Wednesday 24 May 2017

Where everyone knows your name

I've always lived in big anonymous cities. Life here in the village is different. 

Here, everyone knows your name.

My father is from here so I'm known as A's daughter. (My father's name is actually M but everyone calls him A – because everyone seems to have two names here: an 'official' and 'unofficial' name – this probably needs to be the subject of a future post!) My husband is known as A's zet (son-in-law).

The village has only a few hundred inhabitants and is made up of a few extended families who have lived here for generations so it's not surprising that everyone knows each other. No anonymity here!

But sometimes I'm surprised that even in Pazin – a town eight kilometres away with a few thousand inhabitants – it's hard to be anonymous.

I was reminded of this recently when my husband and I visited a government office there. He needed a document, so he filled in a form with his personal details. The clerk then told us when we could come and pick up the document. She was friendly and chatty and casually mentioned that she grew up close to the village. “You know that road that leads to your uncle's house?” she asked, wanting to point out to me exactly which house she grew up in. A flicker of confusion must have crossed my face because she paused and asked: “So-and-so is your uncle, isn't he?” I nodded, but I was trying to figure out how she knew who I was. I hadn't even given her my name!

So even people in Pazin know who we are... even if we don't know them. There have been many other incidents like this:

Sometimes when we meet people and tell them where we live they answer: “Yes, I know.”

Then there was the time the cashier at the supermarket asked my husband how his brick oven project was going.

And when someone drove into the back of our car at a stop sign and later the same day, my aunt called to ask how bad the damage was.

But the creepiest experience was at a hardware store in Pazin: a man who was intently studying me said to me: “Your mother's name is so-and-so and she's from this-place.”

It's not that my family is famous or anything. That's just how things are here. 

Like it or not, everyone knows your name!

Monday 15 May 2017

Cycling the Parenzana (Part 4): from Vižinada to Poreč

One reason I enjoyed spacing out my journey on the 123-km-long Parenzana trail over several months is that I was able to experience the different colours of each season as I cycled or walked through the different landscapes I came across.

I started out in Muggia in Italy in early October, cycling through this initial stage of the trail that crosses the border into Slovenia and follows the coast all the way to Buje in Croatia. There was a late summer feel to that October day and autumn hadn't yet fully started. It was a sunny day in November when I walked through Autumn landscapes from Buje to Livade on the second stage. And for the third leg from Livade to Vižinada, the rural scenery I walked through was painted in winter colours. 

On a day in early May that was threatening rain, I was on the final stretch of the trail from Vižinada to Poreč on my bicycle. Now the fields, forests and olive groves set in red earth I cycled past were painted in the brilliant green of the first days of Spring.

I started off in Vižinada where I took in the stunning view of Motovun in the distance. Hilltop Motovun was the ever present landmark of my previous walk, but now I turned my back on it and headed towards Vižinada. This section of the trail is on a slow and gradual decline so it was an easy ride. The route was pleasant and picturesque, but compared to the previous sections there were fewer 'wow' moments as the land got progressively flatter as I approached seaside Poreč. And there were no scary pitch dark tunnels!

I have now completed the 123-km Parenzana trail. Would I do it again? Yes! I would especially like to retrace the section in Slovenia by bicycle and the trail from Grožnjan to Livade on foot. Many people do the entire trail by bicycle in a single day, starting in Muggia, Italy and following the path of the former railway line all the way to Poreč, Croatia. Three countries in one day by bicycle? Yes, in Istria it's possible. The trail is dubbed 'the route of health and friendship' by the tourist office brochures because it links the three countries that make up geographical Istria.

Next I'll be writing a short and handy little guide on the trail with a few tips and recommendations. Coming soon!

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