Running & Cycling, Istria’s Golden Cape

May 2016 – Rovinj, Croatia

I made a bold statement in an earlier post. I declared this place, Rovinj, to be my favorite running destination – in the entire world. And, it’s true and thanks in no small part to the marvel that is Punta Corrente or Golden Cape Forest Park, a protected green space, located exactly one mile from our doorstep in Old Town.

One mile from Old Town sits the entrance to Golden Cape.

One mile from Old Town sits the entrance to Golden Cape.

We have been in Rovinj for almost two months and, every day, it’s still a thrill to explore the cape. Local friends suggest I take a ferry to one of the dozen or so islands stringing beautifully down the coast to enjoy a new running spot. And, I will…one day. For now, I think this gorgeous natural wonderland, in my own backyard, deserves my full attention.

Here’s what makes it so great:

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A man with a vision. Centuries later, a grateful public.

History
How this place, truly a public treasure, came into existence is a tale equally of grand vision and rotten luck. With dreams of a woodland spa retreat, count Johann Georg Hutterott bought vast tracks of land at the end of the 19th century and soon began creating his dream of paradise on earth. The count kicked the bucket before realizing the spa portion of the dream but not before landscaping the grounds.

Miraculously, his paradise would survive without significant development into the mid 20th century when the park received national protection and became a beautifully generous gift to future generations. And, it’s worth noting, the park is totally free for visitors – another miracle!

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Extraordinary and surprising vistas around every curve of the path.

Visitors
On a run a few days ago, I heard a British fella turn to his mate as they walked along the trail and say, “Well this is quite marvelous, isn’t it?” Yes, indeed.

Miles of sometimes sandy, sometimes gravely trails hover alongside the sea above rocky cliffs, through an old rock quarry, and weaving within forests of pine, oak, cedar, and olive trees. On foot, you can choose a coast-hugging route or ramble into the interior’s dense network of trails.

With pedals, poor thing, you are stuck with epic coastal trails.

From April to October, the population of Istria swells as Europeans, alongside growing numbers of Japanese and American, travelers fill campsites and hotels lining the coast. Even in peak season, it’s easy to find a spot of serene green on the cape or, alternatively, to jump into the fray on a crowded, pebble beach.

Cyclists can follow the cape, enjoying sea views, for mile after mile south of Rovinj.

Cyclists can follow the cape, enjoying sea views, for mile after mile south of Rovinj.

Cycling & Running
It’s truly an outdoor sport lover’s dream. And, for us, what makes it all the more special is the close proximity to a lively town.

I can run and Matt can cycle from our apartment in Old Town to the Cape every single day. I love this aspect of it. No cars, no buses. All outdoors.

Even in the heat of summer, the paths provide miles of shade along the coast and connect to a vast network of trails further down the peninsula to ride or run your little heart out.

IMG_3203Climbing
A former Venetian rock quarry provides climbers with an epic spot for free climbing, with a sea view.

If ropes aren’t your thing, it’s just fun to join the always-present crowd of spectators and watch the action.

The nice folks at Climb Istria can arrange outings, too.

 

Small bars and cafes magically appear through the wood, just when you most need a cold beverage.

Small bars and cafes magically appear through the wood, just when you most need a cold beverage.

Relaxation & Refreshment
The cape offers as many opportunities for relaxation as for sport.

Beaches and benches provide ample spots to sit for a spell. And, along every mile or so, you come around a bend to spy a small beach bar, never garish, always in harmony with the surroundings. Always perfectly timed when you need a cold beverage or nourishment.

It may be the best place on earth for enjoying a post-sweat gelato sweet or cool glass of Istrian Malvazija.

 

What should I do with my clothes?

What should I do with my clothes?

Naturists
A long run or cycle south takes visitors through a FKK zone. For people not familiar with the concept, (like most of us Americans,) there can be some head scratching at the signage. Does this mean clothes are forbidden? What if I like clothes?

FKK refers to Freikorperkulture (quite a mouthful,) a German movement meaning free body culture. Nudists, you might think. But, a more correct term is naturists. The movement has little to do with sex and more to do with letting go of any shame when it comes to the human body.

FKK zones exist throughout Istria, and beyond, as a place for people, with or without clothes, to camp or caravan by the sea in peace and harmony with nature. I dig the concept and love the idea of feeling no shame when it comes to our bodies. Yet for my running forays into the zone, my MO is always: clothes on, eyes straight ahead.

 

More to come soon about this, my new favorite topic. We are even working on videos! For now, I’m heading out…you guessed it, to the Cape for a long run and stretch, with a view. 

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Related features:

Six Week Immersion, Rovinj

Favorite Photos, Rovinj (coming soon)

Rovinj, A Peek Inside

 

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