about We are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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off-season istria
chilly beauty

After December and January in gray England, we were ready for some sun, so we packed up and drove across Europe with a quick stop in Switzerland to reach Croatia by early February.  We assumed that the weather would be sunny and warm --- guidebooks described Istrian winters as "mild" --- but instead we found ourselves fighting the bitterly cold bura.

The bura (also spelled as bora) is a northern wind that sweeps across the Adriatic Sea bringing frigid cold spells to Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the winter.  Normally, the bura lasts for a few days every winter, but this year, it hung on for a full two weeks --- and those happened to be the two weeks we were in Istria.

Frankly, I've never felt such intense bone-chilling cold.  Granted, I try to avoid cold weather as much as possible, but this bura was something else.  When the wind didn't fly across our bodies, the city of Pula was relatively pleasant --- in the mid-50 degrees, but the wind knocked the temperature down by about 30 degrees, and we might as well have been naked for all the protection that our jackets afforded us.  Our clothes drying on the line froze and we huddled into our heated house, hoping for the wind to turn.  Of the fourteen days we spent in the Istrian peninsula, we were only able to enjoy four.

But, those four days were lovely.

Abby at the Mediterranean Pula
Ampitheatre Pula
Roman Amphitheatre Pula Roman Amphitheatre Pula

Istria is on the cusp of being the next big thing in European tourism.  Some might argue that it's already there --- that every European and their brother has visited the Istrian peninsula --- but, for most North Americans, this former Yugoslavian country is still unexplored territory.

In the winter, it is certainly unexplored.  We stood by ourselves in Pula's majestic Roman Amphitheatre, a remnant of Croatia's wealth and importance in the Roman Empire. We wandered the stunning village of Rovinj, standing on its parapets to overlook the turquoise ocean, without worrying about any other tourists getting in the way of our photos.

We had the towns to ourselves which was both delightful and awkward.  Though menus were in English, restaurants usually closed in the evenings.  We ate truffle-topped pizzas, a local favorite, at lunches with businessmen and local couples, and cooked pasta in the evenings.  On more than one occasion, people asked us curiously why we were visiting Croatia in this awful time and encouraged us to return in the summer.

We smiled, shrugged, and agreed.  Yes, we have to come back.

Rovinj Rovinj