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Clare
Clare

Day 2: Pula

We didn't make a particularly early start this morning, so when we stepped out of our apartment around 10am we found that a cruise ship had docked and the hordes had already descended on the Arch of Sergii. As you can see, it was just a little bit busier there than it was yesterday!

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Luckily the cruise ship tourists seemed just to be walking in a straight line down the main street, so we were able to avoid them by turning off onto side streets every now and again. Our first stop was the chapel of St Mary of Formosa, which was built in the sixth century.

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It once formed part of a large Byzantine basilica, but it fell into disrepair and much of the stone was used by the Venetians, who ruled Pula from 1331 to 1797, as building materials elsewhere.

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We wandered down some of the quiet side streets in the old town, which seemingly weren't on the itinerary for any cruise ship tours.

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It was interesting to see how all of the street signs were billingual in Croatian and Italian, a reflection of the mixed cultural heritage of the region. After the end of Venetian rule, Pula became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and flourished as Austria's main naval base and ship-building centre. However, after the end of the First World War the whole of Istria was returned to Italy, who held onto it until the end of the Second World War when it eventually became part of Yugoslavia. At that time the majority of the population was Italian-speaking and although many Italians subsequently emigrated, Pula officially remains a billingual city.

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Our next plan was to track down Pula's Roman mosaics. Our hunt started promisingly as we followed a large sign from the main street. This took us down a side street, where were proceeded to follow a series of progressively smaller signs, culminating in a handwritten poster labelled "Rimski Mozaik" which led us across a car park and up an alleyway next to a shop. This is what we found.

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The mosaics are believed to date from the third century AD, when they would have been part of the floor of a Roman villa. They were only discovered after a bombing raid destroyed the houses above them during the Second World War.

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The cruise ship passengers definitely hadn't made it this far, so we were able to enjoy them in peace before heading into Pula's main square.

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The more modern-looking building is the town hall...

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...while this spectacular building is the Temple of Augustus, thought to have been built between 2BC and 14AD

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You wouldn't guess from looking at it, but it was almost completely destroyed during a bombing raid in 1944, before being reconstructed piece by piece in 1947.

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Around the corner from the main square, we found the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally built in the fifth century, but enlarged and reconstructed several times since then.

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Walking a little further through town, we found the Twin Gate, which dates from the second or third century and now forms the entrance to Pula's archaelogical museum.

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It was far too nice a day to spend in a museum though, so we set off to have a proper look at Pula's main attraction: the Roman amphitheatre.

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It's hard to convey in photos just how large this amphitheatre is, although we definitely struggled to fit all of it into one photo.

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Originally used for gladitorial combats, after the fall of the Roman empire it began to fall into disrepair and at one point the Venetians proposed dismantling it and reassmebling it in Venice! Happily that didn't happen, and restoration began during Napoleon's brief conquest of the region. These days it is commonly used for concerts and theatrical performances.

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Behind the Arena we caught sight of the tower of another church.

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This was the church of St Anthony, which looks deceptively old. Work only actually started on building it in 1931 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the death of St Anthony.

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We had a little stroll beside the sea and then headed back to our apartment to cool off for a while.

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After a delicious lunch in a restaurant a few feet away from the apartment we decided to walk to Verudela, a peninsula just to the south of Pula. We walked through the outskirts of the town for a while, eventually entering some shady pine forests and getting a glimpse of the sea.

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There seems to be a large tourist complex of hotels and apartments in Verudela, but we skirted that, passed a few signs advising us to be careful of falling from a height, and found the cliffs :)

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Some of us took the warnings not to go near the edge more seriously than others ;)

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There were some wonderful views out to sea and of the nearby Stoja peninsula.

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Pula is beautiful and we've had a great first day of the holiday. Tomorrow we're hoping to head up the coast a bit and visit the town of Rovinj.

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