How's Goin'? or.... Heading East

Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
Trip End Mar 09, 2008

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Thursday, August 30, 2007

With Adrian having joined us in London we set off for our Croatian sojourn. For anyone considering a 7:00a.m. flight to save a few bucks - figuring it doesn't sound all that early - remember this paragraph when your alarm clock goes off at 2:30a.m. for the trek to Stansted airport, a place somewhere in Scotland judging by the commute required to reach it.
But as our airfare was 1c - or $18 after taxes - we will shelve the complaint.
What was important was to manage our tiredness, the climate shock of emerging in sweaty 30 degree heat, to get rid of our bags in a timely fashion and enjoy some time at the beach. All of which would have been eminently achievable had I remembered to write down the address of the hotel we were staying at. Doofus.
In retrospect, our accommodation selection was pretty good. But as we walked aimlessly through Pula suburbia trying to dutifully adhere to the tourist office's directions to our homestay I could feel the piercing daggers of accusing glances pouring into my back. Quite well justified too. I was trying to have some selective memory and blame someone imaginary for booking us out here in the middle of nowhere. To no avail.
By lunchtime, the ship had righted itself, we had found our 'home' and we were in the mood for lunch, having been up nearly 12 hours.
Lunch was our signature theme of Pula: one specific pizza establishment hosted by a nice man who smiled all the time except, in typically Croatian fashion, when he was asked to be in a photo. I have since noted that even the photo imagery of normally happy pets on petfood labels features very serious looking animals. Its all pervasive: don't you dare get photographed smiling, and that goes for you too pussycat.
Our friend could make a fine pizza and when accompanied by the local Karlovachko beer all seems right with the world. Eminently hospitably, he also had a penchant for not worying about tallying up the coffees at the end of the meal and would even throw in a bit of his seemingly homebrewed white spirit for free as well.
Elsewhere, unfortunately, the tourist rort was well and truly on. Fed by European tourists, the locals have learned - then bettered - European pricing. Internet prices five times that of London, $7 bottles of water, and muesli that presumably must be handrolled by the Dalai Lama despite seemingly being the exact same product we got in Germany for one fifth the price. Hmmm.
Pula was mainly selected due to its virtues as a Ryanair destination, but it has some other allures. I was surprised by the magnitude and quality of preservation of a first century amphitheatre there. Its setting in the hills with the stone arches allowing soothing bay and landscape views made you think the Romans had life worked out pretty well.
But Pula was a sideline, and after a few days we made the decision to head down to the Island of Korcula via Split. All and sundry tried to talk us out of taking the train (in favour of the coach), but the train proved to be an incredibly comfortable and easy journey, even if we did need to wait a few hours on a fairly cold platform near midnight to change trains.
I fear the locals feel that the arrival of a discount airline makes them think an endless gravy train has arrived. Such trains derail.

* * *

After my late night in London and our ridiculously early start (2.30am!) I slept, dribbled and snored all the way to Croatia much to the amusement of Adrian and Iain. 

We arrived in sweltering hot Pula clad in our middle-of-the-night London winter woolies.  It was hot, the three of us were tired, sleep-deprived, irritable and worst of all we weren't sure where home was.  (For those of you who received desperate text messages asking you
to look up the address of Barbara's Apartments in Pula - thank you for your help!).  Hostilities mounted, curt words were exchanged, but in the end we found our home and it was practical and clean (even if it was a little bit out of town).

Held grudges were soon dispelled and we were ready to see what Croatia had to offer - with Adrian - our very own Croatian. :)

Pula is a very relaxed, whitewashed, beach side town.  The pace (coming from hectic and overcrowded London) was quantum leaps slower - in a really good way.  The city had a very Italian feel to it which makes a lot of sense as it was actually a part of Italy pre WWII.  This meant that it was an instant flash back to the choice of 7 pizzas, 5 pastas and 8 coffees offered in cafes all over Italy.  It was nice to walk around the town exploring the narrow cobbled streets and stumbling upon the grand old amphitheatre and other large old white stone gates and structures.

The weather was perfect for swimming.  We ventured out to find the local beach.  We walked around a bend and over a hill and there it was.  The sky was blue.  The water was crystal clear.  The beach consisted of large, pointy rocks. 

I had forgotten the Mediterranean "beach" concept of rocks, not sand, and how painful it actually was.  I lay down my paper thin sarong and looked around resentfully at all those beach-lovers who had come pre-prepared with lush, cushioned yoga mats.  It was a nice first day at the beach with the perfect conditions for sun baking, reading and relaxing - just as long as you didn't move about too much.

A patch of wet weather meant we were house bound where we played game after game of scrabble, I learned how to play Briskola (a Croatian card game) and we drank copious cups of tea. 

The rest of our stay was confined to our local Pizzeria where we ate our way through the menu, played scrabble and cards and drank copious cups of coffee (are you recognising the trend?).  The patron was used to us hanging around and would regularly throw coffees and  lethal homemade Croatian alcohol shots our way.

Pula: a relaxing stop.
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Where I stayed
Barbara Apartments
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