(Edited May 2020)
Technically speaking, Porec, Venice’s little sister, was the fourth stop on my tour through Croatia.
Hence, I was looking forward to going to Poreč.
It has this Italian history and a very cute, atmospheric little town with incredibly beautiful architecture. Most importantly, it’s on the coast and has beaches.
A so-called Beach
So I had high expectations and yes it’s true, Poreč has beaches – which you wouldn’t call beaches anywhere else in the world since it’s actually rocks.
The water is wonderful – pretty calm, deep, blue and it looks very clean.
To access it without breaking your ankle or neck, you climb down one of the many ladders they installed.
Some daredevils – aka morons – also dive from the rocky pier head first. Every mommy tells her offspring not to go with strangers and not to dive into unfamiliar waters.
My blood freezes when I see people diving into rocky waters – but hey, just rock on if you please.
Sunbathing feels a bit like laying on a – very hard – kitchen floor; as I said, you are laying on rocks.
Or on a lawn below some conifers.
Or on a beach chair from the middle-class hotel next door; for free….until they ask you where you’re staying, then you pay 45 kuna which is 7 bucks.
Kuna is Croatian for marten, which is kind of cute. The reason for calling their money that, though, is rather cruel. In the past, they actually used to pay with the marten’s fur.
A Taste of Venice
The town itself is extremely picturesque, indeed. Just like all the small towns that made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Do I sound disenchanted?
That’s because I am: Besides huge hotels, every halfway decent house has a sign Apartman. And I’m afraid this is no oversupply since the town is packed with tourists. Packed! And for some mystic reason, about 80 percent of them have a dog with them. On the beach. At restaurants. It’s canine paradise.
I was staying for two nights and my Apartman was not in the center, so I was fine. Because down there, it’s a zoo. Not worse than any other typical holiday destination. But by no means better.
Dolce Vita in Croatia
What I really find fascinating in the area of former Yugoslavia is their colorful, multicultural heritage.
You notice the Italian influence pretty quickly.
Istria, the largest Adriatic peninsula, was ruled by Venice for 400 years. And still, especially at night, everybody is coming out, strolling around, having a drink on one of the many, many terraces – just like they do in Milan or Rome.
However, you also notice the Austrian impact. The entire region was ruled by Austria’s imperial and royal Habsburgers. So to this date, during daytime, people are idly having coffee at one of the many cafés.
Then there is, of course, the Slavic mentality and friendliness. Croatia joined the European Union in 2013. Since then, it’s not considered a Balkan state anymore. However, this is only a terminus technicus – the people didn’t change and culturally, they still belong to these peoples with an everchanging, colorful, and often tragic history.
From Parenzo to Poreč
According to my guidebook, Poreč is one of ten highlights in Croatia. Well, I disagree. Nevertheless, since it’s only a bit over an hour from Rijeka, it’s definitely worth a day trip.
Poreč could be just wonderful. Parenzo, which is its Italian name, was the first Istrian city that chose to become part of the Republic of Venice in 1267. This lasted for more than five centuries. Only in 1947 the city was occupied by Yugoslavia and got its Croatian name.
Already in the 19th century, the town has been a touristy place. And to this date, you should enjoy its beauty at least for a couple of hours.
Getting to the most iconic building, the Euphrasian Basilica with the breathtaking mosaics, you just turn right as you get to the center and walk on the coastal promenade.
The Basilica was built in the mid of the 6th century in Byzantine style. Beautiful tiles, mosaics, and friezes are adorning this precious house of worship.
The basilica is open to visitors in July and August from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. and September till June from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.
The narrow streets and alleys around the Basilica are quite charming with many small wineries and shops selling local handicrafts.
As you keep on walking around the peninsula, you’ll pass the Park Jurja Dobrile, some posh restaurants, and big hotels before you get to the yacht harbor.
From here you can actually take a trip to the real Venice by catamaran.
But what’s the point?
If I want Venice, I go to Italy.
I wanted Croatia, so I turned my back and also left into ulica Cardo Maximus.
Just ignore that everything is on display to attract tourists.
Better enjoy the beautiful buildings.
Then, turn left into ulica Decumanus to admire the Romanesque House from the 13th century. On the ground floor, there is a gallery. An external stone staircase is leading to the first floor. The upper floors are housing the Ethnographic Heritage Collection.
Keep on walking down on ulica Decumanus, pass a couple of pasta and pizza restaurants and you’ll get to the cradle of it all, the Roman Forum with the remains of the Mars temple and the Neptun temple. Open 24/7, no entrance fee, perfect photo spot.
While these are the most prominent buildings, when it comes to breathtaking architecture, there is so much more to see. As you walk back ulica Decumanus, don’t miss the Museo Civico di Parenzo, the city museum. It is located in a Baroque palazzo and certainly interesting if you want to dig deeper in Poreč’s history.
Otherwise, it’s all about walking and awing and being amazed by how much beauty fits into such a small spot.
How to Get There and Around
Most visitors are coming by car. Nonetheless, there is a very reliable bus connection between Rijeka and Porec. The trip takes 90 minutes maximum and costs normally about 13 €uro. Albeit, you can get lucky and buy a ticket for less popular connections for about half the price.
The bus station in Porec is about ten minutes’ walk south of the entrance to the historic center.
The historic center is mostly a pedestrian zone and many local points of interest, beaches, and accommodations can be reached walking. However, if you are planning to venture outside of Porec, without your own vehicle, it needs some planning. Still, many places are reachable by public busses.
This goes for all of Croatia, by the way.
Best place to sleep
If you absolutely want to stay in Poreč, do yourself a favor and don’t stay at the historic center – unless you are looking for lots of noisy company 24/7.
I stayed at Apartments Oliva* and had a bedroom with a kitchenette and a small bathroom. To the next big supermarket and a drugstore, it’s three minutes walk, to the un-beachy beach it’s five, and to the historic city center 10 minutes.
I was even able to walk to the bus station, albeit, with a suitcase on wheels.
But as a matter of fact, on arrival, the host had picked me up and brought me to the apartman. That’s what most hosts in Croatia do.
Best place to eat
The food is good, the place is better: Dining at the Peterokutna Kula, the pentagonal tower, is an extraordinary experience mainly for the location and the atmosphere.
You are seated at a medieval – truly medieval, not this fake stuff you get at these amusement thingies – fortified tower – or, if you wish so, on a rooftop terrace overlooking all of Poreč – who cares that the food is a tad bit overpriced.
Actually, all the restaurants in Poreč are.
Croatia’s only a little over 4 million inhabitants speak – obviously – Croatian which is a Slavic language so if you are familiar with any other tongue from this family, you’ll be able to understand a tiny bit and read many of the sings or writings on goods. Many people speak at least rudimentary English and German, young people often have a great command of English. By the way, American TV shows were not dubbed.
In this guide, I’m writing out some of the Croatian names of brands and places and you will notice that there are letters that might not exist in other languages. First of all, c is never pronounced k, it is pronounced like the ts in Tsar, so it’s ‘Ulitsa’, not Ulika, and ‘Tsres’, not Kres.
Only when c is written č, it is pronounced like a ch: ‘Korchula’.
Same goes for s: written š, it’s pronounced sh. But only then. The letter ž is pronounced more or less like j, but rather the French way – as in jour. People tend to overdo it with the ch and the sh. It’s so simple: if there is no accent, it’s a simple c or s, no crackjaw there.
On July 1, 2013, Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union. However, Croatia is not part of the Schengen Area and they still have another currency, the Kuna. Kuna translates to marten, which is kind of cute. In the old days, they actually used to pay with the marten’s fur. The rate is 1 US$ = 6,88 HRK (Kuna) current rate resp. 1 €UR = 7,58 HRK (Kuna) current rate (as for March 2020). Credit cards are widely accepted.
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Croatia? Then go to the main post and take your pick!
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