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Treehugger Dan's Positive Blog: Holiday in Kalnik

luka10Having been chained to the house for months on end trying to sort out the problems with the well, water pipes and heating repairs, I was finally able to break away for a couple days. I decided to visit my friend Olinka with whom I used to work at the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, and at Green Action Zagreb. I had not seen her in about 8 years. Since we last met she had renovated 4 houses in her home village of Kalnik, Croatia and turned them into guest houses called Luka10. It was quite a transformation, since the last time I was there chickens luka10kept you company in the toilet. Now Luka10 is beautifully renovated and the grounds include a swimming pool with a panoramic view of the valley below and the castle behind. The castle was built by Hungarian King Béla IV when he fled south from the Tatars, and is supposed to have been the first Hungarian castle built from stone. I arrived in the evening after a 5.5 hour train journey to Križevci, where Olinka picked me up. Twenty minutes later we were in Kalnik and enjoying a meal of mushroom soup, good cheeses and a bottle of good red Josic cuvee Croatian wine in the company of her lagotto romagnolo truffle dog Bree. Croatia is a great location for truffles, especially on the Istrian Peninsula. I stayed in the bigger house which used to be a barn. When I entered there was a wood fire burning, and everything was toasty warm. I loved the lamp-chandelier in the living room. The two bedrooms on the top floor are actually separated by a bridge above the living room! I could smell the luka10old wood the bedroom walls were made from. In the morning, Olinka went off to work and I wandered around the village for an hour and a half. It is a small village, but even so, it took me that long to find the shop and pub. But, I worked up a thirst and got to see some beautiful houses, the landscape, and the castle ruins. There is also a lavender farm in the village, and a woman who makes organic raspberry cordial. A myriad of biking and hiking trails criss-cross the area, and maps are available. The pub, completely unmarked, is located above the wine bottling operation across from the shop. I had a Laško dark beer and read a truly fascinating book by Mark Kurlansky - Salt: A World History on the terrace. The writing style reminded me of Bill Bryson's recent spate of non-travel, historical books.  After a light lunch I sat on the sunny patio luka10soaking up the last warm day before the weather finally became more wintry. In the evening, Olinka's sister Sonja joined us and we went up to the local mountain hut for dinner where I had been many times to conduct environmental workshops over the years. I was looking forward to a glass of their mulled wine, but the previous night a large group came and ate them out of house and home. We headed back to Križevci where I had a very good 4-cheese pizza at Chillout. The next morning I went into work with Olinka to the local tourist board, like Tourinform here, housed in a large former neo-Renaissance-style synagogue. I wandered around the town of about 13000 for a couple luka10hours. I first tried the local museum housed in a beautiful old house with replicas of old Croatian dwellings in the back. It only opened at 10, but the gate was open so I went up to the second floor for a view. Almost as soon as I left, someone came out, left the building and locked the gate behind her. I was lucky not to be locked in. The Gallery, featuring a temporary exhibition on WWI was similarly only open from 10. At the Milnar bakery I fulfilled my craving for a cheese-spinach bürek. There are a couple of these in Budapest, but the company turns out to be local. Three small kiosks for local producers are set up in the centre; one for honey, one for fruit and veg, and one luka10for homemade chocolates. The chocolate place, Hedona, is run by people with disabilities. I bought 3 bars of dark chocolate, but they also have white chocolate, milk chocolate and bonbons. The train was waiting at the station, but it was confusing because the wagon numbers, train number, and destination sign did not match my ticket. The station master insisted it was my train, so I boarded. Luckily the ticket-taker on the train explained in English that I needed to change trains at the next station (no mention of this was made on the MÁV website). The trip back was bathed in sunshine, much of it along Lake Balaton.