We arrived in the port town of Rovinj just around lunch time. It's an old Roman city in the Istrian peninsula, an area known for its truffles, olive oil and wine. After some seaside pizza, we got the keys for the apartment (a much smoother transaction this time). We asked the apartment owner if he knew of anyone who could take us truffle hunting at some point during our stay. He made a few calls, but unfortunately without a car, we were out of luck.
After freshening up, we headed out to lose ourselves in the cobblestoned streets of Rovinj. Originally, the city was built on an island, but in the 18th century, the straight separating it from the cost was filled, and the town expanded onto the mainland. The old town, where we were staying, is a pedestrian-only area, with the exception of the garbage trucks (really more like large cars than trucks), propane deliveries, and those getting to mass who have difficulty walking. Overlooking the Adriatic, at the top of the hill in the old city, is an old basilica dedicated to St. Euphemia and said to hold the saint's remains. Rumor has it that after the saint was fed to the lions during Diocletian's purge of Christians in 300-something c.e., her sarcophagus was pillaged, thrown in the ocean, recovered and returned to Constantinople, and later stolen by crusaders who brought it to Rovinj. The basilica has a huge bell tower that's modelled after that of San Marco in Venice.
The sun set behind the sea, and we found a little tapas restaurant for dinner where we had some delicious cheese with truffles, a bottle of wine, and a lot of laughs as we got to catch up more with my favorite sister.
The next day, Aisling's last with us before she headed back to London, Aish decided she wanted to see the coast from a boat. Though it wasn't exactly the 150-foot yacht hanging in the harbor for the regatta that morning--more of a pirate ship-looking thing, actually--the Delphin was just fine for us. The boat was taking us into Lim Fjord, who knew you could see a fjord in Croatia. It was also used as the set for a couple of viking movies in the eighties. Also aboard the Delphin were about 20-some Moroccans who were having a reunion of sorts with music, dancing, stomping, and singing. When the captain came around with grappa for everyone, a licorice-scented gasoline of a liquor also made across the sea in Italy, Aisling and I tried to decline, but the captain was insistent. Nothing like getting seasick off of grappa... Fortunately, we were able to discreetly pour ours overboard. Don't be disappointed dad... This was like the Phillips of grappa. Terrible stuff.
The rest of our afternoon cruise was great. It was nice and warm, and some of the Moroccans were even adventurous enough to go swimming. Since I forgot to tell Aish to bring her swimsuit, we tried to stay as dry as possible. It was indeed enjoyable just relaxing in the sun.
Once we arrived back in Rovinj, the sun had already started to set. Even though the weather was feeling like summer, the early setting sun was a reality check. In five more days, we'd be headed back to Minnesota were winter would be right around the corner... I quickly pushed that out of my head, as we got evening cocktails followed by yet another delicious dinner. Still on this truffle kick, I opted for the truffle tagliatelle again, though this was the best yet. Aish thought she would give the gnocchi another shot, though it just didn't quite meet her high expectations that come from making the little potato dumplings with old Italian ladies during her month in Bari last winter. Corey had some great homemade Istrian pasta with pancetta and feta followed by a veal steak stuffed with pickles and carrots...surprisingly tasty.
We finished off a bottle of wine back at the apartment that night as a send off to my little sis. We bought it from a little old lady in Rovinj earlier that day. She spoke some Italian and told Aish that it was wine from her family's grapes. Oh, family vineyards!
The next day we took the bus with Aish to Pula, the closest city to Rovinj with an airport, from where she was to leave for London. We had a few hours to kill before her flight, however, so we decided to check out what Pula had to offer.
After walking in completely the wrong direction for a while (and cursing that our google maps didn't work), we eventually made it to more of the city center. There is a great big amphitheatre in Pula, "one of the sixth largest Roman amphitheatres in the world" according to the guide book. We walked around it and then stopped in at a cafe for a coffee. I took advantage of the wifi and found a restaurant for lunch that was recommended on TripAdvisor. It was okay, but not exactly five stars in my book. Aish tried decided to give the gnocchi one last shot, but it was decided that it should only be ordered in Italy or your own kitchen. We did, however, have a nice little mushroom carpaccio which consisted of sliced mushrooms with an olive oil and balsalmic drizzle. Simple, but delish. And there were pivos (one of the few Croatian words I have learned, meaning beer) all around.
We walked back to the bus station where, after a teary goodbye, Aish caught the shuttle to the airport. Since the bus back to Rovinj didn't leave for another three hours, though, Corey and I set out to see if there was anything else to this city. We stumbled upon the old citadel from which we had a great view of the whole city and the coast. They also had an interesting exhibit in which I learned that when this area was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Pula was one of their major port cities. Glad I learned all about that in Vienna!
We visited an old Franciscan monastery, and then found some of the main shopping streets, though many of the shops were closed due to the fact that it was Croatia's Independence Day. It was pretty quiet all around, though--not quite like the 4th of July in the US or Bastille Day in France...
We got back to Rovinj, ate our final dinner in the city at a restaurant overlooking the harbor, and turned in early to pack up our things. The next day we were headed to the south of Croatia to the city of Dubrovnik.