Updated: Feb 19, 2019
We’ve divided our job. Edvard is driving, Matija is looking on the right side, and Vedran on the left. Hawk's eyes permeate the Kanfanar’s countryside, passing the little villages with superbly refurbished old villas and households, fields and chapels. Scanning through the olive groves we even see the Maklavun tumulus, a construction some 3500 to 4000 years old, with preserved funeral chambers and entrance hall, believed to be the first solar observatory in Croatia, because the entrance is directed to the winter solstice.
We even look round the parish church of St. Sylvester, built in 1696 and situated in the centre of Kanfanar, whose tower is visible from afar. In 2012 this church, which is rich with some 13th-century furniture brought from the Dvigrad Castle, contains a copy of one of the most important relics in the Christian tradition – the Shroud of Turin. Only a few of these copies are left in the world, and one of them is in Croatia, exactly under the guardian eye of St. Sylvester!
We know that we don’t have to look around the Lim Bay, one of the most beautiful places in Istria, often names as a fjord although technically it is not. It didn’t stop Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis to play in a 1958 movie “Viking” which was shot exactly here, and in 1968 another film called “Long Boats” was made in Lim. As a gastronomic testimony, restaurants “Viking” and “Fjord” exist here, amidst the unique ecological rarity. The area abounds with herbs and Mediterranean plants, which is why the family Červar decided to use this richness of nature for a quite special products:
Read more: Istraorganic - Immortal Gifts of Nature
Close by is the St. Romuald’s cave, where this saint used to live for some time, devoted to a solitary life before founding a monastery order Camadoli. Local legend says he defeated demons and dark forces residing in the cave, that was inhabited since the prehistoric times by animals and cavemen.
The cave, together with the Dvigrad Castle, also mentions the history of mystical Knights Templars, whose main Istrian headquarters were in the not so far away Vižinada. They cultivated olives and wine, transferred through the river Mirna and Lim Bay to the open sea for sale in Italy or some other part of the world.
Dvigrad Castle itself is one of the most attractive ruins in Istria. Its name means two castles, as there were two parts of this fortification (Moncastel and Parentin), build in the 9th and 10th century, although the area was constantly inhabited before due to the fertile ground. Already in 6th century first Slavic communities settled here. Today, only Moncastel remains. Anyone visiting Kanfanar should go to Dvigrad and experience its inner secrets, and you might find out more about the legend of the monstrance and the legend of Henry Morgan’s treasure. What is it about? Go and find out there!
But, we didn’t find what we are looking for there either. You wonder what? Istrian ox, of course! Sometimes called boškarin, the Istrian ox is the symbol of Kanfanar. The locals call this place the municipality of Istrian ox and fuži, very recognisable Istrian food ingredients. The story begins in the 1990s, when the first ox exhibition was held here. At that time, these animals were extremely endangered and the intention of this event was to warn about the need to do more to protect them. Boškarin, it should be noted, is, in fact, the widely used “personal” name for the ox. It is an affective, patient and brilliant animal and thus Istrians used to give him affective names such as Boškarin, Gajardo, Istro, Bakin, Srnela, Sivo… In fact, our reporter and klapa singer Edvard remembered a few verses from an old Istrian song “Our Gajardo”, dedicated to this remarkable ox.
The Istrian ox that was used as a working animal until approximately sixty years ago; today the meat of this ox is the main ingredient of certain specialities of Istrian cuisine. Over the last fifteen years, the boškarin has been saved from extinction thanks to the efforts of the local authorities and an initiative of the local people. One such person is also the director of the Kanfanar Tourist Board Mrs Ivana Maružin!
Today, the breeding of this type of ox and the production of its meat represents an important part of the Istrian economy and its tourism offer. The specially prepared meat can only be found in top restaurants and taverns whose chefs have been specially trained in preparing dishes using the meat of this unique ox. One of such places is the restaurant Katalyma which we visited.
Read more: Katalyma - Enjoyable Inn for Istrian cuisine
Boškarin meat is often served with the queen of Istrian pasta, fuži. At the same time, it is the most typical Istrian pasta and indispensable part of every holiday table in Istrian households. Old ladies still do it with hand, in the traditional way, feeling every form and shape in a unique style. And Kanfanar is the municipality of fuži also because in 1987 the „Klara M“ factory started to produce Istrian pasta. Ever since it is a synonym for good quality and traditionally produced Istrian pasta.
The last weekend of July a traditional festivity Jakovlja takes place. It is the biggest celebration of Kanfanar. Since ancient times this area has had cattle fairs right beside the ruins of what used to be a convent dedicated to this saint – St Jacob. In the early nineties of the 20th century, the tradition came to life again with the Istrian ox exhibition as the central event. These were the years when very few of the Istrian oxen were left and the entire breed was at the brink of extinctions. Keeping in mind the goal of raising awareness about the issue of Istria being this close to completely losing its utmost symbol, the citizens of Kanfanar came to an idea of the oxen show, with an addition of holding elections for the most beautiful, the heaviest and the most obedient Istrian ox. In the following years, greatly thanks to Jakovlja, the number of oxen had increased, yet the breed never ceased to be endangered.
Nowadays, Jakovlja is also enriched with various other programmes, such as the Fridays’ gastro show Fužijada, where visitors can learn how to make and cook this most famous of all kinds of pasta in Istria. That is, of course, the opportunity to try “fusi”, a kind of home-made pasta, with various sauces. The luckiest ones, as soon as the coupons are drawn, get a chance to participate in a – „Golden fuži“ search! If you are looking for unforgettable experiences in gastronomy, tradition, culture and history – welcome to Jakovlja, the locals said. So we went there.
Besides, you can always come there at the end of the year, when olive oil festival takes place. Kanfanar and its surrounding area were always known as an ideal location for growing olives and producing quality olive oil. You may feel so good in Kanfara that you can sing at thin and thick. Wonder how to sing it? The two-part narrow intervals of the Istrian and Croatian coast are included in the UNESCO representative list of intangible cultural heritage, which has become one of the 13 intangible Croatian assets protected by this organisation. In order to preserve the traditional Istrian folk singing, people can visit the manifestation “Sing the Traditional Istrian songs” in September in Barat, where this specific and unique type of folk singing is heard. And you can hear it here:
After such singing, the throat is dry and the best way to make it work again is to drink some Istrian wine. Kanfanar is blessed with good microclimate, red soil, lots of sunshine, and the constant eastern breeze that keeps the littoral dump away. Some very old sorts succeed here, including the ones cared for in the Lunika winery. Also, Trošt and Sosich wineries are favourite among the locals.
Read more: Lunika - The Unique Wines of Kanfanar
Besides, you don't have to go around with a car. There are lots of sports activities included in Kanfanar, from cycling and hiking to kayaking and horse riding. Be free in one of the most picturesque, historically and gastronomically rich municipalities of the Istrian peninsula!
Turistička zajednica Općine Kanfanar
00385 (0) 52 825 244
Trg Marka Zelka 3, Kanfanar
Photos by: TZ Kanfanar