Today is going to be a busy day and boy am I looking forward to it. We are going to visit not one but two places today (yay). Two old towns set upon hills and each with its own distinct vibe. It is very interesting to me how different they are - as you see the pictures pay attention to the cobblestones, the steepness (Hum was very steep - you need good walking shoes here otherwise you can slip - especially if damp).
In each place I could feel the energies of a time long gone by. To stand in the middle of the square and close my eyes and simply imagine the horses, people, market place etc was exhilerating. The streets, pathways and stairs along with everything else made me think of the hardships these people went through yet for them it was simply ... life!
As we traveled up the steep hills to these quaint towns, I wondered how these people made their way there and built the whole town without technology as we enjoy today. I truly was in awe and what struck me as well was how the old merged with the new. Not necessarily new buildings, although upkeep has been necessary to keep things from crumbling away (like our own house in Brdo). People still live in these places - Buzet offers a hotel and places to eat as does Hum and both have souvenir shops.
The beauty of the landscapes coming and going was awesome. The scenery from vantage points of both places offered spectacular views. No wonder they built on hills .... of course I'm sure the view was not what they were interested in ---- staving off attacking enemies from vantage points was the raison d'etre ;0) So join in with me as I explore these two towns that belong to the part of Croatia known as Istria (or Istra as the Italians say).
This little town (pronounced Boozet) is known as the truffle-hunting center and has its own festival in september. Fall is usually the truffle (tartuf) hunting season (the white truffles that is - black truffles are being hunted as I write). Most people utilize dogs for this; in the past pigs were trained for the job. The problems with the pigs is that they enjoy the truffles (subterranean fungus) as much (if not more) than humans so it was always a challenge to dig them up before the pigs did (and ate them) - lol. Whether this is folklore or not I don't know but is interesting nevertheless. Laura prefers the white truffles (more delicate and not so overwhelming a taste she finds) and usually has declined the offering of the black ones that are hunted on the wooded areas of the family property.
As you can see, the town was built on a hilltop as most villages are. Buzet is the second largest town in the Istrian interior. It is unfortunate that many old hilltop settlements slowly fall apart while the new population settle in the new towns below. As I mentioned - the old and the new.
Another example of the old and new is this building. It has been renovated and converted into a hotel ---- the facade is lovely. I did not think to go inside so only have to presume that it too has retained the charm of the old days yet with the convenience of modern upgrades. What I thought was a neat idea by the hotel was to use a cut out in the stone wall (which had the appearance of being (in the past as) a lookout post) and used the space to place a small table and chairs. The view from this vantage point was mesmerizing.
We walked around and as it was Sunday we found ourselves in the throng of church followers exiting the service. Imagine this: cars parked in every conceivable space - the church emptying its dedicated followers, everyone crowding into this main square and noone being able to move - LOL. I stood back (what choice did I have - I was trapped) and watched this organized confused state work itself out somehow. Cars moved in all directions and people just stood around and moved only if a car came too close. Almost everyone was patient ---- a way of life every sunday. People talking outside the church, drivers trying to unpark their cars and make their way inch by agonizing inch to the exit - and there was only one way out. Not one soul was in a hurry. I was though ;0) I wanted to see this church - it was huge. Its opulance was easy to notice (not like our little church in Brdo - although for its size and dedicated patrons it had its own charm and cultural wealth contained within). The clock tower of Buzet was also impressive. I like taking pictures of the clock towers as I find these structures of major importance to each village and it is interesting to see how each town has designed it.
It was so hot and sunny I was almost drenched before we were halfway through exploring this fine speciman of a town. I kept looking for spots of shade and nary a one could be found ;0( Okay then - a couple of pounds less I have to carry around on my body after the sauna experience of the day - lol. I'm glad for two things --- one is that my purse is really a slingback/backpack style and that leaves my hands free so I can easily keep sweeping away the sweat (errr - I guess perspiration is a better word befitting a lady) off my brow and second is that ever present bottle of water I keep in my purse. It was sooooooooo hard to not gulp the whole thing in one shot --- after all, I still had another town to visit after Buzet ;0)
After walking a while soaking in the beauty of the cobblestones and old buildings and reading plaques describing the different buildings and their usage in days gone by, we happened upon a souvenir shop (did you doubt it?)! The shop did not offer anything really unique (which is what I look for), however you could sample some different liqueurs and that was fun. What was nice was a small wall plaque outlining the shape of Istria with the main/important places hilited. Buzet is also known for the local area liqueur called Biska (mistletoe-flavoured brandy). They did have some in this shop however I did not want to buy such a huge bottle.
Right next to the shop was a small downward sloping entrance that led to a small interior section --- it looked more private so I did not venture forth, however, I was impressed with the width size .... sheesh - people were tiny back then ;0) It did open up once past the archway and I don't think there would have been a problem walking there as there weren't any signs indicating we couldn't. I'm not sure the picture will do justice to what I described.
As we continued to explore and take in the vibe of this town - there were reminders everywhere that people still actually lived there and called the old hilltop town Buzet home! You could see electrical wires everywhere - a satellite dish or two and many clothes lines hung with freshly washed clothes and sheets. Locals were about doing their thing - one elderly lady had a cat attached to a leash and she was grooming it. It was difficult to take a picture that didn't have a car in it as they were parked in every conceivable space.
Here are a couple of pictures that show the quaintness of this town - sans voitures ;0)
At some point we reached an archway that indicated we were in the east part of town. This archway is what remains of the medieval ramparts and you can see the staircase that leads to the top (now replete with apartments and thriving inhabitants) - boy they must enjoy the view each day (I know I would)!
And this is the resounding beauty of what awaits on the other side of the ramparts - a most spectacular view of Mirna Valley. I would come to Buzet simply to take in this view = breathtaking ... I guess you can see I love nature - LOL. And this ends the tour of Buzet.
1. Glagolitic Alley
There is a small but long road that leads into the hilltop (what else?) town of Hum. It goes through rolling pastures and houses practically in the middle of the roadway (after all, the houses were there first and the roads were paved where the orginal roads were built). Quite picturesque. This road is known as Glagolitic alley. Here is an example of the main concrete sculpture at the junction of the highway and this small road.
Glago -what you ask? Ha - you have the same question I did. I hadn't a clue as to what this was so I did what I do best .... I looked it up! The tourbook I have has a great description. It is a type of script that goes back to the ninth century monks (Cyril & Methodius). They developed their own alphabet (to sound better phonetically) to translate the gospel into the slav language. In the long run it didn't catch on but was adopted by croatian priests by followers of the monks who brought it to the adriatic seaboard. Other followers brought it elsewhere and had been renamed Cyrllic (modified version of glagolitic) and is still used today in a few countries. Popes tolerated this new language versus alienating the adriatic clergy. Eventually this language became obscure but is enjoying a resurgence along the coast, however, more as a tourist appeal.
So now that you have a bit of history, I will show you what sculptures were present along the road leading to Hum. I did not buy a souvnenir book of the letters as it would have eventually collected dust as my enthusiasm wore off - so I cannot decipher what some of the sayings were and what the individual letters are. You can look it up on the internet if it intrigues you ;0) The only letter I know is the letter 's'- it looks very much like a mushroom .... oh the irony of it all - LOL. I DESPISE mushrooms ;0)
2. The town:
Hum (pronounced Hoom) is the self-proclaimed 'smallest town in the world' with a population of only fourteen (and yes there are fourteen addresses - Irma counted them). As a town it has all the attributes such as walls-gate-church etc. I will tell you right off that I absolutley loved this small town. You go in through the gates - hang a right and follow the path that leads eventually to the left and before you know it you have come full circle. But oh boy what a circle. The cobblestones have become worn after all the years and the pathways are very steep - the legs get a great workout ;0) Good traction shoes are a must. I enjoyed every minute of investigating this quaint place. It is so different from Buzet - a vibe all its own.
It is a walled in community and you can see the gate here - it is the way in and out. You can read the history of the gate in the photo as well as what one of the doors looks like with the peasant calendar.
Just inside the gate one can see the small slit openings in the wall used for I am assuming guns to shoot the enemy. Once past the gates though - wonderment .... I stood there and became lost in time. I sensed such a happiness in spite of what must have been a hard working life. I couldn't help but wonder at the strength of these people of Istria. My grandmother was like that - hard working and simply accepting that it was the way it was and a life was made and lived. Yes there was hardship but there was happiness in the simplicity of it all. Gee - sometimes it makes me want to let it all go and return to a simpler way of life .... then reality kicks in - lol. What would I do without what I have become accustomed to? Perhaps I would adapt yet if I am honest - I enjoy learning and hearing people's stories and I see how all this is ingrained in the weaving of my fabric, however, I cannot go back - I can only go forward.
I loved the way the people built this town. It is functional and picturesque. Today some inhabitants have opened up some apartments (they must be charming) and they have a restaurant on the premises and not one but two souvenir shops both offering different items of interest. One of the shops were selling small figurines of the gagolitic characters and I tried to buy one for each letter of my first name ---- the letter 'y' does not exist -- so forget that venture! The other souvenir shop has incorporated a small museum of items these people used in their daily lives.
This shop offered free tastings of jam and Biska. I tried a great jam but I found it little pricey for the amount. I also tasted two types of Biska - a mistletoe flavoured brandy ... one from the oak I believe and the other from the apple tree. Both delicious, however, the apple was sweeter.
Walking the roads and seeing how the town was put together made my trigger finger with the camera vey happy! I took so many pictures I surprised myself (thank you digital cameras). Please enjoy some scenes of what I experienced and I hope you can feel a little of what I felt. If not, then you must simply come and experience for yourself.
I must show you a remnant of the past that I find cute (and very useful during the time). Here is a barn door with a hole carved out in the lower right. Care to guess for what?
If you guessed a cat entry/exit then you win the prize! Such an important animal of the day. Catching vermin was crucial - they were cats not like today. They were working animals in their own rights. Note that this is an original door (like most if not all found in the town).
We had just about reached the end of the town when we came upon the clock tower and church. As you already know (because I said so at some point ;0), I like clock towers and Hum's was no exception. We stepped into the church for a quick looksee and although simply decorated, for a small town one could see the great faith they had and still have. I wanted to take a picture of the clock tower and so I did!
Irma and I were near the tower and both of us could hear this buzzing sound. I couldn't pinpoint from where it was coming until we came closer to the source. Wasn't it a swarm of bees hanging around the clock tower! I wondered if they had a nest in there - Irma didn't think so. She grew up having several beehives on the property and knew the sound. She said it sounded as if a new queen left another nest and took part of the workers with her and was looking to set up a new nest. Wonder what the town folk would say if this is so.... And so ends another day. We were pooped and happy to leave and yet funnily enough I feel as if I took a part of that town home with me - in my heart.
Till next time!