Recharging on the Island of Vitality

Lošinj is an island of amazing colors, sights and sounds. Never and nowhere on the Croatian coast have I experienced such blues of the sea and greens of the pine trees or heard such loud chirps of the crickets.

I am very biased, mind you. Lošinj island holds a very special place in my heart, since it was there that I spent a wonderful summer with dear friends and my now-husband-and-father-of-my-son-and-also-dad-of-my-dog. We were in our early 20s, drove around the island in a tiny car, listened loudly to great music, not minding the perilous narrow roads of the island, swam in the cristal blue sea and explored the island’s coves and small beaches sheltered by pine trees. We went for night swims in Čikat, had drinks on the beach and looked at the stars… we were very young, very carefree and it was all very romantic.

This time, my visit to Lošinj was somewhat different. The car was bigger, the music was still loud, the sea still cristal blue and the crickets still so loud it took some time to get used to the everpresent sound, but the company was different. We all went together – for the first time – Teo, Oliver, Frida and myself, for a three-day weekend getaway. For both of our kids (yes, I consider my dog my child, and I know that every dog-owner out there understands that) this was the first time travelling to an island, on a ferry (or boat of any kind) and it was also the first time any of us would stay in a mobile home.

The ferry was a hit and the ride from Valbiska on the island of Krk to Merag on the island of Cres was a pleasant half-hour experience. Oliver was quite impressed by the size of the “ship” and the amount of cars that a ferry can fit. We looked at the seagulls flying around the ferry and tried to spot dolphins. Frida seemed somewhat confused with all the new smells and sounds, but she was very well behaved and the ride was very enjoyable.

After getting off the ferry on the island of Cres, a 45-minute drive across the island awaited before we would reach our destination, Camp Rapoća near the town of Nerezine on Lošinj. In ancient times, Cres and Lošinj were actually one big island, until the channel of Osor was excavated during the Roman period in order to shorten the path to the open sea. Today, you cross from one island to the other through a small bridge in the town of Osor. Both islands belong the the so-called Cres-Lošinj archipelago in the Kvarner Gulf, and they are, in a way, similar in their vegetation and atmosphere. You feel instantly that you are in a different, unique place, so different from other places in Kvarner.

We were situated in Camping Rapoća near the town of Nerezine and our stay there in the sleepy pre-tourist, mid-Covid season was all we needed: no crowds, no noise, just beautiful pine trees above us and pebble beaches and the sound of waves a few steps from our mobile home. The mobile home turned out to be a really great accomodation option for our family as it gave us all the privacy, comfort and the combination of indoor/outdoor space that the young ones needed. The home was surprisingly spacious (it was a two-bedroom mobile home with a well-equipped kitchen-dining room and all the amenities one needs) and had a lovely terrace and a shaded parking spot for our car. Oliver and Frida loved the fact that they could chase each other and run in and out of the mobile home and Teo and I were relaxed because we didn’t have to worry about crowds or cars. A grocery store was just a short walk away, in the centre of Nerezine, and we quickly got used to its very strange working hours. Now I think about it, the few hours it was opened in the afternoon was quite in accord with the sleepy, relaxed atmosphere of a town which seemed almost deserted, part from friendly neighbours chatting over the fences of their gardens.

Since it was a chilly weekend and we had no intention of swimming, we spent our weekend driving around Lošinj and enjoying its charming towns and wonderful nature. Lošinj has a well-earned reputation of “the Island of Vitality”. Thanks to its mild climate, supreme air quality and rich biodiversity and the widespread pines and medicinal herbs, health tourism has been an important staple of its history for over 100 years.

The two main towns on the island are Veli Lošinj (translated: “big” Lošinj) and Mali Lošinj (translated: “small” Lošinj). Mali Lošinj is actually larger than Veli Lošinj, so you can only imagine how confusing this was to learn and memorize in our Geography classes in Croatian elementary school. Mali Lošinj is the largest settlement on the island, a lovely Mediterranean town with a nice waterfront ideal for long breezy walks and plenty of cafes and restaurants. The jewel of Mali Lošinj is Museum of Apoxyomenos situated in a restored palace in the town centre: the museum is dedicated to an antique bronze statue Apoxyomenos, dating from 2nd or 1st century B.C., whose name originates from the Greek term for an “athlete that is cleaning his body from oil, sweat and sand after exercise of competition”. The statue was discovered in 1997 by a Belgian tourist at the bottom of the sea where it was located for almost 2 millenia. Lošinj’s Apoxyomenos is very well preserved and, due to its importance and quality, it was exhibited in some of the most important museums in the world, such as the Louvre, British Museum and J.P.Getty Museum, after finally returning home where the entire museum was built to honor this great piece of art. To my great disappointment, the museum was closed due to the pandemics at the time of our visit and the exploration of the award-winning museum and its star still remains on my to-do list.

Veli Lošinj (remember, the smaller of the two towns), situated on the southeastside of Lošinj island, is a picture-perfect place, ideal for taking long walks and discovering narrow streets with beautiful villas and kept gardens. In the past, Veli Lošinj was larger than Mali Lošinj, but the latter one grew more rapidly so the situation changed, although the original names remained.

We visited both towns, as well as the forest park Čikat, the place of the wonderful vacation mentioned earlier in this text. What was then a relatively “normal” bay rich in pine forests and perfectly clean water is now a very exclusive part of the island, full of villas and extremely expensive, luxurious hotels. Still, the beautiful walking paths remains relatively intact, the air still smells magical, some gorgeus children parks have been built and the locals can still find their own piece of paradise during the summer in its many hidden beaches.

Oliver and Frida ran around exploring narrow streets of the towns, flowers and pebbles, while Teo and me enjoyed the peace and the quiet, the beautiful sights, sounds and smells that the island offered. It was such a lovely, much-needed weekend break on a really gorgeous island.

On our last day, while driving to Merag where the ferry harbour is located, we stopped in the town of Cres on the island of Cres and explored its historical landmarks, narrow streets and lovely squares.

One of the highlights of the trip, at least in Oliver’s eyes, were the sheep which could be found all around the island of Cres. Getting close to any type of animal is always such an exciting thing for him and he loved the chance of seeing them so up and close. Frida was also interested in meeting the sheep, but unfortunately we left her in the car (we were frightened she might get a bit too excited and bark or try to chase them). Our rude actions were met with loud barks and howls, letting us know that she was not satisfied with how we decided to finish our otherwise lovely island weekend.

Wise words to inspire your travels

There are many beautiful thoughts and quotes about traveling that make you feel, upon reading them, as if someone turned into words your own feelings, ones you often find so difficult to verbalize and explain. They often describe traveling as a way of learning, changing, taking chances and getting outside of your comfort zone, letting every traveler know that their feelings and beliefs are universal, shared between all of us. Continue reading “Wise words to inspire your travels”

Where to next?

Winter has really arrived to Rijeka, with temperatures below zero and hurricane-like northern winds, which means that it’s the time of the year when my itchy feet itch the most. So as I simultaneously plan and daydream about my next travel destinations, let me share with you some tips that might help you decide where (and when) to travel next. Continue reading “Where to next?”

The reversed story of Porto wine

We couldn’t leave Porto without dedicating some time and attention to the Portuguese wine, one of the country’s most famous and precious products. Continue reading “The reversed story of Porto wine”

Porto. Period.

If you walk around Porto long enough, you will see beautiful houses covered in colorful glazed tiles, next to dilapidated uninhabited houses on the brink of falling apart, next to empty plots of land where houses once stood, as suggested by the ruins and debris on the ground, next to gated houses with beautiful gardens, next to facades covered with scaffolding that no worker has climbed for a long time. Porto is like that – full of surprises. It is gritty, messy, sometimes smelly, but at the same time, charming, different and beautiful. This city does not care what you think of it but lives its authentic life, for which you can love it – or leave it. Continue reading “Porto. Period.”

Fun in the sun

With Portugal having a pretty long coastline (1,794 km), we couldn’t miss spending one day of our trip driving to the coast, seeing the ocean and having some fun in the sun. Continue reading “Fun in the sun”

Nine things I loved about you, Portugal

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Some four years ago, during a youth exchange that took place in my home town, I met Joana, a girl from Porto. In the evenings, when all activities were done and participants of the exchange relaxed and mingled on the terrace of the hostel they were staying in, Joana and I talked about our homes. She talked about Porto and Portugal, while I talked about Rijeka and Croatia. She talked with much love and appreciation, without sugarcoating, about things that defined Portugal – about the then-actual economic crisis and many problems the young people were facing, about the saudade, the language, the Douro, the specific atmosphere and “feel” of her home town Porto and the way of life of the Portuguese people. And as she was leaving for home, we made a deal that, now that she has seen my home, I would have to visit hers, one day.

This year, this deal was finally realized, as Portugal became the destination of our annual family trip. Unfortunatally, I didn’t get the chance to meet with Joana (I was with my family and on a tight schedule, she was working and quite busy), but I thought of her quite often as I was visiting places and experiencing things I remembered her talking about. It turned out that she prepared me well for Portugal – the things I imagined all those years ago as I was listening to her stories were pretty similar to the things I saw and experienced “in situ”, during our ten-day trip through northern and central parts of the country. And although her stories were colored with her love of her home, they were not really exaggerated, and the Portugal we visited was as beautiful and dreamy and real, all at the same time, as she had presented it.

During our ten days in Portugal, we only scraped the surface of the complex and rich county and got a tiny peek into the life of a place, but even that was enough to see, hear, taste and experience many things to love.

I loved the relaxed, simple life of the country, not polluted by mass tourism. After visiting so many European countries that live from tourism and completely subjugate themselves to the requirements of the visitors, this felt like a wonderful refreshment and a reminder that there still are authentic countries that are so much more than just touristic destinations.

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I loved the people – simple, honest, modest people, going around their daily activities, minding their own business, living a simple life of work and play in the shadow of their great, at times tragic, history and rich heritage.

I loved the coast – the never-ending white, sandy beaches of the western Portuguese coast and the mighty Atlantic… The feeling I had at Cabo da Roca of being at the edge of the world.

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I loved Pasteis de Nata, the sweet pastry that became an essential part of our Portuguese every day, small, incredibly tasty and very fulfilling.

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I loved vinho verde, young wine from the northern parts of Portugal, clear, of beautiful color, with a touch of fizz, tasty, fragrant and mild.

I loved the Douro, the quiet meandering river responsible for so much of what makes Portugal special.

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I loved Porto, a gritty, untidy, punk city that knows what it is, loves it and savors its quirkiness.

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I loved Lisabon, the capital whose twisty narrow streets and hilly atmospheric neighborhoods trick you into believing that this is a small, crowded town, and not a wondrous, monumental capital.

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I loved the weather, and the constant breeze smelling of salt and sea, never allowing you to forget that Portugal is the country by the sea, of the sea.

The list could go on, with all the things springing into my head now as images through a filter with washed-out, overexposed hues. Quite a remarkable country, warm and beautiful both inside and out. A wonderful place full of wonderful people. Joana, you were right! 🙂

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Pueblos blancos y un pueblo azul

We remember some trips for the people we meet, some for the music we discover, some for the adventures we stumble upon… And some trips remain forever defined through color. Continue reading “Pueblos blancos y un pueblo azul”

Zagreb Christmas Market

Another year is coming to an end and we are enjoying December, a festive, feel-good month in which we reminisce about the year and make plans for the new one. December is also a time for one of my favourite experiences – visiting Christmas markets nearby with the people who are near and dear to me. And after several years of traveling to Austria in pursuit for the ultimate, most festive Christmas market experience, this year our travels didn’t take us far at all and the choice fell on a one-day visit to Zagreb.
Continue reading “Zagreb Christmas Market”

Splendid Sevilla, pt. 4: Tobacco and History, Immortalized

Sevilla is full of grand buildings and public spaces, as can be expected from a royal city of such great history and heritage. On our last day in the city, we got the chance to see some of them: Continue reading “Splendid Sevilla, pt. 4: Tobacco and History, Immortalized”