We wanted to wake up early but due to the previous day’s long trip, we allowed ourselves to stay longer in bed and have a thorough rest before we get on with the ride back home. The road trip down to Croatia worn us out and we would have stayed in bed until noon but none of us would like to miss the breakfast buffet.
After getting dressed, we headed to the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast. There weren’t many guests because it was not the peak season yet however; the buffet table was obviously laid to the fullest. There was a wide variety of food to choose from. Other than the usual hotel breakfast offers, our hotel also has some Mediterranean food which you won’t normally find in a breakfast menu (but perhaps in lunch or dinner menu). I got myself some Mediterranean food and I was impressed so I made a mental note to learn how to cook some of it at home particularly the vegetables—zucchinis, eggplants, paprika, potatoes, and onions baked in olive oil then seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
We visited the shore again after the hearty breakfast. It was still too cold to swim and unfortunately on that day, the sky promises a wet weather. It wasn’t long until we felt the first drops of rain. We headed back to our room and after agreeing on our route home, we collected our things and checked out.
Since we didn’t have the time to check it out on the previous day, we made a point to visit the city center before we leave Pula. To tell you honestly, I wasn’t so eager to see it at all because on the way to Punta Verudela, all I saw was ugly dilapidated buildings. Pula has a lot of lovely buildings that gives the impression of former glory but unfortunately these buildings obviously need renovations. I thought the city’s shabby appearance was caused by the Yugoslavian war but it wasn’t. According to history, it was still from WWII followed by the exodus of Pula’s Italian inhabitants to Italy after the war.
This negative impression and the unpleasant weather however, didn’t discourage my husband to see the city center so we drove there for a quick sightseeing. Surprisingly, the inner city looks remarkable. We came across a lot of structural designs which date back to the Roman times. The Triumphal Arch of the Sergi from the 1st century B.C., Hercules’ Gate and Twin Gates, the Temple of Augustus, a small Roman Theatre, and the highlight—the Pula arena. It’s my first time to see such and I was really fascinated. Roman architectures are really way ahead of their times or at least, of their understanding of humanity. Upon seeing the Arena, the movie “Gladiator” came rushing to my mind giving me pictures of gladiators dying on this very same arena. This thought gave me shivers.
We left the city and drove north on country roads along the western coast of Istria. We passed by a lot of lovely villages and towns that share the same characteristic—pebble beaches, narrow streets, white houses with almost flat maroon roofs, and the overall feeling of a quiet and relaxed Mediterranean life.
We stopped by at a tourist stop along Lim valley to enjoy the magnificent view of the Lim Bay. While at the place, we shopped for something to bring home. We bought a bottle of truffle and olive oil mix and parmesan from mixed goat and cow milk.
We also made stops at Vrsar, Funtana, and Poreč. These are beautiful fisherman towns along the coast and are known as stops for sailors. They all have ports where private yachts and sailboats of different sorts are anchored. We also dropped by Rovinj and I have to say that it is my favorite Istrian town. It’s a small wonderfully kept city with typical Mediterranean architecture. I really cannot explain where its charm comes from but it is definitely the kind of town where you fall in love in.
After Rovinj, the roads led us to Novigrad—another lovely town where we decided to have lunch in. And here is where things got funny. You see, when we travel, even if it is just on impulse like this one, we do our best to bring guides with us like maps and books about the place. We like Lonely Planet books because of the great tips we get from them and because it is supposedly for budget travelers. Lonely Planet for backpackers and Marco Polo for luxury travelers, right? That’s what I thought.
We consulted our book about where to have lunch in Novigrad and from the book, we learned about Ristorante Damir e Ornela. We saw a lot of restaurants that line up the port but we exerted extra effort to find Ristorante Damir e Ornela. It isn’t one of those restaurants facing the sea; instead it is in one of those hidden alleys. Trusting that Lonely Planet is kind to our budget, we went in. Upon entering, I immediately noticed that the overall atmosphere of the place says that this isn’t a place frequented by budget travelers.
There was no menu as they only serve the freshest available catch of the day. We wanted to turn back and find another place but the mixture of hunger and possible embarrassment made us order what they have. We were served six courses and a bottle of wine. I cannot really remember all the courses but what I can’t forget is the fresh fish they skinned and filleted in front of us. It was an impressive show and the result was even more impressive. Gosh! It was only like two mouthfuls but it was soooo great! It was real gourmet dining! All courses were served in minute amounts but they all tasted heavenly. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the food. I was itching to take out my camera and photograph each course but it was kind of embarrassing to do so.
The Croatian white wine served to us was exquisitely smooth. Too bad for my husband, he can only drink a couple of glass of it because he had to drive. I drank most of the wine and I was glad I did because when the bill came, I was already too relaxed to faint.
After Novigrad, we also passed by Umag but I was not able to appreciate it like the other towns because… well, I was drunk. After Umag, my husband drove away from the country roads to the expressway. Needless to say, I slept during the rest of the ride back to Graz.
Damir e Ornela Kroatien
Tel: (00 385 52) 75 81 34