Monday 30 June 2014

Festival of Istrian maneštra

Istria with its many gastronomic delights is a paradise for foodies. Throughout the year, there are many food and gastronomic festivals happening across the Istrian peninsula celebrating a certain seasonal vegetable or typical local dish... asparagus is feted in Lovran in April, seafood in Vrsar in June, and the tomato in Umag in July; while in November it’s the turn of the truffle in Buzet and Livade, mushrooms in Brtonigla, and olive oil in Vodnjan.

Gračišće’s best known event is the wine festival which takes place each year on Easter Sunday. Then on every 2nd Saturday in June the village hosts the maneštra festival (festival istarskih maneštri in Croatian).

Maneštra is a typical Istrian dish, which is very much like Italian minestrone (the names are also very similar). This is a hearty soup made with a mix of different vegetables and pulses. Some popular ingredients used to make maneštra include barley, corn, cabbage, potatoes, beans, chickpeas, turnips, fennel… to name a few. Pork meat is also often added.

This year there were 11 different types of maneštra on offer, prepared sur place on wood-fired stoves by local chefs.

A list of the 11 different types of manestra on offer. Visitors could vote for their favourite.

A neighbour who was participating decided to prepare a vegetable maneštra, without any kind of meat or any animal products (much to my delight!). Traditionally, maneštra was rarely made with meat, because it was not as readily available as it is today. Today, however, pork is almost always added. That’s why my neighbour’s vegan maneštra was an unusual competitor this year, despite the fact that it was actually more traditional and therefore ‘authentic’. I’m glad she chose to make a vegetable maneštra, because the jury awarded her 2nd prize!

Veggie power - 2nd prize!

Now for the other winners selected by the jury:

The barley manestra won 1st prize.

While the noodle manestra took 3rd prize.

The public awarded the prize for best manestra to the 'football' manestra.

Visitors also had the chance to vote for their favourite. The prix du public went to these guys who in the spirit of the World Cup, cooked up a 'football' maneštra.

Where there's food, there's music! A live band kept spirits high. The cooks broke out in a spontaneous dance around the square.

See you next year!

Saturday 21 June 2014

1st day of Summer

Welcome Summer!

Today is the longest day of the year. The sun came up this morning at 5:14 and will go down at 20:54.

This is what summer looks like…

Tuesday 17 June 2014

5 things to do in Istria (for Expat Croatia)

When Sara from Expat Croatia asked me to contribute the occasional article on Istria to her informative website, I was happy to oblige.

Expat Croatia is one of the Croatia blogs I follow regularly for useful information on the practical aspects of living here. It also has many resources aimed at visitors, like flight schedules to Croatia, and articles featuring destinations and different aspects of this beautiful country.

My contribution is a short article on ‘5 things to do in Istria’, which you can read on the Expat Croatia website here.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Under the loggia

The lovely loggia in Oprtalj

If you’ve explored any of Istria’s many medieval towns you probably came across a loggia, most likely at the town’s entrance or on a public square. This is a covered gallery, like a veranda or porch, which is open on at least one side. This architectural feature dates back to Venetian times – the loggias found in Istria were all built during the 16th century.

The loggia (loža in Croatian) was an important meeting place and the heart of a town's public and political life. Running along the walls are stone benches where noblemen, judges and community leaders would once sit and discuss important issues affecting the daily life of the community, with members of the public listening in on deliberations.

Gračišće’s loggia

Here in Gračišće, the loggia is located at the main entrance gate which was once part of the fortified walls of the village. Decision makers no longer deliberate on the stone benches but they now occupy the upper floor, in the offices of the local municipality.

Novigrad's seaside loggia

In Novigrad, the loggia was built on the edge of the waterfront, with its arched windows looking out to the Adriatic Sea. This is the only loggia in Istria built directly on the seafront. 

View of Novigrad's loggia from the waterfront

Grožnjan’s pillared loggia takes up the corner of a picturesque square. 

Inside Grožnjan’s loggia

The upper floors used to house a court and prison, as well as a granary and a room where the town’s weights and measures were kept. Today this building is the municipal art gallery.

Exterior view of the loggia in Grožnjan

In Labin, the pillared loggia occupies a large square at the foot of this lovely hilltop town.

Labin's loggia

Hum is a tiny picturesque village which has been named the smallest town in the world. Its loggia has arched windows and sits on the main square just inside the entry gate. This is where the local men used to elect a local leader by using a wooden voting rod, the edges of which would be nicked with a knife to cast a vote. This custom was reintroduced in 1977.

The loggia on Hum's main square

The loggia is one architectural example of Venice's lasting legacy on the Istrian peninsula.

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