Occasionally, but only occasionally, I get tired of the sea and the beaches, swimming and sunbathing, waves and the calm sea and start longing after vegetation and rocks, solitude and the special peace that can only be found in Medieval towns. That is one of the reasons I love Istria. After enjoying the sea of the north-western Croatia, I can set off towards central Istria and find everything I would have to travel hours to get to anywhere else.

The Medieval town of Grožnjan - the town of artists and music, is only twenty minutes from Umag. A hillock surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards is actually a sandstone elevation formed by the down-cutting action of two streams, Kanistran and Pistion, on the ground. Grožnjan offers a view of twenty or so surrounding Istrian villages, the valley of the river of Mirna and the sea from Novigrad to Umag. Small closely built houses and the castle are a clear testimonial to its Medieval past and almost every doorway has a story to tell about the ancient Graeciniana.

Grožnjan is at its most exciting in early May, when this otherwise sleeping town is metamorphosed into a noisy stage paced by actors, musicians, painters, sculptors and art lovers. During summer, Grožnjan lives and breathes music, the labyrinth of its streets pervaded by the sounds of jazz and classical music, guitars and pianos, violins and violoncellos, children and adults. Its artistic revival began in 1965, when artists from all over the world inhabited the empty houses abandoned by Italians after WWII.

Owing to this somewhat "hippy" project, Grožnjan is now home to some twenty galleries and art studios, known as the "town of artists" both among the locals and the tourists. Valuable works of art can be found, from wonderful antique furniture to works of young painters. The doors of all galleries are open almost non-stop. Artists, owners and tourists, all sit together on stone benches or on the street, with a glass of good homemade brandy, talking about some other world. A world in which life seems simple, easygoing and calm, almost like in an utopian dream, with people dancing and smiling while the music plays, enjoying sunsets and sunrises.

And the best thing is that Grožnjan is not an utopia, but an actual town. If you don't believe me, pay it a visit and see for yourself.

Nevena Rendeli

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