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Published: August 31st 2015
SENJ Hidden Treasure - Croatia Adriatic Coast
We passed through Senj a few months ago when we were heading south.
Now on our return toward Italy and France its convenient for us to cover a short bit of our track a second time.
The drive down to the coast from Plitvicka Jezera took us across some interesting farming land and then down a very steep range. I thought the farming land was interesting because it varied from the broad acres of grain growing land in Croatia’s interior- on the drive toward Senj the high mountain country is undulating to hilly with lots of dense pine forest interspersed amongst windswept plateaux with mixed crops, orchards and small herds of cattle, flocks of sheep and every kind of fowl known including guinea fowl, geese, ducks etc.
Then there is a steep drive down a range. In less than 15 klms we dropped down 700 meters. The mountain seems to drops straight down into the sea. On a strip of hillside the city of Senj sits at a cross road linking the inland mountainous county to the winding rocky coastal road.
These streets have tales to tell
lucky to get a camp in the city centre, right on the waterfront – well the waterfront is the only place where land is flattish for more than 30 meters. Everywhere else its steep.
So we were able to walk into the city centre. What a find. Senj is an old city- complete with a stone wall and moat on the perimeter. There is very little development or building outside the old city walls.
Croatia has only 4million residents. Its main industry is tourism followed by agriculture. So everywhere on the coast from Rejika to Dubrovnik there are signs offering tourist accommodation and services. That signage attracting tourists is present in Senj too. But walking through the town – one street back from the touristy esplanade- we got to see that Senj is a “normal” town. It has a significant fishing industry and serves as a centre for the region. Apart from fishing expeditions and boat trips to nearby islands, there are no tours available – so no tour coaches clogging the traffic ways, no herds following a ‘come follow me” flag waving march leader, and what’s even better, no touts or sales types pushing junk
old but clean and well maintained as residential area
that has no purpose. ( To be fair Croatians and Serbians don’t do that pushy stuff even in their main tourist settlements.)
But what is amazing is that Senj is a genuine Old City with stuff dating back to the 8th
century. Its got possibly narrower streets than Venice. Most of the buildings in Senj are of stone ( and still standing) where as Sozipol has a more modern stone and timber type of structure ( which need lots of work to make them usable). Senj has a type of granite stone street winding up its hillside with an even smooth surface where Plivdiv Old Town has a type of cobble stone which is very rough and difficult to traverse its slopes. The streets of Senj have as much if not more character than all those Old Towns and even as much as Croatia’s Trogir. Its a perfect diamond – no need for cutting or polishing . What’s really great in Senj is that the shops are not full of tourist souvenirs from China. In fact he majority of the city is residential – old, charactered, clean and tidy habitable apartments. Very few “ for rent” signs
How do you drive here?
and a general aurora of comfortable prosperity. Ground floor doors appear to lead to offices or dwelling apartments – whereas in all those other Old Towns mentioned the ground floor tenancies are invariably retail – crappy touristy retail. But we did find a few interesting shops. Its a town where ordinary folk go about their lives – working, eating, sleeping, and even though there is not much room to play, being as happy in their lives as people are in any other pleasant location. Its an old city with simple clean charm. No one has hear of it. Makes it fantastic. I guess cruise ships and boozy packaged tourist groups will never come. So a sentence like “Last year we DID Senj” - - will never be a point scoring dinner table conversation stopper. And because its a hassle free zone and marked up to milk those filthy rich tourists – Pat bought a very pretty dress.
There are lots of historic structures in Senj like the Fortress and the City Museum. But one that we liked is Our lady of Assumption Cathedral. It was damaged between 1943 and 1945, and has now been mostly restored. Still
Liveable old town
some work going on in the bell tower. There are 6 side altars as well as the main altar. All those side altars have ornate art work – in a Roman Catholic rather than Orthodox style. I was able to capture only some of that art work on camera.
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