Istrian Peninsula was a big surprise for me. Pula is a worthwhile city, suitable for a short trip, which…
…is not only a place to spend time on the beach, lying under the scorching sun, but the place which hides a lot of mysteries from the past that are seen on almost every corner. The Peninsula Istria offers much more than I saw, so I am convinced that it is worth going back some day. I was in Croatia in July with my sister Monika. Thanks to her accompaniment , you are able to see me on the pictures! So how is it like in Pula…?
It is a heart of the city, still beating, because the Arena is still in active use. It was built in the 1st century C.E., but is well preserved and it was a great experience for me to walk through the arena, while knowing how much history have the walls seen through those years. I had a big pleasure to watch there a gladiator fight show – performed by a modern gladiator school (yes, it exists!). The name of the show was “Spectacula Antiqua”. An announcer of the show told the history of the fights with a big sense of humor, he introduced gladiators’ names in front of the “Cesar” and his attendants. Men were fighting spontaneous, no one knew who is going to win. It was worth going to!
The Old City
In 4 days I have gone through the Old City plenty of times and I’ve got to window-shopped all the stores on the street. Believe me, there are a lot of shops). We spend too much on the souvenirs! Pula is not a big city, but there are many interesting sights. . We started from Zerostrasse tunnels from The 1st World War. They were used to lift out (up?) the ammunition and as a shelter for approx. 50 thousand people (today’s population of Pula). Tunnels (2 crossed lines) are open to tourists, it took us only around 20 minutes to see all the exhibitions inside and to go back outside.. Maybe it wasn’t something spectacular, but it was good to get better understanding of the Croatian history. After the Zerostrasse we followed the advices of a city map. On the way we passed the Twin gate, two churches, the Forum square, the location of the Augustus Temple, which looks spectacular from the outside, even though it was bombed during the war. Inside you can find a museum, but, believe me, it’s not worth visiting.It only has 4-5 exhibits in there. But what I can highly recommend – is a Romanian mosaic, hidden between the buildings. It amazed me!.Especially, its very well preserved and detailed piece of floor Walking further, we got to the Sergius’ Triumphal Arch, which is a central shopping point.
It is a next witness of the history, which includes a port and a shipyard. From the harbor in the city you can take a voyage to Venice. I enjoyed the walk there, it’s connected with the Forum square. There are no beaches directly in the city, you will need to walk 20-30 minutes or to take a bus. I recommend to visit a tourist-info point to get a map of Pula and Istria, it is helpful. We visited beaches on the West and the South-West from the city. Everywhere there were a lot of people ( less on the Stoja beach, but more in gulf shores by the Pula Hotel. I think it’s hard to avoid it, perhaps only when you drive or walk much further from Pula. It’s easy to get to the seaside by a bus from the Giardini station (the main street). All the beaches are shingle beaches.
Taste of Istria
What I remember the most is a sour, bitter taste of Istria white wine, which is one of a localy produced goods. It’s worth trying, but I needed to drink water with this wine. I’ve read before trip, which turned out to be true, that cuisine of Istria is very diverse, since historically so many nations passed this place and their imprints on the region. Contrary to the first impression there are a lot of meat dishes, not only sea food. Very popular snack is called “ćevapčići”, which I like and also know from the Turkish cuisine. Personally, I like sea food more, so I tried different dishes every day.
Get out of Pula – The Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni Islands were a highlight of our trip! It’s an incredible place, with specific flora and fauna, but already touched by human activity – since it was often visited by an Yugoslavia leader – Tito, who built there a golf course, hotels and safari. The last is a really exotic place – who would have ever expected to find lamas, zebraz or elephants on the Croatian islands? It’s a big surprise and gets even bigger when you stand in front of the 1600-year-old tree! It’s a unique example of one of the oldest plants in the Mediterranean area. It is still green, curved, olive giving tree. For me it was the important (exciting) moment of the whole trip.
You can get to Brijuni from Pula by a boat, but then you can’t get off the boat. So I would recommend the way me and my sister took. Take a bus to a city called Fažana, from where you can go to the Veliki Brijun island with a route organized by the stuff of the National Park Brijuni. You need to book it one day in advance. It is a sightseeing tour in electric train with a guide. Later you get some free time, everything lasts for 4 hours. We had a great time! Veliki Brijun has very hot climate, I really felt like in a safari. We saw, characteristic for this region, trees in shape of a mushroom, gardens (totally not worth visiting) and ancient ruins. By the way the Brijuni Islands were home for humans much earlier than in ancient Roman times, a few thousand years B.C.! All these interesting facts, the very old olive tree made me feel honored that I could visit such an important place. Pula is a place where I had a meeting with extraordinary history and my identity.