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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Pula, Croatia

Sitting at the tip of the Istrian peninsula 

Pula is the largest city on the Croatian part of the Istrian peninsula, and its major landmark is the Arena, the 1st century Roman amphitheatre. It's one of six large Roman arenas that are still in existence and the only one with all 4 side towers. It's very impressive to see, seeing it as a child I was more impressed with it than the Colosseum in Rome since the Arena was more intact. It's still used today for concerts, there's a museum section underground with some artefacts from the local area. 

It's incredibly well preserved even considering the locals used some of its stone for local building projects!

Pula, then known as Pola was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and it flourished during those years as it was the major port, as well as the base for their navy. Captain Von Trapp of the Sound of Music fame was stationed in Pola. With the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, Pola became part of Italy. It was after World War II when it became part of what was known as Yugoslavia that the city was called Pula. Both Pola and Pula are used today.

The town square.

The Temple of Augustus.

The Temple of Augustus can be found in the town square. It had originally been one of three temples, it stood to the left of the main temple (which doesn't exist anymore) and the Temple of Diana, the back part of which can be seen in the back of the Communal Palace (the City Council building) on the right. The Temple of Augustus was built to honour the Roman Emperor Augustus and it was built during his lifetime, which was between 27BC and 14 AD. It had been badly damaged during the bombing raids of World War II but restored by two Italian stonemasons after the war. 

The local tourist office is located in the town square so I was able to go in and ask for a map and some advice on what to see on a day trip to Pula. Having already gone to see the Arena, I was shown a walking route around the old part of the town that would loop back to the square. Perfect!

Pula Cathedral, the oldest part of it dates back to the 5th century, the facade was added in 1715. The Bell Tower was added around that time, using some stone from the amphitheatre!

I walked around the old town, in the centre (up the hill!) is the Pula Fortress, the Kaštel, it was built during the time the Venetians controlled the town. Another building with bits of stone from the amphitheatre. It's now a Museum of Istria and you can get some great views of the surrounding area from the tower.

My favourite statue is one of James Joyce walking across the bridge at Ponte Rosso in Trieste. James Joyce lived in Trieste a number of years, teaching English there. The statue has such a natural pose that it appeals to me, well, it seems it has a rival in Pula! James Joyce also spent a few months in Pula, (which was part of Austria, along with Trieste at the time), he taught English, mainly to the Austrians from the naval base. His Pula statue he's even more relaxed sitting at an outdoor cafe!

The Arch of the Sergii, also built in the 1st century. The age that monuments can be found in Europe still astounds me, what has survived is amazing. The Arch was built to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Actium for the Sergio brothers. They belonged to an important family from the area and ended up with a monument that has lasted 2,000 years! The arch leads to the town square, so it's towards the end of the circular loop.

Pula, has a number of museums, an aquarian located in an old Austro-Hungarian era fortress, as well as the Brijuni islands. The largest of the islands became a popular destination for the Viennese upper classes at the beginning of the 20th century, there were hotels, a casino, a yacht harbour, restaurants, even Austrian royals holidayed there. The resort floundered under Italy, and under Yugoslavia the island became the private summer residence of Marshall Tito. The islands were off limits to the local population, with the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, under Croatia, the islands were opened and the resorts on the largest island were reopened. The islands have again become popular holiday destination.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Monarto Zoo

South Australia

I went back to being a tourist in my own state this week. I visited Monarto Zoo for the first time. It's an open range zoo about an hour from Adelaide, it's an easy drive out to Monarto, along the South Eastern Freeway. The zoo is well sign posted from the freeway exit and so is easy to find. (Just as well as I hadn't thought to bring a map! Nor do I have a GPS!)

The Visitor's Centre at the zoo, your first stop. The centre is a 2.5km drive from the entrance to the zoo. The whole property is 1,500 hectares ( about 3,700 acres) but only 250 hectares is open to the public. My first surprise was that I had assumed you drove your own car through the zoo, along the trails and saw the animals, that's not the case. Cars are parked by the Visitor's Centre and then you catch a shuttle bus which takes you around. There are stops where you can get out, or the other option is to walk the trails between stops, or combine the walking and riding a bus.

The buses are quite big and they're on a regular schedule so are convenient, the guides that ride on them are really informative as well.

The zoo was initially established as a breeding area and threatened species sanctuary, but later was opened to the public. It still keeps to its original purpose and has a successful breeding program for threatened species. The first we came across was Przewalski's horse.

 Przewalski's horse is native to the steppes of Mongolia and was hunted for its meat. It was hunted to the brink of extinction, 13 were captured in 1945 and all the Przewalski's horses now in existence are descendants of 9 of these original 13. (Research!!) Quite amazing and there are around 1,500 Przewalski's horses worldwide and they have been reintroduced back to their native environment in Mongolia, the Monarto Zoo breeding program has sent horses to Mongolia, there's about 300 there in the wild there.

Feeding time for the giraffes, the zoo's giraffe breeding program had a boost earlier this year as 2 giraffe calves were born within a few weeks of each other. They're the smaller giraffes in the picture.

The zoo has 2 different species of rhinos, the black and the white, both are threatened in the wild. They are kept in separate areas, the black rhino was bigger, and he wouldn't turn around for me to take his picture! I didn't want a picture of his backside!

Two female white rhinos, a new young female has just arrived from Australia Zoo in Queensland and she's learning how to deal with the male rhino! We watched them charge at each other as they were being fed, the bull pushing the female away. The keeper then pointed out one of the older females came over and she knew how to deal with the bull and so would model the behaviour for the new female. It was interesting to watch, the older female didn't charge at the bull, but just eyed him off and he backed off, and backed away from the food!

The animals are grouped together in large open range enclosures and they're grouped based on which animals could get along! The painted dogs are in with the hyenas. The painted dogs are having a break under the shade as the day was getting warm.

The remains of farm buildings can be seen on the property and that's because in the 1970s the State Government had bought up what had been farmland to build a satellite city to Adelaide. (It was a way to distribute the urban population) The satellite city never got off the drawing board and by 1981, some of the farmers were able to buy their land back and the major part was given to the Adelaide Zoo. The farm buildings which can be seen belonged to the Bretag family, this cottage was lived in right up until the 1950s, nearby are the remains of a diary, and the lime kiln has been restored by apprentice stone masons. 

Visitors can leave the bus at designated viewing areas, this is the Waterhole viewing area with the African animals. The viewing areas have toilets and vending machines as well as information on the animals you can see.

Ostriches, zebras and giraffes from the Waterhole viewing area. As it's November the grass has already dried off so the scene is more dry savannah, than lush temperate!

The giraffe herd at the waterhole, the track for the bus is between the giraffes so visitors do get a close up view of them.

Male ostrich, the black ones are the males I found out! There are emus as well in the more open areas, when the zoo was fenced off against feral pests, whatever native animals were inside remained. So it's possible to spot kangaroos and emus wandering around the zoo.

Next to the Visitor's Centre is a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating.

Near the Visitor's Centre is an open picnic/play area with this great rhino sculpture! There's also a children's playground and seated picnic tables. In the background is the roof to the chimpanzee enclosure.

There's an enclosure with Meerkats, very cute!

Then it's a short walk to the chimpanzee enclosure, which has an outdoor and indoor area. I managed to get there just as a couple of chimpanzees were outside, then decided to join the rest who were inside.

There are more animals, some were too far away to get a good photo off, or I was on the wrong side of the bus! The lions were in their night enclosure as there was building work going on in their area, a new viewing experience was being built, where the visitor was in a caged area and the lions roamed free outside!

As much as it's a bit of a drive from Adelaide to visit the zoo, it's easy to spend a full day there. You can do as many loops with the shuttle bus as you want, so morning loop, return to Visitor's Centre for lunch, then afternoon loop. For those who are feeling energetic, walk some of the trails, from the information given, none of them take too long and then it's possible to catch the bus to the next stop or back to the Visitor's Centre. It all makes for a great day out!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

HMS Victory

Lord Nelson's flagship

HMS Victory can be found in the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth. A single attraction ticket can be bought and just the Victory can be visited or an All Attraction ticket can be purchased and you can include a visit to the Victory along with seeing the rest of the Dockyard. To me it was better value to pay for the All Attraction ticket and I visited the Victory, the MaryRose, the Battle of Jutland exhibition and went on a harbour cruise.

The Victory is currently undergoing a 10 year restoration process and her upper masts and rigging have been removed. She doesn't look quite as spectacular as if the masts were full height.

The Victory was launched in 1765, and her major claim to fame was that she was Lord Nelson's flagship in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She continued as a warship until 1824 and then brought to Portsmouth as a harbour ship. In 1922 she was in such bad disrepair that she was taken out of the water and placed in a dry dock and that's become her permanent home. Restoration work was carried out and she became a museum ship. The Victory is the oldest naval ship still in commission and her dry dock home is the oldest dry dock in the world.

The restoration work that's underway at the moment to to replace the steel cradle that's holding her in the dry dock. The weight of the ship is pulling her apart, so a new support system has been devised that will mimic how she would sit in water.

The Victory is 104 gun ship, she's incredibly heavy as all these cannons are cast iron! Then there's all the cannon balls as well!

When not in battle the area was the sailor's dining room! 

Space was at a premium so beds were slung above the cannons.

The crew's sleeping area with their ship's trunks for personal belongings.

Those who were higher up the naval command got better accomodation! A somewhat more comfortable bed for Captain Hardy.

I'm assuming this rather ornate bed was Lord Nelson's.

The Great Cabin, the Victory was the flagship of the fleet and so had her captain as well as the Admiral of the Fleet sailing on her. She had a spacious area for them to work.

The Dining Cabin where naval officers could be entertained in style. Also the place where over 2 nights in October 1805, Nelson gathered together the captains of his fleet and went over his plans for the Battle of Trafalgar. Maps have been laid out on the table.

Up on deck, looking out to the Dockyard and the Spinnaker Tower in the distance.

I liked the imagery here, onboard the oldest naval ship with the newest one, the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth in the background.

Munitions on board. I like the wooden bucket next to them, to throw water on an explosion I presume!

The displays on board were all really well done, including the everyday life ones. The sailors all had to be fed and chickens were kept on board, so there were fresh eggs.

Right down in the lowest level of the ships were the barrels containing gunpowder, to fire the cannons.

The Victory as a museum ship was excellent, there are multiple levels to explore, each level displaying a different part of life on board. There was a hospital section, the galley with an enormous cast iron stove, as well as the officers' areas.

I had a quick look through as I was running out of time, I had a prebooked ferry to catch to the Isle of Wight. Regardless I thought it was terrific and it did an excellent job immersing the visitor in the time period where the Victory was a warship.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Portsmouth, U.K.

Harbour cruise

I was taking the ferry across to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth, so had a few hours to explore a small section of the city. Liking anything historical I headed to the Historic Dockyards as I wanted to see Nelson's Victory and the MaryRose.

When buying the ticket to those two attractions I saw that there was one inclusive ticket that gave you entry to everything in the Dockyards as well as a harbour cruise. That was a bonus and I began with going on the harbour cruise first.

The most prominent landmark in Portsmouth is now the Spinnaker Tower, I love it as it's another example of interesting modern architecture. The tower is an observation deck, the bottom platform has a glass floor, which can be seen in this picture. The top platform is open  to the elements. I didn't have a desire to climb up into the tower, I just enjoy the sight of it.

The island in this picture is Barrow Island, it has a very small connection with Australia. Prison Hulks (rotting ships that were used to house convicts when the prisons filled up) were moored next to this island. The problem of where to house convicts led to the British settlement of Australia, the convicts were taken off the Hulks and sent there! The island was also used as a burial site for the convicts who died on the Hulks.

The harbour entrance and the Isle of Wight can be seen faintly in the distance.

Looking into the Historic Dockyards with HMS Victory in the centre. The tops of the masts have been removed as the ship is undergoing some restoration work. HMS Victory was launched in 1765 and is the world's oldest naval ship in commission. (Although I don't think she'll be going into battle anytime soon!) The round black building houses the remains of the Tudor ship the MaryRose.

This is the new aircraft carrier the Queen Elizabeth, she left Scotland earlier this year (where she was built) and had come down to her home port of Portsmouth after completing her first sea trials. She currently out to sea, if the sea trials schedule is be followed, with multiple trials of equipment planned, she won't be 'operational military capable' until 2020!
The ship is huge, she was really impressive to see. She can carry up to 40 aircrafts, the crew size is in the thousands. The ship is so big that the harbour where she is moored had to be dredged and hundreds of old artefacts were found in the mud.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is guarded around the clock, these are water police boats who patrol on the harbour as there's an exclusion zone around her.

Portsmouth Harbour is the main home of the Royal Navy, it has been the naval base since the 13th century. It was easy to defend as the harbour has a narrow entrance, we sailed around parts of HMNB (Her  Majesty's Naval Base) Portsmouth, with the commentator telling us the names of the naval ships we were seeing, which I've now forgotten!

The harbour is also a commercial port, it has ferries that sail across to France and the Isle of Wight. There's also a hovercraft that goes across to Ryde on the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth.
It's a major port for goods coming into the U.K., we were told that all the bananas that come into the U.K. come through Portsmouth!

In the early 2000s, what had been the onshore naval base HMS Vernon was redeveloped into a shopping and residential precinct. The shopping area had outlet stores and was all very popular on a Sunday afternoon! The Spinnaker Tower is at situated here, the complex is called Gunwharf Quays. The figurehead belonged to the old ship HMS Vernon that the area was originally named for.

The HMS Warrior, the first iron plated and iron hulked warship, launched in 1860, she's part of the Historic Dockyards but can also be hired out for events such as weddings and corporate functions. That's the reason behind the white wrapping at the stern of the ship. As well as sails, she also had a steam engine, with the 3 masts she must have looked amazing under full sail. 

The Historic Dockyard was great to visit, but the Harbour Cruise was extra special, a really good way to get to know Portsmouth. The cruise takes about an hour so plan around what parts of the dockyard you want to see. The ticket allows for repeated visits for 12 months from the date of purchase. It does mean that you don't need to cram everything in on one day if you're in the area for an extended stay. Unfortunately I wasn't so had to select what parts I really wanted to see and I ran out of time and didn't get to go onboard the Warrior.