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Trip Report Istria Portion of our trip in 2015

To see the first portion of our trip (Amsterdam) go to http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/amsterdam-rovinj-pazin-in-istria.cfm

And now, on to Istria-Warning, wordy and long, feel free to email us with any questions about anything. Enjoy!

9/2/15-Wednesday
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”
~Seneca

After a very good nights sleep we have a slow rise. We make a large pot of coffee and each of us enjoy a nice long warm shower. We settled up with the landlord and then headed out for a few groceries. There is a market nearby and as it turned out we stopped here several times.

We dropped off the bounty and then headed in to town. One of the more difficult things about the money here is you are never really given much small change (cripes with Euros it seems we always have pockets full of change). So right off the bat when we got in to town we didn’t have change for the parking machine that spits out tickets (the machine does not take bills). Some kind stranger gave us enough to at least park legally while we went to get some change.

We stopped at Sorriso Pizzeria-Pecenjarnica for a drink or two and ended up having a pizza as well. Best pizza we had on the entire trip as it turned out. Our waiter was a really nice guy (probably the owner). And go figure, when we went to pay him we did not have enough small bills/change, only large bills, which he could not make change for. Yikes, just a small amount (equivalent I would guess to a dollar) but then we also had no money for a tip. Okay, okay he said.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g303833-d4582020-Reviews-Sorriso_Restaurant-Rovinj_Istria.html

We left to go find the place to “register” our car/license and pay for a few more hours of parking. We did locate the little office that allowed us to pay for parking and then we found a place to get some change. When we returned to the restaurant to pay our shortage and give him a tip he was surprised and grateful. Such a yummy pizza and so kind to tell us not to worry, how could we not return and settle up properly? For some reason we did not make it back here, wish we would have, it was a nice place, great outdoor seating as well as indoor and the menu looked interesting. Recommend a visit if you are in the area!

We strolled around the water and up the narrow little streets, snapping photos of doorways, windows and laundry flitting in the wind. What a lovely little harbor. It was quite hot and sunny so I purchased a nice big brimmed hat to keep the sunlight at bay. We stopped a few times for wine and beer and to people watch.

Back to our place that has a lovely outdoor (covered) balcony for some down time. Nice area to air out clothing with an ironing board, full size iron and drying rack. There was no laundry here but we could wash out undies, etc. while in the shower and then hang out here to dry no matter the weather.

We opted to go to Pineta for supper, a place not to far from where we are staying. http://pineta.incroatia.info/en/index.html
It was nice enough to eat outside and that is what we did. We had a very good dinner and with wonderful service. 2 wines, 1 beer, soup, njoki, a fillet, scampi and a dessert to share. The dessert was pretty so-so but overall everything was lovely. 422 Kuna with a 50 Kuna tip. Perfect end to a very nice day.

9/3/15-Thursday
“In still moments by the sea life seems large-drawn and simple. It is there we can see into ourselves.”
~Rolf Edberg

Today we have a tour of Rovinj set up with Tours By Locals-Matt was our guide. Highly recommend this tour. He was knowledgeable and personable. He also made several recommendations that we took him up on.

After meeting at the Casa Blanc Bar we walked a bit on the walk along the sea, through the market, through the “gate”, all the while getting a little history. We then walked up towards the church, Saint Euphemia Cathedral. There we marveled at the fabulous stained glass. At the end of the tour we had a drink with Matt, planned on the meeting place for our next tour with him in Pula and then parted ways.

We went over to the Delfin Tour booth and made arrangements to take the next one out. While we waited we went over to the restaurant (Balbi) that Matt recommended. We both loved our entrees and wish we would have come back for dinner here. It was early afternoon so quiet at the restaurant but service was very nice. It was a gorgeous day, a little breezy but really lovely nonetheless. We relaxed with our drinks for a bit, then strolled awhile afterward, killing time before the tour.

Back to the boat launch we took the Panorama of the Islands tour. It was a pleasant journey and just 150 Kuna for the two of us. Second stop was a little silly, but we enjoyed our time out over the water. You were able to stretch your legs or walk up some very steep stairs for something at the top. We chose to stay put.

Once back to Rovinj we went up the street a bit, about a block from the place we had lunch, to Pian del Forno. We sat outside and while there they must have set up almost 7 more tables outside. We had pizza and truth be told it was so-so-the pizza was not golden & creamy as advertised; it was burnt on the bottom and the cheese rather clumpy. We were sorry we didn’t just go back to Balbi.

We retrieved our car (about 50 Kuna to park all day) and then headed back to our place. Pleasant nightcap on the balcony and a little bit of housekeeping and then it was off to bed.

9/4/15-Friday
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien

We start out with coffee on the deck and telephoned to reserve an English tour on the island (Brijuni). We then headed out to Fazana, a pleasant and easy drive. We found a place to park the car and then roamed around the waterfront area for a bit. We stopped at a nice little place (annoyed I didn’t note the place), had a wonderful waiter (Giovanni) and enjoyed a little cheese and sausage platter with bread and olives on the side. Yum.

We took the ferry to the Brijuni Island where we had our English tour. I would say it was roughly a 4 ½ hours tour, although much was self directed as you walked in the museum and the grounds in between as well as the little train through the areas where the animals are. We enjoyed it, the area is lovely and we had great weather for this outdoor activity. The ferry ride back was uneventful.

As is our vacation modus operandi we have some down time on the balcony, a few cocktails, a little housekeeping and then decide to head out for dinner.

We headed toward Flengi for some suckling pig. The restaurants have their spits near the road so they can flag you down to stop and dine at their establishment. We ended up at Speranza and enjoyed our meal outside. We naturally had a wine and a beer, Tom had beef & noodle soup and I had cucumbers {just a bit of vinegar, large bowl, probably a whole cucumber}. Next course was Spaghetti Bolognese for me and spaghetti alla carbonara for hubs and then we shared a plate of suckling pig with French fries (oh these European fries are to die for!!). Our server was a lovely young woman and our entire experience here was great.

It was a winding ride back home with a lot of lightening but no rain. It remained breezy most of the night. We had to hook the inside shutters to keep them from banging around. Sleeping was good though. The sea air along with the fabulous meal really tuckered us out. We slept like babes.

9/5/15-Saturday
"Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers.”
~George Carlin

Our plan today is to head north. We took the A9-oh boy what a slow, slow, slow ride, back ups for miles as it finally gets to one lane to pay, then more back ups for the final 1.7 km before we finally can exit. All the while dark threatening skies with pouring rain. By the time we got to our first stop, Savudrija, the rain had stopped and the blue sky was peeking through the clouds.

We started with a nice light lunch at Restoran Lanterna, outdoor seating with a beautiful view of the water. 2 wines, 2 beers, a salad, some bread and sardines, with a cover charge it was 90kn. We then struck out, walked a bit along the water and then to the lighthouse. There was a campground there too with quite a bit of activity. We then headed out to Buje.

Once we got to town we stopped for a beer and wine at pizzeria S. Leonardo, at the corner of Giuseppe Garabaldi & Villa. Then we trekked around and headed for St Servulus church. The church was closed (something we found in almost all the villages we visited) but the tower was open. So for 20kn we walked up to the top for some magnificent views and great photo shots of the bells!

We then headed to Novigrad. Since it was Saturday we did of course come across a wedding in the Sts Pelagius & Maximus’ Parish Church. We walked along the water for a bit and then stopped for a wine and beer at Konoba Tabasco. They had a wonderful offering but it was more than we wanted for supper this evening so we ventured out again, enjoying the little town. We had noted while at the water’s edge that a good storm was brewing and finally it came. We ended up ducking in to a little alley-way pizza place (Europa) that had covered outdoor seating and split a pizza and then each had a dessert. It was a pleasant little supper and by the time we were ready to leave the rain had let up. We had an uneventful ride back to our place.

9/6/16-Sunday
"Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe."
~Anatole France

We start slowly with coffee on the balcony, plotting our route to Porec today, with various site stops along the way. It is a beautiful weather day today and as we head out the drive is quite pleasant. We marvel at the red dirt and the gorgeous olive trees surrounded by ancient looking stone fences.

Our first stop is Monkodonja, the hill fort occupied about 1800–1200 BC during the Bronze Age, not far out of the town of Rovinj. It was quiet with just one other couple walking around this open air “museum”. It was very well marked with English being one of the languages in the signage and one could take all the time they needed.

It was then on to Sveti Lovreč, one the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Istria, named after the small church St. Lawrence built in the 8th century on the town graveyard located outside the town. Since it was Sunday, almost everything was closed. We stopped at a little outside bar and had a few drinks and then walked around a bit, taking photos at every turn. A theme is emerging in all these towns. Ruins everywhere. Since this area was not touched by the recent war these ruins are more likely just abandoned places, some that according to what is written, really fell into disrepair under the rule of fascist government. At the end of World War II, Sv.Lovreč became a part of the former Yugoslavia (and Socialist rule-not known for their upkeep and appreciation of history) and today’s Republic of Croatia.

Then on to Porec. We parked and then headed to the city center. We decided to have a lunch at Café Central and while it was a touch windy outside we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch under the canopy on the sidewalk. Our waiters were very friendly and begged us to “take them to America in our suitcases”. Food here was traditional Croatian fare.

We walked around, did a little window shopping and ended up at the water. We decided to take a ride on the “Yellow Submarine” glass bottom boat. What a rip off, don’t waste your time or money on this! While they were friendly you saw nothing and being inside the hot bottom, well, avoid at all costs. We paid for parking and then headed back home. We stopped at a look-out along the way, one of the roadside areas that people were selling honey, oil, etc., and walked up the stairs to catch the awesome views. We cracked up at the sign of a stick figure with a big red X through it. He was urinating so we assumed it meant don’t pee off the top of the look-out.

We stopped at the grocery store, picked up a few things and then were surprised with a little plate of wonderful home made treats by our inn keeper. Yummy fudge and 4 pieces of delicious coffee cake, how nice is that?? We rested up a bit and then decided to just go back to Pineta for supper. Again we sat outside and had wonderful service. A great salad but the worst pizza of our trip. Luckily the wine and beer was terrific!


9/7/16-Monday
"The ancient Romans believed that the empire would last forever, so they built things to last a long, long time."
~Author Unknown

We wake to a day that is quite windy and much cooler than it has been although it is not unpleasant weather for the tour we have in Pula with Matt the same guide we had for Rovinj. The ride there was wonderful with no problems-awesome scenery and interesting conversation with Matt. Pula is known for its mild climate and smooth sea as well as its very well preserved Roman Amphitheatre. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing, shipbuilding as well as tourism.

Our first stop in Pula was naturally the Roman centerpiece. What remains is still quite glorious. There Matt gave us some history as well as what goes on there now. We were sorry there wasn’t a concert we could have arranged for in this venue while here. I’ll bet they are terrific. The underground is equally as fascinating! The jugs for oil under the Amphitheatre were very well preserved. Having a guide for this was so worthwhile.

From here we walked around town, stopping at the Temple of Augustus, a well-preserved Roman temple dedicated to the first Roman emperor, Augustus. It is thought to have been built during the emperor's lifetime at some point between 2 BC and his death in AD 14 according to Wikipedia. That is old! It was however almost destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in 1947 (so well-preserved may not be an accurate description…). We then wandered over to see the floor mosaic “The Punishment of Dirce” dating possibly from the 3rd century. Amazing this was found after the World War II bombings, under existing buildings. Very well preserved and beautiful. From there it was to the “Golden Gate” which was erected between the years 29 and 27 BC by the Sergi family, in honor of three members of the family who held important positions in Pula at that time. According to the Pula Tourist site “this triumphal arch leaned against the city gate Porta Aurea thus called because of its richly ornamented arch or gilded elements. The gate and wall were pulled down in the beginning of the 19th century as a result of the city expansion outside the city walls. As the eastern side was not visible it has remained for the most part un-carved, while the western, town side is richly decorated. Today numerous cultural performances, theatrical and musical, are held on the square next to the Arch. The adjacent street is a shopping area.”

We stopped and had a farewell drink with Matt at the Bounty Pub just off the center square. It was a lively area and a nice end to our visit with Matt. He was staying in Pula to meet a friend so we were traveling back home on our own. From there we retrieved our car and headed back to Rovinj. On the way we stopped at an olive oil estate, Chiavalon. Since we had not set anything up we were lucky enough to find the owner there and while we didn’t get a tour we did chat for a bit and bought two bottles of oil, one for us and one as a gift. This olive oil was delicious. This is a working grove, tractor parked out back and healthy trees all lined up in that lovely red soil.

We stopped at Vodnjan and found there was no flurry of activity here at all mid afternoon. We had a drink and then walked to the Church of St. Blaise. We were able to peek inside the tower but not go up to the top. The buildings themselves though offered many photo opportunities, great windows and doors and a wide variety of architectural styles along with narrow walkways with clotheslines swinging in the breeze and tunneled entrances from street to street. Also many slumbering kitty-cats, little bundles of fur I find impossible to resist photographing .

From there we stopped at Park Kazuna (a theme park they called it). An interesting display of the Kazun, buildings or shelters dry built with stone gathered while clearing the land for farming or cultivation, really predominate in the Mediterranean areas (called different things in different areas). This display was nicely done, showing the various stages of construction as well other examples to be found in this particular area.

On to Bale, another sleepy town. We parked and came across some folks selling honey at their doorstep. Several kitchen chairs with neighbors visiting while they hawked their wares, clearly a mom and pop operation however they did have a honey sign hanging permanently above the doorway. (It is very good too, we are still enjoying it.) From there we strolled the streets, looked in to the Holy Spirit Church, built in the 15th century and wound our way around some of the narrow streets in search of the place we had decided to have supper at, Kod Kancelira, Ul. Istarska 3.

They did have seating in front outside but also seating in the rear, through the restaurant, on a back outdoor patio which was enclosed. While it was a bit chilly outside we were comfortable and really enjoyed our meal here. Service was very good. I have pictures of our meal (mine was gnocchi with beef) and Tom’s looked like a stew with a side plate of possibly potatoes….can’t find receipt so don’t know the cost. I know we were glad we stopped here.

On to home where we have to think about cleaning up our place and packing up and heading to our next rental in Pazin. We found Apartment Nimcevic to be a nicely located place for what we had planned for this area. The balcony was wonderful, the place well appointed and Spotless. Plenty of hot water, comfortable bed, nice fridge, coffee maker, nice living room, parking inside the gate and of course the huge balcony with sun awnings we could pull down-Highly Recommend. There was a grocery store nearby as well as an ATM and banks and plenty of restaurants and places to have a drink. The area was very walk able however we really didn’t do much walking around here as our treks were normally quite a ways away.

9/8/15-Tuesday
"Who lives sees much. Who travels sees more."
~Author Unknown

We load up the car and say our good byes. We stopped up the street at the coffee shop next to the grocery store before we hit the road. It would be a leisurely ride.

Once we got to Pazin we drove around a bit to get our bearings and then stopped for a drink at a jazz bar that had outdoor seating in the back. They did not offer food here so we ventured out to find somewhere for a bite to eat. We ended up at Peperone Pizzaria right in town. We sat in the little courtyard area across the street from the restaurant and Tom had a burger and French fries and me a chicken wrap-both very good. It was a nice little place with great service. There was a patron their with a small dog that seemed to think it was the resident guard dog protecting the turf. Poor little black kitty-cat couldn’t get near to anyone for a handout, that pup was not having any of it. I managed to snap a dejected black cat face . And of course, American music piped out of the restaurant and to the patio. After lunch we headed over to our rental, Apartment Diana.

The daughter Diana was the only one at home when we arrived so she got us situated in the apartment that is above their home. Large place, 3 bedrooms (we only used the one and as a courtesy didn’t bother with the other bedrooms), a dining room, small kitchen (almost galley-like but not open on either end or one end, open in the middle), a huge living room and front balcony and little upper back porch as well as a small side balcony for hanging the laundry. We actually didn’t take advantage of the outdoor space here as much as at our other places but it is nice to have nonetheless.

Once settled in we headed out to the TI, picked up a city map and then over to the ethnographic museum. It isn’t a huge museum but it was not expensive and they did have some nice displays. The little courtyard had some iron sculptures that were well done too. Here in this area we found most churches really were not open. We saw a lot of church exteriors but not as many interiors. It was luck in most cases that got us in to see the interiors.

We stopped at the local Lidol grocery store, picked up some essentials and then headed back to our place for some down time. Once we got there Zeljko & Diana came up with a huge bowl of fruit for us, some from their garden, some from the grocer. We visited for a little while and then after a rest decided to head out for some supper.

The evening was quite chilly so we decided to sit indoors. The place was busy but our service was good as was the food. Naturally there was a beer and a wine…..Tom had a beef dish and I had pork medallions and we shared a dish of rice. We even had a strudel with a dish of ice cream and coffee for dessert. This meal was at Hotel Lovac and cost 273kn.

9/9/15-Wednesday
"But the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations."
~Gwyn Thomas

Today after some housekeeping we head out to do the Pazinska Jama walk, an extremely effortless walk in a pretty area with plenty of fauna and good signage to let you know what you are seeing. It is a very windy and chilly day but the walk is really covered from the high winds so it was pleasant. We stopped at the Hotel Lovec afterward and had a wine, beer and some fries (European fries are just to die for). We did sit outside here but it was almost too cold for outside seating, not especially pleasant.

We then headed to Gracisce. The ride was, as have all of the road trips so far, a pleasant and uneventful one. On our way in to town we stopped at Koquelicot Wines. They do have a tasting room and we did some tasting and ended up buying a bottle of wine which we later gifted to our landlord. The vintner was friendly and the place was inviting. Once in town our first stop was St. Vitus Parish Church and the graveyard. Not sure if it says something about our character but hubs and I are simply drawn to cemeteries and stones or markers. This one had some awesome stones with the skull and cross bone motif. We then went to St. Eufemije and also the ancient Church of the Mother of God on the square. Naturally all were closed. But we were able to watch a roofer tackle a repair on one of those tile roofs, quite interesting as well as watch backyard chickens frolic. Another glorious town for photographing doorways and snapshots to everyday life….laundry, chickens, flowers…..

It was then on to Pican. They have a nice “town gate” that you walk through (car left in parking area below). This was another really sleepy town and of course the church, Church of St. Michael, was not open. We did find many ruins in this town, much like several other towns we have seen. And sadly by now these churches are all beginning to blend together (and we still have 4 more days to go of looking at churches).

Travel seems to have caught up with us as today we are tired. We returned to our place for some down time. Once we headed out we found 2 of the places we had thought about for supper were closed so we decided to just have supper again at the Hotel Lovec. Gnocchi, Stroganof, 2 soups along with our usual cocktails, yum, it was a good supper although we didn’t find our table/booth that comfortable. But service and food was good and our day ended on a nice note.

9/10/15-Thursday
“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
~Julia Child

We had a nice breakfast out on the front balcony, did some housekeeping and paid some bills (isn’t the internet just the greatest thing ever???). Today the plan is to head towards Beram as well as the Festini-Zminj caves. So after a relaxing morning with coffee, treats and fruit we headed out. Driving from Pazin to Beram was simply breathtaking (one of the photos we stopped to take is now on the wall, 8x10 in black and white-trees that meet over the road). First stop was the confraternity church of Sveta Marija na Škrilinah, near the town of Beram. The church contains the famous “frescos of Vincent from Kastav, and numerous Croatian Glagolitic graffitis”. We were very lucky today as there was a docent there, collecting an admission fee and telling a little bit about the very well preserved frescos. We were glad we hit this one right although our little Missy (GPS) did not like the route we were taking to get…she showed us in the weeds and off the road.

We stopped at another church that was actually open but I do not have good notes on that one. After that we stopped at Konoba Vela Vrata and had a few drinks and made reservations for tonight. We also picked up a few souvenirs in town here, although this is really a very small town with nothing really going on at all.

Then it was on to Zminj. We had a few drinks at the Mad Caffe Bar and then on to the caves. There we had another drink (me coffee this time as I was a little chilly-hubs beer) while waiting for the “tour”. The cave was a small one but the young guide a nice one that answered questions and was happy to take everyone’s picture. She also pointed out (laser pointer) the resident bats in the cave.

Once we got back home our landlord asked if we would like to join them for an aperitif which of course we did. This was some home made hooch, very good, by his grandfather. We asked if they would join us for dinner and so he called and changed the reservations from 2 people to 6 (their 2 children joined us as well). Zeljko took care of ordering the meal, seeing to it that it was family style so we could have a bit of everything. We also had mushroom soup. There was a huge salad to pass, 2 large pasta dishes, 2 large meat and potato dishes as well as plenty of bread and of course water and 3 carafes of wine. Spectacular service and delicious meal with wonderful company and great conversation. 800kn plus 200kn tip, we treated. They only agreed to let us treat if we would have dinner in their home on Sunday. Seemed like a pretty fair deal to us!

9/11/15-Friday
"The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor."
~Author Unknown

Today we are going to get on the ferry and venture to the Cres Island via the ferry. We arrived just as the full ferry was getting ready to push off so as they do we left our car in line, purchased a ticket (do not know if they offer round trip, didn’t even think about it until our return trip) and then jaunted up to the little café for a wine and beer as we waited. The day is stacking up to be a nice one indeed. Had to move out of the sun because it was so warm.

Once it was loading time we got on the boat with no trouble and went up top to enjoy the ride across. Once on the island we decided to skip Cres city and drive to Lubenice. This was a harrowing drive, stacked rock walls line the roads (which are not very wide) although the sea views from the village are awesome and they have 2 city gates.

Then on to Valun. Here you park and walk down (18 percent grade) to the harbor area. We found the ancient tablet and then had a drink at one of the seaside bars. Naturally when you walk down you have to walk back up…
Our ride back to the ferry was without incident and as luck would have it we found ourselves perfectly in queue for embarking on the ferry.

We stopped at a place on the way home, Konoba Stare Staze. We were seated right away and service started out wonderfully. Our first wine, the soup (leek & potato-oh yum), the pasta (me Pljukanci, hubs-Njoki Boskar) and the meat (me steak, hubs Cutlet) all came out as they should and were cooked to perfection. And then our waiter simply disappeared. We really were never able to even flag anyone else down as there were not many people around. Finally we got up and went to the patio area outside and Tom went to find someone to at least get us our bill. Our waiter was rounded up and he apologized up and down. He had a crazed bride-to-be on his hands (whose wedding was going to be the following day) and he got caught up resolving her issues. We understood and he offered us a drink on the house so I had a wine and hubs a water.

It was very dark now and our little Missy really took us home via the back roads. Luckily not much traffic and we did get home with no troubles at all.

As always on this 9/11 anniversary we say our thanks to be able to be free to travel, our thanks to the brave young and women that so willing serve, as well as prayers for them and their families and of course a prayer for the families touched by the horrible events of 9/11. We never take this for granted. We are always touched by the wonderful people we meet when we travel and we hope we always represent our country in a positive light.

9/12/15-Saturday
"There is a comfortable feeling in small towns. It is salubrious."
~Andie MacDowell

Our days always start out so wonderfully, coffee and little treats out on the balcony while we take in the everyday sounds in the neighborhood. Today we have 5 villages on our list but will only make 4 of them, one being Buzet for the “Truffle Festival”. We do not have any trouble with the roads in the area and our GPS really does a great job getting us to our destinations.

Stop #1 was Draguc. There was major road/sewer construction going on and we had to park almost outside of the little town alongside the entry road. We walked through the sleepy town and only saw 4 people and 2 other tourists. Here our notes said we could get the key for the church but alas, the gal at the restaurant had no key and the church was not open today. We had a wine, beer & sandwich here and met up with a friendly cat that just wanted to sit next to hubs, photos are so funny! The panorama views from the area were lovely.

Stop #2-long ride (passing through Buzet) to Hum. You park outside the town but the walk is simply a few steps-really only 2 streets. Said to be built by giants it is billed as the worlds smallest town. And it is small. But it is a very well preserved as are the town walls. A room alongside a shop is called the museum….small is the theme here. The small church to the left of the entry had scaffolding inside with a young woman that was working on cleaning up the frescos. What an undertaking! The bell tower as the main church was not open.

Stop #3-As we headed to Roc we did pass the stone sculptures with the glagolitic alphabet symbols. It was a beautifully sunny day and the skis were filled with hang gliders, up quite high, floating through the air. We parked at the big town gates and walked from there. The young girl at the TI took us to two churches-Church of St. Anthony and Church of St. Rock and she was a wealth of information. The frescos were quite nice, especially so at St. Rock where they have uncovered layers…frescos hundreds of years apart. We really enjoyed this stop. Afterward we stopped at a little outdoor café for a wine and beer were we watched all the town kitty-cats enjoying siesta in every other door way and window well.

Stop #4-back to Buzet as there is supposed to be a festival that starts later in the day. Some booths were set up but they really were for children (puppet shows, magicians, etc.) and there were families with their children there. None of the real food booths were up and running yet. This festival was sort of at the foot of the city. We walked up to the town, which was pretty quiet. There were stands up but they were not open. Several restaurants were open and did have plenty of customers but the streets themselves did not have much activity. We walked back down and stopped for a drink. It really did seem to us not much was going to happen until much later and so we opted to leave. Normally we love these local little fairs but this one just didn’t seem to be organized at the time we were there. One of the things we did do here which we most assuredly do not recommend was take the little tourist train. Oh my, what a rip off! He went in a circle outside of any area that could remotely be considered interesting, actually on the highway at one point. To say this was a pointless journey that we actually paid for is an understatement.

We had Salz on our list but we didn’t make it there. We headed back towards our place and stopped at a pizza place, Rotonda, in Lindar. We looked for a few places we had on our list in this area but this was the only one that appeared open. It was up the stairs (bar down below) and we sat outside on the balcony. Our view was the most magnificent sunset ever. We had a lovely meal here and it was a pleasant end to our day.

9/13/15-Sunday
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
~Anita Desai

Today we are heading out to a couple of hill towns. First stop was Vizinada. Another very sleepy little town where none of the churches were open (this has been the case in many, many of the towns). Beware of a character named Sandy. We inadvertently got caught up with him along with another tourist and it wasn’t until we were almost to a church that it became clear this guy was really not a good Samaritan trying to help us get in a church. He wanted money and hounded us all the way to our car. It was almost frightening.

Next stop was medieval Motovun. The weather was nice but a bit overcast. You really park outside the city but we didn’t have to walk to far up and through the town walls to the city. We walked around a bit and then opted for a nice lunch in a place that had outside seating. A small door off the stone street and up the stairs to a lovely terrace that faced the hills. As has been the case, awesome service, delicious food and wonderful wine and beer accented with views to die for.

On to Oprtalj, another very sleepy little ancient town. Remnants of the defense walls are sparse. The town offered many photo ops with lovely doorways and windows but there was not much else here. It looked like it wanted to rain but the weather held out for us. Naturally we stopped for a drink before we headed back home. Our landlord has invited us to dinner in their home tonight, a home cooked Istrian meal.

Our meal started out with some nice wine and a Greek salad. Then there were the skewers of chicken and little sausages along with yummy potatoes and then of course the Istiran pasta followed by strudel. Oh my, too much food, all so good, along with interesting conversation and an evening finish with his fathers home made aperitif. I’ve said it a hundred times, this is why we travel. So much to learn from meeting new people and also a window to see that you have so much in common. Truly a very satisfying evening.

9/14/15-Monday
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
~Henry Miller

The forecast for today was initially lousy but turned out to be okay, just really windy. We headed out to Svetvincenat. Sadly neither the church or the castle were open for visitors. We had a hot chocolate at an outdoor café after walking around the town and snapping photos. We then headed to Tinjan.

Tinjan turned out to be another very sleepy little town. We did stop at the tavern Djidji and had a drink before we walked around a bit. We did get to the round table under the hackberry trees (Zupan’s table) and enjoyed the hilltop views from there. Our notes said there was a restaurant at this site but there was not. Sadly we did not find any Pršut, the dry cured meat they are known for, here.

We then headed to Salez….the pillar of shame. For some reason hubs thought it was important to get me there???? The church nearby was not open and other than the pillar, not much here.

The plan now was to stop for something to eat and we did find a little place along the road, Old River Grill. There was indoor seating and covered outdoor seating so we sat outside. Our meal here was pleasant as was the service. The highlight was the guest with her pet pig. The little oinker toddled around the entire place checking out the floor, the people sitting and the servers bringing out the food. But his human mom did seem to have him under control. He did pose for pictures .

9/15/15-Tuesday
"If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?"
~E.Y. Harburg

Today is a travel day, we have to drive to Pula, drop the car and catch a flight to Amsterdam. Our morning is consumed with packing properly to make things easy when we get to Amsterdam as we are staying overnight and will fly home on Wednesday, direct flight to Chicago.

The ride to the airport and the dropping off of the car was pretty seamless. We had a coffee at the little cafeteria outside and then stopped for a drink on the inside bar. The flight was on time and my notes about the flight are pretty bare so I guess it was uneventful. Once in Amsterdam we walked through the airport to the spot noted as the shuttle pick up for the Hyatt Place hotel. We barely waited minutes and then out in to the very cold and windy weather, off to the hotel.

Our room was satisfactory, comfy bed, large shower, very clean and the windows wonderful, when closed you heard no street noise at all and it was on a busy street. After freshening up we went down to the restaurant. It was really quite chaotic and since no one ever really came around we got up and went over to the little bar inside the hotel. Friendly service here we struck up a conversation with a lady there on business. She suggested a restaurant not to far away so we had the concierge arrange for a taxi.

Den Burgh http://www.restaurantdenburgh.nl/en/ was her recommendation and it did not disappoint. We had a bottle of water, each had a glass of Malbec, a small plate of bread and tapenade and the lamb special for hubs and duck for me and an apple crisp with ice cream for dessert, 76.45E. Our service was fabulous and food presentation delightful. We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening here, a simply perfect, relaxing end to an awesome vacation. Footnote here, the restroom was also amazing. Clean and well appointed, they had designer soap and real towels, you took your own and you were the only one to use it. Very impressive.

The hostess was happy to get us a cab back to the hotel. We checked with the concierge regarding the shuttle to the airport and then began our final packing-tomorrow we return home.

9/16/15-Wednesday
“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.”
~Orson Welles

Up early and packed to travel we went down for breakfast. The food area was much nicer in the morning. Not chaotic at all, the aroma of fresh coffee, pleasant servers and plenty of them and a well appointed buffet made for a leisurely breakfast. We lollygagged over our juice and coffee and then gathered up our gear and headed out on the shuttle to the airport.

The weather was not very pleasant but it didn’t effect the flight take off time or the flight home. Once again we had the same great seats going home as we had heading over. The noise cancelling earphones with the iPod and the nook make the travel over the pond not too bad. The staff on board was wonderful as well. Arrival in Chicago and the ridiculous cattle line for reentry….same as always. We lucked out with the Coach USA bus arriving almost 15 minutes after we got to the stop. Once we got to the park and ride a call to Uber got us a ride home in less than 10 minutes. Boom, just like that, perfect vacation is over. That said, there is no place like home and we are happy to lay our weary bodies down in our own bed. I return to work on Thursday and on Thursday hubs begins to plan our next adventure  That will be Vienna for a week and two weeks in Slovakia same time next year. And now that I have completed my report I can begin the planning with him.

Notes & Observations-
Istria is lovely as are the people there.
We found many churches were not open and it was very hit and miss for someone to be around to let you in.
Food and drinks were really a bargain and almost everywhere absolutely delish-true in Istria as well as Amsterdam.
The overall feel was wonderfully laid back, perfect for vacationing.
A guide is worth it!
Driving was very easy and the GPS very useful.

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