I'm going to Žminj for the weekend. As soon as I mentioned it to my friends, I saw the question marks in their eyes. What are you going to do in Zminj? I love Istria, I answer them. So why don't you go to Rovinj, Poreč, go see the arena in Pula, I listen to their suggestions. No, I love peace, greenery, silence, central Istria. Again, they suggest me some "make-up", already chewed places in central Istria. Not. I want something new, I don’t want to look for a parking spot, watch the invasion of tourists and dodge them while taking selfies. I want somewhere where I will discover something new. I leave the glamorous places to you, and I go to enjoy.
What attracted me to Žminj? First of all, I cannot believe that a municipality with three and a half thousand inhabitants has 112 villages. As many villages, as many chapels. More precisely, the chapel is even more - 118 They say that the oldest was built 300 years ago. It is located on the path between the villages of Leprinčani and Grizili and hides three reliefs: St. Anthony of Padua, Calvary and the relief of an unknown saint. I'm a little suspicious. Well, you can't step anywhere in Žminj without a village or a chapel in front of you. To the threatening hosts by a stubborn friend who is able to count all those villages and chapels. I didn't rock them. Then the numbers probably hold water.
Leave the car. It is best to tour on foot or by bike. Three attractive bicycle / hiking trails with a total length of almost 60 kilometers pass through the Žminj region (Žminjka, Rumenija, Žminj - Feština). The trails are lined with green fields, forests, along kazuns, dry stone walls, vineyards, ponds, local family farms. City kids will enjoy. Where more I can see donkeys, sheep and cows. They also faded in the memories of us seniors.
For the first time we chose the circular trail Žminj - Feština. Rest your legs or get off your bike at the Festin Kingdom cave, which hides incredible whitefish. The men of Zminj gave them names: the wizard's hat, the towers of Babylon, and the wings of the bat. A safe trail about a hundred meters long awaits visitors. It leads to an oval hall 67 meters long. The maximum width of the cave is 27 meters, and its depth is only nine meters. The cave vault reaches a height of six meters. You will adore her in the summer. Cyclists and walkers, don't forget to put long sleeves in your backpack. The temperature ranges from 13 to 15 degrees Celsius. Who needs air conditioning in Žminj…
The Feštinsko kraljevstvo cave was opened for tourist sightseeing in 2008, and was discovered by chance. In the XNUMXs. Tone Božac, planting a vineyard, dug a hole for a new vine, so his pickaxe fell into the pit. Probably then old Tone was left in shock, maybe he "took off" everything he needed and didn't need. He certainly did not dream that his discovery would save many lives. Ten years later, during the Italian occupation, the locals dug a hole looking for shelter. Where does the cave name "kingdom" come from? They say that the children gladly visited her, and when their parents asked them where they hid, they would answer in the "kingdom". Children still enjoy the cave next to the cave. On the spacious meadow they will find a lookout, large wooden handmade toys, a hedgehog house, a bar… If someone likes the cave, they can stay. Not exactly in it, but close to it. In the Robinson camp in Chubana.
When you detach yourself from the cave, the trail continues towards the Ceranska forest. As soon as you leave the forest, you will be amazed by one of the most beautiful views of the peaks of Učka. A step further, you will be enchanted by Balićsko polje. Especially in April, at the time of flowering St. John's wort (vazmenke, majevice). From the village of Damijanići, the trail climbs to the oldest church of St. Foške. It was built by the Byzantines in the sixth century. It was demolished by the Avars at the beginning of the seventh century. It was rebuilt around the year 800. The corpus of today's church was formed at the beginning of the 18th century, and in the middle of the same century a bell tower was built adjacent to the facade. The road continues to the village of Laginji, enters Žminjska boška and descends to the Klenovica pond. Once called the "Lake of Love", which occasionally served as a romantic promenade and meeting place for young people between the two wars. Only photographs testify to the former appearance. The trail, after 24 kilometers, ends in the center of Zminj. After a healthy walk and bike ride, we turn to technology. We grab a cell phone, scan a QR code. And we read about the core of Žminj, taverns, restaurants, bike & bed accommodation, churches, chapels, frescoes, cheese, sausages, prosciutto, local family farms…
QR code, however, is not omnipotent. He did not reveal the secret connection between Žminj and coffee. However, coffee makers from Žminj know this even without omnipotent technology. Who hasn’t heard of a coffee king named Primo Rovis? He enriched himself by importing coffee from Brazil. Millions of tons of coffee revived the dead port of Trieste. According to some sources, he became the fourth richest Italian. More moderate sources will rank him among the 18 richest.
Rovis was born in Žminj in 1922. As a child he was left without parents. Uncle picks him up. Life did not caress him. He started working as a boy. He beats the stone to rebuild roads. After World War II, at the age of 25, he moved to Trieste. He first opened a store and then saw his chance in producing coffee that he imports from Brazil. He adapted coffee to markets. He recognized who liked what kind of coffee. For many years he ran a roastery in the middle of Trieste and launched the Cremcaffé brand. He sponsored HNK Rijeka and boxer Mato Parlov. No matter how rich he got, Primo did not forget what it means to survive and be hungry. He was known as a great philanthropist, he helped health, sports, invested in science. Primo Rovis died in 2014 at the age of 91 in Trieste.
Thanks to Žminjac Rovis and the like, today everyone drinks coffee, but once real coffee was reserved for gentlemen. The people had to manage. The former coffee substitute was škandiel, as barley is called in Žminj. It was ground into a brostulin (hand-held coffee grinder) and white coffee was made from it. It was allowed to stand, then poured into cups.
After some time, Divka (better known as chicory) arrived at the homes. There was no morning without Divka. The traditional recipe from Žminj was: half Divka, half red wine and sugar. It would crumble old bread, too, and it would crumble. All this was prepared in large skudels (large cups). Children also asked for such coffee, but they would still get less red wine. There was not too much milk, since the cows were working. Retired professor Milica Kranjčić will remember how the old people used to put sauerkraut in Divko instead of red wine.
Today it is an unimaginable city without cafes, but not so long ago, there was nowhere to drink coffee outside your home.
It's not that Žminj didn't have a place to hang out, with a good bite and a few glasses. In small Žminj, men could choose between nine sharps. We went for a shelf of wine (half a liter) or beer. Coffee was not on the menu. It caught your eye that we mentioned that men could choose sharper ones. Yes, the women had nothing to look for in the barn.
In the sixties, although nominally comrades, we became gentlemen. Real coffee began to be brewed in homes. Real coffee cups also appeared. We bought raw coffee and ground it at home on broštulin. As we often did not have coffee, we used to go to Trieste. On the roads of his Žminjc Rovis. When it was not possible to cross the border, and often it was not possible, the smugglers came on their own. They found their way. "Flexible" customs officers or deep trunks.
Source: TZ Žminj / Anto Ravlić