Monday, 29 October 2018

Days of Autumn

After several rainy(ish) weekends, the one of the 20th managed to play nicely for two events - and no one had any new illness, just the dying remnants of coughs from old infections. On Saturday, we joined our daughter´s school community hike up Monte San Leonardo, beginning from the Italian hill town of Samatorza. But, to immediately backtrack, many of the hill towns just over the border are pretty much Slovene communities that stayed put when the borders were established after all the conflicts of the first part of the twentieth century.

Our daughter gloomily predicted that she would be the only teen compelled to go on the walk. And to be fair, she was right. We had both the oldest and youngest child there. But she got to engage with teachers outside of school, and be dragged out of bed before eight on a Saturday, so what does she have to complain about?

The drive to Samatorza through several villages convinced me once again that I will never be a fully-fledged motorist here. "What are you talking about?" said my husband. "Compared to English country lanes these are highways."

The three year-old was happy to be in his backpack once again, though he apparently expected a cave tour, remembering the excitement of Skočjan. It was not so exciting for us. He acquired that annoying childish habit of growing over the summer, so he was considerably heavier than when we last hiked. What to say about the hike? There were children, there were many small dogs, there was conversation, there were country lanes in fully-fledged autumn, like England, except the light was more golden.

Our son´s wish was unexpectedly granted when we stopped off for the adventurous to explore the entrance of a cave, and for the puffing and panting among us to be grateful I had overpacked when it came to water bottles.

The climax of the walk was the ascent up Monte San Leonardo. This was the point at which we could not even backpack (can that be a verb?) the toddler between us, so he got to climb the last part of the way.  We stopped just in time at the top of the hill, to rest in the shell of a (probably) fifteenth century church, where our boy was outraged that I had not packed a full picnic.

From there it was a thankfully downhill trek, stopping for kids to climb what is known as the pointless lookout, and for an adventurous dachshund to roll in fox poo. Lunch was at an Agritourism farm, Gruden Zbogar. They are popular around here, as restaurants and/or accommodation. You know you are passing a cultural milestone when you are thankful the menu is in Slovene as well as Italian. I followed a recommendation to order something that included a local dish, chifeletti, a sort of combination between gnocchi and a potato croquette.

Home to naps between continuing to work on the mountain of washing from all the shipped clothes which were rather less than fresh after five months in storage.

Sunday, we went along to the Days of Agriculture festival down in Koper. It was more a giant food fare than expo, but it did have tractors kids were allowed to climb on, and a mini farm animal exhibit, so the toddler was just about happy (apart from screaming when I walked past a cube of cheese that he apparently had to have or die).

The photo turned out like this accidentally, but I think it says it all about boys and their toys

The main tent was a marketplace for Istrian agriculture. Cheese, meat, honey, wine, lavender, and pumpkin oil abounded. I also bought some scrummy fruit cake that was almost like Christmas cake (and I was enthusiastic about getting a whole cake nearer Christmas until we figured out that the woman lived a three-hours drive away). There had been a honey competition for local beekeepers the day before, which is why I think everyone included three particular types of honey on their stalls: acacia, bay, and woodland. It was fun to compare the types. I swear I could catch an aftertaste of pine forest in at least one of them.

People here still tend to eat seasonally, and feast on cherries, apples, squash, chestnuts, whatever has just been harvested. After years of American supermarkets offering everything all year round, I am trying to get into this new habit. Right now it is the end of apple season, and squash, chestnuts and Croatian mandarins are in. I am still sporting a cut and blistered thumb from my attempt to remember how to peel hot chestnuts.

A second tent was more informational, with a death-defying display of edible funghi (below), and a very scientific-looking olive oil stand.

By the end, the bottom of the stroller was full, and my purse was literally empty. Luckily, sitting on tractors one last time does not cost any money. On writing this, I reflected that the tractor company should have stocked up on toy tractors. They would have made a killing, and we would have had the beginnings of a tractor collection.

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