And so we end where we began…

7 Oct

Or at least where civilization began, to a degree. The Roman Amphitheater at Pula was built early in the first century CE. It is rare even among its brethren, in that it is the only one with four sides and all three architectural orders intact. It is also the sixth largest in the world. Anyone who wonders what in tarnation a coliseum is doing on the Croatian coast might like to know that Diocletian retired to the region—one of the few Roman emperors to make it to retirement. I’ve never seen a bolder anachronism, planted brazenly in the middle of a city and culture that have nothing overtly to do with it on the one hand, and that sprouts flourishing tourist industry out of its remains on the other. While I was there, I even saw a set of Italian tourists on the site (think of it, the children of Rome visiting Roman ruins in Eastern Europe?). Incidentally…..the bathrooms can be a bit confusing for the unsuspecting Texan. Especially when said Italian babushkas decide to visit the gents’ when the ladies’ is occupied. Yeah. Never follow the lead of an elderly Italian tourist. That’s a life lesson.

There are other ruins in Pula: a spectacular Roman arch, a museum filled with marbles. We wandered through the littered remnants of an small theatre—the only sad sight (site?) of the day. There are sunny piazzas filled with open air restaurants. I suggest you choose one without a pictorial menu posted outside.

Pula

I’ve never seen anything quite like the Croatian coast. I found the whole country enchanting, really. Since returning home, I’ve been reading Michael O’Brien’s The Island of the World, which narrates much of the country’s heartbreaking history in language as sweet and painful as a violin concerto.

I recommend the book. I recommend the country. I hope to return someday.

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