house (which is carved out of rock) and let me join her Zen Yoga class at the community center. This morning she baked me Croatian biscuits and I met her partner Noma a local archeologist.

Swamps on the western coast

Swamps on the western coast of Krk

Entrance to Ljubinka's cave house

Entrance to Ljubinka’s cave house, where I am currently staying

Tomorrow I will join them in exploring their parcel of land on the western part of the island, and learn more about the local history. I celebrated Thanksgiving a week early by eating some cold kielbasas, I will have to think of something better this week!

Small, narrow streets of Omisalj

Small, narrow streets of Omisalj, Krk.