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15.09.2021 14:43 by Tobias Lohmann
We are on the road again, and this time by Bike & Boat in the Kvarner Bay. This varied and wonderful archipelago never ceases to amaze, seeming to reveal something new every time we visit. An island we hold especially close to our heart is Cres. Officially the second largest island in Croatia, it only missed out on the title, held by the neighbouring island of Krk, by a few square kilometres.
Cres is an absolute natural paradise, the nesting place of the rare giffon vulture and home to ancient olive trees that sway to the rhythm of the wind. The whole island is characterised by thousands of years of history. Despite this, Cres has taken on a rather western character and so we expected that there would be internet access across the entire island.
After climbing many meters above sea level, having had plenty of fun on the trails and enjoying the breath-taking views of the coast and the Vraner Lake, located in the island’s interior, we arrived in Podol. We stopped for a break at Claudia Heckl's cosy garden café, and it was here that we learnt that Podol is completely cut off from the outside world.
Claudia is a native Austrian and globetrotter. She used to travel the world as a documentary filmmaker and lived in South America for 25 years. In 2010 she met her Croatian partner Roberto and settled with him in Podol on Cres, where she now works as a writer, among other things. She sells her books from her home and offers homemade fig ice-cream, puff pastries made with her own sage honey, coffee, and homemade lemonade in her garden.
Trust us when we say that a delicious fruit ice-cream or an ice-cold lemonade is the best possible thing after a challenging bike tour on a hot summer’s day! So, we ended up staying on in Claudia’s garden café longer than we had originally planned. This gave us time to talk to Claudia some more and ask about the colourful woollen nets we had spotted on her small stall table. Thanks to our curiosity and inquiry, we got to hear the most wonderful story.
A few years ago, Claudia Heckl launched her project “Podol in the Net”, creating her very own interpretation of a global network. Claudia crochets colourful net shopping bags made from leftover scraps of wool which she sells to visitors from all over the world for 10 euro a piece. These wonderful handmade bags are a great alternative for plastic bags, helping to keep the environment cleaner. Every bag has a number and each time Claudia sells a bag, she records the purchase in a book along with the number and where the net will end up when taken home with its new owner. Everyone who purchases a bag is also given a postcard and is requested to send it back to Claudia with a photo of the bag from their home country. And in this very creative way Claudia has managed to create a global network, even without the world wide web.
Mali Podol, 51557 Cres / Croatia
A visit to Claudia’s garden café is well worthwhile, even if only for the delicious treats. But what truly makes a visit so special is Claudia, an extremely interesting and open person who is an absolute pleasure to talk with!