Conversations with experts and local children, field observations and beautiful views, good food and company, offered a multitude of perspectives during a fascinating field trip to Istria, according to third year Geography student Jamie Quinlan.
Upon our arrival in Slovenia, we explored the capital of Ljubljana. After enjoying the spectacular views from the walls of Ljubljana's medieval castle, I got to know the group over a tankard of beer and a sizeable plate of food – a recurring theme of the week! A short bus journey over the border into Croatia saw our hotel, where on the balcony awaited a peaceful vista of the twinkling city lights and the ocean waves lapping silently onto the rocks.
We were investigating the effects of environmental and socio-economic change on water management in Istria, Croatia. The trip leader, Dr Suzi Ilic, has just won a national teaching award recognising the innovative nature of this trip, in particular the combination of human and physical geography, and the amount of interaction we got with local people.
.We started work on the first day with a visit to Botonega reservoir, hearing from the Istrian Water Company and investigating the catchment area. A tour of the facilities provided a visual insight to the water management process, before a hearty 5-course meal in a local restaurant. Here we were rewarded with a group social, and treated to an 'interactive' tour of the wine cellar!
The next day was truly a fun and new experience for us all, talking to groups of children in a school in the town of Lovran about domestic water consumption. We later ventured further into the village, speaking to local homeowners (with the help of a translator - a student from the local University!). This gave us great insight into what was really happening in Istria, as we made new friends and had our perspectives challenged.
A visit to the Dragonja River Basin was another memorable day – we conducted assessments, field sketches and observations around the area. It felt like a real adventure, exploring the abandoned buildings and over-grown castles in quaint, detailed villages, scribbling our findings down in notebooks as we went. This area also had fantastic views over Croatia and Slovenia, offering plenty of photo opportunities!
The final field day was concluded by a presentation from Croatian Water (Hrvatske Vode) at the University of Rijeka – we spent the next couple of days in this university conducting our poster assessment and exam. The posters offered a great opportunity to get creative with group work, flowing ideas and polishing our understanding before the next day's exam.
Phew. A busy week of working and playing hard provided a perfect balance of social and academic activity - now for a well-deserved venture around the World Heritage Site of Venice, Italy. For me, this was the highlight. Getting lost around the maze of bridges, narrow alleyways and intricate architecture was a lot of fun. Every towering alleyway seemed to tell its own story, brimming with character and charm.
After pottering around the enchanting streets, we watched the sunset from the top of St. Mark's Campanile. Strolling through the peaceful twilight of Venice, we eventually bustled down for pizza and reminisced about the week's adventures, before running after the last bus back to the hotel.
The trip was a highly rewarding experience, and the perfect end to my three years studying geography at Lancaster University.
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