Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hitting the Road to Rijeka

Lynn and I woke up in Istria for the last time. We had breakfast with the group and said as our rental car pulled up to the front of Hotel Lone in Rovinj.

The Croatia Tourism Board had arranged for us to have this Audi as we hit the road to check out two more areas of the country neither of us had ever been: Rijeka and Split.

Rijeka was first and we had a scenic ride along the Mediterranean Sea to our destination.

It definitely looked more city-like than anywhere we had been in Istria, and Rijeka was in fact filled with plenty to. This has made it a very popular cruise port in the last few years.

We would be staying overnight at the Hotel Bonavia. It was centrally located and looked quite “grand.”

It was raining when Dominik Damis of the Rijeka Tourist Board and guide Alenka Šuljić Petrc picked us up to tour Rijeka, but we weren’t deterred from seeing the sites.

As we went through the city, we saw the cruise terminal, and heard about how inexpensive Rijeka is as a tourist destination. Taxis around the city are around a $1 a ride, and hostels are only about 25 euros a night, making it especially popular with young people.

She told us about the Planetarium and the ferries that you could use to easily visit the small islands in the area. We also learned that Al Capone’s mother lived in Rijeka, as did former New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia.

We also passed the Rijeka Synagogue, a small orthodox synagogue that was built and opened in 1932.

We drove up the hill to Trsat, where we explored the Castle and the Franciscan Monastery, which had been honored with a visit from Pope John Paul II. A bronze statue commemorates his time in Rijeka.

Despite the rain, we were able to see some beautiful views of the city and the sea behind it.

We went back down to town to meet Snijezana Papes from the Port of Rijeka for lunch at Gardens Restaurant. In some ways it reminded me of a New York diner, with a big menu that offered a little of everything.

Lynn and I were surprised how different the culture and food in Rijeka was from Istria. It was a little less Italian-influenced, but we found a lot more salads and vegetables.

After an indulgent chocolate fudge cake dessert,  we talked more about the port and the city before the group left us at Korzo, the pedestrian shopping area.

At first sight, it reminded me of a similar area in Vienna, but it wasn’t quite as high end. The prices and selection was quite reasonable.

Korzo also has outdoor cafes between the shops.

Lynn, a jewelry designer, especially loved the mosaics in the galleries. I picked up a few souvenirs to bring home.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were pretty worn out from a long day. We were glad dinner was scheduled for right in the Grand Hotel Bonavia.

The meal was great, but the Berry Crepe finish was fantastic.

Fortunately, it was also light because we were more than ready to head straight to bed.

It had been a great introduction to Rijeka and I hoped to come back, but in the morning, we were off to Split. 

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