It's telling that we've had such a relaxed start to the holiday that today seems like a lot of work even though it wasn't at all. You see, today we visited two new towns before returning to our base in Cagliari. How reminiscent of our hectic past holidays, but in fact this couldn't have gone any easier.
Our pre-holiday research indicated that the town of Nora would be worth a visit for people like us, who prefer isolation and history to clubbing. It was settled centuries ago and has been held under the rule of the Phoenicians, Carthagininans, and Romans, before being abandoned. The one-time capital of Sardinia was no match for Mother Nature, and as the sea encroached the settlers moved on. Nowadays, much of what was once Nora is under water, but excavations are ongoing and their are ruins to be seen, and so we were drawn to visit. It's such a small place now that it's not possible to reach directly from a distance, and so our plan was to travel to the bigger town of Pula, and from there secure local transport to Nora.
We eased into the day with no time pressures whatsoever. Breakfast is located on the other side of our door, we knew that our bus wouldn't leave until after ten, and though we left ourselves 20 minutes to reach the bus station from our apartment, we coverd the distance in a quarter of the time. The bus fare was cheap, the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky (the weather not having got the message that this is October), and off we set. Much of our 50-minute journey was spent alongside the shimmering sea, and Clare even spotted flamingoes going about their business.
It turns out that even though Pula is the regional capital, it isn't that large, to the point that it doesn't have a bus station. The first that we and the other non-locals knew about having arrived was when the driver helpfully yelled "finito!" having stopped in the middle of the street.
We disembarked and I led Clare in the direction of a sign indicating where the centre of town was that I'd spotted a few seconds before. It was on my mind because it contained not only Italian, as one would expect, but also Sardinian. The language nerd in me was instantly drawn to it. Even more surprising than its being given precedence over Italian was the degree to which one location seemed to maintain a link with Latin.
We spent only a little bit of time in Pula. Our priority was to get to Nora, knowing that we'd need to return from there to Pula anyway in order to get the bus back home. The tourist information office wasn't hard to find and the lady working there was nice enough to draw on a map the location of the three bus stops that we could use for our return journey. I asked her how far Nora was, she replied 3km away, and so I said we'd like to go on foot in that case and she was kind enough to show us the street to take. Excellent stuff.
Off we set, with nothing more in mind than finding somewhere to eat en route. We didn't want to repeat our experiences in Pescara on a previous holiday when we couldn't find a single restaurant open at around three or four o'clock, and since it had gone past midday we knew that food would have to be the first thing on the agenda, otherwise it would end up being the last.
As bad luck would have it, this was a futile effort anyway. We encountered two pizzerias ... and both were closed on Mondays! We were afforded some beautiful sights of yellow sands, blue skies and sea, and looming mountains besides them though:
We could see a tower in the distance and headed towards it. We were running out of land and the ruins that we could see didn't seem to have much going for them, so we were wary when we realised that a ticket would be needed to go any further. That said, we could see cafe tables outside the ticket office and reasoned that there might be some sustenance, so headed in that direction anyway, whereupon we procured a couple of prosciutto panini. That was all that was on offer, although there was a bonus lovely view from our table that was entirely pleasant:
On the basis that we were only likely to be here once we decided to part with our money and undergo the horrors of being on a guided tour. First on the agenda was what was called "the towers" but which in fact consisted of a single tower, with another within view. Amid a lot of standing around, not least because the tour was in English and Italian, we went up the tower. It looked beautiful against the sky:
Our visit to the archaelogical site also involved going on a guided tour. Fortunaltely for us, there weren't any Italians in this group and so our new guide opted for English only. She further cut time by not being as garrulous as the previous one.
It might be that we've been a bit spoilt lately, but these ruins didn't strike us as being particularly interesting. Bitola's were great, Ohrid's theatre was impressive, whereas lots of this was just ... well, ruins. They lacked character. We were told that something was a fountain, for example, but it didn't look any different from any of the other rubble. There was the odd bright spot, though, such as some pillars:
Once the tour was over, we beat a hasty retreat, purchased some water, and headed off back to Pula. This time we were actually going to spend a bit of time there.
It's lovely. Small but beautifully presented, with pastel buildings:
En route to one of the bus stops that the lady in the tourist information office had indicated for us earlier we passed a beautiful church and travelled along some more beautifully coloured streets. Grey clouds were moving in though:
Reminiscent of our time in Sepino, we were soon caught in a huge downpour and had to seek shelter, facing the fact that our bus was due in about an hour and that we might have to stand in the rain to wait for it. Eventually the weather abated, the perfect blue sky returned, and we sheltered under a cafe's canopy whilst enjoying a coffee. We set off for the bus stop with plenty of time to spare ... and glimpsed it coming around a corner five minutes ahead of schedule! As was the case with our train from the airport on Saturday night, the driver wasn't intending to stop to allow the clock to catch up with him. Oof - that was a near miss!