Pushing Beyond Perceived Limits
A Rainy Week Before an Epic Weekend
I think one of the most creative ways to get to know a city is to explore it while it rains. Especially for a Mediterranean city like Split. After a gorgeous first week exploring the water front and the old town the second week of my time in Croatia was filled with rain.
The first few days of the week I took a bit of time to myself. But Wednesday I ventured out with a group to City Center One. It is a mall here in Split that is quite large. Here I was able to see my first McDonald’s outside of the United States. The burgers looked almost gourmet in comparison to what I’m used to a hamburger at McDonald’s looking like. I did not order from the chain, but I did get a chance to try something unique from it from another one of my cohorts – curry dip for the French fries. Can we please have this in the States McDonald’s?! It was so good!
Burger King and KFC also made an appearance in the mall’s food court. But I went for a stand called Aladdin Kebas. #NoRegrets.
But the true reason we went to City Center was to visit a museum inside of the mall called the Museum of Senses. We were probably inside for less than an hour as we played our way through a maze of mirrors, combined our faces with other mirrors, found ourselves standing on the ceiling, enjoyed mysterious smells and even laid down on a bed of nails! It was a good bit of fun on a rainy day.
The rain also brought me the desire to make a package of soup. Cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen in Croatia is an experience in itself, as is shopping for items when you don’t know how to read the language. But unfortunately we can’t always trust Google Translate, as step two of my tomato soup’s instructions translated as “Mix with spark plug until the soup ends.” I think I’ll avoid those directions. Thankfully logic is a good friend and using past experiences of food I was able to make it successfully.
Taking an Opportunity
Saturday I had the chance to take a spot for the first track event of the trip. I’m so glad I had the chance! We explored Vranjača cave with Marko, the grandson of the man who discovered it at the beginning of the century. He brought us below the surface to experience the vastness of this cave. There were three times I turned a corner and wows just came from my lips. The cave has been formed over many years. It takes about 300 years for a stalactite to form about three inches in length. So to see so many stalactites and stalagmites filling the space leaves you in wonder.
A Very Large Meal
After climbing up from this underground cave we visited Farm Grabovac. It just so happened it was also the day they had a photographer taking photos of their food. So they made EVERYTHING, resulting in them sharing a five course meal with appetizer and dessert with us. By the end of the fourth course most of us were feeling as stuffed as after a Thanksgiving meal.
The food was good, but three things really stood out to me. The first was that we had rooster – twice! I never would have imagined that I ate rooster, but we had it served both boiled and baked. The last course before dessert was also a traditional Croatian dish called Peka. It was served with both cow meat and lamb.
As a girl with a sweet tooth how could the last thing that stands out to me not be dessert. I get made fun of all the time back home for not liking cheesecake. I just don’t like cream cheese. But when I avoided taking it at the farm I was surprised to see that this cheese cake was completely different. It was cow cheese that was flavored lemon and that cheese was placed in between layers of cake.
Despite its name the Red Lake is actually blue water. It was shared that the red probably comes from the rock color that surrounds the lake. Now this lake is quite special for its legend. It is said that you can not throw a rock from the top of the lake and have it hit the water’s surface. We had fun testing out this theory.
The rain picked up again while we were finishing up at the Red Lake so our trip to the Blue Lake was cut short. Originally we had plans to walk down to this lake and swim. Well really, I wasn’t going to swim, it is still April and cold. But despite being a clear trail leading down to the lake the rain was a bit much and we simply looked at the lake from above. It was definitely pretty though and for anyone who has the chance to see it – go swim!
Trusting Myself and Pushing Farther Than I Thought Possible
Saturday when we were coming out from the cave Maja, our experience manager, pointed to a mountain and said that those who were hiking tomorrow would be going up that mountain – gulp! I was instantly nervous.
But Sunday morning I woke up, put on my tennis shoes and backpack with plenty of water and jumped on the bus to go hike Mountain Mosor. I am used to hikes at home being a semi trail that is usually very clear even if it is a bit rough. And the opportunity to meet Milena Šijan, a woman who climbed Mt. Everest sounded like something I needed to be a part of. But I never expected what I was faced with. I quite literally climbed a mountain.
I don’t say this with exaggeration. After going a little ways up a path we took a turn left and it was suddenly wild mountain only marked by occasional symbols to help guide you. I quickly found my breath shortened, my legs burning and my mind wondering what the hell I had just gotten myself into.
Thoughts of doubt and fears of twisting my ankle were constantly creeping up. To say it was challenging would be an understatement. This was one of the hardest physical things I have done to my body. The night before I had seen that the amount we were going to climb up was 700 meters, which equated to about half a mile. Linear is not a direction you can take going up a mountain though, so it took several hours. That short distance of vertical height had me hopeful we were almost to the top until I could finally see the top and it was still a long way to go. More doubt, more fears. I mean I also had to come back down!
This was such a test for me. I wanted to see the views that climbing would give so I persisted. But I had to learn to trust my body. I had to stop and take a breath when I needed, a drink of water when I needed, and trust that where I placed my foot was the best place for it to be to carry me to the next step.
I was uncomfortable and completely out of my comfort zone, but turning around and seeing the space out in front of me made every temporary pain I was feeling on the way worth it.
Hikers Lunch, Omis and River Centina
I couldn’t tell you if it was because of the large hike that was just completed or because it was just that good, but we stopped on the way down at a hut on the mountain for lunch. It’s a place that also has dorms for people to sleep in. There we had a traditional hikers lunch – beans and sausage. Everyone was amazed at how the meal just hit the spot after hours of working our bodies.
On the way to a small village in Dalmatian hinterland we made a quick stop in Omis to look out over the River Centina. It was quite the sight. A few people the following day had the chance to zip line over the river. While I did not do it, everyone who went said it was amazing. So if you have the chance it is a must do item in Croatia.
Soparnik Was The Best
The final stop for the day before heading back to Split was to Blato na Cetini where we met a husband and wife who are two of the few people who know how to make the Croatian dish Soparnik outside of the factories.
Soparnik is like a pie with a bottom and upper crust, but it is savory with Swiss chard, onions and seasonings inside including a “pinch” of salt (but really it was a fist full.) You probably had to be there to get the reference.
We had the opportunity first to watch how it was made before we enjoyed eating this delicious dish. The dough was rolled out into two very large circles. I’d estimate a few feet in diameter each. Then the greens were placed to top of one of the circles of dough and closed with the other.
Outside of the sheer size the other fascinating part of this dish is how it is cooked. Something so large certainly doesn’t fit in an oven! Instead it is placed on a concrete slab and covered in ashes and embers. Yep, you read that right. The ashes and embers keep it from burning while allowing it to cook. It also really did not take that long. Afterwards the ashes are cleaned off with a broom followed by a rag and turns out surprisingly clean. Topped with a bit of olive oil and garlic, cut and served. Our group could not get enough!
Ending the meal with delicious homemade doughnuts we then made our way back ending this amazing and tiring day with a bit of karaoke. I truly appreciated the day for all that it gave. The opportunity to trust myself to climb and push my body farther, for the good food and also the company.