We continued our trek exploring the Istrian country side for frescos by driving through Draguc, and finished up with a day trip to Pula to check out one of the best preserved Roman Amphitheaters in the world.
We drove for a couple hours from Pula to the new village: Draguć. Rumor had it a local elderly woman held the key to the frescos. Time to get our bearings.
A cute little restaurant in the square offered us beautiful views of the Istrian countryside. The rest of town was sleepy. We found the house number of the elderly woman with the key we wanted but no one was home. Hmm . . .
Back at the restaurant we met a Canadian couple who shared our same interest in getting the key to open the small stone church that held the fresco. We asked the restaurant if the lady with the key would be returning home soon only to find out, she had passed away!
Hey Deanna – these Canadian’s glean fruit too!
We were told the key was still in town but who held the key now wasn’t clear. The four of us walked the streets aimlessly until we heard some voices behind one home’s courtyard. A woman appeared and met our stares. We walked over to her and said “Good day” in Croatian.
“We would like to see the Frescos. Do you know where to find the key?”
We make the motions for a key opening a door. Then, as if our goal was to confuse her more – we try Spanish. Then French.
“Ah! Chiave!” She says something else in Italian and spins around. Holds a finger up to say “hang on a minute.” Looking up she launches into a barrage of Croatian. (She told her husband to wake up and put his pants on.) A few minutes later an older man appears in the doorway.
“You want to see the frescos?”
Yippie! We all switch back to English and asked him about the woman that keeps the key. He shook his head.
“No, she passed away last year.”
“Do you have the key?”
We felt defeated but this man wasn’t giving up. He led us slowly through the village looking for his friends. He seemed to have some idea of where the key was and we followed along. Stopping in front of another house we witness another exchange of Croatian and the shaking of heads.
Our new guide finally approaches his second friend. More Croatian. Pleasantries but no key. By the third friend we all confirm that the hands of time have officially frozen. Should we just call it a day?
The third friend went into his house and returned with what looked like the heaviest, most ancient key ring on earth. He passed the keys to our guide. Once again we walked in slow motion until we arrived at a tiny chapel on the edge of the hill at the back of the village.
Worth it! We were disappointed to find that someone (probably kids) had graffitied part of the fresco. Most was still in good condition. After Draguć, we decided we are all ‘frescoed out.’ We drove back to our apartment with one look back at the town that time forgot. We’ll never forget the keymaster of Draguć. Hvala (“Thank you”) friend!!!
Just outside Pula lie the Brijuni, a magical necklace of islands and inlets. We passed by them in the ferry from Italy, but it was so dark that we were unable to see just how beautiful they are.
The Brijuni is a group of fourteen small islands in the Croatian part of the northern Adriatic Sea, separated from the west coast of the Istrian peninsula by the Fažana Strait. The islands are a holiday resort and a Croatian National Park. Another great place for a cruising yacht. We didn’t have time to visit, since we were focused on the city of Pula itself. Next time we are in the area the Brijuni will be our priority!
Pula was where our ferry first stopped before heading to Rovinj after our trip across the Adriatic. We were impressed by their custom’s agents and also heard much about its Roman amphitheater. Since we didn’t have time to check out the Colosseum in Rome we decided we couldn’t miss checking out the Amphitheater in Pula. A bus runs hourly from Rovinj to Pula.
Pula’s Roman Amphitheater is the sixth largest in the world. Built between 69-81 A.D., it held 23,000 spectators. There is an unexpected reason why it is so well-preserved. The plague hit Pula three different times, so people were afraid to steal the stones. Today it is a unique venue for live music under the stars. Concert-goers are immune to the plague?
Gladiators once used the underground passages that now host an exhibition about olive growing in Istria in ancient times. The exhibits include reconstructions of machines once used for the production of olive oil and wine.
Triumphal Arch of Sergius
The Triumphal Arch of Sergius was built by a wealthy woman in 27 B.C. with her own money. The arch is intended to symbolize the Sergii family’s victory over death by achieving a happy afterlife. Walking through the arch, we entered the center of the old town.
The old center opens up into a Roman Forum (main square.) Some tourists were furiously snapping photos of a miniature bronze map of the city, complete with a tiny fountain of water.
Temple of Augustus
Turning around, we found the Temple of Augustus (1st century.) It was built and dedicated to Augustus Cesar. Inside a few sculptures were on display, but they weren’t really worth the entrance fee. It took a direct hit from an allied bomb in WWII. After the war the allies rebuilt the temple as best they could.
This fortress is located at the very top of the town and also contains a museum. The museum didn’t offer much except a rotating exhibit about cycling, and another exhibit about a ship that sank in the Adriatic. Wandering the ramparts we inspected the cannons. They’re not up to code.
Sometimes you just have take chances and wander through open doors. You never know what you’re going to find, but often times it’s worth it.