Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy
Day Twenty Four – Tracy Gets In Hot Water, Scary Stairs, Alley Oops, Truffle Time, The Glass Bottom Boat and Wine Time
Worried about our cat, Cupid, we didn’t sleep too well, but it was not the fault of our apartment (Porta Antica) or it’s location (quiet). We both looked forward to a nice hot shower the next morning, and being the consummate gentleman (ok, I was just trying to get an extra ten minutes of shut eye), I let Tracy go first (the view below is from Kim and Mary’s room, which was one floor up from ours).
Tracy put her Invisalign braces in a cup of hot water to soak and hopped in the shower. “Whoa,” I could her blurt out from the shower. I knew there wasn’t a horse in our shower (unless she had smuggled one of those damn Lipizzaner stallions), but I dragged myself out of bed to make sure.
“What happened?” I asked. “That water really gets hot fast,” she answered. We didn’t know how hot for a few more minutes. Upon exiting the shower, she went over to the cup where she had her braces were soaking…or what was left of them. If those braces could have spoken, they would have been like the Wicked Witch of the West and yelled, “I’m melting! Melting!” Yep, they were goners.
Obviously, I took a very careful shower, and then the two of us met Kim and Mary in front of the apartments, and we went in search of breakfast. If anyone would like an entrepreneurial idea, I suggest opening a breakfast place in Rovinj.
It was a little overcast, but the sun was making its move early, so we were confident it would be a beautiful Rovinj day. We meandered through some alleys and streets and reached the Sv Eufemija (Church of St. Euphemia), the large, landmark church in Rovinj that you can see from just about anywhere in town or on the sea.
It’s campanile rises nearly 200 feet and is a replica of the one we would see at St. Mark’s Cathedral in a couple of days. Having had the most caffeine, I was the designated climber and started up the 192 stairs (after paying 1.60€). As stated in previous installments, I don’t shy away from these things, even though I do get a little edgy about high places. The last part of this trek up the campanile was among the scariest stairs I have climbed.
Although never fearing I would fall to my death, the steps were treacherous, so much so that a number of people turned back. Knowing I would never hear the end of it had I attempted to wimp out, I made my way onto the skinny, wooden stairs that lead to the viewing platform, and the vistas from here were well worth the vertiginous climb.
After rejoining everyone, we went back inside the church to find the sarcophagus of St. Euphemia. So the story goes, as a young girl, Euphemia was arrested by Diocletian’s henchmen and brutally tortured. They even put her on a wheel and broke her bones, but she would not die.
Ticked off by her refusal to expire, Diocletian then tried to feed her to the lions, but miraculously the lions did not devour her, instead talking some playful nips at her arm. Unfortunately in those times, becoming a saint meant a premature death, and, sure enough, the Romans finally managed to kill her.
Many years later, a huge, marble sarcophagus containing her remains washed up in Istria. People wanted to transport it up to the Church of St. George (this church’s name at the time), but the damn thing was too heavy.
But the happy ending (well, except for the broken bones, drowning and death thing) occurred when a kid with two calves appeared and dragged her relics up to the church. There is also a fresco of the lions playfully nipping at her arms.
We walked back down to the harbor along Grisia Street, which I believe means “a street where tourists are quickly parted from their hard-earned cash by numerous shopkeepers.” A couple of missteps on this alley street almost had me going head first into the pavement, but my deft 56-year-old reflexes saved me from certain scoffing by the others. As we neared the end of Grisia Street, in a little alcove, I spied a local girl on a cigarette break. It made for a nice vignette.
Not only were there a number of various wines, but also numerous bottles of truffle oil lining the shelves. We had happened upon the “Gifts For Family and Friends Back Home” Emporium (the actual name of this great wine bar/store is Piassa Granda).
After assuring the proprietress we would stop back for an early evening wine sampling, we walked over to Scuba (to eat, not dive), a restaurant next to our apartment building. Kim tried the fried calamari, Mary had a hamburger and fries, Tracy gobbled down a Greek salad and small crunchy pizza, while I was tempted by the gnocchi Gorgonzola, which was terrific.
Kim and Mary went off to walk the streets of Rovinj, while Tracy and I, savoring the beautiful weather, caught a boat and departed on a one-hour tour of the harbor and nearby islands.
It also was an opportunity for Tracy and me to relax and hopefully take our mind off of Cupid, but that was easier said than done.
Upon our return, we hit one of the many spots along the harbor where you can grab a gelato. We liked the one where the Gelato Guys flung scoops of gelato in the air and nabbed them in their scooper, never missing a beat.
Now this will sound crazy to many, but Tracy wanted to find a flight home in the next couple of days thinking that maybe if she got home, there could be some kind of miraculous recovery. I didn’t disagree, and we went on online and purchased her the least expensive non-refundable, non-exchangeable, non-cheap flight out of Venice on Thursday morning (it seemed like a good idea at the time).
Although saddened by our news, it was time to meet Kim and Mary back at Piassa Granda for our early evening vino. After (carefully, very carefully) taking a shower, we met the two, who had started without us (we quickly caught up). The owner (Helen) was still there. She and the amiable sommelier suggested some various Istrian wines for us to sample.
The four of us strolled around Rovinj on yet another incredibly lovely evening. The streets were devoid of crowds, and it was quite peaceful to enjoy this town that gets very crowded during the summer months.
Our notes from this night are pretty weak due to how upset we were. We dined at a restaurant on the water that had an outdoor patio, but we had to dine inside because of a heavy mist that had shut down the patio service. We did not write down the name of this restaurant, but it is the last restaurant on the left as you head out of town toward the church (below is a picture of the restaurant we took the following day).
Despite our foreboding sense of doom, I had an appetite and started my meal with prosciutto and melon followed by an unbelievable gnocchi with truffles. Kim enjoyed an almond-crusted turbot and Mary continued her fishy behavior by downing the fish platter that included grilled squid and turbot. Tracy did not have much of an appetite and just had prosciutto and melon.
As the two of us were not very fun traveling companions on this evening, we gave Kim and Mary our cash and let them enjoy the rest of the night away from the weepy “Black Cloud of Tom and Tracy.” Tracy and I stopped at a little outdoors bar for a nightcap and discussed our options. It was then back to the apartment for a restless night’s sleep.
Next: Day Twenty Five – Where’s That Hill Town, Somebody’s Gotta Go Back And Get A Shitload Of Dimes, That Drop Off Fee Really Hertz, A Laker Fan In Poreč, Bus Stop And A Toni Restaurant