Sunday, July 19, 2009

Croatia & Slovenia 7-19-09

After about a 4 hour drive skirting the Adriatic and backed up traffic at the Slovenia-Croatia border, we arrived in Pula. Pula is a town dotted with Roman ruins in the Istrian region of Croatia. We first located the Roman Ampitheater and found a great lunch spot nearby, the Coliseum Grill. Lunch was a terrific! Tim had the mixed meat plate with different sausages, kebab, and pork chop. I had the linguini with scampi, which had various types of shrimp, crab, and langostino in a creamy red sauce.

With our palettes satisfied, we made the short walk back to the Roman Ampitheater. The Ampitheater was started during the reign of Emperor Augustus (31BC-14AD), enlarged under Emperor Claudius 54AD-56AD) and finally completed under the Flavius rule (69-96AD). It's the sixth largest amphitheatre in the world with space for 22,000 spectators. The Ampitheater was set up with chairs and a movie screen for the town annual Pula Film Festival, which was going on. We wandered around the giant Ampitheater and then underneath, where many ancient artifacts of pottery were strewn about.

Next we found Hercules' Gate, which is the oldest Roman monument in Pula. Hercules' Gate is the first gate to the city and at the top of the arch is a carving of Hercules' head and his club. Close to the club is a damaged inscription, most interesting in the historical context since it contains the names of two Roman officials, Lucius Calpurnius Piso and Gaius Cassius Longinus, to whom the Roman Senate had entrusted the duty to found a Roman colony at the site of today’s Pula.

We were then ready to hit the beach! A few kilometers down the coast, we began following signs for a Shark Diving School and ended up at Koral Beach in Medulin. I picked up an awesome beach blanket for 100 kuna (the Croatian currency) at one of the many stands lining the beach and was set to scope out my speck of sand among the packed beach goers. We wandered down a little farther to a spit of smooth, flat rocks where many were staking their prime piece of beach real estate and settled in. Tim was immediately checking out the water temperature in the Adriatic whereas I wanted to soak up some rays and people watch before braving the sea. Finally wanting to take a dip in the Adriatic, I braved the rocky shore barefoot (next time I am totally bringing my water shoes) and waded in. You could wade out with water only up to your knees quite a bit before it dropped off. Basking in the sun, we had a relaxing nap. Before heading off for the day, we of course needed gelato! I had the kiwi and Tim had a banana split.

Happy after a fabulous day in Croatia, we began the drive back home. We breezed right through border control this time but hit some traffic leaving Slovenia to cross into Trieste. Instead of sitting in traffic, we decided to take a short drive into the city center of Koper, Slovenia. What a great stop this was as we came upon quite the evening scene! There was a small orchestra playing near the waterfront and other performers down the marina walkway. Even in the evening, the beach area was still packed and people were enjoying libations at any one of the many outdoor bars.

After checking out the scene for a bit, we found a great snack cafe to get dinner. The doner kebab and insalta hit the spot! Almost ready to hit the road for home, I sipped a cafe latte as we watched the last remnants of the sun dip into the sea. It was truly a picturesque end to a day filled with stunning sights.