SUNDAY 4th NOVEMBER 2012.
Last night we slept well and I think it was because we were appreciative of having a roof over our heads. We were really getting desperate. At one stage I thought it might have been a night in a bus shelter.
The hostel was part of an old railway goods shipping complex. Apparently the rooms and apartments were accommodation for travellers moving around by boat and train years ago. I found the whole area fascinating.
To the left is a wharf where ships with cargo and passengers moored. Goods were unloaded into the long warehouses and trucks and trains then transported the goods to inland destinations. The complex is now basically abandoned. I would loved to have stood here when the port was in full swing.
The staircase went up seven floors. The steel work was in fact a beautiful piece of artwork.
The metal rosettes were pressed sheet metal and the curved rods at the right hand edge of the photograph were 25mm x 10mm steel section. Every piece would have been hand made and fitted. Amazing work!
There are no early morning starts at the hostel as the kitchen doesn’t open until 9-00. The reason is the manager/owners of the hostel sleep in the kitchen as they are on call 24 hours a day. Not being able to do an early morning brew up is a bit of a disadvantage. From what I gather, having an early morning cuppa is an English tradition and that is why there has been no provision for boiling water in rooms during this trip so far. The kitchen closes, or rather the owners close their bedroom, at 9-00pm so we thought today we should buy a thermos.
Most of the morning we stayed indoors and talked to fellow travellers and the owners of the hostel, Rudi and Sandra. We shared a taxi with Rudi and Sandra to a nearby shopping complex where we bought the thermos and did some supermarket shopping.
In the afternoon we strolled around the town and to our surprise there were many old buildings, some beautifully restored and others in a state of disrepair. The following images show some of our finds.
This configuration above is called a Term (a pedestal tapering towards the base and supporting a bust). In the world of sculpture, reproducing folds in cloth is one of the biggest challenges. The interesting point here is the figure is leaning forward which emphasises his bulk. Had he been standing straight the piece would not have been as impressive. The sculptor who did this incredible piece of work had it down to a fine art.
When a building loses its coat (outer covering) it enables one to read its history. In this case, we can see the building was made from random rubble then stuccoed. The stucco has fallen off the front and some fresh stucco has been applied. There are a number of reasons why stucco falls off and one is through moisture penetration. The next image shows one possible cause.
In this case bullet or shrapnel damage has dislodged the stucco allowing moisture to penetrate behind the stucco and once that happens pieces start flaking off. The reason stucco is not flaking off here is probably because the wall is protected by the roof eave overhang. I gather in this case the damage to the wall was caused during WW2.
Moved into a double room at the hostel this afternoon. The hostel now suits us admirably.
SUNDAY 4TH NOVEMBER 2012
Now, even if you have no interest in architecture, you have to admit this building is pretty impressive. Image the money that must have been floating about in the days when this was built.
The weather this morning was fine, a great day to sit out the front of a portside café and eat the local fare. The local fare is equivalent to English whitebait.
Tim, we will be eating the barra bait when we come to Thursday Island in May now!
Following are a few photographs around the port of Rijeka.
The harbour today was tranquil but in days past it wasn’t so. For instance, nearing the end of WW2 retreating Germans destroyed the harbour area and all the infrastructure with a number of huge explosive charges. During the retreat of 27 000 German troops 11 000 were killed while the remaining 16 000 were taken prisoner. It was hard to imagine this as we sat and ate our lunch and supped on a beer. This is the mystery of history as far as I’m concerned….trying to imagine what has gone on before.
- This afternoon it became overcast so we returned to the hostel, blogged and talked with other residents. We have decided we might stay a while in Rijeka as it is an interesting town and, in addition, it’s relatively inexpensive.
MONDAY 5TH NOVEMBER 2012.
Deciding to stay awhile means food shopping and the best place to shop is the local farmers’ market. Heavy rain overnight made the shopping expedition an interesting challenge.
Work of this quality is usually only found in secure art galleries. But here in Rijeka it’s on the side of what appeared to be an electrical substation. Also it was not anywhere near the main town thoroughfare but in a secluded backstreet. Discovering it by accident, this wonderful piece of artwork set us on a trail of discovery.
The image shows a worker holding a torpedo and that set me to thinking, why so? To get the answer we visited the local Tourist Information and were informed that the torpedo was invented in Rijeka. When I asked where the factory was I was told it was now in ruins and there was nothing to see. I got the feeling that I was considered a bit odd for wanting to know. However I pushed the issue and finally the attendant indicated on a map where the factory was. It was too late in the day to go looking for the factory so we decided to make it a priority tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we intend going to a local beach resort first then attempt to find the torpedo factory.
TUESDAY 6TH NOVEMBER 2012.
This morning we intended to catch a bus to Opatija, a beach region to the north of Rijeka. The tourist information lady and the owners of the hostel told us where to catch the bus but what they didn’t tell us was that there were two stops near each other and, you guessed it, we stood at the wrong one. So we, literally, missed the bus. In light of there being no more buses scheduled we decided to find the torpedo factory.
The torpedo factory was a five kilometres walk through oil refineries and an industrial area, not the most scenic of walks but interesting.
It was a long hard slog to the end of the road where we thought the torpedo factory should have been and I have to say we were feeling a bit despondent. Maybe finding the factory was going to be a non-event, like the trip to the beach earlier in the day. Then, ‘voila’, I spotted a sign indicating we were in the suburb of Torpedo.
Near the sign there was a huge building that I guessed might be the factory. Opposite there was a workshop and I asked a most friendly receptionist if the building was the torpedo factory. She said it was and suggested we pass through the barrier, go to the water and there I would find the torpedo testing pad. It was now getting exciting.
The invention and evolution of the torpedo can be attributed to two men. The prime mover was Ivan Luppis, a resident of Rijeka, and a retired naval officer and British engineer, Robert Whitehead who was manager of a steam ship manufacturing company in Rijeka. The first tests were made in 1866 and by 1943 the factory had reached its peak with an output of 160 torpedos a month.
The first torpedos were called ‘coastal saviours’ which were launched from shore installations. Later, torpedos were launched from the decks of ships and eventually from submarines. Whitehead gave the torpedo its name.
I spoke with the caretaker of the factory and he explained that the torpedos were launched out through the wide gaps between the pylons. The overhead structures were observation decks. Of course during WW2 the test site and the factory took a pounding from the German invasion forces.
During WW2 there was an artillery battery mounted on top of this structure. The reason for the modern drilling plant is that the test pad is going to be restored as a tourist attraction. I’m glad we saw it in this condition and not all spruced up. The old factory is going to house a new fish market. The Rijeka torpedo company went bankrupt and closed in the 1990s.
Feeling chuffed we had discovered the torpedo factory we returned to the hostel. Tomorrow we are going to the museum of Natural History as we have been told that on the front lawns are some of the torpedos made in the Rijeka factory.
WEDNESDAY 7TH NOVEMBER 2012.
Today was our last day in Rijeka, we didn’t intend staying so long but the hostel was comfortable and once we started exploring the town we realised there was a lot to see.
The first thing on today’s agenda was a visit to the Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. The church is classified as neo-gothic and it was the first time we had come across a church of this style. Although I appreciate the work associated with its construction I have to say it wasn’t all that aesthetically pleasing.
The church was commenced in 1909 but because the order was running out of money progress was painfully slow. However someone devised a cunning plan to raise more funds and to do it a local lady was declared a saint who sweated blood. Of course, people wanted to see this miracle and they had to pay to witness it. With a fresh injection of funds the church was completed in 1929. The miraculous ‘saint’ was arrested for fraud and jailed but not until sufficient funds had been gathered to finish the church.
One thing I notice these days is that church authorities are cashing in on the tourism boom. For example, when you enter many churches you don’t go directly into the church but are herded into a church shop where religious statues, bibles, postcards and even tea towels are available for purchase. I have read that the selling of such souvenirs is not necessarily for monetary profit but as an aid to intensify faith.
From the mall it was uphill to the museum of natural history where the famous Rijeka torpedos were on display. The museum was originally a holiday house for a notable Austrian archduke.
The above model might not look all that exciting but when you consider how one works and the decades of research and development involved they were really an amazing piece of technology. There were many problems to overcome. For example, keeping the torpedo going in a straight line meant two propellers (as is the case above) rotating in opposite directions. Then there was the problem of keeping it at the right depth. If it went too deep it would go under its target and if it ran near the surface its telltale wake would alert the target ship’s crew who would take evasive action.
The torpedo was inserted into the launch unit (the end where I am standing) and compressed air injected into the launch tube propelled the torpedo on its way.
The door on the end here swung open and the torpedo inserted. Then compressed air was released which drove the torpedo out the far end. I know some readers of this blog might not appreciate the work involved with making such a piece of equipment but having an engineering background I can tell you that to build such a device is quite an achievement. Many of the parts here are cast bronze, monel metal or steel and a wooden model has to be made first before making a casting. The wooden pattern is used to make a sand mould into which molten metal is poured. The cast form had to be then machined and polished. Exceptional craftsmanship! It’s a shame that the ultimate goal was to maim and kill.
After morning tea we decided to take a taxi to the Trsat Castle which towers over Rijeka. There are special taxis which charge a flat rate of 20 kuna and that entitles you to go anywhere within the town limits. Fortunately the castle was within the town limit. A taxi driver earns about $50 a week and according to the hostel owners this is enough to live on. Our taxi driver today was friendly and happy and I got the feeling his life’s ambition was simply to drive and please the customer.
Trsat Castle is thought to sit on the exact spot of an ancient Illyrian and Roman fortress. The castle was built in an ideal position because from the parapets it is possible to see down the river and out across the harbour.
Near the castle there was a church and associated buildings and one had a very unusual brick roof. Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside this building so see how the roof was supported. I wondered if maybe a wooden structure was built first then the bricks were laid on top of the form work. I thought the brick opera house in Thessaloniki was the ultimate brick building but this one is even more complex.
Today was our fifth day in Rijeka and we have enjoyed every minute of it. The hostel owners were very accommodating, the food was great, the architecture, buildings new and old were enthralling, portside activities were absorbing and finding the torpedo factory under our own steam was an achievement. Rijeka has been added to our ‘must visit again some day’ list.