#4 Italy/Croatia, Oct. 10, 2009

Dear Everybody,

I’m glad I backtracked to Porec as the 6th century Euphrasian Basilica was stunning. The entire altar area was covered with well preserved beautiful 6th century mosaics. They were very similar to the San Vitele mosaics in Ravenna, Italy that Donna and I saw—both Byzantine. This church also had Roman-type pavements from an earlier 4th century basilica and several other treasures.

Near the sea in Porec were the ruins of two 1st century Roman temples. Many of the working buildings lining the streets were medieval Venetian in character. In the afternoon I took a boat across the bay to the island of Nicola to just walk among the beautiful pine trees and laze about.

The next day I took a bus to Pula where I found the Art Hostel that someone had suggested on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree. Now THIS is my style! The host (Croat) and hostess (Chinese) were wonderfully helpful and the hostel had all the accoutrements that one hopes for. The host showed me his art collection of naïf Croatian painters (no, not his etchings!) and then treated me to some of his (barely drinkable) homemade wine. I had a great conversation with an El Salvadoran, Mexican, Japanese, Italian young man who grew up in Sweden! He plans to spend the next few years seeing the world. I was telling him how often nowadays I run into something obscure being mentioned that I have experienced, like the Beirut horse race track featured on TV the other day. Interestingly it was a woman expounding on the racetrack but when I was there in ’99, I noticed I was the only female present. Maybe things have changed.

Pula has lots of interesting sites: a 1st century Roman Amphitheatre that seated 20,000 people;

 

 

 

 

 

 

several Roman arches;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two Roman temples on the main square—one of which was incorporated into a town hall in 1297—this square has functioned as the city center continuously for 2,000 years;

 

 

 

 

 

 

a statue of James Joyce in front of the house in which he lived;

a ho-hum archeological museum in a beautiful old palace; and lots of places to sit and have coffee, rest my feet, and people watch.

My roommates David (man from UK, close to my age), Alejandro (the multi-ethnic person mentioned above) and I went on an outing to the Brijuni Islands by boat. It is a place where Tito used to vacation and receive people from other countries, including movie stars. It is a beautiful island and has many exotic animals—the progeny of those that Tito collected including two elephants, zebras, a llama, oryx, many deer, and others.

It also has wonderful Roman ruins from the 1st century BC, as well as Venetian—15th and 16th century and then Austro-Hungarian from the 19th century—layers and layers!

David and Alejandro went swimming (Oct. 7th–!) while I had a nice lunch at one of two hotels on the island. Then a hike around to see a 2600-year-old olive tree, the Roman ruins, and some of the animals among the beautiful trees and deer-mowed meadows was rewarding. A Venetian church had some interesting old murals and some Roman stones incorporated into it.

Thursday I hoofed it with pack, mostly uphill, a long ways to catch an 8:00 AM bus to Rijeka. I figured if I missed that bus I could get the 8:30. Well, WRONG! In spite of these times being clearly posted, the lady assured me that TODAY only the 9:30 bus was running. So that gave me plenty of time for another cappuccino.

When I arrived Rijeka I was lucky and caught my bus to Krk that left in 15 minutes. Krk is an island connected to the mainland by a long bridge. It has the longest concrete span (not the longest bridge) in the world. It reminded me of the 15th century bridge at Mostar—when that bridge was opened, it all fell into the river. However the bridge designer was given another chance and this time on opening day he ran and hid. But not to worry, that bridge held up and so did the Krk bridge that I crossed. Actually that Mostar Bridge was destroyed in the 1990’s Serb war, but has been restored.

There are still lots of tourists here, mainly Germans (they all brought their dogs!), Italians and a few Brits. I haven’t run into any Americans—the vendors always speak German to me. In Istria a lot of Italian is spoken and street signs are in two languages—Croat and Italian. The Croats are heavy smokers—it seems more like the ’70s here. I see they smoke American cigarettes. Oofda!

I’m staying in a hostel—I think there’s only one other guest but I ate my (provided) breakfast alone. I have a three-bed dorm room to myself, which has a balcony looking out over the vine-topped terrace below. It’s nice to have the whole room, but I miss there being more guests here for interaction.

This morning I caught a bus for a day trip to Baska, on the other side of the island. Baska is a pretty little seashore town and it was so pleasant just to walk around the harbor and through the town’s main street, about 12 feet wide, that zigged and zagged around corners and buildings. It’s known for its two km long pebbly beach, which only had two sunbathers today although it is warm and sunny.

Now I’m back in Krktown—tomorrow I’ll move on to Zadar.

Carol

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