Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Our host here is into gardening. There are the roses out front. And the small veggie patch just below the house. And the massive lavender bushes. And the tiny pears. Oddly in season now.

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His wife, I think, is more the food prep person. The home made jams are hers, I believe. The breakfast buffet -- again, hers. (Here's my selection.)

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But I'm working with a patchwork of information. Our communications are so limited in Slovenia!

For example: we wanted to buy some nuts. On days like this, when we do not eat lunch (mostly because Ed will have eaten copious amounts at breakfast and so he isn't hungry for a long, long time), we rely on nuts to keep us happy until dinnertime. Here and at home, we are big nut eaters.

Setting out on a salt adventure (more on this is in a bit), we pass our local supermarket (in Portoroz, there are three supermarkets and they are all part of the same chain). We check the nuts there. Not too exciting. We'll come back if we can't do better.

After the salt hike, we try the bigger branch of the same supermarket. But it's closed! Why? The posted hours say 8 - 20. We're nowhere near 20 o'clock! I ask a guy leaning against his car:
Do you speak English?
I do my gesture talk (with a lot of pointing and proper voice inflections): that store, closed?
Why? Well, I knew this is going to be a stretch. How could he possibly respond to "why"... So I give him some options: fete? holiday?
Da, dopust.

I checked all the summer festivals, celebrations ete etc -- what did I miss? What possible holiday could there be on June 25? One that closes stores, but doesn't really put people on the waterfront, like, say, Sunday did? (Later, the Internet tells me that it's Statehood Day - a celebration of Slovenia's Independence from Yugoslavia, not to be confused with Independence Day, which is in December, celebrating, well, sort of the same thing.)

Another man joins us by this first guy's car.
English? He asks.
Close enough -- yes...
He whips out a box from his pocket and opens it, revealing a very ornamented gold watch. Euro, okay?
I was so tempted to ask "how much" -- just because I wanted to know what he thought he could get from just whipping it out from his pocket like that, but our communications were so poor that I let it go.
No, I said, as Ed chuckled at the side. 

And there are times when I just want to correct Slovenians at their own language. Take ice cream flavors. I study them carefully, especially the red fruit ones as they tend to be my favorite. I see one with the label of "jagoda." Every Pole knows that jagoda means blueberry. 
 Ed, look, blueberry ice cream! (It looks a tad pink, but hey, maybe their blueberries are of a washed out variety).  But wait, what's that? There is a picture of a strawberry next to the label. I want to tell the vendor -- you've got the wrong picture on the jagoda, because you see, I happen to know what jagoda means. But that seems like far too many words for me to spill out to a guy who speaks almost no English so I say nothing. And later, when I research it all on the Internet, I see that in Slovene, jagoda means strawberry! They use borownica for blueberry, which is just too wrong, since every Pole knows that borowka, which surely sounds like an impish little version of borownica, is actually a cranberry.  Shockingly, raspberry in Slovene is malina -- exactly the same as in Polish!

So now you know how to say all the red berry fruits in Slovenian, how cool is that!

As long as I am on the topic of ice cream, let me post three pictures, taken in the afternoon, within five minutes of each other.

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Perhaps an explanation is in order: if Ed and I only get one ice cream between the two of us, we pick pistachio (if available); we share a love of that. So the first two pics are the shared cone. Not satisfied with just one shared scoop, Ed gets another, at the next stand -- coconut. His favorite. (Odd, I know. I attribute his love of it to a childhood filled with Almond Joys.) And there you have it.

I  do have one more comment on foods in the early part of the day: we finally stopped by a bakery to see what a Slovenian might buy there. Like in France, you pick up bread and pastry in one fell swoop  (most places in Europe, Poland included, separate the sale of bread from the sale of pastry, but here, it's all under the same roof).

In the pastry display case I see the cherry and apple cakes that are oh so very much like something I would find in Poland.

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I detect an Austrian influence on pastry in both countries.

And then I see that they also have mille feuille pastry (aka Napoleons)! An Ed favorite! But the portion here is huge: the sign says  200 grams -- that's nearly half a pound of pastry! We pass on it.

Alright -- enough on our early day food issues. Let's get to the salt: Historically, Slovenia was a major producer of sea salt, harvested from the salt flats just south of Portoroz (the flats actually separate Slovenia from Croatia). When, in the middle of the twentieth century, salt was produced in less labor intensive ways elsewhere, the salt fields here fell into disrepair.

Along come the foodies of this world, putting specialty salt, like the one from here, on the table again. And so the salt flats are being fixed and salt production -- the old fashioned way, with wooden rakes and drying beds -- is again returning to Slovenia. Fancy salt. Not the kind that you spill on your driveway to de-ice it, but rather, the kind you sprinkle daintily on your tuna carpaccio, maybe with arugula leaves underneath.

I see on the map that the salt flats are a good hiking distance from Portoroz. The long path along the shore can't be more than five kilometers. And my oh my is it a beautiful, sunny day! (There is absolutely no manipulation of color/tone/brightness in the photo below.)

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The walk takes us past a marina and you can't get Ed to pass by big boats without a pause...

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The man loves vessels and he loves his boat stories from the past and I listen to them now, on this warm, warm day, strolling (not running!) along the coast of the Adriatic.

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Slovenia to the right, Croatia to the left

We actually find here, south of Prortoroz, a pretty (if small) almost-beach of big pebble rock and we vow to return to it later in the day, but it is a vow that's tossed freely and then neglected, as are so many when you travel: you fall in love with something and you can't quite let go without promising yourself, your hosts, the world, that you will return. But you don't return. Mostly, you move on.

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near the salt fields -- the lesser marina.

It is ridiculously warm and the path along the coast offers no shade. By the time we reach the entrance to the salt flats, we've had it with the heat and the sun. Which is a shame, as the flats are without shade and therefore warm and sunny.

But they don't show off their true worth right now. Had this been a normal summer, we would have seen mounds of drying salt. The spring rains stalled everything. We see the set up for salt harvesting, but nothing is anywhere near the point where you can expect to walk home with freshly raked salt for the kitchen table.

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There is an exhibition room out there, in the middle of all those salt fields and we watch a short documentary film on salt production. To tell you the truth, we would have watched anything,  even without the English subtitles, just to get us out of that warm warm air.

Had we come at dawn or dusk, we would have seen a great number of birds swoop down for breakfast/dinner at the marshes. As it were, I saw little of that. This one, stumbling along, looking for grub, not really being happy with what he found --- yes, I saw him.


And I saw these two humans, raking the salt beds.

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And this one, navigating the marshes differently.

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Then there are the bags of ready salt. Fewer this year, but still, you can find some here.

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Our hike back to Portoroz is shorter and far more bucolic.

And it is here -- crossing the hill that takes us back to Portoroz, that I decide that my post-retirement life should  include plenty of rural photography. I love photographing people, but one day, someone will surely rip my camera out of my hands and bang it over my head. At that point I'll concentrate on rural photography,

I will be happy if I can just spend my days taking photos of grapes.

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And lo! an accidental artichoke! So, of artichokes!

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And lavender along with olive trees...

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And chamomile and poppies...

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And chickens, along with olive trees...

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And baby olives on those olive tree branches...

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And meadows with late spring flowers...


And olive trees, pure and simple.

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In the meantime, I have just two more photos to post from this day: of our dinner, back at the fish place from our first night here:

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And of Ed, because I caught him smiling.

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And now it is so late that I'm sure to have missed typos and errors and I am so sorry if that's the case. It is, after all, the last post from the coast of the Mediterranean. I should present it with care.

Tomorrow, we head inland.