Sunday, 20 December 2015
Arena, Pula, Croatia
The Arena in Pula, Croatia is a Roman amphitheatre (think like the Colosseum), it's one of six largest surviving amphitheatres in the world. It was built between 27 BC and 68AD when the city of Pula became a regional centre for Roman rule. (Yes research again, I don't retain all of this information in my head!)
I wanted to visit it again as it was something of a nostalgia visit for me. I had been taken to see it as a child and later in my teens, my mother had gone to boarding school in Pula and later lived and worked there. For her the town was a second home and the Arena loomed over the town and was ever present. As a child I just thought it was an amazing structure, it was huge! (Still is!!) I was so impressed with the Arena that when I later was taken to see the Colosseum in Rome my childhood impression was 'meh!' The Colosseum looked broken, there was no floor in the middle, the Arena was more complete and impressive to me at least!
I was staying in Trieste and thought I would make the day trip out to Pula. (I use the Croatian name for the city but it's also known by its Italian name of Pola) I took the bus and for the most part the trip was pleasant enough, the Istrian countryside is lovely and familiar as I'd done the trip many, many times. But as the bus stops in quite a few towns on its way down to Pula, the whole trip took 4 hours! I began to regret the idea of doing it as a day trip, note to self next time stay in Pula for a few days!
The bus takes the old road down the coast and so it goes down into the Lim Canal which is between Vsar and Rovinj. (The newer highway is further inland and there's a large bridge/overpass that crosses the valley) The Canal is an estuary that goes inland for 10km, its name comes from the Roman 'limes' which means limit(border) as it was the natural border between Dalmatia and Italia.
Photos from the bus window, snapping away constantly hoping to get some clear views without the trees on the side of the road obscuring the canal! Oysters and mussels grow in the canal, I think that might be what those white buoys are marking.
The canal is called the Limski Kanal in Croatian and it's possible to cruise the canal in tourist boats.
The road crosses the canal where it narrows and become a ford.
Once at the bus station I had to wing it when it came to finding the Arena, in the past I had just been taken there by either parents or relatives in cars. I was now on foot, I reasoned it's a very big building I'm sure I'll see it! Luckily I spotted a sign and found it easily enough, it's not hard to spot!
The Arena is still used today for concerts, it's very much a living building, not just a dead monument to the past. I think that's probably why I still prefer it to the Colosseum. I have the same view with palaces and stately homes, the ones that are still used or lived in such as Windsor Castle are far more interesting that those such as Hampton Court which is just a monument without life.
To the right of the picture the stone is much whiter I think that's from the early 19th century when restoration of the Arena began when Istria was under French rule. Previously the locals had taken stone to build with, they needed building material so they just removed bits of an unused building!
The original seating. In 1932 (when Istria was under Italian rule) the Arena was adapted for theatre performance, military parades and public meetings (it was the Fascist era) The other bit of research I found about that time was that the Italian fascist administration put forth the idea that they wanted to dismantle the Arena and then ship it and reassemble it back in mainland (the boot) Italy!! The idea was abandoned due to the costs involved!
View from the Arena floor, tourists can walk around quite freely. There's a museum showing artefacts from Roman times. And if you're interested in a tacky souvenir, there's also men who walk around in Gladiator costumes that you can pay to take a photo with! I passed on that one!