As soon as the sun comes out and warm weather kicks in, my mind starts to think less and less about work and more about travel, exploration, dipping my feet into the sea, lying on the beach, surfing, sailing… If there is a free weekend ahead I will immediately start thinking about destinations, start checking out flights and plan my next adventure. I blame it on that recently discovered wanderlust gene (DRD4-7R - such a sexy name)!
Naturally, ones I have realized that Easter is coming up in April and Labor Day weekend in May, I was already checking flights to Fuerteventura to indulge my new found passion for surfing. I will be teaching a workshop in Milan mid May and flights are cheap from Bergamo, one plus one equals two (that's how my mind works). But, I soon realized it’s not going to happen as I can’t take that much time off. So, I decided to stay in Croatia and enjoy the beauty of my homeland for a change. Grass is not always greener on the other side; sometimes it’s greenest in your back yard.
Croatia is a small country with so many amazing places to visit, so many natural wonders. It has a coastline with over 1000 islands, amazing national parks and beautiful historic cities. Plus it’s small and you can get from place to place or island to island in no time for a complete change of scenery. There may be no surfing waves, at least not like on Canary, but there are other things I can do.
While pondering about things to do and places to see I realized that I have written numerous blog posts and articles about my travel adventures in the past ten years, some published in daily paper and magazines, some online, but none of them were about Croatia. Not one. I guess it’s about time to start, and there’s no time like the present, no place like my webpage.
I have seen much of my beautiful country, but there is still a place here and there I haven’t seen and an island or two I haven’t visited. I haven’t been to Paklenica National park for example, a famous rock climbing spot, and am planning to undo this wrong on Labor Day weekend and see if all those Chaturanga’s will help me climb a rock or two ;). And for Easter I think I’ll head over to Istria, one of my favourite places I keep revisiting and a place where I hold my annual yoga retreat in Croatia (next one coming up in June!)
Istria is the largest peninsula of the Adriatic Sea and most of it belongs to Croatia. A small part of Istria belongs to Slovenia and Italy. It has a rich, interesting history and this is quite noticeable in its architecture. From the Histri Illyrian tribe the peninsula got its name from, to Roman and Byzantine Empires, Venetian republic, Napoleon, Austrian Empire and Italy. Even though Croat and Slovenian tribes lived here since the 7th ct. BC, Istria became a part of Croatia (than a republic within ex-Yugoslavia) only after the WWII.
The coast features beautiful crystal blue sea, pebble beaches and picturesque towns like famous Rovinj and Porec. There are many National parks to visit; most famous is Brijuni Islands National Park, an archipelago of 14 small islands closed for the public up until 20 years ago. Yugoslavian president Tito made Brijuni his summer residence, and closed it to everyone but his esteemed guests - presidents, prime ministers, royalty and famous movie stars like Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor to name a few. There is much wild life in Grand Brijun Island Safari park with some exotic animals given to Tito by his friends. Up until recently there were even a couple of Indian elephants there, a present from Indira Gandhi. Tito really was a character. His funeral was, and still is, based on the number of state delegations, the largest state funeral in world history and included four kings, 31 presidents, 6 princes and 22 prime ministers from both sides of the Cold War (this was 1980.)
Istrian coast is stunning but what I love most about Istria is its countryside. I use to take motorcycle road trips with my ex and explored villages, hilltop towns like Motovun or Groznjan, and ride along scenic wine roads. Istria has excellent wine produced mostly by small family wineries. Famous white wine sort Malvazia is said to be over two thousand years old brought to Istria by the Venetian merchants. Istria has, in my humble opinion, best olive oil in the world especially if you like strong, spicy olive oil taste. Woods surrounding medieval town of Motovun are one of the few places in the world where truffles can be found. The, now, second largest white truffle in the world was found in these forests (larger one was found in Italy last year and sold at auction for 61,000 $). I like the fact that Mr. Zigante, did not sell his 1.3 kg white truffle but rather served it for dinner to one hundred guests in order to promote Croatian truffle. I think that is pretty cool. I also love the fact that the dog, Diana, who found it became quite famous in the region.
Food is fabulous in Istria; organic, fresh, seasonal and simple. On the coast you will find mostly Mediterranean type dishes, but the real Istrian cuisine can be found inland. Famous for truffles, fresh authentic pasta like fuzi or pljukanci, wild asparagus when in season, manestra (type of a stew), much salads and veg. Yum!
I usually spend my time here road tripping, hanging out with my friends in Rovinj which I adore, or sailing blue Adriatic waters. There is a church I make my pilgrimage to any time I am in the area called St.Foska. It is a special site and people from all over come to pray for the health of their loved ones as it is believed prayers have been answered in many occasions. I love going to Bale, a small town close to Rovinj, or drive the white road to Groznjan for a jazz festival. We took a group from last year's Croatia Istria retreat to Bale, St.Foska, Rovinj and sunset sailing to show them a glimpse of my favorite spots and things to do.
Istrians are kind, gentle people and the general feel here is that of lightness. Time slows down, it’s never too busy or too crowded (except in August) and there is always much to explore and see. A special energy resides in Istria. One that is grounding, calming and joyful. This is why I always choose Istria for my summer retreat in Croatia, and keep coming back any time I can. It truly is a special place.