The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera – Rijeka and Trsat

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Saturday morning and breakfast is still disappointing and unimaginative. So we quickly move onto the bus station and buy tickets to Rijeka. This is the principal sea port of Croatia and 3rd largest city of Croatia. We can see the high rise towers from our hotels balcony.

The bus trip takes about 30 mins and although air conditioned it is struggling with the heat of the day. Arriving at the bus station we have no idea of the layout of the city but very quickly we discover city history boards in 6 languages which direct us to the information office. Collecting a map of the city we plan to follow part of the old city trail and then go by bus to the hill top castle overlooking Rijeka at Trsat. This city has been fought over by the Venetians, Italians, Hungarians and the Romans because of its excellent harbour.

Our self-guided tour starts with a performance by local Marching teams performing in the mall. Next we move on and to the old city gate which has had the bell tower and clock added to it over time. Note the two headed eagle in the Hapsburg crest over the gate and then the two headed eagle (both heads looking in the same direction) for the city crest. This is how close the Hapsburgs are to Croatia. Passing through the gate we look for evidence of the city’s past and find images of the present, and remembrance of the past (an old olive press now a fountain). Finally we find all that remains of the old roman gate of the garrison from the late roman period. Behind this are the excavated ruins of the Roman garrison buildings and the garrison well.

St Fabians Chapel was built on top of the ruins in about the 8th century and some form of the chapel stand there today. It now faces a car park on rough ground in the midst of other demolished or partly demolished buildings. One of the buildings has become the canvas for some interesting graffiti. We then moved on to one of the most interesting churches we have encountered – a round chapel once part of a Jesuit monastery. The chapel of St Vitus also has a strange past and I have photographed the story and the icon for you to read.

We tried to visit the Palace of Justice without success and the St Mary Assumption Church and its leaning tower. From there we caught the bus to Trsat to see the old castle and have some lunch. We were dropped off from the bus straight into Our Lady of Trsat Church part of another monastery with a service taking place and being broadcast to the world. Pope John Paul visited the church and as a consequent a large bronze of the Pontiff squats in the fore ground of the church.

We found a restaurant and had lunch with a South American macaw. The bloody thing sat on the outside of its cage scratching and chatting to itself as we crunched away on our salads.

The temperature had risen to over 30 degrees so we tried to keep in the shade whilst finding the castle. It turned out to be close by. It is thought that the castle lies at the exact spot of an ancient Illyrian and Roman fortress. The Croatian noble Vuk Krsto Frankopan is buried in one of the churches. The Trsat castle was completely reconstructed and renovated in the 19th century when the mausoleum of the military commander Laval Nugent was built in its interior. The courtyard of the castle has now been turned into a restaurant and many tourists visit the place during the summer months. We had a good look around finding its fabulous views of the city and the hinterland particularly the amazing freeway across the valley. Kerry was starting to feel the heat so I finished exploring whilst she waited with a friend in the shade.

Leaving the castle behind we made our way to the bus stop (too hot to chance our hand at walking down the 750 steps to Rijeka) and then to the canal by the bus station to Opatija. The return trip was hot and noisy – there is no volume switch on some of the old women on the bus and everyone has to listen to their gossiping. On returning to the hotel I could not wait to get into the shower and then we both dozed for an hour before dinner after which we had a walk to the casino where we cleaned up winning 120 Kuna about 10 pounds. Content with having won enough money to buy lunch tomorrow we returned to the hotel to sleep.

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