Saturday, November 12, 2011

Brijuni Island Trip

November 11

Today is 11/11/11. That's a good omen, don't you think?

Yesterday, Mom made arrangements for a trip to the Brijuni Islands which are a short distance from Pula, a town we visited about a week ago and saw the Roman Amphitheatre. It is difficult this time of year to take the tour because the National Park is officially closed for the season.

Mom had emailed the agent several times until she found a date for which there were several other large groups who wanted the tour, and also found an English-speaking guide for us.

The next challenge was to get us there on time, 9:45. There are no buses that connect to the small ferry town of Fažana, so Mom talked with our friend Duška who got a driver for us, Robert. He is the police chief in the neighboring town of Buzet. He is a very nice guy, pointed out several spots of interest and spoke English well.

Fažana is another charming port town about 5 miles north of Pula and we roamed the streets a bit before boarding the ferry. It's main purpose these days is to provide ferry service to the Brijuni Islands. There are 14 of them. The tour covers only part of the main island, which is several miles long.

It has quite a history going back to Roman times when it had a fort to guard the main shipping port of Pula. More recently, it was the summer "white house" for the first president of Yugoslavia (for life from 1947 until 1980), a man named Maršal Tito.

He was a flamboyant leader who invited many famous people of the time to visit him on the island. (Gina Lolabrigida, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Muammar Ghaddafi, Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, Indira Ghandi, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jawarral Nehru, and hundreds more). Tito's real name was Josip Broz, a Communist of the third-way, and a leader of the non-aligned nations during the cold war.

The island was designated a national park in 1984. There is an 18-hole golf course (with sand greens), a safari park, and actual dinosaur imprints, several hotels, and a church. Our tour had us in a tram for most of the time, so unable to roam around much. Beautiful water views, many archaeological sites and even a 1600 year old olive tree.

We met a very nice man, a banker from Slovenia, who was also on the tour. He convinced us to visit his country. We will only be a couple hours away when we return from southern Croatia, so we hope to do that. Good old Rick Steves sure speaks highly of it. The whole country just has 3 million people.

Yesterday was an interesting day too. We took Duška out for lunch and talked about tourism in Croatia, mainly Novigrad. She drove us to a great agrotourism restaurant with very traditional Istrian dishes. Great food ! We started with Bobici, a vegetable soup and then homemade pasta dishes with wild asparagus and truffles. It definitely turned into lunch and dinner.

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