After lunch on our second day in Croatia, we wandered off from the restaurant to another part of the building where I discovered where they kept their homemade wine…
And as though that wasn’t enough, I found out where the prosciutto was cured too! To be fair, I was led there by my sense of smell as the smokey flavour of the curing ham wafted in my direction…
All I’m gonna say is that they’ve very lucky they found me on time as I’m pretty sure I would have done my very best to gobble down the entire stash!
We soon hopped into the car and headed to our next stop – Vranjaca cave. I’m not sure what it is about caves but I find them so fascinating. I think part of it is how hidden they were and how much goes on in here that you would have no clue about if you don’t actually head into the caves (like how sometime prehistoric animals like wildcats used to live in caves and how so many fossils and evidence of wildlife can still sometimes be found in caves) but I digress…
We made our way to the caves taking in the stunning landscape as we did….
… before emerging at the entrance of the cave.
You can tell Lloyd’s the one with a background in geography as he’s always excitable around anything natural like this (he’s the geography buff and the reason we all went to places like Iceland in the first place). I tend to avoid walking near him in caves for fear of seeming ignorant and stooooooopid for not knowing all the random stuff he knows about the caves… (I just cave for the juicy stuff – like knowing what sort of wild life was here or how the caves were formed – you know, simple things,. 🙂 )
We made our way deeper and deeper into the cave (which by the way, is fairly easy to do so don’t worry if you’re not a fan of uphill walking like I am, you can definitely still see this cave)…
I know this speaks to my immaturity but the caves take me to adventure scenes in a movie or something!
Before long, I was darting around, taking pictures of everyone else and pretending like I was in my own action movie… (I think I blame all that delicious Croatian wine for my burst of energy and over-active imagination)…
… and of course how dramatic the caves look!
Case in point… (once Lloyd was able to wrangle the camera off me)
Finally we made our way back out of the cave and headed to our next activity, Quad Biking across the countryside (read the full details).
The next day involved so many amazing activities across the countryside (with a guy who knows a thing or two about the Croatia countryside) and seeing so much more of what Croatia has to offer (which most tourists would probably miss out on) but as that’s a huge post – I’ll cover that one next time. Let’s skip forward however to the afternoon later on that day when we arrived at a town called Sinj.
Sinj is one of those countries that has such a diverse history and series of influences from all over Europe. This little quote from Wikipedia probably explains the history best –
“Sinj was seized by the Turks in 1524 who maintained control until 1686, when it was occupied by the Venitians. The town grew around an ancient fortress held by the Ottomans from 16th until the end of 17th century, and the Franciscan monastery with the church of Our Lady of Sinj (Gospa Sinjska), a place of pilgrimage. The last Turkish siege in 1715 was repulsed. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815 until 1918, the town (bilingual name SINJ – SIGN) was part of the Austrian monarchy (Austria side after the compromise of 1867), head of the district of the same name, one of the 13 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in Dalmatia. The Italian name alone was used before 1867.”
Now, do you see what I mean?
To celebrate their history over the Turkish Empire in 1715, the Tournament of Sinj (the Sinjska Alka) was started and this tournament involves the townsmen riding on horseback and trying to shoot a spear through a ring split into different compartments.
The highest score is if you get the spear within the hole in the spear.
FYI, I had a look at this hole and it’s actually quite tiny so it’s not an easy feat! In any case, this is a huge celebration in the town and people get dressed up for it so don’t miss out on it if you get a chance to visit! The statue above is to commemorate the tradition.
On arrival in Sinj, we were all ready for lunch! We made our way through the town in search of food (and wine of course – I think I was probably addicted to having aperitifs and wine with every meal by this point – I kid you not, I was a bit taken aback when I had my first meal without an aperitif and wine in London… That Croatian wine lifestyle suits me just fine I think. 🙂 )
We finally arrived at the restaurant, which is so unassuming in front, but once you get in and step past the initial facade, you get into the heart and soul and the old historic part of the building…
This by the way, is the circle I said the Sinj Alkar needs to shoot the spear through… See how small it is? For the town lower sections on the side, the Alkar gets 1 point if the spear goes through, 2 points for the top section and 3 points for the circle in the middle.
3 points to Lloyd!!! 🙂
We soon got about the important business of lunch and getting our tummies filled!
A roasted platter of meats by the way is a typical Croatian meal (we ate this so much pretty much everywhere we went)….
And then, we got the opportunity to try something we’d never done before – frog legs. The first time I’d heard people at frog legs, I’d been surprised to say the least (this was oh, so many year ago of course). My surprise soon gave way to curiousity and my curiousity (and wine addled-thinking) finally led me to order them and try them at the restaurant.
They were actually quite tasty! “Tastes just like chicken” I said, at which one of the guys remarked with a cheeky grin “Why does everyone say that? If it tastes just like chicken, why don’t we all just eat chicken? Surely it’s cheaper!“. He was joking of course as he tucked into more pieces of frogs legs at alarming quick speed at which point, I proceeded to embrace myself by laughing so hard I pretty much snorted my wine (“Atta boy, Yaya! Keeping it classy…“)
The frogs legs are definitely one of those local cuisines that sound so different and foreign to anyone who’s grown up not eating them but they’re actually quite tasty so if you’ve never had them and are in a decent enough of a restaurant (where you know the quality is pretty spot on, I definitely recommend trying them out).
We carried on exploring the town of Sinj (and in the process tried to walk off our feast at lunch)…
The countryside and the landscape here is pretty fantastic!
Finally it was time to say farewell to Sinj and head back to our hotel where we got the chance to relax, unwind, explore the local area and perhaps even have a nap before dinner (which we were all ill-prepared for after having such a gigantic lunch)…
We decided that the walk would probably do some good and help work off an appetite for dinner. Plus it was a lovely evening for it too…
We got back to the hotel in time for dinner… (which was another feast but for a change, we had fish instead of beef/lamb/chicken)
We all tucked in!
The food here is not designed to be fancy or overly pristine. It’s food prepared for a family to feast on, bond over and celebrate with each other and as we all recapped our activities over the last few days, we definitely felt every bit Croatia living through this daily tradition of families across the country!
We headed back to our various rooms, filled with lots of wine and food and left very content indeed!!! 🙂