Rijeka and Opatija, Croatia

I’ve taken many buses in Croatia and most of them have been on similar routes. For instance, my bus to Zadar also went to Rijeka.

On my bus to Rijeka, I’m pretty sure I had the bus driver before….but no matter.

It was interesting seeing the landscape change as I made my way north. It was a 4 hour bus ride and we went from green to a brown. I’ve been sitting on the left side of the bus to see the water views better. That remained the same as we worked our way up the coast.

We stopped twice for a break. I was able to walk around some small towns and take pictures of their portion of the sea.

Numerous islands are scattered along the coast, but just beyond them is the coast of Italy.

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I never realized how close Italy was until my time in Rijeka and Opatija. There are many Italian influences along with influences from the Austrian- Hungarian empire. The buildings in Rijeka look as if they could be in Vienna.

It still has some of that medieval coastal town feel that other Croatian cities have, but it still looks like a “classical” European city. It is very charming.

My tour book said it’s not a big tourist destination, but I think it’s worth a stop. Like other cities, it has Roman ruins along side medieval ones. It also has a castle that overlooks the city offering great views.

Next to the castle is a church that is a regular pilgrimage spot. The church itself is used for weddings. There are many stairs to get to this area. Between 500- 600 I’ve been told. The information lady told me 20 minutes. It took me no more than 10, but I do walk fast.

Anyways, the Italian influence….

The day I went to Opatija, I had two people speak Italian to me straight away. I guess I look Italian or they assume a tourist in this season must be from Italy. My hostel said Italians come over for dental tourism…interesting.

I could understand them through my Spanish, but I would get confused looks when I answered back in Spanish. I know they are different languages, but they are similar enough that directions and time shouldn’t be a problem. My third conversation was with an elderly man. He was helping me find the bus back to Rijeka. Through a combination of Croatian, English, German, and Italian/Spanish I was able to understand.

“Próximo strasse.” (Meaning next street in Italian/Spanish and German, if I’m spelling street right in German). It was kind of funny, our conversation.

Opatija and it’s neighboring village, Volosko, are well worth couple hours of your time in Rijeka. Bus 32 runs roughly every 30 minutes, round trip is 26 kunas.

Opatija used to be a fishing village that got transformed into a health resort in the late 1800s. It started with a wealthy Italian man who built a mansion and invited his other rich friends. Soon tourists from all walks of life gathered in Opatija and the fishing village adapted to the crowds, developing hotels and concrete beaches. Fishermen converted to barkajol, which are Opatija boat captains (tourism). The railroad also helped tourism as it incorporated the town along its route.

They built a promenade next to the water from Volosko to another town after Opatija, which is 12 km in length. It’s only 2 km walk between Volosko and Opatija. This walkway increased the reputation as a health resort.

The main street is full of restaurants and fancy shops. The mansions are now accommodations and the mansion built by that rich Italian is now a museum on Croatian tourism.

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The name is a bit wrong as the main mansion, Villa Angiolina, holds an exhibit on boats, more specifically, boat models, and the gardener’s house, the Swiss house, holds an exhibit on the history of tourism in Opatija. So no history of Croatia as a whole. Adults are 15 Kuna while students are 7. The museum is simple and small, but nice to see for such a small price.

The promenade offers great sea views and takes you past several mansions. I then took a bus back from Volosko, a sleepy village especially in the winter.

Like other cities, both Rijeka and Opatija have Christmas markets and my first night I was treated to Opera singers in the main street of Rijeka, Korzo.

I was later accompanied by a hostel mate. Our goal was to find mulled wine for both of us and fried dough and a sausage in a bun (not a hot dog) for just her. She was very excited about the sausage, which I found somewhat strange as she has been a vegan for the 2 years prior to her trip to Europe.

I watched the sunset, on my last night, on the pier. It’s not much of a pier, but it does the job as its more a concrete arm attached to the main land. I took pictures from one side then sat on the other waiting for it to get dark to see the city lights.

Gradually, lights started to turn on one by one as the moon took over for the sun. Golden Christmas lights hanging from the trees, street lights, and white signs twinkle while the mountains in the background looming over the city couldn’t escape being sprinkled with lights from distant villages and suburbs.

I don’t think I have seen a city turn from day to night before, or at least, paid specific attention to it.

A cool thing about Rijeka, Opatija, and Volosko is that it offers free WiFi. Having free WiFi the past few days has reminded me what it’s like to have data again. To just walk along the street and message someone or look up something. I feel very spoiled and futuristic haha.

When I got back from Opatija, I was still hungry as my lunch wasn’t that big so I stopped at a bakery for a burek, a typical food. It’s a croissant/crust like she’ll pastry thing filled with cheese and spinach or just cheese or some type of meat. It hit the spot!

My hostel was also wonderful. I stayed at Hostel 1W (for one world I believe). It’s located near the bus station and it’s at the start of that walking street. The rooms were quite pleasant. Showers were great. The kitchen is small and the common room is the reception area, but being down season (aka very few people), it was fine.

Off to Pula for a few days then back to Zagreb. I’m excited to see Zagreb again. I knew little about Croatia when I was last there. Now, I can safely say that I’ve seen Croatia. Not all of it of course, but enough that I have no doubt in my mind what this beautiful country has to offer 🙂

More photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/myopenpassport/?

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