holiday haunt of
of the Austro-
Riviera has a wealth
of features to
explored by boat...
WE FLEW INTO TRIESTE with Ryanair and headed south into Croatia, crossing
the Istrian Peninsula before arriving at the seaside resort town of Opatija.
Such is the opulence of the grand hotels and sumptuous villas built in the 19th
century that you would have been hard put not to believe it to be the French
Riviera at Cannes or Nice. It was once de rigueur for the aristocrats and wealthier
merchants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to spend their holidays here. However,
we had broader horizons namely to set sail for a cruise amongst
the islands off the Kvarner Riviera…
Mention the Mediterranean's Adriatic Sea and Venice immediately comes to mind.
Take a look at the map and you will be drawn to the eastern seaboard that is
strewn with islands and dotted with unfamiliar named towns or are they
villages? Each one has a fascinating and long history, many dating back to Roman
times. Travellers, traders, conquerors, raiders as well as the local population
have all left their mark to create a delightful mix of styles which provides
an endless stream of changing vistas with surprises at every turn.
Small cruise boats are a great way of touring and exploring off the beaten track
in a fairly civilised manner. You have none of the hassle of packing daily,
catching ferries and frequently changing hotels. And your longer than just lunchtime
stop is usually in a deserted cove, and swimming off a boat is much preferred
to sharing a crowded beach.
Choosing the right boat is crucial; some are dire and over-generously described
as 'Adventure Cruises'; in other words, 'uncomfortable and overcrowded'. We
sailed with Katarina Line which has a large choice of vessels (and numerous
itineraries) cruising the length of the coast and islands down to Dubrovnik.
They offer a choice of standards but, importantly, all their vessels are well
maintained and very clean. Their second tier 'A' Class vessels are offered at
a keen price (which obviously precludes using the word luxury) but they are
more than fit for purpose.
Our temporary home afloat was Kalipsa and she provided some twenty guest
berths in en suite twin cabins served by five multilingual crew members.
Kalipsa proved to be very stable, and speedy enough to cover our undemanding
but well-balanced itinerary. There was enough time to go off-course quite a
long way as we followed, and were in turn followed by, a school of dolphins
all parties enjoyed the encounter as they swam and frolicked around us.
A typical lunch-time anchorage would involve; a quiet cove, a swim for most
people, happily unsuccessful octopus hunts by the snorkellers, a few taking
a stroll along the shore and, of course, lunch.
Our first anchorage was in a rocky cove on Pag Island, famous for its sheep's
cheese even if on this occasion the sheep proved somewhat elusive on
this sparsely-populated island. We did see a small fishing village fairly close
to as our skipper took the scenic route rather than the direct line to neighbouring
Rab Island. The approach to Rab town (actually more a rather large village)
indicated that this was somewhere special.
On arrival we found no less than four elegant, historic Venetian bell towers
surrounded by a cluster of old buildings. And we were not disappointed when
we explored the little streets. Throughout the summer there are numerous festivals
and other events to celebrate; our visit coincided with one young and
old from across the island mingled and danced the night away.
Each place had something to be remembered by and Mali Losinj was no exception.
All along the lengthy quays were palms and flowering shrubs and the private
gardens in the surrounding alleyways and streets were some of the best we have
seen in the country. Someone has even opened an 'Aromatic' garden and the friendly
resident donkey in this inspired setting made his regular contribution, but
we were highly amused by the little notice alongside his enclosure that informed
us he visited his girlfriend every six months!
I am sure the skipper only stopped off at Ilovik Island so we could enjoy local
ice creams on a particularly hot afternoon on this small and quiet island. Needless
to say, we appreciated both the ice creams and the flexibility shown by our
The final port of call was Cres notable for having the smallest inner
harbour and, possibly, the greatest potential for aspiring holiday home seekers.
The harbour was virtually enclosed by a charming cluster of houses, one of which
was only a little wider than the front door, and these were mixed in with rather
grander buildings. Along other narrow streets were to be found classic Venetian
and other houses, all ripe for restoration. In Mediterranean terms, it is one
of the least commercially exploited areas. What better reason to return to this
picturesque area? Bonnie and Tim Stevens