Beautiful. Magical Istria. It stole my heart and my mind. It was a weekend road trip to Istria even though the weather was not promising. Bura was blowing along the coast the whole weekend but it couldn’t blow away the beauty of Istrian nature and history left behind of small medieval hilltop towns. The road trip was a combination of wandering and discovering places I have heard of but have never been to, and visiting the cycling race Istrian Spring Trophy which is held every year at the beginning of the spring and the cycling season.
Driving all the way from Varazdin to Rijeka the weather was really playful. Rain, snow, wind and at the end sun awaited us in Rijeka. However, Bura welcomed us and pretended to be our road trip companion along the way. However, we did not mind its nasty dance 😉 Indeed, it fulfilled our adventures and overall experience.
Oasis of calmness. Istria. It looks like a sleeping beauty. Picturesque landscape, tiny local roads, olive trees, vineyard, truffles, biska, medieval charming towns on hilltops, glagolitic alphabet, caves, rivers, biking routs, aromatic herbs, beautiful fields of lavender, Istrian delicacies are just some of the puzzle pieces that create the whole astonishing picture of Istria, its cultural, historical and natural attractions. Discovering Istria is an unforgettable experience. Experience that makes you richer. History full of legends will capture your attention and give you a deeper insight into historical heritage and local traditions. Welcoming and friendly people will make your stay very authentic and enjoyable. Istria is for me an unreal reality.
If you ever visit Istria it won’t be just for one time. You will be back for more! For my boyfriend and me, 2 days road trip was just an intro to a longer visit to Istria and a serious road trip to be planned later this year.
Sliding along the river Mirna we have visited some of the astonishing and breathtaking small old medieval towns in northern Istria. Northern Istria lives in a harmony with its longest river Mirna and hilltop medieval towns built by strong giants according to many legends. River Mirna is 53 km long and its source is in the area of Buzet, in the Kotli valley from where it flows towards the sea passing Buzet and Motovun valley. According to the facts, in the past the river Mirna was navigable in its major part and it greatly depended on its depth. In 15th century Venice began to deepen the river beds after the centuries of neglect. It allowed Venice to transport wood from nearby forests, dedicated to St. Mark, known as Motovun forest. After the collapse of Venetian Republic in 1797, the channels were not maintained and meadows have turned into swamps. Due to the frequent illnesses (malaria) the population moved to the higher areas along the river Mirna.
There is a legend about the Argonauts, Greek seamen who in 1200 BC captured the Golden Fleece on the shores of the Black Sea in Asia Minor, and traveled along rivers and underground waters to the Mirna River and settled on the slopes.
Magical Motovun. Walking the cobblestone street of Motovun probably you will feel the same. Magical. The city center is located on a hilltop, encircled with massive walls from the 13th and 14th centuries. Around the city you will find several coats-of-arms of different Motovun ruling families and two gravestones of Roman inhabitants (dating from the 1st century). From all around the city there is a spectacular and unique view on the Mirna Valley, vineyards, Motovun forest (a habitat of oak trees and truffles) and surrounding hilltops. It is a home to a renaissance and gothic houses, cobblestone streets, church of St. Stephen built in 17th cenutry, the bell tower from 13th century, the Town Hall which is the largest Romanesque building of its kind in Croatia, and a podium for summer festivals including the most known, world class Motovun film festival, hot-air balloon competitions, festivals of truffles and wines.
The legend says there were giants in the past living in Motovun. One of them was Veli Jože, a symbol of strength and power. He was so big and strong that he could shake the bell tower of the Motovun church with his bare hands.
Very close to Motovun (6 km away), on the opposite hilltop hidden Oprtalj is awaiting. Driving through Livade (a world centre of truffles), along the peaceful villages, up the serpentine we have reached another Istrian gem. A small picturesque town. was formerly a fort surrounded by defensive walls where houses were built among the former town gates. Just in front of the town gates there is a Venetian loggia with the collection of stone monuments and an amazing view. In the very centre of the town there is a parish church of St. George built in 1526 and 27 m high bell tower. There are many remains of old stone houses around the town making you feel kind of sad passing by. At the moment I felt like the city misses people and wants them to bring him back to life.
One big atelier. Groznjan. It is known as the city of art and artist. City of culture. City of creativity. City with soul. Numerous galleries and studios, music festivals, music academies, dance and drama workshops enrich its historical meaning. I will call it a playful ground for mixture of creativity and happiness. Its heart starts to beat faster during the summer time.
Pazin is a beating heart in the center of Istria. It was first mentioned in 983. The Pazin coat of arms consists of a shield and the tower of the local Castle. The fascinating medieval Castle of Pazin (Kastel) is situated above the 130 m cliff where the Pazincica River flows into the Pazin Pit (Pazinska jama). As a special morphological and hydrological phenomenon, the Pazin Pit was proclaimed a protected landscape in 1964.
Few years ago I watched a tv report about Kotli and since then I wanted to go there. It was on my road tripping list in a blink of an eye. Kotli is for now my favorite hidden gem of Istria. Breathtaking scenery, pure nature and crystal clear water of river Mirna. Small, hidden village and old stone houses in the untouched nature passing a story even today to every visitor. It is also known as a place where giants rest. Kotli has kept its rural look since the 19th century and this is why it is so special and magical. Hidden among tiny local roads where the silence speaks aloud.
The old stone houses have more wooden elements which make them more complex and prettier than other stone houses from the surrounding areas. This way of architecture is due to the well-being of local craftsman (there were well known tailors and blacksmiths). In the past there were two mills in Kotli. They were a symbol of the place. If you visit Kotli you will have the opportunity to see one mill that has been preserved and renovated as well as the natural and historical beauty of a sleeping village.
Hum is known as the smallest town in the world. According to a legend Hum has emerged when the Giants were building towns in the Mirna Valley, and out of the remaining stones they built Hum. Hum is only one hundred meters long and thirty meters wide. Ancient time lives today throughout its eternal citadel, narrow streets, fortifications, a 600-year-old stone Glagolitic graffiti and a tradition of choosing the prefect on the stone table even today (the old 16th century custom). When in Hum you should try Hum biska which is a homemade schnapps made of white mistletoe and four types of herbs. It is a 2000 yr old recipe .
A center of Glagolitic literature. Many Glagolitic books and documents originated in Roc. The town is declared and protected as a cultural monument of a great importance.
“Once upon a time, when fairies, magic and dragons ruled the earth, giants gathered stones and built towns on beautiful green hills. People came to live in the towns while the giants escaped into the dense woods where they still hide today…”