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Published: July 29th 2022
The Good: Our Victorious Masters Diver
Jeff wanted to dive at the Kantrida Pool ever since he saw an image similar to this.
Jeff has always wanted to dive at the Kantrida Swimming Complex, which features a spectacular world class springboard and platform diving facility with the Adriatic Sea as a backdrop. So, when the Croatian Masters Diving Championship was scheduled for at a time that did not clash with school, he eagerly signed up for the meet.
To get to Rijeka, we took a short flight from Berlin. Rijeka is about 18km west of the airport, and our accommodation (and the pool) was another 6km west from the city center. We were planning on taking the local bus, but we lucked out as Jeff's friend and age group rival was on the same flight and he had rented a car. We scored a ride with him. As soon as we checked in to our rented apartment, we walked a short distance to a beach shack for a lunch as we were both famished.
The Good I: Our Victorious Masters Diver
Jeff performed well in the meet. He won the gold medal for his age group for all his individual events - 1 meter, 3 meter, and platform. He also medaled in all six synchronized diving events he
The Good: Our Victorious Masters Diver
Jeff executing one of his dives from the 3M springboard. We certainly got a lot of good shots with the Adriatic in the background.
entered for - four gold, one silver, and one bronze. Interestingly, he is most proud of his bronze medal because he had to make significant adjustments to his diving style to properly synchronize with his partner who was 1.5 feet shorter than him!
The Good II: Our Day Trips to Rijeka
Our apartment was about 6km from Rijeka itself. We took several day trips there. We each bought a one week bus pass for HRK 96, which was a good deal since we would only need to take four round trips to break even. We took several day trips to the city center to eat and explore. Rijeka is a port town, and parts of the city were somewhat gritty, but it had a lived in charm. The city center itself wasn’t large, but it had a lot of walking streets with outdoor cafes.
Thanks to Atlas Obscura, we found two gems in town: the Peek and Poke Computer Museum
, and the Rijeka Tunnel
. The Peek and Poke Museum is basically a nerd’s collection of computers and related communications technology, from telephones to adding machines, aeronautics, computers, printers, sound and video devices, and video games. We both played Pac-Man, even though the joystick
The Good: Our Day Trips to Rijeka
The Rijeka Tunnel was a pleasant find and the cool air gave us a respite from the heat.
was problematic. The friendly proprietor plied us with free water and even offered raki. We declined the latter.
The Rijeka Tunnel was built by the Italians in World War II to protect the civilian population from aerial bombs. It is 350 meters long. The start point is next to the St Vitus Cathedral, and it ended next to a school. It was nice and cool in the tunnel and it was a welcome respite from the heat which was in the 90s. Admission was free.
Other than these two sights, we did some walking around Rijeka. It is a pleasant city, with a number of traffic free streets and lots of open air cafes. I was surprised to not see evidence of overt poverty, which, sadly, is a common sight nowadays in the United States. Additional research revealed that Croatia's Gini Coefficient is a respectable 0.29.
The Good III: Trsat Castle
Nestled in the hills above Rijeka, Trsat Castle is a 13th century castle built on a site in continuous use since Roman times. It was used as a strategic lookout over the Rejcine River to the Adriatic Sea. It fell into disrepair in the 17th
century, and was refurbished in the 19th century when an Irish nobleman named Laval Nugent von Westmeath was given the property as a reward for his success fighting for Austria and liberating Croatia.
We had a fun time exploring the castle and enjoying the views. We also had a family connection to the castle as Nugent is Jeff's uncle's family name. The family mausoleum and crypt were on the property. We had a lot of fun sending the Nugents pictures of their final resting place. We actually visited the castle twice; the second trip was for a social gathering of the divers. At that event, there was a dance floor atop the crypt. We teased the Nugents about dancing on their graves.
When we visited the area on our own, we also walked around a church and the surrounding park. The church yard had the fourteen stations of the cross, and the park had a second longer circuit of the stations, each with its own statue. The views from the park were great too.
The Good IV: Opatija
About 9km west of our accommodation is the town of Opatija. In contrast to working class and somewhat gritty
The Good: Opatija
Genteel, curated, and pretty.
Rijeka, Opatija is pretty, curated, and glitzy. Most holidaymakers stay there because it has nicer beaches. To be honest, I like Rijeka more; it just seems more real.
At Opatija, we started off by walking around Park Angiolino. Within the park, we encountered a gem - an exhibit on Salvador Dali focusing on some of his literary- and science-related work, such as drawings based on Dante's Divine Comedy, and it consisted of lithographs, copperplate engravings, and other graphic works on loan from a private collector. There were plenty of disturbing pieces that explored the psychosexual aspects of life. This was a great find! I had seen billboards for this exhibit before we headed out to Opatija, but because the dates were written in non-US style (i.e., DD/MM instead of MM/DD), I thought that the exhibit was over.
The rest of our day trip was spent wandering around. We encountered a sign that said "American Garden" (per Google Translate) and we followed the signs up a hill. We found the small garden; it had nothing American about it. Oddly, there was an Italian flag in it.
The Good V: The People
I came to Croatia expecting
The Good: The People
We ate five meals at Bistro Na Kantrida. The people here were so kind and friendly!
to encounter language barriers everywhere, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of people we encountered were bilingual. We felt very welcome and everyone was so nice to us. We especially enjoyed our five meals at the Bistro Na Kantridi, which was such a friendly place. As an added bonus, they played great 80s music. The beach shack near the pool was also very friendly and welcoming.
The Bad: Covid? What's That?
Croatia's vaccination rate is only 56 percent, and it was a little unnerving to be around so many people who were not wearing masks indoors and on public transport, and not observing social distancing. This was in stark contrast to my trip to Singapore and Thailand last year, and even Germany was far less lax. But, maybe Croatia is on the right track with determining how to live with a now endemic virus. Regardless, I was slightly uncomfortable, and we stood out like sore thumbs when we masked up on the bus and indoors. Thankfully, I did not contract Covid during the trip.
Jeff was often bothered by cigarette smoke, especially in restaurants. I wasn't too bothered as I lived
Insouciant pigeons who didn't care that they were bathing in public.
in England in the 1990s and I know how it is in Europe. I also spent a lot of time with European backpackers during my 2017 career break, so this wasn't too much of an issue for me.
The Insouciant adjective
showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent
For whatever reason, Jeff thought that the birds in Rijeka were especially insouciant. This quickly became a running gag where we would try try to spot any birds we thought were particularly insouciant.
This was my first trip to Europe in over 20 years (I lived in England in the 1990s and my last trip to the UK was in 2001), and it felt good to be back. This was a very pleasant trip despite the heatwave that gripped most of Europe. We only saw and experienced a small slice of Croatia, but we both want to explore more of this country. We left Rijeka on July 24th, spent one night in
The Insouciant wasn't limited to ornithological specimens. Here is an insouciant statue of Janko Polic Kamov, an early 20th century avant garde novelist. While I give Jeff an A for effort, I don't think he pulls off insouciance too well.
Berlin at the airport hotel, and then undertook the long trek home via Heathrow and Seattle.
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