Kažuni, circular stone field houses have been recognizable structural elements of the Vodnjan rural area for centuries. With the permanent settlement of that area, the cultivation of the land, which had to be cleared first, began. The diligent hands of the natives neatly and patiently transferred all the stone that had emerged from the ground to the edges of the field, and then stacked it neatly and precisely, connecting it with small stone materials in drywall. The art of drywall construction is an ancient practice. Laying stone on stone may seem like an easy task, but untreated stones are carefully selected and placed correctly to keep the wall stable.
They sprouted like that masiere, dry stone fenced fields, groumasi, huge piles of stones and casite - kazuni. With their shape and structure, the kazuni fit perfectly into the Mediterranean landscape and merged with the dry stone wall that encloses the fields, vineyards and olive groves.
Kažun is a European folk architecture that is mostly found in the Mediterranean. The same or similar buildings are named along the Croatian coast bunje, čemeri, polar bears, cottages, carousels, komarde i trim.
Even after Vodnjan expanded into a town full of houses paired with each other, in the fields around it sprouted kazuni characteristic shape, with a conical roof, expertly designed, almost all round and various sizes. The golden age of kazun in this area is the 18th and 19th centuries, when due to the increase in population, the need for new olive groves, vineyards, fields and sheep breeding increased.
The characteristics of this architecture without an architect are the use of a single material for the entire building, very few building elements, a stone dome that differs from the classic dome in stacking stone and is therefore called a "false dome", and the speed and economy of construction.
Kažuni were safe shelters from sudden rain, but also from the sun during the afternoon rest, and it was not uncommon to spend the night in them when the day was too short for the earth to be completed for lights. Sometimes they were also a good protection against thieves at harvest time. They were also used as a shelter for livestock, especially sheep.
Today, these buildings are gradually losing their basic function, but this does not diminish their uniqueness and importance for the Vodnjan area.
To preserve these archaic examples of traditional architecture, a project was launched in 2007 “My kažun - La mia casita” which has since been held every year during May. Probably the largest number of kazuns is located right here, in the Vodnjan region, and a large number of them have been demolished, neglected or unmaintained, and more than 200 kazuns have been restored through the project so far. Part of the work takes place as an open, public workshop for all interested, enthusiasts and the professional public, and every year an increasing number of participants, not only from Istria and Croatia but also from all over Europe.
Thanks to the workshop "My Kažun - La mia casita", in 2013 construction began Kazuna Park, a kind of open-air museum. At the very exit from Vodnjan, on the main road to Bale / Rovinj, in the Kažun Park, you can see four phases of building a kažun. The dry stone wall surrounding the Park was partly created by the work of the visitors themselves.
You will find kažuns mostly in fields, olive groves or vineyards, often near macadam roads, surrounded by dry stone walls. Probably the most beautiful way to reach them is by bike or on foot, and a tour of the traffic of your choice can start right in Kažuna Park.
Bicycle path Kažuni and dry stone walls an easy circular path leads through unique landscapes, next to dry stone walls, olive groves and kazun, but also to some of the most beautiful hidden gems of the Vodnjan region.
Nearby are the church of St. Martin from the 14th century, the Basilica of St. Foška from the 12th century, and the remains of the church of Sv. Mihovil Banjolski from the 15th century. Visit the location of the "three kazuns" with unusually large ponds located next to each other and the location of the "two kazuns" characterized by a square kažun. In Kažuna Park there is also an info center where you can refresh yourself and a bicycle repair station.
And a hiking trail My kažun starts from Kazuna Park. This easy circular path, about 8 kilometers long, will take you on an asphalt road to Šalvela, and continue on a macadam road along dry stone walls, kazuns and beautiful olive groves. The trail passes by Lokva Fontana and continues along the field path all the way to the church of Sv. Tome, and continues in a circle from the intersection "Strupe de lion" to the starting point, following the signs, through an interesting traditional Vodnjan rural landscape.
Today, Kažun is inseparable from the identity of Vodnjan, it is the pride of local people and a theme of inexhaustible inspiration, but also the most beautiful possible background of many events. If the road to Vodnjan in June takes you, listen to how it sounds Jazz at Kazun on June 4th, or among the casinos mark International Yoga Day, and we guarantee that you will bring with you impressions that will hardly fade.
Cover photo: Vodnjan Tourist Board, author Loris Zupanc