The theme of this unique book, written in Croatian and English, is a very special European region. On the one hand, Istria, the Kvarner islands and the northern Croatian Littoral constitute a region with a common identity. On the other hand, this relatively small region is divided by many differences – geographical, cultural, historical, political, linguistic and ethnic. Located at the transition between the Romance and Slavic world and on the edge of empires, this region has experienced tension, conflict and changing borders over the centuries. Today the region belongs to three different countries.
Through the eyes of foreigners, we follow its history from late mediaeval times to the period before the First World War. The account is concentrated on cultural monuments and sights that foreigners found most interesting in the region. This means that some aspects are not covered. On the other hand, foreigners did sometimes note aspects that are not commonly covered by local historians. In this book we let the visitors speak.
The book is systematised by towns and islands in addition to two chapters covering life in the countryside and at sea. The visual aspect is crucial. Drawings, paintings and engravings convey more than words. Although there may be inaccuracies, an artist working on the spot would mostly create a true picture of what he saw.
Although our region is situated in the middle of Europe, it was found to be rather unknown, strange and romantic. A British author stated at the end of the nineteenth century: “The Istrian peninsula is less familiar to British tourists than that of Sinai and many educated Englishmen have never so much as heard its name.” Many foreigners were attracted by legends, of which there are several in the region. That the legend of Medea, Jason and the Golden Fleece was connected to islands in the Kvarner Gulf was well known. The legend of the Virgin Mary at Trsat was also mentioned by foreigners from the earliest time. The legend of how St Euphemia’s sarcophagus came to Rovinj was curious, as well as the legend about the (first!) vampire in a village in Istria. The mysterious ravine of Pazin inspired Jules Verne. The stories about the Uskoks of Senj were exiting, and the history of the Frankopans of Krk was dramatic. Many wondered why the Roman triumphal arch in Pula was erected by a woman.
This rather small region thus contained much material for the imagination of foreign authors. Most important is nevertheless the fact that this region has some architectural monuments that artistically rank among the finest in Europe, such as the amphitheatre and temple at Pula and the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč. In addition, every town is a museum.
Pages 386, hardcover
Illustration about 700, published in 2019