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Day 7: Rijeka

Our plan for today was to visit Croatia's third biggest city, Rijeka. Tim looked like he thought I had taken leave of my senses last night when, having spent some time trying to research bus timetables to Rijeka, I turned around to him and suggested that we travel on something called the "Tourist Bus". Had all that travelling on the tourist train in Brijuni gone to my head?! No, but the tourist bus, which runs from Opatija to Rijeka and back several times a day, seemed like quite an attractive proposition. The tickets were 50 kuna each return (about £5) and there was an optional commentary in eight languages. In addition, trying to navigate the timetables for the local bus company which operates normal buses between Rijeka and Opatija was turning out to be somewhat of a challenge. I couldn't quite establish from the internet where to catch the buses from, which zone Opatija was in and hence how much the tickets would cost, and where to buy the tickets in the first place. We had seen the local bus driving past us the previous day and being full to standing, whereas a bit of googling revealed an article about the tourist bus in a local newspaper complaining that Rijeka taxpayers' money was being spent on subsidising it while the average number of tourists per each journey it made was six. It sounded like we might have a better chance of getting a seat on the tourist bus :)

We arrived at the bus station at 09.30 ready to catch the first tourist bus of the day. It turned out to be a colourful open-top double decker, and the number of tourists was seemingly below average as there was only an elderly German couple in addition to us! We were able to get a good seat and enjoy the sea views as we made our way along the coast to Rijeka. I listened to the commentary in Croatian which was fun and it was quite informative, pointing out the key sights that we were driving past and explaining a bit about the history of Rijeka. I knew that Rijeka (also called Fiume) was quite an industrial city, with a large port and several ship-building yards, but the commentary also explained that the factory which made the world's first torpedo was located in Rijeka, as was the first oil refinery in Europe.

We were hoping to discover some more scenic parts of Rijeka than that, so we stayed on the bus until its highest stop at Trsat, in the hills above the city. There are two things to see in Trsat, the first being the Church of Our Lady of Trsat.


The church is an important shrine in Croatia as it is believed that in the thirteenth century the house of Mary was transported here from Nazareth before eventually being moved to its current location in Loreto, Italy. In the grounds there is a statue of Pope John Paul II who visited the church in 2003.


The second sight in Trsat is the castle, which stands on the site of an old Roman fortress and was constructed in the thirteenth century.


The castle fell into decay in the seventeenth century once the threat to the region from the Venetian and Ottoman empires had reduced. Rijeka was also struck by a significant earthquake in 1750 which destroyed most of the town, including parts of the castle.


There were some beautiful views from the ramparts to the sea beyond.


There were also some rather scary statues which looked like a cross between a dragon and a chicken!


From the castle we headed down into the main part of Rijeka. There is a staircase of over 500 steps which leads from the town to Trsat, so it was definitely preferable to walk down them rather than up!

One of the first thing we found was the cathedral of St Vitus, the patron saint of Rijeka, which is unusual for being such a round sort of shape.


We also found this church, which has a leaning bell tower.


Walking through the town we came across this pretty square which has a baroque clock tower.


When you walk through the arch under the clock tower you come out onto the Korzo, Rijeka's main street.


And guess what we found there?!


Yep, that's right; we were just innocently walking down the street when I saw a plaque with the outline of a green star on it. We went over to have a closer look, and found that this building had been the headquarters of the Adriatic Esperanto League, the first Esperanto organisation in Rijeka and in Croatia, when it was founded in 1907.


It seems like we're going to have to try a bit harder to have a completely Esperanto-free holiday :D

Not all of Rijeka was scenic (it has some tower blocks which Birmingham would be proud of!) but one advantage of being in a big city is that there were lots of bookshops. It was fun to browse them and pick up some new Croatian novels to take home with me. I deliberately left lots of space in my suitcase on the way out :)

Once we had finished shopping and exploring, we found a nice Italian restauarant near the waterfront and sat outside eating pizza. It was fun to visit Rijeka and there are definitely some things worth seeing there, but overall we were happy with the decision to choose Opatija as our base in this part of Croatia :)


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