Istria is, depending on whom you talk to, the most Italian area of Croatia, or the most Croatian part of Italy. Actually this town, and many others in Istria are officially bilingual and in this case the town is known as both Rovinj (Croatian) and Rovigno (Italian). Indeed Istria was part of Italy until not so very long ago. The whole Adriatic coast was strategic to the Venetians, and as evidenced by the bell tower at the top of the hill, Rovinj/Rovigno was an important location for them. Apparently on a clear day you can actually see Venice from the bell tower.
Surprisingly, after Croatian the most common language I hear on the streets is not Italian, or English, but German. It is a bit of a novelty for shopkeepers to automatically assume we are Germans.
Unlike other major Venetian port towns, such as Pula, the harbor here was not so large and deep, and therefore the Austro-Hungarians didn’t develop this into another navy port. Staying as a sleepy provincial backwater was actually to Rovinj’s benefit and today it maintains much of its medieval charm and lacks industrial squalor. Rather the area around the town is surrounded by harbors and beaches, which in this area does not mean sandy shores, but rather rocky patches and man made terraces by the sea.
The town itself is a charming old burg with the sorts of cobbled streets that make you wonder if these stones were ever replaced, or have been there for thousands of years. After a good walk upon them, we stopped at the museum to see an exhibit of Chagall prints and lithographs as well as a local photographic exhibition upstairs. Some of the photos were pretty good. In the “nude/body” category, there were images taken in museums and art galleries which included subjects in black or white full body suits. Sort of like a “where’s Waldo” it took me a minute to figure out that some of the “artwork” was in fact these people and not inanimate objects.
One thing I like to take pictures of is unusual doors (I have a huge collection from Spain and Portugal if anyone ever needs them!). The one above caught my attention as it was so ornate. Only later did I notice the smiley face on the panel next to it.
We sat at a café in the harbor and got some drinks. Kelly stayed conventional with a cappuccino, but I’m always on the look out for something I haven’t tried. There was a listing for “Cedevita” which the waiter said was kind of like a lemonade and I could choose orange or lemon. I opted for the latter and when he came back, he explained this was a vitamin drink for kids and gave me a glass of water and a yellow packet, which ended up being something like Tang (or Squash for those in the British Isles). Well, at least I know what Cedevita is now.
Kelly and I knew we would have a lot of driving on this trip and as we had recently attended the David Sedaris event in Austin at the Bass Concert Hall where we had a blast, so brought with us a bunch of his audio books. (Shout out to the Austin Public Library – great system – once you are signed up, you can get your content to download and manage checkout, returns, etc. automatically.) We spent a nice half hour listening to some of his stories, enjoying the view of the town and the crystal blue water, and improving my vitamin intake.
Our apartment manager had recommended a nearby restaurant called Maslina, so we headed there for dinner. Started with a tuna carpaccio, which was excellent, followed by fish with truffle sauce and vegetables, and a pizza. They had a special “homemade cake” which was nutella based with a hazelnut crust and a nice end to a simple, but tasty meal. Kelly compelled me to add that we walked for many miles today, just in case anyone might think we are gluttons. (Maybe gluttons for punishment!)