It’s almost November and we all start thinking “over the river and through the woods…” An iconic sentiment from a song that commemorates “going home” to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. For one fortunate group of travelers in 2017 there was an early, special “homecoming” in September in Pokupsko, Croatia – gratitude included.
Travel to foreign cities is exciting but authenticity is often lacking as the tourist experience can feel like cold, canned drama. The joy of staying in a real home in a “less-traveled” area, guided by a true native who shares the region’s passions, and eating farm-and-forest-to-table, home-cooked meals, is rare and, fortunately, available.
I grew up in Pokupsko, Croatia and maintain my familial relationships with this small magical town just outside of Zagreb. My grandmother, Ljubica (Violet), raised me in a country home on a family compound and now that home is a charming, warm, and welcoming pensione named Vila Dora.
Our first day in Croatia, from Zagreb airport pickup, is settling in to this cozy base. Locally grown herbal teas, fruits and nuts are available in the living room around the clock. If it is cool, the fireplace glows and fresh wood awaits in the wood box. After lunch, a short walk to the local church provides opportunity to meditate and connect spiritually to the profound natural canvas of Mother Earth and her gifts. The history lessons begin too as the signs of an all-to-recent war in the area are revealed in bomb-shattered bells. We also see the love and dedication to rebuilding.
September is porcini season and the surrounding forests provide a wealth of this treasured mushroom’s savory goodness. Food does not get any fresher than here; it often finds its way from field to plate in a matter of minutes. We ate porcini in omelets, in soup, in salads, in risotto and more. You can see the garden from Vila Dora and nearby fields also provided the organic white corn for a traditional dish as well as the einkorn wheat flour used to make the homemade breads that even the most gluten-sensitive person can eat.
Meals are family style. The family cooks the meals and joins us at a long table either inside or on the porch overlooking stunning terrain of trees, distant mountains crowned by an ancient church steeple and radiant sunsets. The extended family becomes your family. No well-trained smiles from the hotel clerk; here our hosts come to greet you with heart-warming hugs. Meeting your needs is an natural extension of their generosity and spirit.
As I plan the Pilgrimage for 2018, I take to heart feedback from 2017’s pilgrims that beginning and ending the journey in Pokupsko is truly perfect. Explore the photo gallery of Pokupsko 2017. Visit bit.ly/nadacroatia2018 for more info on our next Pilgrimage.