After another delightful morning bus ride, soaking in the nature and architecture which were becoming progressively more Italian along the way, we arrived in the coastal town of Pula.
It’s difficult to believe you’re still in Croatia, as the area seems so mediterranean. I was relieved the cold weather from the national park was well and truly replaced with an orangey, mellow cloak of sunshine which boosted my vitamin D as I strolled through the town.
Pula is famous for having the 6th largest, but best preserved ancient Roman amphitheatre or arena as it’s known here. It’s smaller than the Colosseum, but I think it’s more impressive. First erected in the year 1AD, the structure stands prominently over the town today almost in its entirety. While you can no longer watch the gladiators stab up a blood bath, you can see Pula’s film festival, and an assortment of plays within the grounds at various times during the year. It’s a remarkable piece of history and worth exploring.
I like Pula. I found the collection of stores dotted around the town to be more eclectic and interesting than the generic ones of Split, so it was fun to window shop for the afternoon.
Unfortunately, tonight was a sad occasion as it marked our last night in Croatia. To celebrate, half of our tour group decided to enjoy a boat cruise through the waters of Pula while the other half checked out a highly rated local restaurant. I was a part of the boating half. As the afternoon sun began to wane, we waded through the masses of people trying to advertise their supposedly superior boat cruises to find our home for the evening.
It was a double story, open top boat. You had to climb up a ladder to get to the top deck; something that I haven’t done for about 20 years, when I last had bunk beds. I wish I had a photo, it was a really precarious set up which made me worry for some of the other characters on the boat, given it boasted unlimited wine for the duration of the cruise.
Nevertheless, the water was calm, and the ship took us around all of the islands in the area; we were able to get a visual on the shoreline of Pula which was unique and memorable.
The tour was given by a(n at least) tri-lingual local lady with the most piercing grey eyes. We were promised to see dolphins, and were not left disappointed. Unfortunately I couldn’t catch a decent picture of them, but I promise they were there.
Dinner was a simple affair, a choice of fish or chicken with a side salad. Given I’m deathly allergic to fish, I picked the chicken and it was salty and tasty.
Everyone else had fish and they enjoyed it.
Speaking of things that enjoy fish, lets play a quick little game of question and answer. Round 1:
Q: Do you know what else lives on the coast line and loves a good fish carcass? (Yep, I know this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but my god this was no joke.)
Or, for extra points:
A: Hundreds of seagulls.
At least, that’s what it felt like. No sooner had a poor grilled fish head materialised on a plate, did the sky begin to evolve and darken, as the bodies of (basically) tens of thousands of seagulls blocked out the sun and covered the boat in a squarking canopy of feathery doom.
I feel like old mate Alf Hitchcock probably came to Pula and went on a boat cruise after his Zadar sunset, because the scene was truly reminiscent of a scene from The Birds. I’m no expert at the language of the gull but I know they were screaming for my blood. I don’t know why it was me who was so altered by their wrath, but the whole thing was actually bone-chilling.
One second I was safe and the sky was clear and birdless, the next – I was cowering as best I could in an open top water based vessel, at the complete mercy of these airborne devils.
After what felt like hours, they were still there.
Relentless, circling, scheming.
Looking at me.
I tentatively tried to get back into the merriment of the table, but they sensed my short lived respite from terror and they didn’t like it.
Q&A Round 2:
Q: So do you know what those asshole birds did to spite, shame and single me out?
Go on, take a punt.
A: They pooed in my drink.
Right in the middle of my cup. It was precise. It was calculated. It was cold. Well, it was warm, the part that splashed on my thumb, but you get it.
I was actually beginning to wonder if my salty white meat was seagull. To be fair, if I’d eaten their aunty or something then yeah, I’d totally empathise. I guess I’ll never know. Anyway seriously no sooner had they ruined my happiness, they were gone. I was left ashen faced, forcing a weak smile in the wake of such brutal humiliation.
After a great deal of time, I slowly regained the ability to function. I met a delightful American and we shared stories about our respective travels and countries. I quite liked his quote “I think we both hit the jackpot with our countries;” (even though Australia is way better), I agree with the sentiment of different strokes for different folks and it was really refreshing to obtain another life perspective.
The rest of the night went by without incident (aside from someone spilling their wine on me) and we all had a great time. It was the perfect end to my time in Croatia.
We disembarked the boat down the scary ladder, and landed on solid ground with our jelly legs. The night was capped off with some gelato, served by the doppelgänger of Joey from friends.
Pula really comes alive at 10pm, so it was interesting to see the town at night.
I’m currently writing this recap from Slovenia, so stay tuned.