Advent in Rijeka – Abbey (Opatija)

First part of trilogy was Advent on Trsat Castle. Now, second in trilogy is Advent in Abbey. Opatija is located 18 km (11 mi) northwest of the regional capital Rijeka. “The old 14th-century Benedictine abbey, Opatija Sv. Jakova (“Abbey of Saint Jacob”), from which the town derives its name (opatija means “abbey” in Croatian) is located in Park Svetog Jakova or Saint James’s Park. Saint Jacob’s church, built in 1506 and enlarged in 1937, now stands on the same spot.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opatija)

The town park Angiolina contains many species of plants from all over the world. It has been protected since 1968. Close-by, vis-a-vis Hotel Imperial, stands the statue The Fountain – Helios and Selena, a work of the Austrian sculptor Hans Rathautsky from 1889. There is a 12 km-long promenade along the entire riviera, the Lungomare from Volosko, via Opatija, to Lovran and a 7 km-long forest path walk, the Šetalište Carmen Sylve, named after Elisabeth of Wied, Queen consort of Romania, widely known by her literary name of Carmen Sylva. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opatija)

The town is a popular summer and winter resort, with average high temperatures of 10 °C in winter, and 32 °C in summer. Opatija is surrounded by beautiful woods of bay laurel. The whole sea-coast to the north and south of Opatija is rocky and picturesque, and contains several smaller winter resorts. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opatija)

Advent in Abbey

I’ve never been to an advent in Opatija before (shame on me), so I didn’t have any expectations. This Advent made a strong impression to me. Abbey, like the old queen of Kvarner, has its charm. But this how it was decorated, It’s beyond every expectation. Walking from the parking lot, I thought it would be another advent in a row with very similar decorating as elsewhere. But when I came to St. James park, that’s the place where the Advent fairytale begins.

The best part of whole Advent in Abbey was singing Klapa Mirakul from Veprinac. I have taped little video of whole atmosphere. Oh, it was beautiful…

What to visit

During your stay in Abbey, you definitely should visit this Monuments and Parks:

Villa Angiolina – This is the building that certainly marked the beginning of the tourist epoch in the history of Opatija. Pending its building in 1844. (actually a reconstruction of an older building owned by baron Haller von Hallerxtein); Opatija was relatively large settlment with about 120 houses, clustered mainly around plots further away from the sea cost and chiefly oriented towards fishing and seafaing. With the arrival of Iginio Scarpa, a partician from Rijeka, and building of his summer house Angiolina (named after Scarpa’s then already deceased wife, originating from the Sartori family), Opatija opened her doors to a whole line of guests and passengers. Among them it is noteworthy to mention the Austrian empress Mary Ann, the botanist Heinrich Noë, the croatian ban Josip Jelačić and others. Their enthusiasm for the local vegetation and climate spread the fame about Opatija and thus prepared the ground for the future health resort. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/villa-angiolina-p471)

Angiolina Park – Angiolina Park is one of the most celebrated parks in Croatia and the most famous park in Opatija. With a great variety of plant species from different parts of the world, this park can be described as the green heart of the town. The camellia, which thrives in this park, has become a symbol of Opatija. Apart from this wonderful flower, Angiolina Park is also home to the American pine, Himalaya cypress, glossy-leaf paper plant, and almost 150 other plant species. Thanks to the area’s favorable Mediterranean climate and careful maintenance by diligent gardeners, Angiolina Park always has a perfect appearance. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/angiolina-park-p479)

Saint Jacob’s church – Most probably built in 1420, as a colony of Benedictine refugees from the Friulian monastery of Saint Peter in Rožac (San Pietro di Rosazzo), the entire settlement will later be named after this abbey. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/saint-jamess-church-p472)

Saint Jacob’s park – Located right in the center of Opatija, St. Jacob’s Park or St. James’ Park is a recognizable landmark of the town. The well-manicured green lawns and the harmony of colorful flowers make a perfect setting next to the Church of St. James. The park is distinguished by its neo-baroque fountain with sculptures of Helios and Selene (the god of the Sun and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology), a work by the sculptor Hans Rathausky. The park stretches down to the sea where the Juraj Šporer Art Pavilion is located. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/saint-james-park-p480)

“Juraj Šporer” Arts Pavilion – The pavilion was named after Juraj Matija Šporer, a physician who played an important role in the promotion of the idea of Opatija as a seaside health resort. After his early retirement in 1851 (until then he had worked in Ljubljana), Šporer moved to Primorje and continued to work as a physician to the Tobacco factory and the Austrian Lloyd in Rijeka and as a private doctor in Veprinac and Kastav. The building that the inhabitants and guests of Opatija today mostly know as a venue for various exhibitions, concerts and theatrical performances, was originally a pastry shop. It was built in 1900 for the Quarnero company of Vienna, and expanded in 1908 following the plan of the Opatija architect Sandor Neuhausler, who added the large terrace facing the seafront promenade. At first, the building hosted the Gerbaud pastry shop, and then the Glacier Pavilion with its café and confectionery. At that time, fresh cakes were supplied daily by train from Vienna and Pest. After 1930, the property became an exhibition pavilion (Padiglione delle esposizioni), and has retained this function up to the present day. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/juraj-sporer-arts-pavilion-p475)

Maiden with the Seagull – On the promontory in front of the one-time cemetery a girl extend her arm to a gull. This, however, is a new sculpture, the work of a sculptor Car, and it was erected here in 1956 and turned into one of Opatija’s symbols. Before that, in its place, namely until demolished by a storm, stood the “Madonna del Mare”, the work of sculptor Rathausky from Graz (his also is the fountain “Helios and Selene” in the park between St. Jacob’s Church and hotel Imperial). The “Madonna” was erected to keep vigil over the soul of count Arthur Kesselstadt, who vanished, not far off from that promontory swallowed by the pre-Easter waves in 1891. During that excursion the countess Fries also lost her life, but her son Georg was saved. Today a gilded variant of the Madonna can be seen in front of Saint Jacob’s church. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/maiden-with-the-seagull-p473)

American gardens – Abbey has a secret garden, a green oasis of peace in the middle of town with a stunning view of Kvarner Bay: the American Gardens. This magnificent park, which covers an area of 8,000 m2, is located in the immediate vicinity of the town center and Slatina Beach but is wrapped in an invisible veil of peace and tranquility. After decades of being closed, the American Gardens have now been reopened to the public. A monumental gate with stone pillars guards the entrance to the park with its well-manicured vegetation and which has been carefully designed for relaxation of body and mind. This paradise on Earth is located close by, so get to know Opatija’s most beautiful secret. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/american-gardens-p1935)


Lungomare – Ever since, the Lungomare (italian word for promenade by the sea) has been a favorite walking path for local people and their visitors, a motif of countless photographs and paintings, and an essential part of Opatija’s townscape when viewed from the sea. A walk along this promenade above all means enjoying the fresh sea air and a beautiful coastal landscape dotted with quaint coves, but it is also much more than that. It is also a chance to learn something about local history: for right from its starting point in Volosko by the birthplace of the great scientist Andrija Mohorovičić, past former sanatoriums and guesthouses in the northern part of the promenade, through Angiolina Park and on past Slatina beach further south all the way to the magnificent villas in Lovran, the Lungomare reveals a series of buildings, locations, monuments and memorial plaques that tell the interesting tale of Opatija’s past. (https://www.visitopatija.com/en/lungomare-p477)


Where to stay

It doesn’t have to be expensive stay for luxury feeling, especially at Advent in Abbey. My choice for Abbey is Smart Selection Hotel Istra. The Hotel is renewed 2019. and now has modern, fresh and clean interior. Every room is beautifully designed and decorated. Rooms are equipped with flat screen TV, AC, free Wi-Fi, hairdryer and safe. Hotel has an indoor pool with sea water, its own beach and pets are allowed. My conclusion is that this hotel has the best value for money invested.

The whole atmosphere of Advent in Abbey is so unreal. It takes you into a fairy tale which you would never want to get out of. I will definitely visit Advent in Abbey every year and I invite you to come to visit it too. The picture speaks more than 1000 words, but it cannot say or convey the feelings that pervade the whole body with the visit.

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