06 March 2011

Istria - Pula

Pula (Italian Pola) claims a history of some 3000 years, and although it may not be part of your pre-conceived notion of the perfect Istrian trek, it should be. From the exceedingly well-preserved coliseum (they call it the amphitheatre) - still used for various concerts , and with a somewhat interesting museum in the basement - to the Temple of Augustus, the Porta Gemina, Hercules’ Gate, and the Sergius Arch (all in the old town) to the myriad of cafes (a particular recommendation for an afternoon drink is Café Cvajner located at Forum 2, i.e. on the other side of the forum from the Temple of Augustus - pictured left - and city hall), Pula has come into its own. It is also a good place to start before heading to neaby Fažana to catch a boat for Brijuni/Brioni, Tito’s famed residence island. Book in at the Hotel Neptun for some absolutely classic Yugo-elegance – and do NOT upgrade to the renovated suites - stay with the original 70s Yugo-chic. Call +385(52) 525 882 for the Brijuni National Park's information office (they run the hotels and villas as well). If you feel like having a real Sophia Loren weekend, book one of the villas – starting at around 6000 kuna/night.

And, in the unlikely event you didn't already know it, the coliseum/amphitheatre is not just for concerts, but is also one of the coolest possible settings for a summer film festival. The 58th Pula Film Festival will take place from 9-23 July 2011. Croatia's oldest film festival, the focus is on domestic films, and they seemingly pull the crowds: over 77,000 came in 2010, beating the previous record of 70,000 people in 2009 (which had already been a sound beating over the 43,000 in 2008).

All of this, and it's on the water. Istria's premier beaches are located at nearby Premantura, located in Medulin, effectively a suburb of Pula. Accommodation in Premantura itself consists mostly of campsites, so stay in town.

The City of Pula website has lots of information, but only in Croatian and Italian (the official languages in Croatian Istria). A better source for the traveller is the website of the Pula Tourist Association, which is in English and German as well as Croatian and Italian, and has info not only on hotels and private accomodation but also festivals, concerts, and other up-to-date schedules.

Hotel Riviera

Splitska 1
+385 (52) 211 166
+385 (52) 219 117 fax
Built in 1908, it was obviously nice back before communism, and some of the rooms are enormous with views over the water. Just imagine that you’ve arrived by train from Vienna, and are waiting for your steamer to take you to some exotic destination, or for the boat to take you to Brioni for a sea cure . AX, MC, VS, DC

Prolaz kod kazalista 1
Branch location of the Zagreb bookstore, and Pula’s only foreign language bookshop. In the old town.

Pula Airport
+385 (52) 530 105
This place is much more useful now that RyanAir flies here, as well as German Wings and Norwegian. Hertz, Budget, Avis, and Ventura all have rental desks here if you need to pick up a car to cruise the hinterlands. And where else can you catch a flight on Ural Airlines or Siberia?

Train Station / Kolodvor
Kolodvorska 5
+385 (52) 541 733
Daily lines towards both Rijeka and Trieste, and “special” lines to Ljubljana. Just a few minutes from the center, past the Hotel Riviera.

Bus Station / Autobusni Kolodvor
Trg I Istarske brigade bb
+385 (52) 502 997 information
+385 (52) 500 012 tickets
Regular lines to Poreč, Pula, Rijeka, Rovinj, Trieste, Zagreb and other domestic and international destinations.

Riva 14
+385 (52) 210 431
The agent for Jadrolinija in Pula, with ferries to Koper (Slovenia) and destinations along the Croatian coast as far south as Dubrovnik.

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