A little boy in swimming trunks – orange with splashes of blue, keeps racing past us. His face is set for adventure, and his wheels are precariously close to the water. But fear doesn’t hamper him, just like the early spring breeze can’t force him into a shirt. He is intent on having his afternoon in Volosko.
So are we. We’ve driven to the little fishing village, about two hours from Zagreb, to break away from the špica-cluttered squares of the city. Not that Volosko is empty, far from it – but it is more peaceful, and it sits right next to the gurgling sea; it holds the promise of a mini-vacation, when the possibility of one doesn’t exist.
The season has arrived along the Riviera. It’s just over 21C but the day feels much warmer; jackets are quickly stuffed away in favour of catching some sun. The many cafes and restaurants along Volosko’s tiny port too have broken free from their winter cocoon and are spread out in the sun. Along one of the more interesting cafes, tables are set up next to fishing nets along a narrow stone walkway. Fishing boats bob up and down on either side of this summer cafe, and gulls swoop around overhead.
We sip on the hot, caffeinated foam and watch a fisherman take his boat out on a mid-morning run. When he pulls away we stare at the vacated patch of water and the clear sea bed below. We reach for our phones and take quick pictures; we post them on facebook with captions like – another afternoon in Croatia, or the good life in Croatia. The ‘likes’ add up with every lapping wave.
An art gallery at the other end of the port, a few feet away from our table, offers miniature Voloskos in oil and watercolour; paintings stand along the walls and in the windows, stopping visitors and tempting them to step inside. In a few months this little port will be overcrowded with canvass and colour. During the summer Mandrać Painting Competition, artists will sit where I am sitting right now, and replicate this very harbour, these fishing boats, those fat lurking cats, and the spires in the blue sky.
Volosko is often by-passed by tourists, in favour of Opatija’s busy centre. While it doesn’t match in five-star wellness packages, Volosko makes up with charm and flavour. The region’s three most acclaimed restaurants – Amfora, Le Mandrać and Plavi Podrum – straddle the Volosko port. The menus are rich with fresh sea food, local wines, olive oils and produce.
It’s at Volosko’s edges that the Opatija Riviera’s famed seaside promenade, The Lungomare, begins its 12 km crawl. With the bright blue water at one side, the walkway clings to Hapsburg era villas and manicured gardens on the other. Its railings open up occasionally to sitting areas, alongside the rocks. A number of sunbathers have already staked their claim; they sit oblivious to the passing crowds, soaking in both the sun and the sea spray.
Away from the water, the local addresses cascade into one another – the streets are tiny, but people have managed to squeeze in scooters and bikes along these clogged arteries. Flower pots, drying laundry and crisscrossing cables further eat into whatever free space is left between open windows; a strip of blue sky following the cobbled path around is the only constant here.
While the main road sees constant traffic and crowds (there are many cafes and taverns along the way), the inner lanes are much quieter. The occasional song comes floating out of open windows, and once in a while a face peaks out. Otherwise it’s just the orange-yellow-pink pastel villas, wearing sprigs of lavender and shiny blue “Apartment/Sobe” signs, and the muffled sounds of the sea for company along these cobblestoned lanes.