To live from what land gives is sometimes old-fashioned, sometimes escapist, and sometimes just as Trudeau would want it. But to see a young man who decides to live from herding although his parents never did it, is truly a remarkable experience. Karlo Hren, owner of the Homestead Stari Kal in village of Kras, near Dobrinj on island of Krk, decided in his student days to dedicate himself to the work of his ancestors. As some sort of a modern physiocrat, Karlo nurtures autochthonic northern Adriatic beef (boškarin), goats, and sheep.
Blended in the Krk’s tradition of husbandry, these domestic animals are long present on the island, perfectly adjusted to its rugged Mediterranean landscape. Karlo is having a fancy haircut, works in local pharmacy, plays accordion in local festivals, enjoys talking about anything, but his heart and mind are connected to the roots of Kras and his family. His father, a maritime engineer, shows us a picture of little Karlo with his grandpa and their two last cows. It was an oracle: now, Karlo has several cows that give milk, and three boškarins, used for high quality meat.
Boškarin is a popular name for the Istrian cattle, but the same species can be found elsewhere in the northern Adriatic. They are slightly different, as they adjust to the local environment. In history, Krk had its own cattle, very alike its Istrian cousin. Now, all the boškarins are under strict control of Istrian development agency (AZRRI). Boškarin is the white grey long horned cattle in Istria, a symbol the region. It was used in agriculture, to plow the fields, for towing the stones for building the houses while its meat and milk were used by farmers as food. But when modernization took pace, the first tractors that were introduced to speed up the work on the land, the number of boškarin started to decline rapidly and were left at only 100 livestock in the 1990s.
Today boškarin is hailed as a true gourmet delicacy in Istria, its meat is back into the gourmet cuisine of the region and the traditional cuisine and recipes are taking on a new note. Through AZRRI, Karlo gets his opportunity to place the high quality meat and especially good are the sausages, with full flavour, and often spiced with Istrian truffles. They enjoy local pastures, surrounded by ageing old houses of the Kras village. This village, in the Dobrinj Municipality, is decreed to be agricultural place, without touristic vision. This is a good choice, given the ever increasing demands and the negative outcomes of the tourist capacity on the island.
Love for cattle didn’t omit regular cows. Husbandry is done predominantly for milk (although the Croatian farmers today are having troubles with cow milk prices) and veal meat. Karlo has a whole ranch for them, on the edge of the village. In a small grove there is a picturesque cowshed, and the ranch is expected to spread and include the rich pasturelands around. The Hren family tell us an anecdote. When the young calf just came, they were restless; the family’s neighbour once called them and told the calfs are drinking water in their swimming pool, just a day before the German guests arrived. Later, the calves done the same, and the guests were so surprised they wanted to take pictures with them in the pool! What a luxurious agritourism that would become!
The scarcity of time didn’t allow Karlo to have more goats. They are known to wonder around and disappear in instance. Still, goats are natural inhabitants of Krk, cuddly white animals that browse the Mediterranean herbs and give excellent and healthy milk. Goat milk is gastronomic prime star, and the goat’s bleating is recognisable sound almost since the time of the mythical Pan and its satyrs. The only goat remaining is still giving the milk every day.
Lastly, there are a few sheep in this animal kingdom of Stari Kal. It is yet another traditional animal on Croatian islands, a true source of food, milk, wool, and cheese, and thus a much loved animal among the Croats. Today, the gastronomy of Krk is unavoidably connected to the sheep cheese and lamb, full of energy and nutrition values and very specific in every island. Krk lamb is famous in history, rich in iodine and sea salt, brought by the heavy bura wind across the narrow strait between Krk and the mountainous mainland. Legend has it that lamb from the island of Krk was served during Nero’s famous banquets in Rome.
Our time with Karlo, his family, and his animals, was ennobled by the classic Krk prosciutto and their own sheep cheese, a magnificent product of a magnificent animal, full of taste and rich in fragrance.
OPG Stari Kal Kras 111/b, 51514 Dobrinj 00 385 99 309 2010 https://www.facebook.com/OPG-Stari-kal-Kras-192183521149241