A New Meaning to “House Gift”

In a few weeks, a much talked about beauty pageant will be taking place in Western Croatia.  Prizes will be awarded for most beautiful, most photogenic, best personality and all around best… goat.  Miss Goat Istria 2009!  The pageant was apparently started to make sure traditional goat farming did not disappear, and has now became a rather popular event!

Brioni Islands, Istria, CroatiaBrioni Islands, Istria, CroatiaBrioni Islands, Istria, CroatiaBrioni Islands, Istria, Croatia

I learned about this when face to face with a goat at the Brijuni National Park on Veli Brijun.  This island was the private retreat of former Yugoslav leader, Josep Broz Tito, and was then opened to the public in 1983.  There are actually 14 islands that make up the Brioni Islands, only two of which can be visited.  Tito spent his summers there, and his passion for animals was infamous.  When guests came to visit from all over the world, instead of a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers, what did they bring? Animals. What would you do if you invited some friends over for dinner, and they brought an antelope?  Or a tiger?  A pony was brought by Queen Elizabeth II, zebras by an African president, and elephants (Sonny and Lanka!) came from India.  My favorite were the Croatian ostriches, but boy are they hard to photograph – they move fast!  One thing that won’t be moving very fast – or at all – are the dinosaur prints on the island as well. Passing through a gate that appears to be taken off of the Jurassic Park movie set, you’ll see these tracks right off the water, discovered about 100 years ago.

Brioni Islands, Istria, CroatiaBrioni Islands, Istria, Croatia

The islands have something for everyone.  If you’re into fauna, you’re in the right place with the 60 animals in the safari park (plus tons of deer bouncing about), all quite friendly and used to humans by now.  You can drive around on a golf cart or rent bicycles to explore.  There is a museum that houses all of Tito’s animals that were stuffed after they passed away.  Attached to that is an exhibit on the man himself, with an impressive collection of photos of Tito with well known world leaders and celebrities.  You can also get a view from afar of his Bijela Vila, the White Villa, which was his official residence from 1953 to 1980.  There are Roman ruins just off the water, which makes for a beautiful juxtaposition, as well as a golf course with more to be built in coming years.  And last but not least, an olive tree that is seventeen centuries old!  It was planted in 480 AD and still produces olive oil!  The tree is officially owned by the government, and the oil is not available to the public, but rather bottled in tiny quantities and given as gifts to state officials.  I wonder if they actually eat it!  (Don’t miss the pack of deer in the background of the olive tree photo below.)

Brioni Islands, Istria, CroatiaBrioni Islands, Istria, Croatia

To get to the islands, you can hop on a boat in Fa?ana, about an hour south of Novigrad and just north of Pula. It’s a small fishing village with colorful buildings and a pretty harbor.  At the tourist office off the port, you can buy your tickets to cross the channel, and read all about the world leaders that went to the island – 90 statesmen from 60 countries, including Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Yasir Arafat. You’ll learn which famous women made the trip too – Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Princess Carolina of Monaco, Naomi Campbell and Josephine Baker, to name a few.

Brioni Islands, Istria, Croatia

Brioni Islands, Istria, Croatia

Enjoy the short boat ride over and just think about Tito making the trip for the first time back in 1947.  Or rather, think about what you would take as a gift to Tito!  I’m sure your mother too always taught you – “never go to someone’s home empty-handed.”  I’m just not sure she had a giraffe in mind!

17 Responses to “A New Meaning to “House Gift””

  1. kelleyn says:

    That would be hard to compete with.

  2. jen laceda says:

    Hi Kerrin,
    We moved to a new apartment this weekend (yet again) while we impatiently wait fot our home reno to finish. Ugh, but, c’est la vie! Anyway, we don’t have internet connection yet. But I’m such a blog freak, so I had to drive to the other side of the city to my parent’s house, just to catch up with my favourite blogs–yours included. Right there, on top of the list! I really enjoyed your Croatia posts thus far. Very informative–you’ve given us wonderful tidbits of facts that few people would have discovered themselves, such as that olive tree that’s seventeen centuries old! Oh, mama!! And who would have known about dinosaurs in Croatia??? That’s awesome!!
    Once again, love post with equally stunning photographs! The drive to my parent’s home was totally worth it!!
    Jen Laceda

  3. Lani says:

    I promise the next time I come to your house….an ostrich it will be!!!! Your photographs are just FANTASTIC. I can’t decide if I like the zebras or the ostrich the best! Oh my, dinosaur prints in Croatia. I just have to visit this park. You have made it so inviting! Thank you once again for sharing your adventure.

  4. jkiel says:

    I’m sure if we showed up with an ostrich EGG, you’d make something quite yummy out of it!

  5. Steve says:

    I guess the best compliment I can make is that I’m now dying to go to Croatia, thanks to you. Never gave it much thought before. And certainly Brijuni National Park. Your writing is so informative, and so funny. And your photography just keeps getting better and better. Bravo!

  6. Shaun says:

    This Miss Goat Istria is going to lead to problems. Ask the New Zealanders and Australians about “sheep jokes”… they will likely never shake the shackles of the “sheep jokes”… seriously though, the Croatia pictures are really nice, and articles informative. Looks like a great place to go.

  7. Kerrin says:

    Kelleyn, excellent point ! My usual home baked goods wouldn’t make for much competition either! Against… a tortoise ! 😉

    Jen, thank you for that amazing comment, I am beyond flattered. Hope your parents enjoyed the post too ! They must be happy you don’t have internet yet – more visits from you! Lots of good luck for your move. And I agree – dinosaurs in Croatia – who knew ?!!

    Lani, so next time I invite you over, I’ll be expecting that ostrich. That will certainly make for an interesting carry-on item. Think it would get through security ok ? ha ha! I can picture it dashing at full speed through the airport!

    jkiel, excellent idea on the ostrich egg. Have you ever seen those things up close? They are HUGE! Wow, think of the meringue I could do with all that egg white…..

    Steve, thanks so much for the kudos. I really appreciate it – and I’m thrilled I could inspire you to travel to Croatia… and give you a laugh or two as well. Start planning that trip…. and let me know when you do!

    Shaun, uh oh, I’m a bit hesitant to ask about those sheep jokes ! Sounds dangerous…. 😉

  8. US Trip says:

    Wow, well i know Brijuni is beautiful, as i used to live half an hour drive away from it.
    Its absoultly amazing.
    The Brijuni islands stretch along the south-west coast of the Istrian peninsula; they are separated from the Istrian mainland by the Fa?ana Channel which is 3 kilometers wide.

  9. Solo Road Trip says:

    Is that a Converse tennis shoe?

    Best Personality in a Goat Contest! What a howl! I love it! And it’s so ironic you just posted this about Tito’s Island. There was an oilman just North of here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma who back in the early 1900’s created a similar game reserve/private retretat on his ranch (Frank Phillips — yep of Phillips oil). My husband and I just visited this past Saturday (we’ve been there multiple times but not in a few years) and enjoyed seeing all sorts of non-indigenous creatures — from Water Buffalo to Fallow deer. They’re all offspring from the original animals and have thrived. No dinosaur tracks. 🙁 Great photos!

  10. Kerrin says:

    US Trip, thanks for that extra bit of information. And pretty fabulous that you used to live so close.

    Solo Road Trip, you bet that’s a Converse sneaker, good eye ! 😉 The point of that shot was to show how big the dinosaur print was, but as my friends could confirm, I have very big feet, not quite the standard comparison ! ha ha! Meanwhile, very cool about your visit this past weekend. Funny timing for sure. And great to have the history behind it… Sounds like a great place to visit.

  11. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Snap!!! I have the exact same shoes. So funny.

  12. Robert Aguilera says:

    The dinosaur prints look like they belong to Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

  13. Travel Business Consulting says:

    The goat in the image is good,I like it.Actually I have 3 goats in my farm house but no one looks like that.

  14. Baron's Life says:

    I never knew this and learned something new today…an amazing tale…I’m willing to bet a lot of former Yugoslavs didn’t know about this either…Tito was a good dictator…held it together for as long as it was possible… Thank you for sharing this bit of history and the beautiful photos with us….and yes we will send you a Tiger as a house gift next time…Cheers

  15. Baron's Life says:

    oh and I forgot…good job

  16. Kerrin says:

    Julia, no way ! Nice taste in sneakers !! ha ha. We certainly do have a lot in common, as we have learned from each other’s blogs… Love it!

    Robert, good call – Big Bird does Croatia ! Sounds like the making of a new Sesame Street episode there !

    Travel Business Consulting, no beauty pageants for your goats ? 😉

    Baron’s Life, you learn something new every day, right? Thanks for your comments. Oh, but about that tiger….

  17. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Yes, too funny. And did I mention, I have the exact same colour, too?

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