We had an early afternoon flight so that gave us the opportunity to drive back to Pula and finish off the sightseeing that we hadn’t yet managed and a final lunch at Orfej restaurant.
After we arrived we parked in the same car park and went out into the town to visit the market that was close by. There was an outside area with rows of colourful pitches with stalls straining under the weight of fruit and vegetables all presented for purchase in an untidy but satisfying way but the best part of the market was the covered building constructed of iron and glass which housed the butchers and the delicatessens and best of all the fishmongers.
Now I always thought that fish was in short or declining supply but you wouldn’t have thought so here. European Union fishing regulations as well as the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (a division of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations consisting of twenty-four counties that either border the Mediterranean Sea or just happen to fish there) do not seem to have had a serious impact on the availability of marine produce in Pula.
The agreed fishing quotas must be very generous indeed because this fish market looked as though someone had sucked up the entire seabed and delivered it right here at this spot. On closer examination of the produce however it soon becomes clear why we have to put up with stock shortages whilst the Croatians, and most of the rest of Europe as well, have such an abundance of choice, we are just far too fussy and our preference for fish is restricted to two or three species that we have fished into a crisis of extinction whilst the Europeans will eat a much greater variety of sea food. We like to buy our fish in little blue polystyrene trays and definitely without heads or tails and ready for the frying pan but here the slabs were brimming with fish so fresh some of it was still alive and flapping about and winking at us as we inspected it.
Excuse me a recollection here but this illustrates my point perfectly; once on holiday with my mother and presented with a menu that included a cod dish she actually asked the waiter if it was served with its head still attached! These things can be two metres long for goodness sake!
There were crabs still frothing at the mouth and octopus with tentacles still writhing and with an eye open daring anyone to buy it and take it home and tackle preparation for cooking. The colours were spectacular too, sparkling silver, gleaming green and radiant reds and trays and trays of vivid orange scampi and other intriguing and colourful crustaceans. One of my personal favourites was some unpleasant looking spiny specimens, which are used as a principal ingredient in a Croatian fish stew called Brodet.
In a separate part of the indoor market the butchers presented their abundant produce in display cabinets and negotiated with customers on cuts and joints for purchase, there were cheese and dairy stalls and fresh pasta and other local delicacies. What I liked was the smell of the whole place. In England supermarkets have no smell at all because everything is over-packaged and presented in plastic trays and vacuum packed containers, which makes shopping a wholly unsatisfactory and sanitised affair.
After the market we made our way to the highest part of the city to the Venetian fortress. We had the place practically to ourselves and we wandered around the battlements and enjoyed the views of the old town and the port that sat below this elevated position. We recognised the stone of course because this had come directly from the amphitheatre that we had visited a couple of days ago. The Museum was interesting but largely unremarkable but there were maritime displays that were close enough to touch and I enjoyed picking up the old ships tools that seemed far too heavy and crude to be of much use in the modern high-tech world.
There was one very interesting room full of exhibits from old ships that you were not allowed to touch and there was adequate signage to make this clear. On a previous visit to Pula, true to form, Kim ignored these precise visitor instructions and just had to reach out and investigate a jar of ships surgeon’s dried semen (I kid you not!). This set an alarm sounding and the immediate appearance of a member of the castle staff to investigate just what we had been up to. I thought that this was very amusing and well worth a photographic memory so I arranged an appropriate pose and was ready to capture the moment when Kim decided to give the moment a touch of authenticity by breaking the alarm beam for a second time. What the…..? Out scuttled the attendant again and this time around I could sense that she didn’t find it so amusing, she was clearly losing her patience so the only sensible thing to do was to leave before Kim broke any more ‘do not touch’ museum rules.
There were no accidents this time and when we had seen all that there was to see we made our way down to the main square for a final drink in the sunshine and then a short walk to the Orfej where we were not disappointed by the final meal that we had been promising ourselves and after an excellent lunch we made our way back to the car and then a short drive to the airport for our return flight.
It had been an excellent four days and we had enjoyed Croatia and Istria. We especially liked Pula and Rovinj, the Konoba Ferral and the Café Orfej, the boat ride with dolphins but most of all we had been delighted to be staying at the hotel Villeta Phasiana and the lovely fishing village of Fažana.