Sometimes the best travel moments are the ones you don’t plan. I was bummed that I had missed my bus to Split the night before and had to stay in Opatija another evening. I was eager to delve further into my Croatian adventure but had resigned myself to spending another day in the resort town of Opatija. So I spent the day lounging by the rocks, listening to the waves crash against the concrete wall, eating lunch seaside, and napping. Not a bad day, but I was bored.
I ventured into town for a few items and headed back to the hotel. Along the way, I saw a sign with suggested hikes to nearby places. One suggestion was the fisherman’s village of Volosko. I was intrigued. Time was ticking and I would be pushing it to catch the bus (there was only one bus each evening from Opatija to Split). Reason said: “Don’t do it, you will miss your bus. AGAIN!” But the adventurer in me said: “DO IT! …but don’t miss that bus!” Heck, I needed the exercise to counteract all the gelato I had indulged myself with in Venice earlier in the week. I hurried back to the hotel to throw on my trainers and high tail it to the village. Power walking like a mad woman, I made the trek in about thirty minutes. It would have been more enjoyable had I proceeded at a leisurely pace, but I was determined to have my cake and eat it too; to see something new and not to miss the bus again.
Volosko was a stark contrast to Opatija. The sleepy fishing village was a delightful surprise. Other than a few diners seated among the waterfront restaurants, there were no tourists in sight. I like these kinds of places. When traveling, I like to see real people in their element, living their daily lives. Sure, I hit the touristy spots, but I tend to enjoy the less-frequented locales more. Volosko was exactly what I picture when I think of small, quaint villages in Europe -tiny, weathered boats docked along the shore, neighborhood felines meandering about, looking at me as if they to say “Why are you here, stranger?” It was so quiet that you could hear the gentle waves lapping against the rocky shoreline over anything else.
Volosko is the kind of town where everything shuts down around six in the evening just before the sun begins to set. I wandered up the steep and windy narrow stone streets past the restaurants into the heart of the tiny village; it was almost a ghost town. I could hear muffled conversations spilling out of open windows of homes here and there, but could not see their source. It was obviously dinner time. The sound of clanging pots and pans as dinner was being prepared caught my ear. I only saw a few residents during my impromptu visit; an elderly shopkeeper sweeping the stoop of her store, an old man walking slowly down the street as if he had all the time in the world. I nearly collided with a young boy with the glimmer of mischief in his eye. He ran around the corner; his laughter echoing behind him as he disappeared from my sight. Everyone was in for the evening. Their day was done.
I took in as much as I could, snapping photos that would serve as souvenirs of my short visit. A plaque about the town’s local celebrity/scientist, Andrija Mohorovičić, was prominently displayed near the waterfront. Turns out this small town guy discovered the boundary between the Earth’s crust and mantle – a boundary subsequently dubbed Mohorovičić discontinuity. I would have loved to stay longer and explore more to the town’s history, but I had to get back. I could not miss that darn bus again.
I walked briskly back to Opatija as the sun quickly began to fade. Those I passed had to wonder: “Where is that mad woman going in such a hurry?” The waves had become taller and stronger, crashing loudly and splashing high against the stony seaside walkway that connected Volosko to Opatija. I took in the grandiose estate homes that lined the shoreline as I approached the busier resort town and I wondered who had lived in these posh digs? How did they amass their fortunes? Several of these grand estates sat empty now, some in ruin. Others housed art or served as museums, one was a swanky restaurant with a deluxe ocean view.
Once on the bus bound for Spit, I reflected on the little fishing village of Volosko and what a refreshing escape it had been from the tourist-filled beaches and bustling main street of Opatija. If I hadn’t seen that sign, if I had not thrown caution to the wind, I would have missed my favorite part of that leg of the trip. Now, whenever possible, I intentionally venture off the beaten path. I love escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city to see locals in their own element, even if only for a few hours. Give it a try on your next trip. You’ll be glad you did!
Have you ever accidentally or intentionally strayed from your itinerary?