It’s estimated that approximately 44,000 people visit Disneyland in California each day. You’d probably say it’s one of the biggest attractions in the world.
So when we rolled up to Vodnjan in the south of Istria and saw this sign out the front of the Church of St.Blaise…
…we thought we’d have to fight off the hoards.
Alas, after the 11am mass, there was only a queue of four, us, to visit the “world’s attraction”. Truth be told, we had one of the most amazing/hilarious experiences on our trip so far.
Mummies. Bones. Teeth. Tongues. Blood. Outlandish stories. These all came together as we were guided through the relics of over 250 saints. There was St. Sebastian’s hip, St. Barbara’s foot, another drop of Jesus’ blood (I wonder if they DNA matched it with the one in Venice?), a thorn from his crown.
There were the undecomposed bodies of Blessed Lion Bembo (1188) and St. Nicolosa Bursa (1512), which have shown after MRI scans to still contain all of their organs intact. They were laid out in red velvet lined glass coffins like at an exotic breed cat show, holding staffs and wearing floral headdresses and clerical robes.
Forensic scientists and doctors allegedly cannot explain why the bodies haven’t decomposed.
This is where the star of the day, a character waiting to be written into the next Wes Anderson film, Miro our guide came into the picture.
“MIRACLE” he underlined in the air every time he had to explain why the bodies were still in tact.
I need you to picture what Miro was like. He was 100% passionate about his job, and was a mix of Graham Norton and David from “Schitt’s Creek” minus the sarcasm, and with a Slavic accent. Instead of “Oh my God” it was “Oh dear God”, and he referred to us at the start of most sentences as “My dear guests from Australia”.
He sung church hymns as he sorted brochures, keyrings and holy water for sale. He flung his hands about dramatically as he shared the stories of all of the saints that for some sad reason or another ended up in a church in a square filled with stray cats and ravens. He told us the story of “teeny tiny Napoleon” and how the church “would have smelled of horses dear God my dear guests from Sydney Australia” when Napoleon’s army used the church as a stable in the early 1800’s.
A total of 8 people visited the mummies that day. “Are you satisfied with our church?” Miro asked us on numerous occasions. Yes, he was the most entertaining person I’ve met in a long time.
We checked out some of Vodnjan’s kazuni, adorable one room huts that were built using stones to protect farmers and shepherds from the weather. They are similar to the whitewashed stackstone trulli you can see in Alberobello in the south of Italy.
We visited so many little towns in Istria. I’ll run through all of them in the next post. One thing linked them all…this time of year, oh dear God, most towns here are near empty.