Opatija Camellias: A Symbol of Opatija on Display (PHOTOS)

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Slobodan Kadic

Just like in the past, today, the people of Opatija treat this beautiful, odorless flower with due respect, which adorns their parks and gardens with its charm in winter, early spring, and autumn again. Maybe they are shaded, maybe red or yellow or white, but each of these delicate flowers always elicits a smile of beauty, admiration, and that well-known feeling of love.

Frenchwoman Marie Duplessis, the real love of Dumas, in whose memory he wrote The Girl Who Loved Camellias (embodied in the romantic drama of the same name as Marguerite Gautier and played by the inimitable Greta Garbo), told fans to bring her camellias because she likes candied grapes because they have no taste, and camellias because they have no smell.


Slobodan Kadic

Opatija camellias exude fashion and are a recognizable brand of the city, to which fashion is another name. And if you think that’s the end of the story, then you’re wrong!

The Association of Camellia Lovers from Opatija successfully organized the annual exhibition “Camellia 2021.” Thus, visitors to the Šporer Gallery could admire the symbol of Opatija and infinite love for three days and also choose their most beautiful flower out of a hundred that arrived.


Slobodan Kadic

“Everyone had the opportunity to see this symphony of fresh flowers, photographs, but also children’s works by kindergarteners and elementary school students on the topic of camellias. Members of the Association presented their unique souvenirs, and we rewarded the owners of the most beautiful flowers and shrubs that were previously inspected and photographed,” says the charming Mira Shalabi, the new president of the Association of Camellia Lovers.


Slobodan Kadic

The opening of the exhibition was an evening to remember. Gabrijela Deglin, singer of the Croatian National Theater Rijeka, accompanied by pianist Vladimir Babin, performed an aria from the opera La Traviata, “Addio del Passato,” and Laura Valenčić from the Ivan Matetić Ronjgov Music School, accompanied by her father Aleksandar Valenčić, Ivanka Klovar, a member of the Rijeka Writers’ Association, and Dorian Rubeš, also from the Music School, presented themselves.

Sofia Šmitran from Rijeka, Ingeborg Prasnikar from Poljane (Opatija) and Antonija Cvetković from Rijeka were chosen for the most beautiful camellia flowers. Sofija Šmitran from Rijeka (first and third place) and Nikola Turina from Opatija (second place) were also chosen for the most beautiful camellia bush. Several hundred visitors chose the camellia of Čedna Hotzi Raffanelli from Opatija as the most beautiful flower, second place to Marija Benko from Mošćenička Draga, and the third place was shared by Mirjana Mendrila from Kastav and Dolores Miletić from Rijeka.


Slobodan Kadic

“And the prizes were again camellias. You know, the camellia does not thrive everywhere, and Opatija is extremely suitable for it due to its humid climate, with shady places under the trees, possibly the northern part, and necessarily acidic soil. About a hundred flowers were reported, and each was different. They were all from private gardens,” Shalabi continues, emphasizing that especially gorgeous camellias in Opatija can be seen in the Angiolina Park, a real carousel of different colors in one place.


Slobodan Kadic

The Camellia Lovers Association has been active since 2008 and has 140 members. Their goal was to promote their Opatija as a city of camellias.

“We were helped by the City of Opatija, but also by the Tourist Board of Opatija, with which we have excellent cooperation. The biggest stress in the exhibition’s preparation was the epidemiological measures that we adhered to in detail, and we did not know until the end whether we would be able to hold the exhibition at all!”

They are especially proud of joining the International Camellia Society. Croatia recently and officially became the 16th region at the 2018 International Camellia Congress in Nantes. Wild species of camellias are most widespread in the countries of East and Southeast Asia but are grown in many countries. Thanks to the beautiful shapes of the tree, colorful and magnificent flowers, and bright evergreen leaves, the camellia is adored by flower lovers and appreciated by gardeners worldwide.


Slobodan Kadic

“The cultivation of the first camellia in Opatija can be traced back to 1845. In the meantime, the camellia has become a favorite ornamental flower and garden plant in Croatia. Let camellias bloom in Croatia! Let the people in Croatia be happy!” said Guan Kaiyun, President of the International Camellia Association.

Members of the Opatija Association of Camellia Lovers do not rest. They are already planning to plant five large camellias around the Faculty of Tourism Management in Opatija and organize a school in nature for elementary school students.

“I hope that we will achieve that, and in November when those autumn/winter camellias bloom, we would also like to organize a camellia planting event with a musical event that would enrich the act of planting,” concluded Shalabi, inviting all readers to come to Opatija and enjoy its flowers of life!


Slobodan Kadic

The first camellia of the Camellia japonica variety with the prefix Rubra simplex was delivered to Opatija by the renowned Trieste-Rijeka merchant Iginio Scarpa. His brother-in-law Giovani Guglielmo Sartorio helped him transport from the royal park in Pillnitz near Dresden back in 1845. Scarpa wanted to plant a camellia in the park next to his villa as a symbol of love and memory of his prematurely deceased wife, Angiolina.

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