Kvarner newsletter / no 14

Tourism time machine
120 years of Opatija as a climatic health resort

The beginning of March is a particularly important period for Opatija and its tourism, because it was at the beginning of March that this renowned destination was proclaimed a climatic health resort exactly 120 years ago. This is a good reason to celebrate, and also to remember all the benefits of Opatija's climate and the variety of services offered here. Today, 120 years later, Opatija continues to attract visitors wishing to enjoy a pleasant break while also improving their health and well-being.

Based on previous scientific research, Austro-Hungarian experts decided to proclaim Opatija a climatic health resort on the 4th of March 1889. This act has determined Opatija's future. Opatija has a special variant of the Mediterranean climate, which is specific because of its sun-exposed location sheltered by the wooded Mount Učka and its lush vegetation. If we add to this the fact that this renowned Kvarner resort is protected from strong gusts of bura wind in winter, and also that in the summertime there are no unbearable heats, it becomes clear why Opatija offers comfortable stay at any time of the year. Indeed, Opatija has everything that is needed for all-year tourism.
Opatije began developing as a tourist resort back in 1885. Over the next 20 years, most notably thanks to the enthusiasm of Prof. Dr. Julius Glax, Opatija became a world-renowned health resort that used to be visited by 25,000 guests each year. Dr. Julius Glax first came to Opatija in 1883 and immediately became aware of the favourable climate of this, at the period small tourist place. Four years later he became director of the Southern Railways Company health resort and participated in elaborating the plan for transforming Opatija into a spa resort. The first part of the plan was the construction of the necessary infrastructure: in addition to many other innovative ideas, he insisted on constructing a 7-kilometre-long coastal promenade with numerous resting places. The other part of the plan had to do with medicine and included the construction of specialised sanatoriums and bathing places with cold and warm water, which resulted in opening specialised clinics for heart, lung, rheumatic, neurological and gynaecological diseases. Before World War One, Opatija had as many as 12 sanatoriums. In the 1880s, Opatija was one of the most famous and most visited holiday resorts in Europe, visited by many noted personalities of the period such as the writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, ballet dancer Isadora Duncan, composer and conductor Gustav Mahler, violinist and composer Jan Kubelik, and many more. 
As a result, Emperor Franz Joseph issued a decree in 1889 to officially proclaim Opatija a climatic health resort. Consequently, Opatija was then listed in numerous lexicons and travel guides, which gave a detailed account of Opatija's mild climate and recommended the town for convalescence especially after serious respiratory and circulatory diseases, preferably in spring and autumn. Travel guides also praised the Lungomare coastal promenade and described the rooms in Opatija's hotels as "hygienic and comfortable". "The prices are not low, in fact they are higher than in other Austrian winter resorts", wrote the authors in travel guides, emphasising that it was all well worth the effort. The usual travelling time needed to reach Opatija from Vienna was 13 hours by train, and 14 hours from Budapest.
Continuing this tradition, Opatija's offer today is based on developing health tourism, most notably in the Thalassotherapia Institution, which was founded in 1957 as the Institute for Thalassotherapy, now the Special Hospital for Rehabilitation of Heart, Lung and Rheumatic Diseases. Today it is the leading centre for cardiologic rehabilitation in the region and one of the largest laboratories for functional non-invasive cardiologic diagnostics. The Thalassotherapia also includes the new Thalasso Wellness Centre on an area of 2,500 square metres.