Thursday, December 15, 2011

Istrian Hill Towns--May 21

That evening, we sat down with guide books, maps and brochures to plot out our next few days. We decided to take a day to visit the Istrian "hill towns" and one to visit a couple of larger cities with some bigger "touristy" type sites.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and headed for the hills. Istrian hill towns are small, medieval towns built on the tops of hills (shocking, no?); they were fortified to protect against attack. At various times, the towns have been ruled by individual families, and parts of the Roman, Venician, Austro-Hungarian, and Italian empires.

We enjoyed hoping between towns for the day, zooming past acres of vineyards and olive groves along the way (more on that later). It was interesting to be driving and see these little towns just perched on top of hills.

We stopped first in Buij, which was more or less a sleepy little town known for its truffles. After grabbing a pastry, we followed signs that led to the most important sites, like this 16th century church:

We couldn't go all the way inside, but were able to get a good look from just inside the doors.

Next, we headed to Motovun and parked as close as we could to the top (only residents can drive in the town) and hiked up the cobblestone streets to the town. The city is protected by two gates--an outer one from the 15th century and one from the 13th century that leads to the oldest a parts of town. We stopped for lunch here, taking advantage of the local specials--prucciutto, wine, and truffles.
The oldest part of Motovun:

After lunch, we headed to Grožnjan, the only place in Croatia with an Italian majority.After switching hands so many times, the town was nearly deserted until 1965, when artists started moving into its crumbling buildings. Now, artists have thriving studios in the centuries-old buildings and it is home to world famous music programs. I bought some necklaces from the artist who has his glass shop in this building, the former notary

Looking down from the walls of town:

Our last stop was the town of Hum, which claims to be the smallest completely incorpoated town in the world. For just 16 people, there is a school, post office, and town hall.

There was a runic language that thrived in the area. There examples of artifacts in Hum. It is said that the language was used up until the 1970s. Reality says that is a stretch. But, people are trying to revive it.

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