For a sleepy little town, Vodnjan contains one of Croatia’s most macabre sights.
In the neo-baroque Church of Saint Blaise, behind the main altar (in a curtained off section), lie the desiccated remains of six saints that were, in effect, mummified. The clothed bodies of St. Leon Bembo, St. Ivan John Olini and St. Nicolosa Bursa, as well as assorted parts of three others, lie with their skin and nails darkened and dried because for reasons unknown, these corpses aka ‘mummies’ failed to decompose.
Apart from the mummies, the Saint Blaise reliquary contains 380 relics including the tongue of St. Mary of Egypt. While you absorb the creepy ambiance a CD explains who the saints were, how they lived and how they died.
Among the less grisly exhibits, there’s a 14th-century polyptych (sectioned painting) created by Paolo Veneziano that depicts scenes from the life and death of Saint Bembo and Blaise’s bell tower is the highest in Istria standing at 63 meters.
Hopefully viewing these grisly exhibits hasn’t dulled your appetite. Regardless, do yourself a favour and indulge in some authentic Istrian cuisine at Vodnjanka (Istarska 22b). Thirty years of experience has resulted in specialities like fuzi, pljukanci and surlice (pastas twisted into different shapes) with various tasty sauces, and dishes sprinkled with truffle. A personal recommendation is the frittata with wild asparagus and truffle. Grab a seat on the terrace for views of the Old Town and St Blaise.
A kazun is a stone, dry wall shelter found in fields throughout Istria, usually used for keeping livestock or storing grain. With approximately 5,000 kazuns in the region at present, and 2,000 – 3,000 of those located in the Vodnjan area, they are usually so small that an adult can’t stand up inside but there are exceptions to the rule.
For some stone giants, head to the so called Kazun Twins in the village of Batvaci near Saint Foska church.
The first kazun was probably used for keeping livestock and has a 4 metre diameter while its wall is 1.2 meters thick. The second is smaller and interesting because of the small opening in the roof, which might indicate that people used to live here while working in the fields.