Gladiators: Roman Arena in Pula

All this week I will be blogging about our recent trip to the Istria Peninsula in Croatia. We stayed for 4 days in the old “Venetian” city of Rovinj, Croatia and toured the entire peninsula. The best part of the trip was all of the family time we spent together. We experienced Roman ruins, truffles, delicious food, and breathtaking views of the Adriatic.

One day we visited the Roman Arena in Pula, Croatia. The Arena is the “little brother” to the more famous Rome Coliseum. I was amazed to have read so much about the Roman Empire, to finally see one of the bigger ruins. I was most moved by how much modern US sports is like the Romans did 2,000 years ago. The Arena (named after the sand in the center pit) seated 23,000 people and they had a variety of spectacles, including gladiator fights, Christian sacrifices, etc. The stadium had its luxury boxes for the noble Roman families and a complex underground network of rooms to house wild beasts and gladiators. As you can see above, we are simulating one of the gladiator fights from ancient times.

Today, Pula is a city of around 20,000 people and the city is built up around the arena. It is used for concerts, although loud music is now banned because of the damage it causes to the rocks. I can imagine what it must have been like so long ago. Pula was just “around the corner” from Rome and as the empire was expanding, it was a strategic port on the southern tip of the Istria Peninsula.

It also got me thinking about the idea that professional sports is a distraction to our society. The amount of attention, money, and energy spent on the professional games is distracting society from the real problems and issues. As I get older, I am less into sports, but still keep a rooting interest and listen to podcasts while running or doing household chores and watch highlights of games. I think doing sports is very beneficial for children but too much of following of the games and wasted time in front of the TV is bad.

The kids had a blast climbing the walls and running around the arena. There was no blood spilled in our gladiator spectacle and we declared the fight a draw.

Sting Performs in Belgrade

We thoroughly enjoyed attending the Sting concert last night at the Belgrade Arena. Sting is the former lead singer of the Police and is a pop music legend. He is on the second European portion of his long tour promoting his new release, Symphonicities. The real name of Sting is Gordon Sumner and the former British school teacher has been a pop star for 30 years. He looks great at age 58 and his voice and energy is of a man 20 years younger. The idea of the album and concert is to rearrange his songs for a symphony orchestra. I really felt that for most of the songs, it gave them a new life and I found that it brought out his voice more and the story behind each song. It made for a varied evening, with featured players including the trumpet, clarinet, violin, cello, etc. Sting is a true musician and played the guitar, lute, harmonica, among other instruments during the course of the 2-hour, 23 song concert.

I grew up with the Police in the 1980’s and as he has aged and developed more complex musical tastes, I’ve been along for the ride. He is one of the my all-time favorite musicians and it was a great concert. Nadia and I took Owen and he managed to stay up the entire evening. It was the first time we all “partied” together. I hope the exposure to music will inspire him to appreciate music. He is taking guitar lessons. I hope to learn the piano and develop that side of my life.

I would like to thank my friend Claudiu for buying the tickets for us way back in February. The seats were magnificent, near the stage and up above the seats on the floor. With Serbians so tall, it is tough to view a concert if you are a row behind someone. The view was perfect. Nadia kept asking me to dress more like Sting! I’ll post photos tonight when I charge my Blackberry.