Wednesday, May 23, 2007
KIM: Today we visited Pula, at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula. Our goal was to see the Roman coliseum and the history museum. We arrived before 10am and parked at the waterfront, adjacent to the coliseum, where we were immediately pounced on by the local tourist boat operators who wanted to take us on a two-hour tour of the Brijuni Islands. It sounded like fun, so we said we would think about it and return later. The location of the museum was a mystery, so we set out on foot looking for signs and asking directions. A couple of blocks away, there was a sign and a city worker of some sort, both of whom confirmed that the museum was a ways uphill. Setting out again, we wandered up a small city street lined with very old buildings and soon saw a sign for the Kastel. Not exactly what we wanted, but our map confirmed that the museum was located adjacent to the kastel. At the top of the hill and crossed a bridge over a dry moat and entered the kastel via a drawbridge where an electronic sensor alerted a severe middle-aged female ticket-taker of our arrival. She seemed rather put-out when we asked the location of the museum, but she indicated it was “around” and “down”. So we took a rather precarious walk around the castle ramparts until we found a goat-path down the side of the hill into an ancient Roman amphitheater. It was really incredible, and it was in the backyard of the museum, just up the street from the coliseum. We spent about an hour learning about the regional inhabitants from Neanderthal to Roman times. It even touched upon the local development of the Glagolitic alphabet, which was the first written Slavic language and a precursor to the modern Cyrillic alphabet. After this we headed back to the docks and took a lovely two-hour cruise around the Brijunis, where the former president of Yugoslavia, Tito, had a private compound that he used to entertain celebrities and world leaders. Many guests brought exotic animals from their native lands as gifts, and so the main island is home to a safari park, which is now open to the public. We did not stop in the islands, but instead took a boat tour around the islands. The weather has been very warm for the past few days, so the cool salt air on the water was a welcome respite. A very nice gentleman provided commentary to all of the boat tour guests in at least four languages, and did a great job in English as well as what we could understand in German and Italian. After the boat tour we visited the Roman coliseum, which was built 2,000 years ago and seated 20,000 people at one time. It is the sixth largest in the world and probably the best surviving ruin. We spent a very interesting hour listening to an audio tour and learning about the Roman influence on the city of Pula. Anastasia has just found the first actual phone numbers of her family in this area, thanks to her cousin Tom, and is attempting to contact them, although our phones don’t work too well in Croatia. Tomorrow we plan to head northeast toward Labin and Rijeka. We hope to make the family connections there. Greetings to all of the Brencicks in the US, who we understand are having a rather large reunion this week in St Louis. Wish we could be there!
Photos from top: one of the Brijuni Islands, the Roman coliseum at Pula, a tiny oak and bracken growing between the stones of the coliseum