Still excited about our last weekend's day trip to Dvigrad we wanted to explore more and started planning new Istrian adventures already on Monday! We figured that May is the perfect time to wander, April's rainy weather is gone and the heat is not in its full swing, yet. We were thinking water this time, so our plan was Zarecki krov, Kotli, Sopot waterfall. The only thing about day trips in Istria is that you think one thing, but end up wherever a beautiful view or a perky road takes you.
As we took the fastest road to Zarecje, the first part of our trip went without distractions. I have actually never heard of this little gem near the city of Pazin- a spot where river Pazincica created a waterfall over a cave and a little lake below. We were greeted by the sounds of the river cascading to the lake and a real frog orchestra! The water was perfectly fresh (but not too cold) to dip our feet and walk to the edge of the waterfall. I imagined jumping in those green waters on a hot summer day, but for now, I didn't take it further than just imagining.
We continued down the road to the village of Kotli, winding up and down the Istrian countryside, wondering at lovely little churches, sheep herds, roadside flowers and big white clouds. Suddenly, a view of the beautiful tiny town of Draguc opened up in front of us and lured us into its sleepy atmosphere of cobbled streets, spectacular views, and complete calm. We visited Draguc a couple of years ago and fell in love with it at first sight. I was excited to take a walk down to the little chapel of Sv Rok, perched on a meadow at the edge of the town. There was no one there, so we sat on its porch, taking in the sun and the views that are just too beautiful to describe.
We walked back to the main square which is also a viewpoint of the rolling hills of central Istria and Butoniga lake. We sat for a beer in a bar (which is the only bar in town) and it was there that the thought of calm, village life crossed my mind. We chatted a bit with the waitress and a lady that came for a drink- they told us that there were about 40 people living there with a couple of more families visiting on weekends. The youngest dweller is 14 years old, and with her growing up, there are no children left in this sleepy place. I wondered if the beauty and peacefulness that surround this town could make up for the absence of active social life, stores, school, pharmacy, anything that we are used to in the city. It kind of reminded me of an enchanted castle from Sleeping Beauty that was asleep for the last hundred years, it's beauty still there, waiting to be brought back to life. Could it be real, is a question that I'm trying to figure out now, a couple of days later. I'll be back to that place.
We waved the Sleeping Beauty goodbye and drove off down the narrow road to Kotli village. In Kotli, the river Rečina (the locals call it Mirna) formed cascades and hollows whose shapes resemble cauldrons, hence the name (the word "kotao" in Croatian means "cauldron"). I couldn't help but think of magic potions and Harry Potter's The Leaky Cauldron; it seems that every corner of Istrian countryside evokes some fairy tale, legend or fable. Interesting thing about Kotli cascades is that you can walk among them when the waters are not too high, so we descended to the spot that forms the biggest cascade, sat on the warm stone and watched the green river, the trees, the play of shadows and light that mild afternoon sun created and just took in the moment. From that spot, the river looked like a movie set for a hidden paradise, or some nook of the Russian countryside beautifully captured in one of my favorite books, Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches.
There is a lovely inn next to the river (conveniently called "Kotlic"-"Little cauldron") that serves simple local dishes- homemade pasta with asparagus or mushrooms, sausages with sauerkraut, fried potatoes, dumplings with plums and cinnamon etc. I liked this restaurant so much that I included it in the list of my favorite restaurants in Istria. We had a lunch with a view and then decided to leave the Sopot waterfall for some next adventure, and enjoy the rest of the afternoon walking down the river trail and taking photos of the wildflowers scattered all over the path. There were people searching for wild asparagus, but we were on a hunt for elderflowers, we wanted to make some juice. Driving back to the main road, we did find one petit elderflower tree, which had just enough flowers for us to make a couple of liters. I couldn't have asked for a better day.