CroatiaPosted: January 30, 2012
The European Union has a new member. Number 28 – Croatia.
Negotiations began 9 years ago in 2003 and last Sunday Croatia went to the polls to confirm the population still wanted to join. In a lack lustre turn out, a majority affirmed the decision to become members of the EU and all will be finalised in 2013. The outcome of the vote was not a given. There has been concern in Croatia about the ramifications of the EU regulations on local industries and how the Euro will increase prices. Also, the EU has not proven to be the “rich mans” club it appeared to be 9 years ago. The attraction of being part of a 500 million person market and a couple of Billion EU Euro given to Croatia for development each year for the next few years won out. My question is where does an “instrife” EU actually find a couple of Billion each year for the next few years!!! That’s another story!
For a 3 day visit in Croatia we chose the Istrian Peninsula. Croatia has a less developed feel than Slovenia. A slow start to join the EU and a 4 year war in the The War of Independence of the 90’s, has taken its toll, but what remains is charming and has a feeling of the olden days! It’s cheap to travel here. Still on the Kuna, petrol, accommodation and food is a 3rd of the price in Italy! In summer it must be beautiful. Its very cold now, -7 to 0. Winter here is not the green countryside we see at home, but a frost coloured beige – frost that can sit stiffly all day in the shadows of the surrounding mountains.
The Dalmation coast was a republic of Venice for over 300 years and it clearly shows in the architecture of the lovely, walled, seaside village of Rovinj. Elegant and well planned the city climbs from its seagulled bay to the classic church at the top, from where on a clear day, you imagine you could look across the Adriatic sea and glimpse the gondolas of Venice. Incredibly well maintained, cafes, artists shops and a harbour full of fishing boats and yachts make the village ideal for a tourist day out. In summer it must be brilliant – the stone streets and rising landscape providing coolness and breeze.
With a recommendation from Ivano we headed off the Istrian coast into its hinterland and made our way to another historic walled village climbing 277 meters up a hill – to a castle!!!! Motovun.
It was lunch time and we were excited as we had been told Motovun is not only picturesque and historic, but a gastronomic highlight of Europe! Particularly in its truffle delicacies. We climbed the wonderful maze of streets and eagerly looked in windows of some brilliant looking old and interesting tavernas and restaurants, unfortunately to no avail. January is downtime and not expecting tourists, the locals try to take a holiday to the ski slopes or further afield to somewhere warm. Everything was shut!
It’s a gorgeous village. Peeking into houses and shops, many have been beautifully restored and look charming with an interesting and creative feel. We did find staff to give us a tour of the closed for the season Hotel Kastel which sits at the top of the village in a Venetian Square and was of course, a castle before being restored into a hotel. Hotel Kastel is a lovely hotel http://www.hotel-kastel-motovun.hr with incredibly reasonable room rates, and whilst everything else may be shut for vacation, not the hotel run campsite at the bottom of the village. One of our favourite camp sites so far it’s self serve and open 24-7-365!!! It has all the facilities we needed, spotlessly clean, and in Summer, you can also use the spa facilities of the hotel. A brilliant tip for campers.
There is something cosmopolitan about this antique village, an atmosphere that must really come to life when the avante-garde independent film devotees climb the hill from all over the world each July to participate in the highly regarded http://www.motovunfilmfestival.com. It’s intriguing to imagine the contrast of these centuries old steets inhabited by our modern film culture and we want to see that! Being so close to Antonios home town of Maniago, we know we will return.