Art & Design
It’s not hard to find a beautiful place on the Istrian coast of Croatia. We knew we were going to be spending more time on the coast in the coming weeks, so we found a small, secluded hilltown of Groznjan as our first stop.
We took a bus to a tiny town called Buje on a cold and rainy afternoon and paid an idle old man we found in a café to drive us the rest of the way (about 8.5km on an uphill). Perched atop a hill overlooking farms and smaller villages below, Groznjan is a cluster of the cutest stone houses with a population of less than 100. When the town’s population dwindled and was on the verge of becoming a ghost town, a colony of artists moved in and made it their home and workplace. You can see the artists’ influence on the town in the brightly painted shutters, the beautiful plants decorating the houses and the ateliers dotting the place.
N and I spent the next three days strolling the ankle-twisting cobblestone streets among the white-haired Italian and German tourists who visited the town during the day. We spent a lot of time at the Vero Café waiting for the rain to stop, stalked cute stray cats, tried to catch the post office during open hours (we never succeeded), looked out on the landscape from all sides of the town and used the spotty wifi in the eating establishments to keep updated with the outside world.
By evening, there wasn’t a soul in sight (except for the stray cats) and we had the whole town to ourselves. We ate dinner every night at Bastia, one of two restaurants in town. Fortunately, the food was good and I still pine for the local olive oil they had there.
We were literally stuck in Groznjan since we didn’t have a car and the closest cab came from Slovenia 45 minutes away. In hindsight, I think it would’ve been a better decision to stay in Motovun, a bigger and more touristy hilltown close by. That way, we could’ve explored the smaller towns during the day on various tours. Most of the artists’ ateliers and galleries were closed for the season and we only had the typical souvenir shops to check out. On the last day, we stumbled upon an organic and local specialty food store on the edge of the town that we had somehow missed. Cool paintings lined the walls of the shop, and the owner ended up being a local artist. I was thrilled.
Marko Brajković is a soft-spoken father of three, with twinkling eyes. He took us across town (it was a two-minute walk) to an exhibition of his work in a spacious gallery. Along the way, he pointed things out to us, like Marina Abramović’s summer home, and a Columbia University professor’s home. Suddenly, the town looked completely different.
At the gallery, Marko explained each piece to us and patiently answered my dumb questions. I was too excited about finally meeting an artist from Groznjan that I forgot to take photos. Thank goodness for the internet because his work is online.
On yet another rainy afternoon, we said goodbye to Groznjan, shouldered our bags and headed to the coast for some good seafood eatin’.
Check out more photos of Groznjan on our Flickr album.