Croatia - Three Wise Men


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April 17th 2011
Published: June 13th 2011
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The Three Wise Men





Back To Croatia





I had travelled to Croatia and other Balkan countries a few years ago and have managed to stay in touch and become good friends with most of the group of people I met there. My Croatian friend, Sanja, has recently had a baby daughter so the three of us who still live on the same continent, myself, Emma and Jo {I think we came close to persuading one of the Canadians to come!} are going to Croatia to visit Sanja and pay homage to baby Hana.
My initial plan of bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh didn’t materialise so we’ve arrived with Haribos and baby-grows. And instead of arriving on camels from the Orient we’ve flown by Easyjet from Gatwick.
There’s an unexpected detour for me on the way to Gatwick as I surprisingly find myself going to watch my football team at Wembley {BOLTON 0 – 5 STOKE !!!} but I manage to get to Jo’s quite late on the evening before we fly.
We have no problems with Easyjet {compared to other budget airlines!}. The queues for the check-in aren’t too long, the flight is on time and we don’t have to fight too hard to get seats together. And, despite my bag having to go through a special check-in because it has too many straps (!), our luggage arrives in the right country.
We arrive at Zagreb on time and get through the airport quickly with nearly an hour to spare drinking our first Croatian beer before getting our bus which goes direct to Rijeka {about £20}



Soft Landings



When we arranged the trip to Croatia we weren’t sure where in Rijeka we would stay and we didn’t expect to see too much of Sanja as she is looking after a 7-month old baby. However Sanja, in her usual brilliant style, meets us at the bus station, feeds us {The "feeds us" should be a blog page on it's own! Sanja's mother just couldn't stop putting food in front of us!! Sanja's family went out of their way to look after us} and then delivers us to a 3 bedroom apartment just a few minutes walk from the beach at Kostrena. This apartment belongs to Sanja’s family and just happens to be empty at the time we arrive!


Kostrena



The next morning Sanja and Hana collect us and we go for a walk along the beach at Kostrena and then into Rijeka and Trsat in the afternoon.
Hana is starting her career as a tour guide young as she joins us in the morning. We are told that the beach at Kostrena gets very busy in the summer months but at the moment {April} it’s fairly quiet. There’s just a couple of people on the beach and most of the cafés along the beach front are closed although the weather is certainly warm enough to be at the beach.


Trsat



Trsat, where Sanja’s family lives, is the oldest part of Rijeka, the original settlement on a hill above the port. Here we visit the Church Of Our Lady Of Trsat and Trsat Castle.
The church’s claim to fame is that the stable from Bethlehem where Jesus was born miraculously appeared here in 1213 {it was brought by angels}. It disappeared and reappeared at Lourdes {delivered by angels} three years later. Ever since people have been making pilgrimages here expecting miracles. Pope John Paul II made a long visit here and there is a statue of him outside the church. A flight of 560 steps leads up from the port at Rijeka to the church. This was the path taken by pilgrims. Really hardened pilgrims went up the stairs on their knees – I guess this brought them closer to God. We settle for walking up but at least we are closer to God than if we’d gone by car. There are a couple of small chapels en route and one at the top where pilgrims could stop for a quick prayer. At the side of the church is the Chapel Of Gifts where people who have had their prayers answered return and donate gifts to the church – these are mostly paintings but I do spot a few no-longer-needed crutches in the collection.

At the highest point in Trsat is the castle dating back to the thirteenth century. This is a popular location giving the best views of Rijeka and the surrounding area and is a venue for concerts and theatre performances in the summer.






Rijeka



From Trsat we head down to the town of Rijeka itself. We do a tour of the more modern, pedestrianised town centre and some of the older buildings while Sanja tells us the legends associated with each one. Rijeka even claims a leaning tower. I'm not too impressed by the leaning tower - how about "The Just Fractionally Out Of Line Tower Of Rijeka"? I think that Chesterfield makes a better attempt at a leaning tower!
What better way to finish off a really nice day than heading to one of the bars on the seafront for a beer?




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I wish I could remember what it all means!


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