When the subject arose of where we might venture for the fourth, and final school holiday of the academic year, Berlin and “someplace else” were the top contenders. Given that winter and its petulant dreariness had been hanging on us like an overtired toddler at Disney World to his parents, “someplace else” gradually evolved into “someplace warmer than Vienna” and claimed the top holiday spot. 
So, on Saturday it was off to Croatia’s Istrian peninsula.  We rented a newly renovated Mediterranean-style house, complete with all modern amenities, in a little village on the east coast of the peninsula. The forecast for the week called for mild temperatures and with a chance for a rain day on Tuesday. Perfect!  A down day from sightseeing to catch up on homework (the children) and some pleasure reading and napping (we grownups), with perhaps a small fire added to the charm of a “day off” during our holiday.
First, of course, was the slog to get out of Austria. Surprise! Wet and cold, snow and rain. (Stock tip: invest in Austrian windshield wiper solvent. The ROI will set you up for life.)
Slovenia seemed little more than a drive-through country. Maybe it was the gray. Curious relics and roadside remnants from its past intrigued us, and perhaps we’ll get to Ljubljana and Bled someday, but really, that was about all. 
I caused the Border Patrol Officer to roll his eyes when I asked for stamps in our passports as we entered Croatia. Croatia joins the EU in July, so I’m sure the officer was too busy counting the days to his retirement to be bothered stamping passports, but he did anyway. I thanked him. 
In surprisingly good time given the six hours of rain, snow, and heavy coastal fog we drove through we reached the petrol station where we were to meet the owner of the house. I’ll call her Ilka. Ilka had explained that many small villages in Istria do not have street names; the village name and house number served as the address, and so it would be easier if we followed her to the house. 
Weather aside, the holiday got off to a less than idyllic start when, in response to my text that we had arrived at the scheduled time and place, Ilka said, “The house is not ready. Go have a coffee and I will text you in an hour.” I explained that we had just driven six hours, the children and the dog were with us, and we were not interested in coffee.  She then snapped back with, “Go get some groceries.”  
Realizing that sitting in a petrol station parking lot in the pouring rain would not be productive, we went grocery shopping. Because, of course, there was plenty of space for provisions in an unpacked station wagon; and, I like to be ordered around by the person to whom I will eventually hand over the balance of the rental payment for my holiday.
TWO HOURS LATER, Ilka whipped into the parking lot of the petrol station, looking suspiciously like she (and her “assistant”) had been out shopping for the day and just maybe not getting the house ready.
The rain had stopped, but as there were no rugs or mats at the entry to wipe wet shoes and paws, only I traipsed across the floor with my wet boots for the information download. Dogs were indeed welcome, as Ilka had confirmed when I inquired two months ago, but now she added that she did not want Clayton Theodore upstairs, on the furniture, or in any of the bedrooms. I assured her that Clayton Theodore only slept on the dog mat that we brought with us and that we would tell him not to go upstairs or into the sleeping rooms.
Have you finished laughing over that little white lie?  I shall continue. With an artistic wave of her hand first upstairs (to the sleeping rooms and bath), a slight glance to the fire (that she had quickly started before racing to the petrol station en route from her shopping outing) and then finishing with a swoop across the main level, the tour of the house was complete.
Ilka offered to draw a map to the restaurant in the neighboring village at which she had made reservations for Easter lunch for us. This is the map.
The directions: “Go into the square. Between the two buildings there is a path. Take the path to the restaurant.” It is clear Ilka was never a Croatian Girl Guide.  I had to ask her three times for the name of the restaurant.
I then inquired about access to the Internet, one of the amenities touted in the rental description. Ilka looked at me as if I were speaking in the ancient Croatian Glagolitic tongue.  After a very long pause she said, “There is no Internet. You can only check your email.” I will bring you The Stick in an hour. When I reminded her that Internet was included in the amenities, she only said, “You didn’t ask what kind.” 
This is when we decided that our children may well be recruited to lead the village donkey around the corral in circles in order to power The Stick if we all wanted to check our email this week. 
Tony unloaded the car and attempted to stoke the fire, but lacking fire tools it was a bit of a challenge (however did Ilka get the fire started, we wondered?) Anna Grace retreated into a book; and Jack, Clayton Theodore and I roamed the little village while we waited for The Stick.
Not a footpath, but the two-way road in our village.  

To be continued…