Spring Break in Croatia!

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We had a fabulous time in Croatia! While we obviously expected to enjoy ourselves, I think we were all surprised by the extensive beauty we saw and fun we experienced while in Pula, Croatia. Croats call their country Hrvatska. We stayed in an apartment near the downtown, just blocks away from the tourist office and Roman Arena, likely Pula’s most famous landmark. Upon arriving to the apartment by cab on Tuesday, we were greeted by our host and hostess, a very warm couple that informed us where to find the tourist office. Within minutes, we were off to downtown Pula. We acquired a map and info from the tourist office and headed a couple of blocks more to the Arena.

P1010639.fbThe Roman Arena, built just before Christ’s birth, was significantly still in tact. We saw the area where the lions were let out and the tunnel underneath where both the dead gladiators and lions were dragged out after the fights. The “bleachers” section was being restored so we couldn’t walk on it but the rest was open to our free roaming. I stood in the middle of the Arena and tried to imagine the feel. P1010645.fbIt must have been other-worldly for the gladiators. The arena felt just huge when standing in the middle of it.

We ate our evening meal on an upstairs terrace at a restaurant recommended by the tourist office – Jupiter Pizzeria – then walked a little downtown before heading back home for the evening.

We took our time in the morning then headed to the southern end of Pula, a region called Verudela. We took the city bus after checking with the tourism office again and just explored the coastline upon arrival. What a find!! Pula is a coastal town along the Adriatic Sea and Verudela offers lots of unspoiled coastline and views of outlying islands. We were surprised by the beauty and extensive areas to explore. We rested along the rocky coastline, walked on paths, climbed over the rocks, ate lunch at the only beach restaurant open during this off-season, and walked through an evergreen and olive tree woods.

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We seemed to all be ready to head back at the same time. We walked home from the downtown bus-stop, swinging by a small grocery store on the way home and buying some “let’s try this” frozen foods to cook for the evening. We had potato and spinach rolls and a wonderful Mediterranean vegetable mix. Our generous host stopped by with large bottles of both red and white wine, which he makes in his basement, so Todd and I enjoyed some local wine with our meal.

P1040124One of Croatia’s largest National Parks is on an island just north of Pula so we took the bus to Fažana, a fishing town with excursions to Brijuni, the National Park. We just walked around in the morning and had drinks at one of the coastal cafes before taking the ferry to Brijuni. We took an electric train around the island, seeing animals at the local safari and some of the older architecture on the island. We had a beautiful day but agreed that we would have preferred to just go to the island and rent bikes than to take the electric train. However, it was nice to see the National Park and Fažana’s fishing industry.  After dinner, Todd and I spent the evening relaxing on the balcony of our apartment, enjoying the wine provided by our host.

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Since we had so much fun the first day at Verudela and we didn’t completely make our way around the coast there, we all agreed to return, with the kids asking us to do so before we’d even left on Wednesday. So off we went on Friday morning, back to Verudela, with much more to explore. We viewed the marina and a couple of resorts along the coast. Thanks to Carys’ suggestion, we enjoyed a nice picnic in a cove before the kids took a Polar Plunge so they could both say they’d dipped into the Adriatic Sea. It was easy to imagine the beaches and resorts brimming with tourists during the summer weather but we got to enjoy them almost 100% free of others while we roamed.

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It was pretty cool and windy on Friday so we were ready to head back into town early in the afternoon. We stopped by a sidewalk cafe and enjoyed hot drinks before we split up with Laura walking around Pula to explore and the rest of the family heading back to the apartment to relax.

P1010754.fbLaura saw some great artifacts within Pula and some interesting tourist stores. This one is the “Temple of Roma and Augustus”, built during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Yes, THAT Augustus! Amazing!

After dinner, the kids and Laura returned to downtown Pula for ice cream and shopping. We purchased some fussball (soccer) shirts and some Beats headphones at extremely cheap prices.

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As the sun set, we headed back to the apartment. Everybody just relaxed in their own way. In the morning, we had an easy schedule of  packing, taking walks and relaxing before our cab driver picked us up to return us to the airport. Pula, Croatia was welcoming and fun and we felt like we found a real treasure for our Spring Break vacation.

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