Pula, Croatia 🇭🇷
Murlayna Travel: Yerp 2016
Tuesday, August 16
That morning we left our newfound favorite apartment and set off for the far west coast, passing through Croatia’s elbow pit, Rijeka. To pass the time we threw on a random episode of This American Life. It’s theme was “How to get your money’s worth” which proved itself highly applicable given our constant travelers-budget woes (not to mention my apparently-intrinsic Scottish cheapness). It was engrossing although not nearly as thought provoking as our previous podcast. Whatever, it definitely worked to make the time pass quickly. Soon after it ended we opted to pull into some small beachside town for a swim and some lunch. (Actually we made a stop earlier and took the photo below, but ended up skipping on since it was too busy for our tastes.)
The place we accidentally did choose was a rocky kind of trailer park marina filled with families, mostly Italian. We took the footpath that wrapped around the cove and discovered halfway through the infamous FKK markings, which we’d previously learnt meant Nudist Beach. This was indeed such a place; in fact it was the best attended such place I’d ever seen. We walked past bay after bay of spots but all were claimed by rotund, saggy, leathered hides. Unsuccessful, we doubled back and settled on our plan B spot which was just around the bend back towards the normal beach. We began setting up camp next to a lone sunbather but our presence must have scared this introvert off as she soon packed up and left.
We took her optimal spot instead of our own, and began by devouring our picnic lunch. Since it was still fairly secluded, I decided to make my own nude beach and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon au naturelle like our neighbours. We tanned for what must have been over an hour with intermittent jumps off the various cliffs surrounding us. When we became sun saturated, we hit the old dusty trail again.
By this time I’d noticed my right ear was ringing and figured I’d likely got some salt water stuck in it, which I knew from previous experience could lead to a nasty ear infection. After we rounded the gigantic ship-building cranes and equivalently massive ‘diving ladders’ near Rijeka (these were two telephone posts anchored/suspended at 45° with rungs between and a plank at the peak, likely some 20–30m above the water), we pulled into a smaller village — basically Rijeka’s Niagara-on-the-Lake — where we ducked into the nearest pharmacy for some ear drops. The lady gave me an ear spray, which at the time I accepted but later realized shortly after didn’t contain the antibiotics I needed. Nevertheless we strolled down to the waterfront passing several grand hotels and expensive-looking yacht clubs. We cavorted about a beautiful park on the way back up before stopping for a gelato (and a bathroom break) just as a summer shower began.
Driving out the rain and up into to hills for the rest of the trip, we were treated to picturesque vistas of the distant fog-engulfed island hills — it looked like the stuff of desktop wallpapers (too bad we didn’t think to take any photos).
We knew we’d reached Pula when the onslaught of roundabouts hit. Dizzy by the time we reached the coast, where our hotel lay within the old city, we struggled to find parking. After sitting for ten minutes in a queue to enter a full lot, we eventually decided to follow a delivery van through the exit and parked in a loading zone so we could further investigate where our room was. Like always, the old city was a maze but this time we got lucky and found it within a minute or so. Our vivacious, curly haired hostess greeted us on the stairs and gave us a quick intro to the crooked, warping building and room. We were staying on the fourth floor — the top floor — and there was no elevator, which would of course be the case the only time we had to bring all our bags into the room. We lugged them up in two trips then consulted with our host about how best to return our car to the airport some twenty minutes away. Weighing the pros and cons, a taxi back from the airport would be best, costing us around 100 kuna (20 CAD). We riskily dropped the keys through the window of the unattended Enterprise kiosk, then got a rollercoaster-ride back to the central Pula bus station (there was too much traffic to go downtown according to our impatient taxi driver).
From there we meandered back towards the sea air, accidentally happening upon one of the only two sights recommended to us here, the Pula Amphitheater. It was a magnificent Colosseum-like structure whose Romanesque arches circle about an anachronistically modern stage setup in the center. We toured around the outside taking photos as we went but chose not to pay to go inside.
By now we’d worked up quite an appetite and so got a bit lost in the old city looking for some reasonably priced dinner. The fluffy-doughed pizza we picked proved just that and it disappeared before we could even order a beer. The cake under the glass looked delicious when ordered so we topped the meal off with a slice of that, too.
Thinking we were still heading west, we marched down a busy street until it was busy no more, then realized that we must be headed in the wrong direction. I jumped on our mapp and got reoriented. For the rest of the trip home, we discussed, in French, the merits and (mostly) faults of being perceived as an American tourist when abroad.
At the top of the stairs we reconvened with our hostess to pay her, then hummed and hawed over whether to try for the 06:45 bus or 08:00 ferry to Venice. In the end we settled on the very expensive ferry since the online ticketing system for the bus was already offline for the night. Groan.
Wednesday, August 17
We slept past our alarm yet managed to bounce our luggage through the cobblestone lanes to the pier on time where we got our passports stamped and hopped straight on to the departing catamaran.
It was much smaller than our previous vessels because it did not carry cars. In fact, it ended up being more of a tour boat since there was a charismatic multilingual staff member giving a fresh but well-rehearsed talk at the front of our section. He doled out various tips and tidbits about Venice and its culture — just enough to entice you to buy any of the extended tour options the ferry company was peddling. It actually proved very useful and formed the basis of what we now know about Venice, seeing as how we’d done literally no research or planning up until then…