Tag Archives: Istria

On This Day – The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

Without doubt the most important and most impressive building in Pula is the first century Roman Amphitheatre.  It is the sixth largest in the world and one of the best-preserved examples of its kind.

The Coliseum in Rome was built at about the same time and is the biggest Roman Amphitheatre and could seat a massive fifty-thousand spectators (Some estimates suggest eighty thousand but generally about fifty thousand is the agreed capacity of the stadium), the second largest was Capua, also in Italy but now sadly in ruin, which had only a slightly smaller capacity, and the third was in El Djem in Tunisia with a capacity of thirty-five thousand.

The Amphitheatre in Pula was designed for about twenty-five thousand and there were similar sized stadiums in Verona in Italy and at Nimes and Arles in Southern France so this was more of a Championship rather than a Premiership Ground.

I say this but it seems that no one can be absolutely sure about which was the largest in terms of capacity and it is generally agreed that this was the Coliseum but we can be more certain about physical size and there was a plaque nearby that claimed that this was the third largest in the Roman Empire. Interestingly that using this particular criteria the plaque only listed the Coliseum as second largest but it’s like I have always said – size isn’t the most important thing!

We walked around the external walls and I was immediately struck by the grandeur and magnificence of the building.

I have been to Rome and seen the Coliseum and in my opinion nothing can compare with that but this magnificent building made that assessment a close run thing. It towered mightily above us stretching up into the clear blue sky and looking proud and strong. The area around it is open and accessible and that makes viewing it in many ways easier than looking at the Coliseum surrounded as that is by a busy main road and a constant throng of tourists jostling for photographic opportunities.

There are over two hundred surviving Roman amphitheatres across what was the Roman Empire and this is one of the best to see. There is still a lot missing however as parts of it had been dismantled over the years to provide ready prepared paving for roads and a convenient supply of building materials for later construction projects such as the Venetian fortress built nearby.

Thankfully most of the vandalism was restricted to the internal seating and terracing and the external walls with their towering arches are still left in place to see today. Underneath the arena there is a small museum housed in the underground corridors where exotic animals and gladiators waited their turn to be raised to the stadium for their part in the bloody show and one can only try to imagine what a brutal and thoroughly unpleasant place this might once have been.

The amphitheatre was built on sloping ground so that the part facing the sea has three levels and the other side facing the land has two. The great plinths which form the base are visible, along with two orders of arches divided by pilasters and an attic of rectangular windows.

The amphitheatre was part of the primary gladiator circuit and remained in use until the fifth century and in that time it is impossible to imagine how many men and animals died in this place.

When it was in use large beams supported awnings which protected the spectators from the sun or the rain. Four towers around the perimeter had cisterns containing perfumed water that could be sprinkled on the crowd because the smell of animals, butchered bodies and fear must have been rather distressing even for a blood-thirsty mob. Under the fifteen entrances was a ditch served by elevators for beasts, people and stage sets to be moved easily about.

It was late afternoon now so having completed our tour of the amphitheatre and the underground museum it was time to leave and drive to our hotel which was in the nearby fishing village of Fažana.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

Fazana Croatia Sunset

In the sky the late sun and some occasional clouds were beginning to assemble into an impressive sunset ensemble like a bonfire in the sky and with Kim’s magic camera (if you remember, it can capture a sunset even if there isn’t one) it seemed certain that we would be able to get some good pictures.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move

Fazana Croatia Sunset

In the sky the late sun and some occasional clouds were beginning to assemble into an impressive sunset ensemble like a bonfire in the sky and with Kim’s magic camera (if you remember, it can capture a sunset even if there isn’t one) it seemed certain that we would be able to get some good pictures.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

Fazana Croatia Sunset

Fishing Boat, Fažana, Croatia

We met Alex as arranged at twelve o’clock and he explained that there would be a short delay as the Capitan (this is how he described the owner of the boat) had been dissatisfied with the quality of last night’s fish catch in Fažana and had had to go to the fish market in Pula to get satisfactory supplies for lunch.  We fully understood that because we had seen the catch coming ashore late last night and believe me it was not very impressive!

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Croatia, Istria

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Istria 2011, Markets and Fortresses

Pula Istria Croatia

After we arrived we parked in the same car park and went out into the town to visit the market that was close by.  There was an outside area with rows of colourful pitches with stalls straining under the weight of fruit and vegetables all presented for purchase in an untidy but satisfying way but the best part of the market was the covered building constructed of iron and glass which housed the butchers and the delicatessens and best of all the fishmongers.

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Istria 2011, Romans and Fascists

Pula Istria Croatia Main Square

Having visited the primary tourist attraction of the city on the first day we walked back to the town centre to see what else we could discover.  The town had a slightly uncared for feel with many buildings having a lack of attention to detail in the finishings with drab concrete facades, exposed pipe work and cables that had not been quite tidied up and the first impression was that, compared to Rovinj, this place was a bit shabby and definitely still quite short of money and investment.

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Istria 2011, A Boat Ride With Dolphins

Funghi Dingle Bay Dolphin

The next morning the church bells woke me again at six o’clock and after a good night’s sleep I found it impossible to snooze away another hour or so, so knowing that Micky is an early riser and would probably be wandering about the village I decided to dress and go and see if I could find him.  There was no sign of him in the streets or the coffee bars and it turned out that just like me the day before he was on early morning shopping mission to buy a new travel kettle to replace the one that Sue and Christine had somehow managed to blow up!

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Istria 2011, Rovinj

Rovinj Istria Croatia

It was really hot in the midday sun and we sat and watched the harbour activity, the tour groups being led around the town and the children playing in the square.  Rovinj was certainly very different to Pula with a chic Italianate ambiance that oozed style and disposable income.  Whereas in Pula the tourist part of the city rubs shoulders with the noise and sweat of its industry Rovinj felt exclusively like a pleasure zone for holiday makers, yachtsmen and tourists with no hint of a scruffy industrial area.

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Istria 2011, Palm Sunday and Intermittent Coastal Roads

Palm Sunday Fazana

Our plan today was to drive north along the coast to Rovinj and possibly Poreč but we would see how the day went before committing to both.  The map seemed to suggest two alternative routes.  One was a main road, possibly even a motorway, and so, with my paranoid nervousness about toll roads, we selected what appeared to be a perfectly good coastal route that would take us through a succession of villages along the way.

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