In October 1904 the 22-year-old James Joyce eloped from Ireland to mainland Europe with his girlfriend (and future wife) Nora Barnacle. He sought work with the Berlitz English-language schools in Zürich and Trieste, but the organization found him a post in Pula instead, where he was paid £2 for a sixteen-hour week teaching Austro-Hungarian naval officers (one of whom was Miklos Horthy, ruler of Hungary between the wars). Despite their straitened circumstances, the couple enjoyed this first taste of domestic life – although Joyce viewed Pula as a provincial backwater, and, eager to get away at the first opportunity, accepted a job in Trieste six months later.
Though Joyce had a productive time in Pula, writing much of what subsequently became Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the city made next to no impact on his literary imagination. In letters home he described it as “a back-of-God-speed place – a naval Siberia”, adding that “Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic, peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear red caps and colossal breeches.”
There are few places in modern Pula that boast Joycean associations; however, you can always enjoy a drink in the café-bar Uliks (“Ulysses” in Croatian), situated on the ground floor of the apartment block which once housed the language school. The terrace boasts a life-size bronze sculpture of the artist sitting on one of the chairs, and there’s a small glass cabinet containing Joyce memorabilia inside.