Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Walking with Neanderthals

Only true nerds plan an entire holiday around their daughter's desire to go to a Neanderthal museum (and then blog about it), but that's why we ended up in the Krapina region in December. And since it's over two hours from Koper and we weren't going to be popping back, we also booked a guided tour. Mysteriously, our elder daughter didn't feel well enough to come. In her defense, she went back to bed and didn't get up until we got back mid afternoon. Or so she said.

Krapina Neanderthal Museum: Reconstruction Atelier Daynes. Photo by Davorin Vujčić.

The museum is built on the site of a famous paleoanthropological (early human) excavation. As with many of our adventures at museums and tourist attractions around here, we were the only visitors this day, and got a personal tour from Professor Uvodić, the senior educator at the museum.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Quick Lit January 2019

Happy new reading year! Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy to review the past month's reading. How was your 2018 reading life? I really got my reading muscles going after seriously taking up the reading hobby again. I went from 27 books in 2017 to 51 in 2018 - despite packing/ selling everything we owned and moving across the world. (And amazingly,  I am still married.)

A book stall at Zagreb's Advent market. Pretty neat!

Katherine Arden - The Bear and the Nightingale
I bought this some time back, so I didn't remember any details other than it being a retelling of a Russian fairytale. I haven't read fantasy for years, so it took a little while for me to get immersed in the world, but then I was hooked. Vasilisa is born with the second sight and communes with the spirits around her, also honoured by her people. But her new stepmother, aided by a charismatic priest, tries to stop these superstitions, unwittingly feeding a growing evil. Sensitive readers beware: it morphs into a horror story by halfway through. There came a point in time when I knew I could not read it just before bed. Fun bonus for me: the author uses lots of Russian words, many of which I recognized now I am studying a Slavic language.

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.)