Preselim Se U Rijeku

Lough Conn, Co Mayo

I once swore to myself that I’d never move away from Ireland again.

From the first time I set foot on this island, it’s been my home. I still can’t explain why. For years, I cried every time I left. It’s why I usually got a window seat on the plane: I could turn my face away and look outside while tears were streaming down my face. I don’t remember when exactly this changed, but it must have been around 10 years ago, when I finally believed I was really, truly at home here now and would be coming back.

When I had to return to Germany in 1992 after being here for a couple years as a student, I fell into a clinical depression. That was when I made myself the above promise, a promise I’m about to break. But after the initial sadness, I’m actually happy about it. I know I’ll miss this place and its beauty and its people, and my favourite cafe, and the lakes and the hills and the storms and the rainbows. But people have always been forced to leave this island, and I’m so much better off than the millions who went before me. I’ll stay in Europe. I’ll be able to fly back and visit at any time. And I might even return; the jury’s still out on that.

So here’s what happened: My bank pulled the plug on the mortgage. It’s a long story I won’t bother you with. Disgusted, and not one to give up easily, I offered the sellers a rent-to-own deal, which they considered but then declined.

Did I really really want to buy a house here? Yes. But I’ve tried for 10 months, had three deals fall through, I fought for each of them tooth and nail, and you see, I have this pact with life: I trust and in return it guides me. I made this pact long ago and it’s never failed me. Fight for something, yes, but if you keep getting hit over the head, there’s a message there: This isn’t for you at this time.

I’m not sad about it. Or angry. I mean, the mortgage system in this country is ridiculous and rigged against anyone who doesn’t have parents who give them a piece of land, or 50 grand to pay down. But I’m not adding my energy to it by ranting about it. I might still get a house at some point. For now, I’m investing the little money I’ve got and saving some more. I’m actually grateful, because as I said in my previous entry, I’m giddy with excitement about my next adventure.

Here’s the plan.

Actually, I’ll start with what prompted me to come up with this particular plan: I realised that if I was going to keep renting, it couldn’t be in Ireland, where the countrywide average for a 1-bedroom apartment is now 1,300 EUR a month. Excluding bills. So I began to ponder a few things. If I had to move away, I reasoned, then at least I’d escape the terrible weather. Heck, why not go somewhere with really nice weather. And a coast, because I can’t be without a big water near me (I mean, I can, I have been for decades, but it’s miserable).

Have you put the title of this post into a translator yet? It means: “I’m moving to Rijeka.”

There it is! Click for a larger version.

I swear that’s not what I was planning to do when I decided to learn Croatian earlier this year! In fact, my idea was to study for a few years and then reward myself with regular holidays in Croatia, so I could practice. I’m nowhere near a level where I could actually have a conversation with native speakers yet.

But now that I’m in this situation, I realise that it’s a perfect fit. It’s a EU country, beautiful, with lovely people and reasonable prices – at least for someone who works internationally and location-independently the way I will once I’ve given up my job.

Rijeka is the third largest city in Croatia, it’s all of two hours away from Zagreb on the motorway, and it’s on the coast of Istria, not far from Slovenia and Italy. It’s got a university and quite an international community, but it’s not one of the main centres of tourism (thank the gods). And it’s got a harbour, and I’ve always loved ships and boats. It’s also a three hours’ drive from Venice!

There’s another, more serious issue I haven’t really spoken about yet. For the past several months, something weird has been happening to my lungs. Basically, every time I breathe, there’s a rattling and a feeling like my lungs are coated with something. I also cough at times, but not in the way of an infectious cough. Now, my entire breathing tract has always been the weakest part of my body health-wise, and Ireland is incredibly damp and has one of the highest incidences of asthma. It’s quite possible that life really is watching out for me here – general wisdom has always been to recommend a mediterranean climate for such matters…

Rijeka waterfront

So in December, I’ll put my books and most of my stuff into storage here in Ireland (in a year or so, I’ll either come back or bring it over, depending on where I decide to settle down), and then after Christmas, I’ll load my clothes, computer, and sheet music into my car and take the ferry to France. Then I’ll spend two days driving through France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia – visiting Helena along the way – before crossing the Croatian border and arriving in Rijeka on the 31st, in time for New Year’s Eve fireworks!

There’s tons to prepare and arrange of course, but the most important stuff is done. I’ve got my ticket and my overnight stays booked, as well as a hostel called “Music House” (!) in Rijeka for the first week. After that, I’ll either have a flat or I’ll find another temporary place – early January is hardly the height of the tourist season.

I’ve reached out to a few archery clubs, researched banks, and am keeping an eye on property to rent. The best part is that all the people I know from that part of the world, are really excited and happy for me (and my Croatian teacher pointed out that I’ll have to actually speak Croatian every day then! Haha). Yes, I’ll miss my soul’s home, but this is an adventure and it’ll be fabulous. And just think: You’ll all have a place to stay if you ever decide to holiday in Croatia! Otherwise, if you want to see me, you’ll just have to come to my 50th in Vienna.

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36 thoughts on “Preselim Se U Rijeku

  1. Michael Hambly

    Wow Sibylle, that’s some adventure. Best of luck with the change, Croatia is beautiful.

    Hopefully you‘ll find your way back to Ireland in a year or two.

  2. Sounds like a great adventure for you 🙂 And you have a head start on the language too. Best of luck with the relocation and I bet the lungs will do better after a while in a different climate.

    1. Thank you ❤️ I’m just sooo excited! And I really believe I’ll be able to breathe again. Mild, salty air is just what my lungs need right now.

  3. David

    A big upheaval. Best of luck with it, it is a beautiful place and the people are marvellous. A word of warning though: from what I learned on my trip to Croatia a couple of weeks ago, the paperwork involved in purchasing land/property is even more labyrinthine and corrupt and time-consuming than in .

    Dobra Vecer! (If I remember that correctly)

    1. You do remember correctly 🙂

      At this point, I’m not even sure if I want to buy a house any more, here or elsewhere. Plenty of people say renting makes financial sense. For now, I’m going to rent for a while and enjoy myself!

  4. Pete Brown

    Brilliant, Sibylle!!! (and so kind and sensible to provide us all with a warm, sunny, seaside holiday-location for the future!) Best wishes for your move

    1. Kelly

      How exciting! Best of luck in this adventure, dear Hag! I hope that the air is sweet and heals your lungs. Breathing is rather important!

  5. Congratulations on your choice! Sometimes it is time to go on a big new adventure, and Croatia is a beautiful place. It’s fun and exciting, and yes, I’d love to visit lol

  6. Ingrid Mitchell

    I kinda envy you Sibylle 😀 Wishing you the best, very few or best, no hard times at all. Hope that the climate will suit you better and that you have fun while discovering the new place

    1. Thanks, Ingrid! It’ll all work out in the end, it always does 🙂 Take care and come visit if you need to escape the rain and wind some time!

  7. Wow, Sibylle,

    Major changes! I’m sorry you had such mortgage hassles. Still it sounds like you are rolling very well with the punch. Best wishes for your new adventure!

  8. Birthe

    Rijeka ist total schön, strahlt den morbiden Charme des KuK Dynastie aus. Wir haben früher immer Urlaub in Opatija gemacht.
    Ich glaube, da schaffe ich einen Besuch eher als in Irland.

  9. Crag cmb13

    That’s absolutely amazing! It must be so nice to have the freedom, and flexibility to pick up like that! Life is an adventure, that’s for sure. And the town looks so nice in the pictures.

    Best wishes with your new move. I know you’ll make it work!

    1. Thank you! It is nice indeed 🙂 And sometimes I wish I’d chosen the well-paying career and family instead. But I’ve always wanted to be independent above anything, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Life rocks!

  10. Shane Egan

    Can I believe my eyes? Of course I can. It’s you Sibylle! I found I was hoping for a happy ending and it happened! Thrilled for you! We should hook up for tea/ coffee/ vegan delicacies on the solstice if possible? Might even have a birthday cake?

    1. I’d like that! Birthday cake sounds great, I just need to see if I’m actually working that weekend (or moving my stuff into storage, since that needs to happen before Christmas). But I definitely need to hug you before I leave!

      1. wow!!! I absolutely LOVE this!!! I’m so excited to see you either in Vienna or somewhere in Croatia!
        I’ve actually never visited neither so woohoo!

        And a double woohoo for you beautiful radiant woman!!! I’m so thrilled about all these becomings of yours 🥰

      2. Thank you ❤️ It feels so right to take this step.

        You’re going to have to come visiting! Both, actually, as they’re amazing in completey different ways.

  11. So much has happened, Sibylle!! I’m so sorry to hear about the pain that you have gone through with the house/mortgage situation (big hugs), but very happy to hear about your upcoming adventures (the brighter side is that you don’t have to endure the potential renovation:). It’s so true that climate can do a lot to our body and entire system, especially when we spend a long time in a latitude/longitude that is so different from where we grew up. Have you heard of Moxa by the way? It is very good at neutralizing the dampness in the body. Much love to you xoxo

    ps, long story short, I deactivated my IG a/c recently + it’ll be a real joy to spend more time here, on your blog, where we initially connected!

    1. Yiye! Thank you so much for reading ❤️

      Yay for getting rid of IG! I spend less and less time on social media myself, my biz posts are scheduled and bring me some interesting connections, but that’s it. Is there anywhere else I can find you online? I do still get your emails.

      I have to say, the experience around trying to buy a house has been surreal, but not too upsetting. I also met several wonderful people along the way! And right now I feel so happy and so intensely… “guided”, I think is the word. I know I’m doing exactly the right thing for me. It’s pure bliss.

  12. Syd

    Ah here Sybille! Where will your piano go? As always friends are never far from the heart only on the map. Have a great adventure dear and who knows when or where our paths will cross again. Syd

    1. The piano will be sold and I’ll buy another one there. It’s a shame, but this isn’t my dream piano, after all.
      You’re always welcome to visit! x

  13. backtomoonfaery

    First of all, sorry for this late reply! I had one written right when you posted it, but I was not logged into WordPress and I couldn’t remember my password and lalala, long story short 🙂
    SO, here goes :
    I am so impressed and amazed by how you let life guide you, how you just pack up your things and go where the road leads you. It’s incredible. I admire you for it.
    Moving in December, is so soon!!! Time flies by so fast! Can’t believe you’ll be spending Christmas and New Year in your new location !
    But Croatia, wow, you couldn’t have chosen a better place! It’s such a beautiful country and the people are so hospitable, kind and helpful. I’ve been to Croatia a few times in my life and I have nothing but good experiences. And yes, I will be coming to visit you!!! You better count on it! Istria is one of the places in Croatia I have yet to visit.
    Last but not least, a great recommendation : Samobor 🙂 It’s near Zagreb and has the absolute best cream cake in the whole world. I was introduced to it by my Croatian friend, on our trip last month, and it’s a supercute little town known for the best cream cake ever. If you don’t like cream cake, go there anyway, I promise you will like that one 😉
    Big hugs, good luck with the move!!

    1. I know, it’s only six weeks! Aaaah! I can hardly believe it, and there’s still so much to be organised until then 🙂

      I don’t eat sugar anymore, only very occasionally, but I might make an exception there, haha. And I’ll hold you to that promise of a visit! We’ll have a blast. I agree the people are absolutely amazing in Croatia, I’ve even had a wonderfully positive experience with the estate agent who found me the house I’m renting. But really everyone I’ve spoken to has been amazingly kind and helpful.

      As for being guided – you know, I’m a fairly stubborn hag and when I decide on something, I’m not so easily put off. But life hit me over the head so hard and repeatedly, it eventually became impossible to ignore! It’s almost like it won’t leave me any other choice. But I’m not grumpy about it – far from it, this is such an adventure.


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