Our last evening in Istria was spent wandering around the artistic and beautiful streets of Rovinj, slowly making our way up the narrow alleys to the top where the Church of St. Euphemia stood with its imposing bell tower modeled after St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. It was early July but even at 6.30 pm, it was barely comfortable in the shade and quite unbearable in the sun.
Rovinj was built on an island, and has been part of the Venetian, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Napoleonic, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslavian states, and currently enjoys it’s time as part of Croatia. It was connected to the mainland only in 1763 – the neck of this channel being only a couple of minutes walk breadth-wise.
By the time we descended down the other side of town, kids were hungry, thirsty and not really having a good time – the scoops of gelato having lost their effectiveness by now. I still had an hour of photography left to do.
The fidget spinner craze was in full swing all across Europe as well, and there were a few multi-pronged models the kids hadn’t seen before – so two of these were purchased to stretch available time. That decision combined with the cooling temperatures gave us another hour.
And then the hunt for the perfect restaurant began. We walked into Valentino’s and Mediterraneo – both with picture perfect views, but only a drinks menu. As we were struggling our way across the harbor to a third one, tempers were flaring, and negativity mounting.
Having spent two days driving around the Istrian peninsula in Croatia, and not having come across a single desi (person of Indian origin), we assumed no one around could listen to the “Tum dono bigad gaye ho” (“You guys are spoilt”) label that was attached to the kids quite loudly in the middle of the square in frustrated Hindi.
I get a tap on my shoulder, and a friendly “Are you from India?” I turn around to see a Croat, and respond “Originally, yes.” Friendly banter ensues, and he (Ivan) tells us in as loud a tone as ours that he heard us from afar and thought to himself – “these are my people”. As I was trying to compute what that meant, he explains –
Ivan is a restaurant owner and his restaurant was just a 2 minute walk away, on the harbour. Apparently, every year, he saves up some money and when the going gets sparse in Rovinj (during the winter), he packs his bags and flies to India, to spend 2 months in Goa. For fun. “Why would you go there?” “The same reason you are here”, he responded. Where you live becomes mundane, a chore, a grind, no matter how beautiful.
He needs an escape too, and Goa is his Rovinj.
Also published on Medium.