So we thought we had seen and experienced all the beauty that could fit into our small minds, until we arrived in Rovinj. We had both just endured the heavens opening up and dumping the whole Mediterranean on the highway between Plitvice Lakes and the coast, with the added bonus of an unwanted stop in Rijeka and the rest of our sightseeing plans washed into the gutter with the grey angry clouds. We additionally experienced the longest train crossing in history of the world – i.e. a good 15min wait before the train arrived, coupled with another good 15min wait after the train had passed. However, the odd blessing of this route was seeing an old man missing a bunch of teeth who had tied his belongings to a stick over his shoulder and was hiking up the road, along with the opportunity to experience rural Croatia. Which is just that – rural. I think perhaps the ratio of inhabitable houses, half built/stalled houses and ruined houses would be 1-1-1. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of ruined things there are in Europe – broken walls, foundations of old stone houses, even windows hewn into rock faces. Any of these things would be roped off in Australia and listed as natural heritage. But in Europe, usually it is something to do with the war, and they just get on with it. Fascinating.
Therefore when we arrived we were expecting nothing good from Rovinj. The city was charming from the outside, but we had our suitcases and a car rental return to contend with, so we brushed it aside. As evening fell the town won us over without even trying. The polished cobblestone alleys and beautifully presented homely restaurants with half Croatian/Italian facades which glowed with reds, oranges and yellows in the dying sun, stole our affections. It is said that Rovinj is one of the most romantic cities in the world and we wholeheartedly agreed! We spent many hours strolling hand in hand through the Old Town where we were staying, just soaking in the ambiance. Everywhere you look in Rovinj there is colour, character and charm. You look up and you see women pegging out their washing between the alleyways, colourful shutters, worn wood windowstills, overflowing potplants and a radiant blue sky as the backdrop. You look down and see smooth stone of all different levels and shapes, gathered together like a jigsaw puzzle to form some kind of pavement (not for high heels or rolling suitcases!). You look from side to side and see locals sitting in courtyards having a smoke, tiny worn doorways, colourful window displays and vibrant shades upon the walls which are very much reminiscent of the Italian influence upon the city.
The thing that Joel and I most enjoyed about Rovinj was the culture. The city has traditionally been inhabited by artists, who flock there to open tiny galleries in the walls of the Old Town, and the diversity and character of these working artists was quite special and a privilege to witness. We only wished we owned a house to warrant some serious art shopping as more than one artwork captured our imagination and attention. Peering into these galleries late at night and seeing an old gentleman painting an oil landscape, or a young girl printing etching screens on tshirts, thrilled us both to no end. In fact it was one such gallery that made our experience in Rovinj something to remember! One night we poked our heads into a gallery at about 11pm as there was an artwork there that had arrested my interest, to find 3 men in their late 20’s/early 30’s sipping away on a local Croatian brandy. They promptly offered us a shot and so ensued a hilarious night where we were introduced to Croatian beer and we educated the Croats on the art of planking (which they were only too keen to take part in). We met a lot of their friends later that night who were all lovely and we learnt a great deal about Croatian culture, quirks, and daily life (with a bit of history thrown in there). It was enjoyable not only to spend time with people our own age, but to experience local Croatian life in such an organic way. If only we had of been able to stay longer we would have been able to take them up on a local fishing trip and an infamous home cooked Tuna Stew (hmmm! At least it wasn’t salmon!). I should have asked them why every city had birds swooping from tower to post, but forgot. The bird phenomena will remain a mystery until next time.
Our days were whiled away with swimming in the Med from a vantage point outside the walls of the city, walks through pine forests, coveting artworks, a trip up the hill to the city’s church and learning about the history there, ice cream, photography exhibitions and more attempts to avoid the Croat menu. The latter was not successful, although I did find some minestrone soup which broke the monotony. We are seriously craving some rustic bread from Woolworths and some fresh juice which is next to impossible to find here. The markets (shops) are so small that Joel and I are in constant bewilderment as to what Croats cook with such a limited choice of ingredients. Aussies – appreciate your fine cuisines!
So with that we were off to Piran via bus, reluctantly might I add. Until the lady at the bus station ran at me aggressively demanding 5 Kuna for using the toilet. Then I was happy to depart. But we left a little piece of us in Rovinj – definitely a place to return to in the future…If you ever get the opportunity to visit, we promise you won’t be disappointed.
All our love,
Loz & Joel xx