ISTRIA & KVARNER
Inspirational Viewpoints in Istria Whenever you are travelling through Istria, take a break at some of its viewpoints, climb a medieval tower or observe the surrounding area from a high church bell tower, the experience will always be unforgettable. The view can capture the whole wealth of diversity, from the undulating landscapes with vineyards and olive groves to the blue of the nearby sea..
Formerly known as the bastion of the Istrian mining, today it is the town of galleries and art studios. During summer Labin turns into a town of art, and on its streets most significant events of the contemporary art scene take place. So do not hesitate, enter its old center and furtively glance in the galleries, in the art studios and visit the churches of Labin like, for example those of St. Stephen or enter into the Parish church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the 14th century. In the meantime you could also visit the Memorial collection of Matthias Flacius Illyricus (1520-1575), collaborator of the famous Martin Luther and one of the most eminent supporters of the Protestant reform, born just in this place. If you follow the street of G. Martinuzzi, you will reach Fortica (belvedere) from which suddenly appears a magnificent view to the sea with Rabac and the island Cres, and also to the Istria’s highest mountain – the mountain Učka. If you are fed up with Labin sensations, ride further through Vinež towards Golji and St. Martin. With the homonymous Parish church from the beginning of the 20th century, built on the place of a previous one dating from the early middle age, St. Martin has grown around former aristocratic estate, best confirmed by the so called ‘Baron’s yard’. From one side bordered by a well cultivated pine wood, this yard consist of several buildings built in different periods of time, which closes the inner yard with a miniature tree line leading to the beautiful, one floor baroque palace Lazzarini with a quadrangular turret at the northern entrance. If you ride further over Martinski, you reach Šumber which name derives from a feudal family name Schönberg. Just few straggling little houses and a round tower of the former castle walls, is all what is left from the feudal castle dating from the 17th century, built on the fundaments of a prehistoric hillfort rising over Raša river valley. Riding through Potpićan, the youngest place in Istria, founded by the today’s closed anthracite coal-pit shaft, you get to Kršan, a feudal property named after the rockiness of the surroundings. The most characteristic of all the fortified towns of the entire Raša river valley, Kršan has grown on the fundaments of an old early middle age burg, which constituted an independent gentleman’s estate under the Pazin shire. From the 14th century under the Austrian dominion, and then until the 19th century owned by several families, Kršan has remained as one of the most preserved castles in Istria which almost encircled an entire townlet.
Before departing towards Nedešćina and the industrial area (and Crodux gas station), back to Labin, carefully remember this place! Right here, between the high walls of the Kršan castle, dominated by a quadrangular tower adorned with human figures and the nearby Parish church of St.Anton, the abbot who lived in the 17th century, the renowned ‘Istrian demarcation Act’ was found in 1850. It is one of the most important middle age documents. At first it was written in Glagolitic and then in Latin and German languages. The document reveals the clearly set territorial borders of the middle age Istrian territory.
STROLLING THE TOWN OF DRAGUĆ
Draguć as we know it today was formed around the homonymous medieval castle, which is nowadays almost completely incorporated in the architectural structure of the later periods. Mentioned in 1102 as deed of conveyance by the Istrian Margrave Ulrich to the Aquileia Patriarchs, later as part of the future Pazin County it belonged to the Counts of Gorica and finally to the Habsburgs. The town was attacked while the settlement surrounding the Castle was burnt and destroyed by both Ottomans and Venetians, and when it eventually came under the reign of Venice, Uskoks and Austrians did the same. What wars had begun the plague continued on more occasions and in 1855 cholera put the end to it having decimated the population. That the town survived is a pure miracle just as it is the fact that so much has been preserved up to the present times. The main street ends in a spacious square dominated by the bell tower of the parish church, built in 1844. The harmony of 19th century facades is complemented by the huge Mediterranean hackberry trees with an old stone table under them, a symbol of the former city government, and an interesting fountain dating back to 1888. In the south-western part of the square, extends a breath-taking panoramic view over Grimalda and Butoniga Lake, whilst the impression is highlighted by a Renaissance tower, today a favourite view point, built by Venetian provveditore Francesco Basadonna in the 15th century. The Basadonna’s coat of arms was installed on the wall beside the steps, and below it is a dedication by which the Draguć municipality perpetuated its gratitude to the builder of the defence walls. On the right of the steps is an embossed relief of St. Mark’s lion, the symbol of Venice.
GORGEOUS VIEW FROM OPRTALJ
If you head to north-western Istria, you must visit the small and picturesque town of Oprtalj, located on a tall hill (378 m above sea level) close to Motovun and Livade. Oprtalj offers an impressive panorama of the surrounding forests, vineyards, olive groves and fields planted with other crops typical for this area, which bears a striking resemblance to Tuscany, so it comes as no surprise that Istria is often compared to this famous Italian region. This area is famous for three more locations well-known for its sights. Below Oprtalj-Portole, next to the Mirna river, there is Livade, a world centre of truffles. In the immediate vicinity of Livade, Zrenj also called Sridone is situated, a former town of skilful and rich craftsmen such as blacksmiths, weavers, stone-masons and the birth place of St. Geronimo.
Every visitor is welcomed to this medieval hilltop town above the spring of the Mirna river as it says on the main town gate inscription: ‘come and visit this little town, the warmth radiates from its hard stone’. Hum is reputed to be the smallest town in the world with just 20 inhabitants. Its structure is essentially urban, with fortifications, town gates and numerous Glagolitic inscriptions. The old 16th century custom, where inhabitants choose a prefect among themselves for a period of one year was reintroduced in 1977. The parish church with its Classicist façade was built in 1802 on the site of an older church. The Church of St. Jerome, in the graveyard, is decorated with 12th century frescoes
THROUGH FORESTS, VINEYARDS AND OLIVE GROVES
If you are a nature enthusiast and have a little good will and 3 to 4 hours free, why not try free cycling tours in Funtana. Drive along unpaved trails or paved roads with very little traffic leading through picturesque forests, olive groves and vineyards or opt for a longer ride by the sea. You can choose either a 35 or a 45 km long route, but whatever you choose you will enjoy stunning landscapes as well as an inspiring ride by the sea. The northern route leads from Funtana towards the Istrian interior. Wide, white paths will take you through small, attractive Istrian villages. St. Bečić, Valkarin, Žbandaj, Filipini and Veleniki are just some of the interesting points. After passing Poreč, an easy ride by the sea follows back to Funtana with breath taking views over Istrian bays. The route also runs along the famous Parenzana bike trail.
VIEWPOINT BELOW THE CHURCH OF ST ANTHONY
The archipelagic uniqueness of Vrsar is best appreciated from the viewpoints of Vrsar. As Vrsar has been situated on a prominent hill by the sea since the Middle Ages, it boasts excellent viewpoints overlooking the local islands, islets, bays and inlets. The views of the island of Sveti Juraj, Vrsar quayside and marina, Church of St Mary of the Sea, and the abandoned Montraker quarry contribute to the value of the Vrsar viewpoints. The views of the old town of Vrsar, old stone houses built in the traditional style and distinct uniqueness of chimneys that dominate the houses in the old town centre are particularly cherished. The largest and most beautiful viewpoint is located below the Church of St Anthony of Padua, just below the Small Gate of Vrsar, offering a wide view toward the southwest. It is one of the oldest and largest viewpoints of Vrsar. The viewpoint is situated in the shade of trees. There are benches, a stone table and traditional Istrian water cistern (šterna). Behind it, an intimate ambient of a small square in front of the Small Gate and the Church of St Anthony of Padua. It offers a beautiful view of the island of Sveti Juraj, historical quayside of Vrsar, modern marina and a part of the Belvedere tourist resort.
IMPRESSIVE SITES OF PULA
Pula, the city with a 3000-yearold history, is world famous for its valuable cultural and historic monuments. Some of these re – nowned sights are the Arena, sixth largest in the world or Twin Gates, the Temple of Augustus, the well-preserved Roman Forum or the Communal Palace. How – ever, not as much information is known about the impressive heritage of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy dating from the 19th and beginning of the 20th cen – tury, undoubtedly a real cultural and historic treasure. In fact, this refers to entire Pula, which from 1820 to 1916 was being architec – turally shaped as a fortified town. Once the major naval port of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy Pula, together with its surroundings, has kept for over a century 26 magnificent forts or fortifications, as well as 8 artillery batteries, about 60 batteries, trenches, underground tunnels and many other points of interest. The outer ring of Pula’s fortifications covers an area of 40,000 hec – tares and according to legend all forts were interconnected by a network of underground tunnels. Especially interesting is the story according to which Fort Marie Louise at Muzil was connected with the fort on the Brijuni islands by an underwater tunnel. Pula’s fortifications were designed to defend the city from possible attacks from the sea and were built to resist every possible attack – for this reason they were mostly circular or ringlike so that shells could rebound off the walls. They were all built at excellent locations, mostly lookouts that even today offer enjoyheritage a magnificent view.
WONDERFUL STRINGS OF ISTRIAN HERITAGE
The culture of food and drinks, which makes many fall in love with Istria, is an essential part of its Mediterranean identitiy. The traditional art of making olive oil and wine, all the way from the land to the table, brought together and connected generations and families. The mastery of making sugar cookies (cukerančići), a type of dessert from around the Pazin area, is a wonderful instance of local tradition, known throughout Istria. Traditional fishing skills were often the backbone of seaside living; they kept communities together. Fishing is also tied to a rich culture of belief in saints, patrons of fishermen and seafarers. The art of building flat-bottomed fisihing boats, called batana, is typical of Rovinj. It’s been traced back to the Middle Ages, with the mastery passed on from masters to students for many generations.
Outstanding tresures of intangible culture are found in Istrian local dialects and its music. Istro-Romanian is a Vlach speech that has almost disappeared. It has been spoken by several communities in Istria since the 16th century. Istro-Romanian is still spoken by small groups of people in the villages of Šušnjevica, Novošani and Žejane. The local dialect of Žminj, which is considered to be the oldest Slavic speech in Istria, is also protected as a valuable instance of intangible cultural heritage. Classical Istrian double-voiced singing of tight and non-tempered intervals through the nose, also known as singing thick and thin, has been celebrated by musicians and heritage admirers.
Bitinada is a musical expression of fishermen of Rovinj. As they spent their time fishing from batana boats, they would sing in a way that imitated the sounds of string instruments such as guitar, double bass and mandolin. It takes three bass and three guitar sounds to perform, but despite the musical improvisation found in bitinada, lyrics in some of the songs were written by well-known local poets. Istrian farmers didn’t fill their time with music only. Many traditional games have emerged through history. One of them is pljočkanje, originating from the old shepherd games of throwing stones at the target, or as close to it as possible. Although it was briefly forgotten, pljočkanje came back to life thanks to a group of enthusiasts from central Istria and the suroundings of Pula. Today there are a dozen clubs and associations of people playing and learning this traditional game.
Stone walls (suhozidi) and shepherd huts (kažuni) are a true trademark of Istria, and a strong connection to some ancient, different times. Stone walls were built using a special techniqe, with no binding material and very little stone processing. Such method of construction goes back to prehistoric times.
A remarkable diversity of wine growing traditions… Wenn die Liebe zur Weintradition selbstlos geteilt wird… The people of Istria have been historically linked to grapes and wine making. In Istria, wine is both a passion and a necessity, part of the culture of life. Soil diversity, red along the coast and white in the hinterland, adds another dimension to the wine-making culture. Set off and discover the wine roads of Istria, and their many wine cellars, where an un – forgettable experience awaits you. And on your way back through the vineyards, intoxicated by the wine and the beauty of nature, don’t forget to thank Dionysius for favouring the magical Istrian peninsula.
Buje – Krasica The undulating area of Buje is one of the most famous wine-growing areas of Istria that is coloured with a number of wine trails that connect scattered wine cellars and agro tourism houses. Various grape varieties are grown in the vineyards of the fertile Buje area, of which the most famous is the indigenous Istrian Malvasia, an indispensable part of the identity of this peninsula. The trail, which mostly passes through the rich wine-growing area, quite appropriately starts at the Town’s Wine Cellar in Istarska Street. Take this street and start to descend towards the main road. A hundred metres before you reach it, and just after the crossroads where Istarska meets Sunčana and Vladimira Nazora Street, turn off the road towards the south. At the start you will descend through olive groves and then will travel through the forest to reach the lowest point on the trail (123 m), located right where you pass across the most commonly drained bed of the Potok stream. What awaits you next is the just over five kilometres diverse but steady climb. You will pedal for about 500 metres through the woods and then you will come across a gravel road that runs through a number of vineyards. Continue to climb southwards for around 1.5 kilometres until you come to the road by the Stancija Loj. The road to the right (to the west) goes towards the hamlet of Baredine, but you need to turn left, to the east, towards the main road and the village of Krasica, made up of a number of scattered hamlets. With a slight ascent, slightly longer than a kilometre, you will be followed by a green forest to the main road, and to the right by gentle slopes of fertile vineyards and olive groves. Continue to climb on the main road for about 500 metres until you reach the village of Krasica, known for its excellent winemakers and olive growers, who have grown many new vineyards and olive groves over the last ten years. In March every year, one of the oldest Istrian olive oil fairs known as “Oleum Olivarum” is held here, and expert oil analyses by local producers indicate very high quality. We therefore recommend you not to miss a tasting of the premium olive oil and wine from local producers before leaving Krasica. When you do decide to return to Buje, at the main crossroads in Krasica, turn left to the north towards the hamlet of Gardoši… A full description of the entire trail can be found at www.istria-trails.com, a specialised website for hiking or run-ning enthusiasts, featuring some eighty trails. Most trails have maps, altimetry and technical data, whilst a GPS track is available for free use, as well as descriptions of interesting itineraries to help you explore the most interesting corners of our small peninsula. All GPS data published on the site has been prepared with the utmost care. And of course, always observe safety rules and stick to the marked trails! We wish you a pleasant walk, hike or run!
TOP 5 BENEFITS OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Did you know that Istrian olive oil was exported by the ancient Romans throughout the Empire? It is simply unique! Olive oil enriches our diet and cures various ailments. It is used in body care and said to be an aphrodisiac. It is a symbol of the Mediterranean and therefore of Istria as well.
Olive oil as food It is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean cuisine, one of the healthiest in the world. Have you tried premium Istrian extra virgin olive oils during your stay in Istria? If you have, then you must have bought some and you’re using it in your kitchen. If you haven’t, we highly recommend that you do.
Olive oil as an aphrodisiac Why not? We suggest that you try truffles, which abound in Istria, along with a few golden drops of olive oil. According to traditional belief, olive oil also has aphrodisiac properties – it is considered to give strength and vitality to lovers.
Olive oil as a medicine Did you know that olive oil is one of the healthiest oils? As a medicine, olive oil is effective in the prevention of many diseases and inflammations. In this day and age, who does not have high blood pressure or problems with the digestive system on account of their way of life? Have you noticed that sometimes you have trouble remembering some piece of information? Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day to keep your mind sharp!
Symbol of the Mediterranean and Istria Have you had the chance to visit National Park Brijuni? It is home to one of the oldest olive trees in the Mediterranean and is approximately 1,600 years old. Istrian olive oil has been synonymous with the finest oil ever since the ancient Greeks and Romans, and it set the benchmark for all other oils.
Olive oil for beauty Did you know that olive oil has been considered to contribute to youthful-looking skin ever since the ancient times? At the same time, olive oil helps weight loss! It is also an essential ingredient of countless masks and creams for stronger hair and nails. Admit it, now you wish you could bathe in olive oil like Cleopatra.
The Ćićarija mountainous pla – teau of white limestone cliffs covered in greenery rises on the northern part of Istria, stretching from the hinterland of Trieste and Koper all the way to Rijeka and Opatija. Its northern, smaller part extends through Slovenia, whilst its larger, southern part covers Croatia. This mountain crown is 45 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, with some points being 10 kilometres wide, and 700 to 800 meters high. The morphological characteristic of the area is the mountain range of elevations and valleys located in the direction of Dinara, which is why Ćićarija has a specific laminate structure. Plain terraces form the valleys with pastures and forest cover, while the raised parts of the tops of limestone deposits are bare. The main part is shaped like a series of parallel reefs with val – leys and terraces among them, where small fields can be found. The highest peak of Ćićarija is Veliki Planik, which reaches 1,272 meters, providing a breath taking panoramic view that rarely leaves anyone indifferent. There is also the 1,138 meter high Županj peak, which is much more accessible to visitors, unlike the Brajkov peak, which is placed within the very slopes of the rock. We should not forget to mention the grassy 1,106 meter high Orljak located in the north-western part of Ćićarija and overlooking the Opatija Riviera. This Istrian mountain camouflages its protected nature with chestnuts and maruni (a large variegated va – riety of sweet chestnut), although Oriental hornbeam and downy oak are less represented. And when it comes to a protected flora, it is certainly worth mentioning the bellflower and orange lily, the primrose as well as many different kind of orchids.
DISCOVERING ISTRIA VERTICALLY
Sport climbing, a competitive and recreational sport, is the harmonious combination of strength and endurance. Rock climbing in nature, with the exercise of this skill, is a special experience as with every metre a new view to the landscape opens up and the curiosities of natural and historical attractions are revealed. Apart from mastering the details on the rocks and reaching new summits, the pleasure of outdoor living increases. Natural climbing rocks in Istria are located in attractive places that are suitable for those learning this skill throughout the year, whilst the mild climate makes them the ideal shelter for longer or shorter holidays for all climbing generations. Attractive climbing sites are located in a number of locations throughout Istria. Nineteen sport climbing sites have been set up with routes of different levels of difficulty, whilst all detailed information about climbing is available on the istria-climbing.com website.
The deep valley of Lim Draga, which begins near Pazin and ends in the sea north of Rovinj, cuts into the western coast of Istria. The challenging verticals of the Lim Bay which, surrounded by green vegetation, climb up to some 150 metres above sea level offer an unforgettable view over this curious bay and the crystal clear vastness of its sea at the end of a 12 kilometre-long notch. This area hosts 109 up to 25 metres long routes, which are of different levels that can be climbed throughout the year. The film backdrop charm of the Lim Channel, which is irresistibly reminiscent of the fjords, provides a view from various perspectives from the high rocks that make a unique impression of landscape of this natural phenomenon
The climbing site in Dvigrad is an encounter of nature with history. In fact, next to the archaeological site of Dvigrad, one of the most famous Istrian Medieval towns located in the interior of Lim Draga and abandoned in 17th century, is a rock with 88 set routes. The most difficult among them is the Malvazija route climbed only by the famous Italian climber, Maurizio Zanolla-Manolo at the beginning of the 1990s. The quality climbing sites of Dvigrad, just a step away from its historical heritage, always offer additional reasons to explore this picturesque place
KRINGA is situated five kilometres southern of Tinjan on the spot of the Iron Age edifice later a Roman fortress, the second largest settlement in the Tinjan municipality. Among the founds from the Earlier Stone Age there are remarkably, almost artistically elaborated idols. Written sources take account of Kringa from 1102 onwards under the name of Curitico or Coriticum. In the Middle Ages it is the constituent part of the Pazin principality. In the central part of the settlement there is the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul’s from 1787 along with the piazza adorned with two rustic stone cisterns and a hackberry (Celtis australis) tree. This fairly small village has other three older churches which can be explored by taking a short circular walk: St. Anna’s church from 1558 on the cemetery, St. Catherine’s church and St. Anthony the Abbot’s church, along with the rustic Calvary built in 1876. On Europe’s Day May 9th 2007 the construction of ‘’European dry wall’’ began at the entrance to Kringa. The wall will expand all way to Tinjan. Every constructor can build in one numbered stone at most and get the certificate for their participation.
In the very heart of Istria, in the village of Kmačići in the Municipality of Tinjan, on the road leading from Kringa to Sveti Lovreč, is the adrenaline park set over an area of 19,000 square metres. This new attraction, full of adrenaline-packed challenges, offers a short path located 1.5 – 2 metres above the ground, a large path 5 – 6 metres above ground, 4 zip lines, a large swing and a quad trail, and should you wish to take a break and refreshment, then fast food is also available here. The Swiss Saferoller system is used as a security system, which, for the time being, is the best and safest on the market. Instructors have all attended training courses as technical adrenaline park instructors together with training as outdoor adventure leaders.
VIDULINI ASTRONOMICAL EDUCATIONAL PARK
The night sky that spreads above us is full of secrets that are just waiting to be discovered, and the new astronomical park in the centre of the Istria, next to Žminj, will help you explore it. Located on a double crossroads in the locality of Križine, near the village of Vidulini, the park is situated in an excellent position so that all those who are just curious, and perhaps even a few future scientists or astronauts, can stop here and learn something. A unique stone installation contributes to the park’s visual attractiveness, but its role is primarily educational as four massive stones mark the four sides of the world. Visitors to the excursion site can learn how to use the gnomon or sundial here. It is set in the centre of a circle made up of a stone installation and, besides being a ‘sign’ for time, it also serves as a sign for the distances to the world’s largest capitals and of course – the one to the Moon. There is also a micro arboretum in the educational park with local herbs, which are each clearly labelled with their names for easy recognition and learning. Visitors to the park can take advantage of the benches for a spot of relaxation, whilst devoting themselves to thinking about the infinity of the universe. The Vidulini Park is located on the rural intersection of roads to Žminj – Sveti Petar – Kanfanar and Limska Draga, which is very popular among cycling enthusiasts, as well as all other nature and rural Istria lovers.
ISTRIA WINE & TRUFFLE TOUR
Start your day following dogs through a truffle hunt in the Istrian forests, and in the afternoon head to two wineries to walk the properties and taste the wines. You will have the opportunity to purchase some of these local products to take home with you.
POREČ, LIM FJORD & POLIDOR BEACH TOUR
Sail along Croatia’s less-traveled northern coast, uncovering gems like Poreč’s historical center and seside cocktails at Polidor Beach Bar. You will also journey to the famous Pirate Cave of Lim Fjord,surrounded by the well-preserved flora and fauna of this protected area.
PEKA COOKING CLASS
Receive a crash course in Istrian cuisine by visiting a local market for ingredients, bake dishes using a metal peka on an open fire, sampling local wines and olive oils, and eating the three-course meal you will ultimately create.