Pula and Eastern Istria, Croatia

Christmas lights in Old Pula

Mike is getting a little claustrophobic.  We have had multiple days of rain in a row.  We are nowhere near a large town and there are no indoor shopping malls within a few hours drive.  I have been great.  Give me a computer and the internet and I can keep busy.  I had the time to take some online tutorials and learn how to start using a photo editing piece of software that I bought.  I did some work on my webpage, played some games and even managed to read a little.  The indoors and I get on quite well.

What a difference between last year and this year.  In both cases it was damp near the end of our trip.  Last year, thanks to Pearl and Peter with relatives in Hungary, we knew that we were leaving our RV in Budapest for the winter.  Since we had been in Scandinavia most of the time, we had a long drive to get to Budapest.  It made for busy days at the end.  We would like to again thank our hosts in Budapest, Joska and Jutka.  They stored our RV for the winter, hosted us when we returned, drove us to and from the airport and more.  They were excellent, and this was a family that we needed Google Translate to talk to.  People can be so nice.

This year, because our RV is spending the winter near where we have been for the last month or two, we couldn’t go too far away.  We didn’t want to start down south, just to have to come back.  This has meant that our last few weeks have been relatively restful.  We have been storing up our energy for Christmas season in Canada.

We were told the other day that Croatian is extremely easy to learn how to speak, the only problem is that you won’t understand what you are saying.  Apparently there are 30 different sounds, you pronounce each letter and you pronounce it the same way always.  That means that you can look at a word and know exactly how it will sound.  You might not know what it means but you can sound good ?.  Wouldn’t it be nice if English worked this way.

The rain stopped yesterday, and we drove to Pula, a town about an hour from here.  It is the town that has the Roman Amphitheatre I mentioned previously.  We had hoped to wander inside the amphitheatre, but by the time we got there yesterday it was too late.  Still, its design is such that you can see most of the inside from outside the walls which we walked slowly all around.  We saw them starting to put up Christmas lights in a few towns, including Pula, a while ago.  This was the first time that we had actually seen a town properly lit up for Christmas.  Almost all the lights used in Pula change colours if you watch them long enough.  The ball here in the town square changes messages as well as colours.  It says Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in multiple languages, including English, and sometimes depicts pictures of stars and Christmas ornaments.  It is a nice addition to the town square.  The top picture is the old town portion of Pula at night.

When the Venetians invaded Pula in 1605, they removed many treasures from the city.  One chapel we visited had its four columns of oriental alabaster taken.  They now stand behind the high altar of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  Below is a picture of the lions in front of another church in Pula.  Notice the dragon tails.

Lion with Dragon’s Tail

Today was our last day to enjoy ourselves before we have to get ready to come home.  It was a beautiful day, with the sun out.  The temperature was 10⁰C or 50⁰F.  We planned to drive to the town of Opatija in the northeastern part of the peninsula, about 1 1/2 hours away.  We then wanted to travel back slowly along the eastern coast of Istria and see some of the towns in that area.  It didn’t work out quite as planned.  We had some messing around to do with the RV in the morning, so we didn’t get an early start.  When we were almost to Opatija Mike saw a billboard advertising the Home Depot equivalent, Bauhaus, about 20 minutes out of our way and he decided that he needed to visit it.   This delayed us another hour or more.  On the way back to Opatija, Mike saw his first McDonald’s in a few weeks, so that was another stop.  Our highway exit was closed, and construction delayed us.  By the time we got to the town that was to be our starting point for exploring the coast we had about 45 minutes of daylight left because it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.  This was a bit of a disappointment.  I will admit though, that seeing the sunset over the bay was lovely.  The sunsets in this area have been great.  We drove through the town of Opatija, which was larger than we expected and looked more expensive or luxurious than the towns we were used to seeing (still no large indoor mall).  When we come back next year, we will make the drive here again.  It will be almost 2 hours from where we hope to stay next but we both want to see more of this town.  We drove on and stumbled upon the town/village of Mošćenice just as daylight was really fading.  Mošćenice is a fortified town built in the 12th and 13th centuries.  You cannot take any cars into the really narrow walkways throughout the town.  It is built on the side of a hill overlooking Kvarner Bay.  It was fascinating.  All the buildings that we saw looked to be inhabited and in good shape.  I wish we could have wandered around the maze of little laneways for longer.  As we were leaving, we met a couple who had been taking a photo of our car.  The woman said that she had never seen a car from Ontario in their little village but that her aunt lived in Ontario.  It turns out that her aunt lives in Brampton, which is the next town north of us on the road we live on.  It is a really small world.  Her aunt will be moving to Croatia from Canada in the near future.  By this time it was dark and we gave up on our plans for exploring and took the main roads through the centre of the peninsula back to our campground which was still over an hour away on the highway.

We have been having a few problems with this part of Europe not selling items we like to use in our North American RV.  They don’t sell the proper plumbing (non-posionous) anti-freeze, so again we will need to use car windshield washer fluid in the RV water pipes which you aren’t supposed to drink.  It means more work cleaning out the system when we return.  We also haven’t been able to find the right tablets for our toilet which has been a bit of a problem.  There is a chance that I have had a mild case of walking pneumonia or some sort of lung infection, for the last month or so.  It hasn’t been bad enough to get me to go and see a doctor here.  I will wait until we get home.  These minor issues haven’t impacted our enjoyment of our time over here at all.  We have loved this year.  Our issues seem much less than the day to day concerns of our family and friends back in Canada.  We are lucky, and we know it.

Just above Opatija, Rijeka in the distance

We have been told that although the normal temperatures in the winter in this part of the world rarely get much below freezing, we have to watch out for the “bora” wind.  It seems that this is a wind that is very strong and quite cold, and no-one likes it when it appears.  We have to hope that we miss it next winter when we return.

It is now Friday morning and I am adding a little to this post.  Yesterday we headed out to the little campground about 15 minutes away, where we are storing the RV for the winter.  We were 1/2 kilometre from the campground when we came to a full stop.  The main road through the town was completely closed for construction.  We started down the little side road that would bypass the construction.  It quickly became obvious that our RV was not going to make it between the walls and buildings on this road.  We unhooked the car and backed up.  There was a nice gentleman there who didn’t speak English.  He was insisting that we wouldn’t make it through the town, which we had already figured out.  We got out my tablet and showed him a map of local roads.  With his help we figured out that we had to drive almost an extra hour to get around this one closure.  I followed Mike in the car as we weren’t sure how small the roads on the new route were going to be.  We did finally arrive at the campground which was closed with a van blocking the entrance and no-one around.  It hadn’t been a good start.  The owner did finally arrive and, in broken English, basically told us that although he wanted to be nice to people and help others, he wasn’t sure about keeping our RV for the winter like we had arranged.  This day was going from bad to worse.  He called his son to come and boost the van so that it could be moved from blocking the driveway.  His son spoke a little more English.  Eventually they did agree that we could stay as planned.  He has a few other campers here, but he doesn’t think that they are anything like ours.  He is concerned that he doesn’t have the right licensing or paperwork for us.  He isn’t sure that Canadians can stay for three months so we had to promise to be back in February.  That is what we had been thinking about anyway.  Mike thinks that this owner was quite concerned about officious officials.

It is now Friday morning and we are leaving in a few hours to stay at a hotel near the airport in Venice.  Mike has just tried to call the parking lot that we saw advertised for the car and no-one answers.  Since this parking lot is quite a bit less money for long term parking, this is now another concern.  The average parking price here for a few months is more than my ticket home.

We will not actually see Venice this trip.  Hopefully we will get a chance to spend a couple of days in Venice when we return.  It has been over 10 years since we were there.  The last time we visited Venice we rented a boat for a week or two and lived and travelled in it, staying mainly in the Venetian lagoon.

It is now Friday night, things have gone from bad to great, how unusual.  We got to the Venice area, drove to the reasonably priced parking lot ($100/month) that Mike had found on the internet and we couldn’t find it.  It was getting dark, we were tired after rushing all day and driving a long way and now no parking lot.  We had no internet, so there was no way to look for another parking lot at a reasonable price.  At the normal prices, parking the car for the winter was going to cost  us over $700.  We had to look around.  We decided to drive back to the hotel, see if they had any suggestions and use the internet there to do more searching.  The GOOD NEWS: the hotel is storing our car at $0 for the winter.  We have committed to stay at this hotel when we return for a couple of days.  We found a very inexpensive place for the RV and free for the car.  You can’t get much better than that.  Now all we have left is the flight home: Venice to Lisbon 3 hrs, 3.5 hrs wait, Lisbon to Toronto 8.5 hrs.  Tomorrow will be a long day.  Good night for now.

Shortly after we get home, I will add one more summary to this set of 2018 articles and then it will be time to prepare for our 2019 leg of this great journey.

Roman Amphitheatre in Pula

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