At the moment it is pouring in the true sense of the word — a straight flood of water coming right at us as we speed on the highway toward Plitvice National Park. Earlier in the day we had left a cloudy but beautiful Piran, and drove into the mountains to enjoy the small hilltop town of Groznjan, then the more populated hill town of Motovun, and finally the large and tourist filled town of Rovinj.
These places are all soaked with medieval and even earlier history. The Romans came through and then the Ottoman Turks and the expanding Venetian empire which ruled these seas and occupied this land. Each town has its grand church at its highest point, nearer to God, with an open square in front for group gathering. They also each have stone walls for protection during the days of roving looters, rough cobblestone walks and narrow streets now lined with shops selling, mostly, truffle products for which this area is proudly known. As we were at the first town at about 9: 30 am, and it was the smallest, it was quiet and peaceful and was the first town where we stopped for truffle tastings – truffle pate and truffle chocolate. A small park with a stone wall overlooks the countryside leading down to the Adriatic Sea.
By the time we arrived in Motovun, it was considerably more crowded, with Austrian and German visitors thronging the small streets. We spoke to the owner of another truffle shop who told us that her family collects truffles and we watched a small video of her father and the trained dogs hunting and digging up the precious fungi.
Rovinj was packed with tourists and the highlight was visiting their great St. Euphemia Church and finding an ongoing wedding ceremony, with the bride and groom sitting in chairs facing the alter. We figure that the priest waving his hands around conducts such lengthy ceremonies that the couple need to sit for the process. Our local guide remarked that he sounded more like he was involved with a divorce not a wedding.
You can spot a variety of architecture in each of these places, the occasional grandiose Venetian embellishment the most obvious and with Baroque church construction such as the bell tower of St Euphemia in Rovinj.
The highlight of this day for all of us was our lunch at Konobo Dolina in Gzadinje. Following the directions of the truffle shop owner in Motovun, and after overcoming arguments by today’s guide who didn’t want to detour, we arrived at a small restaurant in a pastoral setting and sat on the outside open porch area savouring home made fuzi pasta with fresh shaved truffles. Deliriously good. We had grilled zucchini and yellow peppers on the side and others had parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. We were told it was made without butter or cheese but it was so rich that it was hard to believe that was so. Our guide had scrambled eggs topped with shaved truffles and parmesan cheese.
Filled with good food, we drive toward Plitvice Park with darkening skies and then drenching rain as we move further into Croatia.