Monday, June 10, 2013

Pula, Croatia, Europe

Pula, Croatia, Europe

-  A place to visit and remember –

By Vesna Ivetić

Pula is a Croatian city situated in peninsula Istria on the Eastern Adriatic coast and counts a population of around 60 000. The climate here is between mild Continental and Mediterranean, and because of the proximity of the sea the summers aren't as warm as in the continent.
There are numerous attractions of this city and the surrounding area, starting from its natural beauties with Mediterranean vegetation, clear sea and a great number of, mainly rocky, beaches; there are numerous historical sites that need to be seen, especially from the Roman era; the gastronomic offer has developed in the last decade together with the winemaking; and last but not least there is a huge number of various events that start in the spring, peak in the summer, and last until late fall. The beauties of Pula and Istria have been recognized by the National Geographic Traveler whose editors have selected Istria as one of the top 10 world destinations.

Transport to and within Pula
If you look at a map, Pula is right across the sea to Italian Venice, so if you travel from that direction you can easily come by a ferry boat (but be careful and check the timetables because they aren't the same throughout the year). You can travel by road in an organized tour or your private vehicle using a highway and a semi highway (or if you prefer, you can travel through the picturesque countryside taking the old road and also avoid traffic in the high season). Pula has a train station, but personally I would recommend using these not exactly high-tech trains for slow local field trips instead of means of transportation. And in the end, Pula has an airport in the nearby village Valtura. On their internet page you can find all of the necessary information.
Once you get to Pula, I recommend using public transportation (yellow city Pulapromet buses) to avoid traffic that can be a little chaotic in the high season. A little tip: in the city center Giardini go to the first news stand coming from Arena and buy a magnetic bus card there for around 5 drives. It's much cheaper (less than 1 Euro for a single drive) than the one you buy from the bus driver (1.5 Euros). If you still decide to come with your own vehicle, be careful to park in the marked spots and pay for the parking, otherwise the city guards will block it until you pay the penalty ticket.

Reasons tourists come to Pula
As I've mentioned earlier, Pula has many attractions for different preferences. Personally, I think a great historical heritage and a surprising number of well preserved ancient monuments are this city's biggest attribute. Upon entering the city, you will notice a breathtaking view – the harbor on the right and the Roman Amphitheatre called Arena on the left. It was built in
the 1st century and is the world's best preserved amphitheatre. It holds several summer manifestations, such as Pula Film Festival (some of their guests were Christopher Lee, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Scacchi, Jiri Menzel, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich; the 59th Pula Film Festival holds the outdoor cinema 3D Guinness World Record), concerts (we've had Tom Jones, Anastacia, Alanis Morissette, Vanessa Mae, Manu Chao, Norah Jones, Sting, Sinead O'Connor...), various cultural events (classical concerts, ballets, operas, musicals), and sport events (the most famous one was a hockey spectacle Arena Ice Fever MMXXII).
You can take a short walk to the Roman Forum where you can find a well preserved Temple of Augustus dated from the same period as the amphitheatre and 13 century Communal Palace.
Nearby there are two original roman mosaics that shouldn't be missed. Then climb on the hill to the left and visit the Historical Museum of Istria which is placed in the 17 century fort called Kaštel from which you have a beautiful view of the whole city. In the surrounding area, there is The Archeological Museum of Istria, a really nice gallery Sveta Srca with on-going exhibitions and the Arch of the Sergii. The city has lots of other interesting monuments, such as the system of fortifications throughout the whole city and its surroundings, architecture from the Habsburg era and so much more. If you're interested in more, my advice is that you visit the tourist board and take the detailed brochures.
Don't believe those who say that Pula has no natural beauties; they just don't know where to look. Pula and its surrounding area has kilometers of untouched landscape, so if you are an exploratory spirit with love of bicycling or hiking, you can wonder around for hours and discover unbelievable beauties. Make sure to wear a hat, put on sun block and have some water, because sun is very pleasant, but also very dangerous. If you are a fan of the sea and the sun, be sure you'll find an incredibly clean blue sea and lots of choices for choosing the right beach. The ones near the hotels are pretty crowded, so if you need something more peaceful, prepare yourself for a longer walk after you park your car, or try going to the protected landscape of Kamenjak in the nearby Premantura where you'll be amazed by its wilderness. A good choice for peace and quiet, but a little pricier, is the island Veli Brijun at National Park Brijuni which is astonishing, and it can be approached by boat from a nearby place Fažana.
Pula has become very popular in the last few years due to its various events that bring lots of people from around the world: concerts in Arena (this year we have Leonard Cohen, Zaz and Grace Jones coming), plays, sport events, dance performances, fairs and various festivals such as Pula Film Festival, Seasplash, Outlook, Dimensions, Art&Music, Monteparadiso...

Customs and habits
Customs of this area are pretty much the same as in the western world countries. The inhabitants of Pula will accept you wherever you come from and as long as you behave in a civil manner. The official language is Croatian, but everybody speaks at least one foreign language, mostly Italian or English, sometimes German.
You can drink tap water with no fear, it is absolutely drinkable. There is a great number of supermarkets where you can buy all of the supplies (Puljanka, Konzum, Plodine, Kaufland, Mercator, Billa, Lidl, Getro, Pevec), so no need to carry too much stuff with you. There are lots of banks and ATM machines, and the stores accept all of the standard bank cards (American, Diners, Maestro, MasterCard and Visa). Currency is Croatian Kuna and other currencies usually aren't accepted, so you have to go to the exchange office or a bank. Pula has HOTSPOT in the centre, as well as the most of the accommodation facilities.
Winemaking has always been a part of Istrian tradition, but lately Istrian wines have become super brands with still affordable prices. You definitely won't regret investigating Wine Roads all across Istria but take my advice – hire a driver or don't drink more than one glass if you're driving, because penalties for drunk driving are severe.
The local cuisine is similar to Italian. You can find quality food in bistros, restaurants and pizzerias, but just to be sure, ask the locals. If you are a „party animal“ don't expect some wild night life other than at the specialized festivals, but you can still find clubs and beach bars that are open until morning or at least 4 AM. There is a walking trail by the sea called Lungo Mare which is also an option for hanging out during the day or night.
Not only Pula, but all of the Istria is a great place for a holiday, where every city and every little village has a story of its own. In this small area there is a lot to see, experience and feel.


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