After a long winter when most people in Istria were in hermit mode, the heat and long days of summer are finally here.
Summer houses and tourist apartments have reopened, swimming pools cleaned, traffic reports on the radio include waiting times at the Slovenian border, and there are more and more foreign cars on the roads.
But there are other sure signs that summer has arrived…
From my hilltop village in rural Istria, I’m sharing some of these summer sights and sounds.
It’s summer when I have to play the opening and closing game with my window shutters.
The wooden window shutters made of moveable slats so typical to Istria (and Dalmatia) date back to Venetian times. They’re designed to keep out the light and the shifting slats allow you to regulate it (and spy on your neighbors!). They’re also good at keeping out the summer heat.
I keep them shut tight at night to avoid being woken up by the early morning sunlight. My bed faces east and at this time of year, if my shutters are not shut to the sun, the light hits me by 5am. But I still somehow get woken up by the light coming through the cracks.
Once I’m out of bed, I fling my shutters open to let in the cool morning air but not much later I have to close them again to keep the heat out. At the end of the day, once the sun has moved to the west side of the house, I can open them again to let in some air and light, before being tightly shut again at bedtime.
Open. Close. Open again. Close again. This is the daily game of keeping the summer heat out.
It’s easy to spot the tourists. That’s because everyone knows each other in this tiny village. Even if we don’t necessarily know everyone personally, we at least know every other inhabitant by sight, and in any case, everyone greets each other with a friendly dobar dan.
But what gives the tourists away are not only their shorts and sandals, but that wide-eyed dreamy look in their eyes as they wander the cobblestone squares and lanes, taking in the stone houses, medieval churches, crumbling ruins, and panoramic view over the rolling hills of Istria.
The sound of swooping swallows
If summer had a soundtrack, it would be the high-pitched chattering of swallows. No one seems to celebrate summer more than the swallows.
They’re in their element in the early evening when they soar in flocks over the village square. They circle high above the terracotta rooftops, then swoop and dive low over the cobblestones in perfectly synchronized loops, screeching with glee along the way.
When they’re not showing off their noisy aerial acrobatics, they’re busy building nests between the stones of the age-old houses, on rafters, and the corners of window frames.
Fields dotted with hay bales
Summer is hay bales. After the spring rains, the long grasses covering the fields are mown, and transformed into bales dotting the landscape.
There’s something about these big, round mounds of dry grass that add to the bucolic summer scenery of Istria.
I always wondered how these hay bales were made… Until I had the chance to witness this! A tractor hooked up to a baler runs over the freshly cut grass and magically weaves it into a neat compact bale that’s ejected out the other end of the contraption. Easy as that!
The steady nocturnal call of the ćuk
After nightfall, the star of summer’s nighttime soundtrack is the ćuk. After the tolling church bells have already announced sunset and darkness has set in, the bird’s unmistakable call punctuates the silence of the summer night like a steady metronome.
The ćuk’s English name is the European scops owl, but its Croatian name is so much more fitting because it describes the sound of the call this tiny owl makes. And though it marks its presence through its steady chuk… chuk… chuk… it’s rare to actually spot the diminutive ćuk.
Often there’s more than one competing on the same soundtrack, playing a continuous ping pong of call and answer throughout the night.
Oleanders in bloom
It’s summer once the oleanders are in bloom. Their cheerful blossoms come in white, soft pink, magenta, and sometimes a pale yellow.
The oleander is one of the most typical plants you’ll see in gardens and on terraces. This temperate plant is so ubiquitous because it’s so hardy. It doesn’t need to be protected in the winter, which it always survives.
And then come summer, the oleanders are in bloom again, celebrating the new season with their cheery colors.
Pesky bugs as visitors
I know it’s definitely summer when it’s time to cover windows with mosquito nets or at the very least, use a plug-in device at night. Fail to do that, and I’ll have a pesky mosquito screaming in my ear all night, not letting me sleep.
But much worse than these pests are the tiny flies that don’t make any noise at all and are so small, they’re almost unnoticeable. But they have a painful bite!
In the summer, it’s also time for a visit from the scarab beetle. For a small bug, it makes a surprisingly loud buzzing sound, but these pretty metallic blue beetles are inoffensive. I like to imagine they’ve flown in all the way from Egypt to announce that summer has arrived.
Other posts about Istria
- 5 hiking trails on Učka Mountain
- 5 things I love about Istria
- 5 things to do in Istria
- How to ask how someone is doing in Istria
- How to tell time in Istria
- Hum: Smallest city in the world
- Konoba Stari Podrum in Momjan, Istria
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