Unbelievably we have already reached the midway point of this year’s Language and Culture course and today we had a full day excursion to discover some of the hidden gems of Istria’s interior. Our first stop was to view some little, round dry stone buildings called kažun, which are typical of Istria and rather reminiscent of small versions of the trullis of Southern Italy. Then it was on to Grožnjan, one of the many ancient hilltop towns dotted around the interior. Over recent years it has been colonised by artists and craftsmen and has also played host to numerous musical and artistic events. In one of the studios we got talking to up-and-coming artist Marko Brajković, who told us about his life over a number of decades. He is currently exhibiting internationally and his style, reminiscent of Chagall, appears to be finding favour beyond the limits of Istria.
Our next stop was the Kabola winery where we viewed the amphorae, vast oak casks and stainless steel containers, which are all employed at various stages in the production and maturation of the high quality wines which this estate has been producing since 1891. Although each one of these vessels hails from a completely different era, they all have their own pivotal part to play in the process and, from the tasting that followed, we can vouch for this family-run enterprise’s success.
Later in the afternoon, after a stroll through the virtually abandoned mediaeval ‘ghost town’ of Završje, we found ourselves embarking on a trek through the woods around Livade in search of that magical ingredient of Istrian cuisine – truffles. We were under the direction of a young man called Nikola and his three dogs Dona, Mala and Zara. Amongst our group was also our own lovely Donna, so it was almost inevitable that we had the potential for confusion. After Nikola had given us our instructions to go off into the woods to hide some truffles for canine Dona and her companions to find, off we all set. John and Nick were in charge of burying the truffles, Neil and Tony were in charge of a pole, which was to used to tap the ground to ward off any snake that might be around, unlikely though that was, and the rest of us followed on as the support party. We tried hard to remember where the truffles had been planted but inevitably one tree does rather look much the same as another in a wood full of trees. Anyway, eventually all the truffles were planted and canine Dona, her companions and master Nikola were called and the search was on.
The dogs managed to find several other truffles before they actually retrieved the ones we had planted for them but in the end they found those three as well, so it was quite a satisfactory day for Nikola. Then it was all back to his car and the three dogs obligingly jumped back in.
One of our party suddenly remarked that Donna was missing, which sent Nikola into a panic as he believed it was his Dona. So just as our Donna reappeared, Nikola was shouting loudly “Dona, Dona come here!” in a voice that brooked no opposition. Our poor Donna looked startled and canine Dona clearly was also confused as she was obediently sitting in the car. An apologetic “Sorry Lady” more or less resolved it with our Donna although canine Dona still looked vaguely mystified.
Oh, and before anybody tells me, I do know the difference between tail and tale!