The Winter room at Schlosserov dom is so dark that I don’t wake until 8 am. It’s drizzling outside. Andy is pottering around, but Thomas is still asleep along the full length of the table like a blue caterpillar. Being too tall to cram into a bunk bed, he took his pick of the other furniture. Andy, slightly shorter, took the lower bunk, and Callum and I top and tailed above.
Breakfast is a bit sad today – we’ve run out of apples and I’ve accidentally already packed the spoons, so Callum and I take turns eating muesli out of a cup with the fork end of Callum’s broken spork. But we have great company, and we linger. A while later the morning is getting away from us, so we emerge from the hut into the rain, hoping to see Andy and Thomas a few days further down the track.
It’s a wet and slippery descent down from Risnjak. The trees keep raining long after the sky has stopped, and the undergrowth soaks our pants. Brown oak leaves mottle the path prettily, but ain’t so grippy underfoot.
We have lunch at the cafe at the bottom of the hill, near the entrance to Risnjak National Park (we’ve run out of lunch food). We tell the lady there that we’re hiking the Via Dinarica. I ask her about the red dot marker system and she confirms a suspicion which has been slowly growing – that rather than just marking OUR track, the dots are actually used to mark ALL hiking trails in (at least) Slovenia and Croatia. This may explain some of our previous confusion with the route. I feel slightly guilty about my online slandering of the dots near Grahovo, which apparently were just an innocent hiking track leading to… wait for it… Grahovo. Oops.
The lady asks us where we’re headed now. Delnice, we say! A small town south-east from here. We’ll spend our second rest day there tomorrow, so we’re kind of excited. It’s 15 km along the main road, she says… Did we want to take a bus? No! I say merrily. We’ll walk!
It takes us about four hours. There’s not a whole lot to see, aside from some signposts. We’ve been doing a lot of road walking recently and it can get me down a bit. I’m fairly irritable as we trudge on. Callum is more of an adult, and instead spends his time putting up with me.
We get into Delnice at ten to five. We’re staying at a place called Gale Apartments, which is essentially the beautifully kept top floor of a house, on the outskirts of town. An elderly man is chopping wood across the road and comes over to greet us. “Sprichst du Deutsch?” He inquires hopefully. His name is Marco. He puffs his cheeks and shakes his head sadly when he learns it’s just English, as if to say, ‘Damn, not again – what a shame!’
He speaks both German and Croatian it seems, but sticks to the former as we muddle our way through conversation. We have no chance of understanding either language, so we may as well be confused by German for a change! Perhaps it’s nice for him to speak in his mother tongue for a while, I ponder, if it’s all the same to us. He shows us the room and then breaks through the language barrier by asking, “Schnapps?” We join him in the kitchen and clink glasses. The drink is really good, with a green apple taste. He pulls out a map so we can show him our hiking route across the Balkans. He traces out numbers on the map with his fingers. How far? 1000 km? More?
Our room upstairs has a well-stocked kitchen, but tonight we stroll into town to find some takeaway pizza. It’s a lovely evening as the town quietens down. We somehow end up getting the most ginormous vegetarian pizza I have ever seen.
Lying in bed, I can see a forest of pine trees through the window. Tiny white insects swirl occasionally across the green, catching me off guard – was that a snowflake?
They never are, of course. In May it’s far too warm for snow. They’re just moths and other flittery things. But I think this means Croatia is growing on me.
Croatia, Stage 4
End and start points: Schlosserov dom to Delnice
Approximate distance: 24 km
Villages: Crni Lug – Delnice