Old (medieval) Labin
06.07.2011 39 °C
Well first I must say - so sorry for the long delay in getting to this post. It is most difficult to find the time to write and post pictures when no longer on vacation. I promised to finish my trip and I will hold that promise --- not only for those who happen upon these entries but for myself ... it is my trip diary and want to complete it while my memories and feelings are still relatively fresh ;0) Read on faithful followers - lol.
Oh goodie --- I'm going to Old Labin today .... ask me if I am excited - go ahead ... ask! Of course I am excited ... need you ask? LOL. My feet are itching to get moving after a day of rest ;0) I must admit I was wondering what I would be able to actually 'see' after what I witnessed out the window this morning. The entire valley covered in clouds - I couldn't see a thing - not a darned thing. The only discernable item in the distance is the red/white chimney from the electrical plant in Plomin Luka ... look closely and you can see a part of it buried deep in the clouds.
Well of course it was early morning and Irma promised it would dissipate quickly. We had to go to court to attend to some business and then the day was free to investigate this interesting little town. It helped a lot that the courthouse is actually located in Old Labin so it was a hop, skip and a jump to get into the groove of sightseeing once business concluded.
Ahhhh -- I see the clouds lifting now ;0) The valley is becoming visible again.
Well by the time we were on our way there was only a light misting left. Irma says that sometimes the clouds/mist come almost to the front door. I did not see that on this visit - maybe one day ;0) Then I can I say that I had my heads in the clouds - literally - LOL (Don't worry Patty & Rudi - feet always planted firmly on the ground ;0)
As with the other older towns I have investigated, Old Labin was no different in how steep it was to get there. The main drag to get there was not so steep as it was long - and the cobblestones were tightly packed. My eyeballs jiggled in the sockets as we drove up into Old Labin proper. I think I was cross-eyed there for a bit - Ha!
What you see is a part where cars are allowed. Once you arrive at the real old part of Labin - by foot only please. I really liked the structure of the gate that leads into Old Labin. It was created in the 15-16 century.
I truly wish I could have taken another angled view, however, business cars are allowed to park right up to the gate and the photo would have been spoiled in my opinion if it had a little red car in it ;0( It was ticklish walking on the cobbled path once past this gate as it was steep, crooked, slippery (smooth stones) and not very even (rough). Some of the gaps were wide enough to swallow me whole if I stepped the wrong way ..... Oh come on now --- you didn't believe that did you? Okay --- but there were wide spaces that could easily twist an ankle if you were not careful. I stuck closer to the walls as the gaps seemed smaller. Once past that rough patch it was much easier going.
Labin was Croatia's coal-mining capital for many years, yet nowadays there really isn't any trace of this once successful industry. Well - there is a most wonderful museum in town (Old Labin) that is in what once used to be the Batilia-Lazarini Palace. I am not a huge museum going person, however, I shelled out the appropriate number of kunas to gain entrance. This is the only museum I went into on this Istrian journey and I am grateful I did. It wasn't overcrowded with artifacts and it wasn't stuffy. It was (used to be) a palace and it meant HUGE rooms with a lot of space to peruse the items on display. Each room on the three floors carried a different theme from musical instruments to furniture to clothing to farming and fishing paraphernalia to art to ..... There was a lot of written material in several languages explaining Istria's history and by the time I left the museum I had a real nice taste of what my ancestors were all about. Seeing all this added the richness to the stories I grew up hearing. I left with a warmness in me that was not there when I started the self-tour.
As you know by now, there is ALWAYS something that intrigues me and this palace/museum was no exception. As I climbed the three (or so) steps into the first room I was astounded at the size of those stairs. My eyes just about bugged out of my head. Why were they so huge when people were so much smaller than today --- did they need to pole vault themselves into the next room? I am sure if I investigated this I would find an answer ;0) Talk about exercising those thigh muscles ;0)
The most intriguing part of this wonderful museum was actually a small re-creation of life inside a coal mine ---- not for the claustrophobic I tell you. Once the tour of museum was over I ventured forth into the mine. Very realistic or at the very least - the best they can do in a small short space. Coal mining was a huge way of life for a very long time here. They even have in podlabin (below Labin - the modern part of town so to speak) a huuuuuge poster of a smiling and content coalminer.
The coal mining industry was pursued with such enthusiasm that the actual hilltop of the town started to collapse around 40 years ago. It is, of course, now fully restored.
The cobblestones in Old Labin are so unique - quite lovely. You can see a curve/dip in the road.
What I love about these old historical buildings are the adornments built right into the structure. What I liked about this church (Church of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary)were two significant adornments --- the 14th century rose window and beneath that the 17th century Venetian lion. Here are a few photos showing its history, interior (photographed through the doors window as the church was closed) and its adornments.
As the photos reveal, the significance of the Venetian lion with the open or closed book grasped in its paw is explained. The lion of Venice, as a rule, is usually depicted with its paw on an open book that contains the text: Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus (latin for: Peace be upon you, O Mark, my Evangelist). Interesting ... to me at least! And it is not surprising to see the Italian influence here as Labin used to be inhabited as early as 200 B.C. So now I bet you that I will be checking out every lion carving in each town I visit to see if Venice had been under the influence of a war during its carving ;0)
There are many Italian influences to be found in Croatia due to its penchant for being taken over by many countries over its existence (one of them being Italy in case you didn't guess <grin>. My paternal grandparents and their family (thusly my father and his siblings) grew up under Tito's rule. I am hoping to visit Brijuni Islands during my visit and get to see where Tito had entertained visiting heads of state when he made Veli Brijun one of his official bases after WWII.
What I also found impressive in Labin was the main walkway through the town --- many, many stairs that go up - up- up. They are not difficult to walk as they are shallower but be prepared to stop and see all the richness this town has to offer.
Irma and I not only visited this original medieval town itself but also investigated its outskirts. Old Labin after all sits atop a hill and one can take in the surrounding beauty down below.
What I neglected to mention at the beginning of recounting of Old Labin is that Irma and I first walked 'around' the town and then entered it via the 'back' way ;0) Now the scenery at some point must have been simply awesome, however, I notice they are not really good at taming nature by trimming the trees. There was a lot of overgrowth and the scenery was not so evident. Irma was more disappointed as she remembered what it had been like and wanted to show me its beauty. I hadn't anything to compare it to so I was okay with it. We did come to what is called the Fortica - or rather the viewing terrace on the site of what once was a medieval fortress (long demolished). I really enjoyed the view from here --- you could see Rabac (only a 40 minute walk down the mountain to this seaside resort/town) and islands in the distance. Again it had been a steamy hot sweltering day and so the view was not as clear as I would have like it. I doubt we would be coming back so I took my pictures anyways and am glad I did.
Oh yeah - before I end this journey I simply must share with you what else I admired in this town. Guesses anyone? C'mon ..... hint hint --- it's tall .... and has a bell ..... Any takers? Heck yes ----- Bell towers!! That's right I said towersssss - lol. Well one was also a clock tower but that counts! This first tower was built in 1623 on the site once occupied by the Church of Saint Just (9th-10th century) and is 33 metres high. I would have loved to climb the wooden stairs to the top, alas my leg would simply not be able to undertake the strain.
I really liked the aesthetics of the clock tower especially as I glimpsed it between the streets. It is colorful as are all the buildings in this town.
And that has been my day in Old Labin. They did not have too many gift shops however I did buy several souvenirs here as I found lovely hand-made items indicative of the flavor of Istria. One thing I have always found myself searching for no matter what country I have visited is the authentic local music of the area. For Istria it is found in a cd called Mik --- a mixture of music/artists/genres of the Istrian peninsula. Did I buy one? Betcha I did <huge grin>. Next entry --- Summit of Mt Ucka and the opulent Opatija ... so stay tuned.