Istrian Penninsula and Rovinj
Clean air, historical sites, amazing and calming nature, peaceful environment, and the Mediterranean climate in close proximity of the sea..(sigh). The Istrian peninsula is our first visit in Croatia. It is known as the "Croatian Provence" because of its beautiful 19th century villas, it's clear emerald and blue waters, the fact that lavender grows here abundantly and that there are olive trees and grapes as far as the eye can see.
The Adriatic Sea is filled with minerals and because the currents run counter-clockwise, these waters are considered the cleanest in all of Europe. This area is also the richest region in Croatia due to olive oil production and....truffles! White and black truffles are found here which are known to be the highest quality in the world. In the town of Pula there is an amphitheater which is the most fully in-tact arena and the 6th largest in the world. It held gladiator games which were fought til death. Soldiers or even criminals would fight one against another or against a wild animal. Tigers, bears and wolves were most popular but the Emperor (Cascius in particular) would even bring in less important or aggressive animals like a giraffe and masequer them. He was a ridiculous and stupid man and would kill innocents in order to prove his power. Sometimes he would let them live, prisoners as well. He trained them with the best fighters (he even trained the prisoners). This was considered "gladiator school" and these people were considered merchandise so he wanted to keep the good ones alive. They became celebrities... everyone knew who they were and would come to the games to see them. The gladiator celebrities were as popular as the Kardashians. News spread like crazy...kind of like Facebook! These " gladiator games " we're so popular....the arena was filled. It held 23,000 people and it was full to capacity. The games were held 2 or 3 times per year, were very special and attracted many people. They were spectacular events...food, flowers, drinks....which were all offered for free. The games lasted more than 100 days. WHO PAID FOR ALL OF THIS? The Emperor. WHY? To gain political points. There was no material profit. If the crowd was pleased...he gained political power and became stronger.
The base of the arena was sand, of course, to absorb the blood and liquids. In order to to hide the smell of rotten flesh "Fountains of perfume" were placed around the arena filled with water and lavender to sweeten the air. It was a blood-thirsty sport. Animals were used as opening acts and were basically butchered. Besides men fighting each other and animals, women would fight each other and animals as well.
There is a small museum of relics that were found buried under the ruins..several amphorae (jugs) and a map from the 4th century.
The map was interesting that it was a narrow map and printed to be able to read on a donkey or horseback. It started on the left from the Atlantic Ocean and read from left to right ...to the Indian Ocean. The red lines were the main Roman roads and each straight line = 1 day of riding on a horse. (Like , modern day GPS). This map was made before Venice was built.
If you're interested in more more information regarding this map, see below:
The Kuna is the currency used in Croatia.
Nama problema...legally and illegally (In Croatia when you hear nama problema...it means no problem (whether it's legal or not)
There are 10 casinos in a 5 mile radius and children are allowed in ....to gamble. It's a very bad stiuation.
It is also carnivale time here! So many masks and costumes in this town of Pula. This Pagan tradition is to keep the bad spirits away and the people wear the masks and costumes so the spirits don't recognize them.
We visited a small town called Rovinj which was beautiful. There is a famous church here called St. Euphemia and legend has it that if you walk up the hill to the church and actually touch the church, your wishes will come true. Euphemia was a young Roman girl who died because she changed her belief to Catholicism. She had visions and decided to become a Roman Catholic. Her father sent her to prison but she never gave up her faith. She was tortured and when her father offered her to fight in the amphitheater with lions...they didn't harm her..they didn't even touch her. The father then decided to kill her himself with his own sword. Of course, this is a legend but then in 1980 scientists discovered in a town near Rovinj, a shipwreck and in it was a tomb believed to be from the holy crusades...it was of a young girl. This tomb was carried to the top of the hill and is believed to be a holy message ...here are a few photos....