As humans I guess we need comparison. So often Tim and I will say to each other how somewhere reminds us of Cape Town or how the pizza isn’t as good as in Naples. Particularly when we travel we compare places to other places we have been and lived. There is even a scale of comparison: Would we go there again? Would we live there?
And so I must compare Pula to Trieste, the city I now live in. This is done on the basis that although we spent three nights in the city I promptly got sick and therefore only really experienced a few hours of it.
In some ways they have a similar history. They are both part of the Istrian Peninsula, Trieste forming the northern reach and Pula the southern tip. They were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Trieste its commercial harbour and Pula its military port, but had a large percentage of Italian speaking residents. After WWII Trieste (eventually) became part of Italy and Pula became part of Yugoslavia and then Croatia in 1991.
From my brief experience, Pula seems like Trieste’s slightly homelier and poorer relative. The buildings are a little more warn, the port is not as pomp and regal looking, the residential waste collection bins are more sporadic. But having realised this Pula got smart about attracting suitors and has built an excellent tourism industry for herself whereas Trieste seems to have sat down for apertivos to watch life amble along. I am sure that doesn’t seem very flattering to either city but I mean no offence.
Pula’s tourism office is definitely on the ball and the city is definitely a lot more lively than Trieste. When we walked around one evening after going to the very well maintained arena to watch a ‘gladiator fight’ the city was packed with people, the restaurants were busy and shops were open until about 11pm. In Trieste shops seem to be closed more than they are open. Honestly I think Trieste caters very well to its residents and it is a lovely city to live in but it could learn a little about tapping into it’s potential as a tourist destination.
I know I missed out on seeing a lot of things that Pula has to offer while I lay on the couch. My friends certainly seemed to have had grand adventures by bike around some beautiful coastline and had sightings of the world’s rarest mammal (they were beach companions of a monk seal for half a day). Next time I visit I trust I will get to experience more of that.