Chapter One: Buzet, Istria
Istria near the Slovenian border is the perfect place for a romantic getaway and also for solo travellers!
Northern Istria and the hills of Slovenia consist of gorgeous green valleys and mountains. I lived in a remote area and rode a bicycle everywhere. What made it more interesting is that it had almost no brake function, and shifting was iffy at best. This was a bit different from the bicycle I was used to in NL but it still suited me.
I remember riding home from the city center, and a storm was brewing. Not just an ordinary thunderstorm, but the kind that made me consider looking for shelter so as to not get blown off the road.
My first BURA. I remember laughing and saying: “Haha.. is THAT all you GOT? Lt. Dan style. There was nobody around to hear me or think I was a nut, but I probably am anyway.
Istria. (More Specifically, Buzet, on the Croatian/Slovenian border)
I only spent a few weeks here but it was beautiful. The figs were ripe. I drank rakija with my hosts in the yard, and was invited to a small party/gathering in the hills in one of the tiny, tiny villages. I have some interesting memories and stories about that place, and I’ve never seen so much wine, rakija, and other liquors flow so freely. I mean as in.. bring your empty 2 liter bottles and fill er up from the tap, to go. All domaći, or homemade, of course.
Oh, and the pršut, which Americans may know as prosciutto. I practically lived on figs, bread, and pršut for about a week.
Not much to speak of. It’s more of a tourist town than anything. There is a Plodine, where I bought some absolute basics, and a Konzum. The variety wasn’t that great, but neither was I really expecting much. I would imagine that many make a trip to Trieste or Zagreb for items beyond the basics, as both of those places have some great shopping.
If you know what you are doing and have a car, (and some money) you can probably find the right market, along with everything you need to cook a gourmet meal at home.
Tech: Digital nomads: You won’t find much here in terms of tech support or repair, of course. The ISP my host had was surprisingly stable and fast..actually the fastest I’ve seen yet in this region. But there is one odd catch: There are towers both in Croatia and Slovenia, since Buzet is situated within a stone’s throw of the border. This meant that double charging was common, and caused quite a bit of stress for my host. Kind of odd.
Clothing: See above.
Services like haircuts: Same. Save it for Zagreb.
Fitness and Health: It’s old-school all the way. Get creative with outdoor interval training, using rocks for resistance training, etc. I don’t mean this in a bad way.. I do these kinds of workouts all the time in more remote areas. Cycling and rock climbing and other sports could be a thing, but I need to investigate.
Restaurants: My only experience was with the epitome of high-end tourism: A restaurant the specialized in Truffles. I found one local place that was decent, but a 5km bike ride from where I was staying. There are not a lot of affordable, healthy, diverse, and accessible options available, at least when I visited in 2017. It was a virtual desert in this regard.
Rent a vehicle, or know someone with a vehicle.
It’s pretty rural and remote. Without a car, grocery shopping can feel like a major expedition. The neighbors can be nosy curious.
What it taught me:
I only stayed a few weeks. During this time I felt confident and much more “in my body” than I have in other places. I could ride my bike anywhere. I didn’t give a shit about getting caught in a storm. I could attract men. This may sound trivial, but it’s not. I may need to return to this part of Istria soon. (And check out other parts of Istria, such as Rovinj)
Did I mention that for the best experience, you may need to either have a vehicle or know someone who does? Then again, I have fond memories of Buzet without a car.
I remember my bike ride across the Slovenian border, just for the hell of it, for a few hours. There I met a 94 year old woman, just walking alongside the road/mountain highway, and we started chatting, although we barely understood each other. I liked her.
I did manage to tell here that my purpose in riding across that border that day, just for a few hours, was primarily to talk to her. And it was true.. it was meant to be.. along with a picture of a few churches in the distant hills, stealing a few figs, getting a great workout, and getting a nice dose of mild adrenaline from the downhill ride back to the Croatian border.
I also found an old swimming hole, and rode down some steep cobblestone streets, reminding me of my old downhilling days.
I spent a LOT of time in my apartment working, and did not get to see as much as I wanted. But I’ll be back!
Beyond the Visual:
The wind in your hair as you coast down a hill on a bike. Sitting in a spot in Stari Grad in the warmth of the sun, with a killer view. Ripe figs, The local brandy. Truffles, (tartufi) if that’s your thing. I imagine that there are MANY more possibilities depending on how you choose to experience this part of Istria.
There is an old romanesque church, some vineyards, a street lined with quaint houses partially covered with vines and flowers, and hidden Virgin Mary shrines. The countryside is gorgeous, and literally right out the back or front door. This was my “walk around the block.” (Measured in large, rural units) There are some fantastic views from Stari Grad.
Theme songs for me, when I visit a place are about the region and it’s culture. They are also about the songs that mean a lot to me at the time. I think every nomad or traveller has their own personal soundtrack for each place they spend time in. I HIGHLY recommend that you find your theme songs for each place, as this really tends to solidify each memory and make it more vivid, on a personal level. I didn’t have a theme song for Istria. I’ll have to go back and find one.
The old city, Stari Grad. Dining there isn’t cheap, but I took a chance and thought it was worth the splurge.
Interesting things about Buzet:
• You could rent an old stone house on the border of Istria, Croatia and Slovenia. I mean one of the coolest houses I’ve seen. It’s rustic and remote, but damn. Part of me wants to write a book in such a house, even if it meant having to buy 25 kilo bags of rice and bulk supplies.
• Get to know someone who has a cousin or friend in a remote place in the hills. Go, bring a gift, and enjoy the party.
Digital Nomad Friendliness Rating: D.
The fast wifi is a HUGE plus, but the overall openness to digital nomads and infrastructure is poor. This was one of the places where I encountered people who didn’t think I had a “real job” and wondered what I actually did, “sitting home all day” on the laptop. Overall, for long term, I give it a DN-friendly rating of D, or a most certainly below average grade, but for VISITING.. it gets an A.
Buzet is rustic but cool. I’ve had moments that reminded me of Northern Exposure.. complete with some crazy ass eccentric people, surreal places, moments, and memories. Not in a bad way at all, I enjoy that sort of thing, and who am I to call anyone a nut? But after a few months I would be craving a dose of cosmopolitan life.
I also do not recommend it for budget travellers unless you are passing through, but its TOTALLY worth spending a few days or a week in.
If money isn’t an object for you.. and you love adventure, food, wine, etc.. please go, enjoy, and send me the link to your blog if you have one!