Friday, 29 April 2016

Home sweet home

By the way... yes, I am back home in Istria after spending most of the winter in India, and I will be sharing the local sights and sounds of Istria again, and giving readers a break from the Istria abecedary! From now on, the abecedary posts will continue but will be interrupted with updates about life in Istria.

Also, this month my article on seaside Istria was published in the in-flight magazine of Aer Lingus. The Irish national airline offers flights from Dublin to Pula during the spring and summer tourist season. You can read the article here.

Istria abecedary: H is for Harmonika

Harmonika is the Croatian word for accordion, a popular instrument in Istria. Every celebration includes the lively and joyful sounds of the accordion – which is often accompanied by singing. When I hear an accordion being played in the village, I know something's up: a wedding, a birth, or another cause for celebration. 

You may be wondering... if harmonika is the word for accordion, then what's a harmonica (or mouth organ) called? In Istrian dialect, it's organić, while the Croatian word is usna harmonika.

H is also for Histri

The Histri were Istria's first inhabitants – they were an Illyrian tribe who lived on the peninsula around 1000 BC. This is how Istria got its name.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Istria abecedary: G is for Glagoljica

The Glagolitic alphabet dates back to the 9th century, and is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. It was in use in Croatia from the 12th to the 20th century. Glagolitic inscriptions can be seen in several places in Istria. These stone tablets with Glagolitic characters in the image above are found in Hum's town gate. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Istria abecedary: F is for Freske

Freske (frescoes) can be seen in many Gothic churches across Istria. Some are better preserved than others, but they are all genuine mural paintings that date back to the medieval period. Here in the village, we have examples of such frescoes just a few steps away from our house, in the 15th century church, St. Mary on the Square (Sveti Marija na placu). Frescoes cover the apse of the small church and the wall behind the altar, which is painted with a scene of the Adoration of the Magi (see images above and below). 

F is also for Fuži

This is a type of fresh pasta typical to Istria. It's always prepared for special occasions, and you can find it on any restaurant menu. It's often served with a type of ragu sauce, or with fresh asparagus when it's in season. Traditionally, fuži are always handmade, but today you can buy it at the supermarket.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Istria abecedary: E is for Eufemija

The church of St Euphemia dominates Rovinj's skyline (photo credit: Istria Tourist Board)

Eufemija (Euphemia) is the name of a popular saint after whom many churches are named in Istria. St Euphemia is the patron saint of Rovinj, and the city's 18th century church is named after her. 

We also have a church dedicated to St Euphemia here in Gračišće – it's one of the village's seven original churches (six remain today) and perhaps the oldest, dating back to 1383. 

The church of St Euphemia in Gračišće 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Istria abecedary: D is for Dvigrad

Dvigrad (meaning ‘two towns’) is a prehistoric settlement located in Istria. It was originally settled by the Illyrians, and later ravaged by the bubonic plague in the 17th century, with the town's only three surviving families eventually abandoning their homes in the early 18th century. Today what remains of the town is the stone ruins making up an archaeological site on a scenic hillside.

You can see more pictures of Dvigrad here.

I actually had a hard time coming up with words starting with D, and especially the letters that follow: DŽ (pronounced like the J in 'jam'), and Đ (very similar to DŽ but softer) because there seem to be few Istrian words starting with these sounds. Anyone have any ideas for these letters??

Monday, 7 March 2016

Istria abecedary: Ć is for Ćićarija

Ćićarija is the name of the (45-km-long) mountainous plateau in northern and north-eastern Istria.

The letter Ć is pronounced like the 'ch' sound in English, but softer, with the tongue placed behind the teeth.

(Photo credit: Istria Tourist Board)
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