Being a tourist in Istria usually means visiting the Arena in Pula or the historic centre of Rovinj, then having a good meal and a glass of wine on a terrace overlooking the sea. Since you’ve probably heard a lot about Istrian coastal cities, this list is here to turn your attention to central Istria and a couple of its landmarks that are really worth seeing.
1. Glagolitic Alley
Do you ever stop to think about the origins of the written word? A memorial called Glagolitic Alley serves as a beautiful testament to literacy spreading among the local population from the 12th century onwards. It’s located between the towns of Roč and Hum and composed of eleven monuments that represent glagolitic letters; all the stops along the road provide information about the first printed books and related key figures in Istrian history.
2. Medieval graffiti
Whether you consider graffiti a type of urban art or a form of vandalism, they are widely thought to be a product of modern times. A rich array of frescoes in medieval chapels of central Istria proves otherwise – in some places, you’ll find short notes scratched into the walls by priests and worshipers. Written in glagolitic alphabet, the inscriptions bear witness to historical events and often inspire a smile. A local favorite is UDRI MIHO (Get him, Mike!), a 500-year-old comment left on a painted scene of St. Michael attacking the devil in the church of St. Mary at Škriline in Beram.
3. Corpi Santi (Sacred Bodies) in Vodnjan
The parish church of St. Blaise in the city of Vodnjan boasts a famous collection of mysteriously preserved bodies of supposed saints. Neither embalmed nor hermetically encased, the relics have long been an interest of researchers who remain perplexed about their creation. This might be questionable territory considering that every other church in Europe claims to hold the sacred remains of the same people, but look at it this way – they are mummies. When your annoying colleague starts to brag about his visit to Egypt for a hundredth time, shut him down with this story about a fascinating local phenomenon.
4. Labin Art Republic
One of the magnificent hilltop towns in Istria, the historic Labin, turns into a whirlwind of colour, music and all-around joy during the summer. The manifestation is called Art Republic and usually takes place between July and September each year; the streets are packed with movie screenings, music shows, theatre plays and exhibitions. All events have free admission, resident artists open their studios to the public, and there’s even a guided night tour around the centre if you’re interested in myths and legends that constitute the history of this gorgeous place.
It would be nonsensical to delve into the topic of local food in general – instead, let us recommend something specific. Boškarin, also known as Istrian cattle, is a peaceful white giant that got dangerously close to extinction back in the 90s. Due to extensive farming projects, their number has been augmented in recent years and they are now raised mostly for production of meat. Gourmet shops throughout the region offer a range of products made from this particular type of beef, but if you really want to make your taste buds happy, walk into a restaurant and order boškarin steak, rare. Come back to thank us later.