Just three days ago, we rested in the Croatian city of Rovinj, breathed in the amazing pine air, swam in the perfectly clean Adriatic Sea, and ate such a tasty ice cream that I wondered if the Croatians had discovered the Italians’ secret. However, I had to leave the warmth of Croatia urgently on business, and now, I sit in the office and receive SMS-messages as follow:
“I ordered a steak with a mushroom sauce, and it is delicious again. What other reason do I need to stay here a bit longer?”
“The restaurant Sidro operates from April till October, but the owner gave me the addresses of those that are open in winter.”
“A villa with a terrace and garden in the quiet part of Rovinj with the view of the Sveta Catarina Island costs about 220,000 Euro.”
These are the messages from Victor who stayed in Rovinj for several more days. Well, it shows we were not wrong to choose the Adriatic coast of Croatia for a summer vacation.
Northern Rovinj and southern Dubrovnik compete for beauty on the seashore of Croatia. There was a time when they really struggled for control of the sea: Rovinj as a part of the powerful Republic of Venice, Dubrovnik as a small independent city. Now, they compete for tourists.
Last year the winner was Rovinj by receiving more guests from abroad and then getting the prestigious “Golden Apple” award. In the tourism industry, this award could be compared with the Oscar in cinematography. But I won’t be surprised if Dubrovnik wins next year. People often call Rovinj the “Croatian St. Tropez” in their blogs. We have never been to St. Tropez, but we love Croatia and come here regularly.
Croatia is a country with perfectly transparent water of unreal colors varying from emerald to sapphire. The only danger in this fantastically clean sea is sea urchins, but at the same time, their abundance is evidence of ecological cleanness of the local waters. This is the only hazard for tourists in Croatia.
By the way, we have funny memories connected with these spiny sea animals.
In the menus of Croatian restaurants, we have never found dishes made of sea urchin. Squids, octopuses, mussels, oysters—as much as you like, but as for the sea urchins, seems like the Croatians do not eat them at all. But the Japanese really love them!
Sea urchin roe is not only considered a delicacy in the land of the rising sun, but almost a cure-all—an orange immortality on a silver spoon. The Japanese consume it abundantly, 5,000 tons a year. This delicacy costs a pretty penny: about four times as much as salmon roe.
Once, we came to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, for a couple of days. Please don’t ask me where it is. Literally, at the edge of the earth. What should we take home? Well, of course, my favorite red king crab meat, about ten kilos of red caviar for relatives and friends, and sea urchin roe for the health benefits.
Having decided not to scrimp on health, we took two kilos of the health-giving product. However, we could not eat it at all: neither by itself, nor in salads, nor on bread. No matter how hard we tried, the health benefits could not outweigh the awful taste of that delicacy. It is a pity that we have no Japanese friend to present it all to.
In Croatia, they do not prepare such exotic dishes, but probably that’s to the good. The freshest langoustines, moist beefsteak in green chili sauce, or carpaccio with white truffles are much more tasty and safer.
The Island Istra Hotel is located separately on the Crveni Otok or St. Andrew’s Island near Rovinj. It is connected to the tinier Mashkin Island by a short land bridge. If the tourists on the big island ceremoniously and honorably take sun baths wearing their swim suits, nobody judges you for not wearing them on Mashkin Island. Nudism is popular in Croatia. Such a freedom of choice is a great advantage of the Istra Hotel.
Here, you are surrounded by the pines and the sea, and loud seagulls are the only possible intrusive neighbors. They are all over the place: white mothers and fathers, and spotted grey offspring. The bravest and most curious of them dare to come really close to people.
One day, we decided to organize a fruit lunch on a wild beach on Mashkin Island and brought some cherries with us. When we opened our bag, one white bird immediately took an interest in it, unerringly understanding there was a food inside. We were not sure if seagulls ate cherries; we thought they only ate fish, but still we treated our curious guest.
She snatched out a grape with lightning speed, but did not swallow it. She run away several steps, put it into her little grey offspring’s beak and came back for the second one. After several cherries, her kid left the nest too. Well, we had to share our lunch among four: two people and two birds. Also you meet pheasants at every turn on St. Andrew’s Island, which attests to the good ecology. But they are very shy.
However, despite all this beauty, you should not come here if you’re not ready to sunbathe on sharp cliffs instead of a sandy beach. Even the special rubber slippers do not always solve the problem of entry into the sea. It is very slippery. Sometimes you think: these are skates, not slippers! Those, who are not able to skate, seek safety at the short sandy beach located on the land bridge between the two islands and in several swimming pools with fresh and sea water.
The buildings of the Island Istra Hotel have a contemporary design without any pretensions and pathos. The rooms are simple, but comfortable. However, there is one building in a completely different architectural style. This building was a Benedictine monastery in the sixth century, and a Franciscan monastery later on. Nowadays, it is a restaurant where the hotel organizes candlelight dinners in the evenings.
You can walk around the whole island in 20-30 minutes, and the whole time, you will be followed by seagulls as if they are your guides. Sometimes, you will find some magical circles on the ground. I don’t know whether to believe in their power or not, but in any case, I stood inside them for a few minutes.
In general, the island is provided with whatever is needed, and you can forget about visiting Rovinj. The freshest oysters and other sea products are delivered from the nearby Lim Channel also known as Lim Fjord, and the fine, delicate local wine Malvazia is just perfect. However, visit the old Rovinj to see its gates decorated with the Venitian lion, and the city cathedral’s bell tower which is a copy of the San Marco bell tower in Venice, Italy.
A small double-deck ship, Rubinum, shuttles between St. Andrew’s Island and old Rovinj once an hour right on schedule, but be ready for surprises of bad weather—life becomes absolutely unscheduled! Sometimes, the 15 minutes separating the Istra Hotel from the mainland become insurmountable! Even when sea communication is restored, you can sail to Rovinj in the lumpy sea for 40 minutes instead of the usual 15, and with notable pitching.
Of course, Rovinj is beautiful, but still it can’t compete in beauty with the city of Korcula, or Stari Grad on Hvar Island, and even less with Dubrovnik. Nonetheless, the old contest continues. Rovinj is a place for not very rich Croatians, but Dubrovnik has become a “must see” destination of world tourism. Along with Venice and Amsterdam, it is included in the three most beautiful UNESCO cities-museums, memorials to Renaissance. The one-day excursion to Dubrovnik during the high season is not the best solution, therefore for the next vacation, we will go to the south of Croatia.
While I was writing this post, the next SMS has come, where Victor claimed, “Our son must be brought to Rovinj. I have not seen so many beautiful brides anywhere else!”