Celebrating All Things Autumnal in Oprtalj With Kestenijada

Lauren Simmonds

Eleven years ago, Oprtalj in Istria started a new story with which it wanted to present a natural resource that has since become not only valuable, but a recognisable symbol of the town itself.

”I’m grateful to everyone who participates in the organisation because we’re one small municipality, count that we have six employees here and over fifty people turned up to make sure the event succeeded,” said Oprtalj’s Alexander Krt.

As Glas Istre/Gordana Calic Sverko writes on the 14th of October, 2019, when it comes to the noble chestnut from the chestnut forests dotted around in the vicinity of the picturesque Istrian town of Oprtalj, Kestenijada’s hosts will say, with quite some bias, that they’re admittedly smaller in size, but therefore much sweeter than usual.

Seen as a valuable indigenous resource, in recent years, the chestnut has experienced a gastronomic ”rebirth”. Owing to that, a truly unique Istrian event centered on the chestnut, a favourite autumn treat in all variants, both roasted and cooked and savory, began. While in Lovran they celebrate Marunada, in Oprtalj they hold Kestenijada. The native forest chestnut belonging to the European chestnut genus of the Latin name Castanea sativa has thus become a trademark of Oprtalj.

For this year’s eleventh edition of Kestenijada in Oprtalj, the hosts prepared about a ton and a half to two tonnes of chestnuts, of which about 500 kilograms were being sold at two stands of the Oprtalj municipality, where a kilogram of chestnuts was sold for 30 kuna each, and a measure of roasted chestnuts at 15 kuna.

The chestnut season in the Istrian north is late this year, and weather conditions have caused it. The chestnuts themselves, though, have begun to mature, and the right season, as Edo Vizintin from Oprtalj explained, is expected next week. The heavily forested areas of the northwestern part of the Oprtalj municipality are mostly private and the locals are concerned that they are being overrun. The trees are drying out and they will need to find a way to protect them as efficiently as possible.

”With the aim of valorising the natural resources of the Oprtalj area, Kestenijada was initially started by the Oprtalj Tourist Board, which, with this year’s sponsorship of the Municipality of Oprtalj and Istria County, provided plenty of entertainment and events surrounding gastronomy. It is the only manifestation in Istria that celebrates only chestnuts,” says Prodan Mraković.

”For a number of years now, Istria County has been encouraging, organising and co-financing events, generally pre-season and post-season events such as Kestenijada in Oprtalj to motivate guests to come in the post-season when Istria has something to offer. The results from even as far as a decade or so back, confirm that we’re heading in the right direction, since both before and after the main tourist season they have increased numerically from 20 to 25 percent in arrivals and overnight stays, which means that we’re shifting our focus slightly from the sun and the sea to Istria as a lifestyle and gourmet destination,” added Prodan Mraković.

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