Tito Square, Rijeka, Croatia

The Sound of Rijeka

John Clayton is a UK citizen who has been living in the coastal city of Rijeka for 15 years. Following on from his previous posts on Open Water Swimming in Croatia and Outdoor Easter in Rijeka, John talks about Rijeka’s fascinating history and an unusual connection with The Sound of Music.

Rijeka’s connection with The Sound of Music

Have you ever wondered about the mother of the children in The Sound of Music? No? me neither, at least not until I discovered that she was from Rijeka, in northern Croatia, where I live.

It is hard to spend time in Rijeka without being made aware that the torpedo was invented here. It was born out of the cooperation between a local naval officer, Giovanni Luppis, and a British engineer living in Rijeka, Robert Whitehead in the 1880s. As a brilliant engineer, Robert Whitehead was able to turn Luppis’ idea into a reality and as a savvy businessman, able to make a fortune out of it. He became incredibly wealthy and his granddaughter, Agathe Whitehead, inherited most of his wealth. As a rich and local celebrity, she was launching a ship in 1909 when she was introduced to a certain Georg von Trapp. So, yes, the Sound of Music Family was from Croatia.

Torpedo Testing Site in Rijeka, Croatia - The Sound of Rijeka
Torpedo testing site
Villa Whitehead, where Agathe Whitehead grew up

Tragically in 1922, Agathe died of scarlet fever shortly after giving birth to seven children. I am sure I don’t need to tell you the story of the seven children…

Agathe Whitehead and Georg Von Trapp. (2023, December 5). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agathe_Whitehead
Agathe Whitehead and Georg Von Trapp. (2023, December 5). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agathe_Whitehead

A turbulent history

While this may be perhaps the most surprising, and still almost unknown, historical link in Rijeka, the city has a dramatic and turbulent history. As a natural deep water port, it has been fought over many times, particularly since the demise of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It has been part of at least, depending on how you count, eight different countries just within the 20th century. These include the first Yugoslavia, Italy, an Independent fascist state in World War Two, to the second Yugoslavia and independence in 1991.

Perhaps one of the most interesting, if briefest, was as a tiny city-state for 15 months in 1919-1920. During the chaos following the end of WWI, the city was seized by the eccentric Italian poet and nationalist Gabriele D’Annunzio. As an Italian-speaking city, he hoped that Italy would annex Rijeka, known as Fiume in Italian. Both words mean “river” in Croatian and Italian respectively. Ironically he would eventually be chased out by Italian forces who protected its independence. However, in this short period, D’Annunzio established a constitution along with many of the rituals which would inspire Benito Mussolini. Along with Blackshirts, he introduced the balcony address and the fascist salute.

While understandably Rijeka is not keen to promote itself as the birthplace of fascism, it is less ashamed of its communist past. Before Croatian Independence in 1991, almost every Yugoslav town had streets and squares named after Tito. Most have since been renamed, but Rijeka retains its Tito Square, literally on the river where the city was divided between Italy and the first Yugoslavia in the inter-war period. Perhaps this reflects the long association Tito enjoyed with Rijeka. It was the place where he was first detained by the authorities back in 1924, his punishment for organising strikes in the shipyard at nearby Kraljevica. He returned in 1946 as President of Yugoslavia when the city was reunited, giving a famous speech in what was yet to be named Tito Square.

Tito Square, Rijeka, Croatia
Tito Square today
Site of Tito's detention in Rijeka
The site of Tito’s detention in Rijeka

Before the 20th century, there was of course plenty of history, the Romans were here, and more recently, Napoleon’s troops. According to legend, Napoleon’s forces were chased out by the British Navy with just one cannonball being fired. Legend has is that a local beauty beguiled the British naval commander with her charms to save the city from severe destruction. The lone cannonball can be seen lodged in the wall of the local cathedral – not that this particular story is to be taken too seriously.

Rijeka today

Today it would be easy to forget all this turbulence and turmoil when sipping a cappuccino on the Korzo, the lively main pedestrian street. The violence and instability are over, with its citizens not having changed nationality for 33 years already. However Rijeka remains a strategically important port both for Croatia and Hungary, and nearby Omišalj is a major import terminal of Liquid Natural Gas for the EU.

So if you find yourself in Rijeka, exploring the many historical sights, you might want to quietly sing to yourself “Doe a deer, a female deer…” and secretly smile knowing you are in the birthplace of this famous family that brought so much pleasure to the world.

Ed Thomas at his bar, the Amedea

The half-Croatian bar an hour from London

We were recently contacted by a very friendly chap called Ed who, we are very happy to hear, runs a half-Croatian bar called Amedea in Whitstable, Kent – only about an hour from London. Intrigued, we had to learn more about the bar (named after his grandmother!), how Ed came to set it up, and about his family and travel experiences in Croatia.

1) What is your background, and whereabouts in Croatia are your family from?

Hello! My name’s Ed, I’m half Croatian and Amedea is a bar named after my grandma/Nona. Amedea and my mum’s side of the family (the Croatian side) mainly live around Kanfanar which is close to Rovinj in Istria.

Ed Thomas at his bar, the Amedea
Ed at Amedea
Ed Thomas & Grandma Amedea
Ed, his Nona Amedea, and his partner Abbie

2) How have you come to run a Croatian bar, and such a bar in Whitstable? Do you have any previous experience in hospitality?

I do not know is the short answer! Amedea has been a dream that I’ve been far too optimistically chipping away at for about 6 years that has somehow happened. Whether it was forcing myself to put in a very amateur planning application, Googling ‘how to do a flood risk assessment’ while having a barbecue, or editing my proposed floorplans on Microsoft Paint before work, this whole journey has very much been ‘I really, really don’t know how to do this, but I’m going to have to, and just hope that no one complains… Or even better, it might work!’ I’ve grown up in Whitstable and it’s a lovely place. The residents are all interesting people who always seem up for giving a unique new business a try. 

I had no real bar experience before this and it’s also my first business (so yes my mama was worried!), I just know the Croatian way to host people from my experiences with family over there, and eating/drinking out. I’ve lost count of the amount of times Amedea herself, my aunties or my cousins have shouted ‘EDVUD! JESTI!!!’ at me – even if I’ve just eaten an enormous 3-course meal! I must admit, I used to find this quite scary when I was younger. 

To say Croatian people always put their guests first doesn’t do them justice, their hospitality is incredible. Hopefully, when customers visit Amedea Bar, we can help share that experience, and transport them to Istria too! My mamina Suzi and my sister Saskia work here too, which is important with any independent Croatian business – family. My dad… Well, let’s just say he’s one of our best customers. I really want to say thank you to the other staff that work here too. Although not Croatian (British, French and German actually) they carry the place flawlessly and always make me look good. Front of house smiles go a long way!

The Amedea Bar, Half-Croatian Bar in Whitstable
The exterior of Amedea
Croatian flag at The Amedea
The Croatian flag flies proudly at Amedea

3) Have you spent time in Croatia? What’s your favourite spot in the country? (If you can narrow it down to just one!)

I’d always visit Amedea and other family in Istria at least once a year…until Coronavirus. In 2016 I spent a month travelling down the coast visiting different places, which I would love to do again! My favourite (other than Istria of course) would have to be Makarska. Seeing those cliffs really took my head a while to compute, I’ve never seen anything like those before… And then directly below them, a cute little church on a town square. That place is so unreal and beautiful, and I haven’t even mentioned the sea yet! 

4) What kind of Croatian products/specialities does Amedea offer?

Well, I think most importantly, we of course sell Smoki peanut puffs! Other than that, we’ve got Graševina, Plavac, Postup, Babić and always Malvazija on the wine list. We’ve got loads of spirits including Medica and Šlivovica, but beers have been a bit harder. So far I’ve managed to get Ožujsko and San Servolo in cans and bottles, but I’m still battling to get a Croatian beer on draught… It’s harder than it sounds! And last but not least, we sell Paški sir (sheep’s cheese) and pršut (cured meat) on our food boards – which go down really well with visitors whether they’re familiar with them or not. 

Croatian spirits at the Amedea
A great selection of Croatian spirits!

5) (I know you’ve unfortunately been subjected to lockdowns in the past year…) but do you have many Croats in England as guests? How do non-Croats enjoy the Croatian products?

Surprisingly, yes. My mum has lived in the UK for 30 years and has never seen so many Croats here until I opened the bar, they’ve really come out of the woodwork! I’m pleased to say that when Croats do visit Amedea, they tell me their experience was genuine, which really means a lot.

It seems our non-Croat customers have been really enjoying the experience too, and some of our reviews have brought a tear to my eye! The people that come to Amedea pretty much all seem to be genuine, interesting, and most of all, nice, which is something money just could not buy. It really helps that Croatia has become such a well known holiday spot over the last few years too because it means more customers can relate. Only this month, I sold a Whitstable resident some Croatian goodies so she could recreate her holiday in Hvar for her husband on Valentine’s day! 

The wine list at the Amedea
The wine list at Amedea, next to the Kanfanar coat of arms
Živili with a painting by Amedea
More drinks at Amedea – and a painting by Nona Amedea

6) How have you/your bar found lockdown?

Well, it’s obviously been very tough, but a combination of a good landlord and the government grants has meant we’ve kept our heads above water. It also helps that Amedea is still a fairly new business, as it means I’m very used to living on a shoestring budget anyway!

The good news is, summer’s now in sight along with the end of lockdown. Being at Amedea this summer is going to be great and I’m really excited, especially now that the hard part’s out the way and we can fly the Croatian flag proudly again. Although something I’m certainly not looking forward to… Croatia vs. England in the Euros. ‘It must be win/win for you Ed!’ – No, it’s actually a horrible game to watch and for some reason, they always seem to play each other! My family and I just don’t like either side to lose TOO much.

But for the record…

I always support Croatia! 

Thank you so much to Ed for answering our questions. We certainly can’t wait to visit Amedea!

Be sure to check out Amedea online for now at www.facebook.com/AmedeaBar and in-person once lockdown restrictions in England are over! We are sure Ed will give all of his guests a wonderful welcome!

Amedea, The Half-Croatian Bar
3 Oxford Street

Our Stories from Bol - Bol Tourist Board

New initiative from Bol Tourist Board – Our Stories from Bol

We’re sure that many of you have holidayed on the stunning island of Brac, and plenty of you have also enjoyed visiting or staying in the scenic town of Bol, set on the south side of the island.

Our Stories from Bol - Bol Tourist Board

Perhaps you’d like to ‘revisit’ this dream destination, or find out more if you’ve never been? How about finding out more about organically grown products that you can eat there, or where’s best to buy locally produced goat milk products and extra-virgin olive oil? Maybe you are interested in finding a fishmonger selling freshly caught fish? What about learning which are the best restaurants for enjoying local specialties prepared with wild herbs? Or merely getting lost in holiday daydreaming while listening to beautiful guitar sounds?

Our stories from Bol is a new project by Bol Tourist Board (TZ Bol) that will reveal all of this and more! With an emphasis on unity and support from the local community and the population that has tourism written in their DNA, Bol Tourist Board has brought its locals together to send you a simple message – “See you in Bol!”

These Bol locals send this message to all those who have already visited this beautiful town, as well as to future visitors who will hopefully visit one day soon.

Bol Tourist Board – Our stories from Bol

The Our stories from Bol project focuses on local restaurants, farmers and producers as well as small hotels who are understandably experiencing mixed emotions at the moment – from fear and uncertainty to optimism and trust that the future will be brighter.

Unity is the key to the sharing of an genuine experience of Brac by the citizens of Bol, known as Bolke and Boljani. They wish to share first-hand stories with their guests, stories that cannot otherwise be found in magazines; stories about about irresistible tastes and scents of local food and products, about wild plants and herbs, about an authentic experience of their town and all of its beauty. That means not just referring to the famous Dominican monastery from which you can enjoy a scenic walk to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Zlatni rat (Golden Horn) or attractive biking trails, but also to the generations of dedicated and hard-working people that make this small town so charming. 

So what are some of the Our Stories from Bol? In the perfectly imperfect video clips and photographs, Franci Marinković from the Pusa restaurant shares his story. As well as his wild herb specialties that are adored by many, he always enchants his guests with singing and guitar playing.

Franci Marinković Risotto
Risotto at Pusa Restaurant

For almost ten years now, Meri Bodlović and her husband have dedicated themselves to organic farming, olive and wine growing on their family farm.

Mirjan and his mother Irena successfully combine farming, production, and catering. Their specialty, Cheese in sugar, can be tasted at their tavern Dišpet.


Nikica Bodlović from the Bodlović family farm proudly talks about olives and the family olive grove, which has 250 olive trees that produce golden drops of their extra-virgin olive oil.

Pravdan Katić, a professional fisherman with 15 years of experience, enthusiastically talks about his job.

And while playing the guitar, Pjerin Jugović sings and plays in the same way that has entertained many tourists over the years.

You can see all the videos in the series on the Bol Tourist Board YouTube channel.

The director of the Bol Tourist Board, Markito Marinković remarks:

“This project aims to engage the local population in active promotion of their town. We would like to introduce our guests to people that will be there for them during their stay in Bol. I believe that this is a winning formula because who can tell the stories of Bol better than its people? This is also an opportunity for Bolke and Boljani to actively participate with their suggestions and engagement in the joint promotion of our Bol.”

This is just the beginning of Bol Tourist Board’s narrative that, over the next few months, will show accounts of their citizens and positive local experiences. Be sure to follow them on social media – on Instagram and Facebook – to see more!

Bol Tourist Board – Our Stories from Bol