Rijeka

Rijeka (literally “River”) is a city in Kvarner Bay, a northern inlet of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. It is the principal seaport of the country. It had about 129,000 inhabitants in 2011, with the greater city area reaching up to 200,000, and is Croatia‘s third largest city.

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Panorama of Rijeka with river Rječina

The city of Rijeka is a unique cosmopolitan city with a very turbulent history, especially during the 20th century. For instance, Rijeka was ruled by eight different countries between 1918 and 1991, so theoretically, a citizen of Rijeka born in 1917 could have had eight different passports without ever leaving the city limits. Such rapid changes of events led to a strong local identity for the city.

Rijeka is a major Croatian port, in the very heart of Kvarner Gulf. Because of its location, Rijeka is a crossroads of land and sea routes, connected with the rest of the world by air, bus, train and ship lines. Despite often being described as a predominantly industrial and port city, Rijeka is an interesting city with beautiful architecture of mostly secession style, a good choice of museums and quality night-life.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Rijeka was one of the main European ports and had weekly passenger service to and from New York. The famous ship Carpathia, which saved most of the survivors from the Titanic, was heading from New York to Rijeka, and most of the crew on the ship was Croatian. Thanks to that, one of life-belts from the Titanic is preserved in the Rijeka Naval Museum.

Rijeka was also the first fascist state in the world, before Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s German Reich. A mixture of fascism, anarchism and elements or dadaism was the basis for the constitution of Reggenza Italiana del Carnaro (Italian Regency of Kvarner), a short-lived state created in 1919, after a coup d’etat of Italian war veterans led by Gabriele D’Annunzio, often called the pioneer of fascism. To make it more awkward, this unusual state was the first international state that recognized Lenin’s USSR.

On the bright side, from 1920 to 1924, Rijeka was an independent neutral state. A status very similar to the later status of Gdansk provided Rijeka with independence and neutrality. The official language in the Free State of Rijeka were Croatian, Italian and Hungarian, in order to provide maximum care for all minorities in the city.

Square on the bridge over the river Rječina

Woodrow Wilson, President of United States, recommended Rijeka in 1919 as a head of the League of Nations. After Second World War, Rijeka was one of candidates for hosting the headquarters of the United Nations. The idea was to reintroduce Independent State of Rijeka as a special United Nations neutral state.

Modern Rijeka is actually made from two original cities that were separated by river Rječina. On the west was Fiume or Rijeka and on the east Sušak, the rival counterpart of Rijeka mostly inhabited by Croatians and most of the 19th and early 20th century under Yugoslavian or Croatian administrative rule. Those two cities were merged in 1945. To symbolically connect the city, a wide pedestrian bridge was built in front of Hotel Kontinental which was turned into a square. Most of the people are not aware that there is actually a river under this wide square. It is popular place for meeting and socializing, especially for the younger generations.

With coming to Rijeka, you are joining to the list of people together with Che Guevara, James Joyce, Franz Liszt, Dora Maar, Enrico Caruso, Benito Mussolini, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Josip Jelačić, Bobby Fischer, Saddam Husein, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Johnny Weissmueller, Pope John Paul II and many others that have been in Rijeka before.

Rijeka airport terminal

Rijeka will be a “European Capital of Culture” for 2020, an honour it shares with Galway.

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