Kotle – a fairy village in the heart of Istria
Text and photo:
Source: Croatian Traveller
Istria is the best developed county in Croatia, but it still has a strong traditional influence. Entire interior of Istria, especially the hamlets around Cicarija still have numerous beliefs that are all but gone in other Croatian regions. Supernatural beings, as well as traditional methods of treating people, and removing spells from sick people or cattle, are still very much alive in Istria’s heartland. Strige, striguni, krsnici, fairies, witches and others – they are all permanent inhabitants of the abandoned villages. There are still a lot of them in this part of Croatia, regardless of the quick urbanization and revitalization. Despite its rebirth some fifteen years ago, the village of Kotle still resists modern times. One of the richest villages beneath mount Cicarija, with two mills, an inn, farms and houses, Kotle was completely abandoned after WWII. Some people blame this on
politics and migration.
The people of Istria are on the other hand more inclined to believe the story that strige and striguni fight every Friday on the village’s main crossroads. When these clashes become too intensive, kersnici or kriznjaci step in. They protect the humans. In mid last century, the strige became too strong, so the kersnici weakened by the WWII were not able to fight them properly. That is when the population of Kotle concluded they need to leave. The balance was restored in the late 1980s, when people started discovering the Istria’s interior again. If we disregard the few houses that were converted into vacation homes, the completely abandoned village started to return to life. I was lucky that one of my friends had some real estate in Kotle, so we often went there for short vacations. He would show us the traces of fighting, but we would only see the ravages of time eating away at an old door or knocking over a stone wall. Sometimes we would enter a house that had no doors. They were completely furnished; some tables even had eating utensils still on them. Only a thick layer of dust and cobweb lace that accumulated over the numerous decades told us that there were no people living here. Finally, we decided to brave the strige and organized a big party on a Friday. Two weeks later, the small river that creates beautiful pots in the soft marl stone, rose so high that it destroyed one of the two decrepit mills. It was the last expression of anger and impotence of the powers of evil. We know that the kersnici returned, the village still looked very mystical, but it was no longer dark. An ostarija tavern soon opened, so many excursionists starting arriving in large numbers.
Strige and striguni have lost the battle. Half way from the main road to the town of Hum, in the middle of the Glagolitic Alley, there is a turn. The road is asphalted now and leads to the wooden bridge across one of the small rivers that are considered the spring of river Mirna. These bridges make a symbolical entrance to the village. Due to many years of not being populated, they are a model example of Istrian architecture and natural beauties. The village is dominated by a villa with a massive porch. The paved “side” street with semi-detached houses is no less attractive. They show that Kotle had an urban touch to them during the golden age. Hurry up, because it is autumn. Spring and autumn are the best for visiting this pearl.