The sun is very low on the horizon as we sit on the steps in front of the apartment building waiting for the arrival of the landlord to let us in. He soon arrives, introduces himself and shakes our hands. We are upstairs taking off our packs in the apartment which has a kitchenette, good bathroom, lounge chair, double bed, in no time.
By the time we make our way outside to check out Pula and find some dinner the sun has set completely however the dark sky still has enough glow to provide a great backlight to the massive Amphitheater as I take photo after photo.
Pam sets off in one of her random direction walks, we end up doing a loop round a couple of blocks climbing up a hill then and making our way back down the concrete stairs that lie between the Amphitheater and our apartment block which allows me to get a couple of shots of the Amphitheater grounds lit by spotlights.
A hundred meters down the road from our apartment is an indoor children’s playground called Peekaboo where children can climb and swing and play out of the weather while their parents have a drink or coffee in the bar/cafe/pizza grill that is attached to the facility.
We decide to have dinner here and end up having some delicious and inexpensive pizzas fresh from the huge modern rotating stainless steel oven that we wash down with local beer and wine.
By the time I wake the next morning Pam has already got our activities for the next two days planned. We are going to explore the older buildings and ruins in Pula today and tomorrow we will do a long walk out along the coastline to check out some Croatian beaches.
She leaves it to me to plan our actual route.
After a quick look at the map we leave, walking past the amazing Amphitheater once more before heading down to the nearby harbour through parklands full of statues.
A round table bearing a 3D map of Pula catches my eye.
First to see the sea and say it.
We walk by historic buildings along the waterfront and stop at the Cathedral and it’s separate clock tower before making our way round further to the Temple of Augustus and the Town Hall which are situated to one side of the Forum (the Pula main square).
The Temple of Augustus is a very well preserved Roman temple and we take photos of a little boy playing in the square in front of the temple while we have a coffee and beer sitting in the sunshine outside one of the many cafes that line the Forum walls.
Roman ruins pop up in unexpected places. While taking a little diversion down a side alley we come across some exposed ruins sitting behind a shop building and in front of the dwellings behind.
Old Pula is a port city full of historical monuments that lies on the slopes of a hill topped by a large fort that is now a Historical and Maritime museum. We climb the hill to the museum via steep, narrow stone roads and staircases and come face to face with the row of cannons guarding the entrance gate.
Our descent is via yet another steep narrow road and we return to the water front beside the Chapel of St Maria Formosa which is undergoing significant restoration.
Having gotten the steep part of the walk out of the way I feel ready to eat lunch. We are the only patrons of the restaurant where we dine which always makes us a little nervous however our meals are hot and tasty.
Our walk continues back through the Forum and along the street through to the Arch of the Sergians. A statue of James Joyce sits permanently in a cafe courtyard.
Along this walk I have seen a sports store that has a small backpack in the window that appears like it may be a strong contender to meet all my needs.
I have my trusty Pacerpoles on hand, the handles fit in the side pockets and there are side compression straps to lock them in, wide comfortable shoulder straps and two good size compartments for our cold and wet gear. The bag maintains its shape however it will still roll up into my big pack if needed. It is perfect.
I have a new day pack.
Pam calls me a shopaholic as I exit the store. Mocking, always mocking, at my chamber gently knocking.
Our walk continues around the Old Pula town which has many museums and galleries devoted to the history and art of the Istria region.
Enroute back to our apartment we buy a few supplies, they sell beer in PET plastic bottles and 1L goon in Croatia.
That evening we dine lightly and drink heavily.
Our landlord had told us that Pula was historically a naval port and that old forts man the hills that encircle the large bay area. He describes them as all being worth seeing.
My intention for the long coastal walk we have planned for today was to walk round the waters edge to the north, north-west to Fort Grosso and Fort Punto Christo before making our way back. Once we pass the railway station we realise that this route is mostly along either industrial or scrubby areas so we reverse our plan and decide to walk back through the old town and then along the coastal area that lies over the hills to the south of the town.
We stop for Pam’s morning constitutional coffee at a cafe beside the Roman twin gates that now are part of the wall around the Archeological Museum of Istrea before making our way back through the old town then out along the busy walled road beside the shipyards.
Soon we are climbing the streets of suburban Pula where apartment buildings built in the Yugoslavia era are gradually decaying. The modern Portland cement is dramatically inferior to the old Roman cement. I had read an article a few months ago describing how modern researchers have developed a technique to duplicate Roman cement that ended in the depressing phrase ‘now we will be able to build cost effective concrete buildings that will last 2000 years’.
‘Not without thinking about their basic design features’ I hope fervently as we pass one after another crumbling apartment blocks.
We pass a large church that we can’t seem to find on the map, walk down past the walls of the Military Cemetery and then down towards the water passing a cafe built in parklands that contain two dark grey sand beach volleyball courts.
Now we have a decision to make, left or right along the coastline.
We elect to turn right as there are markers on our map indicating swimming areas and it is my hope to make it into the Adriatic whilst the weather is relatively warm.
Rather than walk along roads we clamber along the rocks with the Adriatic occasionally lapping at our heels. We round a small headland in this manner before heading back towards some waterfront houses with a few small boats harboured in front.
On a short jetty in front of the houses a boat is moored with a man repairing fishing nets. A cat waits patiently on the jetty, there must have been plenty of scraps come it’s way here before as it’s eyes never leave the industrious fisherman.
We crunch along the stony beach. This sure ain’t Surfers Paradise however the water is crystal clear and we can see deep into the blue that lies at our feet.
Ahead there is a section of the road that runs beside the beach being repaired and here we are forced to leave the rocks and make our way along the footpath beside the vile smelling machinery laying bitumen towards the area where a camping ground has been shut down for the winter months.
We sit for a while at the gates to the closed camping grounds and toss up wether or not we should catch a bus back into Pula. As we sit we notice there are quite a few cats congregating around us. Cat after cat appears until we count fifteen either sitting on the road or hiding in the road equipment scattered about the area.
On the beach on the other side of the neck of land from where we sit a lone man strips to his speedos and walks out into the water. The road workers point and laugh like he is mad. They are all wearing heavy winter clothes though in all honesty the day is reasonably warm.
We decide to walk on along the beach past the swimmer and up the hillside beyond in an attempt to find one of the forts listed on our map.
The hillside has a large number of what look like beach holiday huts that have been abandoned. In Australia this place would be a millionaires row however the denizens of this area look to be at the other far end of the socioeconomic scale.
We take the path that circles close to the water and come across a beautiful deserted cove. Pam takes her shoes off and stands on a rock so the small waves run water over her feet. She tells me the water is freezing.
‘You only live once’ I say while taking off my clothes.
It is very different entering the sea when the beach consists of rocks rather than sand. I had certainly not factored in how painful the cold rocks would be on my soft, shoe enslaved feet.
Each step is a small grinding torture on the egg sized rocks however I am very determined to swim so I mince my way slowly to a depth I finally feel is safe enough to splash down into.
Thankfully Pam’s description of the water as freezing is an exaggeration. I have swum in much colder waters before. The waves are tiny, the water clear and clean.
I let the salt water do it’s work of restoration on mind, body and soul. My silver noggin’ bobbin’ in the waves.
Now I have swum naked in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Adriatic Sea.
By the time I am ready to return my soft feet are now quite cold and my ‘walk of shame’ (as Pam calls it) is torturous in the extreme. The little waves are enough to disturb my equilibrium which adds to the pain.
Pam is laughing so hard she is about to bust a gut.
I have nothing to dry myself with so I have to sit like a shag on a rock and let the sun and wind do the work.
Pam asks me ‘was it worth it’
Once I have donned my veneer of civilization we head back up the hill, all that seems to remain of the fort is a few graffiti covered walls.
We skirt round the beach house area and commence the long walk back into town. This time we follow roads that lead past a large military base and we come out onto the street where we had walked past the shipyards in the morning.
A long loop with a brisk swim in the middle.
By the time we have arrived back in Old Pula it is late in the afternoon and we have a late lunch at a lovely restaurant in town.
Later that evening we wander back into the old town with the intent of going to a Jazz bar where some live music is going to be played tonight.
Most places in town seem to be shut and we end up having a dissatisfying meal at a bar/cafe that overlooks the Arch of the Sergians.
By the time we have made it back to the nearby jazz bar it is packed full of patrons and Pam no longer wants to go inside.
On our walk back to the apartment it begins to rain.
We conclude that outside of tourist season Pula has no night life.
Rain is still falling when we wake the next morning and Pam ventures out to the farmers markets leaving me to find the bottom of a plastic bottle of beer while I work on the blog.
We have been living life rather than writing about it and I am way behind.
I type away like a million monkeys until the lines begin to blend together.
At midnight a night club playing loud doof doof dance music fires into life and wakes us both. The music is coming from somewhere close by and continues until 5:00am putting paid to our theory that Pula has no night life.
Our flight to Zadar leaves at 6:00am tomorrow so today is going to be our last effective day in Pula.
Despite the Amphitheater being immediately next door to our apartment and having walked past it many times already we have not yet been inside the ancient structure.
Today we plan to rectify that situation.
As we enter there is not another person within the oval walls. Yesterdays rain has left the sandy center damp however no puddles impede Pam as she raises a finger on each side of her head, scrapes her feet on the ground and charges at me.
I thought it was mostly lions in the Amphitheater entertainment schedule however I sidestep and lop off her head with an imaginary sword.
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott don’t have a patch on us.
Today the Amphitheater entertains in a less bloody fashion, many modern pop and classical artists such as Sting (or as Pam calls him, Stinky) Elton John, and Michael Bolton (no less) have played within the majesty of its walls.
We climb the high stairs and make our way around the entire structure. It is easy to be awed by the huge scale of the construction. Time moves at a different pace within the oval walls.
Underneath the gravel floor of the Amphitheater lie rooms that performed storage functions and held the wild beasts that were to be unleashed in the center.
Today some of these rooms have been converted into Museum displays highlighting the history, ancient industry and agricultural practices of the Istria region.
We walk the length of a stone walled tunnel into this area and peruse the displays.
By the time we are ready to leave we have spent several hours in the Amphitheater. We walk leisurely into town and have a few drinks sitting in the sunshine, people watching in the Forum.
There are four large cafes around the walls that skirt the Forum. All are open however the only one with any patrons is that one that we are sitting at as the others are all shaded by buildings.
Sunshine makes all the difference in the chilly air. Our cafe is packed.
Cigarette smoke wafts over us from every direction.
We stroll back around the harbour side on our return to the apartment and have what we have come to term Linner at the marina restaurant.
I hate Linner as it means I miss a meal.
Early to bed early to rise……makes a man able to catch a plane on time.
Our flight leaves at 6:00am, we wake at 4:00am and have a taxi booked at 4:30am. I stumble down the stairs at 4:28am. I am definitely not a morning person.
This is the first time I have flown on an aircraft that has propellors. I can’t say I love the experience.
By the time we gain a level flying altitude it is time to descend to Zadar.
Pam and Mick