It was a glorious sunny day as we headed towards Rijecka. It’s quite amazing how beautiful the weather is in Croatia at this time of year. We cannot understand why the place isn’t overrun by European snowbirds looking for a break from the snow and rain of Northern Europe. Along the coastal road we decided to stop off at Bakar, the next town past Bakarac. Like many of the towns in Croatia, Bakar is off the main highway so if you want to visit it you have to actually drive down into it. Bakar is set around the head of the bay with a few nice piazzas right on the waters edge.
Although we’d only been travelling a short distance we decided to take a coffee break to enjoy the sun. The piazzas were full of people who all had the same idea.
Sitting having our coffee we were intrigued by fish swimming in a pool nearby with a boardwalk over it. Michele asked “they’re trout aren’t they?”. Sure enough she was correct, the fish were trout and good sized too. The pool was actually fresh water fed from a spring under the town. It’s called the Jaz, a natural pool where the town collected its fresh from.
Next to the Jaz is the old town laundry, the Perilo. The ladies of Bakar would wash their laundry at home with soap and a washboard before carrying their laundry here to rinse it. The funniest thing was that washing with washboards at the Perilo was forbidden because it would interrupt men’s afternoon sleep. Hmmm were the washboards too noisy or were all those women chattering away the real reason.
Around the harbour there are lots of newer buildings from 18-19th century, many showing a bit of wear and tear. Even the grand old hotel looks like it’s seen better days. Despite this the city has a warm welcoming feel about it. Maybe it’s a city that’s just starting to find its true self.
We took a walk up the hill through the old city through the steep narrow streets. Along the way we stopped at the Bishops House which was built in 1494, and named after the Bishops of Senj and Modrul who escaped the Turkish menace and took refuge here.
Not far from the bishops house an interesting building which was out of place due to strange architecture. It’s known locally as the Turks House. The story goes that the owner had a Turkish wife who missed her homeland. To make her feel more at home he built the house in Turkish style.
Just beyond the Turkish house the old city gates are still visible in one of the houses which still use some of the original structure.
At the centre of the old city is the Church of St Andrew the Apostle. It bears the title of being a con cathedral, so basically a cathedral linked with another cathedral. It gained this status when Croatia was threatened by the Turks during the Turkish siege and the bishops took sanctuary in Bakar. The building itself has been rebuilt a few times and changed patron saints as well after it was destroyed by earthquake in 1323. The new patron saint didn’t save the church during the next earthquake in 1750 however the bell tower was left standing so he kept his protectorate.
As it was now lunch time we slowly walked back to the harbour down some steep cobbled streets. One thing we notice and talk about time and again is the way that people use their space. Most people have grapevines and if they’ve got any yard it’s not a lovely green lawn, it’s vegetables and fruit trees. It’s one of the things I fear we’ve lost in Australia, the ability to feed ourselves. We now have a dependence on supermarkets when the ability lies dormant in our hands. But that’s another story.
Returning to the harbour we found a table right on the waters edge at a Konoba at the Jaz. It was the perfect day for fresh seafood so we ordered grilled cuttlefish, and a local white wine was the perfect accompaniment.
It was interesting contemplating that originally we were only just going to ride through Bakar, have a quick squiz before heading on to Rijecka. Now we were sitting enjoying the views, enjoying good food and good wine. Travelling with no plans or pressure to be anywhere, really is the way we like to travel. It gives us a chance to explore places which aren’t in the “top ten places to see” or in Lonely Planet. It’s a chance just to experience life without an agenda.
Well the rest of the day was spent, in the sun just chilling beside the water enjoying this beautiful little city (I’d actually call it a town but that’s splitting hairs). We’ll get to Rijecka another day.