Saturday, May 26, 2007
KIM: Today we landed in an unexpected place: Opatija. This is a small but famous resort town just west of Rijeka and feels like the French Riviera, but is smaller and less crowded. We drove a lovely coastal route to get here and stopped because we knew that Rijeka would be our last opportunity to meet with Anastasia’s family, but hadn’t been able to get in touch with them yet. A few days ago we had what we thought were some good leads, thanks to the help of the receptionist in the geriatric-militant-socialist toplice, but none of them panned out. On the drive today, we stopped in a town called Labin where we thought we might find an enclave of Brencics. While it’s likely that there are some family there, we had a very difficult time finding anything in that town so we gave up and continued on. Beyond Labin, the coastal views were wonderful, and though the weather is very warm for traveling, it is perfect for swimming… yes we swam in the Adriatic today!
Upon reaching Opatija we checked into a hotel that was far too expensive, but since we have managed to stay in very nice but inexpensive lodging all along, it seemed like a reasonable splurge. This hotel is old opulence and right on the beach. It’s probably at least a hundred years old, and has seen better days, but still manages to feel elegant. After a late lunch, we walked up the main street to get a feel for the town and almost passed by the local tourist office because we have consistently had more luck asking for help and advice from people on the street than from the professionals (like the guy working at the petrol station today who sold us a phone card and then helped us figure out how to use it). But, we decided to go in to the tourist office anyway. It’s a good thing because the young Croatian woman at the front desk, Sandra, was just about as helpful as anyone could have been! She listened to the reason for our visit and immediately picked up the phone to call the Rijeka relatives and translate our request for a visit. It’s all set for Saturday. We will visit Brankitca (who speaks English) and her parents, Branko and Zdenka (who don’t) in their home in a small town on the coast south of Rijeka. Without Sandra’s help, we may not have been able to schedule this on our own! Tomorrow we will likely visit a nearby island called Krk, and then after the family visit on Saturday, head for Plitvice Lakes and then further south on the coast.
We have had many reasons to smile on this trip. Of course we crack ourselves up often, attempting to communicate. A few days ago, I toasted my hosts by saying “goodbye” instead of “cheers” (“nasvidenje” /“nasdravje”). Today, our new friend Sandra made us giggle. When we thanked her for her help she said in excellent English “it is my will” meaning that she wanted to help us. When we said goodbye, instead of replying with “enjoy your stay”, she said “please enjoy your permanence”.
This post is being uploaded two nights after we were in Opatija. We have been staying in places without Internet access, so will have to catch up!
Photos: The southeastern coast of Istria, just after leaving Labin, and the view from our hotel room in Opatija.