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Archive for the ‘Sights’ Category

Today I let me freinds persuade me to go for a walk with them, they said “you can take pictures”, so I went. What they did not tell me was that they were planing to walk a good part of the way (one hour each way) up to the top of Ucka called Voljak.

I’d seen it in pictures and always wanted to go see the stone fort-like tower on the top but did not realize my day had come. It was a great climb, mixed of small paths and trails in the wonderful spring time that was great dispite being a little tired. I got up their first and had plenty of time to soak up the breathtaking views from all angles. From the Istra plans on one side and the sea and islands on the other, it is really one of the wonders to see here.

The restaurant marks the place to start walking, there are also possibilities for mountain biking, and a road for cars most of the way up

Along the forest walk

two-wheelers making their way up

View of the plans below on the western side

A view of the gorge below that makes up Vela Draga, a popular place for free-climbers and nature lovers. It is also where the highway tunnel comes out into Istra

The tower and military facility in the background

A sea view east with Rijeka and the island of Krk in the distance

doing what I do, it was a great day and long walk, but well worth the time.

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Well, I am still here and I am releasing a little free e-book of some of the pictures I’ve taken on the Slovenia and Croatia coast, this blog is hard to post big pictures so this is one way you get to see more. Feel free to download but do not print it out as the quality is not good enough.

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8_autoslalom-1-ri07hr-jw.jpgToday I found out that there was an auto slalom event happening in Prilok, a small area on the outskirts of Rijeka. I finally decided to go down there and see what is was like, I heard there were a bunch of old cars racing so that was all I needed to walk down the hill and experience the event with a friend.

The key to this race being small and fast most of the cars were modified miniature cars from the 80’s among them the local Zastava 750, the VW Golf I, Ford Fiesta, Honda CR-X and the newer Ford Focus and others as you’ll see by the pictures and video clip. They closed this portion of the road off that is normally very busy despite its narrow and dated planning it serves to link Rijeka’s north side to Opatija via the seafront area called Prilok.

8_autoslalom-3-ri07hr-jw.jpgFrom what I saw most of the cars came from or belonged to car repair shops and garages or car enthusiasts that follow this circuit, they are street cars but must not registered and all striped out inside except for a bucket seat and roll bar, and a helmeted diver though I really think most of it is just for show or safety and that they really would not roll over or be in a high speed collision at least on this type of race. Engine-wise they are little modified and just in good running order and not drag cars or hotrods with NOS, just good clean fun driving.

8_autoslalom-5-ri07hr-jw.jpgWe were just in time for one of the heats and I took different video clips from different vantage points along the track. This was a slalom race meaning that like in skiing slalom they leave the gate one at a time and race the clock with judges at the different slalom points to mark if they knocked down cones etc. The race we saw was eventful in itself including one stalling and nearly hitting me when I was doing the curb angle low shots and another having to be towed back having died somewhere down the track causing the car behind him to have to re-drive his lap again and the retired diver getting cheers and applause from the audience while being towed back, wish I’d had filmed that too. Here are some pictures and my video clip.

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The starting line from above the hill that started the seaside windy drive, in summer it is a popular campground.

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The starting gate from the ground with the hills and old stone house in the background.

Here is the video with just a little bit of editing.

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Well the morning came way too soon for me today as I had agreed to accompany a friend on a trip to Crkvinica, a small town about an hour drive south of Rijeka.

After stumbling out of bed at 5:30am and a good cup of coffee we were off taking the state roads that wind around the coastline like a ribbon. I’m no stranger to this as I traveled most of this coastline from Dubrovnik to Senj and all the windy roads around in between (before the pay toll express road was built) but that has been a few years with only a couple visits to the coastal towns of Zadar and Šibenik during summer visits since.

bakar5-ri07hr-jw.jpgThis was nice “uncharted territory” for me and though a short trip it was a nice little experience and one of the first times to “live blog” the Adriatic coast with these pictures since this blog kicked off last August.

The reason or trip started so early was that we had to be in Crkvinica by 7:00 am to acquire fresh fish when the fishing boats came in to harbor in the morning. I’m not a fish fan but I do appreciate it as part of the Adriatic experience and loving the sea so much I have acquired an appreciation for it’s creatures too and barbequed fish on a open grill on the seaside is not really a bad way to spend an afternoon.

bakar4-ri07hr-jw.jpgThis particular part of the coastline is full of coves, peninsulas, strands and bays all woven together into a fabulous and enchanting interknit treasure of natural beauty but unfortunately not spared the scars of modern development and pollution as the industrial revolution and development during the socialist period placed industry and factories near and around populated and natural resources often imperiling the heath of both man and nature at the same time. One such example is the oil refineries in the heart of the city of Rijeka and other oil depots and smelters near the town of Bakar that we passed by today. This particular smokestack can be see from across the bay of kavarner on a clear day even from Opatija, nearly the 30 kn away and a disturbing backdrop for the old and historic boat building town of Krajevica.

All in all it was a great trip and I hope to be able to visit and explore more of it during my stay in Rijeka.

Some more pictures from the day

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Poison in Paradise- notice the gray sky coming from the smokestack and refineries in contrast to the picturesque blue sky and beautiful harbor and castle.

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The devil loves candy strips, though it looks like a candy cane it’s not so sweet but just as deadly.

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The Dry docks of Kraljevica, since 1729, and said to have been Tito’s first job.

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The town of Bakar,with the white line in the hill being the main road we were on and only the guardrail in the foreground from taking an unwanted “drop down” to the town.

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opatija-3-ri07hr-jw.jpgOpatija, truly a gem in the jewel-studded Adriatic coast. With the city of Rijeka being the main port of Croatia (and previously a main port and shipping artery in the former Yugoslavia once Triest was handed over to the Italians after WWII) Opatija became the place where the rich and industrialists went for peace and quite, just 12 kilometers from Rijeka it has long provied this service among locals and tourists alike as a nice get-away town for weekends or just a walk by the sea and coffee at a seaside café. In some ways it reminded me of what Trogir is to the other main port town of Croatia, Split, thought they are very different apart from that they both serve their larger cities needs for peace and fine dining in their unique way and historical treasures and architecture.

opatija-4-ri07hr-jw.jpgA friend and I decided we could no longer just look out at the sea but we wanted to see and feel it and walked along the coast just to smell the sea air and hear the waves crashing would have been enough to make our 5 km walk worth it but we also found quant harbors and old villas and alleys starting in Volosko and on into Opatija along the seaside that really made it a wonderful Sunday afternoon walk just wonderful. We did not make it to the heart of town, though I’ve been there before and will defiantly visit there again this was just a nice seaside walk and yes, (as I’d have it) exploring old abandoned villas like ‘Villa Irena’ that tragically looks like it burned down quite some decades ago (no signs that I could tell that it was ever electrically wired as a modern home) and all three wooden floors collapsed inside of itself. Surly it must still be worth millions with the grounds and location and the owners or city are presumably just waiting for a good offer for it and it will be restored to its former glory or better and serving as a hotel or private estate like it once was complete with seaside access and roman yard sculptures.

opatija-9-ri07hr-jw.jpgThis part of the coast is doted with hotels and these villas dating and named after the various ones who happened to be occupying it at the time built, you see names suggesting Italian, Germanic (Austro-Hungarian) and even Russian (though they never occupied), we even found an Albert Einstein street, and much of the architecture follows a similar pattern thought it also includes the much less glorious socialist era and strictly convenience styles that are just ugly boxes and built with poor materials but thankfully this town was spared the worst of it and is balanced out with many, many artistically created structures of the early 1900’s like much of this area.

I’ll end this with pictures from today of this beautiful place.

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The main road through town.

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Villa Irena

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Another seaside villa

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A castle of a place, currently a hotel.

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Shoring up success, a new villa to be.

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freeclimb-ri07hr-jw.jpgI just got back from having my life flash before my eyes – twice in one day!

It all began like many an ordinary weekend day off and my mind started planning to finish some carpentry project I’d started the other day or maybe a walk along the seaside or old villages on the outskirts of Rijeka, that would have been an ordinary day – today was not going to be one of those days.

Someone walked into my room and said “do you want to go free climbing?” I hummed and hawed but really could not find a good excuse fast enough so I was drafted as the fourth man and we were off.

I’d heard of their hobby of free climbing and seen pictures, it seemed to make sense or at least they seemed to tell it that way as they do it often and for years now, that is where I start to differ, at least for now.

We got to the Vela Draga area part of the Učka Mountain and pretected park area. It was just fantastically beautiful, I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon but this must be a smaller Croatian version as these cliffs just look like some great water rush left the and agape in a unique way kind of like the tide does on a beach when the tide is out.

There is something about being 10 meters up and hanging on with your fingertips and toes that send reason rushing to your brain and you ask yourself “why am I doing this?” why did I not think of that when I was still on the ground and not hugging a rock for dear life?

freeclimb-2-ri07hr-jw.jpgWell it was an experience, I do not mind the height that much (I did not go that high up) but there is something unnatural about it, it is not our element, kind of like swimming yet we as humans seem to have a need to try to conquer it none the less.

I understand and actually loved the technique part of it like harnesses, knots, clips, being safety and being lowered down etc, and I see the practical uses for them in survival or rescue or just mountain hiking but as a sport I really do not see the thrill or purpose in hugging various parts of a mountain for 10-15 minute climbs just to come right back down again and go up another. To me that seems like those who high-dive just to get out of the pool and dive back in over and over, I just don’t see the point. I like some risk but not just for the sake of it, perhaps it will grow on me if I do it more but I’d rather water ski, hike, mountain bike or a variety of other sports then this again, there just does not seem to have a proper build up, delivery or pay off. I think I mainly did it because I respect the opinions of those I was climbing with but that is really not a good enough reason to me, I do not believe in being a follower just to win approval or be in, and never have, and I know they understand.

Overall I’d rate this experience a 10 just for the nature aspect and the learning experience, but if you were not born a gecko, don’t feel bad, just experience this wonderful place anyways if you have the chance.

freeclimb-3-ri07hr-jw.jpgWe meet many others that day also climbing including from Slovenia; I thought they had plenty of mountains but I guess not like these or that they still were worth the trip. One instructor with another group of first-timers said he goes to Yosemite Park and climes 350 meter climbs in two days, how can you ever be worked up about finding a parking space or the things we worry about here in this world after something like that and worrying about hanging off mountains from your toes for two days and perching your tent off harnesses on the cliff etc. I’ve seen it before in magazines and I think I’ll stick to that version of things for now.

The location was just phenomenal though, I’d love to shoot a music video out there as it is just total wilderness, there is a highway and rail line but these big cliffs and rocks jutting out of the ground give it a real awe-inspiring feel that would be nice to capture on video.

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The other day I was in town and had heard that the castle lift had been completed so I went to take a look at it.

To be honest I was both disappointed and not surprised at what I saw. I’ve been visiting this beautiful city for months now and have expressed at different times my thoughts, raves, disappointments and fears of this city and it’s historical preservation, and this is just the next unfortunate architectural misstep to be completed. This carefully laid out and well built structure has the looks of a dumbwaiter, you know those lifts that carry food up to another floor in an industrial restaurant or kitchen.

castle-lift-lj07-jw.jpgThat’s what we got here now to bring paying visitors up to a medieval castle. While it does work as a quick disabled access to the castle and will help ageing tourists get up without incident like I witnessed before, I will never take this as long as I’m able to walk or even crawl. I will be climbing the hill trail or steps every time out of protest of this sad project. Is this what experiencing the old town is about? Being hurled in the air like food in a glass cookie jar?

What is frustrating to me is that his city has wonderful opportunities to improve the city and yet squanders them in unoriginal and uninspiring ways. I was glad to see a local magazine I picked up in a hotel lobby address this same issue and compares this ‘wonderful mess’ to a number of other much more interesting and beautifully built similar lifts of other European cities like in Bern, Salzburg, Budapest, Dresden, Zagreb, and Graz and others, unfortunately no one seems to have done this kind of research beforehand or even get creatively drawn ideas from school children to have a beter idea of presentation. This most basic and ugly single-car funicular structure  trades counter-weight with an iron slab instead of the usual second car. There could have been more then enough room on the hill for two pretty cars, though under these circumstances we just have to be glad there isn’t two of them.

What was really sad was not only did they not care to make the lift blend in more to the historical setting of the castle and old town but they carved out the whole area below the hill next to centuries old buildings with stainless steal railings and paving that shows no interest to match what is already there. My guess is that they are planning to knock that down too and just add another modern and culturally insensitive building in it’s place while developers wait to block the castle view altogether with a new Kolizej building one day.

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