No Hotel Reservations on a Friday Night in Istria

Friday, August 13th, 2004: Opatija, Croatia

N 45
E 014

Primošten to Opatija: 338 kilometres

We are travelling along the Croatian coast line in the area known as Istria. This is a beautiful peninsula that reaches south from the Slovenian and Italian borders into the Adriatic and you can certainly feel the Italian influence here. In fact, since we left Primošten, the Italians have definitely been making their presence known.

We are not covering huge distances but the drive today takes over 5 hours, winding us around rugged coastal roads, up and down through mountain passes and hair-raising turns that remind us of the Coastal Highway 1 in California and also of traversing the Apennines with John’s mom Lois in Italy 3 years ago. We wind our way down into the quaint but definitely tourist-oriented town of Opatija. It has beautiful Italianate red and yellow villas and hotels on the water’s edge. Some are in need of some love and attention but mostly the town has a glossy, picturesque café/beach town ambiance on its surface. In many ways, Opatija reminds us of Santa Margherita Ligure in Italy where we spent a night 4 years ago.

No Reservations!

We don’t have a hotel reservation and it is Friday evening, the 13th and it is full-on tourist season in a very busy beach town. I am also demanding that any accommodation we find have a TV so that we can watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. We try a couple of tourist bureaus and quickly realize that we aren’t going to get a room for less than $150 CDN. We decide on a hotel that the tourist bureau tells us is an historic hotel, newly renovated but still retaining all its original charm and distinction. We bite the bullet and agree to the very promising Hotel Dubrava at $170 CDN per night (no parking!!!). We fortunately find a parking spot very close to the hotel and check in. Our room is not very quaint and certainly doesn’t “retain any of its original charm and distinction” unless the original room was in a 1960’s prison movie. It is very small and full of very utilitarian brown plastic laminated furniture and trim; but it is only for one night. As always, we promise ourselves that we will never again drive into a tourist town with no reservations on a weekend or a major holiday.

Bloggers Life: Slow Internet

We unearth the internet café and check some email and as always it seems they will not allow us to connect our laptop. It has now been eight or nine days since we updated and when it gets to this point it unusually takes us over an hour to update and upload all the pictures. We will keep trying. We buy the International Herald Tribune, mostly for the news but also for the crossword, pick up some supplies for our evening in front of the TV and are offered yet another example of the lack of restaurant service available in Croatia. The first language spoken here seems to be Italian, followed by Croatian and then – a distant third – German. We are starting to get confused when we say thank you in all three languages: hvala (Croatian), grazie (Italian) and dunke (German). We are tired of the so-called “Croatian Cuisine” of pizza and spaghetti bolognese and fish, and look forward to some wonderful Indian food when we travel to London next week.

Cheering on the Canadians

Settling into our small room with our beers and our TV, we cheer on the Canadians as they enter the Athens Stadium in their flashy Roots uniforms. A huge thunder and lightning storm starts to gather and eventually crashes into Opatija and blows the TV. This happens off and on all night, always at a particularly poignant or interesting moment in the ceremonies.

Unfortunately, we have full power and reception during Bjork’s entire “I-am-mother-earth-enveloping-you” song. What was that all about?!

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