This morning it was time to say goodbye to Pula and move on to our next destination: Opatija. Opatija is a small town on the eastern coast of the Istrian peninsula, famous for being the first spa town in Croatia. We had added it to our itinerary firstly because it looked like a pleasant place in its own right, and secondly because it is quite close to the city of Rijeka which we decided we would like to visit, but not necessarily stay in.
The journey from Pula to Opatija took around two hours by bus. When we bought our tickets in the bus station in Pula, we were charged a couple of kuna extra for seat reservations and allocated seats 33 and 34. Once the bus arrived it took us a few minutes to pay the driver for our luggage, and so by the time we eventually climbed aboard we weren't completely surprised to see that another passenger had already made herself comfortable in seat 33. In what may be the greatest language success of the holiday, I told her in Croatian that we had these seats and she actually moved! Although not without first complaining at me in Croatian that there were plenty of other seats free and we could just sit in some of those. It's true that there were other seats free, but we didn't want to sit in someone else's seat and then have them come along and ask us to move.
Seating issues resolved, the bus journey was actually very pleasant as we made our way out of Pula and into the more hilly countryside beyond. The closer we got to Opatija the more mountainous the landscape seemed to become, and we had some beautiful views out across the sea as we made our way around the coast.
We arrived in Opatija around 1pm and started following the directions to our apartment. It was only a kilometre away from the bus station according to the map we'd printed, but one of the downsides of Google maps is that they don't show contours! There isn't very much of Opatija which is flat, and so we found ourselves lugging our suitcases up a succession of rather steep staircases in the hillside.
It was hard work, but by the time we got up high enough to find the street we were looking for there was a beautiful view out to sea.
We checked into the apartment and were pleased to see that it was really nice and spacious.
A staircase leads up from the living room to a little mezzanine level which is home to the bed.
The space is literally just long enough for the bed!
Once we had settled in we headed out to explore Opatija. The town started out as a small fishing village but became popular as a holiday destination for the Austrian royal family and nobility during the nineteenth century. A number of very grand hotels and villas were constructed around this time, as well as some formal gardens and a 12-km promenade along the coast to the nearby village of Lovran, which we hope to explore tomorrow.
This afternoon we settled for having a stroll around the various parks and gardens...
...and admiring some of the more ornate villas.
We found the church of St Jakov, originally constructed in the fifteenth century as a Benedictine monastary.
We walked along the coast for a while and saw Opatija's most famous statue, "Djevojka s galebom" (The girl with the seagull).
After a while we came to Villa Angiolina, which stands in the grounds of a botanical garden.
There were some very pretty displays of flowers in the gardens.
We walked a little further along by the sea before turning back towards the main town. It was a bit windy today and the water was quite choppy.
Another stroll along the main street in Opatija revealed how grand some of the hotels are. It looks like a place where it would be possible to spend a lot on accommodation if you wanted to!
As we walked back upwards towards our apartment, we caught a glimpse of an interesting domed church in the background. Perhaps we will be able to explore it in more detail tomorrow