Opatija (Oh..par..tea..u..(as in butter) and the emphasis is on the second syllable.)
Opatija a town on the Adriatic is dotted with fabulous villas- relics of the 19th century Hapsburg era. In fact, in Roman times, some patricians built summer villas in the area so it is safe to say that people in this area have a fair idea of how to do summer….how to do vacations…how to do hedonism.
A beautiful promenade snakes along the coastline for twelve kilometres, with wonderful views over the town and neighbouring islands, called the Lungomare. Because of the Austro-Hungarian influence, coffee and cake were sublime. We found any reason at all to indulge. The town is filled with great hotels and wonderful cafes and bars.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Adriatic. The spectacular outdoor pool of the hotel is actually across the one-way street and is suspended above the Lungomare. Our hotel package included half-board which was terrific as the food was sensational and the all facilities were excellent.
From our window on the seventh floor we had a spectacular view over Kvarner Bay and down on to the pool. It was a couple of minutes to nine and already there was a line and others running across the road to take their place in the queue. It was hot and a leisurely dip was called for. As we crossed the road we were met by a stream of human traffic coming away from the pool. Confusion set in. We entered to find almost all the sun-lounges ‘barred’ with towels, hats, books or whatever. Ahhhh!!! It is an insane practice and one that particular nationalities seem to think is OK. I am flabbergasted. We once came across two towels weighed down with rocks in a particularly fabulous spot under a tree on one of the Greek islands. It was obviously barred….but it had been for so many years that the towels were perishing yet no one seemed to think it was time to throw the towels and take over the spot. It astounds me.
Astounded is one thing….flummoxed is another.
Public transport is a little problematic in this area and we were being just plain lazy in deciding to rent a car. We picked it up on Monday morning at a nearby hotel. They were in the throes of adjusting to a software upgrade and it took some time to have all the paperwork in order. In the meantime, we were chatting away to the staff about how wonderful we thought Croatia was and how this was our tenth visit and how we were heading towards Rovinj and would probably have lunch in Mošćenička Draga and how clever we were to actually learn to pronounce the name. Eventually we got away and did go to Mošćenička Draga for lunch.
When we came back to our car there was a note on the windscreen. Initially we thought it was advertising and were going to ignore it but I decided it may distract me while driving so I reached over and got it. It was a hand-written note informing us that there was a problem with our car rental paperwork and we needed to contact the office on one of two numbers. What the…. How the heck did they find us? The car was red…but really? Mošćenička Draga is twenty kilometres from the car rental place, there are more than twenty thousand people who live in this area and it’s summer…the number doubles!!!! We were just musing about lunch. There were no set plans. There are heaps of different car parks. How on earth did they find us? I rang and was asked to wait because a colleague would be there to overview the paperwork.
John became suspicious- and rightly so. He rang and cross-examined the speaker and cleverly asked how many times we had been to Croatia. When the fellow answered ten, we knew he was genuine. Even so the whole situation seemed so surreal. We waited…almost an hour…the woman from the office was clearly distressed checked the registration only to find that all was in order. As an olive branch she offered to buy us a coffee. We declined politely and were on our way- baffled, bemused and bewildered!