Opatija: The first luxury summer resort on Kvarner

A 12 kilometer long walking trail, Church of St. Jacob, Opatija’s Nymph are just some the cultural monuments of this town

Girl with a seagull

The sculpture of the girl with a seagull that has landed on her right hand, which is located on a rock near the walking trail Lungomare, is a well known symbol of Opatija. It was made by the sculptor Zvonko Car and numerous tales revolve around it. Whatever happened to the fish that was once in the seagull’s mouth is a mystery that has not been resolved to this day: it is unknown whether the sea or vandals are to blame. However, the most interesting and longest-running mystery was the one of the sculptor’s model.

Specifically, Car did not want to reveal the identity of the girl who posed for the statue, so her identity remained secret for more than half a century. He took it to his grave, but his model, whom he used to call ‘Opatijka’, as he also called the statues, decided to tell all a few years ago. Thus, the artist’s next door neighbour from Crikvenica, now an old lady in her eighties was revelead as Car’s inspiration and model.
The statue has another nickname: Opatija’s nymph. Choppy seas and waves hitting the rock foam up so much, it appears as if the girl is rising from the sea foam, just like a nymph.

Although set in 1956, the residents of Opatija consider this sculpture to be – new. In the very same spot there used to stand a different sculpture. It was Madonna del Mare, the work of sculptor Hans Rathausky from Graz. The Madonna was commissioned and installed by the devastated family of Count Kesselstadt who went missing at sea during a spring storm around Easter of 1891. She was supposed to be watching out for the soul of the late Earl, claim the locals of Opatija. When it was damaged by the sea in 1951, it was removed and then restored. A replica of the statue can be found in front of the Church of St. Jacob.

Church of St. Jacob

The day of Opatija is celebrated on July 25th, the feast of St. Jacob, the patron saint of pilgrims and travelers. Although travelers and travel are very important for the cradle of Croatian tourism, St. Jakcob did not become the patron saint of Opatija just because of that. At the site of today’s Opatija in ancient times there was a pagan deity shrine. Whether it was to Apollo or maybe to Anzotica, the Liburnian goddess of love, health and fertility, we can only speculate. Opatija was inhabited by the Liburnians, contemporaries of Italo Etruscans and Levant Phoenicians, who lived, loved and died in this area since the 9th century BC. In the Middle Ages, the Church of St. Jacob and its accompanying Abbey, after which the town was named, stood here. Nothing much of the original church remains. In the 16th century it was adapted, in late 18th century renovated and in the thirties of the 19th century, expanded. Do not miss seeing a copy of the Pieta relief showing the dying Christ with his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, the work of famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović.

St. Jakov’s park and Park Angiolina

The most beautiful and most romantic pastime in the Mediterranean climate of Opatija is walking. Besides walking along the beach, in Opatija you can walk through the beautiful gardens of St. Jacob and Angiolina which began being landscaped in 1845 and ended in 1860. More than 150 plant species from around the world have been planted in the park, and many of them were transferred from Japan, China, South America, Australia and other parts of the world. The Japanese camellia has become one of the symbols of Opatija, which is why the town is often referred to as the Lady with the Camellias. These parks are monuments of landscape architecture, and have won the title of the most beautiful parks in the country several times.

The Lungomare walking trail

Lungomare, Opatija’s famous 12 kilometer long promenade that stretches from Volosko to Opatija, Ičići and Ike all the way to Lovran, spent 28 years in contruction. The construction began in 1886, and it took only three years for the eight kilometers of the walking trail from Volosko to Opatija to be built. This part, it is said, was particularly dear to the German emperor Wilhelm II. Hohenzollern, who used it for solitary walks. The trail reached Lovran in 1911 and is just as popular and beneficial today as it was then, although there are less sickly elderly gentleman at the end of life’s journey there today than there were at the very beginning of the 20th century. Lungomare offers an opportunity for a walk without the stressful sounds of traffic and for relaxation trough the experience of the healing Mediterranean landscape.

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