Asphalt is underrated. If there were no roads, what would hold our cars up? That was clear to everyone who, in September 2005, celebrated two hundred years since the scariest and most beautiful bit of that road joining Rijeka and Karlovac was built - the dizzying heights and hairpin bends between Rijeka and the mountain town of Delnice.
This is no small thing to celebrate. The “Lujzijana”, as the road was named (after Marie Louise Napoleon), snakes alongside the new highway from which you still can’t fail to be impressed by the moment when you break out of the conifers and mists of the Gorski kotar uplands and the sub-Alpine suddenly becomes Mediterranean. The building of the Lujzijana (1803-1811) was no mean feat. The road was a lifeline without which resorts like Opatija and tourism in Kvarner may not exist at all, mountain communities would never have grown up, and Rijeka wouldn’t have become a great port supplying inland Europe with necessities and luxuries from the Mediterranean and beyond.
Between now and 2011, don’t be surprised if on your journey to or from Rijeka you encounter cavalcades dressed in 19th century costume, celebrating the Lujzijana with food and drink, song and dance, reenactments and more: the celebrations will follow the course of the road’s birth all the way to Karlovac. Of course, you’re more likely to experience this if you take the slow road and peep into the villages along the way. You’ll be rewarded by pristine air, hearty mountain food, lakes, forests… and good prices. Take a look at www.gorskikotar.hr, www.tz-grada-ogulina.hr, www.tzkz.hr – this hilly region has many treats in store.
Lujzijana is just one of four historic roads that traverse this region. The oldest, Karolina, also runs between Rijeka and Karlovac but over a longer and steeper route; the Jozefina, which joins Karlovac with Senj, once a major port; and the Rudolfina, a little-used track which is now being brought up to date, opening up the delights of the coast to visitors to the Croatian Olympic Centre at Bjelolasica, and bringing the pristine delights of the richly forested interior closer to tourists on the coast. These roads, ignored or much taken for granted, have played a major role in peoples’ lives, so it’s good to see that we’re bringing them back into our cultural life.