There are quite a few lovely birds living year round (or in different seasons) in our region. The most beautiful – and most colorful of all European birds – European bee-eater (Merops Apiaster) lives in numerous colonies near our coast. One such colony is found in the heart of Ravni Kotari region and is well known for it’s size and importance.
The colony is fairly strong and numbers over 30 couples. The number of bee-eaters grows stronger year after year in Croatia but it is still a protected species with about 900 USD fines for each bird killed… The bee-eaters can do a lot of damage to bee colonies so beekeepers try to keep their beehives away. Apparently, one bee-eater can eat up to 250 bees a day and they first remove the sting by beating the bee against the hard surface. Besides bees, that are usually only 1% of their diet, bee-eaters also feed on wasps, dragonflies and numerous other winged insects. According to some reports, they feed on bees mostly during cloudy days…
European bee-eaters are a migratory species and spend April to October nesting in Europe and rest of the year they spend in tropical Africa.
Their nests are located in the sandy, easy to dig soil. The birds dig a long tunnel, in which they lay 5 -8- white eggs around the beginning of June. Both male and female care for the eggs for about three weeks.
The colony in Ravni kotari has dug hundreds of holes in the sandy soil but most of them are not in use. I still have to return before the end of their summer to see how strong the colony got over the summer. Pčelarica – how the bird is called locally – is one of the most beautiful birds and pure pleasure to photograph.
The wonderful and bucolic settings of Ravni Kotari are a perfect home for this wonderful bird!
There are numerous cool abandoned places in Croatia. From castles, lost villages to abandoned factories and military bases. There is something very special about them. An aura of times that are long (or not so long) gone, lives that were closely connected to those now abandoned walls…
One such place is a big, and once important, military base of Šepurine near Zadar.
But the base was proclaimed a “non-perspective” one in the mid 2000s and soon abandoned. Then the destruction started… The same scenario has been seen as early as 1995 when the hordes of scrap metal scavengers would invade abandoned objects and strip them of ALL metal. Usually, those are bands of gypsies but not only them… Trucks and trucks of scrap metal were taken from the base without any action taken by the police. Sad. It was our heritage and now it is just a monument to incompetence of our governments and local authorities. As many other places in the country. Progress of devastation can be seen at this Forum.
Only now, there are talks of investors being interested in 1 mil sq meters of prime real estate. Like so many areas in Croatia, it will probably take decades before something happens. And just see how beautiful the coast is right next to the airstrip:
But, there is something good about all this as we have an easy access to a beach here and folks have a GREAT place for car racing. The rest is just left to rot. The little that is left.
And then there are some graffiti on the walls of the remains of hangars.
But true art awaits once you enter the main restaurant for soldiers and the rest of the dormitories.
Apparently, an Austrian graffiti artist Perkup (or Perk Up) was here and left an amazing series of graffiti. You can find his work at the following Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/perk_up/
Combination of modern, abstract art and this very unique space was quite astonishing.
There were few other artists painting on the walls but Perkup did most of the work and it is just stunning.
The entire place has a very special aura in a hot summer afternoon and I cannot deny an abstract beauty in this total devastation.
But small details like a mess of old cups and trays brings you back to the days of serving in the army. I was serving in 1998 in Sinj and Šibenik and always thought of those days as complete waste of time. But that period was always quite emotional and even now some folks have fond memories of their friends whom they served with in JNA and Croatian army.
There are few other graffiti in the dormitory, but nothing had the power of Perkup’s work.
Even some forms of very basic devastation I found beautiful:
Šepurine are now just a place of ghosts. It could have been at least preserved as an important witness of the glory days of the 1995 or at least guarded better. It reminds me of the abandoned military tunnels on Solta and that curious art gallery I focused on a while back: Curious “gallery” on Šolta Island
But this way we can have it for ourselves. This way the only shadows can be ours.
Dalmatian landscape is made up of mostly limestone. Karst, as it is a scientific name for it, is by a definition a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.
So there are A LOT of caves in Croatia! Many known for millenia and explored but still hundreds all over the country that have not been discovered.
We had a great opportunity last month to visit two very special caves in Dalmatian hinterland. One, Velika Ćulumova pećina, is near Kijevo and Vrlika and is well known for its massive bat colony.
This cave is easy to visit – with permits! – as it does not have drops and serious differences in heights. The initial descent is some 7 meters difference from the entrance and then it is fairly flat all 360 meters of its length. But it is also very decorated and considered to be one of the most beautiful caves in this part of the country.
The colony of bats inside is several thousand strong and the sound of them squeaking above your head may not be the most pleasant sound you ever heard. We tried not to disturb them and I even turned off my strong helmet light. I have a custom helmet light that makes all of modern helmet lights shamefully weak so I turned it off in the big hall with bats. Bats are not blind, contrary to general opinion. We also kept as quiet as possible.
All over the cave, mud like leyer of bat dung is found. The guano does not smell nice and there is a LOT of it! Some places even knee deep so we all had boots on. It is that black matter on the ground.
We continued exploring and finally reached the last hall. Evidence of human devastation is very present as many of the ornaments have been broken and taken away… There are even graffiti from 1930s in the last hall. Sad.
I do think the entrance should be closed by some sort of iron gates like on other protected caves in order to preserve the cave and its bats. Not everyone is responsible and loves nature…
Next stop was a very special treat!
There are caves and pits that have been used as places of worship, shelters and even storage facilities but very few as wells. One of them – and it is simply a marvel of traditional architecture – is cave near Kistanje in Bukovica region of Dalmatia.
One can reach it by taking a main trail though the fields near the village of Bezbradice.
This traditional dirt road is work of perfection with all these flat rocks making up a massive wall leading to the actual well and deeper in the fields.
It was about 34 Celsius (93 F) and there was no place to hide from the hot sun. But then we reached the well. It is basically a combination of a man made structure and a cave that, long time ago, someone thought to be an excellent source of fresh water for most of the year.
In order to get to the water, locals build a structure with several steps all the way down to the actual well. The water can get awfully high as seen from the marks it left on much higher level of the well.
The water is so still that I thought there was nothing there till we threw a small rock. We did not have any vessel to get water from below as it was quite lower than the last step but I will return.
According to local legends, the water from this cave is part of a large, underground river Marica. This water has healing powers and healed fertility issues with one local girl long time ago. Just legends or…? In any case, this is one of most wonderful spots I have seen in a while! It looks almost as entrance to the underworld. Maybe it is…
Wonderful world of Dalmatian karst does not stop to surprise!