People and customs
The people of Istria have always been farm labourers, but what they really engaged in was defined by the configuration of the surrounding land.
In the mountains of Ćićarija Istrian people were humble shepherds, proof of which are numerous folk proverbs: Ovaca bez pastira ne da ni mlika ni sira. (Sheep without shepherds yield neither milk nor cheese) Ki čuva ovcu, čuva i vunu (He who tends sheep, also keeps wool). In the middle of this little continent grey soil dominates, which is difficult to cultivate, but beneficial. This very soil has borne the Istrian-plowman. Southwest Istria, of deep red soil, is the area of excellent winegrowers, who are surrounded by their empire of Malvasia, whereas the coastal part of the peninsula has always been known for fishing: Ki spi, ribe ne lovi. (Those who sleep, catch no fish.)
Istrian women have always been self-sacrificing and had the entire house on their back, not only its four corners. For example, when they set out to fetch water from faraway springs, while carrying it home in vessels called brente on their backs, they knitted along the way so they wouldn't idle away their time.
The old trades that Istria was noted for have almost completely disappeared today - such as the two crucial crafts - stone carving and pottery. In the first one stone is roughly cut but in the other clay is delicately shaped into vessels.
Now and then the people of this Peninsula would provide entertainment with music and dance. But, their song is hard, atonal, archaic and is sung in two voices. Instruments - ancient, shepherd's: roženice, mih, duplice… The most popular dance is balun, whereas the folk costume is simple, two-colored - brown and white.
Istrian man is easily recognized - he is sweet-natured, diligent, patient, somewhat distrustful and careful, unhurried, with a hidden strength. He forms acquaintances easily, but true friendship a bit harder, then it is life long. For him honesty is of utmost importance - he keeps his word and that is the basis of all communication and coexistence: Vo se veživa za roge, a čovik za besidu. (An ox is tied to his horns, man to his word)
And if you happen to meet him on one of the village paths, whether young or old - he will always greet you first and look you sincerely in the eyes.
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