Buses run frequently from Rijeka to Pula (Pola in Italian). There is a student discount, or at least, I was given one. Sometimes they give you discounts because it’s down season.
I did my stay in Pula with a couch surfing host, S, she was nice. Originally from Italy, S has lived in Croatia the past 4 years or so. She can speak English, Croatian, and of course, Italian fluently. She picked me up from the bus station and then I wandered around the town.
The main attraction is the Roman amphitheater/arena. It is one of the best preserved and it is the sixth biggest in the world. It was amazing! It still amazes me that people are allowed to wander around the ruins without care. Of course, the arena is now used for music concerts and festivals, but still. I stood in the middle of the arena and tried to picture being a gladiator during the Roman times.
Again, it was nice being in the down season, I was the only one there for a long while. Eventually, other tourists came, but I got some decent pictures without anyone.
You can go under the arena, which has info panels on what the space was originally used for (animals, gladiators in waiting, etc.) and then used for olive oil production.
I then walked back into the center and saw the sunset along the water front. There are other Roman ruins scattered about such as a theater and a full floor mosaic. The mosaic was at first hard to find. There are the plastic/metal signs from the city, but also handwritten signs on cardboard, however, once you get into the general area.
That night we went to a Rock bar with one of her friends. Every Saturday a live band comes on and tonight was a band covering Metallica.
It was interesting to be around such hard rockers. I like rock and roll, but like any genre, I’m not a huge fan. I enjoy it and move on. So it was cool to see their spirit.
The next day, she drove me to Rovinj or Rovingo. She told me that this area’s second official language is Italian. All the signs have the Italian and Croatian names/words. She even met people on the street and spoke to them in Italian. Which was great for me since I could follow along with some of the conversation.
Rovinj is a pleasant town. It has a church as a main sight, but it’s quaint streets really give it charm. There was a Christmas market celebration in the main square. There was music and free food and hot wine. I got calamari, mashed potatoes, and bread with my hot wine. It was delicious!
A shop owner called us over when we were walking to the church and tried selling us his things. He was desperate as there was no one around. I was looking at some necklaces,
“These are normally 100, but I’ll give it to you for 80.”
I hesitate. I didn’t want to spend that much or at all, but I did like the necklaces.
“Ok, 70. Please.” He was so sad. I think he just wanted at least one sale for the day.
“I like both of these.” I tell S.
“Ok, Lady, I’ll give you 2 for 100. Please, take them.”
I laugh and buy them. They are made from shells from the area. I’m excited for them.
S did some shopping and we walked around a bit before heading to another small town where she used to live. Vodnjan had the same charming streets. They also had a performance in the main square. We got some hot wine and watched.
S thought it was a boring concert, but I thought it was lovely. We drove back to her place as she had a dinner date to get to. I stayed at the apartment and worked on some things. I offered to clean the dishes and she informed me,
“That’s usually the job of the couchsurfer.”
I don’t think she was trying to be passive aggressive, I think she just really hated washing dishes, but I didn’t mind.
I got an early-ish bus to Zagreb. It was one of the faster ones. Less than 4 hours versus 5 or 6. It was pretty empty as well. Only 5 people.
Tip: make sure to ask for a student discount for bus tickets. I had not until recently. It never occurred to me. But you save a bit, which can pay for the luggage (I didn’t have to pay this time). They also don’t check a student card. Though one woman asked my age (under 26 is student).
Heading back to Zagreb for a few days then off to Prague for Christmas!
more pictures at flickr.com/myopenpassport