The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera – Njivice on the island of Krk, Beli on the island of Cres

It is our last day on tour and we are travelling by boat to Njivice on the island of Krk. Krk is the largest island in Croatia and Njivice is the newest town developed on Krk and this is due to tourism. It is all cafes resorts and tourist shops but it also has a traditional beach if somewhat stony. Kerry and I took the opportunity to have a swim. The water is very refreshing and extremely clear. Unlike Icici you can walk into the water but it soon gets to depths of 20 to 25 feet. A 1/2 hour was enough to drive us back to shore to the sunshine and our towels.

Here are the photos of our trip over to Krk our boat and some of the other craft we encountered.

From Krk we travelled to Beli on the island of Cres. Unlike Njivice, Beli developed as a hilltop village and with tourism developed its harbour and the recreational activities that attract tourists. It is also a wildlife haven for the Cres Griffon Vulture although we did not encounter any. Unlike Njivice, Beli has a pebble beach but like Njivice very clear water. But this time we chose to visit the village on top of the hill and take in the stunning scenery. The road to Belli was about 1 kilometre long and most of it at an 18% gradient. Here are the photos.

Our day ended with a long trip home to pack ready for the bus back to Zagreb, Heathrow and then the drive to Long Eaton. I put my camera away until our tour to the Rhine and its wine region of Mosel.

The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera –Ičići

The next day the sky was clear and blue and the beach was beckoning. So we walked in the direction of Lovran along the coast but only made it to Icici (pronounced itchy key). Just past a large marina, Icici is a small village with a pebble beach and the more typical concrete platform. We hired two sun lounges and an umbrella and stretched out with our books. We are outside the summer season and it is Monday so very few people come to the beach and it remains peaceful. There is a gentle breeze and the sun is mild. Ultimately we work up the courage to jump in the sea -shit it was cold and with the tide coming in quite choppy. It is over 6′ deep even at the edge of the concrete beach so no standing around or lolling in the waves just constant treading water and swimming.

We dried off in the sun and then strolled up to the cafe where most of everything on the menu was “off” apart from the hamburgers and hotdogs. At least the beer was cold and the wine cheaper than Fanta. The wind picked up after lunch and the water became colder and choppier. By 4.00pm we decided to go home – 40 minutes walk along the coastline. A very pleasant day.

Here are some photos of the beach and the walk home.

The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera – Rijeka once again

The sun did not get up this morning. Rather a grey sky and blustery wind covered over the blue and bright sky of Croatia so our plans change. After enquiries we decide we will go to Krk which is the largest town on the island of the same name. Unfortunately our intel was rubbish and we arrived in Rijeka one hour before the next bus to Krk. The weather was still unfavourable and we did not want to sit at the bus station for another hour so we decided to walk into Rijeka and see a bit more of the town.

We called into Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes a huge church attached to yet another monastery but there was a service being performed so I thought it would be bad taste to start taking photos; particularly with the big crowd of believers there. We moved on to Square Trg and found Stendarac, a monument given to Rijeka by Emperor Maxamillan for its loyalty to Venice. Since 1700 the Square of Trg Riječkae rezolucijae Square has served as a playground for the children of the patricians, and this is where Stendarac is located, a stone flagpole/pillar used for the flag which was raised as instructed by the Emperor Maximilian in memory of the city’s loyalty during the Venetian occupation in 1508 and as confirmation of the political rights of the city. Originally it was located in front of the old City Hall on Koblerov trg Square, but over the years it has often changed its location. The pillar /flagpole, over 2 metres high is decorated with three inscriptions that date back to 1509, 1515 and 1766, as well as with a relief of St. Vitus holding a model of the city in his hand.

We strolled on to the markets past the train chugging down the main street, past the Ivan pl. Zajc Croatian National Theatre located by the main city market, close to the banks of the Rječina River and close to the port’s docks, on reclaimed land of the former army training ground known as Ürmeny Square.

The markets are made up of two purpose built two storey pavilions one full of butchers shops and the other full of fish mongers, smelly fish mongers.

Not much else to do so we caught a bus home and took a walk along the front. The sun made an appearance but the wind was doing its best to blow it away. Made it around to Hemingway’s cafe and found the Sea Kidd London tied up awaiting its clients. Had a burger, took some photos and went home. Oh by the way if you want to see more about the MV Sea Kidd London go to

We then took a walk home passing the visitors wall – graffiti depicting from Mahler to Luminere – see the photos below.

Home or the hotel at least we went to the pool read a book had a swim and then back to the room – a lazy day.

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

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.

The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera – Lovrana and Moscenice

Friday and the weather is fine with not a cloud in the sky. Only a half day trip today. We will go to Lovrana and Moscenice. We took the small bus today mainly because of the number in the tour group.

Lovran is a town in Istria, Croatia. It is situated on the western coast of the Kvarner Bay. Its name derives from Laurel (Laurus nobilis), as shown in the coat of arms. Lovran is one of the oldest coastal settlements on the eastern shore of Istrian peninsula. By the early Middle Ages it was an important urban and shipbuilding centre of northern Adriatic. Following the sudden development of port towns in the vicinity (Trieste, Pula, and Rijeka) which became the new and dominant urban centres in the region, Lovran lost its significance.

However, by the mid-19th century, the area gained prominence as it becomes a fashionable resort of Austro-Hungarian nobility. The long tradition of tourism is still strongly felt in the Lovran region, and it forms the backbone of the economy. The region is rich with cultural-historical heritage. A parish church with medieval frescoes and Glagolitic inscriptions, and the 14th century tower of St George’s Square within the old urban core, as well as rural ambiances and architectural edifices – namely turn-of-the-century villas with surrounding parks, are general points of interest.

Lovran includes an old town that was once fortified and evidence of the fortification can be seen today. Beside the old watch tower is the church of St George first founded in the 12th century. Both front the old town square which includes Mustacon a wooden relief over the door of a house to protect the inhabitants from evil. Only one of the old town gates exists today and outside of the old town is St Trinity Chapel. There is also a very good coffee shop where we enjoyed an iced coffee – best choice for a hot day.

Mošćenice is a village in the municipality of Mošćenička Dragain Primorje-Gorski Kotar County on the Istrian peninsula, close to Opatija, Croatia. I thought I would give all you secretly Croatian types a chances to get your tongue around a few Croatian names.

It is a typical hilltop village with stone houses and narrow streets situated 173 metres above Mošćenička Draga. From Mošćenice one has a nice view across the Kvarner Gulf to Rijeka and the islands of Krk and Cres. The village is connected to the Mošćenička Draga by road and 750 steps which lead from St. Ivan beach to the centre of the village. Besides the old St. Andrew church, places of interest are the local ethnographic museum and an old olive extraction mill.

The town is typically built as a concentrically conceived settlement with outer walls consisting of houses whose outside walls function as walls of the fortress. In such an enclosed environment, space is precious and all houses are built close to one another, separated by narrow streets and sometimes linked by covered passages. Much of the medieval structure is still visible now.

Our tour starts at the loggia outside the village. Here the village council met and the court was convened and the markets were held. From there we went through the gate under the Austro Hapsburg Crest. The village relied on refining olive oil for most of its life. One of the oil crushing plants from 500 years ago still exits and we were able to visit this establishment.

The parish church of St Andrew Apostle is very intriguing. The resident priest visited us at the church to speak to us in Croatian whilst our local guide translated. The church has been operating on this site since 800AD has been restored many times and added to by Italian soldiers during WW2 with frescos and repainting. It includes the remaining pillars from the original 8th century church and some odd objects including a cross adorned with all the instruments of the crucifixion of Christ.

Then a visit to the local ethnographic museum in the old watch house. Here we found that there is a Scotsman everywhere. If you look closely at the feet of the shepherds coat there is the Croatian form of the bag pipes which our guide said predated the Scots and Irish and made more of a din. The other costume is the typical married woman’s attire. A yellow sash indicated an engaged woman and white sash – a virgin? Perhaps just still looking said our guide.

Back to the hotel and down to the beach. The water is warm said our guide. Bullshit – bloody freezing but still we climbed in and swam around for about 1/2 an hour in water variously 6 feet to 25 feet deep. Then we sat in the sun, and watched the boats go by, before touring more of Opatija visiting the fountain and then the Museum of Tourism located in the first villa built at Opatija in 1820s with its impressive gardens and its Swiss Cottage in the yard. We also passed the Mozart Hotel the prettiest villa on the coast.

And so ended Friday.

The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera – Pula and Rovinj

After getting a reasonable nights sleep we arise to travel to Pula and Rovinj. Pula, a seafront city on the tip of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, is known for its protected harbor, long, beach-lined coast and Roman ruins. Founded as early as the 10th century B.C.E. and valued for its strategic location, Pula has been occupied, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, including by the Romans, Ostrogoths and Venetians, as well as the Allied Forces during WW2.

The Romans built a major settlement there with a road to Rome running past Pula’s amphitheatre part of which remains today. Although not as complete as the amphitheatre in Rome or Verona it is still interesting to visit. It is slightly different but the same principle as Rome. The basement has disappeared but with restoration a museum has been created where once gladiators gathered and wild animals were stored ready for the fights. Amphora and oil presses now replace the other.

We then took a tour of the old city of Pula seeing the remains of the Roman gates, the sculpture of James Joyce, some mosaic floor tiles from the Roman period, the temple of Augustus, and the town hall built with part from the wall from the temple of Diana. The streets were in some places narrow and lanes ran off to climb the hill to the peak over which the Romans built their city. Inevitably there is an old church and this one was connected to a Baptistery. The Baptistery is gone but its bell tower remains.

The Croatians have been under the subjugation of a number of empires and countries but they only regained their independence after the Second World War and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. A monument to those who brought independence looks over the harbour that brought so many invaders.

We then travelled to Rovinj on the way to the border with Slovenia. Rovinj/Rovigno is a city located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, it is a popular tourist resort and an active fishing port. Istriot, a Romance language once widely spoken in this part of Istria, is still spoken by some of the residents. The town is officially bilingual, Italian and Croatian, hence both town names are official and equal.

The area of the old city is on an island that has over time been connected to the mainland so you get lanes leading to the sea and harbours surrounding it on three sides. We decided not to go on the tour but find things for ourselves. First stop was the market where I could not resist buying some fabulous looking figs but figs are like a weed here – everywhere you turn there is a fig tree. So it was a bit like carrying coal to Newcastle. There was the usual church on the top of the hill in the centre of the old town. It has a bell tower which you can climb for 20 Kuna and a stout heart. The old wooden stairs, 180 of them, threaten to collapse with every footstep. But the view from above is worth the heart stopping climb.

We then walked down through the town clearly still a place for the living. It was hot and humid very much like Brisbane so when we saw a pizza restaurant with some satisfied customers enjoying pizza outside of the restaurant, we had to stop. The satisfied customers turned out to be John Stefanic, his wife and sister. John is a first generation Aussie catching up on his Croat heritage. So some lunch at Harlekin a chat with John and 1/2 a litre of wine and we were ready for the rest of the trip.

Strolling down to the harbour we made our way round to the bus pickup through the old city gate. Again there was a modern memorial to the heroes creating the modern Croatia. The bus trip back was via the freeway and threw the new 5 kilometre tunnel through Mount Ukca.

The Retirees go Abroad – Croatia – Opatija Riviera

By the time we meet our tour guide and wait whilst the rest of the tour collect their luggage we don’t get away till 12.00 noon. It is a 21/2 hr bus ride to Opatji on the Croatian Riviera. The trip from Zagreb to Opatija took over 21/2 hours through the countryside and then the mountains onto the Adriatic coast.

Our hotel is quite reasonable and well located overlooking the sea. There is a path that follows the water front and it was enjoyable to stretch our legs. We visited the 15th century church of St Jacob which started life as a Benedictine monastery. The Croatian word for Monastery – Opatija – gave the town its name. The coast line is quite attractive with its clear water splashing against the side walk wetting passers-by.

We have met Avis, a single Scottish lass who lived 18 years in Melbourne then moved to Holland and now lives in Norfolk and has the most complex accent and we have also met brother and sister David and Joy from Rutland the UK’s smallest county. Joy is widowed but has done quite a lot of travel with her husband and after he died has travelled with her brother. So we all have stories to tell and share.

After settling into the hotel, we walked along the beach front. The beach front is a stone and concrete wall with various little harbours and swimming nooks stretching for some 7 kilometres with a walking path atop of it. Opatija has only found fame as a tourist destination in the mid-1800s. Up till then it was a small unimportant fishing village. Our walk took us past many of the villas and hotels from that period and an ancient church the church of St Joseph with its golden Mary outside. There are larger and more modern churches but the favourite is St Josephs.

The Retirees go Abroad – On our way to Croatia – Oxford revisited

We have been lying low and recovering from our trip to the Lakes District but now look forward to our 7 days in Croatia. As we fly out on Wednesday morning from Heathrow at 8.00am, we have booked into a hotel at Hayes outside of London near Uxbridge. On the way down to London, we called into Oxford to reminisce about our visit to Oxford with Rod and Kerry Hayes and to see some more of the exhibits at the Ashmolean Museum. This is Britain’s first dedicated museum and it is fascinating. Certain things really caught my eye this time. One exhibit on the making of violins and stringed instruments down the centuries was so absorbing once again I ran out of time.

After a bite of lunch we walked down to Christ Church College through the garden and around to Merton and Corpus Christi up Magpie Lane over to the Bodleian Library and Brasenose College then into Broad St past Baliol College and to bus stop 2 to go back to Pear Tree Park and Ride then on to Heathrow.

We stayed overnight at the Mercure Hotel at Hayes near terminal 5 at Heathrow. This gives us the ability to be at the terminal for our 8.10am departure. However even an early flight from Heathrow can be delayed and we don’t get away till 9.00am meaning we arrived at Zagreb in Croatia at 11.00am.