After school was out for the day, our trusty driver Davor, who has taken us around with such patience and good nature this week, was once again parked outside the nearby Plodine supermarket awaiting his increasingly raucous passengers. Ljerka and he both deserve medals for the way they have taken care of us, transported us around and given us a glimpse into a very special region, which quite understandably is referred to as Terra Magica in Italian.
And this afternoon our destinations were two tiny gems of towns perched on their respective hills in the north-eastern part of the teardrop that is Istria. Our first stop was Roč, which by anybody’s reckoning is small for a town. However, it is a veritable metropolis compared with our second port of call, Hum, which is famed as the smallest town in the world with a mere twenty-six inhabitants but we will get to that later.
On arrival at Roč, we were met by Professor Hari Vidović, a professor of art and one of the originators of the workshops in the town. I don’t know about anyone else but to me professors seem to be getting awfully young these days! In place of the dusty academic I was expecting, we were met by a beaming young man clad in an interesting local costume. The thought Flash Hari whizzed through my mind but was swiftly abandoned as, although he was flamboyantly dressed, he was far too nice and intelligent for that moniker.
Hari showed us round the town, lending us the keys to two churches, one of which would have done justice to a place the size of Cheltenham. After that we followed him to one of the workshops where he explained to us the processes involved in creating a fresco, which is a tradition for which Roč is renowned. He explained the types of ground stone required to form the smooth base for a fresco and showed us the different colours of paints used, many of which obtained their hues from plants and other natural materials and were consequently quite muted. Then in true Blue Peter tradition he produced a couple of paintings he had prepared earlier and invited us to have a go at finishing them off – I use the term advisedly. One or two brave souls amongst us did take up a paint brush and carefully picked out some details in yellows and blues and actually they seemed to do a pretty good job.
Eventually we said our farewells to Professor Hari and set off for our next destination. Nearby Hum really is tiny but, for various administrative reasons, it does qualify for the status of a town. There are actually only two little streets, so Ljerka felt it safe to let us loose to wander on the basis that even we wouldn’t manage to get lost here. After a gentle stroll along the cobbled streets, we all met up in the local konoba, whose owners had been pre-warned of our arrival and had prepared their local take on minestrone soup for us, which most of us followed up with delicious local pasta and truffles. After a very convivial supper, where the wine flowed freely interspersed with local rakija, it was time to pile back onto the bus and let the ever patient Davor drive us safely home. The strains from the back of the bus bore a passing resemblance to ‘Ten Green Bottles’ but for all I know it might have been ‘Ten Green Onions’, as everyone seems to have taken that snippet of information from earlier in the week to heart. Anyway, it was a very jolly band that finally made it back to Fažana just before 11.00, which was lucky for Chantal as she managed to sneak back into her hotel just as it was being locked up for the night. Otherwise it might have been a night on the beach for her!
Another lovely day and it is sad to realise our latest adventure is drawing to a close.