Croatian Short Stories - Pula & Istria

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August 17th 2020
Published: September 7th 2020
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Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. It is the most northern part of the Adriatic, its territory shared by Croatia (far majority), Slovenia, and Italy. Records show settlements in this area going back to Roman even Greek times. Most of the Middle Ages (from 1267 to 1797) it was possessed by the Venetian city state (Venetian Republic) and later became part of the Habsburg Monarchy until its disintegration in 1918, when it formally became Italian territory. After the defeat of Mussolini's fascists by the Yugoslav partisans in 1945, it was incorporated partially into the Slovene and to the greater extent into the Croatian Republic of the newly founded Socialist Communist Republic of Yugoslavia. No wonder the architecture, customs, food and art are strongly influenced by the Venetian period. Whilst Croatian and to a lesser degree Slovenian are being spoken on the peninsula, much influence is found of the Italian language. Its population is ethnically mixed. We often hear when speaking about ethnicity the words "Italian", "Croatian" and "Slovene" to describe the character of Istrian people. However, these terms are best understood as "national affiliations" independent of cultural and historical attributes. A mix of Venetian, Slavic and Germanic ethnicity would be more precise.

Pula with its 60'000 inhabitants is the largest city of Istria and a touristic center. A seafront city on the tip of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, it is known for its protected harbor, beach-lined coast and Roman ruins. The most famous is its 1st-century amphitheater, which is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world, locally known as "the Arena". From the same period the Temple of Augustus was constructed, hailing the Roman Emperor Augustus. Settled in the prehistoric era and valued for its strategic location, Pula has been occupied, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. The Romans, Ostrogoths and Venetians, as well as the Allied Forces in World War II, have each administered the city, before the Partisans settled there. Before 1947 the population of Pula or Pola (in Italian) was mainly Italian. However due to Slavic communist rule the majority decided to immigrate to post war Italy.

Istria is famed for its food and wines, especially white wines, named Malvazija. Besides fish and seafood, truffles, smoked ham, cheese, polenta, asparagus and a large variety of pastas and risottos are home to this part. No-one should be surprised to find much similarity to
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The seagull or in Croatian Galeb
Italian cuisine.

We settled to a small town north of Pula, called Fazana, where our friend Kiki (Christian) runs a nice restaurant called La Bodega (can be recommended if in the area). Needless to say we did try his food quite a bit. Overall it was a very crowded and a nervous and hectic atmosphere, nothing unusual for August. The Croatian cost is known for its big crowds in the months of July and August. The best month to visit Croatia is hence September. However this year had an additional factor (Covid of course). Most guests in Istria are Italians, Slovenians and Austrians, who's Governments have ordered them back from Croatia under threat of quarantine, irrespective if their holiday was over or not, precisely the weekend we arrived. This did little to improve the mood of the guests. Nenad was happy that we stayed only three days.

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