Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 2.8.18
Just Outside Washington

All photos courtesy the authors


Istrain Peninsula, Pula, and Rovinj
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Another lovely autumn day with sun and cool temperatures. We were picked up by the coach for a tour of the Istrain Peninsula, which is the largest peninsula in the Adriadic, and is triangular. The towns at the angles are: Savudrija, Opatija and Medulan, which is just south of Pula. This area is heavily influence by Italy, of which it was a part between the two World Wars. The highway signs have the town/city names in Croatian and Italian.

We had another great guide to show us Pula, which is the largest city in Istria County, Croatia with a population of 60,000. It is known for its multitude of ancient Roman buildings, including the famous Pula Arena, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters.


The arena was our first stop and it is one of the few Roman amphitheaters with four walls remaining. It was used by Mussolini and today it is used primarily for concerts.

In this city, whenever you excavate you can count on finding Roman artifacts and ruins. The guide told of a neighbor, who during a renovation, uncovered a full-size statue. When he notified the local authorities, he was told to keep it; they did not any more storage room. She said it looked great in his back yard.

Pula has a long tradition of wine making, fishing, shipbuilding, and tourism. Also, it has also been the administrative center of Istria since ancient Roman times.

In Roman amphitheaters the area under the arena floor housed gladiators and animals, and was used for storage.


We descended below where there were many artifacts including the amphoras in the picture. These are just stacked. In another area, the amphoras are standing, which gives a better idea of how tall they are. In response to a question, the guide indicated that two slaves/servants were required to carry each amphora when they were full of wine or olive oil. Also, there were stored under the arena are parts of columns, stones, etc.

Our next stop, the port facilities.


The shipbuilding areas were pointed out across the bay and closer up; shipbuilding is still a major industry in this area.


We were off to our next stop, the town of Rovinj, a town of about 15,000, which was about 25 miles north. It is about halfway up the Adriatic coast to Savudrija. The countryside was covered with many olive groves and at times we could see the Adriatic.


We were just in time for lunch. Our coach left us off and we walked to the waterfront to a nice restaurant, it was a bit cool to sit out.


The view of the old town from our restaurant shows the harbor and the cathedral. This part of the harbor had mostly power boats, other areas had big yachts.

After lunch we walked around the harbor to tour the older parts of Rovinj.


The influence of the Venetians can be seen in the churches and on public buildings where the Venetian Lion was carved into the facades. The lion has one paw on a book; if the book is open, it was a time of peace; if the book was closed, at time of war. After a while you can tell whether the church was from the Venetian, Romanesque, or other era just from the bell towers -- at least some of the time I (Kathy) could tell.


It turns out during the time of Tito, the government owned and operated businesses such as ship building, steel mills, etc. and provided free housing to workers. The size of the apartments given, all small by our standards, depended on the number of people in the family.


After the breakup of Yugoslavia, people could buy their apartments at very low rates. As a result, you could have doctors, teachers, and others in 'professions' living in the same building as those manufacturing workers.

Now, in most resort towns like Rovinj, the owners of the apartments are selling to Germans, Italians, and others who want a summer vacation place. Using the money, they then buy homes outside the city. Those who do not sell, frequently use the apartments as summer rentals.

We all walked to the hilltop where a service at the Church of St. Euphemia was just letting out. And who was St. Euphemia? Beats me, but his/her relics are in the sarcophagus in the church.


After the visit to the church, we walked back down the hill along the water side of the town.


It was impossible to get lost; just go downhill and one wound up at Valdibora Square. Where we stopped at an outdoor café for a mineral water and waited for our group to collect.

After returning to Opatija, four of us -- Mary, Kathy, Dave, and Frank -- walked along the promenade and up the hillside to a restaurant recommended by Zoran. It was really busy. After a short wait outside in a pavilion, long enough for a glass of wine, we were seated.

As in all of the restaurants so far, the food was very good and more than we could finish! A bit later some more of our group arrived but the place was so busy they were turned away. Then back to the hotel to pack for the journey to Zadar.