The Austrian-Hungarian Riviera

Sunshine, clear salty water, picturesque rocks and mountains above the coast. These are primary conditions of a real holiday by the sea – our great-great-grandparents knew that already. Our exhibition is going to show you the most popular holiday resorts of the Adriatic Sea during the period of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the charming towns of Abbázia (Opatija), Lovran and Cirkvenica (Crikvenica). You are going to see where the cream of the Monarchy went to toast themselves.

Kávéház - képeslap, Fiume, 1907 - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDIn the early years of the Monarchy, Fiume (Rijeka) was in the focus after the Hungarian-Croatian Compromise in 1868, which meant that the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia obtained partial autonomy as a member state of the Hungarian Kingdom, but the agreement included that Fiume and its surroundings would be governed by a governor appointed by the Hungarian government. A lot of Hungarian public servants and white-collars worked in the city and children could learnt in Hungarian language at some schools. The golden age lasted for some decades. Hungary’s largest port got into the railway circulatory system as well in 1873. Besides industrial investments, cultural life and tourism also prospered: the National Theatre of Fiume was opened in 1885, the Hotel Continental in 1888. All these, the Adriatic beaches and the neighbouring towns – Abbázia, Lovran and Cirkvenica – made the Kvarner Gulf an extremely attractive destination among the Hungarian aristocracy longing for a holiday.

Abbázia, fürdőzők a tengerparton a fürdőépületnél - Terleczky József, CC BY-NC-NDThe story of Abbázia (Opatija) – one of the most popular holiday resorts of Austro-Hungarian Empire – started in the 19th century, when merchants from Fiume (Rijeka) built a town around a four-hundred-year-old monastery. As of 1884, it was linked to Budapest among others by the Southern Railway line as well. The still-working Hotel Quarnero (its former name) was finished in the same year. The town was also visited by the sick because its air is beneficial to the lung-sick, but rheumatics and cardiopaths also frequented it hoping recovery. One of the main attractions of the area is the 12 km long seaside promenade Lungomare – said to be the most beautiful one on the Adriatic coast – that encompasses the sea from Abbázia to Lovran.

Abbázia, Lungomare - Terleczky József, CC BY-NC-NDMany artists visited Abbázia, for example Mór Jókai, whose foster daughter held her wedding with Árpád Feszty at the Saint Vitus Cathedral of Fiume. József Rippl-Rónai went to see his brother on this picturesque land and immortalized its idyllic atmosphere in its painting Abbazia (Detail of Volosca). Milán Füst was treated in a sanatorium during his teen-age and Attila József was also brought here in the frame of a children vacation program, but the latter happened later in 1918. The Mediterranean town had a great impact on author Sándor Márai as well; his novelette Dráma Voloscában (Drama in Volosca) is about his experiences in Volosca. The anthology Magyar írók az Adrián (Hungarian Authors on the Adriatic) edited by Csaba Kiss Gy. is also a collection of entertaining stories.

Lovran, fürdőző nő (1904) - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-ND

Going south from Abbázia along the eastern coast of Istria you can reach Lovran. It was influenced by the touristic boom of Fiume and Abbázia significantly, which was a good chance for ship-owner families living in the town to switch to seaside catering after the decay of sailing-boats. Infrastructure was established and a main road and tramway connected it to the neighbouring Abbázia soon. It is likely that all the visitors arriving here tasted the delicious wines of the area.

On the other side of Kvarner Gulf, Bakkari (its Hungarian name was Szádrév) today Bakar was ruled by the family Zrínyi in the 16th century. It was the greatest rival of Fiume in maritime trade. The settlement also suffered from the shifting from sailing ships to steamships, and especially the construction of the Fiume railway line that determined the result of the hundred-year trading rivalry – in favour of Fiume. Tourism was the life-belt in this case again. Cirkvenica (its Croatian name Crikvenica) also developed during the Monarchy and also according to demands of visitors of the period. The Clotilde Hotel was built in 1891, and the most spectacular hotel of the area Archduke Joseph Sanatorium was built in 1895, later it was renamed as Therapia Hotel – and more and more touristic facilities were constructed here along the seaside.

A római aréna belseje, Póla (1918) - Magyar Ferences Könyvtár, CC BYPóla (its Croatian name Pula) is situated at the southern corner of the Istrian Peninsula, a bit farther from the Fiume region. Before our time, a significant Roman colony lived in the settlement; the amphitheatre that was built during the reign of Augustus still stands. It has always been an important port throughout the history. It became one of the most important naval ports of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in the 19th century, and its shipyard helped the settlement grow into an industrial city. Its bay was the basis of battleships of the Imperial and Royal Navy. The Brioni Island opposite Póla was a real paradise and became the favourite holiday resort of the Habsburg family. The ruling elite also liked it later on, for example the former Yugoslavian Head of State Tito’s holiday residence received his famous guest here from Queen Elisabeth II, to actress Elizabeth Taylor and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. It was the venue of a number of political negotiations.

Nyaralás - Crikvenica (1956) - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDThe Adriatic tourism was suspended by World War I ending in the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The region got under Italian control as of 1918, belonged to Yugoslavia after World War II, and then became part of Croatia after it gained independence in 1991. Fiume is now Rijeka and Abbázia is called Opatija.  Despite its stormy 150 years, the area managed to keep its attractive atmosphere and it is still an exceptionally adorable touristic destination.


Translated by Zita Aknai


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