Some stories exist only in the minds of ancient peoples who forgot to share them with their descendants. Some are born in the collective conscience of a people to stay there until a writer appears, willing to dedicate the time and energy necessary to put them down on paper in a way worthy of retelling. Others still exist, unwritten and undefiled by the writer’s thoughts, and are known to all and accepted as true by them, regardless of how incredible they might sound.
The past is permeated by countless legends and myths; every civilization on Earth has drawn the stars of the night sky into letters, weaving stories about creation and existence, attempting to give shape to the unexplainable. The tales of gods sitting on mountains, of giants laying waste to cities, of evil spirits, invincible kings and legendary peoples, whose links to the sea are stronger than those to the land. Tales of dragons and their lairs, and their fiery and all-consuming breath.
From temperamental Oriental dragons, flying on the wind; the wise Slavic dragons, protectors of man; all the way to the fierce Germanic dragons, whose breath speaks of cruelty and horror; human history is filled with tales of these creatures larger than life. They exist in the Croatian oral tradition as well, and they are particularly significant to the peninsula whose very contours remind one of a dragon’s features. However, the dragon history of Istria is so far in the past that it is barely documented, although memories of those stories still linger in the innermost recesses of the mind. They tell us that Istria is to this day the home of dragons, who surround her with their bodies, their scales glistening on the mountain peaks and crests of waves.
Three dragons hold Istria in their embrace: the golden mountain dragon of Učka, the capricious dragon of the Adriatic, and the great northern dragon that today is Slovenia. In this warm embrace, Istria has been dreaming for eons, teeming with life, people and ideas, jutting like a sign post into the sea, the source of life. Who knows what would have come of it without their protection, but it is better not to even think about such things, and focus instead on understanding the story as a form of reality. Besides, it’s not that hard. For when you stand at the top of the hill where Motovun has settled at the break of day, and your view is met with the milky white mist rolling around its base, it is not difficult to imagine that what you are seeing is in fact a dragon’s breath, whispering the song of awakening , of the emerging of the sun and the revelation of another day. And dragons, even if they are but a legend, still live in the lore and as long as they survive in stories, they are real beyond the realms of imagination.