Return to Pula - No Stress in Cres

Mon 24 Aug 2015 09:00
Return to Pula - No Stress in Cres

By 11.30 on Sunday 16th August in the year of our Lord 2013, (no I haven't
taken to religion! I've just been reading Christopher Sansom's Mathew
Shardlake series, which I highly recommend) we were back aboard Pamarzi,
thanks to the prompt service by our taxi drivers at both ends and a hassle
free flight with Jet2. The day though was dark, grey and wet but the boat
was fine and we quickly got stuck in to our boat jobs, had supper at the
marina restaurant and an early night.
We woke to the sound of rain which continued to plague us over the next
three days but despite the deluges boat jobs were done, sea cocks exercised,
winches serviced and by Tuesday evening we were ready to go. However we had
decided to have at least one day exploring the historic town of Pula and in
particular the Roman amphitheatre which is one of the best preserved in the
It certainly did not disappoint when we visited next day. Three stories of
one hundred and forty four arches and 64 rectangular openings and uniquely
all four side towers intact, it stands massively defiant close to the
An arena has stood on this sight since 27 BC but the massive structure we
see today was authorised to be built by Vespasian in 79 AD and completed
under the rule of Titus in 81 AD specifically for gladiatorial combat.
Beneath the central arena a warren of tunnels cut into the bedrock
accommodated the pugilists both human and animal and the scenery necessary
to create the exotic sets amidst which they shed each other's blood. The
four towers each had two huge water tanks to run fountains or to spray the
crowds with scented water. A stone structure atop the walls anchored the
volari, sheets of cloth that created shade over the more expensive seats in
the arena. Amazingly combats both human and animal continued until 681 AD,
seven hundred years of killing. Today the amphitheatre is still in use as a
concert venue, Pavarotti, Elton John, Sting and many others have performed
We cast off next morning in light airs and a slight sea and once out into
open water we had a good reach in twenty knots of breeze until we rounded
Hrid Porer at the southernmost tip of Istria. As we came about to head up
north eastward the sea piled up and the wind was right on the nose, so it
was on with the engine and for two and a half hours we plugged across
Kvarner channel towards Otok Cres. Thankfully as we rounded Point Punat the
seas eased, we got a better angle on the wind and we had a pleasant sail
across Zaljev Valun to the deep bay on its eastern side where lies the small
town of Cres and the ACI Marina where we had booked a berth.

Med mooring there was a touch tricky with a twenty five knot katabatic cross
wind gusting down from the surrounding mountains but on our second attempt
we slipped nicely between a large motor yacht and a racy looking carbon
masted sail boat.
After all the usual docking procedure, tender, passerelle, power, water etc.
we washed and brushed up ourselves and headed into town, a pleasant one mile
walk along the smartly restored stone waterfront. Cres town is simply
charming, with a small commercial fishing harbour and a tiny inner harbour
in the middle of the town for the little local boats which is surrounded by
pretty pastel hued houses and ancient stone churches, towers and loggia. It
was busy without being crowded and we enjoyed our supper al fresco at a
restaurant in the town square amidst the hubbub of Croatian and Italian
voices, not a word of English being heard. In fact the only English words we
saw were on the shirts of our waiters that proclaimed 'No stress in Cres'
(the Italians pronounce it Tres.) The following day I hauled our bicycles
from the lazarette and Lynn headed into town whilst I turned towards the
mountains. There are precious few roads on Cres and after an easy ride
around the bay I headed up on a rock track with the intention of cycling to
Valun a small village ten miles or so around the mountainous, heavily
indented coastline. The ride was not easy as it wound up down and around
mountains, the track at times so rock strewn that I had to dismount and
carry the bike over piles of loose sharp rocks. The landscape was
fascinating, hundreds nay thousands of acres of rocky hillsides partitioned
into tiny plots by rough stone walls up to a meter wide and in places two
metres high. Each plot containing a handful sometimes just two or three
elderly olive and occasionally fig trees and even more rarely a sweet
chestnut. Even the steepest slopes were thus terraced and enclosed and I
found myself wondering at the vast number of man hours that had gone in to
creating this landscape. Although many of the walls were crumbling the
trees, evidenced by the odd wooden crate and collecting sheet, were still
harvested. This island, the second largest in the Adriatic, has a population
of under four thousand inhabitants and has been occupied since Neolithic
times. I guess that these early settlers discovered that by removing the
rocks and exposing the rice skin thick topsoil they could establish trees,
sheltered by the walls they built from the rocks removed and thus provide
themselves with a harvest and over eons this landscape was created.
Three miles from Valun in the middle of nowhere whilst passing through a
pine forest my wonderings were punctuated by a loud hissing sound as my rear
tyre gave up its valiant effort to stay inflated on the unforgiving tracks.
No spare with me my only option to walk the seven miles back to the Marina
as I doubted Valun would have a bicycle shop. I had come across only one
small group of trekkers on my way up and it was to be a solitary march back
but it gave me plenty of time to ponder further on the creation of this
remarkable stonewalled landscape and the lives of those many, many
generations who had created it.
A refreshing shower and a quick trip into Cres town to a tiny back street
bicycle shop restored both me and my bike to our former states, ready for
new adventures. Unfortunately just as I stepped back aboard the heavens
opened and the deluge that was to go on for many hours began. Nonetheless we
enjoyed our evening, eating aboard and watching the rather amusing Grand
Budapest Hotel on DVD.
We intend to stay in Cres till Tuesday and then start our slow journey
southward that will eventually take us back to Marina di Ragusa and our
winter berth in October, but for now we continue to enjoy Cres and look
forward to our next berth at Mali Lošinj