Tuesday was my last full day in Rovinj, my new favorite destination in Europe. It is on the Adriatic and ‘Mediterranean sunny’; red tiled roofs; an ancient church in the middle of town at the highest point; narrow, winding alleyways that you can almost get lost in, but not quite. When out and about discovering the streets, just walk downhill and within a few minutes you’ll find yourself at one of the two harbors, which are only a couple of hundred yards from each other. I can imagine this as a perfect film location for a romantic story. Lots of artists have chosen Rovinj as home; the displays of their work fill the doorways to their studios and are a welcome remedy for the inevitable kitschy (made-in-China) tourist stuff that pops up all too often even here. Every street demands its photo be taken, whether because of flower baskets, colorful shutters, ancient stonework or laundry hanging out to dry.
The place where I’m staying is owned by people who also own one of the many restaurants in town. On my first night, I ate there and had some yummy grilled fish caught that day. Fish dinners is turning into one of the themes of this trip. Rovinj’s harbor has a few sightseeing boats but it’s mostly filled with hard-working little fishing boats (all in need of a [purely cosmetic] paint job – the boats are seaworthy, what more do they need?) that bring in catches of the day for the restaus. There are also fish farms and mussel and oyster farms only a mile or so away, big business along most of Croatia’s coast.
On Monday, I took the public bus to nearby Pula to visit a bunch of Roman ruins scattered about the old town. Pula is on the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula and only 40 minutes from Rovinj. Pula feels more like a small city with an urban vibe very much in evidence. A large, well preserved amphitheatre is the town’s UNESCO centerpiece with restoration work in progress. A stash of ancient stone amphorae sits in the underground vaults where dead and dying, the losers from the old gladiator days would have been hauled so the next act could get started. There is an exhibition of olive oil pressing methods and equipment, more sophisticated than I expected and maps showing the trade routes for the oil, wine and other food products.
Out in the fresh air, turning left down the hill leads you to the center of the old town area and a Roman temple, more excavated ruins – which is to say walls and foundations – a triumphal arch (are arches always triumphal?) an excavated floor mosaic and other bits of wall here and there. I also found a shop selling local Croatian products and bought a small sampler of olive oil, honey and fig liqueur.
At first I had considered renting a car so I could see more Istrian towns but in the end I settled for taking the public bus to a town it served with the most to see (Pula). This just means there will be more to see next time. Already I can hardly wait for the time when Croatia and I can be together again.
I’ll be adding photos and reposting, so stay tuned.