Why we moved to Istria

at-orih-with-s&s-2_edited-1We moved to Istria in early 2005. Having just sold our previous business in mid-2004, we had a lot of freedom when it came to choosing somewhere to live. Here’s a brief look at why we decided on Istria for our life abroad, and some of the ups and downs. (I’m interviewing everyone else, so why should we miss out on the fun!)


 Why did you choose to live in Croatia?

N:           With the company largely behind us, our primary aim was to do some travelling and see the world. However,  we  knew we wouldn’t be spending all our time on the road, so wanted a base for between trips. I wanted a more outdoor lifestyle, ideally in the country and Phil wanted to live somewhere warm, near the sea.


P:            As a teenager in the 70s I went on some long camping holidays with my parents around the Med and I particularly enjoyed our holiday in Yugoslavia, as it was in those days. It was also the first place I swam in the Med: I was 11 and we’d just driven across a baking Europe in a mad, two-day dash. When we hit the coast near Rijeka, my Dad and I dived out of the car and straight into the sea. It was unbelievable. Until then I’d only swum in the cold, murky English Channel: this was so much better!

With such fond memories of the area, when we were looking at options, Croatia was very much in the mix.


N:            On the practical front, I should also say the decision was partly driven by financial constraints. I’d looked at house prices around the Med and in 2004, we simply couldn’t afford anywhere near the sea in Spain, Italy or France. But we could in Croatia and, while my only experience of Croatia was a day trip to Dubrovnik from a cruise ship, if Phil was happy to look there, then I thought ‘why not?’


Why Istria in particular?

N:            Again, it was essentially a practical decision. We wanted to travel and Istria is well- positioned for touring the Med and Eastern Europe. We also had to get back fairly often, to the UK to visit family and to Belgium for our business, and Istria’s close enough that the drive’s do-able (just!). Also, when I was looking for possible Croatian properties on-line in 2004, the only suitable ones were in Istria. Everything just seemed to say ‘Istria’.

We came house hunting in mid-September 2004 and Istria completely blew me away. I’d always thought the Med was dry and dusty, but Istria was green and covered with wonderful oak forests – it was magnificent. With its beautiful old, stone villages and green woods it reminded me far more of Cornwall or the Cotswolds than the Med.


P:            Istria essentially represented a good compromise: the green of the English countryside for Nicky, and the warmth and Mediterranean climate for me.


How was house hunting?

N:            Exhausting. I spent many weeks on the internet before we came, researching how to buy and short-listing properties. Once we arrived, we looked at over 40 houses all over Istria, in three weeks. The main thing we found is that our tastes totally differed. Phil wanted modern, open-plan places and I was looking for the cute, country cottage. However we did find one place we both agreed on, a ‘modern’ cottage built with old materials, and it was the house we ended up buying.


Has living here lived up to expectations?

P:            That’s a huge question and very difficult to answer. So much has happened that we never could have foreseen over the past seven years – mostly to do with changing just about everything in our lives in one go, rather than just the move to Istria!

N:            One thing’s for sure, as Phil says life certainly didn’t turn out as we planned. We haven’t done the travelling we planned for a whole variety of reasons, including Phil injuring his back. Also simply living here has proved far more time-consuming than expected, in part due to Croatia being outside the EU, which will change in a few years, of course.

P:            We also bought the wrong house – oops! What we really needed was something like a flat we could lock up and leave for months on end, which needed little work. Instead we bought a stone house which needs a lot of maintenance, on a large plot of land – and then proceeded to put in a pool and gardens, which also need a lot of work! We got carried away by the possibilities and lost track of our end goal – which was to travel.

N:            Before we moved here we’d lived outside the UK for over 20 years, first in Holland and then Belgium. So we were very blasé about the move: we thought Croatia would be ‘just another country’, but in a warmer climate. But moving outside the EU made more of a practical difference to everyday life than expected, and I must admit that adapting to the cultural differences, with a more laid-back Mediterranean mindset, took us longer than we expected. But then, we were a lot younger and more flexible than when we first moved to another country!

Having said all that, I love it here. I love the peace and quiet, and green countryside. I love being able to be outside most of the year. Then, in the winter, I love being able to curl up in front of the open fire. It might not have been what we planned, but I’m certainly enjoying life here.

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