Photos by Zeljko Novakov unless otherwise indicated.
One upon a time, a show named International Dog Show Portoroz was held in the marina in Portoroz, a resort town in Slovenian Istra, a heart-shaped peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. This show took place for years in this fancy venue near the sea, surrounded by sailing boats, casinos and restaurants.
Run for more than 14 years by Denis Kuzelj, it set the bar for the quality of shows in Slovenia, and became the standard that all the nation’s other shows tried to emulate.
People came every year from all over Europe, with our best visitors being Italian exhibitors. Veteran breeders and exhibitors from Italy still remember those days with great pleasure.
But due to changes in the leadership of the Slovenian Kennel Association, the show was taken off the annual show roster – until last year.
Denis Kuzelj, together with a small team of enthusiasts, started to envision a Slovenian show that would reach the same level of quality as that Portoroz original.
Denis Kuzelj hoists a glass to the promising show weekend to come.
Unfortunately, last year we were still under Covid restrictions, and the show was hampered by many rules that didn’t allow its organizers to completely realize their vision. The show cluster was relocated to the city of Koper, and included one national dog show and two international ones.
Thankfully, last winter our lives started to return to normalcy, and the preparations for Istra 2022 Summer Dog Shows – held August 4 through 7 – were soon underway.
At the European Dog Show in Budapest at the end of last year, the booth for the Istra 2022 Summer Dog Shows certainly made an impact. An old olive tree, with an Istrian wooden barrel topped with our typical prosciutto, Istrian cheese, wine and many more delicious foods from our region, was soon a favorite gathering spot for many judges and exhibitors. All the information about the shows, including the judging panel, was available.
The real thing, however, exceeded all expectations.
Four nighttime international shows and one Toy club specialty were held Thursday through Sunday. The shows started at 7 p.m and finished … well, when Best in Show was done.
Named after our Istrian cities, the shows were CACIB Portoroz (entry of 1,210 dogs), CACIB Izola (1,269 dogs), CACIB Koper (1,252 dogs) and CACIB Ankaran (1,173 dogs). The exhibitors came from 37 countries, with the largest numbers of dogs from Italy, the Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, Spain and Hungary.
The host hotel for judges, the Grand Hotel, was especially nice. A historical venue that was renovated in the past two years, it offered glamorous rooms with sea views and an exquisite restaurant. Since the Istra shows are held in the evening, judges could decide to stay on the beach during the day or experience the cultural and historical part of the city. The show ground was just a three-minute walk from the hotel.
To introduce the judges to our local flavors, we organized lunch in local restaurants of the highest caliber. Perhaps the most interesting was the Wednesday dinner at the castle of Socerb, where on the ruins of a medieval hilltop castle on the edge of Slovenian Istria, a famous chef runs a small, but unique restaurant. The sunsets are impressive there, as the red sun sinks in the sea surrounded by boats in the gulf of Koper.
View from the medieval castle ruins in Socerb.
Judges started to arrive on Tuesday, and finally on Wednesday we were all gathered. Istra 2022 was built on a team of wonderful adjudicators: Mrs. Maja Bubalo (Croatia), Mr. Carlos Salas Malero (Spain), Mr. Zlatko Jojkić (Serbia), Mr. Vojislav Al Daghistani (Serbia), Mr. Georgi Onishchenko (Ukraine), Mr. Andrew Burt (Australia), Mr. Andrzej Stepinski (Poland), Mr. Cristian Stefanescu (Romania), Mr. Stefan Sinko (Slovenia), Mr. Robert Kanas (Slovakia), Mr. Gianfranco Bauchal (Italy), the author Mrs. Masa Siroka (Slovenia), Mrs. Ana Mesto Martin (Spain), Mrs. Birgit Seloy (Denmark), Mrs. Tatyana Onishchenko (Ukraine), Mrs. Olga Sinko Kupriyanova (Slovenia), Mr. Desmond Murphy (USA) and Mr. Leif Herman Wilberg (Norway).
Two judges – Mrs. Bubalo and Mr. Kanas — were celebrating their birthdays at the time of the shows, so Thursday after BIS, we had a surprise cake and toasted with sparkling wine.
Aside from the judges, we can’t forget the 24 professional ring stewards (below) who were such a great help to our judges.
Two more judges, Mr. Dusan Travnikar (Slovakia) and Mr. Igor Selimovic (Croatia) -- pictured above -- took the construction and logistics in hand. They helped with a quite handy team of members of our Canis Kennel Club. There is never enough help to make such events possible.
Show announcer and judge Petru Munteanu.
A very special guest came from Romania to be our speaker: the famous judge Mr. Petru Munteanu, who once was a radio announcer with a voice that could take you everywhere … His helper translating the Slovenian language was Mrs. Andrea Cucnik.
The best thing about memories is making them! And having a great photographer to preserve those memories is essential. For the second year in a row we had Mr. Zeljko Novakov from Serbia, who captured moments and feelings during all four nights.
There is no event or spectacle without proper musical accompaniment. Mr. Borut Knaisel is one of those music muses who always knows what song is right for the moment.
A whole team of cooks and waiters took care of our judges, ring stewards and exhibitors. Heading the effort was Mr. Grozdan Grizancic (pictured below at left, with Denis Kuzelj), a former professional cook who is now a member of the Slovenian army and one of the main managers of the show, but his greatest love is still cooking delicious meals for friends.
The list of food was extremely long, but just to give you an idea, we were served seafood salad, salted-cod pate, breaded fried sardines, deep-fried squid, local dry Istrian prosciutto and salami, local cheese and olives, grilled chicken, grilled roast beef, grilled Istrian ombolo (pork tenderloin) and mashed potatoes with Istrian truffles, traditional Istrian pasta (fuzi) with Jacob scallops and grilled fillet of local white fish. Official drinks included local red Refosko wine, cold local sparkling wine, local Malvasia white wine, and gin and tonic.
The show ground is located in front of our city park and municipal open parking lot, so there was lots of space to walk the dogs and park the cars. Plus, the sea is just few hundred meters from the show grounds.
Toilets, fresh drinking water and free electricity were at the disposal of all exhibitors. For those who were unable to bring tents for their set-ups, a line of white canopies was placed around the rings. Tents were also available for free for exhibitors.
The white ring fences, a huge white pyramid-shaped tent for the VIP kitchen, another huge tent for VIPs and the white canopies for exhibitors looked stunning against the clear blue sky at the empty showground the day before the shows. Slowly, the vendors started to arrive as many exhibitors were already setting up their tents on Wednesday.
The author awarding Best Brace.
We had some very interesting vendors selling everything from dog equipment to handmade collars to statues to local food. One stand sold products with our Istrian truffles. They were also cooking at the stand, so typical fuzi pasta and meat tagliata – both with truffles – were on the menu every day.
A stand selling memorabilia of our shows was placed next to the show office so people were able to get a souvenir to remember their holidays in Slovenian Istria.
Above from left: Stefan Sinko; an olive tree, so emblematic of Istria, beneath the moonlight; judge Andrzej Stepinski of Poland.
Overall, the quality of dogs was very high. Many were recent winners at the World Dog Show in Madrid. Since the Split Summer Shows were held the prior weekend about a five-hour drive from Koper, many exhibitors and handlers entered both show circuits and in the interim took the opportunity to have a holiday on the Adriatic Sea.
The weather was in our favor. After the sun went down, a breeze helped keep it fresh enough for smooth judging, and the dogs performed absolutely wonderfully.
Ringside at the Sunday CACIB Ankaran show.
“It was a great honor to be part of the judges panel of the All-Breed International Dog Show ISTRA edition 2022. I must say that the whole show was a pure enjoyment for all participants, judges, staff and visitors,” Stefan Sinko said. “The organizers had a careful thought to even the smallest details and wanted to make everybody happy.
“Conditions for the night show were perfect, and if you decided to jump in Adriatic Sea, it was just across the street with a special beach for dogs.
“Koper is a dog-friendly city that welcomes visitors all year long. Nobody can complain about the hospitality because it offered the judges a maximum of culinary delicacies from the Istra region. I purely enjoyed my judging, with many top dogs coming from all parts of the globe, and my special thank-you goes to the organizers for the big honor of judging Best in Show on Sunday, the closing day. I had a very highly competitive line-up, which finally ended up with BIS to a beautiful mature Gordon Setter male. Reserve was the Australian Shepard and BIS number three, the Pomeranian. All three are top dogs that have won many Bests in Show in the past.
“My final word goes to the heart of the organizing committee, Mr. Denis Kuzelj. We are very proud to have such a show organizer with deep knowledge and love for his region, Istria, and Slovenia.
“Keep up the good work. My deep respect and congratulations.”
Mr. Desmond Murphy said Istra 2022 was one of the most fun shows he had ever attended in 47 years of judging. “The organization was fabulous,” he said. “The hospitality was the very best of any show ever. The committee did everything to make us feel so welcome. It is an assignment that will always be so memorable. It was a top panel of judges and we all enjoyed each other's company.
“The exhibitors all seemed to be enjoying themselves, win or lose. There were many great dogs from around the world.”
The culmination of the four nights of shows was a very emotional Supreme Best in Show.
We started with the minor puppies. Our judge was Mrs. Olga Sinko Kupryanova of Slovenia, who choose the BIS Supreme puppy between the five runner-up minor puppies from the previous five shows. Next were the puppies with judge Mr. Robert Kanas of Slovakia, followed by the veterans judged by Mr. Georgi Onischenko of Ukraine.
Supreme Junior Best in Show was judged by Mrs. Ana Mesto Martin of Spain (above), who along with her husband Carlos called the 2022 Istra shows “without a doubt, one of the best we have ever attended,” thanks to “the beautiful venue, the extraordinary organization, the music, the food, the fabulous and empathetic group of judges and stewards and, of course, the enormous quality of the participating dogs and handlers.
“We want to thank you for your great hospitality, everything we have seen and experienced in that beautiful region of Slovenia and your great professionalism,” she said. “Without a doubt, we will always remember the fabulous week we spent with you.”
The highly anticipated Supreme Best in Show Adults was judged by Mr. Andrew Burt from Australia.
“What a pleasure it was to be invited to join the panel of judges at Istra 2022! And it was an absolute honor to be chosen to select the Supreme Best in Show from the winners of each show,” he reflected after the show. “Generally, as is the norm everywhere, quality of the dogs generally did vary, but there were exceptional dogs entered throughout the Groups – some of which I would have loved to put my hands on.
“Ultimately, five judges chose Best in Show winners who finally entered the ring to compete for the Supreme title. I was blessed to put my hands on those dogs, evaluate their merits and be forced to make the final decision.
“Whilst they were all worthy winners and dogs of exceptional quality, the Schipperke particularly caught my eye. What a stunning, typical dog. He was a beautifully presented little Spitz of excellent proportion. His coat pattern was perfect, silhouette was exactly as I would imagine, and he moved with a typical gait, demonstrating an amazing, alert personality. I can just imagine him performing his original function as a shepherd, or on a barge. I just loved his makeup and attitude, and it was a pleasure to award him the Supreme Best in Show Award.”
Photographer Zeljko Novakov.
The Best in Show winners from each of the four international dog shows and the BIS from the Toy Specialty went on to compete for the Supreme BIS in their respective categories.
Beside the rosettes and wine, the winner received a stunning painting, a present from Mr. Rade Dakic – Kica, a well-known judge and artist from Serbia.
A huge cake and sparkling wine crowned the closure of the final show night.
The special title Istra Winner was awarded to all dogs that won three CACIBs, three Best Junior, three Best Minor Puppy, three Best Puppy or four Best Veteran awards. All were awarded special handmade rosettes. And they weren’t alone: All the Best in Show winners received handmade rosettes as well as a special treat — bottles of wines and champagne from our local wineries. Especially happy were the Best in Show winners, who got a huge six-liter bottle of local sparkling wine.
Beautiful ribbons and local libations await the top winners.
Unfortunately, many judges had to leave early, so they couldn’t follow us on the post-show trip along the Slovenian coast in a local rented boat that departed from the port of Koper. Aboard we were spoiled by the magnificent view and local food.
A fish picnic was served on the boat with grilled sardines and grilled squid paired with white Malvasia and local sparkling wine. We stopped in the medieval city of Piran and swam at the wild and free beach named Bele Skale. We concluded our trip in the medieval city of Izola with a dinner at the seafood restaurant Marina.
Due to sudden changes in the world, the organization of events, border crossings, varying restrictions in various areas and the planned trips of our exhibitors have also changed. Above all, they have become more limited and more expensive. Exhibitors thus come to shows not only to show their dogs, but also for a holiday. For some of them it may be their only vacation of the year. In addition to providing the usual amenities — such as registration for the show, parking at the exhibition site, coffee and a hot meal, stands with equipment, and perhaps general information about accommodations — the role of the show organizer today must be to offer to the exhibitor much more. The same rule applies to the invited judges and also the gallery. The show needs to be a whole experience resulting in satisfied fanciers and guests who will return again and again, either as exhibitors, judges or, perhaps on another occasion, tourists.
This show circuit certainly made a big impact on each person who attended, whether as an exhibitor, handler, vendor, visitor or judge. Istra 2022 Summer Dog Shows stands out from the rest and brings dog shows to a whole another level, all the while promoting not just the sport of purebred dogs but also the local region, tourism and cuisine.
Location, Location, Location
Welcome to Slovenian Istria!
Located between the inland Karst Edge and the Adriatic Sea, this lush peninsula has four main cities: Koper, Isola, Ankaran and Piran. All three are coastal, and in the past Koper – home of the Istra 2022 Summer Dog Shows – was an island. So the cluster’s four international dog shows were named for those cities as well as one resort town called Portoroz. This part of Slovenia is known for its Mediterranean climate, olive trees, vineyards, sparkling sea and warm people. It offers a good life for its inhabitants and tourists. The fauna and flora are the origin of the delicious regional food and tasty wines, which are perfect paired.
The largest town in Slovenian Istria, Koper in the past history has also been called Aegida, Capris, Justinopolis, Insula Capraria, Caput Histriae, Capo D'Istria.
Central square in the Istrian city of Koper.
With its eight-kilometer-long coastline, Koper has two beaches: Koper city beach, the so called “Wet cat,” and the beach in Zusterna. At the end of the Semedela promenade there is a dog beach, which is separated from other swimming areas.
Besides its beautiful beaches, Koper offers a little bit of everything for all tastes: history, culture, music, relaxation and of course a great food scene.
BIS Winners Gallery
Thursday CACIB PORTOROZ, BIS judge Mr. Leif Herman Wilberg (Norway)
1. SCHIPPERKE, KURAKUMA DARK STAR S SUSCHEVKI, BRUSHNIVSKAYA ELENA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION
2. BICHON FRISE, WHITEMANTRA IVORY WHITE THULIP, GIERKENA INGRIDA, LATVIA
3. AFGHAN HOUND, SHOU GERAT MOONLIGHT RIDER, MAKSIMENKO OLGA, UKRAINE
Friday CACIB IZOLA, BIS judge Mr. Christian Stefanescu (Romania)
1. FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER, BERSIFJOR DONO DEL DESTINO, MARTINSONE HENRIETE, LATVIA
2. SCHIPPERKE, KURAKUMA DARK STAR S SUSCHEVKI, BRUSHNIVSKAYA ELENA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION
3. TIBETAN TERRIER, TI LA SHU P.S I LOVE YOU, STARK LINDA & RICHARD, GERMANY
Saturday CACIB KOPER, BIS judge Mr. Desmond Murphy (US)
1. LAKELAND TERRIER, NORTHCOTE’S ISN’T THAT THE WAY, SCHÖNEBERG FRIEDRICH-WILHELM, GERMANY
2. STANDARD WHITE POODLE, PIEDMONTS CONQUISTADOR, DREWITT-BARLOW BARRIE, UNITED STATES
3. IRISH RED SETTER, IRISHSHERRY DO TO ME, OTEGUI SANTIAGO AINARA & JOSÉ LUIS, SPAIN
Saturday, Toy Club Specialty (held immediately after the completion of all-breed judging), BIS judge Mr. Desmond Murphy (US)
1. STANDARD WHITE POODLE, CH PIEDMONTS CONQUISTADOR, DREWITT-BARLOW BARRIE, USA
2. MINIATURE BLACK POODLE, VOODOO DOLL PARADOKSAS, DIJAKOVSKAJA JULIJA, LITVA
3. PHALENE, ELRAM'S KILLING ME SOFTLY SUI, SANTIAGO PIER JOSE LUIS, SPAIN
Sunday CACIB ANKARAN, BIS judge Mr. Stefan Sinko (Slovenia)
1. GORDON SETTER, MILA GRANDSET MICHELANGELO DAVID, POROTIKOVA LYUDMILA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION
2. AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD, DREAM MEADOW’S SPELLBOUND, PLOSHKO ALEXEY, RUSSIAN FEDERATION
3. POMERANIAN, TOPLINEPOM STAR LEGEND, SCHULHOFF TIBOR, HUNGARY
Supreme BIS Winners Gallery
Photos by ProDog Photography - Mak Dodan
SUPREME BIS MINOR PUPPY
AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD, OMEGA STAR SNOW WINNER (NB), KOLOMIETS KATERYNA, UKRAINE
SUPREME BIS PUPPY
POMERANIAN, DAN-STAR-KOM SOLAR AMBER, ŠKEVA BRANIMIR, CROATIA
SUPREME BIS VETERAN
DALMATIAN, SOMORA’S JUNIPER DREAM, BUCHHOLZ DORINA, GERMANY
SUPREME BIS JUNIOR
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG, BORN TO RAISE THE HELL DE KRISMACA, FREAN PEDRO, SPAIN
SUPREME BIS ADULT
SCHIPPERKE, KURAKUMA DARK STAR S SUSCHEVKI, BRUSHNIVSKAYA ELENA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION