Chasing Waterfalls – A Day in Central Istria

The notion of Istria, the largest Croatian peninsula, being magical gets repeated a lot, especially on touristy sites. But the fact is, a place that can make a coldish, cloudy, rainy spring Sunday seem like a gift from heaven must be at least a little bit magical

Nope, not talking Istrakon, that I covered in another post, although the convention is why we were in Istria. Having decided to go to there kind of last minute, I could not find any accommodation nearby. As the con on Sunday did not have much in the way of programming, I chose accommodation near Buzet, because I wanted to go see Kotli, an old Istrian village northwest from Pazin. It is on the road to Buzet, if one chooses to ignore the Istrian Ypsilon, which what the local highway is known as.

We – the husband, the child, the dog and me – the night in Pengari, a small village in which the Seven Waterfalls Trail ends.

The trail covers a 5-hour trek which, even though not very challenging, we left for another time. Although I did love that our little adventure chasing waterfalls began where everyone else’s usually ends.  

My kid is in 3rd grade of elementary school and one of the books they have to read by themselves is Grički top (Grič Cannon), a collection of Croatian legends and stories, written down by Dubravko Horvatić and published in 1990. A dyslexic kid finds reading itself a challenge, let alone independent reading and report making which this entails.

“Oranje diva Dragonje” (“Dragonja the Giant’s Ploughing”) is the first story from Grički top which tells the story of how three rivers of Istria came to be – a giant used a huge plough to make water come down from a lake in Northern Istria toward the sea. One was named after him, the river Dragonja, and another one was named Mirna. The latter is the one running through Pengari, and Kotli, which just happened to be on the way to Pazin from Pengari.

Kotli, view from the bridge

l took the opportunity to make the story come alive, so Kotli, its mill and waterfall it was. Kotli is a Croatian word referring to the elliptical shapes the river Mirna creates in this area, in addition to a natural pool and waterfall, which has not other special name – it is simply called the Waterfall. Local legends have it that this was a favorite meeting place of the fairies. Having seen what it looks like in winter, all frozen over, I can well believe that.

Abandoned house right next to an inhabited one in Kotli

It is not as abandoned today as the stories would have one believe. Yes, there are some abandoned houses (and they look awesome!) but right alongside them, there are nine holiday houses for rent, as well as some local homes and locals that still live there. Still, most people there are visitors and hikers come to see the Waterfall and to have a drink at the tiny restaurant right next to the river, Kotlić. It seems a location made for a writing retreat.

Our second waterfall of the day was Zarečki krov, near Pazin. It is not in the “Oranje Diva Dragonje” story, but it is in ours. I love the place and we always visit after Istrakon. In summer, you can swim underneath it and when springs are warm and the waters of Pazinčica low, you can wade in the river. Or just relax in the magic setting. This time is was windy and cold, but no less striking. The weather set a fairy tale like scene we enjoyed walking.

Zarečki krov

Istrakon did not give us a lot of time to see Pazin, but we made up for it by having lunch overlooking Pazinska jama, the grotto the Istrian capital is famous for. “Oranje diva Dragonje” story tells how the grotto came about – by having the giant Dragonja stop his feet in order to drain the flood in the valley of Pazin which he caused by ploughing a river bed to there.

Last year at Zarečki krov


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