Sea boat shore

I slipped into Croatia from the north west after leaving Padua. Entering the country this way one can descend into the heart shaped peninsula of Istria where the nearby Italian influence is still felt.

Rocky shoreline

My first experience in Croatia was an immersion in its natural beauty. Istria has both beautiful shorelines and a lush green interior. I was to discover in fact that vast areas of the whole country are untouched – either forestry, scrubland or stony terrain.  The Croatian coastline is rocky and most beaches are pebbly, with a warning about sea urchins. In Istria the sea was bordered by low slate-like sheets of stone which met a sea that you are told to expect but still marvel at – transparent turquoise and green waters.

Clear water

I chose to stay away from the main coastal resorts and stayed in a little ‘houselet’ in the medieval village of Bale, its narrow stone-flagged streets almost deserted in May.

Bale 1

Medieval Bale

The sea was not far away so I could still walk around the coast where sea and sky merged into a glistening blue world.  It was not far to visit the southern cape which is a protected reserve called Rt Kamenjak.  Here numerous pathways lead across the headland to quiet pine-backed beaches. The flora is abundant. Shrubs and pretty wildflowers envelope you as you look out towards some of the islands close to Istria.

Reserve bikes

Rt Kamenjak Reserve

Labyrinth 2

A happy discovery in Rt Kamenjak Reserve

On other days I visited the attractive coastal ports of Rovinj and the smaller Vrsar but even in May they were too touristy for me after a while and I was glad to get home to little Bale.

Rovinj 2

Rovinj & St Euphemia viewed from the sea

Rovinj 3

Rovinj harbour

Both Rovinj and Vrsar are working fishing ports. In multi-coloured Rovinj the fishermen are supposed to pray for a good catch in the landmark, bleached Church of St Euphemia high on a hill above the town, the reward after a climb through narrow alleys lined with souvenir sellers.   Here St Euphemia’s tomb is a popular shrine and I saw visitors lining up to touch the sarcophagus which is supposed to hold her remains. She was an early Christian thrown to lions in AD 304 by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, whose grandiose city I was later to visit in Split.

Saint E  Rovinj

St Euphemia – who rotates with the wind on the steeple

St E street 2

The climb through ‘Grisia’ backstreets to St Euphemia

It was peaceful in Bale and I find that more and more I need to take towns and cities in small portions, there can be too much speed, sound and too many people for my soul, though of course I love to explore a place full of cultural history and beauty for a time.   I was to find increasingly as I travelled through Croatia that the larger places to sightsee were highly dominated by brash tourism and too busy for my taste even though this was not the high season. I was consistently advised by Croatians to avoid returning in July or August when the country is densely invaded by visitors.   Then I imagine a pleasant way to find space is to be wealthy enough to hire out one of the many sleek cruisers I saw for charter and seek out the secluded coves Croatia boasts about.

Poppies 2

Olive trees and a sea of poppies : Bale

So, though my first days were marked by Bale’s calm and Croatia’s beautiful natural world I was later to witness the growth of tourism, which is of course a major source of income for the country.   The number of apartments to rent everywhere became extraordinary and in certain hotspots the construction of enormous super-hotels on the coast was threatening to become dominant. One cannot blame Croatians for responding hungrily to the demand, especially as the country had to find a means of reconstruction after the 1990’s war, but a balance will have to be maintained if they are not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs – for I believe that most tourists want to come for the natural, untouched beauty and tranquillity that Croatia sells in its travel brochures.

More on Croatia soon, as I travel all the way down the Adriatic Coast.

Poppies 5

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  1. Bipasha says:

    Lovely pictures! I am totally in love with Croatia, too 😃

  2. Jill Barth says:

    My goodness, so gorgeous!

  3. Suzy says:

    Most beautiful photos. I loved Croatia. Lots of love to you x

  4. Joannie says:

    I was amazed to see another labyrinth!
    The poppies and olive trees must have been a glorious sight.
    Thanks again for sharing with us.

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