Pula to Venice
LUND--We left Sweden in an interim season that had not quite become fall. The day was sunny and cloudy, alternating between the two every few minutes. In a little more than two weeks we would spend a week in Croatia, journey through Venice and Florence and take a night train back to Budapest which still reigns as our favorite city. The last time we flew home from Budapest it had become Spring in our absence. The weather had gained the warm breath of coming summer, cherry blossoms adorned the trees and the sun had burned away the last of the winter clouds. Now the air is chill and the leaves are turning and falling, you can feel the wind bite your skin through your clothing and the grey, featureless cap of clouds seems to have settled again over Scandinavia.
Together we looked around the apartment that day. We had changed money into three different currencies, I'd made us sandwiches, Lena had bought a new camera and I carried a modest three. Hotels had been booked, arrangements made. Our bags were packed and we hoisted them up, turned off the light and walked down to the street. We waved goodbye to the owner of the little Arab café downstairs and set off for the train station. That first train took us to Copenhagen airport and our first flight to Zagreb, Croatia. It was night in Zagreb and we spent our couple hour layover there writing postcards and drinking beer in the smoky bar. There wasn't much to say on the postcards yet. "We have left but aren't there yet... Zagreb feels like an airport and is dark. It probably isn't always dark but it is now because it is nighttime..." But we wrote some anyway.
Our next plane was a small twin-engine, turbo-prop that hopped us 45 minutes to Pula where a car from our lodgings was waiting for us. Jakob, our driver took us from there to the Pula Youth Hostel and we had our first glimpse of the Adriatic, black water lapping a white beach in the night.
We woke to sun and the incredible sight of Adriatic blue. It is like no other color I have ever seen. It is as clear as the Caribbean but its colors less pastel, more primary and deep. I kept hearing Homer's words, "The wine dark sea," in my head and days later, as we crossed the narrow straits to the isle of Brioni, the waves seemed, on the edges of their deep blue, to have an a deep magenta cast.
We were there just a week or two off high season and that had mostly advantages, prices were considerably less and, speaking a few days later to an expatriate American, we had avoided enormous hordes of tourists (who we were later to encounter in Italy). The downside was we had dreamed of lazy days soaking in the sun and swimming but it was never really hot. The sun could be intense but the air had a chill to it and the sea, once immersed in it, was tolerable but less than balmy. So our beach holiday became more of a walking, sightseeing and café holiday which, in a land of plentiful and cheap truffles is not altogether a bad thing.
The next week found us walking 20 or 30 minutes back and forth from the hostel into downtown Pula and taking day trips to the hilltop town of Labin and Tito's island retreat on Brioni. Breakfasts were at the hostel, bread and cheese and tea watching the day begin on the deep blue Adriatic. We explored Pula, the Roman amphitheater, narrow winding streets, eating pizza and pasta with truffles, sitting outside on the hotter days and inside on cool nights.
All too soon our time there came to an end. Vowing to return, making plans to, next time perhaps, fly into far southern Dubrovnik and make our way back north, we packed our bags again. My alarm woke us at 0430. We had paid our tab at the hostel the night before and reserved tickets on a bus to Venice. We shouldered our packs, locked the door, dropped the key in the box and hiked to the main road. We waited there in the pre-dawn and soon the bus came. It took us away, up into the mountains, out of Croatia, across a tiny corner of Slovenia and then down and into Italy, through the port city of Trieste and, before noon, on the streets of Venice where we fought our way through crowds to a wide canal and caught a water-taxi to our next brief home.