Wednesday 8 July 2015

Rocks and stones

Here in the village I’m surrounded by old stones. Our house is made of stone just like the others here in the ‘old town’, as well as in other towns and villages all over Istria.

In the countryside, old walls made of stacked and interlocked stones separate fields and enclose properties. Many of these stones have been sitting one on top of the other for decades, maybe even centuries. Very often these are dry stone walls built without mortar. The typical cylinder-shaped kažuns which dot the countryside here and there and date back to Roman times were built with the same ‘dry stone technique’.

It’s not surprising that Istria’s houses and walls were traditionally built with the materials available locally: mostly stone. Istria has a lot of it. Its landscape is a rocky one made of marlstone and sandstone, while its many hilltop villages sit on beds of hard limestone.

Our village was built on top of a hill on a rocky outcrop, the evidence of which is easily visible. Pieces of the big rock can be seen at several spots around the village, peeking out from underneath houses, buildings and churches, and even occupying cellars. While we were renovating the house, workers spent two months battling it out with the rock, painstakingly breaking it up into pieces and hauling away 15 truckloads. 

Battling it out with the rock!

We have a few remnants of some of the hardest and most stubborn pieces which are now permanent fixtures in our house: a big chunk of rock protrudes from the wall under our staircase. And another remnant is visible in our hallway. I like these centuries-old relics of stone which connect our little house firmly to the earth.

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