The trip to Croatia was part of a tradition I have with my mother that says we try to meet for my birthday or hers somewhere in the world. We did it in Milan, Switzerland, Rome… In 2010 it was time for the Istria region, where mum had a collective painting exhibition with her FISAIC group.
For this kind of meetings, we were supposed to meet in an airport (but as I had an issue with my flight – which means I missed it – they waited for me in the city of Venice, Italy). My mother brought to this trip her aunt, an amazing 75 year old, full of energy and curiosity. It was the year when I was half her age, wishing I will have at least half of her vitality when I get to her age.
Rijeka seemed nice late in the evening, when we arrived. My mum stayed with her painting group at one hotel, while we stayed at another (a bit more economic), with great views, though. She also had some scheduled activities, which gave us two the opportunity to wander around the Kvarner Bay, an inlet of the Adriatic Sea.
The must-sea of the area is Pula, Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea, which has been Istria region’s administrative centre since it was part of the Roman Empire. With my passion for Roman architecture, I assumed that Pula (in spite of his unhappy meaning of the city’s name in Romanian – use google translator if you are curious!) will be a hit. It was! It has a well preserved arena, very similar to the Colosseum in Rome – yet smaller. Here is where I saw one of the cutest ideas for travelleres: a frame in which you can take a picture of yourself (see the gallery below for mine).
Nevertheless, all the other locations we chose to stumble upon in the three days trip were amazing: the streets were clean, the buildings well taken care of; everything was in its place, like any old city once part of the Habsburg Empire should be. Also, they have nice spicy food, a Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian dish I really like: Pljeskavica, the Balkan version of a hamburger.
We stopped at Opatija and ate it on a terrace near the sea (where we were also served Tang, refreshment you make yourself by pouring some orange dust into the water…). The parking is scarce around the area, so make sure you have change to feed into the meters.
Poreč was nicer; it had a different type of seashore, more Mediteranean style. There were also old walls since the city was a citadel. Here we met some traditionally dressed people who were preparing for a local festival. Unfortunately, we had to head back to Rijeka (it was my mother’s birthday celebration that night and I planned a surprise that included the band singing Happy Birthday).
On the way back, a view that took our breaths away was the water channel near Plomin, a combination of the sea’s turquoise and the dark green grass. Majestic!
Rijeka, where we had our headquarters, is a big city by the sea, a place where the old and the new mix together pretty well (there are clubs and bars and all the modernity the contemporary life needs). Downtown Rijeka we saw a sports competition for children, with all the related charm of fans cheering and winners winning.
One of the strangest things that happened to us while touring the Istria part of Croatia was that, no matter how much we avoided it (using a map and a GPS), we ended up crossing the Učka Tunnel and paid the toll. Three days, three visits to this 5 km long tunnel.
I also have a nice story about Rijeka: the souvenir and jewelry stores sell the head of a black guy with a turban, called Morčic (the maure), who apparently is either a servant from a Muslim country brought by the Venetians in the 17th century, or a symbol of defeating the ottomans, back in the 16th century. In 1991, Morčic became the mascot of the city.