Around Europe by Train: Part 3 (Pula & Rijeka)

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It’s time for part 3 of 4 in the mini-series that covers our Vacation this year around Europe. After we did enjoy some great time in Germany and Italy, it was time for Croatia to be checked off the list of countries that we have visited – and we went for Pula & Rijeka (alongside Zagreb which will be covered later on).

These are not the most popular destinations in Croatia, but we mainly chose them because of their proximity to each other and the other cities we had on our list. So how was it? Read on to find out, if you will!

Pula

It was fun to choose to visit this city because its name is a really nasty word in Romania. I just couldn’t help get my friends “I love Pula” magnets and t-shirts and use all the puns in the world to describe how enjoyable Pula actually is. But really, jokes aside – it’s really beautiful and the way to getting there was absolutely spectacular:

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Sea on both sides. You don’t get to see that often…

Yes, we did choose to travel by bus through Croatia because during my research, I found out that it’s faster than by train. And it sure looks great – just as our little apartment does: one that was filled with toys by our AirBnb host who knew we were bringing a 2 year old with us.

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We also had a really nice garden just for us

Again, we were pretty unlucky weather-wise in Pula, but we still made it to the beach one day. It was not that hot and pretty windy, but not that bad either. It was our only day at the beach during the stay. There might also be better beaches in Pula, but we chose the one that was closest to us and it was spectacular.

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Apart from the beach and a really nice central area filled with pubs and shops for tourists, Pula doesn’t have a lot to offer. It has a beautiful Amphitheater near the beach – Pula Arena – where concerts and big events are held. It’s extremely impressive because it’s so well preserved – it’s actually the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved (according to Wikipedia).

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There is also a nice castle that offers a great view over the city. The castle was built in the 1630s and it’s also well preserved. There’s also a museum in there, one that sends you back in time and shows how the pharmacies looked back in the days.

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View of the Amphitheater from the Castle
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A visit to the drug store certainly felt different back in the days…
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“Do you want some cough syrup? I’ll prepare it right away!”

During our stay in Pula, we had the wackiest selection of sweets ever (it was mostly jelly, shaped as fried eggs, croissants, frogs and so on). Insanely sweet and not as great as you’d expect them to be, flavor-wise, but it was fun to try out each shape and find its flavor.

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We also had a really unwanted visitor during our stay there, and we found it in our room hours after arriving there:

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It was tiny, at most 2 cm, but it was still a scorpion.

Yup, that is a real scorpion and we were shocked and scared when we found it. After doing some research, though, and talking to our host, we learned that they are actually pretty common in Croatia and they are not dangerous, even though if you get stung, you’ll have some pain. Despite all that, we slept all nights with the lights on and thoroughly inspected the room when we got back after a walk.

All in all, I was expecting Pula to be way cheaper than it actually was. It seems that being a touristy place does bring the prices up – they are definitely higher than prices by the beach in Romania and similar to what we had in Italy or Germany.

Rijeka

Apparently, near Rijeka, there’s a beach that keeps getting awards in Croatia. Guess who didn’t visit it because of the craptacular weather? Yup… we were again unlucky with bad weather which kept us indoors and within the city limits. At least we stayed at the 4th floor in an old building, right in the city center, so there were no worries for Scorpions. No elevator, either…

A nice view from our room to the Maritime and History Museum
A nice view from our room to the Maritime and History Museum

But we were already used with all the climbing and Rijeka also had a ton of it. Croatia itself is developed on hills so you are really kept in shape there. I just think that as you get older, things get more and more complicated…

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The promenade offered some spectacular views

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Unfortunately, Rijeka is the most unspectacular city that we visited – fighting with Trieste for our least enjoyable stay. There are a few old buildings and some hilarious Roman ruins (just a few walls that could’ve been a public toilet back in the days), but they do have a leaning tower: a sign there says that it’s 45 centimeters, but you can’t really see it. But, well, anything that’s at least slightly interesting here is worth seeing as there’s not much else left to do.

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The City Tower in Rijeka
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The Roman gate
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These are the Roman ruins…
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And the leaning tower, near a church. If you look carefully, you see that it’s indeed leaning a bit.

We did manage to find an amazing place to eat, though. My wife got a complete feast: grilled ribs served on a wooden platter with bits of onion, as well as three side dishes: potatoes, the most delicious beans we had in recent times and a cucumber salad that resembled the Greek tzatziki. All this was just 4 Euros and we actually paid more on the bottle of mineral water!

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We couldn’t finish the ribs: even though I couldn’t help to eat some, too!
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Not looking great, but delicious!
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Eric had to have the first bite! First time he had something that greasy… and of course he loved it!
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I wanted to go light and ordered a shrimp salad. Wasn’t expecting the bacon, though 🙂
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That’s the place to eat if you ever get to Rijeka. Trust me!

Rijeka came like a solid break for us – the bad weather and the fact that there wasn’t anything to do in the city because of the bad weather kept us inside for a long time: we did sleep a lot and filled up our batteries, so it was, in the end, an enjoyable break. However, Rijeka itself should not be the first city on your list if you decide to visit Croatia.

And this concludes our third episode – stay tuned as I have one more, detailing our final two cities, Zagreb and Belgrade!

7 COMMENTS

  1. OMG! You had me cracking up the whole time l read this, especially the Pula part :-). I can just imagine what it means..hah hah! You got lucky on the rentals, both of them look awesome, especially the first one with the garden. I can’t believe the size of the Roman Ruin..it’s beautiful, looks just like the colosseum . I also laughed at your description of the other one..a toilet..lol! I looked thoroughly at the picture and did not see any lean.. Eric enjoyed the food didn’t he? 🙂 . I love your reportage of the trip, very nice, and the pictures are very lovely..very very lovely.

    • Maybe I knew that it was leaning and I had to see it lean :))) And yes, Eric loved the food – until this trip, we never gave him anything with added salt or sugars, and definitely nothing that greasy and fried, so he was a fan of the food throughout the journey (even though we didn’t overfeed him with crap :D)

      I am happy to hear that you like the photos and entire reportage!

  2. Hello Calin: Certainly a most considerate host in Pula! Oh the candy–to die for! Oh the scorpion–yikes!!! I got a kick out of your “craptacular weather” phrase for Rijeka! I was disappointed to hear Rijeka is so blah. Good thing you found a great place to eat, though. Was your English widely understood as in the other countries you visited? Did you get any vibe as to which people (in all the countries you visited) were satisfied with their lot in life? You know, “Oh, there are no jobs, here; I can’t afford this or that; Why should we worry about Putin, Greece, ISIS, refugees, etc., etc.?”
    Looks like Eric is your own “Mini-Me.” He probably won’t remember much as he is so young, but you have the lovely pictures as a record for him to enjoy. Wife Romanian appears to have enjoyed the trip.
    I will stay tuned for Part Four in your miniseries, “Young Romanian Family’s Vacay;-)”
    ~Teil

    • Hello Teil,

      We had no problem with people understanding English. Both Pula and Rijeka are visited by a lot of foreigners so we always spoke English with everybody we met 🙂

      This is actually the thing that I loved the most about all countries: everybody seemed pretty much satisfied with what they had going for themselves. They all seemed to be relaxed and happy – but we rarely went into the “real” part of the cities and generally stayed in the city center and more touristic areas where things might be slightly different. If I were to choose, though, I would say that people in Vienna seemed, generally, to be those who were on the run most of the time and pushing themselves to do good – but we didn’t see there any people who seemed unsatisfied.

      It might also be the fact that we spent so little time there and were under the “tourist spell” – because here in Romania I can easily spot and see the people who are not very happy. Usually, in the city where I live – which has been currently hit by the closure of our biggest industrial company and over 2,000 people lost their jobs – you can usually hear people answering to the question “How are you doing?” by “Not that good…” But here I speak the language and I know what’s happening, while in the other countries I couldn’t understand locals complaining even if they did 🙂 But at least they didn’t seem to…

      • Calin: I am sorry to hear of the big job loss in your city! What sort of industry/factory was it? Were the jobs shipped overseas? Is there some sort of unemployment insurance and or job retraining? Two thousand people is just too many to lose their jobs at one time. That’s what I dislike about “big” business–the usual greed of the owners, and the ill treatment of the workers. ~Teil

  3. Thanks for another interesting post on places I’d like to visit but probably never will.

    “But we were already used with all the climbing and Rijeka also had a ton of it.”

    If you’re talking about having done something over and over in the past or being accustomed to something in the present, we say “used to” (pronounced “yoostuh”).

    “I used to study Spanish. Now I study Romanian.” (I “yoostuh” study Spanish)
    “I’m used to climbing stairs.” (I’m “yoostuh” climbing stairs).

    Again, my apologies…

    • I bet it was just something he missed in a hurry. I often need to take a break from my writing and come back later to read and correct, as I am too used to (pun intended) the text, and I know it too well for me to see the mistakes. But I love how you always want to teach, maybe it’s in your blood, but that is a great trait to have. You don’t need to apologize for being right and inform others, I think Calin will agree with me, but we really appreciate it. 🙂

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