Monday, 15 May 2017

Cycling the Parenzana (Part 4): from Vižinada to Poreč

One reason I enjoyed spacing out my journey on the 123-km-long Parenzana trail over several months is that I was able to experience the different colours of each season as I cycled or walked through the different landscapes I came across.

I started out in Muggia in Italy in early October, cycling through this initial stage of the trail that crosses the border into Slovenia and follows the coast all the way to Buje in Croatia. There was a late summer feel to that October day and autumn hadn't yet fully started. It was a sunny day in November when I walked through Autumn landscapes from Buje to Livade on the second stage. And for the third leg from Livade to Vižinada, the rural scenery I walked through was painted in winter colours. 

On a day in early May that was threatening rain, I was on the final stretch of the trail from Vižinada to Poreč on my bicycle. Now the fields, forests and olive groves set in red earth I cycled past were painted in the brilliant green of the first days of Spring.

I started off in Vižinada where I took in the stunning view of Motovun in the distance. Hilltop Motovun was the ever present landmark of my previous walk, but now I turned my back on it and headed towards Vižinada. This section of the trail is on a slow and gradual decline so it was an easy ride. The route was pleasant and picturesque, but compared to the previous sections there were fewer 'wow' moments as the land got progressively flatter as I approached seaside Poreč. And there were no scary pitch dark tunnels!

I have now completed the 123-km Parenzana trail. Would I do it again? Yes! I would especially like to retrace the section in Slovenia by bicycle and the trail from Grožnjan to Livade on foot. Many people do the entire trail by bicycle in a single day, starting in Muggia, Italy and following the path of the former railway line all the way to Poreč, Croatia. Three countries in one day by bicycle? Yes, in Istria it's possible. The trail is dubbed 'the route of health and friendship' by the tourist office brochures because it links the three countries that make up geographical Istria.

Next I'll be writing a short and handy little guide on the trail with a few tips and recommendations. Coming soon!

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Old postcards of Rovinj

Don't you love old postcards? I do!

A neighbour showed me his fascinating collection of 300 old postcards dating back to the early 1900s of Istrian towns and villages printed by an Italian publisher. I scanned the ones I found the most interesting and will be sharing some here. I had already shared a post on old postcards of Gračišće, the village I live in.

Today I'm taking you back in time to early 20th century Rovinj:

1918 -- a view of Rovinj from St Catherine Island

This photo was taken almost exactly 100 years ago. It looks like the tiny island of St Catherine was always a popular beach destination. Today it's also the site of a large hotel, Island Hotel Katarina. I imagine their rooms must have stunning views across the water of Rovinj's old town.

This shot of one of Rovinj's commercial streets in the old town was taken in 1902. The streets of the old town still look very similar today.

Taken in 1906, this is Rovinj's pier.

And last we have Rovinj's Piazza del Ponte (Trg na Mostu), captured in 1905.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Why spring is the best time to visit Istria

Yes, I'm back after my trip to India, and happy to be home. I had lovely spring weather to welcome me back and provide a soft landing after leaving the intense heat of India.

Autumn used to be my favourite season but since moving to Istria almost four years ago, spring is my favourite time of year. Why? Because in South India where I spent close to seven years, the weather was summer-like all the time and apart from the monsoon season, the seasons were not as marked as in northern climes. After spending my first winter in Istria, the arrival of spring was so welcome and so sweet: there's nothing like that first spring day when you can go outside without a coat, and sit in the sun and feel its rays warming your face.

Here's why – thanks to Istria – spring has become my favourite season and why it's the best time of the year to visit:

Everything is lush and green. Spring is when trees sprout new leaves and flowers bloom, so greenery is everywhere. But when Istria's spectacular landscapes are painted a brilliant spring green, it seems like the most beautiful place in the world.

Asparagus. A sure sign of spring is the wild asparagus that shoots out of the ground in Istria's forests. There's nothing like the taste of fresh asparagus and its burst of anti-oxidants. One of the first things I did was scavenge for wild asparagus in the forest on the edge of the village. And in Pula's market, I saw thick bunches of beautiful purple and green shoots on sale for next to nothing.

Outdoor cafes. There's nothing like the first day you can finally sit outside and enjoy a coffee or even a meal in the sun and fresh air. In spring, cafes and restaurants open their terraces and patios, and as soon as the sun comes out, they're crowded with people enjoying the good weather.

Fewer crowds. Spring is when tourists start to show up. Sometime around Easter I spot new faces wandering around the village, and foreign cars on the roads. But the usual tourist spots are far from crowded and this is when I like to explore them: when they're almost empty and before the mad rush of July and August.

Flower markets. Spring is all about flowers and planting. People are busy in their fields planting vegetables: onions, lettuce, and spinach are the first to appear, and very quickly there are strawberries and cherries to pick. People also love to decorate their homes and gardens with flowers and plants, and flower markets pop up in every town.

What's your spring ritual?

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Where am I?

This blog has been quiet... that's because I've had a change of window and am travelling in India again this winter. I hope to get to publishing the posts I have in the pipeline soon... but in the meantime you can have a peek at my Instagram page to see what I'm up to!
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