When flights are cheap and there are still plenty of days off work to take before the end of the year, it’s impossible to stay home, right? Even though I wasn’t completely at ease with taking a flight during these times, I just couldn’t help myself.
So October 9th, I boarded a (completely safe, thank you Ryanair!) flight to Croatia and thereby added a new country to my list of countries I’ve been to! Counter is at 30 now! Yay!
We landed in Pula on Friday afternoon and immediately drove north into the inland of the Istria region, our playground for the next few days. Our first stop was the Zarecki Krov waterfall. We parked our car along the road and a little hike through the woods later, we were admiring the beauty of the falls. The water was icy cold – my friend was crazy enough to jump into it to confirm that- but it was almost mid-October after all, so that actually was to be expected. I just admired the view from the shore and was impressed enough just like that.
Since we didn’t know how quickly we would get out of the airport and into our rental car (which we got for about 28 euros; thank you Alamo!), we hadn’t really planned much more for the rest of the day.
We headed to our hotel – Agritourismu Stara Strala – and were met by the loveliest, kindest family. After checking in, we went for a little walk around the house we’d be staying at, through fields which apparently all belonged to our lovely hosts. The scenery wasn’t otherworldly but it felt so, so good to be in nature and away from the realities at home. We also had a nice view of the Ucka mountains, where we would be heading the next day. All was well in my world!
The hotel fortunately -since we were in the middle of nowhere- came with a restaurant as well so obviously that’s where we had a lovely meal, with loads of homemade products. Add a little brandy and fresh apple cake for dessert and what more does one need? Breakfast the next morning was also a variety of the grandmother’s homemade stuff, with delicious bread, jam and eggs. And a lovely sunrise from the stairs. Perfect stay for only about 45 euros for the room and breakfast, and about 40 euros for the exquisite dinner and drinks for two.
I felt sad having to say goodbye to this place and those sweet people, but it was time to head a bit more north, to Učka Nature Park. We first stopped at the viewpoint of Vela Draga. A short hike from the parking lot, but such an amazing view! We climbed -actually climbed – down as far as we could because were just so intrigued by the scenery. A definite highlight!
And then it was time for a bucketlist item. My friend always wants to climb a mountain when on a trip, so we just had to hike up to the highest point on the Istrian peninsula; Vojak mountain. Of course it’s nothing very impressive, and the hike was mostly through the woods, but it was fun and at 1390 metres, the view over the Kvarner gulf and Istria itself are quite nice.
Unfortunately there is also an actual road that leads to the peak, so there were a few other people hanging around at the peak. It was after all a lovely Saturday and many others seemed to want to enjoy their day off there as well.
When you become aware that “the smallest town in the world” is in Istria, it’s hard to stay away from it. So that was our next destination; the town of Hum. I honestly had no idea what to expect but it was a cute, little – but bigger than I would have thought- place. You have to pay an entrance fee of 10 kuna (+/- 1,3 euros) per car and it’s mostly souvenir shops but it was still worth the stop. The place was mostly deserted anyway.
From Hum, we continued to the town we’d stay at for the night; Motovun. Another pretty touristy place which houses more souvenir shops and places to stay overnight than anything else. You have to pay to be allowed in by car, but since our hotel – Bella Vista Apartments – was inside the center, we were allowed in for free. But that wasn’t exactly a gift. Maneuvering a car – even a small one – through those small streets sure isn’t easy. But for only 40 euros a night, it seemed stupid not to stay in the center.
When we were finally checked into our room and found a place to park the car, it was time to discover the fortified city. I could easily imagine how busy it can get there during high – and not Corona – season which made me tremendously happy to be able to visit it now. Sure, the hustle and bustle also gives a certain ambiance to a place, but I’d rather enjoy these little streets in peace. And having no trouble scoring a seat at a restaurant with an amazing view!
The next morning we got up and were met by pouring rain. And the forecast wasn’t optimistic either. We’d be enjoying showers the entire day. Great. Trying to make the best of it, we headed for a few other cities in the inland, such as Zavrsje, Vizinada and Visnjan but quickly gave up. It was just too damned wet. Even the roads started to flood!
So instead we set course for the coastline, heading to the more touristic area of Istria for the next part of our trip. But that information is reserved for the next blog post!