Wednesday, 9 January 2019


No, I'm not talking about a bad end to the year, but our trip to the Krapina region of Croatia. Since I had been holding down the fort for much of November and December while Ted went on two business trips, and our eldest child was arriving from the US for Christmas and New Year, we decided to have a little family pre-Christmas holiday, and the Krapina region checked all our boxes: spas, castles, museums and Christmas markets.

The drive there was uneventful, especially for me, who got to sit in the back seat and let our adult daughter be the co driver  - until we got to the border crossing. The guard skimmed through all the passports, until she got to my husband's. Then she shook her head and said he wasn't allowed through here - it was a local crossing, apparently, and non-EU citizens couldn't cross. We didn't even know there was such a thing. Not even his Slovenian residency card melted her heart - so we turned around and wended our way to the international crossing.

All cottage photo credits from FB page: emakucazaodmor

We rented an Airbnb cottage in the small village of Tuheljske Toplice. Just having two storeys and not being in an apartment was a nice change - as was having a fitted kitchen. There's a balcony running along one side of the house, so the children could go out and scrape snow off the roof which they proceeded to stuff down each other's necks (we just missed a snowfall - the weather got pretty mild while we were there). The place was heated with a wood stove, which had an ingenious vent system taking the hot air through the house. It was a lovely feature, except when it came to debating who had to get up first in the morning to light the fire. We also appreciated the mountain of towels (there were three women in the house - enough said).

We decided to take things easy the first day, and headed off to Krapinske Toplice, for the Aquae Vivae spa. There are lots of thermal hot springs in this area, and consequently lots of spa towns. If this conjures up images of Jane Austen and bath chairs, think again: someone around here had the bright idea of going beyond the health resorts and building water parks over the springs. There were bathing and exercise pools, a wave pool, children's area, water slide, even a scuba diving pool. The fun part in winter is swimming into the outside pool, luxuriating in the hot water when the air is freezing. The other fun part (for everyone else) was the big water slide. However, remembering my rule of two minutes of bravery a day, I had a go. It wasn't too scary. Actually, I was such a wimp that I didn't lie down properly, so I sort of shuffled rather than slid.

Mural in the lobby.

The girls also tried out the wave pool, which was okay, until when I pondered out loud how they were doing, my husband quipped, "Probably drowning,", which roused their little brother into a rescue mission. He insisted I rush him across the spa, shouting "Sisters! Sisters!" The sight of his siblings tossing in the massive waves did nothing to reassure him. "Beatrice! Don't drown!" he yelled. Thankfully she escaped death and came to "shore". After all that excitement, Alcuin had to be dragged to lunch, declaring he wasn't hungry. Except when we sat down, he realised he was starving, and had a meltdown. Since he was wielding a sachet of ketchup, it was not  a pretty outcome.

After lunch, elder daughter went for a massage and we mostly hung out at the children's pool, which was so shallow, my husband lay back with his head on the edge and fell asleep while Alcuin bobbed about in his swim ring and occasionally swam over his father to wake him up. We would have stayed longer, but we didn't want to drive back in the dark and sleet on winding roads, so mid-afternoon, we had to pull our simmered, wrinkly selves out and get on home. First one in gets to light the fire...

Look, they're alive!

Touristy stuff: Here's the link for our Airbnb cottage. We would definitely recommend it. It is well stocked with amenities, plus lots of toys and games. The parking area is down a steep slope, so we parked on the side of the road. Also, if it matters to you, the shower is a small wet room area by the side of the toilet, fine for adults, a little harder for small ones. But Alcuin got a week's worth of baths at the spa, so that was OK.

Here's the link for Aquae Vivae, and the spa that is closest to the house we rented. We think winter is the best time for a spa visit - you get to luxuriate in warm water when it's cold outside, and it's much less crowded. It cost us 240 kunas (32 euros, 29 pounds, 37 dollars) for three adults and two children for day tickets, plus three of us rented bath robes for the day, but in retrospect we could have done without them.
(Don't forget to pack your body lotion like I did - I have to admit I was a little itchy for a couple of days after soaking off a layer of skin.)


  1. I am so happy to read your wonderful writing. What a beautiful trip with your children and in
    such a delightful place.

  2. What a nice trip/journey. The pool looks very inviting. My dad's grandfather came to the US from Croatia (Yugoslavia at the time). My brother is the only one in our family to have explored that region, which I understand is beautiful. What a great adventure you've been having. One for the books.

    1. You should go. It is beautiful and interesting - lots of Roman and early Christian sites (like basilicas with amazing mosaics). It is one of my favourite destinations.