Today, I bring you some of the beautiful landscapes to be seen in and around Opatija. Above, a view across the arm of the Adriatic Sea, looking towards Rijeka. Rijeka is the largest local city, and a bit less touristy than Opatija. The mountains in the background are the Učka mountains, which run all along the coast behind the cities and enjoyed a variety of picturesque mists, clouds, and fogs at all times!
Did I mention seagulls? Yes, I know, for three days in a row! The statue here is "Maiden with the Seagull", a famous statue in Opatija. Despite the fact that it is featured in almost every photo of the city, every postcard, and all publicity, it is apparently not that notable -- at least according to locals! The story goes that the spot where the statue is located was originally occupied by a beautiful gold-plated Madonna, placed there by a prominent local family in honor of their mother. But the salty sea water was too hard on it, and the statue was moved indoors and replaced by this statue instead. This one is "just a statue with no real meaning" -- but it has nonetheless become an unofficial symbol of the city.
Incidentally, the rocky outcropping where the Maiden stands is pretty typical of the Opatija coast: rocky and rough. There were no real beaches, just rocky cement pads where people could sunbathe. A long rock walkway stretched up and down the coast for many kilometers, running through Opatija and through towns on either side. In many places, the walkway was built right into the rocky shoreline. The walkway runs right past this statue.
Finally, we get to one of my favorite days: Saturday, the day when we got the afternoon free! After a morning lecture, we were free to wander around the countryside. A number of us -- including a Belorussian living in Germany, a Japanese guy from the US, and three Macedonians -- decided to take one of the many hiking trails which lead up into the mountains above Opatija. The trail was narrow but pleasant, with beautiful views along the way -- including this one. We passed along ancient (or at least really old) stone steps, under a modern expressway, and into someone's garden. Following a road from there, we reached Veprinac, a city at the top of one of the mountains. In the city was an ancient (ok, really really old) church, complete with tower and thick stone walls.
After taking a brief but picturesque break, we took another trail down towards Opatija. As it turns out, this one wasn't quite as easy to follow as the last one. At one point, we were faced with two equally likely paths. Which one? We chose one which we thought went in the right direction. After some time, it turned out that we were quite wrong, as we again ended up in someone's back yard. Backtracking, we found a sign pointing us down the other trail -- a rusty sign which had fallen off its posts, hidden in the grass, and had been shot repeatedly with a rifle. After that, we repeated a similar set of mistakes twice more before finally reaching the outskirts of the city.
Regardless, the day was beautiful and the hike was excellent. The saga continues... tomorrow!