winter walks…

It’s absolutely freezing in Istria at the moment. That’s right, freezing. Not the wall to wall sunshine & heat we’d naively thought we’d be experiencing, all year round 😉 But, we’re also just a little bit stir crazy, having not really left our village (apart from supermarket visits) for over nine months. The same for most people, though, as we live through the craziest times. So, we’re making sure we get out and about in the fresh air every day and walk. Hard to believe, but I’m even doing it in the rain! When it’s especially cold, we don’t stray too far and tend to just walk up to the village and around and back and this gives us a good 2km walk. It’s what we did this morning, getting back to the warmth of the woodburner just before the first snow flurries of the year fell. The picture above is taken from the far edge of the village – if you carried on walking, you’d end up in Slovenia. Those peaks in the distance are the foothills of the Julien Alps. Beyond the ridge, they get higher and higher and there is enough snow for ski resorts – in usual times – to be open at this time of year. To the left of the photo is the Gulf of Trieste and the gateway into Italy. As soon as spring arrives, this view is amazing – the landscape bursts into colour and the trees become vibrant green. A bit different in January, but that’s winter for you.

Anyway, this was what we saw on our walk this morning. As much as we loved living just off Burton Road, in West Didsbury, with all of its amenities. there’s something very special about being surrounded now by the sheep and the abandoned properties and the big, wide, expansive views. And, the silence…

The spring lambs are already in evidence – some seem to have arrived a few weeks ago, judging by their size. Unless they grow very quickly, but I’m no sheep expert. What I do know though, is that the all-white lambs are definitely the naughtiest in this particular field of sheep. Unlike their more docile and peaceful fawny brown relatives, the white ones seem to constantly run around, leaping and jumping, and headbutting any other lambs which get in their way. A lovely stop on the walk – I’ve not seen sheep so close up since I was a child, and it was nice to just stop and take in the nature around us.

Dating back to the 1860s, this is the stand alone campanile in our village of Zrenj. It’s not attached to the church, it stands on its own – and we love that we can see it from various points in northern Istria. The bells do ring out every Sunday morning when a mass is on, and we love hearing this, as it just reminds us of being in Italy, in particular. (Our village is largely Italian and this is the main language spoken).

Like everywhere in Istria, our village has its fair share of abandoned buildings. All of these have stories to tell – people fleeing occupiers, or being forcibly removed during times of war and conflict, or people just dying with no-one nearby to take over the property. Property laws in Croatia are crazily complicated IF ownership of a property is not established and nailed down. Many of these buildings are now in a state of abandonment and disrepair, simply because people to whom the property has passed to, are often spread around the world. And, with out the consent of all owners, a property cannot be sold. We sincerely hope that in the not too distant future, the powers that be, look to Italy as an example for the regeneration of these communities. We avidly keep an eye on Italian property websites where abandoned houses, sometimes whole abandoned villages, are put up for sale for a nominal amount, to attract foreign investment – always with the stipulation that a pre-agreed amount must be spent on the renovation, local workers in the main are employed and the property cannot be flipped. The incentives are there to attract people who want to invest long term and be part of the regeneration process. We so hope this happens here.

We guessed that snow must be in the air, as the sky had that milky, pinky tone to it, which made even the bleak January landscape look very pretty. We did get our snow when we got back – although it was nothing to write home about. Twenty minutes worth of flakes and then it was over. But who knows? These hills might have a dusting of snow over the coming days.

Published on 28th January 2021