Feeling the need to escape the impending gloomy winter that was about to descend upon the UK, I decided to abscond to Rovinj, on Croatia’s picturesque Istrian peninsula, to steal the remnants of an Adriatic summer like a pirate hoarding treasure from a ship stranded on rocks.

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj is a charming old fishing harbor on the Adriatic Sea with enchanting narrow cobbled streets that weave there way through ancient mediterranean colored buildings. Popular with tourists the winding streets are peppered with small shops, hidden away restaurants, and galleries where local painters produce and sell their art. It’s an unhurried place, perfect for those who want to recline into days where the only plan is to have no plan.

After another dismal summer in the UK it was a pleasure to find Rovinj basking in warm mellow sunlight under clear blue skies. With the main tourist season over the streets were as quiet as I remembered them from when I visited here in 2007 with my brother.

Rovinj, Croatia

Traveling with my friend Becky from the U.S., the pair of us lazily drifted through our days as if carried by a gentle Adriatic current. We sauntered along the pretty streets wandering aimlessly, stopping to take pictures, explore small shops, and browse tucked away galleries.

We learned how to say ‘hello’ (Bok), ‘thank you’ (Hvala), and ‘goodbye’ (Dobar dan) in Croatian just so we could feel a little more local and pretend that this place was home and our real life. My pronunciation was often askew, but the locals always smiled in appreciation of my effort (or perhaps sympathy at my butchering their language?).

Rovinj, Croatia

Staying at my brothers cosy vacation apartment on the old town street of Montalbano, our days would start slowly with a relaxing breakfast in the sun at one of the many restaurants along the harbor. Sipping hot lemon tea with honey and watching passers by, we would guess their nationalities based upon clues provided by their clothing and behavior. Germans always seemed to be on point, working toward some defined goal, Italians were often easily identified by their chic appearance and musical tones, while the English would frequently seem politely hesitant and mildly indecisive.

We discussed the possibility of venturing beyond the town. Maybe renting a scooter and riding off somewhere, snaking around the roads like true Europeans, sounding the horn and making animated gestures for effect. But in the end that required more effort than it seemed either of us were willing to engage in at the time, this was a vacation after all, or “praznik” as they say in these parts.

Rovinj, Croatia

One exertion that was absolutely worth the effort was climbing the rickety wooden stairs of the 206 ft (63 metres) belfry of the church of St. Euphemia. Based upon the belfry of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice the tower has been an enduring landmark on the Rovinj skyline for over 300 years. From there you get a fabulous view of Rovinj with it’s patchwork of tiled roofs alongside the shimmering waters of the Adriatic Sea.

Rovinj, Croatia

The church itself has a history going back as far as 950ad. Inside there are statues of St. George, St. Rochus, and St. Mark, along with the alter of St. Euphemia. On the ceiling there are two beautiful paintings showing God or perhaps saints, and heaven.

There I decided to light a candle in memory of my late sister-in-law, Kate. She had been especially fond of Rovinj and it was mainly down to her influence that my brother bought the apartment that Becky and I were staying in. Mindful of the fact that Kate wasn’t especially fond of religious people I placed her candle separate from the others so as to give her a little space from those religious types. If nothing else I hope that from wherever she is now that gave her reason to smile.

Rovinj, Croatia Rovinj, Croatia Rovinj, Croatia
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Rovinj, Croatia Rovinj, Croatia Rovinj, Croatia Rovinj, Croatia

Of course, when you’re on vacation you’re supposed to treat yourself and indulge in good food and drink, that’s a rule, I’m quite sure it’s written somewhere. So Becky and I made sure we carried out our duty spoiling ourselves with fresh seafood, pizza, beer, wine, and ice-cream.

Each evening we would watch the sun fall from the sky igniting the horizon and turning the clear water into a glistening sea of gold. Silhouetted against the burning sky like a scene from a picture postcard, lone fishermen would stand in small boats tending their nets as natures awesome daily finale reached yet another rousing crescendo.

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj isn’t a big town. An enthusiastic tourist could dash around and pretty much see everything in a day. But this isn’t a place that lends itself to dashing. The richness of Rovinj is only revealed when you’ve walked down a familiar street only to see it anew in the ever-changing light. The colors and tones transform throughout the day in striking ways that often lead you to take the same pictures time and again in this most photogenic of places.

Rovinj, Croatia

On our final day in Rovinj we planned to take a boat tour around the islands, however due to the leisurely pace of our breakfast we missed the departure time for those tours and instead took a cruise along the coast to the Limska Draga Fjord.

According to the Lonely planet, the Limska Draga Fjord is the most dramatic sight in Istria. After reading that I checked Google maps to make sure we hadn’t visited somewhere else because it wasn’t that spectacular and anyone expecting a Norwegian-style fjord would be disappointed.

The four hour cruise included free wine which, to me, tasted more like a mixture or paint stripper and chemical waste. However, the German ‘Saga louts,’ who jollied the boat along, were happily guzzling the stuff down proving that there’s really no accounting for taste.

The boat stopped for a while in some inconsequential little place where the ‘Saga louts‘ disappeared without trace. We had a bite to eat then I managed to miss the departure of the boat leaving Becky and I to comically stand on the bank of the Fjord waving and calling it back. I couldn’t help but imagine how my brother, a highly scheduled and efficacious charachter, would have been annoyed at my totally lackadaisical approach to catching (and nearly missing) the boat.

Rovinj, Croatia

Becky LewisWe decided to have (what we thought would be) our last evening meal in Croatia at the quirky little Neptune restaurant. Our friendly waiter served us a complimentary glass of some potent local drink. He motioned that we should just down it in one, so we obliged. I have no idea what it was, but adapting a well known saying I decided to take the approach that when in Rovinj one should do as the Ronijians do.

Taking a final unhurried stroll the through the dimly lit cobbled streets, we indulged in some late night Gelato ice cream. I’m not a huge fan of ice cream but Italian style Gelato is devilishly sumptuous and perhaps even more dangerously morish than chocolate. It is perhaps fortunate for my waistline that I did not discover this sooner.

Rovinj, Croatia

On the morning of our departure we headed out early for a final alfresco breakfast by the harbor. I felt a little sad that my brother had agreed to sell his apartment to an Italian woman, but more than that I’m just grateful that he so graciously shared it with me.

After a typically lazy breakfast we returned to the apartment, gathered our luggage, took one last look around then left. We closed the door behind us for a final time and walked down the steep stairs to the narrow street below where I looked up at the window and saw a picture that just had to be taken.

My last photograph of this place would be of the window to Pete’s apartment reflecting the shuttered window across the street. It was a fitting farewell I thought, and with that we both turned and left to meet our ride to the airport to catch a plane back to the UK.

As small and familiar as Rovinj is, it’s most certainly a place I would be happy to come back to. Maybe I will, but I rather think that I’ll take the sale of Pete’s little apartment as cue that there is a whole lot more of the world out there to be explored.

Visiting Croatia
Rovinj’s tourist information
Rovinj on Flickr
Video : See a high quality version of the video above
Video : For Kate