Soccer and Friends in Otočak

Author: Kali

While we were staying in Otočak, a small village near the Plitviče Lakes, we would race down to the local soccer field every afternoon. The four of us would only play for a little while, before some of the local children would start peeking at us from behind walls or suddenly be immensely interested in the dirt and potholes around the field. Slowly the children would gather. Then a serious discussion would start. You could hear a few English words in between fast Croatian. Words like, ‘Football… kick… play… Da! Da!… Hello.’ This was clearly heading towards fun.

After their meeting, they would come over and awkwardly ask if they could play with us, using the few English words that we had heard earlier. About ten boys, that were all around twelve years old, came to play every day.

Choosing teams was quite easy. We would point to players and try and gesture who would be in a team. It got much easier once we learnt the names of our newly found friends – Davide, Angelo or “Ankie”, Nicola, Luka and a few others. I was called “Kolly” and Eulain was simply “Yay”.

Eulain and I were the only girls that took part in the fast and aggressive game. Within five minutes all the players would be dripping with perspiration. As we played a hot, dry wind swept across the sports grounds.

After about thirty minutes of enthusiastic calling, gesturing, running, laughing and having heaps of fun, a crowd of local children would filter into the benches surrounding the small, concrete field. They would cheer in Croatian, and every now and again try to use English words like ‘Yes Baby!’. You could not help but to burst out in laughter at this!

Later, one of us would swap with one of them and the teams would be mixed. This is when the fun really began. Ankie and Ruzow, despite not really being able to communicate much, got on really well. At one stage, Ruzow passed a short ball to Ankie, the boy started yelling enthusiastically and waving his hands in front of him, ‘Run! Run! Run, Ruzow!’ Everyone cried out in laughter! It was hilarious!

It is always so special to interact with some of the local children of the places that we visit. It is amazing how different we grow up and how much we can learn from each other. As I am writing this, I wish that we were out there right now, playing soccer with the children of Otočak.

Until next time,




Pula and Kalmanjak

Author: Eulain

One morning, while we were staying in Motovun, we decided to do a road trip to Pula. We packed a picnic lunch and our togs (swimmers). After about half an hour in the car, Ruzow yelled out “Dad turn left! We are at the parking lot.”

Ruzow guided us on a self-guided walking tour that he downloaded on the ipad. Our guide lead us straight to the colosseum. It is magnificent, although not as big as the one in Rome. We also saw a few historic stone arches, temples and other things.

After our tour, we walked back to the car and drove to a place that was highly recommended by our host in Motovun. We followed a narrow dirt road to the ocean. The blue sea was just what you would have wanted on a hot day like that.

For the next few hours we were in and out of the water. At lunch time we had a picnic on the rocks. It was now very hot and we started to search for shady spots to put all our things.

After a while, the sea started to get quite rough. But for me this was the most enjoyable time. I would jump into the water from the rocks, then wait for the big waves to pass and then try to get back out. It is in the moments like these that you build the best memories.


[Unfortunately we did not have a camera with us to capture the fantastic time at Kalmanjak]


Motovun – Ancient Village On A Hill

Author: Mariza

[Not only is Kali growing up and starting to look like Mariza, she has now also started to write like Mariza!  – Jarik] 

From Slovenian Istria to Croatian Istria was a rather eventful affair with the border crossing. We did, however, eventually get through and went truffle tasting in the heart of Croatia’s most renowned truffle region. We visited several little hilltop villages and a castle. The boys had a pretend sword fight after we fought our way through thorny bushes to sneak a peak over a half broken down wall surrounding the castle. Fun fairytale stuff.

At exactly 6pm we made our way up a steep hill and into the village of Motovun. Our lovely hostess, Zvjezdana, welcomed us with cold beer and chocolate milk. What a find!! Our apartment is part of an old building inside the walls of the ancient village. The view from every window, as well as from our large terrace, is outstanding.


The entire village is perched on top of a steep hill with sweeping views over the surrounding valleys. Vineyards and fields of corn and sunflowers and the largest natural truffle forest in the world stretch out over the horizon. The valleys are surrounded by hills, each with either a church or a little village on top of it.


The best part of staying in Motovun is that every morning run starts going down the hill. I know this would be terrible for some (having the uphill at the end) but by the time you have to run back up the hill again, you’ve found your second wind, the surroundings have you on a high and you’ve had sufficient semi-flat running for a while. And, you have no choice. Starting up that hill would make for an easy excuse to go back to bed. The first five to ten minutes are in any case always the worst.

We had some productive school time here, despite the many attractions in the area. We extended our stay to fit in a number of great day trips. So many beautiful places to explore. The highlight, on Zvjezdana’s recommendation, was a day picnicking and swimming in the rough ocean off a headland in a national park. No facilities, but incredible beauty. You have to walk and climb a fair deal to get to it. Great way to keep the masses away!

In Motovun we spent lots of time wandering through the uneven cobble stone streets and on the old stone walls. And we had the best burgers ever, watching the sunset over the valley. Priceless.

We were sad to say goodbye to Zvjezdana and marvellous Motovun. We will never forget this wonderful experience, or the ginormous slab of chocolate she gave the kids upon our departure.

– Mariza –



Heatwave. Hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Truffles!

Author: Kali

[Not only is Kali growing up and starting to look like Mariza, she has now also started to write like Mariza!  – Jarik] 

After our reentrance to Croatian Istria, our aim was to find something (anything!) cold or wet to rid ourselves of the terrible heat. Hoping we would be able to swim, Mum led us to a nearby lake and a little village close to it. The car struggled up a narrow, dirt road to reach a tiny hilltop village.

The lake of false hope

We asked at a restaurant whether we could swim in the lake below. The answer was no, but the restaurant ended up being the tasting room of a world renowned truffle supplier. Dad, Mum & I were warmly welcomed and introduced to the wonderful world of truffles.

Truffles are difficult to find and very expensive as a result! They grow underground between the roots of trees such as hazel and oaks. Truffle hunters in Eastern Europe use pigs and dogs to sniff out truffles. To me they have an intense, musty and earthy flavour and smell. We tasted all sorts of oils, butters, spreads and dips all containing traces of the flavourful truffle. Even just a small bit of it is extremely strong.

I really liked the truffle and white chocolate spread. It was delicious and I could’ve finished the entire jar. Here I was, sitting in a free tasting room, critiquing an array of truffle products. ‘Hmm.. this is good! I’m going to taste it again… delicious! Oh! This is even better!’ And so it went on. Only later did I find out that you could pay up to $2000 for a kilogram of the musty fungus.

As we were leaving, the lady showed us a stunning view of a neighbouring walled hilltop village. She said it is called Motovun. It was where we would be staying for the next few days. All extremely excited, we headed off to discover this magical place.

On the bottom of the hill, all visitors must park their cars and walk the steep winding road to the village. However, because we had a special ticket from our hostess, we could drive up all the way to the centre of the ancient hill top town. I felt so important, driving past all the walking tourists that were perspiring their way up the hill. The smooth cobble stone streets are so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other. Our car struggled and slipped, but made it in the end. It was so worth it!!!

Zvjezdana, our hostess, warmly welcomed us to a clean and spacious apartment situated right in the centre of the tiny village. It was inside the ancient village walls and there were even two cold beers, and four cold chocolate milks set out for us! It had stunning views of neighbouring villages, vineyards and the largest truffle forest in the world, all spread out below. From being nearly dead from the heat, exhaustion, hunger and thirst, we all suddenly felt a tremendous spurt of energy. Ruzow, Eulain and I immediately ran back down to the bottom where the other cars were parked, to play soccer at the sports grounds. Every little village we’ve been to has at least had a little soccer field. (Esto was still out of action from the tummy bug.)

Mum and Dad sat on the balcony, soaking in the complete serenity of the surroundings. It was stunning! As the sun started its descent and the sky became a rich red-orange, us three soccer stars started huffing and puffing up the hill. The stone buildings gleamed as the sun struck their smooth surface and birds darted around the bright sky. I wish I could describe it better. Indescribable!

 We spent our days either exploring beloved Motovun or other nearby gems, such as Kalmanjak and Pula (the Istrain capital). I absolutely LOVE Istria! It is a magical and wondrous place.

When we had to leave Motovun, we greeted Zvjezdana with big hugs and kisses. Suddenly, she dashed into her apartment and came back with a foot long slab of chocolate for us. It was delicious (and quite a mess in the car as it was melting very quickly)! Thank you so much, Zvjezdana for having us stay in your picturesque Motovun! We will certainly be back!

Until next time,



Fortified cities

Author: Jarik

Our time in Croatia and Montenegro included a few days in three medieval cities. These were fortified as key ports during the rule of the Venetian Maritime Empire that came into power in the Adriatic nearly a thousand years ago. Dubrovnik was impressive in its scale and, with its beautiful white limestone buildings and shiny paved streets that rise up from the blue-green ocean, one can understand why it is a popular tourist destination. Too popular for my liking. Way too many of our photos captured other people taking photos! The whole city revolved around the tourists and every square inch was either a museum, restaurant, souvenir shop or accommodation of some sorts.  Korčula city was a very tiny version of Dubrovnik.

But hidden away, deep in the furthest corner of the Bay of Kotor and under the shadow of towering mountains, we found the real thing! Kotor city is authentic. The clothes of whole families adorn the washing lines strung between the balconies in the narrow alleys. Doors open up to kitchen tables and there are hardware stores between the bakeries and street cafes.


Although we were there in “high season” there were refreshingly few tourists and the few that were there were either domestic vacationers or Russian. We wandered the streets, walked on the city walls (from where some local boys were fishing), had a beautiful dinner on one of the city squares and enjoyed the festive sounds of street musicians. I took a few moments to reflect on the lives of thousands of people that stood where I was now standing, in a tiny church frequented by residents and travellers for over a thousand years. I was struck how the walls that were built around these people defined who they were, where they went and how they lived. It provided protection but also separated and isolated. Some things never change.


– Jarik –


The Beautiful Walled City…

Author: Kali

We arrived in Dubrovnik in the middle of the day, in the full sun and terrible heat from Korčula Town, by ferry. Our friendly host, Daniela, came to pick us up at the terminal. Before us, we saw a large town built around the old town and harbour, where big cruise liners moor in the dazzling blue water. We were eager to explore.

Daniela led us up several long, stone flights of stairs and narrow alleyways to get to our apartment. Cats laze around under the odd tree or bramble and vehicles park wherever they can. What a different life to what we are used to.

Only now do I understand why cars and other vehicles do not have side mirrors, or have big dents and smashed windows. The narrow little laneways are barely big enough to squeeze a motor cycle through, yet with other vehicles parked along the sides clogging the road, somehow the cars manage to get through the haze. I see the logic in all the many smart cars zooming around the city. They are super easy to park and fit through the tiniest places. This comes in handy in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik is made up of many old homes and buildings, all rock or concrete wit red roof tiles. Colourful wooden doors on some of these make a beautiful contrast.

Near the back entrance of our little apartment, there’s a concrete wall. Earlier that day when we headed to the beach, I found a ping pong ball floating in the harbour. I am desperate to play hockey or tennis. Traveling the world (backpacking especially) you must be resourceful.  So with a small wooden cutting board from the kitchen and the ping pong ball against the uneven wall, I got my tennis fix.

One evening we went to the old town to have a nice dinner, a look around and most importantly an ice cream. The old town itself is absolutely stunning! Festive little tables and chairs sit out in the alleyways. Each restaurant, café or pub has candles or lamps to light their part of the narrow path. The old churches are the only quiet and still places you can find within the city walls. These consist of amazing architectural designs, and are adorned with colourful paintings. Bands of traditional singers and musicians move through the city. Their music can be heard from outside the large stone walls.

What, however, spoilt all this magic for m,e was the masses of tourists. On top of the little alleyways being so small and narrow, it was extremely hard to move around. Everyone was everywhere, on top of everything, all wanting to get the same photos, wanting to do the same things. It drove me nuts! Every time one of those massive cruise liners would appear in the harbour, hordes of tourists would all head to the old town city gates and swarm the place.

We decided to eat dessert first. So as soon as we entered the gates to the old town, our first (and only) mission in life was to hunt for ice cream. I say hunt because firstly (and most importantly) we wanted to scout out the best ice cream in all of the old town and then secondly (this one mattered mostly to Dad and not the the rest of us) at a reasonable price. At last after our crazy search, we each had a large chocolate ice cream in our hands whilst exploring the old town.

We now started to notice how seats at the restaurants were filling up fast. At some places people were even standing in line, desperate to sit down and have a meal. We started casually looking for a nice place to eat. Of course, our tight budget had us walk past many places more in my class. 😉

At last, the perfect place came. In the budget, good food, and in a particularly beautiful little alleyway… and most importantly: a table for six! 😃 This doesn’t sound like such an amazing thing, but if you had only known how all six of us have been squished into places so unimaginably small, you would be rejoicing too. After South America, everything feels like luxury! 😂

One of the things I will never forget is when Dad suddenly emerged with a brown paper bag and a big grin. ‘I have something for you all!’ he announced excitedly. He took six candy tennis balls from the bag. They were massive gum balls! Dad specifically got the tennis balls because every spare moment we would be quickly checking the Wimbledon results. We are big tennis fans. Well, some more that others. And all the way home that night, Mum and Dad taught us four children how to blow bubble gum bubbles, something you would never expect your parents to teach you. It was loads of fun and a night I will never forget.

Tomorrow we will bus off to Kotor in Montenegro. Our time in beautiful Croatia has been way too short so far. Luckily we will return soon to this magical place. 😁❤️

Until next time,




Dubrovnik, Croatia

Author: Mariza

16 July 2017

Stunningly beautiful, but way overpriced and far too many tourists.

Our very kind hostess welcomed us at the ferry terminal and walked us up the steep hill to our apartment. Daniela and her family have gone the extra ten miles in their hosting efforts, leaving all sorts of treats for us.

A typical socialist era apartment building has been in the family for generations. The family now mainly rent it out to tourists over the summer months. The main source of income around here. The famSAMSUNG CSCily live in a small village outside Dubrovnik from where they operate their laundry business. Renting business space in the city is simply too expensive. They drive in every day to pick up and deliver laundry. Mostly from hotels, restaurants and tourist apartments. The mother is a civil engineer who cannot find a job in that field. It is tourism or nothing, she tells us.

After exploring the old city, we end up on a beach with rye bread and a bottle of red wine. A great spot for enjoying the sunset and avoiding the crowds. We watch the boats sail into the harbour. And we reflect on how very blessed we are.


We don’t do any tours or touristy things that cost money in this expensive city. We do wander through the beautiful limestone streets of the old city with thousands of tourists, though. And we enjoy the magic of rows and rows of little tables lining the narrow alleys. This is especially wonderful at night. We also walk around the harbour cove and swim in the cool, blue water. The beaches are nothing special considering where we’ve recently been. We have been spoilt!

As our bus snakes out of Dubrovnik we have a last glance over the old city. It’s impressive walls making a stunning contrast with the deep blue ocean around it.

Our next stop is Kotor, Montenegro.

– Mariza –


Captain Croatia!

Author: Ruzow

Dad woke me up at 4:30am. I quickly got dressed and had breakfast. Everybody else was still asleep as we went outside. Dad and I were going fishing with Daniel, the owner of the place we were staying at.

Less than ten minutes later, we were on the boat and getting ready to leave. When we were about 50 metre away from the mooring, I looked back and my gaze was met by a beautiful sunrise. It was magnificent. I watched the clear blue water for a few more minutes, when Daniel suddenly announced that I was to steer the vessel. He showed me how all the levers work and before I knew it, I had become Captain Croatia.

Captain Croatia

Over the next two hours, we pulled in 4 nets, each of them 200 metes long. In total, we caught 16 fish, but Daniel only kept twelve of them because the other 4 were poisonous. The biggest was to be sold to cover the fuel costs and the rest for Daniel and his family to eat.

All too soon it was time to head back. I sped us through the water to the mooring, carefully veering around a man on a kayak. Daniel then took over and tied the boat to the mooring.

The voyage was now over.

Written and Signed By

⚓️ Captain Croatia – Ruzow ⚓️




Kayaking in Prižba

Author: Kali

Wanting to make the most of the amazing ocean water and sun here in the little town of Prižba, we rented three kayaks to explore the Adriatic Ocean and surrounding islands. Mum and I; Eulain and Ruzow; Dad and Esto.

On advice of one of the locals, mum and I ended up choosing the best kayak for the choppy water.

As I slid it into the crystal clear water, we arranged that I was to sit in the front and mum to direct from the back. From the start our team worked together perfectly.

Normal… Okay, one left then two rights.’ Mum would command from the back seat and immediately we would change over to steer ourselves around the many little islands and coves. We had the same rhythm so mum and I were able to glide swiftly through the azure waters. We were way ahead of the others (I think the kayak might’ve been to our advantage) and had the time to stop and swim in the middle of nowhere. We anchored our kayak on a lonely beach, and drifted with the breeze. This was a special connecting time between mum and I on a kayak, in the middle of the Adriatic Sea.

Our aim was to row to a costal town called Brna to have ice cream. We were about a kilometre from it, when we realised that we would not have enough time to stop for ice cream and be back in time  to return the kayaks.

Our time in Prizba consisted mostly of swimming in the glorious water and admiring the view from our balcony. We managed quite a bit of school work too.

We made up for our loss, having ice cream on the balcony of our lovely apartment, overlooking the ocean. How blessed we are to experience the world, together as a family. I look forward to more adventure together! 😁

Until next time,

– Kali-





Kayaking on the Adreatic Ocean

Author: Esto

Our family of six decided to hire kayaks. We walked down to the beach and hired three kayaks. We went out on the ocean. Dad and I shared a kayak, Eulain and Ruzow and Mum and Kali. One of the staff told Mum and Kali to take the thin kayak. That was the best one and it went very fast. Dad and I made a good team. Not quite as good as Mum and Kali, but better than Eulain and Ruzow.

We kayaked for two hours. I really enjoyed it. We stopped a few times to have a swim. The water was refreshing and very, very blue. It was the hottest time of the day.

When we came back, I was tired. We walked home and had lunch. It was very nice. I washed all the dishes. Kali, Eulain and I walked to the kiosk to buy ice cream for all six of us. We ran back, because we did not want the ice cream to melt. Back home we sat on the porch and ate our ice cream. After that we went for a swim. It was lots of fun. We all played with a ball in the ocean.


– Esto –





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