Korčula town in Croatia is a place I’ll always think of as a sanctuary; a place where I paused briefly to revive my spirits.
There have often been times during my travels where I’ve reached the point of exhaustion and needed to slow down; to stop and reflect and appreciate what I’ve seen and done over the previous days or months. And it’s in this way that I’ve discovered some really fascinating and beautiful places. Mostly they’ve been tiny villages situated by the seaside, nestled in the mountains, hidden inside a fortress. But even big cities have resonated with me because of their history, their artwork, their beauty.
This is the first in a series of blogs – snapshots of these wonderful places where I’ve lingered for much longer than necessary. They hold a special place in my heart.
Some years ago I participated on my first voluntary work camp in Ireland through Service Civil International. For 10 days I worked with a group of like-minded travellers at the community of Ballytobin. This place was a sheltered environment for children in need of special care and our job was collecting apples from the orchard to make apple juice.
Working at Ballytobin was an incredible experience. We got to know some of the children and quickly began to feel part of the community, sharing some very special experiences. It opened my eyes to the joys of volunteering and, since then, I’ve volunteered on several occasions (both at home in Australia and overseas).
One of my all-time favourite travel experiences was volunteering at a brown bear refuge in Kuterevo, Croatia and below is an account of that experience.
Kuterevo’s brown bear refuge
Kuterevo is a magical place, nestled in the foothills of Croatia’s highest peak, Mount Velebit, and only an hour’s drive from the Adriatic Coast. I’m immediately inspired by its old-world charm and by its location, a valley surrounded by spectacular mountains. An old woman herds a flock of sheep across the road, pausing when she sees us to call out “dobar dan – good afternoon!” Already I’m in love with this village.