So, my girlfriend and her mates enjoy going away as a group to European destinations, hiring a villa and exploring the surrounding areas. When we first got together we hadn’t been a couple long enough to warrant an invite – she probably didn’t know if I was a weirdo yet and I didn’t know if I wanted to spend a week abroad with people I’d not spent any great deal of time with.
However, last year we all successfully navigated a staycation in Devon so when the invitation was sent out to go away again this year I was on board.
I did unfortunately get things off to a really rocky start before anything had even got booked. After agreeing availability I had suddenly remembered I had a stag do I was already going on booked up for the time away. This lead to a lot of “you can cut short your trip and fly back from here, or this place on this day” all of which sounded awful as options. But then the main organiser found a lovely looking villa the week before – AWESOME!
What was even better was that flights, accommodation and car hire all came to £300! Happy days.
Anyway, time passed and currency was obtained and before I knew it I was sat in Pula airport waiting what seemed to be an age and a day for the designated drivers to get their hire cars from the in airport booths.
Pula airport appeared to be like a mid-sized, bustling English train station both in look and feel. We were greeted on arrival to some typical British weather too. With drizzle in the air and a grey outlook we went to find our hire cars.
Seasonally, we were right on the cusp of summer in Croatia. The weather was on average a few degrees better than in the U.K. But with the potential of rainy days.
The county of Istra treated us to a great week of weather, which got better day on day. Even though we arrived to drizzle we got to our villa 25 minutes later in clear, bright conditions. Yes, we had a couple of chilly breezy evening and 1 maybe 2 occasions it spotted with rain but on the whole the weather was glorious. So glorious in fact I got terrifically sunburnt having fallen asleep on the lounger.
The pictures of the villa online were absolutely fabulous and upon arrival they were not at all misleading.
As you can see by the pictures the villa looked great and came with some excellent features:
- Sports court including basketball, volleyball, badminton and football
- Outside eating area including BBQ
- Table tennis/ beer pong
Whilst the villa was excellent, we did encounter a couple of issues during our stay. Firstly, the pool was supposed to be heated but was only really an enjoyable temperature for the last couple of days. Secondly, and lastly was the furniture. From my bed to the lounge furniture it was all horribly uncomfortable. All from IKEA and none of it designed for the human body “chillin'” was an uncomfortable holiday past time.
Other than those grumbles, the villa was excellent.
Istria is a region or county if you’re from the UK. It is quite scenic with the landscape consisting of olive groves, vineyards and rustic land all separated by tiny ruin walls. If it weren’t for roads and cars you could feel like you were back in Roman times. That’s not a criticism you understand, it is more than pleasant driving through an area unspoilt by large and modern engineering/housing projects. There is a peaceful quietness about it that you quickly begin to enjoy and soon miss once you’re home.
For those of a historic persuasion to their holidays Istria is the perfect getaway. From the huge Roman Amphitheatre in the city of Pula (no pictures unfortunately), to various caves dotted around the region there is a lot of history in Istria.
Things to See and Do
These are not ALL the things to see and do, there is plenty on offer for a range of people, but these ones mostly stick in my mind, not that I did all of them.
Olive Oil Tasting
During our stay we randomly rocked up to this Olive Grove, Chiavalon as recommended by a leaflet in our villa. We followed the signs to it hideaway location and from the outside it looks as though you are intruding into someones private property. Be brave, ring that bell and be greeted with cheer and happiness.
Inside you learn some (believe it or not) interesting things about olives and olive oil. The region is known the world over for its olive oil and the place we visited was one of the best producers of olives and have been for generations.
One thing I would recommend. If you do fancy going, book in advance and have a proper tasting session including bread, cured meats and cheese. We rocked up, caught them a little off guard and just had a small tasting of oil as well as a quick talk on olive oil.
But definitely try it, you’ll be amazed!
p.s. I am still to try olive oil and vanilla ice cream, it is supposed to be THE perfect food combination.
Not an activity we ended up doing, but one that was most definitely spoken about. There are plenty of vineyards in the region and even some other attractions have their own little vineyards on the side – we were given a little taste of a local tipple once we finished our cave exploration!
Anyway, who doesn’t like going on holiday and do some local wine tasting!
There are churches aplenty in Istria if that’s your thing. Personally, it doesn’t float my boat as an activity – a church, is a church in my opinion and I feel uneasy seeing fancy marble, gold leaf and gilded fixings one side of a parapet and simple, uncomfortable wooden pews the other. Just a personal thing.
Terrible Football – Cheap Beer
Thankfully in amongst the group we were with was a kindred spirit. A guy who enjoys beers and football. Without question he has far more passion for both than I do and that lead us going to see NK Istra.
With no clue as to what it would be like and with a slight worry in the back of my mind it will all kick-off and I’ll be left choosing between saving myself or saving my girlfriend we went and got 4 tickets. 40 Kuna (£5) and some ‘neutral’ tickets later we were wondering around the stadium looking for food and a club shop. We found 2 cafe’s and a sports shop that sold ‘replica’ jersey’s, however, the term replica in Croatia is the same as us going to our local market to buy a knock off, you know the ones that have 4 Adidas stripes, or where embroidered badges are part of a single printed item so we thank you and went to a cafe in search of food and beers.
well, we certainly found beers and at 10 Kuna (£1.20) a beer they were by far the cheapest yet! I almost felt like tipping the guy when he told me how much they were I just couldn’t believe it. happy days! Then once the locals inside the cafe started singing what seemed to be local folk songs things took a real turn for the bizarre!
We made our way into the ground, took our seats and with hardly anyone else in attendance witnessed a standard of football so bad I could have got a game with my gammy knee!
But we sort of enjoyed ourselves in the surreal-ness of it all then headed back to the villa to tell our tails to the 4 that didn’t go.
Regardless of what town we were in, how large or small that town might be, there were always brightly coloured buildings and artistic murals. I have to say i could never grow tired of seeing building like that, take a look for yourselves!
Probably one of my favourite aspects of our trip was when we visited a couple of coastal towns. There wasn’t one specific element I could point out, but they were just really pleasant places to be. The boats, the waterside restaurants, the tiny passageways and maze like streets these towns were just enjoyable places to explore and unwind.
Would I go back to Croatia? Yes, in a heartbeat. Would I go back to Istria? Probably not. I say probably not because I think the world is too big to be going back to the same place twice. But also because I enjoyed the coastal towns so much I think I would go back to Croatia to do the Dalmatian Coast and all the little islands just off of the mainland.
I would however absolutely recommend to anyone that they visit the region, it is certainly relaxing and full of different things to discover that you wish you could spend longer there!
I am going to sign off with an apology, the heading, I couldn’t think of anything better as the title for this piece, despite my best efforts and some terrible suggestions from the travelling party I’ve stuck with this one. Sorry.