I tailored my schedule on the principle of a dose of running (burning calories) and a dose of gourmet experiences (loading calories). I have to admit that my love of Istria has lasted quite a few years, and that I adore its colours and scents. Autumn is even more special, because its colours remain burned into my memory as soon as I pass through Učka tunnel, and all the way to Umag: a row of yellow leaves, a row of blue sea.
RUNNING TO THE CRASHING OF THE WAVES
Northwestern Istria is not only great for cyclists – it’s great for runners as well (whether they are professionals or not). I was pleasantly surprised by the maps I found waiting in my hotel room. The selection of trails is large, so I had a choice among shorter ones (7-10km) and longer ones (over 10km). Each of them was appealing in its own way, but I played it safe and decided it was best to run by the sea. I’m often surprised when people ask me why I love running and why I run. I run because of moments like this, when I enjoy every metre of movement in the fresh air, the crashing of the waves, a well-marked path, and when I meet people on that path like me, whom running fills with happiness and joy.
They say that preparation is half the battle, so I used my time to prepare for some of my upcoming races (Cener, Starek). Every runner knows that basic training begins in autumn/winter, and Umag and its surroundings seem like a good location to get some mileage under my belt. Next time, I’m bringing my entire group of running friends to work on our base in the most beautiful locations (Buje, Brtonigla, Dajla, Umag).
But let’s get back to the trail I ran by the sea, at a comfortable, easy pace. From the hotel to the centre of Umag is a little more than 5km, so I ran 10km at a comfortable temperature of 18 degrees, which is surely another advantage for training. One thing you certainly don’t need is music, because the sounds you hear as you run are more than sufficient to stimulate your ears. A GOURMET EXPERIENCE After running, it’s time for food. I must admit that the breakfast at the Melia Coral hotel is EXTRAORDINARY. I’m one of those people who like to do their morning workout on an empty stomach, and then reward themselves with their favourite food. The rich buffet with a selection of smoothies was my first choice, and I came back for more every once in a while. If guests were ranked by how much juice they drink with breakfast, I’m sure I’d be in the top 5.
Northwestern Istria’s impressive roster of events (Truffle Days, Mushroom Days, Sole Days) made sure there was more for me than just a brilliant breakfast. I decided to go for Sole Days. I’m a big fan of sole, but the sole I can find in Zagreb is usually frozen, and so it’s an understatement to say I was excited when I realized that I was about to eat fresh sole. Konoba Rustica’s brilliant menu met absolutely all of my expectations, and I can barely wait for another chance to come back. The menu was great, and so I’ll describe the whole thing: sea sole pâté (I ate it so quickly I didn’t have time to take a picture of it), homemade pasta with scampi and sole (I don’t have a picture, again, because I ate it too fast), Istrian-style sole (I do have pictures of this one; if you’re reading this, you’re looking at them right now), and homemade chocolate cake.