Krka National Park
We are now in Northern Dalmatia
We arrived at the campsite yesterday and booked on a guided tour of the National park for today – our first rain free sunny day for a while. The park covers an area of 109 km squared of the Krka River. It includes waterfalls that have been built from travertine, limestone that has settled out of the water and accumulated, which apparently is quite a rare phenomenon. The park is also home to a wealth of plant species, fish and a stopping off place for migratory birds. It also shows evidence of human habitation since prehistoric times and includes the remnants of the former Krka Hydro-power plant which began operations in 1895 just two days after the first hydro-power plant in the world (in the U.S.A.) also started producing power. The park is also dotted with restored small watermills now converted into museums, souvenir shops and restaurants).
There were six of us in total on our tour. Our first stop was to
enjoy a stroll along the wooden boardwalks taking in Skradinski buk, the longest waterfall in the park. It is also the most visited area in the park but luckily we arrived early enough to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity before the coach parties starting to arrive.
Next on the tour was a lovely view of a Franciscan Monastery on a small island on the beautiful Visovac Lake. A little further along the road, we had an excellent view of a series of small waterfalls known locally as the necklaces before heading down to a collection of watermills at Roski slap (another waterfall) for a lunch of cold meats, cheese, bread and a glass of cold beer. Before jumping back in the minibus, we visited one of the mills that has been restored and grinds corn for the tourists.
After lunch we visited the Krka Monastery with its early Roman catacombs. Being the only English speaking couple on our trip, we had the pleasure of a young novice priest in his first year of training at the monastery pointing out the important bits. The interior of the
church is decorated in a richly painted style we had come across in Greece and not the typical décor we have seen so far in Croatian churches. Our guide did explain a link with one of the Greek monasteries found on Mount Athos. He went on to tell us about a couple of miracles that had happened at the monastery including a would-be silver thief whose getaway vehicle kept crashing. After sustaining a shoulder injury, the thief worked out what was happening and returned the stolen items after which he was able to drive away without further incident.
Our final stop was to view the impressive Manjlovac slap, the tallest waterfall on the Krka river. Our driver told us that in August the waterfall dries up which is hard to believe given the amount of water crashing down today. Saying that, it has been very wet recently…..
The tour was great, giving us a taste of the parks highlights without us having to do any of the work.
to Tuesday 21st
Paklenica National Park.
The Paklenica National Park sits in the Velebit Mountain range. The limestone and dolomite structure of the mountains provides an amazing landscape. We spent three days hiking in the park on well signposted paths which was a blessing because the terrain and the risk there may still be unexploded land mines in the mountains (from the homeland war in the 1990’s) mean that you wouldn’t want to be straying. The most popular route is along the Velika Paklenica canyon (velika means large) and with it being Saturday, it was busy with walkers but mainly rock climbers who have an amazing array of climbing opportunities to choose from.
Our second walk was along the Mali canyon (mali means small), about 2 to 3 km’s down the road from the large canyon. This isn’t as well visited and a sign at the park entrance warned us that the path was difficult and for experienced mountaineers only. The path starts off easy enough but as you climb higher into the canyon, it becomes a scrabble along the dry river bed up and over huge boulders with
an occasional steel cable providing assistance. I loved the challenge and as per any canyon walk, the scenery was amazing.
Our third walk took us to an area of Mirila, funeral stone monuments seen on the mountain passes and along paths leading to the coast. In the days when families lived in mountains in summer and by the coast in winter, tradition dictated that if they died in the mountain, the body was carried down the mountain to the cemetery of their local parish. The funeral procession was allowed to stop to rest and lay the body on the ground only in specially designated places – mirila. Once laid on the ground, stone slabs were placed at the head and feet. After the body had been taken down to the coast and buried, the family returned to the stone slabs and carved a design as a memorial believing that this was where the soul resided rather than with the body in the grave. As we admired the mirila, it started raining so after a chat with an ex-pat who was out walking his dog, we put on our waterproofs and trudged on. The
steady slog uphill was well worth the effort as we reached the peak of Vidakov Kuk at 836 metres, a huge solid block of limestone with the odd rock pillar thrown in for extra effect. The path down the other side of the peak was sheer and involved a lot of climbing down backwards using conveniently placed hand and foot holds and the occasional bit of steel cable. I do enjoy a walk with an added frisson of danger.
When we were in the Krka National Park, our guide told us that a famous cowboy and Indian trilogy, Winnetou was filmed in the area. The Germans on our tour couldn’t believe we had never heard of it (although after some research, it was before my time!). It also appears they did a lot of filming in the Paklenica National Park as evidenced by signposts and a museum in the town. We did look the film up on You Tube but lost interest after about half an hour.
We ate out two evenings whilst staying in Starigrad, the first time at the campsite
restaurant where we shared a “fish fantasy” which was OK and the second time at a restaurant recommended by the ex-pat. It was funny little place but had a few guests despite it being mid-week. The elderly gentleman that brought the menu didn’t really give is a choice as he pointed to the fish sharing platter and spoke to us in German. We just went along with it and I’m so glad we did because it was delicious.
Our campsite is right on the coast and part of a hotel complex. Whilst we were there, if we so desired, we could use the hotel facilities (wellness spa, restaurant etc.) but that following weekend, the hotel would be closed off to non-guests and becomes a Neilson activity resort filled with 600 Brits enjoying a variety of water sports as well as tennis, cycling, hiking and climbing as part of their package deal. Apparently, based on customer feedback, Nielsen has imported seven Indian chefs this year to provide the guests with a curry option for their evening meal.
May to 26th
After feeling like we had got a flavour of the Paklenica National Park we decided to move on and retraced our steps down the coast and spent an afternoon in the walled town of Zadar. It sits on a small peninsular and has the expected white marble streets as well as some impressive Roman ruins. Its more modern attractions however include a sea organ and the Sun Salutation. The sea organ exudes haunting sounds as the sea moves through a serious of pipes and whistles below steps leading into the sea. The Sun Salutation (created by the same person as the sea organ) is a huge circle of glass set in the promenade that collects the suns energy during the day and then produces a light show as the sun sets. We didn’t stick around long enough to enjoy the spectacle.
John’s bike brakes are still very noisy so we found a bike shop and he bought some decent brake discs (as opposed to cheapo Decathlon ones) – hallelujah!
Leaving Zadar, we crossed the bridge onto the Pag Island.
From the mainland, the island looks flat, brown and barren but John assures me it will be great for cycling.
Pag is a revelation, the sun is shining and we are at the most beautiful and peaceful campsite overlooking the beach. Pag island is a long narrow island with a rocky moonscape. It is famous for its cheese, lamb, lace and the legendary clubbing scene at Zrce Beach home to three of the best night clubs in the world (so our guide book tells us). Naturally we were devastated to find they were all closed until next month.
We have spent a couple of days cycling, first to the most northern point on the island taking in the Olive groves of Lum. This tourist attraction needs more work. It covers quite a large area and after paying an entrance fee, you can walk the rocky tracks to admire the olive trees, 99% of which have been around a long time. There is the occasional signpost to point you in the direction of “Interesting Olive Trees” but to me, they all look much the same. Our cycle
ride made us realise Pag isn’t as flat as it looks from a distance.
Our second cycle ride was to Pag town via quiet tracks and minor roads. We had forgotten the puncture repair kit so that and trying to avoid running over the snakes crossing the road added an extra element of risk. Pag town is small and was very quiet. We had lunch overlooking the harbour and a wander around the narrow white marble streets. On the way back, we discovered that the majority of the snakes we have seen are not snakes at all but a lizard without legs called a Blavor. What a relief!!
On our last day on Pag we decided to take it easy and have a gentle stroll into nearby Novalja for a late lunch. The lady at the campsite had recommended a restaurant whose name translated into the “Old Man of the Sea”. We started with Pag cheese served with a bitter marmalade and honey (delicious) followed by Pag lamb. It was the most divine lamb I have ever tasted.
Mošćenička Draga, Kvarner
The weather has turned to rain again and it has been torrential at times. After getting the ferry from Pag back to the mainland, we headed north towards Croatia’s third largest city of Rijeka in the Provence of Kvarner. Our destination is the Ucka Nature park. The campsite is on the outskirts of a lovely fishing harbour called Mošćenička Draga. Despite the pouring rain, we took a bus back along the coast to Volosko to walk along the 12km promenade (Lungomare) to Lovran via Opatja. The area was the place for the Austro-Hungarian elite during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the walk takes you past the beautiful belle-époque villas of that era. The best thing about walking the promenade in the rain was that we had it to ourselves. The plan was to catch the bus from Lovran back to the campsite (another 6 kms down the road) but the bus wouldn’t have been for another hour. Instead we elected to walk which would have been fine had we not picked up a friendly dog (yes it happens at
some point on every trip!!). He was a beautiful German shepherd who trotted in front of me along a busy winding road with no pavement. I was convinced he would get run over at any minute but felt powerless to do anything about it. He followed us all the way back to the campsite. I hope he got home OK.
We spent a further two days walking the trails in the hills behind the village. On the second day, the weather improved so we made it to the summit of Perun at 881 metres. The hill is named after the Slav god of thunder and at strategic points along the trail had notice boards giving us snippets of Slav mythology. On the summit was a wooden carved pole depicting the four faces of Perun. The walk took us through the picturesque medieval hillside village of Mošćenice where, in the 19th
century, its inhabitants decided to move to the coast to start a new community, hence the development of Mošćenička Draga.
We ate out one evening, sharing a freshly caught sea bass overlooking the harbour. Lovely……
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