Exploring Istria

Exploring Istria

The Hotel Park in Rovinj is great – good rooms, plentiful food, two super swimming pools, friendly, efficient staff (especially Gordan the wine waiter!) and only a short walk round the harbour to the old town of Rovinj which is charming. The open market is super for gifts and fresh lunch goodies and there are masses of little bars and restaurants to discover along cobbled streets for that essential beer.

Italian cuisine is the basis of most meals but great fish, mussels and squid are also readily available. Istrian wine is well worth exploring and is half the price of imported wines. The local beers are also excellent. All imported goods seem very expensive. The only souvenirs we bought were Istrian honey, olive oil and lavender oil.

Walks were generally quite level and mostly on a network of cycle tracks, though there was some bush-bashing as well. Great views over the Lim Canal – which is more of a fjord than a canal – and a rather special little Pirate Cave bar were the highlights. One day we took a short boat trip to a couple of islands linked by a causeway but the very attractive hotel by the dock was pronounced as too expensive so we stuck to our picnics. The walk round the Palud Ornithological Reserve was disappointing as we saw none of the promised huge range of wetlands birds and the dinosaur prints on the beach were somewhat questionable, but the female guide did show us how to find wild garlic and asparagus which was a diversion! There are two hides in case you get lucky and the waterways and reeds come to life.

On my day off I went to Pula and enjoyed the Roman amphitheatre, Arch of Sergians, Temple to Augustus and the City Palace on the old Forum. A climb up to the castle is also worthwhile as you can descend by climbing down through the ruins of a small Roman theatre and walk back into town through the 2nd Century double gates, and via the Istrian Archeological Museum.

All good stuff for history buffs but not if you prefer beaches and shops. The shoppers and cafe seekers are better served in Porec where not only did the sun shine on us but the little streets leading up to the 6th century Byzantine Basilica, with its amazing mosaics, were full of appealing little shops and cafes.

In general the walks were rather similar and not particularly challenging. I would have liked to explore deeper into the Istrian countryside and felt we lacked local knowledge to enrich the walks with details of the local way of life. However, there’s something for everyone and an excellent hotel to return to each day which makes all the difference.