well familiar with the Slovene Riviera, but a little less with its outskirts.
During a spring or autumn vacation at the Riviera, why not take the time and
explore the inland of Slovene Istria. The exploration of hidden corners of
Istria will lead you from village to village on the discovery of Istrian
historic, architectural, culinary, oenological and other ethnological
Istria has forever been a uniform region, never
divided between the Slovenian and Croatian part, and its people have always been
considered Istrians regardless of their mother tongues or future ethnic
affiliations. Regardless of national borders or Croatian political regions, alluring
places and customs, history and legends are what makes Istria interesting.
Along the outskirts of the Slovene Istria
While vacationing in Izola, Strunjan or Portorož, explore the remarkable
outskirts of Slovene Istria. Travel from Debeli rtič to the edge of the Karst.
The trail leads through the villages of Dekani and Rižana and past the spring
of the Rižana River to Bržanija Hills nearby the edge of the Karst, the
dividing line between the Karst and Istria. The world between the edge of the
Karst and Šavrini Hills is littered with natural and cultural sights.
From Koper, head for the
mysterious Šavrini Hills. The Austrian Republic and the Republic of Venice waged war for centuries. In the bordering area
from Črni Kal through Podpeč and Zanigrad, numerous
fortresses were built by the Republic of Venice to protect their territory. The
fortresses were reinforced from the town of Kubed (Covedo), located at a unique
and inaccessible location. However, not only the government would build
fortresses. They were also built by the plebs. Between the 15th and
17th centuries, the Turks were ravaging the land, so the farmers
erected a series of anti-Turk camps, known as tabori, each of them a sight to behold. The camp in Osp was built
in a karst cave under a giant rockfall; in Hrastovlje, the villagers enclosed
the ancient Romanesque church of the Holy Trinity with a mighty wall, and above
Sočerga, the two Guards (Stražarja), majestic stone towers, would warn people
of the looming danger.
In villages atop the hills, visitors will feel
like they can almost touch the sea. The sea is only five kilometres away, but
the feeling is nothing compared to the sensation at the seaside – the sea seems
like a distant memory. What's missing is the hustle. And that is what attracts
tourists. Peace. Intactness. And of course breath-taking views and warm weather
even during the months of winter.
The hills guarding the town of Izola invite
visitors to undertake the pleasant circular path through the towns of Korte,
Padna, Šmarje and others, and a visit to the living museum, the Vrešje House
(Hiša Vrešje) in Krkavče is a must. There, don't forget to stop by the Krkavče
It is said that that in the past, salt was even
more expensive than gold and that many a Venetian merchant became rich thanks
to the white gold from the salts pans in Koper, Izola, Strunjan, Lucija and Sečovlje.
This salt has always had a reputation of high-quality. However, in the period
when mining became prevalent in Sečovlje, it was almost forgotten. The winding
salt road, with stops at landmarks and locations of interest, vies through the
most beautiful protected part of the Slovene coastal region from Strunjan to
Sečovlje, more precisely from Strunjan Nature Park to the Sečovlje Saline
Nature Park. From Strunjan past Piran and to Portorož. After arriving to the
settlement of Seča by St. Jernej's Canal, you will find yourselves at one of
the most beautiful corners of Slovenia, the Sečovlje Salt Pans.
The Istrian Hills have always been reliant on
coastal towns, particularly Trieste, which was the largest harbour of the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the time. The image of the “Šavrinka” originated
from that period: a woman, who hauls home-grown produce in a basket on her head
to the market every day to provide for a better life in her hometown. She was
more than a saleswoman: for lack of choice, apart from moving to distant lands
or facing poverty, the people from these parts would engage in various jobs in
cities. A thorough turnaround occurred only after the Second World War.
After two and a half decades under Italian authority, the region was
occupied by the Yugoslavian armada, forming the so called Zone A. The new
authority did everything in its power to maintain sovereignty over the towns.
To provide for living conditions, the authorities would erect factories in the
coastal towns, suddenly giving the people from the Šavrini Hills an opportunity
for a decent life without travelling the seas to remote continents. In merely
decades, the number of inhabitants decreased substantially as most moved to
towns along the coastline.
Only a few villages in the hills, once teeming with activity, remain
inhabited. The villages are usually located at ridges overlooking steep
valleys. Houses are usually built in clusters, guarded by the church bell
tower. The then hustle is no more. Those who wander into these parts will be
surprised by the beauty of the villages. They are all built in stone and
covered with “korci” (clay roofing tiles), vines climbing the walls and with
small windows with wood shutters. The church is usually enclosed behind a wall
and surrounded by cemetery, full of tombstones with only a handful of different
last names. Life was beautiful here, even in poverty: everybody was acquainted
and the extended family would face difficult times together. This makes the
Šavrini Hills a miniature Tuscany – and frankly, they couldn't be more beautiful.
People have been returning to these parts in recent years for good or to
overhaul old homes into holiday houses.