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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Back to Pula, in writing

I'll now go back in time to Pula, our first stop after Paris. We flew from Paris to Pula. We'd picked it mostly because it was a short flight and cheap trip from Paris. Once we had that reservation, we mapped out a potential route through Croatia, to Bosnia-Herzogovina, and back into Croatia, where we will drop off the car and fly back home through Paris.

We didn't know much about Pula, aside from the fact that it has one of the world's largest, most well preserved colloseums.
We didn't expect it to be as much of a tourist town as it was. The main streets were thronged with tourists and tourist shops, and restaurants. Our apartment was in a modern building overlooking the main street. But we were several stories high, and were not at all bothered by street traffic. And we had interesting views from the apartment, including Roman ruins just next door.  And also a patio overlooking the harbor. The harbor was filled with huge cranes, that we at first thought were dormant, left over from other times. But in fact they were working cranes, and it appeared that most, if not all, were involved with shipbuilding.  A little further down the road was an additional group of cranes. These were lighted up for several hours each night, in a kind of art installation.

The collosseum was indeed impressive. There had been a film festival that had ended just a day before.  There were workers disassembling the massive scaffolding that must have supported the screen.  The arena was still filled with a mass of blue seats.  The temperature was hot, as it has been the entire trip until yesterday, when we arrived here in Jajce.  I did not envy the workers out in the hot sun for however many hours they had worked.

They hold concerts in the arena fairly regularly. Our neighbors at home, when they were living in Prague, had attended a concert of a group they'd long been wanting to see, there in the stadium, and had said it was a remarkable experience. They also stage regular gladiator reinactments, which I would guess  would not be quite as moving. And, you can rent gladiator clothing and have your picture taken.  The booth wasn't open when we were there, which is just  as well. I might have been tempted.

Our second night, we took a boat trip out past the harbor around the islands nearby. There were a number of boats, and a variety of trips, offered by various vendors along the harbor walk. Some were  day trips, some involved swimming and looking for dolphins. The one we chose was advertised as a "fish picnic."  I liked the sound of that, and it included boating around the "light giants" as the illuminated cranes are called. So for about 30 euros,  roughly 35 dollars, we had an over three hour cruise, complete with fish dinner, all we could drink, (wine, juice or water) and a lovely boat trip. The captain narrated from time to time, in several languagaes, but it was hard to understand any of it, even the English.  The dinner was delicious, and included a cabbage salad. a combination of cabbage and tomatoes. When I complimented him on the salad, he said that the cabbage was from his neighbor, and the tomatoes had been grown by his father.

As we cruised around the light giants and approached the dock again, we heard music from the lower deck. It took us a few minutes to realize that it was live. As we headed downstairs, we saw that it was the captain, playing the accordian and singing. When he saw us, he said - Ah, the Americans, and started playing When the Saints go Marching In! 

Neither Loring nor I had ever realized before, until that evening, why construction cranes are called cranes. Oddly, it occurred to both of us at the same time, and in retrospect, seems so obvious.

The trip from Pula, through the border into Bosnia, was pretty, and pretty uneventful. We had read about lines at the border, but anticipated nothing except a brief back up, much much less than the New Hampshire toll booths on a summer weekend. The customs guy asked us where we were going, and since we said "Jaycee" not knowing how to pronounce the town's name, he looked baffled. When we added Sarajevo and Mostar, he waved us on.

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