Motovun, a Town Between Dream and Reality
February 18, 1999
Motovun. No, it's not a vision. This town in the interior, which suddenly towers into the view of travelers to and from the coast, is the other face of Istria. Different, but equally provocative and attractive. Motovun. A little town that lies atop of one Istria's many precipitous hills will be hosting its first international film festival this summer . The reasons for coming to Istria, Croatia's largest peninsula, are more than obvious: the most attractive summer vacationing sites of the northern Croatian coast are located on its shores. Istria not only surprises its increasingly numerous guests, and not only because of its increasingly accelerated moves to meet the more demanding needs of tourists. Istria is equally new and unfamiliar to those who visit it often, even to those who live there. In the whirlwind of everyday obligations and demands on our time, we have less and less time to listen to nature and the history which surround us. For Istria has a thousand faces, and the visitor unless he or she does not come often enough and does not seek with sufficient persistence will only discover some of them upon each arrival. The first is the one that draws visitors, while the second (and so on) will only be uncovered subsequently, after the land and people become more familiar. Each new encounter means new challenges!
For many Central Europeans, Istria is the nearest outpost of the Mediterranean. And Istria will be their first sight of the so longed-for south as they emerge from their foggy and smog-filled winter days. It shines like a beacon of beauty and tranquility. Istria always offers something new and interesting to visitors. Just as new visitors are enticed by the attractive photographs contained in the tourist agencies of many world metropolises, fond memories ensure repeat visits. Tourists will uncover much to make their stay more pleasant, for Istria is a prototype of modern tourism services which offers the opportunity for recreation as well as rest, cultural events as well as culinary delights. In the latter case, there are restaurants which offer international cuisine and atmosphere, but also homey inns which serve local specialties in a traditional ambient with the finest wines. One doesn't have to be a gourmet to enjoy such culinary experiences! But for those who may want a change, Istria will show its other face. Although so near, it is completely different but just as attractive.
When travelling into Istria's interior, there will suddenly appear in the distance something that seems a part of the heavens and the earth, something that is both dream and reality, a fortified town on a high, sheer hill. This is not a vision, this is Motovun, a different world. This is a medieval town in western Istria on the top of a cone-shaped hill, 277 meters above sea level, in the romantic and natural diversity of the bountiful Mirna River Valley.
Motovun grew around a core settlement surrounded by well-fortified walls. Many interesting things can be seen in its narrow streets, shops and alleys. The town's numerous monuments simultaneously testify to its past and speak volumes of the present. There is a thirteenth-century bell-tower, a somewhat younger church and numerous palaces. The centuries have left their traces on all of them, but also ensured continued life. Just as the streets, houses and their residents, the town itself has its history, seen in the alterations provoked by constantly changing circumstances. Like many other towns in Istria's interior which stood at the hub of trade routes going to the sea, Motovun was once (and this is evident when looking the town over) a true city with several thousand more inhabitants than it had today. Motovun's streets particularly come to life during the summer, when visitors from all parts of Croatia and from abroad pass through the town. However coincidental their first visit may be, these visitors come again and again in subsequent years, for this town is a true gem. The town's visage is an image which will remain imprinted in the memories of all who see it, regardless of the beauty of regular tourist destinations along the coast. Motovun's surroundings, or rather, its lowlands, are equally interesting. There are picturesque vineyards and fertile fields, and, most notably, the Motovun Forest, in which skilled seekers can find the highly-prized truffles. And after a day of sight-seeing in the surrounding area, the more intrepid won't hesitate to climb the stairs up to Motovun: with its 1,052 steps, it is the longest stairway in the world, to which those who made it all the way, breathless, can testify. The climb is definitely an opportunity for advocates of healthy living to test their physical condition. What a difference this exercise will be from the mundane fitness devices in some health club with a view of steel-gray skyscrapers enveloped in smog! And that's not all visitors can find in this medieval town. Everyone will find some special view, some favorite street, some treasured experience. And as in all situations in which the boundaries between dreams and reality become blurred, everyone will have his or her own special story. For all of those who were here at least once, this story will be called Motovun. (Silvana Jakus, Croatia The Croatia Airlines Travel Magazine)
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