Apoxyomenos Stands in a New Museum in Mali Losinj

Apoxyomenos is the star of a new museum in Mali Losinj, Croatia.

Apoxyomenos is the star of a new museum in Mali Losinj, Croatia.

Apoxyomenos is waiting for you at the top of a new four-story museum in Mali Losinj Croatia.  The former Kvarner Palace, once home to one of the town’s rich sea captains, is now a beautiful new museum showcasing one of the greatest treasures ever recovered from the sea.

The town is abuzz about this new museum in Mali Losinj that opened in May 2016. The opening was an exciting moment for all of the town’s 8000 residents and included the president of Croatia Kolina Grabar Kitarović speaking about the significance for future tourism and for the collective pride of the locals.

Donning Booties

You have to put on white fabric booties to enter the museum.  It is a series of rooms one on top of the other and each visit is a journey up the stairs and back in time. The setting, a former mansion, harkens back to the glory days in the early 1800s when captains sailed the world and made this one of the richest parts of Croatia.

Today the museum has been artfully and creatively turned into a home for the big man. Who is he?

He was an athlete and the sculpture depicts his sturdy and muscular frame standing, cleaning himself with a tool known as a strigil. In ancient times people believed that the oil, sweat and sand from perspiring athletes could provide them with good luck and other benefits so it was carefully preserved in jars—gross, huh?

The bronze statue was carved in the  second century BC.  Apoxyomenos was being transported on a small ship and during a storm it fell overboard to be lost in the deep Croatian seas.

In 1999, it was discovered by a Belgian tourist with nefarious intentions, crusted with barnacles and in terrible shape in seven pieces on the seabed. A long labor of intense restoration, first creating an internal metal frame and today, all but the eyes and one of the left fingers remains beautifully intact with the vigorousness and detail that is striking more than 2000 years later.

But we don’t get to see the sculpture right away…oh no, there’s a build up and the build up explains the restoration, his world tour, and some samples of the flood of worldwide press Apoxyomenos received over the past few years.  There is a video, and a place to glimpse the sculpture in holes cut in the stairwells. The waiting makes it all the more tempting!

How Apoxyomenos was restored how it was re-created and how the barnacles and sea life were removed down to the millimeter is explained in detail. This beautiful sculpture has seen the world. It’s been exhibited at the Getty Museum, in London, and other world capitals. But now it’s home in Mali Losinj. It was quite generous to lend him out to those far flung museums, but he’s here now and not leaving!

You climb up the stairs and there’s a hole and in the hole just part of his body is revealed. It’s a tease because when you get there you’re not allowed to take pictures.

What a clever and fantastic move. It makes getting up there, past the video room with looping footage of the X-rays, transport and preservation techniques even more of a thrill.

Interactive computer models show the various ways Apoxyomenos was fixed and preserved and about the Greek athletic culture that fostered this rippling muscles and body.

And then it’s time for the final unveiling– after all he’s still regally nude like all Greek athletes used to be.

Steps wind up a circular stairway to a small room with pillowy white fabric on all sides. There is nothing to distract from the statue. Here, on his on his plinth, decorated with Greek script he stands, hands in front of genitalia but missing his strigil but nothing else.

It’s certainly worth a trip to Mali Losinj where there are already so many other compelling reasons to visit. The museum admission price is 75 kuna which is about $10. You can also see Aproxyomenos for free on Tuesdays between 10 AM and 1 PM.

On the Island of Ilovik, a Seafood Feast Worthy of Poseidon

Ilovik has 400 houses but most of them are only used during the summer. A fantastic destination for boaters in Croatia.

Ilovik has 400 houses but most of them are only used during the summer. A fantastic destination for boaters in Croatia.

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A seafood antipasto at Dalmatinka restaurant in Ilovik, Croatia.

A seafood antipasto at Dalmatinka restaurant in Ilovik, Croatia.

Croatia is famous for sailing. With more than 2000 islands off its coast, this is a place that is full of yachts and sailboats with a thousand years of nautical heritage. Today we climbed aboard a 42′ sailboat owned by the Jadranka Corp, owners of the Hotel Bellevue, and explored coves and the coast in Cikat Bay to the small island of Ilovik.

With less than 80 residents, Ilovik is a small island of just six square miles, and most of the nearly 400 houses are only occupied during the summer.  We walked through the mostly deserted town, where boats were being painted and sanded down in preparation for the sailing season ahead. I can imagine what this small island becomes when hoards of visitors descend on it, and thought about crowds sitting in the benches outside the gelato shop which now were empty.

We had another first-class lunch ahead of us at the wonderful Dalmatinka restaurant, where we learned that they actually own their own fishing boat and catch what’s on the menu. It was a feast worthy of Poseidon, starting with the pictured seafood antipasto, with a tuna spread and anchovies that everyone devoured on their home-baked bread.  A giant turbot was brought out with the chef igniting it with a flourish before removing the meat from the bones and presenting it baked with potatoes and peppers.

With a risotto as a second course, the feast was a perfect slice of what makes Croatia such a memorable destination. Now if I can only fit into these pants, I’ll make it to a late dinner at a small local restaurant!

The Katarina took us to the island of Ilovik for a seafood feast.

The Katarina took us to the island of Ilovik for a seafood feast.

Croatia, Where Have You Been All My Life?

The bike and walking path along Cikat Bay, Mali Losinj, Croatia.

The bike and walking path along Cikat Bay, Mali Losinj, Croatia.

This might be the nicest bike path I've ever ridden!

This might be the nicest bike path I’ve ever ridden!

Campsites are available right on the water by the path. Sweet!

Campsites are available right on the water by the path. Sweet!

Croatia where you been all my life?

For a moment there, I almost didn’t take this weeklong trip to Croatia to visit these six hotels who invited me so generously.

Yes I have work to do. Yes both money and time away can be tight. But when it really comes down to it we only live as they say –one go round–and for somebody who’s traveled to 40+ countries I must put Croatia and the island of Losinj very high on the top of my list.

Why? Because it’s one of those countries the combines so many things: the ocean everywhere, the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted, excellent inexpensive  wine, super friendly people, friendly currency vs the dollar, inexpensive lodgings, reasonable transportation, safety–all these things make Croatia my next vacation destination. I want to rent one of these campers right next to the water and chill for a week with Mary.

It’s true that I often hesitate when I’m invited to a new trip back to back from another journey. I had just returned from Las Vegas and before that from three cities in California and I was travel weary.
But after I flew and it is a long way–and got on the private plane that took me to the Losinj hotels it’s been smooth sailing.
For example I’m speaking to you right now from the sidewalk that goes right along the ocean on the  bay with pine trees above me and everywhere I look a mountain,  a boat and rocks that look like they were formed billion years ago.
As I passed people on the sidewalk they’re friendly and wave, no hassle about riding my bike and hell, I don’t even have a helmet on! Yep, I’ve left cold New England and I’ve left the United States I’m in a country that values freedom and boy does it feel good!

Boutique Hotel Alhambra and Villa Hortensia on Losinj

The Villa Hortensia was once home to Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and today, it's a luxury villa that sleeps 20 people in its 10 bedrooms.

The Villa Hortensia was once home to Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and today, it’s a luxury villa that sleeps 20 people in its 10 bedrooms.

Today we took a close-up look at two more five-star hotels that are part of the six hotels owned by Jadranka, a Croatian company, here in Mali Losinj.

They are both located on either side of the big Bellevue Hotel, and were both built around the same time, 1912.

The Villa Hortensia is made for big groups.  Big groups with a person who has a big checkbook and can pay the $7000-8000 Euros per night that they’ll need to stay in the three-story former private home.  It’s quite opulent digs, located smack-dab on the sparkling shore of Čikat Bay, with a large cement patio right on the water where chefs can prepare barbecues for the 20 pampered guests.

The swimming pool has heated salt water, and inside, there are smaller pools to soak in along with a full gym and two jacuzzi tubs. Ten en suite bedrooms provide all your guests could want, while the master suite resembles an elegant stateroom aboard a luxury yacht, with windows curving around the round walls facing the bay.  You not only get an ultra luxe house and all of the gourmet food you and your 19 additional guests could want, but you get something even better–a butler.

Viljam Zuklik will take good care of everyone in the house, he’s the butler in charge of the residence, and he showed us around. The views are spectacular and the old structure has been renovated just like the hotel next door, with a combination of respect for the old and some very fine Italian furniture and decor.

Viljan Zuklik's family has lived in Losinj for 300 years. He is the butler who will take care of guest who rent the Villa Hortensia.

Viljan Zuklik’s family has lived in Losinj for 300 years. He is the butler who will take care of guest who rent the Villa Hortensia.

The Boutique Hotel Alhambra, on the other side of the Bellevue, was built in 1912, but like its sibling hotels, has been extensively renovated and improved, while retaining it’s original look.

Rooms here are named for dignitaries from Mali Losinj, as well as for some of the mistresses that the very randy Franz Joseph of Austria, who frequented this part of Croatia for his many romantic rendezvous with his reputed stable of mistresses.

The Alhambra has only been open since 2015, and work continues. As we toured the hotel, workers were adding lights embedded into the granite on the walkway on the sea.

There are 51 rooms in the Alhambra, it’s part of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World. We dined in the Restaurant Albert Keller, and savored some delicious food and wines–five luscious courses in all.  The veal filets melted in our mouths, and the first course of pasta wrapped crab with a light sage sauce was terrific.

I asked one of the owners of the hotel who dined with us where most of the foreign visitors to this five-star property come from, and he said that Germany, Italy and Austria follow Croatia as the prime sources for guests. So far, Russian oligarchs haven’t discovered these fantastic hotels yet–but given time, I’m sure they’ll be coming soon.

 

Mali Losinj: Home to High Class Hotels

The hotel can pick up guests in any city in Europe in their Beech King Air airplane. Here I am in Venice waiting to fly to Losinj.

The hotel can pick up guests in any city in Europe in their Beech King Air airplane. Here I am in Venice waiting to fly to Losinj.

View of some of the five islands that make up the Kvarner region of Croatia's coast.

View of some of the five islands that make up the Kvarner region of Croatia’s coast.

The hotel Bellevue is a giant square, with green in the middle, and was completely renovated and expanded in 2014.

The large outdoor terraces at the Hotel Bellvue overlook the bay.

I’m up early at the Hotel Bellevue, my home for the week, in Mali Losinj, in Croatia’s Kvarner region, made up of five islands in the sparkling Adriatic sea.  Yesterday was blustery and cold, as a result of bora, the north wind that’s famous in the winter for injecting a chill into early spring days.

As we landed in the hotel’s own Beech King Air plane, the furious wind blew us sideways, but we landed safely at the small airport that is being enlarged over the next few years to accommodate small jets.  For now, it’s a short runway with a small shack that serves as our customs entry point. The hotel picks up guests from airports all over Europe; it was a thrill to see Venice’s vast lagoon below us as we soared the 31 minutes over to the island!

This hotel is a gleaming white edifice–from the outside it resembles a giant office building, shaped in a square. In 2014, two additional stories were added as more than 1000 workers spent just 7 months in a complete modernization, adding stonework from Madagascar, elegant Italian furniture, and gave the whole restaurant and lobby area a Danish sort of feeling–clean lines.

The hotel was completely renovated and modernized in 2014, adding two more floors in it's square configuration.

The hotel was completely renovated and modernized in 2014, adding two more floors in it’s square configuration.

Losinj, Croatia is my Next Destination

Losinj is off the coast of Croatia.

Losinj is off the coast of Croatia.

I am heading out today for a trip that starts in Boston, then NYC, then Venice. And then I will be joining several other US travel writers when we board a King Air private plane to fly from Venice over the Adriatic to the small island of Losinj, Croatia.

We will be staying at the island’s biggest and grandest hotel, the Bellevue, which is shaped in a square with a lovely green courtyard in the inside.

Our itinerary includes some sailing, some hiking, and touring some of the sites in this island, where I was surprised to see that it won’t be tropic temperatures. No, it’s still sweater weather, but it looks beautiful and I’m sure it will be.  Joining me on this trip are Karen Loftus, who I  know from many shows and parties we’ve attended, and Beverly Cohn, who I traveled with a few years back through France.

Not much to share yet but as you’d expect, I”ll post lots of photos and video when we start on the ground on Monday morning. For now, I just hope I’ve packed everything and I look forward to flying tonight. Always excited about that!