February 4, 2013

0067 & 0495 CROATIA (Primorje-Gorski Kotar) - Opatija, a destination for crowned heads

Posted on 11.12.2011 and completed on 04.02.2013
I always liked the story that says that during the Argonauts, the Danube ramify at a time, one arm emptying, as in nowdays, into the Black Sea, and the other into the Adriatic Sea, near the actual city Trieste. Unfortunately, theory has no other support than the folktales, the fact that to the mouth where the Danube flows into the Black Sea there was a Greek city called Histria, just like the peninsula located on the Adriatic seashore, plus the Istro-Romanians (who still live in this peninsula), very close relatives of the Romanians who live on the north of Danube. Too bad, because it was a nice story.

The small Istria peninsula, as actually the whole large Balkan Peninsula of which it belongs, was ceded, conquered, exploited, taken over, splited, controlled, disputed along the history (in a somewhat chronological order) by Romans, Goths, Avars, Byzantines, Croats, Lombards, Franks, Bavarians, Venetian, Serbs, Austrians, French, Hungarian, Italians and Croats again. Panslavist ideas awakened among the South Slavs in the 19th century haven't fructified until after WWI, together with the creation of the state to be called then Yugoslavia, because the divergent interests of the powers that made the games in the area (respectively Austro-Hungary, Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, with France, England and Germany in the second plan). But Istria belonged to Italy between 1920 and 1947, when it was incorporated into Yugoslavia, and after its dissolution in 1991 the peninsula became part of Croatia.

Opatija, geographically belonging to Istrian peninsula, is a town of about 8,000 inhabitants, situated in the Kvarner Gulf, at 13 km southwest from Rijeka (former Fiume under the italians), right under Mount Učka (one of the nature parks of Croatia). In 1844, Iginio Scarpa, a rich merchant from Rijeka, founded Villa Angiolina, which houses in nowadays the Croatian Museum of Tourism. First hotel ever on the Adriatic (Grand Hotel Kvarner) was built in 1884 and soon after, 12 km long promenade Lungomare was built along coast of Volosko, Opatija and Lovran.

Surrounded by beautiful woods of bay laurel, and with a sea-coast rocky and picturesque, Opatija became in the second half of the 19th century and in the beginning of the next a fashionable destination for the Austrian imperial family and Austrian nobility, emperor Franz Joseph I used to spend several months here during the winter. Also the town was visited by the then most prominent personalities: Princess Louise von Saxe-Coburg, the Romanian King Carol I, the Swedish-Norwegian King Oscar, Count Franz Graf von Meran and celebrities like Isadora Duncan and her lovers or composer Gustav Mahler.

In Opatija is also the old 14th-century Benedictine abbey, Opatija Sv. Jakova (Abbey of Saint James), from which the town derives its name (opatija means abbey in Croatian), Saint James's church (built in 1506 and enlarged in 1937), and the imposing neo-Romanesque Church of the Annunciation with its pronounced green cupola, designed in 1906 by Karl Seidl (is in the bouth postcards). Opatija is known for the Maiden with the seagull (in the first postcard), a statue by Zvonko Car (1956), which is positioned on a promontory by the Juraj Šporer art pavilion.

About the stamps

The stamps in the both postcards are part of a series of four, named Croatian Ethnographic Heritage and issued on March 15, 2010:
● Dubrovacko Primorje (1.60 HRK) - it's on the second postcard
● Medimurje (3.10 HRK) - it’s on the first postcard
● Posavina (4.60 HRK) - it’s on other postcard
● Okuplje Draganic (7.10 HRK)

Istria - Wikipedia
Opatija - Wikipedia
Opatija - Opatija Tourism
Croatian Ethnographic Heritage - Philately News 

sender 1: Marius Vasilescu
sent from Rijeka (Primorje-Gorski Kotar / Croatia), on 15.11.2011
sender 2: Ana
sent from Mrkopalj (Gorski Kotar / Croatia), on 20.08.2012

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