Hello! Hey! Hi! Welcome back!!
I’ve been working NONE stop at my day job and in hand lettering for weeks and I realized I didn’t finish this second post so HERE IT IS. If you were waiting for a part 2 to my and Francisca’s adventure, keep reading! If, like I suspect, you are simply here because you saw my posts on insta about having a new blog post, worry not! You are welcome here too! AND, if you are a history buff and wanting to see some pictures of VERY OLD things, You are among friends here! 🙂
I think I left off with Francisca and I in a GoOpti vehicle, traversing the Slovenian countryside. We wound between seaside beaches and rolling hills. I love Italy, but Slovenia was also so so so so dreamy. The weather was stunning. I struggled through a few sentences of dialogue with our driver who was thoroughly disappointed that Francisca (a traditionally italian name) didn’t speak Italian. Approximately two hours later we landed in Pula Croatia. We were immediately stunned by it’s beauty.
Trieste is an old city, but Pula is an ANCIENT city. Francisca, being the AirBNB queen she is booked us an apartment with a balcony overlooking the Arch of the Sergii. If you google the Arch, you can see our apartment! We sat and stared. The city was so beautiful and so alive. Trieste is not a tourist city, but Pula is. People buzzed around with cameras outstretched, and vendors called out in various languages trying to convince us to consider their wares. It was a completely new experience from our time in Italy.
Humans, in one form or another have been near Croatia and specifically Pula, for a WHILE. Pre-history, it is noted that there is evidence of one link in human evolution, Homo Erectus in a cave near Pula. The holy Roman empire took the entire Istrian peninsula on which Pula is located in 177 BC and was eventually elevated in colonial rank under Julius Caesar. Caesar was obviously betrayed and killed by his friends (et tu, Brute?), and civil war erupted. Pula sided with Brutus and Cassius, two of Julius Caesar’s murderers because of their ties to Cassius’s brother, the city’s founder. The triumvirate Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus led the opposition and eventually won the civil war. When Cassius and Brutus lost, most of Pula was demolished in retribution. It was later rebuilt under Octavian’s daughter’s request and many great classical architectural constructions were completed in the reconstruction. Some of these pieces still exist today; Francisca and I marveled as we wandered the cobblestone streets at a city that had been here for more than a thousand years. It is a surreal feeling. We ate more pasta and gelato and walked past places like the Temple of Augustus, shown below!
One of the “great classical architectural constructions” (say that five times fast) created post demolition was the amphitheatre, Pula arena. The arena was constructed between 27 and 68 AD, making it as old as modern Christianity itself. If you know anything about Christianity, post-Christ, who is believed to have died in 33 A.D., then you know about the “diaspora” of christians to flee persecution from the Roman Empire. In 64 A.D. Emperor Nero claimed a large fire that demolished most of Rome (that the general public blamed HIM for) had been started by Christians. Christianity was seen as a threat to both the existing Jewish religion and also to the reigning Roman Empire so the followers of Christ were an easy target for Nero to choose. Christians suffered horrible martyrdoms and torture in the wake of Nero saying Christian’s were the enemy. The most famous arena for the death of gladiators, criminals and christians alike was the Colosseum in Rome, but the Pula arena also housed such games. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote of the events and choices of Nero in his book “Annals”, published but a few years after the event. Tacitus was a young boy at the time Nero’s persecution of Christians began:
“Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition – repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, – where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”
In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man.”
I considered these stories and the stories in the bible as Francisca walked towards the massive structure.
Once we entered, we immediately stopped. A wave of emotion swept us both. I immediately texted my mom. First we walked the entire perimeter of the arena. I imagined the crowds, the spectacles, the events. Then we walked in the pits. The execution places. Would I be brave enough to stand in the face of a burning pyre or wild animal execution and still claim the name of Jesus? Would I be as faithful as those men and women and children? A deep pit in my stomach as I write this tells me a deeper truth than I could even truly articulate; I genuinely do not know. In some of the most defining moments if my life I have certainly felt the Holy Spirit fill my heart with a strength and capability unknown to me but moments before and moments after, but it’s hard to know how I, a lifelong Christian and yet skeptical wanderer, would react.
We also sat and discussed how thankful we were to be walking in history. Both our parents chose to encourage us to work hard and be able to provide for ourselves outside of marriages, and we both are here, unmarried and living lives we are so unspeakable grateful for thanks to their hard work and good teaching. I especially am thankful my parents chose to encourage me to persue my gifts in science and mathematics. I am an engineer. I have a cute apartment downtown. I have a nice car and nice things. I eat nice food and can buy my friends nice gifts for their own fun weddings and baby showers and all of that. I dont say that to praise myself, I say that to praise God for his faithfulness and my parents for their work to show me that hard work pays off. It is because of them i am able to live my life. It is because of them I am able to run around with my friends, like Francisca and experience things and places they never got to.
As I am sure you have figured out, let me restate it: This trip ment the world to me.
Francisca and I ended our day with more food and drinks and desserts. Then we prepped to hit the beach the next day. A very drunk, very excited group of mid twenties girls who spoke english with midwestern accents loudly walked right by our apartment at about 3 in the morning and I was struck with a realization of why most of the world doesnt like american travellers. But also, they sounded like they were having a blast, so I would like to wish a resounding, albeit belated “Happy Birthday” to whatever girl among them they were celebrating. It sounded like you had the time of your life.
The next day Francisca and I had a snag in our plans. We decided to take the public bus to one of the many beaches near us but had to figure out how to use it. We got some conflicting information from our airbnb host and other locals, so we ended up a little turned around. After some confusing conversations and more broken sentences (this time in Croatian, which unlike Italian, is very complicated and not as easy to flub your way through), we finally arrived. It was very worth it and very, very beautiful.
We camped out, slept, dipped our toes in the Adriatic Sea and relaxed. The beach we were on was mostly rocks but that didnt stop us from making the most of our time.
We left after a couple of hours and a couple dozen photos and headed back to our apartment. We departed for Italy the next morning and decided to do some final shopping. Like clockwork, we got more pasta, but this time with salads too, more gelato and shopped the many stores.
Before we left for the states, Francisca and I ran into Alberto, our boat driver again. He recommended we have dinner on the rooftop terrace near the pier where his boat was docked. We realized quickly when we got there that they didnt serve dinner, so we wandered to the restaurant below. There we had the best dinner I have ever had, mixed with the best view. Hours passed and we discussed every aspect of what our trip meant to us. It was the greatest way we could have spent the last night.
So I know my last post was peppered with information about how this trip happened and all my insider tips. Given the history and all the photos I wanted to share, I left those tips for this post until now! Here is how the trip ended and how the planning we did paid off:
1. Having a translator downloaded made a huge difference. It was unspeakably helpful, even given how complicated the Croatian language is.
2. Know your borders and country alliances! I hadn’t considered that Croatia wasnt a part of the European Union and thus when we arrived we needed to get new currency and ended up needing to use our passports to gain entry. A lot of places in tourist towns only accept cash. I also panicked not knowing the currency exchange and had to do an emergency bank check to make sure I hadn’t overdrawn taking out Croatioan Kuna. Thankfully. I had not. But a little foresight would have saved me a mini heart attack!
3. LEARN YOUR AIRPORTS. The airport in Paris was under construction and left me and Francisca sprinting across the terminals to reach our flight carrying fresh pasta and our bags. I have never sweat so badly from a mix of stress and physical exercise. We made it, but man was it a mess!
4. Travel with someone you love enough to be honest with (and who doesnt mind taking photos of you!). Francisca and I are like sisters. This worked out because we both felt comfortable saying “Hey! I’m having a great time. I am so glad we are here together. When you do *insert action here* it bothers me”. This especially came in handy as I started to get a sense of just how bad my anxiety has become. Francisca pointed out, lovingly, to me that I stress about a LOT. I have since really considered how my actions are affecting others and me and have seen more professionals for help. I could do a whole other blog post about that but I will not 🙂 This also came in handy when Francisca told me she needed something healthy to eat because all the bread and pasta was killing her. So we found an amazing salad place to have lunch at one day and loved it! We also never flinched when one of us said “Hey will you take my -” “Yes! But fix your hair it looks funky”. Talk about a dream come true in a travel partner.
5. Plan ahead but know unexpected issues will arise. Between the bus problems, my own mix up with our goopti transfers, Paris’ airport being under construction and thinking I emptied my bank account, its hopefully implied that the best laid plans are no match for reality. We spent hours working out details but knew some things would just have to fall into place as we went. This made us both confident and comfortable as we traversed our trip both physically and mentally.
6. If you fly from Toronto, plan to have a hype playlist for your drive back. Driving TO toronto for a trip is easy. Driving HOME is hard. We jammed oldschool MCR and P@TD and yelled the lyrics as a way to stay awake and also enjoy passing the time.
7. Enjoy. Enjoy it all. Take it all in. I have found if I put too much pressure on myself I can feel like, when life happens, trips are ruined. If you take every thing that happens as a part of the experience, then it’s all positive and all worth remembering. And trust me, every experience if framed in the right light is worth a space in the memory storage hardware of your brain.
And that’s it, friends! I know this post was long but I hope you enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of this trip and our time. I was so thankful for Francisca and being able to travel with her on such a special trip. Thanks again for tuning in and I hope you have many exciting travels in your future!