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Brijuni Island: A Historic Croatian Oasis

So, the day after visiting Izola and Piran, we headed over to Croatia.  I will be honest with you– pretty much Jeff and I had no idea in our minds about what Croatia would be like– we hadn’t thought about it much at all.  Now that I’ve been there, that seems totally crazy to me.  Why isn’t everyone talking about how incredible Croatia is?  We were pretty much awestruck. We love Italy, and we were so surprised by the verdant charms of Slovenia.  But our day in Croatia was filled with so much beauty that I have had a hard time writing this post.  I could tell you all sorts of things about Brijuni Island, but really, those interesting facts pale in light of the mediterranean paradise we visited.  Roman ruins?  Cool.  But the color of the water, the absolute clarity of the sea, those cyprus trees along white rocks up against the blue of the ocean and the sky?… Unbelievable!  So please forgive me if I am short on words here.  Let’s just look. This is Pula,  the town that we drove to, where we took the ferry over to Brijuni. It was raining pretty hard when we arrived, so we stopped for lunch and waited for the skies to clear.  Oh, and clear, they did!Riding on the ferry was fun, and gave us a nice perspective of Pula.A first view of Brijuni:This is where we disembarked.  The island is now the property of the Croatian government, and they have tightened up visitor regulations.  For us, that meant that we could only go over as a part of a tour.  We were assigned a tour guide for English-speakers, and boarded a tiny train to get a quick ride around the island.All any  of us wanted to do is go put our feet in the water and hang out.   But it was super interesting to see all the different angles of the island.  Below on the right, you see a herd of deer.OK, so I do have to get into some history if I am going to explain a bit about what you see…   There was one name that came up over and over as we talked with our hosts and their friends: Tito.  Do you know who Tito is?  He was the president of the former Yugoslavia, seen as a benevolent dictator.  According to our friends, he was actually a terrible leader– but everyone loved him and many still look back on the days of his office with incredible nostalgia.  He was very showy and extravagant, even in the midst of relative poverty in Yugoslavia.  Brijuni Island was his personal retreat, and there he entertained guests and friends– many of them celebrities or politicians.  The reason this is important is because Tito recieved many animals as gifts from his illustrious friends.  So there are many exotic animals on Brijuni– including an elephant given to him by Indira Gandhi. The highlight of seeing some of these animals was the chance for Amelia to finally meet a zebra in person.  Zebras have been her favorite animal for about four years, and she is slightly obsessed with them.  So this was a big deal!Another interesting feature was a church, and there were quite a few lovely statues worked into the piney landscapes. But all that really mattered to me was this (see Roman ruins on left, but it was the color of the water that did me in):The fact that I never got to touch that water still kind of makes me ache.

In the photo on the left below, there is an olive tree that is 1,700 years old!!  Next to it are kids approximately 7 years old.

We walked around quite a bit, and visited a museum dedicated to Tito, filled with stuffed wild animals and former pets, and well as hundreds of photos of him with important people.  Anika told me that on the day Tito died, everyone– even school children– went into deep mourning.  Everyone remembers it as a very significant day in their lives.

After about 2.5 hours, the boat was leaving, and we reluctantly boarded after snapping a couple of quick family portraits.Back in Pula, the angle of the sun made everything that much more dreamy and made me want to sigh over and over again.And so, this concludes our big, surprising, difficult-but-wonderful trip to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.  The next day we ran some errands and cooked dinner for our hosts, then we spent our final day in Trieste, and came home that night. Thank you so much for enjoying it with us– sharing makes it even better for me.

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18 Responses to Brijuni Island: A Historic Croatian Oasis

  1. Susan Gaines June 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Loved the beautiful pictures and history. I was shocked when you first said where you were going. When I hear ‘Croatia’ I immediate envision war-torn towns because of battles between Croatians and Boznians.

    • Ariana Mullins June 19, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      I agree with you on that association, Susan. And Brijuni Island was somewhat destroyed during these conflicts (and other wars) and is being restored. I was so glad to see that there was still so much beauty there.

  2. Marisa June 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Wowza! What a stunningly gorgeous place! And I totally get your ache for the color of the water. I am always fascinated by the different shades of water around the world – one of my favorite things to look for when travelling. Just last night in fact I was at dinner overlooking a local river and we were in awe of the deep, jewel toned green color. I was also struck by Loch Ness – the water there is an inky black and the foam in the wake is a beautiful amber color. So cool! I love that you think about this too :)

    I also have to tell you that I once saw a Rick Steves show about Croatia and was stunned by it – the show was one of the most interesting of his I’ve seen and made it seem like Croatia was the greatest place in the world! I’ve wanted to go ever since. So thanks for the armchair tour – you’ve whetted my interest all the more :)

    And hooray for Amelia to realize a dream of hers – how exciting for her!

    So glad you got to take this somewhat impromptu trip – those are often the best sort!

    • Ariana Mullins June 19, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      Yes, there were so many wonderful things about this place and this trip! I thought it was really funny that Amelia would meet her first zebra ever on an island in Croatia– not at the zoo, not in Africa… That made it even more fun!

      We would love to go back to Croatia. Our Slovenian/ Italian friends told us that they have been all over the world to enjoy holidays by the sea, and that Croatia is still their very favorite place– Dubrovnik is a 6 hour drive from them. They said that October is the best time to go, and of course I can’t get that idea out of my mind!

    • Marisa June 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      I’ve wanted to go to Dubrovnik as long as I can remember! My grandparents went there in the 70s or early 80s and I always remember hearing how much my grandma loved it and seeing her beautiful slide show . They travelled extensively around the world and it was one of her favorite places – and that has always stuck with me :)I’ve also seen it on a few travel shows and most recently on House Hunters International – and it looks absolutely breathtakingly beautiful! And if I remember correctly it is pretty cheap too. I say – don’t even try to get it out of your mind! Find a way to go and make it happen – you will not regret it! Can I come along?

  3. Nathan June 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    Those photos are gorgeous, but, I’m sure it was even more stunning in person! :) Thanks for sharing your travels with us. You do it well!

    • Ariana Mullins June 19, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Nathan, sharing photos and a few stories really makes it even more enjoyable for me– so glad you want to see them!

  4. Anonymous June 19, 2013 at 2:24 am #

    Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. Amelia is a very fortunate little girl to have parents who can take her to such beautiful and interesting places. I’m sure she will benefit greatly from it. Love the picture with the zebra!
    Julie

    • Ariana Mullins June 19, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Hi Julie! I hope Amelia remembers all of these things. At her age, I still hadn’t even left my state– but I did have a very unusual childhood after the age of 8, which has opened me up to adventure for the rest of my life. I hope that she will keep discovering, and that seeing the world will give her a broad view in life. I always appreciate your thoughts when you stop by!

  5. Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate June 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    WOW! Your pics are gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing and I agree with you, the water would have done me in also!

  6. Joanna June 20, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    I agree Croatia is gorgeous, although it is so many years ago since I went that it was still part of Yugoslavia and my father had to have special permission to take us as he was a civil servant. I know we were near Pula but can’t remember the exact place we went to, but I still remember the waters too, so clear. Thanks for the pictures and the reminders of a lovely holiday from years gone by

  7. Carole June 22, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Just fantastic, Must go there Cheeers

  8. Lu-Gerda July 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Beautiful pictures. It looks like a wonderful place to visit.

  9. Ed Shackelford August 9, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    We’ve daydreamed how wonderful it would be someday to take a leisurely Mediterranean vacation—in just one location… Pula looks like a great place for it, but regulations might make it impossible. I loved the part about Amelia finally meeting her first zebra!

  10. istria-apartments.co.uk August 25, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Brijuni national park is a really amazing, but very secluded place. There are few important cultural sites and the nature and wild life. The best way to explore Brijuni Islands is to stay there at least for a weekend, to rent an electric car and to explore them on your own.

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