I've always had a bit of an obsession with The Balkans, stemming from my brother teaching me so much about the history and region. Last year, I visited a very small part of Croatia and Serbia and always wanted to return. Grinning ear-to-ear with excitment, October 28th 2016 I hopped on a bus in Venice to my next destination: Croatia.
My first stop was Pula, a small city in the northwestern Istria region of Croatia. Istria is well known as a wine-making region, so it became an obvious location to continue my wine tripping across Europe. What I didn’t expect was the extensive 3000 year old history, Roman ruins, and culinary arts that are heavily influenced by Italy. Yeah, I ate pizza every day.
In Pula, the main attraction is the Roman Amphitheatre that very closely resembles the one in Rome, minus the thousands of people and expensive price tag. As a side note, Pula was heavily bombed during WWII. All of these mosaics, arches, and ruins have survived war. Also, some were discovered during cleaning up after the war. Pretty impressive.
*Reminder to my readers that large photos like this are often slideshows. Click the arrow on the side of the picture to see the next photo.
There are also several other Roman mosaics, arches, and theatres spread throughout the city, some of which were tucked in behind parking lots or buildings. The locals don’t seem to be too concerned about people wandering very close to their backyard to peek at a mosaic that’s been sort of fenced off for preservation. One mosiac inside the monastery of St. John the Baptist was from the beginning of 2nd century AD. I was a bit surprised to see a swastika, but this was a common motif in mosaics of the Roman Tenth region called 'Venetia e Histria'.
Also popular to visit is the Pula Fortress which is on a hill overlooking the city. When I entered, I was the only person there and the main gatekeeper seemed to take a liking to me. He gave me his headphones and an MP3 player that had 5 songs on it, all what sounded to be war related in either Croatian or Italian.
I’m more of a lover, not a fighter, but this music did pump me up and instil a feeling that I should be marching rather than walking around the fortress.
In the summer, Pula is home to many electronic music festivals and drunk British lads. I didn’t have high hopes for any sort of nightlife in the sleepy off-season, but I met a Czech couple and a Turkish guy and we decided to explore a bit of the city at night, drinking some wine as we went along. Locals prefer to gather in local plazas and share what they have, so it’s really easy to just walk up to a group and say hi and meet new people. After very late night of frisbee in a plaza, the next day I found a great rock by the water to pass the day by, watching crazy Germans jumping into very cold water. A very beautiful spot, but if you're a beach bum like me, it's worthwhile to note that all beaches from Croatia to Greece are rock beaches. You decide if that's something that's ok when planning your Croatian vacation based on my blog posts!
When I wasn’t exploring or working on my computer at the hostel, the owner and I had many long discussions about wine, winemaking, and his property. I now have an open invitation to grow vines on his land... so you never know, you might need to visit me in Pula in the future!