When most people think of a coastal town in Croatia, their first instinct is usually to name Split. And for a good reason – it’s the second largest city in Croatia and it’s full of beautiful sights, sounds, and smells, both outside and in its night clubs. However, a lesser known to travelers, but equally as beautiful, town on the coast is Opatija. Farther north than Split on the Adriatic, it rests at the foot of Učka mountain.
Now, when I arrived in Croatia on a delayed flight coming from a layover in Munich, I’m not going to lie, all I cared about was how exhausted I was. I had difficulty paying attention to what I was seeing in my tired haze, and all I really remember are the street lights. Myself and the group I was traveling with had landed in Zagreb, the capital, but we were staying in Opatija for the first two nights, which was about two hours west on the coast. Thankfully, I wasn’t the one making the drive in the middle of the night fresh off an international flight, so we rode on in the night as the majority of us slept.
I don’t even fully remember going to my room and plopping down on my bed, but I absolutely remember waking up. It was just before 8am and I slowly started to realize a few things all at once:
1. My body ached. It was sore as if I had worked out really hard the day before. What this really meant was that I wasn’t drinking enough water. Rookie mistake.
2. I could smell salt. Overwhelmingly so. The first peek of my eyes alerted me to the fact the hotel room window was open. We’re still not sure whether I or my roommate opened it.
3. I could hear waves. The kind of peaceful waves I imagine masseuses play in massage parlors, lulling you into a meditative state.
When the third realization really hit me, my eyes opened again. Waves? I hadn’t expected to be able to hear them so clearly. I had known Opatija was on the coast, but I hadn’t realized we were staying on the water. I darted out of bed and ran to the window, and that, my friends, is the moment I fell in love with this country.
At the window, I foolishly realized I had been too hasty. There’s a reason I wear contacts. Oh yeah, I had thought, I still can’t see. Everything in my line of sight at the window was blurry, a mixture of blues and greens and white. But for a moment it hadn’t mattered, the colors had blended together in such a way that I almost forgot my poor eyesight. And when I closed my eyes I could feel the wind, hear the waves and birds, smell the saltiness of the Adriatic, and I knew. I knew I loved Croatia.
I grabbed my iPhone off of the bedside table and snapped a picture right then and there, without actually knowing what I was taking a picture of. The result, as I saw later and you see now, was as breathtaking as I imagined it.
As quick as I could muster my protesting limbs to get ready, I was dressed for the day and down in the lobby, ready to explore.
In a second post coming tomorrow, I’ll detail some of the finer points of Opatija. Stay tuned!