Monday, October 1, 2012

September 22-24: Rijeka

I needed to get up early to catch an 8am train. Since I am jetlagged, I woke up a 4am. Ok, what now? I got out of bed and actually caught the 6:30 train to Rijeka (Ree-yek-a) instead. I ate my leftover pizza (yum) and made my way to the train station. Since I had no idea how long it took to get to the train station, I arrived about 30 minutes early and popped into the restaurant to grab some coffee. I ordered an espresso with milk but turned around to see that nearly everyone in the restaurant was drinking a KarlovaĨko, the beer from a nearby town (Karlovac: where my friend Amy is located). Hmmm, I thought. This wasn't the young person's 5:30am beer that ended a long night out, but old man's beer for starting the day. Nice. I found a spot on the train and read for awhile until we started to get going then enjoyed some of the scenery along the way. This part of the Croatia looks a lot like Pennsylvania, it's pretty, but nothing too exciting-so I fell asleep. 

When I arrived in Rijeka, my friend immediately took me to the sea for a coffee and a chat. Rijeka is a town in the western part of Croatia, just before you enter Istria.  It has many smaller towns nearby that we visited as well. One of them was a beach resort used by the Hapsburg Empire. It is called Opatija (O-pot (as in hot)-ee-ya), I have heard several people mention is since my trip so I think it is very well-known and I was lucky to have visited. After coffee I was taken to the house of my host and and this was the view from the room in which I stayed-gorgeous!

After lunch and a brief ..ahem....4 hour nap (remember, I'm still jet lagged). My friend and I went out on the town and I met one of her friends. She was lovely and I really enjoyed myself. I even tried one of the liqueurs that Croatians are so fond of here (people back home, think Slivovitz) except this one was Lavender flavored. Since I mainly just have a preference for wine and beer, this was a little strong, but not so strong that I think I could have lit it on fire, so I drank it in a few small sips...and I survived just fine. On our way home we grabbed a late night snack of burek (cheese or meat filled pastry) at the bakery (Pekara) and I was ready for bed. 

The next day I woke up at 11am instead of 4am (still jet lagged) and my friend's grandmothers were at the house. This was lucky for me because I got to watch one of them make a Bosnian pastry called pita. This was made exactly, and I mean exactly, like my family makes potica (of the apple variety) except that this woman was a true professional and could do it all by herself in about half the time my cousin, Jen, and I can. This one was filled with cheese and cream and was sooooo good after the Balkan coffee she also made for us. After this amazing meal, we were off to the beach! I did manage to get myself into the water a little ways, but I didn't swim. I just stood there and watched little tiny fish swim around me. I definitely have to make it back to the coast before it's winter!

Later that night, I wanted to try some of the mussels that come from the Adriatic so my friend and I had very nice meal at a local restaurant. Since I'm in a new country and want to try everything, we ordered an appetizer of octopus-a first for me-and it was delicious!

The rest of my meal consisted of mussels, a bit of parsley salad, an amazing piece of yogurt pie (like cheesecake but less rich) and some wine. All of it was about 1/3 of the price I would have paid in Pittsburgh-yes! We even had a sweet little visitor that politely waited until we were done eating to come and say hi. 

It was a great end to a very nice weekend but I was grabbing the train home in the morning to return to Zagreb and find myself a place to live!

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