Summer is the busiest season for musicians and tour guides, but somehow we managed to get a day off to get out of town! Besides celebrating an anniversary, it’s nice to check out other places.
Destination – the ISTRIAN Peninsula in Croatia near the Italian and Slovenian borders. It was formerly called Histria after the Histrians, a native Illiric tribe that inhabited the area before the Greeks and Romans arrived. Istria is known for its wine, and we were not disappointed 🙂
There are several small, medieval hill towns in Istria – Motovun and Grožnjan are two of them, fortified from invaders with fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding area. Thanks to recent summer rain showers, the outlying area glistened in different hues of rich green. It was really wonderful.
Grožnjan (pronounced GROWs-Nyan). GROŽ means grapes, so grape harvesting was the most likely reason for its name. Nowadays, Grožnjan is a thriving colony of artists – it has a music school with summer drum camp, which we dropped in on, making some new friends 🙂
There are also string (i.e. violin), piano and other musical workshops, a tartuffi shop with Istrian truffles to sample, but especially art galleries and coffee houses alongide quaint roads and houses.
We ate at a lovely coffee bar which doubles as a restaurant, VERO, which offers delicious and reasonably priced meals with a “to die for” panoramic view of the valley below. Pizzas range from 38 to 60 kn, and domestic wine was a very reasonable 50 kn per liter. I also ordered Capresso, a wonderful salad of Rukola (greens) home grown tomatoes and mozzerella cheese. We ate some Fritula (fried cookies with sugar on top) for dessert.
Here is Rick Steve’s take on the area: Idyllic Istria
How to get there ? We took the Croatian auto highway up (with a toll road, which came to 125 kn) and the Jadranski Magistral back. Sleek as it is, the trip up still took 3 hours from Zadar to Rijeka, plus 2 more hours of (breathtaking) winding country roads to our destination. For the return, the Jadranski Magistral (seaside highway) is free, very windy (so don’t drive on a full stomach) – and also took 3 hours (so call it a tie) but we were travelling in the wee hours of the morning, and presumably, during normal traffic it would have been at least an hour longer.
It’s encouraging to see that the road conditions in Croatia continue to improve exponentially. The vast majority were in good to excellent condition, with an 8 out of 10 rating for easy to read road-signs and turn-off markings.
Once again , we again realized – Croatia is SO BEAUTIFUL! We saw majestic mountain ranges and thick forests. My first thought – is world overpopulation maybe a hoax? There was nothing but acres and kilometers of beauty in all directions. The journey is another important part of the destination – and when you travel along these roads, it’s was a reminder to me that we are all a part of the grand scheme of things, especially nature.