45 18.9N 14 17.4E
ICICI Marina (near to Opatija) Friady 26th – Tuesday 30th July
We called the ACI Marina at Icici in advance of our arrival and were given berthing instructions. We were originally on the first pontoon inside the entrance but were not happy there as the wash from all the boats entering and leaving was very annoying so we were relocated to pontoon B a much better berth! The marina is of a high standard with excellent showers a small laundry service a lovely café and two posh restaurants. Close by is a small stony beach popular with locals and there is a small Kozum supermarket just 5 minutes’ walk away. Vjeko called us in the afternoon and suggested we be ready for a trip by car to the mountains; he arrived at 1630 and we were off!
It was a lovely drive up a long winding road through the forests that back the coast here. Eventually we were above the tree line and we reached an observation point where on a clear day you can see across the whole of the Istrian peninsula to the sea on the west and at night even the lights of Venice! Unfortunately it was very hazy but we could see the islands of Krk and Cres as well as the reflection of the sun on the sea to the far west. The air was delightfully cool here and we relished this as it had been uncomfortably warm at sea level! On the way back we stopped at a mountain restaurant where they were holding a stew cooking competition! It was fascinating! 14 entrants had to build fires with wood and erect tripods onto which they slung large cooking pots. The competition had finished by the time we arrived and the winner had been declared however we were able to sample the first and second prize winner’s dishes which were scrumptious! There were about 200 people there all enjoying the food and imbibing of copious amounts of local hooch and beer etc. We even had a musical duet – a piano accordion and trumpet being played enthusiastically by two young men. Later we went into the restaurant for some refreshment Jacky had coffee served with a speciality of the house ‘grandma’s cake’! The menfolk had beers!
The following day Vjeko took us to the city of Rijeko where we wandered around the old part admiring the beautiful 18th-early 19th century architecture and visited the fish market too which was particularly well stocked. We also visited the Port Police to find out if there were any new rules in place regarding visitor's visas and the 90 day rule; it was most helpful having VVjeko to translate for us! Unfortunately no-one seemed to know exactly what has changed except that instead of having to leave Croatia after 90 days we can apply for an extension but again there was no information about if this has to be for 90 days or if it can be for less; also no details of cost!
On the way back we did a huge shop at the local Lidl (making use of the car for transporting heavy wine bottles and cases of water was great!) In the evening we went for supper with Vjeko his wife Nada and a couple of friends of theirs’ Stenco and Helga, to a tiny fishing harbour just north of Opatija where there was a Klappa singing event being held. We had a table in the window of quite a posh restaurant called Le Mandrac (reckoned to be one of the best eateries in Croatia!) which was about 60 metres from the stage set up on the outer quay of the harbour so a really good ringside position! The food was expensive as was the wine but we all had just one dish and stayed for 3 hours enjoying the concert! There were two lady groups and 3 male voice choirs as well as a local soloist and his protégée at the end. A wonderful evening was had by all and the music was terrific!
Next morning we went off to wander around the town of Opatija which was founded in the mid-1850s when rich Hapsburg gentry bought land and built enormous grandiose holiday homes (think small castles)! The architecture was reminiscent of some of Britain’s seaside resorts Brighton, Eastbourne,Bognor Regis etc. There is a walk which extends some 12 kilometres around the coast here and is still in use today including all the small bridges and archways built at the turn of the 19th – 20th centuries. After our morning of sightseeing we went for lunch to Vjeko’s home where Nada had made us a local fish dish baked in the oven. We consumed copious amounts of wine and enjoyed a lovely relaxed meal before heading back to the boat for a rest! The next day we had a chill out morning got some laundry done cleaned the boat and Jacky prepared a meal for the evening when we had invited Vjeko and Nada for supper. However we nearly had to call it all off as the weather deteriorated with thunder rain squalls and very strong gusting winds (up to 40 knots from the west). We had to remove the passarelle and put out extra mooring lines to stop the boat wandering all over the place! Fortunately it all calmed down by 1830 so the dinner party was re-instated and the guest duly arrived for 1930 as planned. It was calm and warm so we ate in the cockpit and enjoyed another very pleasant evening in Nada and Vjeko’s company. We said or farewells big thankyou’s too! The following morning we headed south again for Cres.