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20 daily tours through the Istrian hinterland

Istria is a beauty, but is not one of those beauties that will show you all her charms at the very first date. You will like her at first sight, but real love will happen only when you discover her secrets, her heart and soul, but to be so rewarded you need to dedicate some attention and some time to her.

To know her and to love her, you have to look for her in the woods and the waters, smells and colours. Her hands are the branches of the hilltop pine trees. Her dress shimmers of seaside blue and her hair is ruffled by the mountain wind. Her waist is girdled with brooks, her breasts are covered with green woods; clear rivers spring from them. In her eyes the fire of passion burns and the fire of wisdom, she speaks words of hope, and her voice spreads messages from the past. Vineyards and olive-groves are her skirts, her arms are plentiful with fruit. She holds her memories in her bosom, the secrets of her ancestors. Cities sit on her shoulders, a crown of cliffs and clouds shines on her head, studded with the rays of the sun...

How do you meet such a bride? How do you conquer her?
You will not get to know Istria from the books; words are not enough to express all her beauty, her natural and spiritual values, her cultural heritage. Istria must be met, you must shake hands with her landscapes, towns, monuments, people... You must feel the saltiness of her sea on your lips, feel the freshness from her mountain peaks on your face. You must experience the waking of the sun on her promontories, freshen your face with the clear waters of her brooks. Greeted by the sound of the bells form its bellcotes and bell towers, enter into her villages, cities, decorated churches. You must listen to the voices of the past in the murmur of the cypresses on her graveyards; discern in the hoarse voices of the people echoing on the squares and fairs their goodness and nobility. Istra must be paid a visit. Once, twice, many times... But where to go? And how?

Let the book you hold in your hands be your guide. Of course, you cannot get to know Istria by taking just one tour for one day. One summer, perhaps a whole life can be too short to experience all her beauties and treasures, all the things that make her so beautiful, attractive and unique. However, the twenty tours in this guide present the most important natural and cultural features of the Istrian hinterland, the most important towns and villages, their cultural and historical heritage, the most beautiful sights, natural beauties and attractions, diversity in its landscape and culture. The guide is dedicated to all those that wish to have a direct experience of Istria and its hinterland, so genuine and so close: Croatian and foreign tourists, Istrian day-trippers, sightseers from neighbouring or faraway places, those that are already enchanted by her and those who wish to get to know her better, as well as those who meet her for the first time.

You will not get to know Istria just by reading the pages of this guide: its intention is to encourage you to visit the peninsula yourself, the guide will just slightly open the doors to her treasury. Once you enter, you shall be ennobled by its atmosphere, where the sounds of the present and the traces of the past endure and radiate with a magical harmony and force that you will not be able to resist: you shall return and each new encounter with Istria will be richly rewarded by her unspoiled beauty and a big heart.
Miroslav Sinčić

Tour 5

Buzet - Roč - Hum
Walking route: Brnobići - Kotle
Lunch: Ročka konoba in Roč

Today's destination is a country of dreams and legends, a magical land that will enchant and nurture its visitors any time of day and any day of the year with its beautiful landscapes and its primordial force of endurance and creation. This is Istria's north, a border country from time immemorial, stretched across the touching point of the gentleness of the coastlands and the harshness of the highlands, open to the blue skies of the east and the red skies of the west; this is the realm of the Croatian Glagolitic Script, the motherland of spirit and healing, of antiquity and beauty.
You will visit Buzet, Roč and Hum, walk through the Alley of Glagolites and visit Kotle, an old village of interesting rural architecture, today one of the most frequently visited resorts of central Istria.


View of Buzet and its countryside

There is an old and a new Buzet: the old Buzet is located on a 153m mound rising above the hill-encircled valley while its new part, Fontana, lays at its foot and keeps spreading and merging with the neighbouring dwellings. Buzet's hill was inhabited as far back as prehistory. Romans built a fort there, leaving behind a plaque from the year 192 on which the name of Buzet (Pinquentum) is mentioned for the first time. During the Middle Ages, here, on top of the hill with a good view of the surrounding territory, a town developed. Many rulers followed one after the other: the Byzantines, the Franks, the Patriarchs of Aquileia, Venice, Austria... In 1511 Venice transferred to Buzet the seat of its Rašpor captaincy.

The Captain of Rašpor was the military governor of Venetian Istria and arrival in Buzet favoured the development of the city: the fortifications were repaired, new palaces, churches, the city square and the well were all built at that time, as well as the Big and the Small Gates. After the fall of the Venetian Republic (1797) Buzet came to share the historical fate of the whole Istria.

Buzet is today a small city in perpetual development, the prospects for its economy are good and it has good predispositions for development of tourism. It promotes itself as the City of Truffles thanks to its local forests rich in this greatly appreciated mushroom. Before venturing into the discovery of the old city stop by the local Tourist Association's office where you can stock on all the necessary information and brochures. The office is on the square Fontana 7/1, phone no. (052) 662343.

You can either walk or drive to the old town. Enter through the 1547 Vela vrata (Big gates). The city also has the Mala vrata (Small gates) built in 1592, located on the northern side, near the Zavičajni muzej (Town Museum) on the small Trg rašporskih kapetana (The Square of the Captains of Rašpor). The Town Museum's permanent exhibitions are the Archaeological Collection with the Lapidarium, the Ethnological Collection with national dresses, the collection of agricultural tools and the old Buzet kitchen. There is also a year-round programme of exhibitions in its art gallery. The Museum is open every day from 12.30 to 15.30 and will open Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays upon previous notice to the telephone numbers (052) 662-792 or (052) 662-836.

The heart of the old town is its square with a Baroque well, restored in 1789. Visit the church of St. George, built in 1611. Take the steps near the church to climb up to the city walls and enjoy the spectacular view of the valley of the river Mirna and the slopes of the nearby Ćićarija.

Buzet: Central square with well
All the most important historical buildings are marked by wooden plates affixed to their facades. Visit the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary built in 1784. A 36m bell-tower rises near the church, flanked by the birth house of Stjepan Konzul Istranin, a great promoter of Protestantism, Istrian writer and translator. He printed his books in the Glagolitic, Latin and Cyrillic scripts in Urach near the German city of Tübingen. The street by which you climbed up into the old town, with the nearby old town cemetery and the 1653 church of St. Vitus, carries his name.

For additional information about the Buzet churches and the possibility of visiting them contact the Parish office on the phone number (052) 662-340

If you are a festival and feast lover the best time of year to visit Buzet (www.istra.com/buzet) is the end of July when the beer festival Dani piva (Beer days) takes place. Another festivity takes place at the beginning of September when the feast day of Mala Gospa is celebrated as Subotina, which is also the Day of the City of Buzet. The main attraction of this feast is an enormous omelette made out of 10 kilograms of truffles and more than 2000 eggs.


Roč: parish church of St. Bartholomew with Baroque tower
Head from Buzet towards Rijeka. There is an 8 km drive to Roč. Already from Čiritež you will see the old town huddled on the rocky ridge (334m). Under the hill there is a right turnoff that leads towards Hum. You will be taking this road later, but now continue straight for about 400m, until the crossroads, where the signpost will direct you left to Roč. Continue to the right along the walls and enter into the old town through the Vela vrata (Big gate). You can park on the cement plateau. The whole town is squeezed around you: you are on its western side and a mere 100 paces divide you from its eastern Mala vrata (Small Gate).

Roč was originally a border castle that from the 12th to the 15th century developed into a small town. There are indications that previous settlements existed on the location in Roman and Byzantine times, and most likely in prehistory as well. Medieval Roč was fortified with walls and towers protecting the castle within. The old castle used to be located on the plateau in the northwest part of the town (where you just parked). It was connected via two parallel streets with the two town gates and the central square. The town basically retained the same structure until this very day, but unfortunately without the castle that has not been preserved.

Old cannon on Roč fortification walls

The sacral complex that dominates the centre of the town - the parish church of St. Bartholomew, the fraternity church of St. Anthony the Abbot and the 26m tall Baroque tower dating from 1676, all testify to the importance of Roč as a former urban, administrative, economic and cultural centre of considerable power and glory. St. Bartholomew is a beautiful three-nave Gothic church built in 1492. It has five altars and an elevated shrine with a ribbed vault. It also has a choir, an organ from 1907 and several precious Baroque altar paintings. Close by is the single nave church of St. Anthony, dating from the 12th century featuring a peculiar asymmetric bellcote. 14th century frescoes adorn its walls. It treasures a votive cross with the carving of one of the most important Glagolitic inscriptions - the Roč Abecedarium from the 12th century.

The bust of Žakn Jurij has been erected in front of the parish church. Žakn Jurij was a student of Glagolitic script who announced with fervour the printing of the first Croatian printed book, the Missal, that appeared as early as 1483. The town loggia is on the square behind the church, and a niche on the façade of the neighbouring house exposes the bust of Šimun Greblo, Istrian writer and scribe. A great master of all the three scripts - Glagolitic, Latin and Cyrillic, he headed a Glagolitic scriptorium that was closed in 1533.

The house no. 27 on the square is the local Parish office in which you may enquire about Roč's churches and obtain their keys. Phone at (052) 666 462.

From the central square passing by the school, descend towards the belvedere from which you will enjoy a spectacular panorama that opens towards Hum, your next destination. Pass through the Mala vrata (Small gate) on the eastern side of the town, walk outside the walls to the left by the tower, to the Vela vrata (Big gate). The town coat of arms with the year 1064, when Roč was first mentioned, is located above the gate. You may wish to visit the nearby Roman Lapidarium and the rooms above the gate, the former guard-house, which have been adapted into the Ronz gallery.

Do not leave Roč without visiting the chapel of St. Roch near the Vela vrata within the inner side of the walls. St. Roch is a Romanesque chapel of rectangular form. Its apse is decorated with two layers of frescoes: an older layer from the 14th and a later layer from the 15th century. The chapel, recently renewed, is Roč's most important medieval monument.

Walking around town you will run into several modern sculptures on different locations. They are the work of the participants to the Susreti prijatelja Roča, a multi-medial (figurative, literary and musical) workshop that takes place in Roč since 1994. Roč is also the host of the international festival of the small diatonic accordions that takes place every second Sunday in May, under the title Z armoniku v Roč (With an accordion to Roč).

Owing to Roč's long Glagolitic tradition a Mala glagoljaška akademija (Small Glagolitic academy) takes place here every year at the beginning of July. The Academy is a Glagolitic script workshop mainly intended for children coming from different parts of Croatia who wish to learn about this unique Croatian script.

Before continuing your journey stop for lunch in the Ročka konoba (Roč Tavern). Near the tavern that used to be a Renaissance residence is a beautiful replica of Guttenberg's printing press. Ask for the key in the tavern and take a closer look at this beautiful masterpiece of handicraft.


Return from Roč to the turnoff towards Hum. Stop near the plaque that informs the passing travellers about the Aleja glagoljaša (The Alley of Glagolites), a unique series of 11 stone monuments erected along the 7km road from Roč to Hum. The first monument - The Pillar of the Chakavian Parliament - is in front of you, at the beginning of the Alley, while the last monument is the renewed Vrata Huma (Gate of Hum), erected at the very entrance into the smallest town in the world, as Hum presents itself. The monuments of the Alley of Glagolites were erected between 1977 and 1983.

While driving down the road to Hum take notice of these monuments, scattered to the left and to the right of the road. They witness the centennial literacy and culture of Croats in Istria. The monuments were designed by the prominent Croatian sculptor Želimir Janeš. After The Pillar of the Chakavian Parliament you will encounter the following monuments driving down the road: The table of Cyril and Methodius, The Seat of Climent of Ohrid, the Lapidarium in the village Brnobići (under a lime tree in front of the 15th century church Our Lady of Snow, the Pass of the Croatian Lucidarium, the Belvedere of Gregory of Nin, the Rise of the Istrian Book of Boundaries, perhaps the most impressive monument of the Alley, the Wall of the Croatian Protestants and Heretics, the Resting Place of Zakn Jurij, the Monument to Resistance and Freedom just before Hum and the Gate of Hum which completes the Alley of Glagolites.


Hum Gates

Hum is today the home of only twenty people. According to the population census from 1880, 101 people lived in Hum at that time. People left looking for jobs and better life, leaving Hum deserted. Today it is a monument-city, visited only by tourists, a city with a long and violent past that is a real treasury of architectural and cultural heritage.

Once you pass through the double town gates you will find yourself on the town square. Everything is literally in front of you: 100m long and 30m wide, within the defence walls, a settlement is located with all the fundamental characteristics of a medieval town. The appearance of contemporary Hum basically dates back to the 11th century. It was at that time that on the remnants of an older fort a castle was built that gradually grew into a larger settlement. The castle was not preserved, but the Parish office has been built in its place. The town basically grew as three rows of houses among which two parallel streets passed. These streets used to connect the town Gates and every part of the settlement with the castle. The whole town was and still is encircled by defence walls and towers.

The principal town Gates are from the 16th century, they are double and pass through the Municipal Hall. They lead to a small square with the town loggia. The parish church of the Ascension of the Holy Virgin Mary is on the other side of the square. On this location, in front of what was once the castle, there was a small church from the early Middle Ages, which was torn down by the beginning of the 17th century and in 1609 a larger one was erected in its place. Today's parish church, built in 1802, is a single nave church with a sacristy and five altars. Its bell tower dates from the 15th century.

Hum, central square with the loggia (right), the parish church (centre) and the bell tower
The Municipal Hall has on display an exhibition of reconstructed Glagoliticinscriptions from Hum. In front of its doors, under the centennial lime and chestnut trees there is the županski stol (Table of the Mayors). This Table was in the past a place of council and public gathering. This is where orders and other announcements were read. Today, here, in front of the Hum Gates, celebrations are held again: once a year the Mayor for a Year is elected and occasionally folkloristic and other cultural and entertaining events are organised.

The Humska konoba (Hum Tavern) offers the town guide, "Hum - an excursion into the smallest town in the world" for sale. This guide contains detailed information about the history of Hum and its importance as a centre of Glagolitic culture and as a treasurer of its priceless cultural heritage. In the tavern ask for the cemetery church key and head for the Hum cemetery. You will visit the Romanesque church of St. Jerome, built in the 12th century and decorated with frescoes from the 12th and 13th century. Many Glagolitic graffiti have been carved into the frescoes, the most famous of which is the Hum graffito. The Hum triptych - an altarpiece with three pictures and a painted lunette dating from 1529, the work of Anthony of Padua, today part of a collection held in the Poreč Museum, was originally the property of the church of St. Jerome. From the Hum cemetery you can also admire the work of another artist and her work. Here in the Hum region Nature created some landscapes that are a real work of art.

Renewed water mill in Kotli
On your way back to Roč, once you arrive to the village of Brnobići, you will have two options: you will either continue to the crossing under Roč and end your today's journey by returning to Buzet by going left, or here, near the small church in Brnobići, turn towards Kotle. We recommend the latter: visit Kotle today. You may also wish to return on some other occasion (the village has been described in more detail under Tour 7). There are only 3km of asphalt road from Brnobići to Kotle. You can either drive, or park here in Brnobići and take a walk to Kotle and back. It should prove to be an exciting way to conclude your today's excursion.