Written by: Slavica Mrkić Modrić
Experience the mysterious side of Rijeka, the one telling a story from times immemorial, the story about the old Romans who moved the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Rijeka from the edges of the today’s city closer to the sea, which means that from the main Rijeka’s promenade – Korzo you step into the passage under the city tower leading to the “old Rijeka”. It is enough to pass through only a few metres long “small tunnel” to step into Rijeka’s history so nicely incorporated in the present.
We are already at Kobler Square, a place where once the entire life of the old Rijeka took place. This is where the decisions were made about the future of the town, but it was also a place of trading, where vegetables, fruits, oil, wine and love were weighed on the same scale. All types of trade took place there. Some at night, others during the day. Going on for years, decades, even centuries. No matter who thought, but only thought, to rule this beautiful city, its old part had its own laws and rulers.
It is enough to sit at the terrace of one of the numerous café bars lined along the small picturesque streets, squares and passages, and let your eyes and imagination run wild. For example, perhaps precisely that wooden door, on exactly “that building over there” was once the entrance to the heaven of vices. The entrance to one of the taverns of the time or “oštarija” (hostelries) where people played cards, sang, ate well and drank even better. From which drunken sailors were tottering, while singing soft melodies in which the saying that love can neither be bought nor sold found no place.
Those more spiritually minded will see two church towers. One of them is the Church of the Assumption, the former cathedral built in the 15th century, whose interior hides valuable altars and baroque stucco works, known for its church tower that is detached from the church complex and inclined, so that the people call it the Leaning Tower. Below the tower there are the Late Antique mosaics dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, to the period of Tarsatica or “the Roman Rijeka”. If they listen to their imagination, they will hear screams and shouts coming from the underground, from the former Roman baths, because what you can experience in the Rijeka Archaeological Park – you can experience in no other.
The Church of the Assumption lost the title of the town cathedral to St Vitus’ Cathedral, built by the Jesuits in 1638 on the foundations of the demolished small church of the city’s patron saint– St Vitus. There is a legend about it as well, but it is best heard there, on the spot, in front of one of its beautiful baroque altars that are like monuments dedicated to the skills of Rijeka’s sculptors.
Speaking about artists, we will not fail to mention Rijeka’s painter Vojo Radoičić on whose ship “anchored” at Pavlinski Square, one of the most beautiful Old Town squares, anyone can sail anywhere. And once again, just close your eyes and let your imagination reach all the world’s seas and oceans.
Those who prefer flying should not miss visiting the shortest street in the city. Why is it called the Bat Street? Raise your heads and ask the one carved in the wall. It will spread its wings and whisper just a single word…politics!
What no one will neither whisper nor shout is the answer to the question where and when the gate from the Old Gateway disappeared. And the Old Gateway, a gateway with no gate, is yet another peculiarity of Rijeka. Once the only entrance and exit from the city, today it represents history as the oldest Rijeka’s historical monument.
Various oddments can be seen, heard, smelled and felt in this old city centre. All you need is to surrender to your senses without restraint.