Monday, 7 October 2013

Travel: Pula, Croatia (+Stinjan, Brijuni Islands, Puntizela)

This summer I went to Pula, Croatia in the Istrija region and took my friend Jen with me. My family is from Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia so we stayed at our family home which is also a part of a few rented apartments.

Croatia as a whole has a lot to offer, and has certainly become one of the more trendy holiday destinations in the past few years. I've never seen so many people go there from the UK before, and it's nice to see that tourism seems to be picking up in the neighboring countries as well. It's the place to go for sailing holidays, breathtaking stone beaches, cute alleyway walks, mouth watering seafood and wonderful local hospitality. Some areas can be pricey, such as Hvar, but there are lots of small towns that are more reasonably priced and I think Pula is one of them. Full of culture and Roman ruins, another plus is that you can take a round trip to Venice for a day for only £60!

Check out my top selection of what to see, where to eat and what to do in Pula...

BEST EXPERIENCE: Spending a day at the Brijuni island
BEST FOOD: Fresh mussels
INTERESTING FACT: During low season, huge industrial boats come to Pula every day and take the stones dug out by the beaches, taking them to Venice to prevent sinking!

On big Brijuni beach

Roman Amphitheater (Pula Arena) - Very cool, very grand, very interesting! Much smaller than in Rome but equally fascinating when you think about the history of a place like this.

Temple of Augustus - Another stunning Roman structure, you will still be wondering how this is in Croatia and whether it's for real.

The Roman amphitheater in the centre of Pula 

Puntizela village and beach - This is where we stayed, a cute little residential village with a small but decent beach that's a stone's throw away from the apartments. You get to really immerse yourself in local culture if yo stay here, as you will literally be living in the people's houses. There is plenty to do for children, and even a massive campsite by the beach where some stay for months. The beach has a cool bar, diving centre and water sports club, but also some sweet spots for a hammock or chill out time.

Fazana - A little town nearby, just a 15 minute ride, this is where you can get a boat to Brijuni islands. We also stayed here for a drink and dinner by the beach, and the town came to life at night so we were glad we stayed to check it out a little longer. There were lots of narrow cobbled streets, a big market and some great food choices.

Brijuni islands (Veliki Brijun) - This island is very special to Croatia and the people of ex-Yugoslavia, and is an important place to visit. It's without a doubt one of the nation's precious jewels, and a lasting memory and monument to the late and wonderful president Tito. Brijuni islands are a group of fourteen small islands formerly owned by Tito and known as his temporary resident for 6 months of the year.

Almost 100 foreign heads of state visited Tito on his islands, gifting him a host of animals and lavish presents which can still be seen by tourists today. Visitors included Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Richard Burton, Indira Gandhi amongst others. I can't believe this gem is now free to be roamed, and roam we did - in a golf cart! You can rent these out for as long as you want to pay, and it's the best way to see the island in your free time, plus it's fun!! Alternatively you can take one of the vintage trains as this will be included in your visitor ticket. After some exploring of the stunning serene spots, we came back and settled on the stoney beach by the hotels for a little dip.

The hotel is stunning, but also expensive, and you can frequently see big yachts mooring next to it. The most bizzare thing we saw was in the museum - the stuffed animals that were gifts to Tito and died of natural causes...seen in all their glory behind glass and covered in dust. Rather odd but still interesting to see, it's all a part of it!!

Dinosaur foot prints on the Veliki Brijun - This is just by the safari park and easy to spot. Dating back millions of years, they are actual real dinosaur foot prints! Check out my photo below.

Real dinosaur foot print on big Brijuni island 

Croatia is like a haven for great seafood dishes. I pretty much lived on mussels and grilled squid every day, and we had some barbecued fish one night, too. We stayed at my family's home so we had the privilege of my aunt's cooking almost every day. She made us delicious stews and meat meals, and for breakfast we had lots of fresh bread, salami and cheese...just like we do it in Bosnia! There are plenty of cute little restaurants with various dishes from pasta and seafood to pizza and traditional meat dishes with Turkish influence.

If you are in the suburban areas in self-catered apartments it's a little bit harder to find restaurants but there are lots in the city centre and it's beautiful narrow streets filled with Roman architecture.


At the big Brijuni island zoo 

Wearing River Island dress, Zara shoes and a vintage clutch bag

Bikini from TK Maxx

We were lucky enough to have a few rides here and there, but the buses in Pula are pretty decent. We took a bus straight to the centre and a bar at the harbour for less than £1 one way and it was dead easy. Everything is signposted and tourist friendly, and locals are pretty good at helping out if you get lost! You can also take taxis of course, but they can be a little expensive. If you stay in the centre, you can pretty much walk everywhere.

We rented this bad boy on the Brijuni island - best little trip ever!

If you like a good party, head to the popular (and pricey) island of Hvar in Croatia. If you want to explore nature, check out Krka national park and waterfalls - it's one of the most stunning places I have been to. Festival goer? I hear that Garden Festival in Tisno can be a blast.


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