(Edited November 2018)
Technically, Poreč is my fourth stop on this trip – a journey partly a bit back in time, but we’ll get to that later. But the first three stops – Munich, Ljubljana, and Zagreb – were like weekend trips. City breaks. Familiar terrain. The big adventure starts with all these small towns in the middle of nowhere or on islands. Places that I have to find, avoiding getting lost between bus and ferry schedules.
|Istria used to be ruled by Venice – and funnily enough, not only the alleys and palazzi of the little town remind me of my favorite Italian city, even the skyline looks a bit Venetian.|
So this makes Poreč the first stop of my bus road trip along the Adriatic coast.
I was looking forward to going to Poreč since it has this Italian history and is said to be a very cute, atmospheric little town with incredibly beautiful architecture. And it’s on the coast and has beaches.
|Rock on: To avoid too many injuries, they’ve installed ladders. However, I’ve seen noticeably many tourists with casts on crutches.|
|The water around Porec is just fantastic.|
Sunbathing feels a bit like laying on a – very hard – kitchen floor; like 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.
The town itself is very cute and picturesque, indeed. Just like all the small towns that made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. I sound disenchanted? 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.
|The Venetian influence cannot be denied.|
I’m staying two nights and my Apartman is not in the center, so I’m fine. Because down there, it’s a zoo. Not worse than any other typical holiday destination. But by no means better.
What I find really interesting and even fascinating in the area of former Yugoslavia – and this phenomenon already enchanted me in Slovenia – is the multicultural heritage.
You notice the Italian influence – Istria, the largest Adriatic peninsula, used to be ruled by Venice for 400 years – on Croatia especially at night when everybody is coming out, strolling around, having a drink on one of the many, many terraces.
|Taverns just like in Italy.
Many local people are actually bi-lingual, and the street signs are written in Croatian as well as in Italian.
You see the Austrian impact – the entire region was ruled by Austria’s imperial and royal Habsburgers – during daytime as people idly have coffee at one of the many cafés. Then there is, of course, the Slavic mentality and friendliness – especially in Slovenia people where amazingly nice. Although Slovenia and Croatia are not considered Balkan states anymore – since they’ve been part of the European Union since 2004 resp. 2013, this is only a terminus technicus – the people didn’t change and culturally, they still belong to these peoples with a colorful and often tragic history.
Since yesterday, all these atrocious pictures from the 90s are haunting me. It began with a picture at the Muzej suvremene umjetnosti, the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Zagreb where a composite photograph hit me right in the gut. I couldn’t get the girl’s eyes and mainly the inhuman words of the graffiti out of my head. Worst thing is, they had been written by one of the Dutch UN soldiers, a soldier who was sent there to protect Bosniaks, the ethnic group his writing was more than mocking. Somehow it symbolizes the big failure of that Blue Helmet Mission.
|Bosnian artist Šejla Kamerić’s self-portrait with the atrocious insult a Dutch UN soldier had written on a barrack.|
Later that day, I was a bit shocked when the tour guide asked whether we’ve had heard of the war in Yugoslavia. I mean, I was surprised when a guide in Viet Nam asked the same thing – but however, that military conflict had started in the 1950s. I do remember the news, but I was a child then. Those who have survived as adults are at least in their 70s.
But the Srebrenica massacre was like…yesterday. At that time, I’ve had a child myself.
The pictures from those camps, the mass-rapes, the ethnic cleansing.
I feel like when I was in Cambodia: I’m searching for traces, I’m looking at places and think This is where it happened; right here, where I am vacationing now.
I’m looking in faces, wondering What did you do? What did you have to endure?
How do these peoples live on with that burden? According to Kristina, my Zagreb guide, there isn’t a museum, there is no reappraisal.
I’m sad. And a bit depressed. It makes me sad that only twenty years after such a tragedy, a group of people is asked – probably for a reason – whether they have heard about one of the most gruesome military conflicts of the last century.
I’d like to know: How do you deal with other countries’ past and history? Does it affect you in your travelling? I’d really appreciate your comment in the section below.
Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Cambodia, while on the road, I’ll be posting little stories and reflections.
At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc.
Until then, just share some thoughts and special moments with me.
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Poreč, Croatia’s very own Little Venice. Almost as beautiful as her big sister, but definitely as overcrowded.
|No, this is not Venice – non e Venezia.|
According to my guidebook, Poreč is one of ten highlights in Croatia. Well, I disagree (this is what you get from these notorious ten-best-this-five-thousand-best-that-lists), however since it’s only a bit over an hour from Rijeka, it’s definitely worth a day trip.
Poreč could be just wonderful – it is like a small sample of Venice, and actually, Parenzo, which is its Italian name, was the first Istrian city that chose to become part of the Republic of Venice in 1267 – and this lasted for more than five centuries. Only in 1947 the city was occupied by Yugoslavia and got its Croatian name.
|Zuccato Palace – the Venetian heritage can hardly be denied.|
Already in the 19th century, it has been a touristy place. But today, there are a couple of very, very big hotels, and every private home that can spare a room is renting an Apartman.
While the beach – which according to international standards does not qualify as such – is not overrun, the narrow alleys in the historic center are packed to the rim.
Like in many places in Croatia, the beach are big rocks. But since there are so many tourists, the big hotels probably thought they make things better by flattening it to some kind of promenade. This might be better for their guests who are lazying on beach chairs. People who do not stay at these places are now lying like on a kitchen floor. Unless you use one of their chairs – for free until they address you, then you pay something between 30 and 40 Kuna.
|There are certainly more comfortable beaches in this world, but the water is just amazingly clean – and the view’s not too bad, either.|
So yes, you can spend a day or two on the kitchen floor next to the wonderfully clean and clear water – but there are far better places in Croatia to do so, I’ll get to them in the following chapters.
However, visiting the historic part built on a promontory is a nice day trip.
|Beautiful mosaic on top of the Basilica’s entrance.|
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.
|I guess it won’t surprise you that the Basilica has made it to the UNESCO World Heritag List!?|
The Basilica was built in the mid of the 6th century in Byzantine style and is beautifully adorned with tiles, mosaics, and friezes.
The basilica can be visited July and August from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. and September till June rom 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 handicraft.
|Taverns just like in Italy. Many local people are actually bi-lingual, and the street signs are written in Croatian as well as in Italian.|
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.
|Why would anyone want to sail away from a place like this? Poreč’s yacht harbor at sunset.|
Just ignore that everything is on display to attract tourists. Enjoy the beautiful buildings, turn left into ulica Decumanus to admire the Romanesque House from the 13th century: On the ground floor there is a gallery. The first floor can be accessed by the external stone staircase. The upper floors are housing the Ethnographic Heritage Collection.
|The Romanesque House, one of Poreč’s main landmarks.|
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.
|A Baroque Palazzo – the perfect venue for a city museum.|
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.
|Lady of Angels church from 1770. The Baroque structure was built on the remains of a former Romanesque church.|
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 five, and to the historic city center 10 minutes.
|View from Apartman Oliva – at the end of the rainbow is not a pot of gold but a beach; fine with me.|
Even walking to the bus station was possible – with a suitcase on wheels, but as a matter of fact, the owner had picked me up on arrival and brought me to the apartman.
Best place to eat:
|A very special place to dine.|
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.
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Croatia?
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