Istria is well-known throughout the world for its numerous beaches, good cuisine and natural beauty. Unfortunately, this lush and accessible region is often only perceived as a summer, coastal destination. However, with leaves slowly making their way to the ground beneath the tree trunks, Istria’s central area is slowly beginning to regain attention, slightly lost due to sunny beaches of the coast.
So, what can one find in Istria, once the waves of Adriatic Sea are left behind? Quite a lot actually. Here are just a few things you can discover.
Nobody knows for sure when this large fortress was built, as documents only started to mention it in 983. It survived all the battles, conquests, destructions and plots history challenged it with, and stands proud in the town of Pazin. Its military personnel has been replaced by guides, as the Ethnographical Museum of Istria resides in the castle today. The site is also important for literature, as great American writer Jules Verne locked his character Mathias Sandorf in Pazin Castle’s dungeon. Did the rebellious count manage to escape? You will have to read the book to learn his fate.
Frescos of St. Mary’s church
The Church of St. Mary is close to Beram village, and can be considered a goldmine of fresco art. The small building was renovated during the baroque period, but unfortunately not in a good way. Most frescos were destroyed and damaged in the process, and it was not until the early 20th century that they were renovated. One of the most stunning of them depicts the so-called “Dance of the Dead”, in which people of all classes, from merchants to kings, dance, holding death by the hand. The message is clear- no matter what position one holds during his life, at the end, we are all the same once the final song starts to play.
Kringa, cradle of vampires
We are told that vampires don’t exist, but for non-existent creatures, they are quite present in our modern world. Yet, rare are those who know that the first case of paranormal vampiric activity was documented in the Istrian settlement of Kringa. This occurred in 1689, when the deceasedJure Grando terrorized the local population, usually demanding marital duties from his terrified widow. According to town records, Jure died in 1656, but was exorcised in 1672, after brave villagers dug his body from the grave, and through prayer and physical confrontation, managed to decapitate the evil entity. Still, the place is filled with large stone crosses for defense against the unclean spirits. If you are impressed with the story, you should check out Tinjan’s “Vampire bar” featuring garlic wreaths and illuminated crosses. It’s the safest place to be if Jure returns.
The Stojsic family is one of the oldest inhabitants of the Istrian region, tracing its roots to the place as far as 17th century. Being such strong keepers of the peninsula’s tradition, they are masters of Istrian cuisine and the very pleasant hosts of Gologrocki Dol. If you wish to learn the secrets of everyday life in Istria, from milking cows to planting vegetables, there is no better choice than to book a few days on their beautiful ranch. (For similar experiences in other parts of Croatia, click here).
Red Tails Scenery
If you are a fan of airplane warfare, you have probably seen “Red Tails”, a Hollywood blockbuster with Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Junior in the leading roles. The story about dedicated African-American pilots was filmed in the Istrian town of Dragoc. Interestingly enough, this small settlement knows movie cameras pretty well, as Michael York, Monique Morelli, Gerard Depardieu and Nastassja Kinski have shot their movies there as well.
Cental Istria is full of small, charming villages surrounded by untouched nature. Far from dense urban areas, these oases of peace can do wonders for one’s nerves and spirit. A simple walk in the forest or a sip of domestic wine are usually enough to put a smile on a tired face. And if someone’s still a little grumpy even after such experience, there is nothing a table full of delicacies won’t cure. Boljun, Cerovlje, Gracisce, Sveti Lovrec, and Sveti Petar u Sumi are just a couple of the places you can visit and enjoy during your visit. Some of them are important glagolitic sources, others are known for their medieval architecture. And in all of them you can find truffles and traditional fuzi pasta.
Thinking of booking a trip to central Istria? Don’t just think about it, make it happen. This is all just a fraction of Central Istria’s rich tourist offer.