After about a 5 hour drive through Italian and Slovanian landscapes (and border crossings), we made it to our first stop in Croatia! Rijeka has a bit of a raw and rugged beauty, but after traveling in more comfortable and familiar places in France and Italy, we welcomed the change with open arms. The language is now too unfamiliar for us to decipher, the currency is no longer Euros, and the buildings are all a bit run down and destroyed. We have reached eastern Europe! Driving in, we saw Rijeka's large port with hanging cranes that looked majestic with a light cloud of mist hanging in the sky as the sun began to set.
We settled into our sad excuse of a hostel and quickly made some friends. Later that night, we would find out that we were staying a stone throw away from all the best parties. The port area is lined with bars and clubs in every direction (some even on the water). Truthfully, they were all a little on the trashier-mainstreamy side, but that was part of the fun. And on weekends, they stay open ’til the sun comes up in case your feeling extra energized and want to keep dancing all night long!
During the day we wandered around the open air markets that offer an endless array of cheap and delicious fruits, veggies, meats, and seafood. We also found some very cool artsy-hipster coffee shops (check out Dnevni Boravak Cafe). Then, midday came along and it was boiling hot. The large pedestrian street in the centre of the city, where all the shops and fashionable boutiques are, seemed like an endless desert. Our hostel’s AC was down, so we went on a mission to find a fan, and after some pro hand gesturing, we were miraculously directed towards a mall. The helpful local guy said it was a bit far but we decided to try walking anyway. I’m glad we did, because otherwise we wouldn’t have stumbled upon the beautiful rock beaches on the way! We decided to stop for a quick dip and wow, it was gorgeous! The water was perfectly crisp and refreshing. Exactly what we needed. After getting the fan (and WALKIE TALKIES CAUSE WHY NOT) we were getting a bit hungry. That’s when we found Konoba Na Kantunu right by the water. I highly recommend this restaurant. The food, the service, and the price were all worth going back again everyday. I still dream about those fresh anchovies and the octopus salad… Mmmm. Overall, Rijeka seems to be a little grungy-artsy city that fills up in the Summer with in-land Croatians for parties and swimming - definitely worth checking out for a few days!
Fun Fact: Croatia in Croatian is Hrvatska which actually sounds more like "Krvatska" (and not at all really like "Croatia").