Istarska Zupanija, or Istria County, is one of Croatia's 20 counties, located in the northern part of the country. The county stretches across the Istria peninsula, mirroring the bay of Venice across the Adriatic and the Quarnaro Gulf. Istria neighbors Slovenia to the north and the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County to the east. The largest city within the territory is Pula, also representing one of the attractions to the area, with its historical Arena and other landmarks. Yet, the title of the county's capital belongs to a smaller city found in the central part of the region called Pazin. The city is known for its historical castle and Pazin river abyss. Concerning natural conditions, most of the Istrian coastline is formed by Karst and the limestone grounds. Along the coast, there are numerous isles, bays, and ports. Towards the center of the Istria peninsula, the hills rise slightly to the highest point called Vojak, at an altitude of 1,396 meters above sea level. Additionally, approximately one-third of the surface area is covered by forests, with pine trees prevailing. The history of Istria dates back to ancient times when the area was settled by Illyrian tribes, who named the site "Histri," from which the word Istria was derived.
There are several historical cities along the Istrian coastline, attracting a number of tourists every year. Among them are the town of Rovinj and the city of Poreč, both featuring a historical old town on a peninsula surrounded by the sea. However, the largest city within Istria County is Pula, found in the southwestern part of the Istrian peninsula. Pula lies on the shores of the Adriatic Sea and serves as a summer vacation destination for tourists who seek sea recreation. However, the city also features numerous historical sights. One such landmark is Pula Arena, constructed in the 1st century and expanded to hold 23,000 spectators. Built with local limestone in Tuscan style, it features four levels, reaching a height of 33 meters. Gladiator fights, hunts, and trials occurred in the central area, while the lower level housed caged animals. Another ancient landmark is The Temple of Augustus, a wholly preserved sacral monument. The temple, likely constructed in the early 1st century AD, was dedicated to Roma and Emperor Augustus. In later years, during the Middle Ages, the temple was secular. From the Middle Ages, there's a Pula Castle Kaštel located atop a hill in the center of Pula. The castle was built in the 17th century and presently holds a historical museum with a collection of more than 75,000 objects of cultural, historical, political, military, and ethnographic character.
Despite Pula being the largest city by area, the county seat is the city of Pazin, located in the center of the territory. The town is situated atop a Pazinčica river abyss, with a medieval castle as its central feature. The Pazin Castle, known for its drawbridge, overlooks the Pazin Abyss, a pit that Jules Verne, renowned for his science fiction works, featured in his novel Mathias Sandorf. Currently, the Pazin Castle serves as the Ethnographic Museum, showcasing exhibits that depict the lives of the people inhabiting the Istrian peninsula. Pazin Abyss can also be observed by taking one of four ziplines starting at the Pazin Cave. The hole of Pazin Cave is situated below the 100-meter-high cliffs and ends at a lake.
Istarska Zupanija is located on a peninsula in northern Croatia, surrounded on three sites by the Adriatic Sea. The county neighbors Slovenia to the north and is located across from the Bay of Venice and close to the Julian Alps. Istria features a 445 km long coastline, including numerous islands. The region is characterized by a limestone plateau with karst topography and an extension of the Dinaric Alps in the northeast. Vojak is the highest point on Učka mountain. Istria is divided into "bijela" (white), "siva" (grey), and "crvena" (red) regions based on their landscapes. The area features geological attractions, namely the Grotto of Baredine and Pazin Pit. While the coastal areas are known for vineyards, olive gardens, and the maquis shrubland, the continental plains are used for agriculture.
The Istrian peninsula is characterized by its vegetation, as one-third of the peninsula is covered by forests. Pinewoods and macchia dominate the coastal areas and islands, complemented by holm oak and strawberry trees. The Mirna River is home to pedunculate oak, which thrives in the continental lowlands. The region boasts various natural monuments, including the Brijuni archipelago, with its diverse plant species and olive groves. At higher elevations on Učka and Ćićarija, there are beech-tree woods. The area is also home to several legally protected landscapes and reserves, such as Brijuni National Park, Učka Nature Park, Limski Bay, and Kamenjak Protected Landscape. Brijuni National Park is located on Brijuni Island, to the west of the Istrian peninsula. The national park offers safari tours, showcases one of the oldest olive trees in the Mediterranean, and features a paleontological site with over 200 dinosaur footprints. Historical landmarks dating back to the Byzantine era can be observed in Brijuni Park as well. Diving, cycling, and hiking are some of the activities available on the island.
The climate in the Istria region is Mediterranean, as the area is protected from the north by the mountain chain of the Alps and the inner highlands. Regarding climate and weather in Istria's largest city, Pula, the warmest month is generally July, with an average daily temperature of 29°C. Reportedly, January is the coldest month, as temperatures drop to an average high of 7°C. January also tends to be the driest month in Pula because it generally receives 75 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during October, as it gets an average of about 156 mm of rain.
The Istria area has been inhabited since ancient times. The name "Histria" comes from the Histri tribes, ancient settlers in the region. They were known for building hillfort settlements and were classified as a Venetic Illyrian tribe with certain language differences compared to other Illyrian tribes. The Romans considered the Histri as pirates, challenging to conquer due to their rocky coasts. Eventually, the Romans subdued them in 177 BC. The region was then called "Venetia et Histria" and marked the northeastern border of Italy. The area north of Histria extended further and included the city of Trieste. The name "Histri" and "Istria" may have connections to the Latin word "Hister" or the Danube River.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Istria was ruled by various powers, including the Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, Avars, and Franks. In 1267, the Republic of Venice annexed the western and southern coast, leading to a period of what many deemed as prosperous. The eastern part remained under Habsburg control. Ownership of Istria changed hands multiple times due to treaties and agreements between different powers until it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
During World War I, Italy sought to annex parts of the Adriatic coast, including Istria, through secret negotiations with the Entente and Central Powers. In 1920, Yugoslavia ceded Istria to Italy under the Rapallo Agreement. The rise of fascism in Italy led to the suppression of Croatian and Slovenian expressions, resulting in the abolition of cultural institutions and the Italianization of names. However, after World War II, Istria experienced an uprising and liberation, leading to its annexation to Croatia within the new Yugoslavia. The region played a significant role in the fight against fascism, with many casualties and destruction. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Istria became one of the Croatian Counties in the independent Republic of Croatia, known for its historic sites, diverse culture, and tourism potential.
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