WITH BOTH CAR and caravan perched on a pitch overlooking the Adriatic, we took some time to just relax a bit and enjoy the fact that we’d made it to Croatia in our very cheap car and caravan.
Our itinerary for the next couple of days was pretty unambitious. Sit around the caravan and have a look around a few of the local towns. Problem was that if we’d made the effort to get all the way to Croatia, and then only saw a tiny bit, it was a little bit of a wasted effort. So with that, we decided to stay one more night at Camping Lanterna, before moving on further south of Istria to see a bit more of the coast.
Taste of Istria
Camping Lanterna is very close to the town of Poreč, and we’d been told on the site that it was typical of the sort of town that characterises the Istrian coast, and one of the finest to visit. We headed in early in the evening with a view to looking around and grabbing some dinner.
Poreč looks its most dramatic at night
As far as I could make out, the correct pronunciation of the town name is ‘porridge’ but I could find no evidence of Quakers being there. It’s been inhabited for 2000 years in some capacity, changing hands several times. Inevitably, the Romans had it for a while, and later on it became part of the Kingdom of Venice, as well as falling under the rule of Austria for a time too. All this swapping has led to different styles of building and even today, evidence of the Roman town structure can be seen amongst a variety of building styles.
The well-protected harbour has always been a key asset of Poreč and today is home to small collection of fishing boats. We asked our waiter, Niko, what was local on the resturant’s extensive fish menu. ‘Is all local! – Dis, Local, dis, local, dis, local…’ he cried, running an incredulous finger down the extensive menu with a flourish that owed more to Italian drama than Slavic reserve. He gestured at the sea, muttering to himself as he left and looking a little hurt at the suggestion he might be selling us some sort of imported fish. The Istrian’s are very proud of their catch. We both went for fish.
Our restaurant couldn’t have been much closer to the sea, sat around thirty yards from the harbour front. It gave us the chance to watch the community in action as a local boat came rolling in and landed a haul of what looked like squid amongst small shellfish and a few other bits and bobs. A steady stream of local folk came and met the boat, exchanging a small handful of Kunar for a bag of the freshest fish in Poreč , and once the clamour died down, an asthmatic three-wheeled refrigerated van wheezed to a rest nearby, ready to collect the catch and no doubt to distribute it to local restaurants and shops.
Dinner concluded with a complimentary glass of schnapps. For me, it was a rough local schnapps while a ‘spezial Laydee schnapps’ was laid down for Mrs Donnelly. Mine was clear, sour and had a punch that could drop an elephant. Helen’s vivid yellow liquor looked like mouthwash and was syrupy sweet. She loved it.
Taste of the town
With dinner finished, we walked around the town before heading back to the site. It was buzzing. In typical south European style, the entire population rolled into the streets at around 9pm, sitting at street cafes, talking animatedly and browsing the shops whose fluorescent lights painted the glossy limestone pavements underfoot and gave the town a dramatic look. We extended our stay in town by grabbing a drink at the Torre Rotonda, a huge stone tower sat behind the harbour with a roof terrace that gave stunning views across the town. The stairs up are a bit of a bind, but the cracking view is worth the breathlessness.
Poreč is a nice place by day, but at night, it really erupts into life as it throngs with people, mopeds and activity. And sat 100ft up on the roof of a 14th century stone tower with a drink in hand, was the perfect place to sit and savour it.
Poreč's sheltered harbour is protected by the island of St. Nikola
Image: Ivo Pervan / Croatia Tourist Board