Istria from the coast

Istria is a beautiful Croatian-Slovenian coastal region that despite its position by the sea and therefore many beaches, gulfs and peninsulas also covers some more inland areas featuring hills, valleys and other natural beauties.
Couple of years ago I had a chance to discover some of the Croatian inshore parts, especially the charming little towns Grožnjan and Motovun.


This autumn I continued with exploration on the Slovenian side that dressed in warm autumn colours charmed me just as well. Here are couple of off-road spots you might be interested in experiencing.


Bites for the start
As you can't set on an adventure with an empty stomach, our first stop became a colourful Konna cake shop. Located just a throw from the highway and the railway station in the small town of Kozina, it gain its popularity by the rainbow colours of its desserts and wide selection of interesting drinks.


Entering the shop surely turned into love at first sight. The displays were filled with cakes and sweets of all colours decorated with fruits and flowers. The flavours varied from classic known ones to interesting and fun combinations that made your choice truly difficult. After a long thinking I settled for caramel-apricot piece and some spiced up tea. But if I thought that the charming looks were already a winner, the inside was just as amusing. Combination of mouthwatering creams, gelly and crounchy pieces created an incredible structure that brought flavour to life in light and refreshing fusion. Add to that a modern ambient that respects natural shapes and structures and you'll understand why it's so worth taking turn from your road and visit this must stop. 



Where you can count stars on the night sky
We stayed in a small village of Zazid, located right under the Karst edge, high walls where inland Slovenia lowers to its coastal part. Despite being located on a wast plain and surrounded by fields and vineyards, the old stone village is so dense some roads are real challenge to pass through by car. Built so closely the houses sheltered their inhabitants from strong bora winds that can blow up to 200 km/h, and in the times place was structured, passing through with animal carriages wasn't of a challenge either. 


Reaching village is possible from two sides, off the main road from the north that will lead you through some similarly dense places where houses seem to be narrowing down over you. Or a bit longer road from the south that will, despite a steep hill allow you access also with a bigger vehicle such as caravan. 
There are also buses reaching the village couple times a day from the coastal town of Koper. The third alternative is railway passing the valley with a train station about 15 minutes walk from the centre.


Despite being a tiny place with only mobile merchants visiting few times a week and gathering places only known to locals, it is a perfect accommodating location for climbers and those of us looking for tranquil places. You can find your shelter in a tastefully renovated old stone house turned into hostel, right in the heart of Zazid.
The hostel Xaxid offers sleeping in dormitories for 20€/night and also double rooms with a shared kitchen.



The north of nowhere
Our adventures started by visiting Slovenia's most southern village Abitanti. The tinny settlement with only few people living there now got completely abandoned during war times, but some of the villagers decided to return to their roots. Among the falling apart residences you can even spot some newly placed buildings that are so obviously standing out from the classical rock walls architecture. 
Still, the small place is regularly visited by tourists, especially hikers or bikers, because the gravel road ends right there. We were lucky enough to run into local farmer and drink maker, who invited us all to his beautifully renovated house where we could taste some wine and even a sweet liquor made out of mistletoe. During our visit he took us through the village's rich history, showed us his wine cellar and event room where you can host different occasions. It is also possible to stay the night at this historic farmhouse.
We've finished our tour by seeing some of the traditional Istrian cattle called Boškarin, almost extinct long-horned cows that are now slowly repopulating Istrian meadows.



As all the degustation went to our head and there was still some of the beautiful day remaining, we decided to take one of the walking routes leading to the nearby village of Belvedur. 


Descending down the leaf-covered forest path and walking through the pamper like grass-covered meadows in the late afternoon sun was a wonderful experience. We even got a chance to pass an old mill and cross a creek on a stick made footbridge. 


However, even though following the main path, finding the village wasn't so easy. The small place namely only consists of pretty much three houses and very few inhabitants. But what made our walk worth a while was one of them being a wonderful restaurant offering delicious homemade food. And not just any kind, it is located in the land of truffles and during our visit it happened to be a black truffle harvesting season. 


Choosing what to order therefore truly wasn't hard, so we've settled for homemade gnocchi with venison goulash and ones with truffle sauce. And for all the lovers of this tasteful fungus, their tartufata wasn't classic either, but rather a wonderful creamy cheese sauce sprinkled with grated slices of truffles. Truly love at first bite. Combine that with some wonderful Malvasia white wine and dying day views over the valleys around, and here you have yourself a perfect supper.


Our whole experience was enriched by meeting some really friendly locals who generously offered us a ride back to our car so we wouldn't have to endure a night hike through the slippery forest.


Climbers paradise
As mentioned, on its 51 km length the Karst edge offers some amazing opportunities for climbers with settled natural directions of all complexity. Despite not having our own climbing equipment, we decided to get a taste and spirit of this sport in yet another small village of Osp, known precisely for its natural walls offering a lot of fun and challenges. Located not far from the main road and entrance to the highway, in this wonderful autumn weather place was packed with sport enthusiasts. Met again with little streets and densely situated houses, on a busy day like this you might have a hard time finding a parking spot, but despite its littleness the village offers you different accommodations, a camping site and a large parking space behind a nice tavern, using which gives you an excuse to stop for a beer. And if so, why not try one from a local brewery, right from the village of Osp, where a native created collection of strong beers called Varuh (Guardians) that he each named after his grandparents.


After a bit of getting lost between the small streets, we found our way to Banje & Babna, one of four main climbing crags over Osp. The area was packed with climbers of all ages and skills, some even accompanied by dogs. It was certainly a pleasure observing those on the walls facing the challenges of vertical and also enjoying a beautiful view over the autumn-coloured valley. So even if you are not a climber yourself, I'll still warmly recommend you visiting this place where hiking through the beautiful nature under steep cliffs can be just as satisfying.



Ain't no seaside without the sea
For our last stop we visited the sweet little city of Izola. As the name's suggesting the place used to be located on an island that was later connected to the mainland.


I've previously visited this place in some of my late summer adventures, but I could just never get tired of brunching by the main promenade, discovering little streets filled with colourful houses or watching the sunset coloured sky from the cape by the main beach.




From our trip

Places visited: Zazid, Abitanti, Belvedur, Osp, Izola
Pretty much any of the small villages you can cross along the way can charm you with its storytelling stone architecture, and even if not possessing a famous tourist spot, there's a great chance of running into friendly locals that are willing to share some interesting stories or invite you to tasting of their homemade wine.
Overnight stay: Hostel Xaxid, Zazid (shared rooms and apartments from 20€/person/night)
You can find many private rooms and accommodations available throughout small villages and towns of this area
Access to Zazid: Car, bike, train, bus
Activities: Exploration of the area and settlements, hiking and biking trails, climbing at the Karst edge, views from the Karst edge (grad Socerb), visiting seaside
Cuisine: Konna cake shop in Kozina (colourful cakes and interesting beverages), Belvedur restaurant at Belvedur (homemade and truffle dishes), Restaurant and campsite Vovk in Osp (try local beer Varuh), dining in Izola


   

Comments

  1. Ohhhh those little cakes look so delish!

    Shauna

    www.lipglossandlace.net

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  2. Wow, what a fabulous trip!! I just love seeing the views and especially the different cultures.
    XOXO
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

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  3. What an adorable town, and the food looks amazing!

    I hope you are having a great week so far!

    Amber

    Visit AvecAmber.com

    Follow Avec Amber on Bloglovin

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  4. Such a beautiful place! I love these pics!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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  5. Oh my word. Home. There is just something about seeing the rooftops that made me miss it so much. I know it's a strange thing to choose amongst all the beautiful images of the scenery and of course my mouth was watering at all the cakes, but the houses of my past just remind me of home. Looks like you had an incredible time adventuring and exploring. Where do you live?

    bosbodaciousblog.blogspot.ca

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  6. Such beautiful pics! I'd never tought that Istria could be so charming and fun!
    XO
    S
    https://s-fashion-avenue.blogspot.com

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  7. It's great you have so much fun in Istria. You visited some great places and restaurant. That gnocchi with tartuffe sauce looks yummy. I've been to Istria, but I'd love to see more of it.I was only there shortly. I lived in Rijeka for a while but it was all work work back then and I didn't get to see that much of Istria. I'd love to see the Slovenian part as well, the only place I visited it Slovenia is the capital Ljubljana. Zazid looks like a great place to visit. I have never heard of this Slovenian village before. You always show us wonderful places.

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  8. Lovely Place for visiting

    www.formaldressau.com

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  9. What a great travel report! Terrific pictures and descriptions. I love gnocchi. :)

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  10. I have never visited Slovenia, but it looks like a lovely place, thanks for all the pics you've added. My favourite one was the one of the cakes, I hope you enjoyed them hahaha.
    By the way, I've just discovered your blog and it`s so cool, I will check your future blog posts :)
    Kisses from https://sophisticatedmeblog.blogspot.com/

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  11. it looks like such a lovely place! thank you for sharing

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  12. Beautiful photos! Looks like a great trip thanks for sharing.

    Abdel | Infinitely Posh.

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  13. Loving these photos- and the super cute cows!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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  14. Hello there and thanks for your last comment on my blog!

    I have never been to Slovenia but I'd say it is a lovely place to visit, specially in this season fall which is my favorite. I just love the whole mood of these pictures and the color palette in this blog post, feels like a fairytale story! Also the cake looks really good :)

    Pablo
    www.HeyFungi.com

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  15. While it does look very tricky to drive there so I don't think I'd go as I don't like little winding roads, it also looks really beautiful and it's so good you had a fun time on your trip! :)

    Hope you are having a good weekend! It's a busy one here with lots of fun events, last night was a Christmas event at a theme park!

    Away From The Blue

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