Croatia: Istria County Classified

Even the most restless of hearts get tired sometimes, needing some serenity, loveliness, and quiet. Since Slovenia is a neighbouring country to Croatia, it makes sense to retreat to its gorgeous seaside for the summer holidays.

It is a funny thing, these summer vacation for Slovenians. Kind of like obsession, it is a must to pack for days ahead, drive to the seaside, meet the nearby residents (mostly Slovenian), excessively lay on the beach, stroll down the coastline cities with necessary ice cream cone, barbecue, drink špricer (a mix of local wine and mineral water) and come home satisfied that another summer was successfully consumed.

This is a legacy of socialism, typical for Yugoslavia, the endless supply of camping spots and trade union holiday homes (low-cost company owned apartments, rented out to company workers). As I was told by my grandparents, those were the days of summer idleness. Crystal clear Adriatic sea, wild nature, no or limited supervision in camps (which led to people smuggling in and out of camping places, the ultimate element of fun), strong family&friend ties along with hopefulness.

Of course, these days are long gone.

The charm faded with tourist development, camping spots turned into substantial mobile houses suburbs, with free wi-fi, closed doors, and numerous expectations. Beaches are packed with people, paying recently introduced beach fees, overpriced bland food, and parking spots. A sight worth every much-publicised tourist destination, but a nightmare for those who find charm in local authenticity.

Trying to book a decent budget friendly accommodation for one (which is a task on its own), I managed to find a house in the Istria County inland countryside, with two terraces, two bedrooms, and a garden. All for myself! The price to pay was the absence of the near proximity of the sea, but the shortcoming was compensated with the tranquillity worthy of gods.

The place lies in the municipality of Barban, so I explored the central part of Istria County, focusing on areas far from the crowds.

Croatia Istria County seaside
The fields of lavender on the way to the beach.

 

Barban 

The small old city of Barban looks like a long ago forgotten village, allegedly coming to life in August, with the annual tournament of horsemen, called “prstenac”. During other times, even in high season, is mostly filled with a few locals, trying to withstand the heat along with passing by tourists, looking for fresh fruit, cold drink or the ATM machine.

Croatia Istria County seaside
The church door in the city of Barban.

 

Krnica and Rakalj

Trying to find a proper beach, I discovered even smaller villages, Krnica and Rakalj, with the tiny stone built heart and picturesque facades. Many houses are renting out, with sporadic residents in their colourful homes. The locals spend their days somewhere between their gardens and a “pharmacy”, as they call the local drinkery, safely hidden from the caprice of the modern world.

Croatia Istria County seaside

The real luxury, if you ask me, aren’t the high priced cocktails on white leader lounge chairs, but crystal clear waters, as little people as possible and just the right mix of sun and natural shade. A book, shades and nothing else. Thanks to the genius of BeachRex, finding the right beach didn’t involve a Robinson like expedition, but only cleverness and a bit of luck. What I found near Rakalj succeeded all expectations! A green bay resembling a big natural pool, perfect for swimming, with a few visitors and more than enough space. The path leading to the beach is covered with sage and other wild herbs, while the seashore is full of butterflies and petite fish, trying to bite your thumb on the way to the sea.

Croatia Istria County seaside
Wild beach Luka near Rakalj.

 

Rabac and Labin

There are numerous beaches similar to beach Luka on the southern part of the Istrian peninsula, mostly smaller and more visited, but still worth a try. A nice trip can lead to the eastern side of the peninsula, through the roads surrounded by pine trees (one of the most magnificent scent in the world), river delta and the old industrial city of Raša, gorgeous but touristic stone city of Labin, to uvala Prtlog or the city of Rabac. The one beach I found was quite lovely but stacked with empty deck chairs, which was a dangerous sign of the nearby civilisation.

Croatia Istria County seaside

As one can imagine, I ran out of Rabac quite soon, missing my luxurious private beach.

Croatia Istria County seaside
The city of Rabac.

Returning to my personal piece of heaven by the house, as I named the meadow next to it, buzzing with different flying creatures and hundreds of crickets, I realised once more how delicate balance of any kind is, driving through a massive storm and coming home to the pink sky and a vast queen of rainbows. Is it really the harmony we’re looking for, or just the extremes? Can one even handle the equilibrium?

Croatia Istria County seaside

All in all,  it was confirmed once more, the road worth taking is the less travelled one for sure. 🙂

 

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