The following is an extract from a conversation the driver on the Rovinj-Trieste bus was having at 7.50 a.m."Dobro,dobro, OK,OK, ciao, ciao." Sense the confusion ? I had tried to learn a few words and phrases in Croatian before I left home but in Rovinj there was absolutely no need for them. Italian seemed to be the language most spoken and even the street signs are bi-lingual. It seems everybody is bi-lingual and a lot of people spoke a fair smattering of English and German in addition. The waiter at the Amfora spoke Polish as well and I suspect that most people here speak at least three languages. Unlike other countries I can think of, this does not seem to be a problem for anyone and it forces me to think uncharitably of my own country, where people recently vandalised all the road signs when the name of a town was officially changed from English to Gaelic. Rovinj is generally acknowledged as the town with most Italian influences on the coast and when we travelled inland we heard less Italian and more Croatian. All the young people I spoke to in Croatia had really good english. This, they told me, was just from high-school english and not private lesons. I was very impressed with the linguistic skills of the people in Istria. In Ireland we could certainly do with taking several leaves from their book.
I had no idea how important St Euphemia was to Rovinj until I'd visited the church called after her a few times. Returning there on a weekday morning things were much quieter and I had a good chance to browse and take everything in. Behind the altar, at the right-hand side of the church ,is a small room which contains the tomb of the saint. Completely covering one wall is an absolutely enormous painting illustrating the legend of how she actually got to Rovinj. I'd seen this legend mentioned in a guide book and had dismissed it as whimsical but this painting and more time spent in the church left me in no doubt as to how important it is here.The picture tells the story. In 800 AD a mysterious sarcophagus was washed ashore. Remember the position of this church right at the top of a rocky hill and you will understand the problems inolved in trying to get it up into this area. All efforts failed and suddenly a young boy with two heifers appeared and told of a vision of Euphemia of Chalcedon, thrown to the lions and martyred by the emperor Diocletian. This small boy yoked his heifers to the sarcophagus and miraculously they were able to drag this huge weight up to the site of the tiny St George Church next to the site of St Euphemia's. Opening the tomb they found a beautiful girl with the story of her captivity and torture.This legend meant very little written down but seeing it so clearly illustrated in a giant piece of art makes me realise how everyone who grows up here grows up with this as part of their heritage.
Right up to the present day St Euphemia is venerated by the people of Rovinj. Her feastday in September is a big occasion and people come from all over Istria to celebrate it. In this way, the little book I bought here points out , 'she can be credited with stimulating the beginnings of tourism' in Rovinj.
When you look at the stairs from the top they are impressive and when you climb it, it is a long way : 63 meters ! But the view is so breathtaking, as you have seen from the previous pictures that there is no doubt, climbing the campanile is a must !
On this picture, most of the old town appears in the foreground as well as a part of the new town in the background. Saint Catherine harbor appears in the middle of the picture and is between the old town on the peninsula (which was an island) and the other part of the old town on the mainland.
The old core of the town is situated on a tiny island, which was converted into peninsula during the centuries. Its restricted area had strong influence in a way of building the houses, which are constructed very close one to another. It is why the streets are very narrow and connected with many short passageways.
On this westwards view, the top of the front of Saint Catherine church can be seen in the lowest part of the picture. The sun is already low on the horizon and does not light it. The sea is very calm, there is no wind, everything is quiet !
This picture is a close up from the campanile on the roofs, northwards, with the sea behind. There are so many things to look at that one could stay for hours on top of the campanile, watching at the life of the city and of the sea.
Once you are on top of the campanile, it is difficult to choose what to look at, and what to photograph. The view is breathtaking and everything is so interesting ! My only regret is that I have not brought a small telescope ! Next time !
This view shows on the left the place where one arrives when walking from Trg Valdibora to Saint Euphemia. The small pink-orange house shown on another photo is half hidden but can be seen on the left, on the right to two cypresses.
View from Campanile towards the North. Trg Valdibora and the huge monument appear on the right. A little in the background, the closest parking lot (always full) to the old city. Another (half hidden) is a little further.
From the campanile, the view towards north-west shows several small islands, mostly woody. A few houses are scattered between the trees but on the whole, the islands remain very calm and not touristy at all.
Saint Catherine harbor can be seen on the far left of the picture. On the right, a new harbor has been created recently. Also on the other side of the bay, in the background, a huge marina has been built a few years ago.
The new marina is really impressive. Though it is huge, in August it is completely packed alltogether with sailing boats and motorboats. Next time, we should have al walk towards the marina and have a closer look.
In the campanile two huge bells are suspended. We were lucky that we were not there when they rang, as the sound must be really strong when you are so close ! I do not know whether the access is allowed or not when they ring.
Although the communist era is long over, some bureaucratic remnants still linger:
When we looked for a room for 1 night (bed and breakfast in a private house) we had to fill in a request form to become temporary residents of Rovinj, but at the same time sign another form in which we declare that we agree to renounce our privileges as temporary residents the next morning!
What an invention!