Kvarner newsletter / no 23

Opatija's parks
Let's walk together…

In a prestigious competition organised by the Croatian National Tourist Board, Opatija won the Blue Flower award for tidiness and maintenance. Perhaps not the only factor that contributed to winning this award, but definitely significant, are Opatija's renowned parks and gardens, which continue to enchant visitors throughout the year with their well-cared-for appearance and splendid plants from the Mediterranean and other parts of the world.

Opatija is renowned for its well-tended green areas, most notably the famous parks of Margarita, Angiolina and St. James. Thanks to the mild climate of the Kvarner Bay, Opatija is perfectly suitable for refreshing walks in the open air throughout the year. In addition, a walk along Opatija's parks and the renowned Lungomare coastal promenade has a beneficial effect on human health and is always a true feast for the eyes.

Angiolina Park and St. James Park together make the central horticultural monument of Opatija covering an area of 3.64 hectares. Originally, this was one single park, but it was later divided into parks of Angiolina and St. James according to the structures that can be found there. However, due to their similar characteristics, these two parks can be considered as one unit divided into 60 fields. Approximately 150 plant species grow there, among them many atypical of this region. The park surrounding the elegant Villa Angiolina was laid out in the period between 1845 and 1860, which means it has now existed for 150 years. It contains interesting plants from all over the world, among them the Japanese Camellia, today a recognisable symbol of Opatija. Opatija's oldest building, Church of St. James, first mentioned in historical books in 1449, is also located within the park. It was built upon foundations of a Benedictine abbey, which gave name to the town (because Opatija means abbey in Croatian). The Villa Angiolina was built in 1844 and soon became the centre of social life and meeting point of many renowned guests, such as the Austrian Empress Maria Anna, wife of Ferdinand I.

The Park Margarita was laid out at the beginning of the 20th century. It covers an area of 3.5 hectares and includes 22 plots. A comparison with the data from the year 1915 reveals that many original plants remained preserved right up to the present day.

Apart for these, Opatija has several smaller parks and many wonderful, well-tended gardens around magnificent villas that add to this town's overall appeal. Another attraction that combines human work and natural assets is the unique, 12-kilometre-long Lungomare coastal promenade stretching from Volosko to Lovran. Surrounded by the Adriatic Sea on the one side and fragrant Mediterranean vegetation on the other, this promenade is a perfect venue for relaxing walks with beneficial effects to human health at any time of the year. Another Opatija's promenade is located on the slopes of Mount Učka. It is the Carmen Sylva walking trail, built in 1890 and widened in 1901 at the initiative an with the financial support of the King Carol I of Romania and his wife Elisabeth, who used to write poetry under the pseudonym of Carmen Sylva.