I spent a weekend in Slovenian Istria. Morning sun in the small Istrian village Padna was burning pretty hard. Participants of traditional boškarins hike, which took place in the context of a traditional festival of Oil and chard, were gathering together. Stalls with cultured green asparagus and olive oil have already attracted some curious visitors. “Please, try our oil.” we were kindly invited by a local girl. We dipped a piece of bread into the excellent olive oil, of which the last year production amounted only in 700 liters due to poor harvest. Let the Boškarin hike starts!
Under the guidance of a local guide we headed along the old village paths among the most beautiful Istrian villages Padna, Nova vas, Krkavče and Puče. Once upon a time along these routes Istrans drove Istrian cattle – boškarin, which were used for transporting heavy loads. Istrian cattle „boškarin“, which had long horns in the form of lira, were the native breed of Istria. „Boškarin“ were probably brought to this area by Romans or Achilles hordes. These were robust, working animals, modest and resistant to diet, lively and temperamental, and very attached to their masters. They were used for ploughing, working in the vineyards and in the woods, called also „bosko“, from where the name „boškarin“ most likely originates.
During the hike we learned about the authentic flavors of Istria and tasted the delicacies which were prepared by local people, such as olive oil, local wines (Malvasia, Muscat, Refosco). We learned about the cultural, ethnological, historical and geographical diversity of Šavrinija and laughed heartily to the members of the cultural Society „Šavrini inu anka Šavrinke“ from Gračišče. The latter provided us with their performances carried out in their native dialect and we got closer look into life of Šavrins as it used to be. In this area, once inhabited by Šavrinke or jajčarice (egg-women), women made their living by collecting eggs by Istrian villages and selling them in Trieste. More wealthy Šavrins bought a donkey and were able to brought up to 1500 eggs in Trieste, while less wealthy ones wore eggs on their head in special basket „plenjer“, in which they could carry up to 300 eggs at once. Into this business, which was carried out from primary school till the girls got married, they were introduced by a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt. At the end of the hike we were greeted with the authentic Istrian marenda/snack consisting of brodet with cuttlefish, chard and polenta, which was prepared, according to a recipe from his mother, by well known historian from Padna, Alberto Pucer.