ZigZagging Our Way Through Europe
After returning from Dubrovnik to our apartment in Zagreb, we finally took a few days to relax before setting off for our next adventure to Pula, Croatia. Situated on the southern tip of the Croatian peninsula of Istrian, Pula is approximately 266km southwest of Zagreb.
Although we had planned to travel by train as much as possible, we were disappointed that the rail system in Croatia is not as extensive as in other European countries. We had considered flying, but since we wanted to see as much of the Croatia that train travel would have afforded, we instead decided to book tickets on the Brioni-Pula Busline at a fare of 163 Kn (€ 22) each way.
The route took us through amazing mountain vistas and remarkable seaside resorts, while making several stops in quaint villages along on the way. The bus itself was clean, modern and extremely comfortable.
With an intriguing ancient Roman history dating to 46 BC under Julius Caesar, Pula sets itself apart from other medieval Croatian cities such as Dubrovnik and Split by its well preserved Roman structures, some of the best found in Europe. Perhaps the best example is Pula’s Amphitheater (the Pula Arena).
Constructed between 27 BC and 68 AD, it is the sixth largest surviving Roman arena in the world and the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have four entirely preserved side towers.
Over the centuries, gladiator fights, fairs and tournaments were held in the arena. Today, it has been used for theater productions, concerts and each summer hosts the Pula Film Festival which is going on as we visit.
Initially Pula was a fortified walled city with ten gates. Only a few of the gates remain today, one of which is the Twin Gate constructed at the end of the 2nd century, they served as the entrance to a Roman theater.
What we assumed to be another gate, the Arch of the Sergii, was in fact a monument constructed between 29 and 27 BC. Paid by private funds from the Sergii family during the rein of the Roman Emperor Augustus, it is an impressive structure that now serves as an entrance to the popular Old Town.
Walking through the Arch, we entered Sergijevaca Street. This pedestrian only street paved in large flat stones extends the length of Pula’s Old Town and is lined with shops, restaurants and buildings dating as far back as antiquity.
As we continue down Sergijevaca, we come into the Roman Forum of Pula.
Constructed in the 1st decade of the 1st century BC, it was initially anchored by two twin temples, although today only the Temple of Augustus remains intact.
The second temple was to the right of the Temple of Augustus, but was replaced in 1295 by the Communal Palace which served as the Town Hall and is currently an administrative building.
The back of the second Temple was incorporated into the structure of the Palace and is still visible today.
Continuing our walk along the Sergijevaca, we pass the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Initially a small church built in the 5th century, a series of expansions created today’s Cathedral. The Bell Tower was added in 1707.
The interior of the Cathedral, while simple, is serene and comforting.
Continuing our walk, we pass amazing architecture and passage ways so well preserved that we feel transported back in time.
After finishing our evening meal and our first day in Pula coming to a close, we walk back toward our apartment only to be entertained by a live performance taking place just outside the Arch of the Sergii.
We are finding throughout our travels in Croatia, free outdoor evening performances are common and something we are going to miss when we return home in September.
Have you been to Pula? Tell us about it!
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