In the summer of 2013 Anna found a job as a German lector at the University of Rijeka and so we moved there. The first thing we noticed upon our arrival in Rijeka – the principal seaport and third-largest city in Croatia – was the absolutely stunning view from the balcony of our apartment. We immediately knew we would enjoy living here. And indeed, life was good: we adjusted very well to the relaxing Croatian way of living, made ourselves familiar with traditional food and regional wines, got used to living on the coast and made good friends. Then Anna got pregnant and things changed. In a nutshell: Anna’s employer wasn’t very supportive of this whole family-thing we were creating. Furthermore, our first impression of the Croatian health care system and the hospital in Rijeka wasn’t very positive. The fact that we didn’t speak the language made things even more complicated. All things considered, we decided to move back to the Netherlands. Now, almost a year later, we return to the place where Bowser was made…
The main reason for our return to Rijeka was to close Anna’s bank account. This could apparently only be done in person, at the exact same office Anna opened the account in the first place. And so we drove about 1500 kilometres to do that. While we were in Rijeka, we showed Bowser the amazing view over the city centre and the harbour from the castle in Trsat – directly above our former apartment – and told him we moved away from there because of him. Bowser didn’t seem to care and was laughing and smiling like always. Everywhere we go, he is constantly talking (in his own babyish way) to everyone. And even though I don’t understand a word he’s saying, they all talk back and want to be his friend. The staff of the hotel we are staying at even seems to be extra friendly to us when Bowser is around.
We are staying in a nice hotel with swimming pool and one of the best restaurants in this region. It is located on a very steep hill in Volosko, a village next to Rijeka. Volosko is part of the immensely popular seaside resort Opatija, but a bit less crowded. Still, it normally wouldn’t be our first choice for a holiday destination. However, we lived in Rijeka for a year and know our way around a bit. We therefore like to think we are not like all the other tourists, who stay for two weeks, get roasted on an expensive sunbed at one of the concrete beaches around the Kvarner Bay and get lured into the most expensive tourist traps. But maybe we are actually the worst kind: the ones who keep coming back and think they know it all. Doesn’t matter. Either way, we are having a good time. And it looks as if Bowser is always having a good time, no matter where we are. As long as there are people around to flirt with. Also, he figured out how to clap his hands. Now he is sitting on the floor, applauding to his own reflection in the mirror and smiling proudly while doing so.
Apart from closing Anna’s bank account, there were four things we wanted to do in and around Rijeka:
- Meeting up with our favourite Belgian friends Dave and Ilse, who live in Ičići (like Volosko also a part of Opatija).
- Having dinner in the best restaurant we have been during our time in Croatia: Valle Losca. Going there with the abovementioned Dave and Ilse gives it an extra dimension, since they know the staff, have been there at least a hundred times and are therefore well-known and very much appreciated guests who are treated accordingly.
- Tasting wines in Wine Bar LOZA, one of our other favourite places to go. It’s situated in one of the narrow, cobblestone streets in the old centre of Lovran, a town just below Opatija.
- Drinking Tomislav. In the year we’ve lived in Rijeka I drank a lot of Tomislav. It’s by far my favourite Croatian beer.
So… how did we do on our four sub-goals? Well, not as good as expected. We did have a very nice barbecue on Dave and Ilse’s terrace and we did go to Valle Losca with them as well. However, the wine bar apparently doesn’t exist anymore and unfortunately there was no Tomislav on the menu anywhere we went. A bit disappointing? Yes. But no worries: we will spend two more days in Croatia – in Momjan to be precisely – to visit some of the best wineries in Istria. In between all the wines there must be time for at least one Tomislav, if we can find it somewhere…