We went into town to catch the 10-30 bus to a coastal town further down the Istrian Peninsula. Our guide book was telling of good things to see there. We do tend to look at postcards of places we are to visit to know what to look out for and views of Porec, on the cards we had seen all looked quite stunning especially the scenes from out at sea. We went to the bus depot only to get to a place that looked nothing like any bus station we had ever seen. There were no signs, no bus timetables and no people waiting for a bus so there was no-one to ask if we were waiting at the right place. Worse still, the 10-30 bus didn’t arrive on time so we had that time to wonder if we were going to have to find something else to do for the day. The great thing about being married to such an organizer as Elaine is that I always have someone to tease when something goes wrong. It wasn’t a bus that turned up; it was a very comfortable coach that eventually would end its’ journey at Zagreb and it was the same coach that would pick us up on the return journey.
Just across from the stop at Porec was a market selling clothes, fancy goods and souvenir type goods. Elaine and I obviously have “British” stamped on our foreheads because the stallholders were straight out, as we passed, talking in English, inviting us in to inspect what they were selling. Elaine is not too keen on this in your face type of marketing and is much happier being left to browse in peace so she skirted around the rest of the stalls and headed into the old part of the town. I continued on and one chap raved large about how good it was that Leicester had won the Premier League before almost begging me to come into his stall. He was selling ladies underwear so I politely refused his request.
There is a very large harbour and lots of marinas full of every sort of vessel. You could get trips to all along the coast and dolphin viewing trips were advertised quite heavily. Elaine skirted around all the very persistent sales people. We then arrived at our intended destination of the old town with all the old buildings and the narrow streets.There were lots of beautiful narrow streets and some old buildings with quite unique features. Then we came across The Basilica. We paid a few kuna for the entrance fee and it was kuna well spent. The Basilica goes back to the 4th century and a lot of it is given up as a museum and we wandered around looking at the wonderful things and the intricate stone carvings done such a long time ago.
We then went up the wooden steps of the bell tower and had a great view of the ancient city below us. Down at ground level again, we then looked around the only part that is used for worship.
We then found a lovely little back street restaurant and had a typical Istrian meal along with a glass of the local wine each whilst we sat in the beautiful sunshine chatting with a German couple that were sitting at the next table. We had to make our way to catch the bus back and this time Elaine made a big detour back to the bus station to avoid the stallholders. We are not seeing a lot of English vans and caravans and often we would be the only Brits on a campsite. So we were quite surprised to see two motorhomes with English registrations, one parked directly behind us and the other quite close to us as well. We chatted with Debbie and Peter and heard all about their travels and then we started to chat with Wendy and Brian, the people from the other motorhome. What a larger than life couple they were. They are from Australia and they came over to England two years ago. They bought an English motorhome and have been travelling Europe ever since and later on we sat outside their motorhome chatting about their and our travels.
The intention was to leave the next day to go a little way down the coast to a place called Rovinj which was on a list of the 10 best places to see in Croatia. A chap came round that evening selling an all day cruise taking in a 2 hour stop at Rovinj, a one hour stop at another town and a trip up a 17 km fiord. Lunch with wine was included so we arranged for him to pick us up at 08.50 the next morning.
We are not used to getting up early but we managed it and we were at the gate of the campsite. The chap came but before we could leave we had to wait for a Swiss couple to arrive. Marcel and Bridget were their names and when we got to the boat we found we were the only passengers so we sat upstairs all together on the same table. Marcel spoke quite good English and Bridget’s English was a little more limited. We all agreed that if we were the only passengers then we would probably get a rather generous lunch. From round a corner, along the quayside came a big long line of people, all smiling and laughing, so our lunch wasn’t going to be so big after all.
The multi lingual Manuel was going to be our guide for the day and what an amusing, witty knowledgeable chap he was. We pulled into another little port to pick up even more passengers so Marcel and I decided that now it would only be a sardine each. As we left there, right beside us were two dolphins and they followed us for quite a while. Manuel kept up his commentary and told us about everything we saw. He did say that he was quite pleased this trip as he only had to repeat everything three times as he gave his commentary in Polish, German and English because normally there would be more different languages to cater for. The weather was beautiful, Marcel and Bridget’s company was a pleasure and we passed lots of Islands and beautiful bays before pulling into Rovinj. The view from sea of this town on a peninsula was everything that we had expected from our guide book and when we got into the port Manuel said we could have 2 hours free time or we could follow him on a guided tour of this unique town.
Marcel and Bridget went off to explore on their own whilst Elaine and I followed Manuel into town. He told us that the old city was designed by the same person that designed Venice and the gate, originally, was approached over a bridge but now it has all been filled in to allow traffic to get to the town and to the large port.
At the top of the hill that the old city of Rovinj is built on is a large church tower and on top of that is a large statue of a fisherman. It is on a turntable and it turns to face the wind. The fishermen know that when it faces out to sea the weather is fine and the fishing will be good. Equally when it faces inland then it will rain so the fishing will not be good. He took us up the hill towards the church through the narrow streets and gave us lots of information on the way up.We left him and the rest of that group when Manuel took everyone into a shop that was owned by a friend of his that he promised would give us free sample of lots of local wares including black and white truffles. We have been caught like that before so we walked around for the rest of the two hours. Rovinj is known for art and there are lots of galleries among the many jewellery and souvenir shops so there were lots to see for the remainder of the two hours.
We met up with Marcel and Bridget back on the boat and lunch was served. Elaine had ordered the meat option but the other three of us opted for the fish. I have never had pickled green cabbage but my meal consisted of a grilled herring with lots of the pickled vegetable. Elaine had two chicken fillets with her cabbage. It was surprisingly nice especially as it was accompanied by a nice bottle of the local white wine, chunks of bread and other soft drinks if wanted. We were not only enjoying the boat ride but our conversation with this Swiss couple, the music being played over the loud speakers, the sunshine and the amusing interjections from Manuel meant that we were having a really special afternoon. To top it all more dolphins came alongside the boat and Manuel said we were a very lucky group to see dolphins not once but twice and as he had arranged them to come and perform for us then we should pay him another 100 kunas.
The trip up the tree lined fiord to see the pirates cave was interesting and we were told that some Pirate films were filmed there and there was talk of an ownership by a person called Morgan and the little village nearby is called by the same name which is definitely not a Croatian name. Hence Captain Morgan, the renowned pirate used that as a base all that time ago. It all sounded very good.
We stopped one more time, but only for an hour so we just sat in a nice bar and had an Aporol Spritz whilst we waited to get back on the boat. When the boat moored up back at Novigrad we walked back to the campsite with Marcel and Bridget and we enjoyed their hospitality outside their motorhome until it got quite dark and started to get chilly. We know Bridget loves England and has lots of English things in their house and she kept telling us of all the places she has visited in England. We have swapped contact details and it will be lovely if we meet up with them further on in Croatia.
We said our goodbyes and moved down the coast to a campsite just on the outskirts of Pula. When we arrived we didn’t see any signs of fellow Britons but we set up and had a lovely, relaxing day in the sunshine. We got up the next day and caught the bus back into the city that we had driven through the day before passed the very impressive, almost complete, Roman Amphitheater so we knew we were going to have an interesting day ahead of us.
We found the Visitor Information office and got a map and followed that to get us around the old city centre and to the well preserved Roman architecture remains.
The Temple of Augustus is right beside the Town Hall and later that day we saw a just married couple come out of the town hall to have their pictures taken on the steps of this ancient monument. What a backdrop. We have been to the Coliseum in Rome but the Roman Amphitheater here is so complete that you can easily think that more Christians will be killed by lions at the next show.
The shame is they have some people dressed as Roman Gladiators and you can have your picture taken with them (for a fee) and despite their quite authentic looking costumes they have given them thin, tin shields to hold that are gaudily painted, advertising the fee you would have to pay.We walked up the hill in the centre of the old city to get to the historical and maritime museum which was housed at the site of a quite modern castle. We went up quite a tower to get a good view over the city and the extensive dockyards below. The only maritime thing we saw was an old boat. The buildings were taken up with the history of how this area suffered under the Germans in the 2nd World War after the Italians capitulated. There were lots of details of atrocities and lots of old pictures and many weapons of the time on display. This very graphic artwork was made up with nothing but pieces of guns and rifles and machine guns….. what a statement the piece is making. Over the other side of the large square were two rooms with graphic pictures of how children suffered during this time and some of the images were hard to bear but I suppose we must always be reminded never to go back to those times again.
We had a great meal in a restaurant right behind the cathedral and then headed back to catch the bus back to the site. There was a plant and flower market right behind the bus stop so we had quite a colourful wait for the bus.
When we got back to the campsite the two English vans that were parked close to us were camped close to us again although neither of them said they were coming here when we left them two days before. So there was lots of chat about what they had been doing and they wanted to know what we had seen in the city during the day. We are going to have one more day here and we keep studying the Guide book and we look at the internet to see where we will go next.