Sunday, April 4, 2010
Hum, a hilltop medieval town on the Istrian peninsula of Croatia, holds the record as the smallest town in the world, population 17-23 (varies). Located in northwest Croatia near the Slovenian border, Hum is one of the rare preserved and untouched examples of urban development inside medieval walls. Since the 11th century up to the present moment, no completely new structure has been built except for the 19th century Italian school. Older structures have been altered, most notably a bell tower addition in 1552 and a new facade added to the church of St. Jerome in 1802. The entire town consists of just two streets and two churches. The sole restaurant Humska Konoba serves smoked meats with sauerkraut and signature doughnuts for dessert; there are frequent lines out the door formed by curious and hungry tourists who wish to enter the ancient and atmospheric stone and wood structure. They serve biska, a local grape brandy.
It must be noted that Hum is not a village, but a genuine town with elected officials and a town government. As such Hum is the Guinness World Record holder for the smallest town in the world.
Each year on the Day of Hum all men from the parish elect their prefect in the municipal loggia according to the old tradition, by engraving votes on a wooden stick known as raboš. The town prefect is responsible for his parish, for settling disputes among residents and imposing penalties for disorderly conduct in Hum and the surrounding villages. The election is followed by a folk festival in which traditional dishes and homemade wine and brandy are featured. The local home-made brandy, biska (made from grape-brandy, mistletoe and four herbs), is based on a two-thousand-year-old recipe.
Hum is also the mecca of Croatian Glagolitism where you can see the first monuments and trace the very beginnings of Croatian literacy, as well as get to know the old Croatian alphabet Glagoljica. The Aleja glagoljaša (Glagolithic Avenue) is a series of 11 monuments dedicated to the Glagolitic script, placed along the 4-mile route between Roč und Hum. This set of monuments was erected between 1977 and 1981 to celebrate and preserve Glagolitic script, a 9th century alphabet devised by Saints Cyril and Methodius. All 34 letters also have a word meaning and numerical value. The script for the letter K also means “how” and the number 40. The Glagolitic script became disused in general in the 15th century, but lasted in small coastal pockets of Croatia until the 19th century.