Hum

Just 6km east of Roc, a minor road leads south through rolling pastures towards the minuscule settlement of Hum. The road itself is known as the Glagolitic Alley (Aleja glagoljasa) after its series of open-air concrete sculptures by Zelimirjaneg illustrating themes connected with Glagolitic, an archaic form of Slavonic writing which was kept alive by priests in both Istria and the islands of the Kvarner Gulf before finally succumbing to Latin script in the nineteenth century. Positioned by the roadside every kilometre or so, the sculptures mostly take the form of Glagolitic characters - seductively decorative forms that look like a cross between Cyrillic and Klingon.

Heaped up on a hill surrounded by grasslands and broken up by deciduous forest, HUM is the self-proclaimed "smallest town in the world", since it's preserved all the attributes - walls, gate, church, campanile - that a town is supposed to possess, despite its population having dwindled to a current total of just seventeen. Originally fortified by the Franks in the eleventh century, Hum was a relatively prosperous place under the Aquileian Patriarchs and the

Still Venetians, and it looks quite an imposing place as you pass through a town gate topped by monumental, castellated bell tower. Beyond, the oversized, neo-Baroque Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Crkva Wene djevice Marije), built in 1802 as the last gasp of urban development in a shrinking town, lords it over a settlement which now amounts to two one-metre-wide streets paved with irregular, grassed-over cobbles, and lined by chunky grey-brown farmhouses. One of the latter holds a small museum (daily 11 arn-7pm), which displays essays and poems written in Glagolitic by local kids and sells souvenirs - including locally made honey, wine and biska brandy. Just outside the town walls, the Romanesque cemetery Chapel of St Hieronymous (Crkvica svetog Jeronima; get the key from Konoba Hum, see below) has a number of frescoes dating back to the late twelfth century, which display a melding of Romanesque and Byzantine styles typical of the northern Adriatic in the Middle Ages. As usual, the life of Jesus provides the subject matter: there's a fine Annunciation spanning the arch above the altar, together with a Crucifixion, Pieta and Deposition - the latter bordered by unusual rosettes and floral squiggles - on the walls. Most have been damaged by ancient, Glagolitic graffiti.

It's a bit awkward to reach Hum without your own transport. No buses venture this far, and Hum train station is a minor halt 5km downhill just beyond the village of Erkovčići. The only rooms in Hum are those provided by the Grabar family - the tourist office in Buzet will act as an intermediary if you can't get through to an English speaker. With your own transport, you might consider staying at Agroturizam Po Janice 4km south at the end of a gravel track signed off the minor road to Borut. Housed in a farmhouse situated on high ground looking towards Mount Učka, it offers simple rooms with thick stone walls and timber floors, and a full range of local food. In Hum, the small but charming Konoba Hum serves good Istrian specialities and is very popular in summer.


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