Not your standard vacation destination, this ancient seaside town on the tip of Istria is balmy with beautiful beaches, great food, and a laid-back vibe.
05.05.2014 - 17.05.2014 24 °C
Pula? Pula. Croatia. I had never heard of it, and chances are unless you’re from this part of the world, you haven’t either. Funny how we ended up coming here… Dan wanted to visit Croatia while in Europe because it’s the homeland of one of his childhood friends. We initially were going to go to Zadar, halfway down the coast, because Ryan Air had flights from there to Frankfurt for a reasonable price. But trains don’t run as frequently nor as far as in old-school Europe, and Zadie gets antsy after about 30 minutes in a carseat, so getting to Zadar proved more hassle than we wanted. We considered taking a boat down the coast, but eight hours on a catamaran with a teething baby didn’t appeal to us either. So when we learned that Ryan Air also flies out of Pula, which is only 200 km away from Ljubljana, we decided to go there.
To help you get your bearings, it's the red star on this map:
The train from Ljubljana to Pula was cancelled and they were rerouting people on a bus to the border, at which point passengers would board a regional train, and have to stop over once again so we said forget it, and rented a mini mini van. Good thing Dan and I are good at tetris, our stuff barely fit! (not pictured here, the stroller and baby bag rode in the passenger seat).
Pula. Green, lush, and ancient. And when I say ancient, I mean it. Evidence of human (or homo erectus) habitation in the region dates from as far back as one million years ago. They’ve found artifacts in the region from the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age, and statues remain from when it was conquered and inhabited by the Greeks. In the first century AD the Romans arrived and claimed it as theirs. It became an important Roman port, and between 27 and 68 AD they built the Pula Arena, an impressive amphitheater.
Here it is, most of it still standing, and formidably impressive. I can only imagine what it was like back in the day!
A couple shots of the gladiator’s smallest spectator:
Here’s DBP and is eBrompton rocking out in front of the Temple of Augustus, built in 40 BC:
The town was fortified with a wall, and ten gates, two of which still stand. This one presides over a lovely square in the pedestrian zone - we had lunch on a patio just behind it to the left.
Venetians took over Pula from the 14th century until the 18th, when following Napoleon’s defeat it entered the hands of the Hapsburgs. Many of the buildings built in this time are still around, but unlike Vienna they have not been maintained. (No kidding - a brutal dictatorship, war, and poverty will do that. ). But the run down buildings have their charm, and in their crumbling state, rather match the ruins from antiquity.
Wikipedia says “known for it’s mild climate, smooth sea, and unspoiled nature”; I’d agree. And I’d add, for it’s bountiful fig and olive trees, and fruit vines. Every house on our street had either grape or kiwi vines (or both) over their driveway. And there were fig and olive trees everywhere. The branches of the fig trees were weighed down with fruit, but alas, it will be another week or two until they are ripe enough to eat. My mouth waters at the thought of their sweet, soft, juicy crunchy flesh. If only I’d known, we could have planned to come a bit later! Just kidding.. sort of. They make a lot of olive oil and wine locally, and both are amazingly delicious. In fact, the olive oil we enjoyed while here is unlike anything we’ve ever tasted… not sure what we were eating before, but this stuff, fresh, local, authentic, is heavenly. Wildflowers abound. And there are garden plots all over the place… and consistently, an older man and or woman tilling the soil. Here’s a view from our flat:
We spent a lot of time on our roof top patio, reading, relaxing and watching sailboats in the marina below.
And at the beach...
We also enjoyed some vibrant sunsets, where hues of orange and purple filled the western sky over the Adriatic sea, as we sipped home made wine bought from the landlords for 3 Euros a liter.
Zadie had her own room in our awesome upstairs suite. We converted the king sized bed into her play zone. And play she did!
We visited Fazana, a quaint and colourful fishing village 10 km up the coast. Had a most amazing meal of fresh caught (same day!) black bream, served grilled and partitioned at the table. A soft, succulent fish, we shared some with Zadie. She loved it! Here are a couple pics from Fazana:
An update from the baby development front: Zadie has started talking. A LOT. Like “nanananan” and “dadaadadad” and “mamamamama” all the time. It’s so neat to hear her voice, and while the words don’t mean much, we can tell from her tone that she's excited about something.
She also seems to really love dogs. She gets very animated, flaps all limbs and makes intense sounds when she sees them. She befriended this German couple's dog Roxy:
She's also a mini cowgirl in training, getting good at riding on our shoulders. This was her first time up... think she likes it?
DBP took a day and drove 300 km Zagreb where he met with all the king pins of the Croatia Ebike Scene.
I managed pack in 4 meetings in one day and rode my folding ebike between each of them. It was awesome seeing the city at 30 km per hour with the wind whistling through my folding bike helmet. As good luck would have it, I got meet the inventor of the Cromotor, a super powerful ebike motor, the Greyborg bike frame, a kick-ass DH ebike frame, and the GreyP (half electic motorcycle/ half DH mtn bike).
The same guy, Zvonimir is working on the world fastest electric car as well. He claims to have the best job in the world. Sounds pretty sweet to me too. When we met, he was wearing a skull and crossbones shirt and we sipped beers and ate the most amazing pizza I have ever eaten.
I also had a very interesting ride in a Croatian Limousine. Check out this video.
Hillarious. We had a blast. Vladimir and Marko were extremely hospitable, instantly friends and I think we will also do some business together.
Of note, I met one of the largest Croatians in sweat pants I have ever seen: Kresimir from Bioplanet bikes and he let me test ride his dual suspension e machine.
I rode it hard and hung it up wet. In fact, I broke the chain and had to scoot it back to the café where we met. He wasn’t concerned so it was all good. Once the meeting was over, I heard a rumbling up above and there were 2 fighter jets doing laps around the city…. This place is fast paced.
I ended up riding over 40 km on my ebike, 600 km in my car and had a great day in Zagreb.
Now onto Frankfurt and Berlin….. Zadie met a new friend on the plane and they had a great time entertaining each other. She is a real social baby and likes to get the party started just like her mom and dad.
Thanks for reading, and sharing our adventures with us!