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Few are able to decide on the colour of the Adriatic Sea. Sometimes dark blue, sometimes greenish blue, it constantly shines forth in a thousand hues depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun. Yet, it is always beautiful. Unique.

When you hear ancient folk music mingling with the classics, as you sip a cappuccino in a cafe by the sea, as you feel the heartbeat of a tourist town of tiny streets and a thousand years of history, you will be in Istria. It is a region living in the rhythm of tourism, measuring the time between departures and arrivals. As the transition point between the Alpine-Central European and the Dinaric-Mediterranean areas, Istria is an idyllic region of towns, forests, vineyards and famous tourist centres whose names have been written on the tourist map of Europe: Umag, Novigrad, Porec, Vrsar, Rovinj, Pula and so on.

Close to the tourist giant, Porec, we find the tiny island of Sveti Nikola, the favourite destination of those who love beautiful solitary beaches. Its lighthouse was built in 1402. Many claim that this island launched Porec into the era of modern tourism. In front of Vrsar, which used to be a village of fishermen and vine-growers, there is a string of islands. One of them, Koversada, contains one of the largest naturist camps in the Adriatic.

A group of fourteen islands form an attractive archipelago in front of the famous Istrian tourist centre of Rovinj, like two pearls facing each other. The islands have the most attractive beaches of the Rovinj area, with numerous seagull nests, and greatly appeal to top level tourists. The island of Crveni Otok (Red Island) hosts most of them. A narrow isthmus connects this jewel with the little island of Maskin, a naturists' paradise. The island of Sveta Katarina is only 70 metres from the mainland.

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The fourteen islands of Brijuni are spread out over seven kilometres.

Pula is the hub of tourism and the economic and traffic centre of Istria. It is studded with landmarks, of which the Roman amphitheatre is certainly the most impressive. Across the Fazana channel lie the Brijuni islands, forming a seven kilometres long necklace between Pula and Rovinj. Nature, nudged along by man, has created a real paradise here. At fin-de-siecle, this paradise became the obsession of one of its owners, Paul Kupelwieser. He was chairman of a steel mill in Vitkovice and a respected expert in metal processing. When he bought the Brijuni, little did he know that this fateful encounter would completely change his life. Initially planning to turn the islands into a summer residence, this fifty-year-old son of the famous Viennese painter and lithographer, Leopold, decided to leave the mill and devote himself to the islands. They responded to this devotion unselfishly. Before the newlyfounded tourist centres in Italy took over, the Brijuni were an exclusive European summer resort. The peerless beauty of the national park of Brijuni with its rich harmony of flora and fauna, historical monuments and modern hotels still draws politicians and other distinguished guests from all over the world.

[ Croatia - the country of a thousand islands ]