Magic of Istria, 2009.
Emma Thompson, Far and Ride
I have just returned from our new ride known as ‘Magic of Istria’. Having already visited and fallen in love with Croatia last year when I rode the Plitvice Trail, I was keen to return to this beautiful place and experience a different side of Croatia with its heavy Venetian influence.
Sue and I flew into Trieste airport because the flights to Pula are seasonal. We therefore had the longer drive to the farm which took us through Italy, Slovenia and into Croatia. Keen to explore and learn more about Istria, we were met by the welcoming owner, Petar, and we set off on the two hour transfer to his home. On the way we learnt that Petar is fluent in several languages and has made ‘appearances’ in many films as a stunt rider and even worked alongside Richard Gere. His humour, love of horses and curiosity make him a fun and welcoming host.
The journey was smooth and the roads were very good. Finally we passed through the town of Žminj and onto the tiny village of Karnevali where you find the peaceful family farm. The accommodation had all been renovated in the spring and we were shown to a charming room with a lovely en-suite bathroom with a good sized shower. The room was decorated with solid rustic furniture, wooden floors and a wooden ceiling with beams giving it a warm and cosy feel. We looked at all the rooms and they were all decorated in a similar fashion.
The guests’ living room had a warming log fire and the table was laid for our meal ahead. The Croatians are very hospitable so we were offered a welcoming honey schnapps which is traditional in this area. The meal started with a delicious soup and fresh bread followed by a home-made pasta dish and then pheasant which was cooked in an extremely tasty sauce. The food here is freshly cooked with local ingredients and accompanied by local wines.
The next day we were keen to explore the area and we followed the routes of the trail ride’s day-to-day itinerary. We stopped at each of the stunning villages, towns and the places guests would stop for a break and eat their lunches. Some of the day’s highlights were the hidden waterfall on the way to Gologoricki Dol, the abandoned town of Dvigrad, the caves of Feštinsko kraljevstvo and extensive views from the village of Gracisce. Riding time in the morning varies between 1.5 and 3 hours with a 2 hour stop for lunch and rest breaks in between. Visiting each of these gems over the course of the week provides endless riding country and outstanding views along the way.
For lunch we stopped at the charming agroturismo, Gologoricki Dol (valley), which is where guests will spend two nights on the trail programme. The accommodation here is comfortable with en suite bathrooms and rooms with a small balcony. Here they have their own horses so they are accustomed to hosting others on the trail nights. We met the owner and he took us down to his wine cellar to test his organic wines. The Croatians here are often self-sufficient and many have their own grape vines and produce their own wine. Following our visit we returned to Karnevali and we went with Petar to feed his horses, which are within easy walking distance. He built the stables and round pen himself and is extending his facilities. His horses are kept as naturally as possible – several of these have been bred by Petar himself and are trained to ensure that they are calm and responsive.
The second leg of my trip took us along the coastline from Pula up to Pore via Fažana and the beautiful town of Rovinj, before heading back inland to the town of Motovun. These beauty spots are highly recommended as places you can visit whilst on the stationary programme. During the summer months, the squares are bustling with markets and outdoor cafes. I enjoyed a fabulous day exploring these picturesque towns in winter sunshine.
Another interesting and exciting opportunity is to visit the National park of the Brujuni island. This is the island where Tito courted world leaders and was given a pair of elephants by Gandhi. Today these animals remain along with several other exotic species and you are able to visit the island on your holiday. Most of the places worth a visit are within thirty minutes drive of the farm. The coastline is superb with fabulous marinas, a plethora of boats and crystal clear waters.
The trail ride will be superb for those who wish to explore this unspoilt countryside from the back of a responsive horse; for those who wish to take it easier the stationary programme will be a fabulous experience.
Read more about the ride here: Magic of Istria.