29.06.2011 40 °C
What can I say about Pula. It's big! There is a lot to see and it is not the best idea to start late in the day like we did. You find yourself wandering not knowing where to go and especially for me who still has to be careful with my leg, it was not easy at times. We did have a lovely guide - Silvana - who lives in Pula part of the year and in Switzerland the rest of the time. She and her husband Julio were kind enough to accomodate us when we arrived in Pula. Irma does not know her way around Pula and thought Silvana who lives there part time would be a great guide. BTW - Pula in Italian is known as Pola ;0)
Silvana knows Pula a little bit. Even though we had a tourist map we still did a lot of wandering about after the amphitheatre before we came to any other real site of interest. I think there was a fear of looking at the map - lol. I admit I was frustrated at times because when I want to see the sites I stick to the map and try to see as much as if feasible and make sure to not back track. Well, guess who was the only one who thought like this? Yuppers - and that meant a lot of backtracking and by the end of the day I felt I could hardly make it back to the car. Now don't get me wrong, I did have a good time and enjoyed seeing the different places that make Pula special, however, if I had to do again, I would plan it differently.
We left home earlier in the morning and should have been in Pula earlier but ran into some bigtime construction that slowed us terribly.
We did finally arrive and I met Silvana and Julio, Laura's friends from Switzerland (originally from here - Laura and Silvana went to school together). They seemed to remember me from when I was last here in the 1970's - I didn't remember them. They were hospitable hosts and had a lovely lunch prepared for us. After some chit chat and once replete, we headed off. In deference to Silvana's heat tolerance the visiting was left till after 3pm in the afternoon.
Before we left we took a mini tour of her garden. Maybe you all knew this (I didn't) - did you know that kiwis actually grow on vines (like grapes)? Yes? Good for you - I thought they grew on trees - I had never seen a kiwi other than in a grocery store. Silvana had some lovely vines growing these fruit I adore.
Getting into Pula proper was quick and painless. There was ample parking and right close by the amphitheatre too (expensive though). It was weird to see such an ancient ruin nestled among current day buildings with traffic flowing by it day and night. If I were to say it wasn't impressive I would be lying. It was!
We circled the outside to get one view of the amphitheatre before paying to gain entrance to not only the arena but its museum underground as well. The romans built this arena in 177 BC when they arrived in Pula. It is the sixth largest amphitheatre in the world and hosts many shows throughout the year.
Not much of the interior is left as it had been quarried long ago by the locals to build their own homes. This whole arena was supposed to be dismantled, however, a local from Pula took stand and saved it from destruction. Now, Irma and Silvana told me in a nice way to 'shut up' when we were on the way to pay for the tickets to enter the arena. Why? Ahhhh - because sometimes when they know you are tourists they can raise the prices. Maybe not the arena itself, however, this thinking is valid for other things for sure. I didn't get it because the prices are fixed, however, I did what they said. Silvana went to the counter and said - what ... these are the prices for us too? They asked her from where she was and she said here in Pula -- they let us all in for free ;0)
The inside of the arena was just as impressive, albeit from a different perspective.
Now it was time to discover the bowels of this beast and see what is was offering for our personal viewing pleasure. The museum of course - lol. Once we went downstairs and turned left we came to this mini hallway.
This small passage did not let on to what was next. After this you turned left and whammo!! This long, narrow dark tunnel. I felt I was hit by a seldgehammer. The emotions, feelings and pain just went through me like a knife. I felt I was drawn back in time and the sensations felt raw and real. The exact words that left my mouth when I turned the corner was 'whoa'! I distinctly remember taking not one but two steps back from the visual and visceral impact of it. Once I composed myself I was able to move on.
Early on in this hallway were two holes carved in the walls - one on the left and one on the right. It was so dark in there you couldn't see anything. Being the curious cat that I am, I aimed my camera inside and took a picture with the flash. This is what that deep long tunnel looks like ... can't help wondering what it was used for .. lions.. prisoners ... pizza oven offering up lions and prisoners - lol (geez what a sick sense of humor I have ;0)
A small part of the underground of the arena is now dedicated as a museum. As with other similar structures there are three main parts to the amphitheatre. It has a spectator area, the arena (for the execution of fights) and the subterranean gallery (where beasts were kept along with equipment to set the stage in the arena). To think I was underground in the same place where once upon a time lions, slaves and gladiators were kept only to be brought to the arena to kill or be killed. I did not like that feeling too much I must admit. It's good thing my attention was diverted by the many articles on display of the times. This subterranean gallery at Pula's amphitheatre was carved out of solid rock under the entire length that was designated for the execution of fights - wow. Here is a long shot of what the museum part of the gallery looks like.
It really is not that long. There are many articles to see on the left and right of the passageway. I always wonder though at what I am not seeing - such as .... what is on the other side of the gallery --- the part they block off/the part we don't have access to? I will show you a couple of examples of articles of what was in this museum. The first photo I believe is an oil press - impressive I must say. And the second is of well preserved jars. Some were for oil and others for water etc.
Once we left the arena we walked around for a bit. I wanted a tourist office so I could get a nice tourist map of the area like Silvana had. She brought us where she thought it was and along the way we sort of bumped into a couple of items of interest. Here you can see a water fountain in the exact replica of Pula - water and all. I tried to wait until there wasn't anyone around the fountain but no luck. It was so hot that day that many people were simply dousing their sweat drenched faces to cool off. I liked this Pula replication.
What I thought was a cool idea was this. Have a great view of the amphitheatre as a background. Set up the scene with a nice park bench with nice flowers etc surrounded in the foreground . Now frame all this like a picture frame - then take the actual picture - stunning! A most clever idea as far as I'm concerned. Geez look at that - someone took my idea!! Sorry for the picture being crooked but my aunt is still trying to get a handle on my camera ;0)
Well the tourist office (once we found it) was closed for 'ten minutes' BUT the question always is: when did the ten minutes start .... one minute ago or nine minutes ago. Irma and Silvana decided to trudge onwards and so I followed. It was sweltering and walking along the main drag next to the water (marina) did not help .... the water was sooo inviting.
I had Silvana's map in my hand but since we did not slow down I was not able to decipher exactly where we were ;0( Every so often I would say - are we here (noting a site from the map)? The answer was we don't know. Hot-sweating-leg sore and noone knew exactly where we were and what we were seeing. This was hard on me.
We came upon a church and Silvana said it was the 'sailor's' church. Hmmmm ... not on the map --- perhpas it was the Cathedral of St-Mary but am not sure. I took a picture because I have a penchant for watch/clock towers and so it was a no brainer ;0)
Well we turned inward and headed along a few streets searching for another tourist bureau. The main drag is made of old architecture housing modern stores - cafe's- tourist shops and the like. The cobblestones here are very wide and it is the side streets that captured my attention.
Soon we were upon an large open area - it felt awkward after the 'tightness' of the streets just walked. We found the tourist bureau and I picked up a slew of pamphlets of various interesting places - ones that I had planned on seeing anyways. The tourist map that Silvana had was no longer in print and so another one was given to us. It was not as good - Silvana insisted I have hers - what a kind and generous act. Once we left the bureau I was able to see where we actually were and wham-bam ... we were smack in the middle of what was once the roman forum. How about that?! This huge expansive space is where romans gathered in the day! Today it is known as the main square. I was thrilled I knew where I was on this map and hoped we would be systematic in seeing the treasures Pula had to offer. I will tell you now that it did not quite work out that way and as a result there were many things that I did not have the opportunity to see. I did, however, get to see many other things and I guess the future is open to see the rest if I ever come to Pula again ;0)
Two impressive buildings were in the square and according to my trusty little map - it was the Town Hall and the Temple of Augustus. The temple was built between 2 BC and 14 AD and today hosts an exhibition of the best of Pula's roman finds. I admit I am not a huge museum type of person so was not that interested in exploring it. The town hall was once the Temple of Diana. So in the picture you see the Temple of Augustus on the Left and the Town Hall on the right. You can see the type of stones (tiles) that were used for the Roman Forum.
We kept on walking and I was taking in the ambiance of the main drag - so old and so modern ... weird! Check it out - the beauty in the old of this balcony to the modern of the main drag.
Since we had wandered around for a while looking for the sites, it was soon time to repay the parking meter. Irma said she would go back and so Silvana and I headed to find a place to rest and cool off at the same time. Just before reaching the Arch of the Sergians, we ducked into a quaint little cafe style place. Silvana and I had ice cream ---- ohhh boy! I had one scoop of lemon and once scoop of chocolate ..... yummmm! We do NOT have this kind of ice cream back home. So creamy and so tasty - it was a sin for ice cream to be this good. Seriously! I thoroughly enjoyed every last spoonful ;0) Irma sooned joined us and once she finished her ice cream we headed off. Thank you Silvana for the ice cream treat!
Next stop - the Arch of the Sergians is quite impressive - especially when looking at it from the point of view of entering the more atmospheric part of town (which we were already in).
I wanted to see the fortress next and everyone agreed but they were going in the wrong direction. I told them according to the map we needed to go the other way. I don't know why we still went in the opposite direction. Ok, well - to the roman mosaics then! Wrong again --- Silvana took us in what she thought was the right place and we ended up at an old interesting building but that was not the building where the mosaics were. They thought it was and said it must be closed. I was disappointed because I wasn't being heard and I knew we went down the wrong street according to the map.
To make a long story short - I never did get to see the fortress. I was looking forward to visiting it and exploring its ramparts which supposedly offers amazing views of Pula and its surroundings. By this time my leg was really bothering me and I almost wanted to stop and just go back. We spent a lot of time walking and not seeing too much and that was stressful on my injured leg (hah - and on my state of mind).
My father really wanted some cd's of more heritage music ... try to find a cd shop! Silvana kept asking around and we backtracked a few times and by now I was really exhausted - sore - sweaty and thirsty! We did finally find a store that had a couple of really neat cd's that I bought for him. Great! Now we could go (yippee).
At this point I didn't care anymore if I didn't see all the sites - I think we saw less than half (like I said - if you want to see Pula make it longer that 2-3 hours and go in with a plan). It takes time to fully appreciate this city and all she has to offer. On the way back we did happen upon the twin gates.
At one time in history, Pula was surrounded by walls and could be entered through about ten gates. At some point the walls started to fall away and were eventually torn down. These gates were preserved and are called 'twin' due to the two arches and lead to the fortress (kastel) - they once were the entrance to the city.
I was so glad to have made it back to the car in one piece. I tore off my running shoes and put on my sandals. I drank the rest of my water and ever so gratefully sank into the front seat of the car.
I am grateful to have been able to see what I did of this beautiful city and I enjoyed the company I was with. As I said at the beginning, if I ever have the opportunity to explore this city again, I would do it differently and follow the tourist map of the main places of interest. There were a few places of interest we did not stop at and for that I am sorry. Next time .... perhaps.