John’s special day we spent walking through town and the Roman Amphitheather: high walls of arches ringing a sand center, a stage being set up for an upcoming event. This arena is the sixth largest in existence, started in the time of Augustus. We moved from one spot of shade to another and listened to an audio guide, imagining lions and gladiators. They say there was room for about 25,000 spectators, curious since the city was about 5,000 people when the arena was built. It was almost moved to Venice, but one of the Venetian senators, Gabriele Emo, stopped this treasure from being moved, piece by piece away from Pula.While John’s birthday was spent wandering through the past, Hannah’s was purely in the present. We drove South of town to the very tip of Istria to Cape Kamenjak, a finger reaching into the sea. It is about 3 ½ kilometers long, and as narrow as ½ a kilometer wide. Dirt roads lead to secluded coves; it is ringed by rock shelves filled with sunbathers and clear waters.
We almost turned around in the town of Premantura, at the entrance to the preserve, because the big map in their town called all of the roads into the park bike paths. Fortunately a German speaking restaurant owner, who sells burgers and beer next to the sign and church bell tower, came over and told us that the roads were for cars, too.
We found a small, quiet beach on the West flank, John and the girls swam as I relaxed in the shade. Beaches in Croatia are rarely sand, this was gravel, or pebble might be a more appealing way to say it. The waves rolled the rocks as they came in, creating a rhythmic shushing sound.When finished playing in the water, we drove to the southernmost point, where there is a beach bar that in itself is as interesting as the beach there. A maze through the tall cane, it has seats and benches made of logs and stones tucked into private corners and fantastical playground equipment. Tall swings with giant beads on the ropes, a merry go round that looks like a top, and a human sized wheel like those in hamster cages. A perfect place for a 14th birthday, except, of course, for the absence of teen friends.