Story about old road
It is summer again and we are travelling to the coast. Probably we woke up somewhere in the middle of the night to avoid the traffic. I am a kid, maybe 7 or 10 years old and I do not understand why being stuck in the traffic is not fun. We are taking one of two roads, two old roads built back in Napoleon era, depending if we are going to the ferry or not. Maybe the bridge is not repaired still. It was demolished in the war and there is only one-way pontoon bridge. There are only two roads and a pontoon bridge, but two roads are bustling with life. Those roads are alive.
While driving, we are playing games. Often I am trying to guess where are from cars which are passing by. Every few kilometers along the road I see a restaurant or guesthouse. We often stop to freshen up ourselves, stretch our legs or grab a coffee and juice for me. It is already afternoon and the smell of baby pork or baby lamb are calling us. They are slowly roasting on the spit in almost every restaurant and few can resist them.
It takes hours and hours for us to arrive, but we see and learn so much while travelling. These trips are my first contact with geography and demography of Croatia. First time I learn about foreign cities because I see cars with different licence plates.
How highway almost ruined everything
Croatia changed a lot in past 20 years. We got highways and fresh built toilet stops and expensive Marché restaurants. As the result, first few years after the construction, old road almost died. Traffic was mostly redirected to a new and modern road and all that restaurants were left empty. Each time you passed, you could notice more closed and ruined objects. You could see how the road was losing it, soul.
Ten years after this road has a special charm. The trip takes longer than if you take a highway, but not much longer. Traffic is none to moderate and drive is pleasant. Some objects along the road survived and you can still smell the pork slowly roasting. For the amount you would spend on tools, you can have a fantastic traditional lunch. You can stop and grab a coffee and stretch your legs in a family owned restaurant, not the chain owned one. And you can visit so many interesting places on the way to your destination.
Unique watermill village of Rastoke
Right before the plains are replaced by forests and mountains, that is where unique watermill village of Rastoke is located. Popular mostly among locals, Rastoke are often called Plitvice’s little sister and they certainly deserve more touristic attention. Here river Slunjcica overflows to river Korana, creating beautiful waterfalls, cascades and lakes making this location just perfect for watermill village.
My grandpa was born in a village approximately 10 km away from Slunj and Rastoke. I still remember the stories how he and his family walked every day to Slunj to school. From time to time they went to Rastoke to get flour. Of course, they were making their own bread and this small village was significant for their existence.
Luckily, its significance is getting noticed. Last few years more and more people decide to stop in Slunj and Rastoke on the way to or from the coast. Beautiful traditional houses and mills are getting restored while many households turned to tourism, agriculture, and gastronomy.
Why we loved restaurant Petro in Rastoke
We stopped by on a day when Jaime run a marathon. His first. He was not in the mood to walk around Plitvice Lakes afterwards (or walk at all hehe) so I am sorry to say we did not explore Rastoke as much as we should. In order to save few kuna, we parked on public parking right before the bridge (if you are coming from Slunj, it is located on a right-hand side). You should keep in mind that parking in Rastoke is quite expensive and limited.
During our short walk, we discovered some beautiful mills, small waterfalls, and charming wooden houses. Soon we stumbled upon a lovely restaurant Petro where our dog Lota was more than welcome. We found a table on the terrace and ordered few local specialties. The restaurant was traditionally decorated and attracted my attention while we were waiting for the meal.
Are you traveling with a pet? Read our advice here.
What should you eat in Rastoke?
To begin with, in restaurant Petro our attention was immediately caught by a unique appetizer named “Hunter’s Tale” (Lovačka priča in Croatian). Bear, deer, and boar prosciutto were served with different types of local cheeses and pickles. When platter arrived, first we loved it looks and then we adored the taste as well. We never tried anything alike so it was a great decision to order this wonderful meal. It literally made our day and we shared it in a second.
For the main dish, Jaime and I were craving fish. Rastoke is known for serving fresh trouts so we did not need to think much. Grilled trout was simply delicious and served with baked potato (which lacked some seasoning though). Dad decided to take veal under the bell served with potatoes, which is as well Croatian specialty. Especially relevant is that all dishes we ordered were fresh made and very tasty. Together with drinks, the total bill for three persons was 400 kn (almost €55). With our bellies full and happy, we were ready to continue our trip back to Zagreb.
To conclude, did you ever visit this wonderful village of Rastoke? It is probably the cutest little village you can find on your way to the coast.
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