We had a long drive today, a lot of time to reflect on our time in Sarajevo. I can’t say we had a wonderful time, it was a very difficult visit for me but a necessary one if I am to ever understand how countries and people can turn on one another in such a brutal way after years of living as one. I still don’t completely understand what happened in Yugoslavia and perhaps am even more confused but I do know that tolerance, respect and understanding are the only solutions to people getting along. We cannot all be right in our beliefs and I realize that I cannot change someone else but I can change the way that I react to them and it has to be with respect and tolerance and understanding I have to find a way to keep a dialogue open.
Our drive takes us to Karanac a small village in the northeastern part of Croatia just 20 minutes from the Hungarian and the Serbian borders. We have come here to get out of the cities and to see how a rural family lives and their B&B is charming and complete with chickens, rabbits and dogs. We are greeted by Denis, a very cheerful, outgoing fellow and as he always calls Goga “his beautiful wife”. Yoga welcomes us with plum brandy and freshly made doughnuts, WHAT! Yes, still warm doughnuts; I can’t even tell you the last time I ate a doughnut and these were scrumptious.
Denis tells us a little about his farm that has been in the family for a couple of generations and then shows us to our room. Our room felt so warm and cozy with hand embroidered linens, beautiful old pieces of furniture and a vintage treadle sewing machine. We went back out to the courtyard to find Goga hammering away at fresh walnuts from their tree another tasty morsel. She showed us the house, her tiny kitchen where she cooks up all sorts of delicious treats, the breakfast room with a wood-burning fireplace in the corner to take off the morning chill. Her shelves were filled with colorful homemade jams, jellies, preserved peppers and tomatoes; it made me hungry. Outside, bags of walnuts, ears of corn and heads of garlic were hanging from the eaves to dry.
Denis took us on a little tour of his garden, peppers of all kinds, a pear tree weighed down with fruit, a plum tree, walnut tree and chestnut tree. We helped him pick walnuts many hands making quick work. While we were busy picking walnuts someone noticed that one of the dogs, Luna, had picked off a chicken! Naughty girl, she’ll be in the doghouse tonight for sure.
Goga gathered us all in the breakfast room and introduced her friend Ljiljana who was going to teach us to make cheese, a farmer cheese for breakfast the next morning. We made two wheels, one was sweet with dried fruits and walnuts and the other savory with spicy peppers and chives.
We had been invited for dinner with a local family and walked the few blocks to their home. Our host was Serbo-Hungarian and lived with her husband, a wheat farmer, and pre-teen aged son who was a great help with the dinner. Before dinner she showed us her greenhouse, filled with beautiful, healthy tomato and pepper plants, so important in the local cuisine. Her English was very good as was her son’s so we had a nice evening, delicious dinner and good conversation. It felt good to walk back to our B&B after a very big meal.
The next morning, still a bit full from dinner, we gathered in the breakfast room, it was toasty warm with a fire in the fireplace warming the room for breakfast. A couple of us helped Goga prepare bread dough, set the tables and get the food on the table. The cheese that we had made yesterday was unmolded and ready to eat, it had a very mild flavor but went nicely with the homemade smoked sausage, fresh eggs and deliciously decadent fried bread and a variety of Goga’s jam, raspberry, quince and plum. Delicious!
After our breakfast we met another family member, Danijel, a skilled potter. We met him in the crowded pottery shed for a demonstration, he made it look so easy but having tried pottery years ago I know how hard it is to throw a pot. He had clay out on the table for anyone who wanted to try their hand a hand-building a piece and few of the group did. Before leaving he presented us all with a little souvenir cup that he had made, nice memento.
We bid Denis, Goga and Danijel farewell and walked down the street to a family-run winery, Szabo, for a tour. One of the daughters greeted us, talked about her family and the vineyard and we tasted a few wines before going down into the wine cellar for more tasting. It was pretty early in the morning for wine but we had to be polite . . . didn’t we? We made our purchases and then as we prepared to leave she presented the group with 3 bottles of wine to take with us to lunch, what a nice surprise.
The restaurant for lunch was a short walk. The Baranjska Kuca was part restaurant part open-air museum. We were greeted with a welcome drink, plum brandy and then left to roam the property. In back of the restaurant was a collection of old buildings, traditional houses, sheds and implements from Karanac’s past. When it was time for lunch we went back in and the men were put to work chopping onions for the stew, a traditional red paprika and beef stew. The lunch and wines were delicious but with full bellies and more than enough alcohol most of us napped on the drive into Zagreb.
The visit to Karanac was my favorite part of this trip and such a nice change from the heartbreak of Sarajevo. Denis, Goga, Ljiljana and Daniel could not have been nicer, they made us feel right at home, like part of the family. For a very small village it has a lot to offer.
We arrived in Zagreb at dusk, our hotel was located across the street from a park and it was bustling with activity. After getting settled into our room we went out for an evening stroll through the park, it was a “Burger Festival”. Many booths were set up and grilling burgers, everyone trying to outdo each other. Hamburgers and beer, did not expect to see that. We continued through the old city center just to get oriented for tomorrow.