I have to say that the town didn’t look especially interesting or picturesque as we walked along a busy industrialised harbour front that was fronted with bleak marine associated offices and was sadly without bars and cafés, but things improved as we walked back from the dockside and into main town street behind and we found a pleasant looking restaurant called the café Orfej advertising very reasonably priced meals.
That appealed to me so we went inside and made an attempt at translating the menu. We choose well and enjoyed calamari and salad and some local beer called Ožujsko, which was very nice indeed. We spoke to a couple on the next table who were from Ireland who had also taken advantage of the same cheap flight offer and were also fully paid up members of the Ryanair appreciation society. They were English but lived in Ireland and to listen to him talk you would think that because he lived in a nearby village that he knew Michael O’Leary personally. Still, it was nice to find fellow enthusiasts and we swapped travel stories and boasted of bargains in a competitive but good natured sort of way.
After lunch we walked back to the Amphitheatre, this time to pay our entrance fee of a very reasonable three Kuna and to go inside the impressive structure. There are over two hundred surviving Roman amphitheatres across what was the Roman Empire and this is one of the best to see. There is still a lot missing however as parts of it had been dismantled over the years to provide ready prepared paving for roads and a convenient supply of building materials for later construction projects such as the town’s Venetian fortress built nearby.
Thankfully most of the vandalism was restricted to the internal seating and terracing and the external walls with their towering arches are still left in place to see today. Underneath the arena there is a small museum housed in the underground corridors where exotic animals and gladiators waited their turn to be raised to the stadium for their part in the bloody show and one can only try to imagine what a brutal and thoroughly unpleasant place this might once have been.
Having visited the primary tourist attraction of Pula we walked back to the town centre to see what else we could discover. The town had a slightly uncared for feel with many buildings having a lack of attention to detail in the finishings with drab concrete facades, exposed pipe work and cables that had not been quite tidied up and the first impression was that this place was a bit shabby and definitely still quite short of money.
Looking up we could see bits of masonry looking precariously dislodged and practically disconnected from the buildings and I was sure that walking here was rather like playing Russian Roulette and that there was always an imminent danger of being hit on the head by falling roof uiles so did my best to make sure that we walked wherever possible in the middle of the street. There were quite a few shops but not many shoppers and the streets were curiously quiet.
We found the Temple of Romae and Augustus in the main town square and the Arch of Sergii, which are some of the town’s best preserved Roman structures and we also came across Agrapinina’s house, which sadly is not. I don’t think Agrapinina was anyone especially important and the remains of her house has been discovered in what is the back yard and garage area of a block of modern concrete apartments. Such a shame really because these looked quite interesting but they were full of litter and there was even some graffiti on the walls. I suppose this is why people like Lord Elgin decide to bring ancient artefacts back to Britain when they are found unloved and uncared for in their original settings.
On the way back to the hotel we found a little shop selling practically everything and choose carefully some local beers at local prices and a bottle of wine that we took back to the hotel and enjoyed while we showered and changed and prepared for evening meal. The wine was drinkable but the problem with travelling with hand luggage only means that without a corkscrew, selection is restricted to screw cap availability and that seriously restricts choice.
Not feeling especially adventurous we returned to the Orfej and enjoyed more calamari but we did have it cooked in a different way this time and afterwards we walked back through the empty streets and went back to the hotel. On the way to our room we passed the chef who obviously doubled up as the hotel handy-man because he was leaving a vacant room with a toilet seat (yes, a toilet seat) in his hand which he was carrying in a delivery style and with the same panache as though he was conveying a top of the range pizza to a very important guest. I hope he washed his hands before returning to the kitchen.