It’s that time of year again and the CLS summer school this year continues its drift northwards alighting on Istria. Our base for the week is the small town of Fažana, which is where fourteen students have gathered, some accompanied by their intrepid and long-suffering partners, for another week of brain cudgelling interspersed with tailor-made excursions and general immersion in the surroundings and local culture.
Each year it is so good to see familiar faces from previous years and have the opportunity to compare notes and catch up and it is always nice to welcome a few new fellow travellers, who for some reason or another have the desire to make a start on the never ending journey of learning Croatian.
Tomorrow lessons begin in earnest but today we were bound for the Brijuni Islands, a former preserve of President Josip Brož Tito, where even these days a measurable portion of the land is reserved for the exclusive use of government officials. Some of the rest is taken up by a safari park, housing an array of animals including many of which were originally presented as gifts to President Tito from heads of state around the world or are their offspring.
Our guide for the week is Pula born Ljerka, a highly experienced local guide who has also worked in Belgium and France before returning to her native Istria. We started today with a short tour of Fažana itself, which we discovered has a history dating back to Roman times and earlier. Then a short ferry boat trip brought us to Veli Brijun where Ljerka told us the story of how the islands briefly became a top of the market tourist resort for the first time over one hundred years ago. The prime mover behind this initiative was Paul Kupelwieser, an Austrian who visited the islands and saw their potential as a future holiday destination. He arranged for all the mosquito infested swamps to be drained or otherwise cleaned up to rid the place of malaria. Over one hundred years later, after many reversals of fortune and specific set-backs not to mention political changes of ownership, The Brijuni Islands finally appear to be fulfilling their promise as an attractive and developing tourist destination as well as an important National Park. Only two of the islands are actually accessible to tourists while the others are left to nature.