Pula: The Adriatic and lively bars

THIS summer I was lucky enough to be whisked away on a family holiday to Pula, Croatia, having already visited Split and Trogir a few years before. Split still showed evidence of the 1990s civil war, but Pula was pretty much unaffected by the conflict so its mazes of mediaeval architecture and history are still intact. Pula is the back drop of Sky Atlantic’s ‘The Borgias’, a drama based on the lives of some of the most powerful families in mediaeval Italy, willing to do whatever it takes to gain or maintain this power, including the Pope. Walking around the city centre it soon becomes obvious why Pula was chosen for filming this series.

What there is to do

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Photo by Lucy Thornhil

Photo by Lucy Thornhill

Photo by Lucy Thornhill

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Photo by Lucy Thornhill

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Photo by Lucy Thornhill (Temple of Augustus)

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Photo by Lucy Thornhill

The Romans invaded Pula and left various marks of their presence in Pula. Mainly, the Roman Amphitheater which boasts being the most preserved amphitheater in the world. Here, the daily entertainment took place in the forms of gladiator fights with or without wild animals and public executions. The amphitheater is open to the public and at the cost of a nominal fee (student discount is awarded) you can walk around the arena and the subterranean dormitories of the slaves. There is a museum in the arena about the training and quality of life the gladiators had and I was shocked to discover that they were not given a proper burial if they died there. They were on the same social rung as prostitutes and actors. Walking around the amphitheater gave me the chills, the only thing that made it less so was a Croatian dressed as a Roman Centurion who let me get a photo or two with him. These days the venue is used for music concerts, Joss Stone was performing while I was there. I am glad I went to the amphitheater and I would recommend going, I just wouldn’t go back. Other evidence of Roman life in Pula is more than evident in Temple of Augustus. This is now a museum and full of Roman artifacts found in excavation, including parts of a statue of the emperor. Originally, the temple was in a triad one which was dedicated to the goddess Diana. The third temple has not survived. Another piece of architecture to note is the golden gate. Erected in the early third century by the Sergi family to commemorate members of the family who held important positions at the time of construction.

www.palosverdesdailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk

www.palosverdesdailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk

 

The marina houses boats that take daily trips to the national park and some of the islands. If you decide to go on any of these excursions be careful because they are notorious for being slightly dodgy and avoid paying tax. Your rep will be able to book you on a trip to the islands or to Venice or on a  coach trip to Poreg if you would prefer to know that what you are doing is safe.

Away from the town center, Pula aquarium is waiting. The aquarium is built into the old fortress and it was interesting reading the information about the life of the building as an active fort as well as just looking at the fish. There is a marine conservation focus in this aquarium which is evident in their marine turtle rescue center. This is a rehabilitation center for turtles caught in nets and caught in ghastly situations such as nearly being smuggled out of their home environment by poachers. Each room of the fort houses a different location of sea life for example one room was North Adriatic sea life. Each room is bursting with colour and vibrancy.

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Photo by Sarah Thornhill

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Photo by Sarah Thornhill

Nightlife

The streets of Pula come alive at night with musicians of various genres, especially during the festival season, and with the buzz of locals and tourists. So do the bars. It was suggested by my rep that we should go to a local night club. So myself and my sister went to this said nightclub with the only other English person our age at our resort. I was told that it was a hotspot for the under thirties and it was. It was pretty decent actually it played a mixture of English pop songs and songs that are obviously popular in Croatia. It sold cheap drinks – sangria was the cheapest so that was what we drank all night. Ulijanik got busier as the night went on like most places do. There were people from all over Europe, but little to no Brits. All was well until I lost my sister while talking to some French that turned out to be Croatians pretending to be French to try and get girls and then I actually ended up talking to some real Croatians, which is when I realised she wasn’t there. Anyway I ran frantically around the club and even asked the DJ to shout out her name (something I am sure I have done at least once in the UK) and they wouldn’t do it. The security staff genuinely did not give a shit about where she was. Thankfully I found her, but if I hadn’t she could have been anywhere and they wouldn’t have cared. If you want to go out, I definitely would, but just have a better back up plan than I did.

 

Where to eat and drink

The streets of Pula are paved with restaurants and cafés  so there is more than enough choice. James Joyce visited Pula on his trip abroad whilst writing Ulysses. His favourite café while he was there has now been renamed and rebranded after him. The James Joyce café offers a selection of cocktails such as the ‘Joyce’ in his honour. There is also a bronze statue of the Irish author in the outside the café. The café is right beside the golden arch, which is a hotspot for tourists, and musicians, especially at night. Because of this, getting a seat outside can be a bit of a bun fight so we just hung about until people decided to leave.

www.panoramio.com

www.panoramio.com

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Photo by Sarah Thornhill

If you are wanting more of a quick snack than a beverage then there is a confectionery opposite McDonald’s in Pula and their specialty is a chocolate kebab in a crepe. It was, if not slightly too sweet, absolutely delicious. Chocolate kebab with the addition of whipped creme, caramel sauce and chocolate sprinkles. Yummy.

Wherever or whatever you eat or drink make sure to stay hydrated – temperatures rarely fell below 30 degrees so drink lots of water!

Where to stay

We stayed in Verudella in an apartment in a hotel. This had its own pool and was literally a two second walk from the beach. The beaches in Croatia are not known for being sandy and white. Instead they are rocky and the resort I stayed in was actually called Golden Rocks resort. The Croatians embrace their rocky beaches and you’ll find lots of locals hitting the beach at weekends. My resort had its own supermarket and restaurants and entertainment such as zumba and water aerobics. The sister hotel offered water skiing and paragliding and was a short bus ride away. British people are the minority as tourists in Croatia, which is a refreshing change to the normal run of things, so don’t be surprised if there are more Germans and Italians than English. Surrounded by the beautiful Adriatic sea, and clear blue sky with beautiful views across the bay it was a lush place to stay.

Photo by Sarah Thornhill

Photo by Sarah Thornhill

Exchange rates

We got just over 9 kuna to the pound. So things that you’d normally see at home for about three pounds were about 30 kuna.