Some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life have been through a shared adventure.
It was one particular adventure last June in the Neretva Valley that I met Pat, a fellow wild woman and lover of the natural world, in particular rivers.
It was a day to remember. We took in a couple of fascinating museums - The Natural History Museum in Metkovic and The Archaeological Museum in Narona - before taking a bird-watching boat trip on the river and a lunch of frogs and eels.
I’m quite happy to forget the food that day: one of those local delicacies I’m always going to say “yes” to trying, but that will be going firmly in the “not for me” box from now on.
Everything else, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. With exactly the people I was with.
As the day went on, I learned that this kindred spirit of mine was also known as “Pat, Pat, River Rat”, as she’d spent a large part of her life in, on and around rivers, and writing about them for publications over the world.
So when she came to visit me here this year, already having seen the usual Dalmatian coast highlights, there was no doubt in my mind where I would take her.
The Rijeka Ljuta in Konavle.
More specifically, the water mills and woodland around Konovoski Dvori.
The restaurant is charming, and beautifully located, but for both of us, the magic is in the forests.
As we head down the path alongside the river, we imagine it filled with little woodland sprites and fairies, there’s a little rainbow next to the water tumbling down the mill, and the light coming through the trees is like the heavens are trying to communicate something - that it’s all going to be ok.
It’s the first day of good weather in a while, we’ve both had our challenges to overcome recently, but here we are, reminded that there is magic everywhere, if we just look for it.
There’s certainly something very special about the Rijeka Ljuta.
Rijeka, if you don’t know, is the Croatian word for River, and Ljuta means “angry”. I later find out that some of the locals refer to it as the “Tabasco river”. It certainly has a kick to it in winter as the water gets so high and charges down the mountain into the sea.
As we sip on fresh lemonade by the water, we chat about how water is the ability to transform, how our bodies are largely water, and how life is so fleetingly transient, just like water.
“That’s all we are - a leaf floating down a river”, Pat points out, and I think what a perfect metaphor this is.
Life is going to keep on moving, and taking us down the stream, to new, unknown places, so we can either fight it, or just flow with it, like the leaf.
The rest of the day’s Tour around Konavle just flows, as we enjoy some of the region’s food and wine. After lunch at my old favourite Lancana by the water in Molunat, and Lorco wine at Crvik on the way home, we are full of ideas and inspiration.
Pat has been just launched a new online magazine, LifeRecipeMagazine, which features people from countries all over the world sharing their stories and recipes from where they are from.
Many of them are written by people she met in Croatia, including myself (good old Yorkshire pud, of course!).
It doesn’t surprise me that there are some many interesting internationals here in Croatia. There’s one common thread that runs through us all - our love of this beautiful country, from it’s diverse landscapes, the food and wine, and of course, the endless opportunities for an adventure to meet like-minded souls.