To get to the smallest town in the world, you drive for two and a half hours east from Zagreb to Hum.
A tiny settlement from the medieval period, Hum is completely surrounded by ancient walls.
It is quiet in the off season, and even in the high tourist season of summer, most people who go east prefer to go to the more populated areas, like Pula with its rock concerts and of course the coastal towns of Novigrad, Opatija and Rijeka.
I had not been to the east coast, spending most of my time in Croatia on the Dalmatian coast, where the sailing in between the gorgeous islands and around the Peljesac peninsula attracts most ‘boat people.’
The day spent driving around the eastern part of Croatia was an exploration and full of sensory delight.
Hum is small and a little out of the way. Surrounded by forest, meadows and hills, Hum is home to the ancient Glagolitic script, a written language invented in the 9th century by St. Cyril and used to write old Slavonic religious texts. There is an ornament in the shape of a bell hanging from one of the walls in the town, with Glagolitic writing on it, almost worn out by the hundreds of years it has been there.
I go into a tourist shop to see what Hum offers and come away with the local brandy called biska, one of my favorite rakijas in Croatia. Biska is a grappa liquor made from the leftover pomace (skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the grapes) in winemaking, and this particular rakija is infused with mistletoe. It’s a drink that reputedly was imported into Istria by Celts around 2000 years ago.
Just like French cuisine grew out of the need to cook everything and not waste it, creating dishes that, made right, are so full of flavor and interesting bits, biska made from leftovers tastes smooth and rich.
Although it is small and humble, the town of Hum casts a tall shadow from its history. (And its biska.)
About 40 minutes away from Hum is the fortified town of Motovun, a beautiful town of Venetian architecture sitting on a hill. From the town, you can see the forests where Istria finds its gorgeous truffles as well as the vineyards that produce the fine Malvazija and Teran wines of the region.
I sat beside the wall and had a latte. It came in a tall glass and had some whipped cream with chocolate art on top.
Motovun is magnificent, and the view from up the hill is definitely worth the walk up the steep hilly streets.
Leaving Motovun after a simple salad lunch at the café with the fluffy topped latte, I descended for the drive to the final destination, the artists enclave of Grožnjan, around 25 minutes away.
Grožnjan is an artists’ colony, quirky and colorful. A range of craftspeople live here, some temporarily in the warmer months, and others all year round. Walking through the narrow stone streets, you stumble into little corners with surprising details, like a half of a chair hanging outside a wall.
The day spent in these small towns in the eastern side of Croatia gives the traveler a sense of the rich history in the country.