Have you ever dreamed of stepping back in time and exploring a medieval city or town preserved in it’s full, former glory?
Welcome to Hum, Croatia
There are few places left in the world where you get such an authentic experience. Even ancient cities like Rome and Athens are juxtaposed with the hustle and bustle of modern life. Nestled in the Istrian hills is Hum. This town is proudly known as the World’s Smallest Town and authenticity is king here.
Everyone I talk to has never heard of Hum. I hadn’t until I researched it just before my visit to Istria and I knew it was a place not to be missed. I hiked to Hum from the town of Buzet, but it is accessible by car. As I approached Hum, I could feel that I had arrived somewhere really special, and I was not wrong. There is an inscription on the Hum sign says; ‘come and visit this little town, it’s warmth radiates through it’s cold stone’. This motto resonates throughout Hum and it’s tiny population of only 20 people.
History of Hum
So what is it that makes Hum so special? The answer to that question lies in it’s history. The culture and traditions of Hum date back almost 1000 years, and this is the secret to it’s charm.
The local legend is that Hum was built by giants. When the giants ran out of stone whilst building the bigger towns, they only had a little bit of stone left. They decided to use the small amount of leftover stone to create a mini town and so Hum was born.
Legends aside, Hum can be traced back in the history books to at least 1102. The infrastructure of Hum is what gives it town status. This includes St Jerome’s- a 12th Century Romanesque style church. The church is very special because inside it houses Glagolitic script- which is thought to be the earliest form of written Croatian before it formed Cryllic.
Additionally, Hum has a watch tower, bell and loggia which all dates back to the 16th Century. There is also the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church which was rebuilt in 1802.
The traditions and history of Hum makes it a very special place. You can feel the sense of pride by the residents of this quaint town as you walk the cobbled stone streets this humble town.
What can you do in the Smallest Town in the World?
As you arrive into the town, you will see the sign for Hum. For those travelling by car, there is a small car park. To your right-hand side of the Hum sign, there will be a path which will take you up to St Jerome’s Church. Start your stroll through Hum here. As previously mentioned, St Jerome’s is home to Glagolitic script which you can see inside the church, as well as ancient frescos depicting a time long ago.
Inside The City Walls
Once you’ve visited St Jerome’s, head back towards the ‘main’ town and head into the two cobbled streets through the medieval town gate built in 1562. There is the second church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, take a look if it is open and enjoy the paintings and marble altars inside. Next to the church is the free-standing fortified tower built in 1552.
The medieval door to enter the town of Hum, the Glagolitic script roughly translates as, “Enemies, get out! Friends, get in!”
Head back onto the cobbled street (there’s only two, so you won’t get lost!), and continue heading down. You will find a couple of souvenir shops selling a variety of trinkets to take home to remember your time in Hum. Depending on the space you have in your luggage, I recommend either taking home a bottle of Istrian brandy, particularly Biska. This is 2000 year old recipe which has been passed down from the Celtic Druids who once occupied this area. It is an acquired taste- mistletoe flavoured brandy! If mistletoe isn’t your thing, try other flavours, such as honey, fig, wild rose, mint and various berries (my personal choice). If brandy doesn’t interest you, then Istria is the home of truffles, and you can get a variety of truffle gifts or take home a bottle of Istria’s exquisite olive oil.
The View from Hum
Once you’ve browsed the souvenir shops for gifts to commemorate your time in Istria, it’s time to walk past the stone houses and head out to enjoy the views of Hum. Hum is situated about 350m up on a hill, and so you are gifted a wonderful view of the valleys below, lush, grassy hills for miles paired with the beautiful blue skies of Croatia. It really is a feast for the eyes.
Where to eat in Hum
Once you’ve spent some time enjoying the views, you’ve probably worked up a little bit of an appetite! Hum only has one restaurant, but the good news is that Humska Konoba was one of the best restaurants I ate in during my time in Croatia.
Humska Konoba is run by one of the local families of Hum, and they bring you some of the most traditional foods the Istrian region has to offer. Depending on what your pallet is like, there are a variety of foods to try. I chose the set menu, which was 3 courses for 90 kuna (about £10 or $14, which is unbelievable value). It included Istrian corn soup- a delicious soup (more like a stew) with fresh vegetables and served with homemade bread. For my main course I got Fuzi (Istrian style pasta) with beef goulash. The best pasta dish I’ve ever eaten (sorry Italy!). Finally for dessert I had Krostoli- which was like a light flat cake with a dusting of sweet powder. I can hand on heart say it was one of the nicest meals I’ve ever had, as well as being excellent value.
A top tip for eating at Humska Konoba is booking a reservation in the restaurant! There are only a handful of tables inside and it can get quite busy. You can find their website here.
Can you stay in the Smallest Town in the World?
If you decide to stay in Hum for the night, there are several guest houses within the medieval walls of Hum. Such as Guest House Sobe Dores and House Vera. Both with excellent reviews on Booking.com and offer reasonable rates of around £30 a night. If you want to immerse yourself into local life in Hum and meet the locals, then this is an amazing option.
Rounding off the Day
To round up your day in Hum, I would recommend a visit to Aura. Aura is a family run distillery which has various shops around the Istria region of Croatia. They produce a range of traditional brandies and jams. I visited several Aura during my time in Croatia, and was lucky enough to visit their distillery in Buzet. They have a shop in Hum, where you can enjoy tasting various brandies and truffle flavoured delicacies from the region. I highly recommend spending some time here- you won’t regret it! Also, it will give you a chance to mix with some of the locals!
To conclude, Hum really was a special and unique place. I will fondly remember my time there forever. I encourage people to visit the Istria region, which is overshadowed by cities like Dubrovnik and Split. Life really slows down here and it gives you a chance to disconnect and embrace the long-standing cultures of Istria. Make sure you dedicate a day or two to come here, you will not regret it.