When one thinks of Dalmatia, oak forest is probably not the first association. One can think of rocky landscapes, low bushes and shrubs or lush pine tree forests. Typical Mediterranean vegetation. However, Dalmatian coast looked very differently in the past. The first photographs show a very barren landscape with almost no trees. Mostly because everything was cut down centuries before no matter if they needed wood to burn in their stoves or just cleared land for defense purposes. Clearing for wine yards and olive groves during the late 19th century, Dalmatian landscape stripped of nearly all trees or bushes. And then came the more eco-friendly vision of planting pine trees as they looked pretty and were growing quite fast. Original, black pine (pinus nigra var. dalmatica) can now bee seen very rarely and most beautiful forest of this pine tree is near the highest peak of Brač island. Crnika or česmina (Quercus ilex) used to be the most common of all oak tree varieties on our coast but now is limited to only few proper forests on Rab and northern islands.
However, from the records and evidences, it is clear that most of Dalmatia was under some real oak forests. Mostly downy oak (Quercus pubescens). The last of the true oak forests still stays tall between the tiny villages of Pristeg and Dobra voda near Stankovci.
The forest is just a remain of a proper, big forest that covered the region and it is basically just a lovely patch in the landscape. The woods are now intersected by wine yards and fields at the edges but one can still get a good sense of what a proper forest looked like.
The forest is not under protection so the trees are, occasionally, cut down. Even though it is illegal. Since the number of people in the nearby Pristeg and Dobra Voda is shrinking, as young men and women are leaving for cities, the future of the forest looks promising and will probably be expanding to now abandoned fields nearby. Oak forests are recovering in many other areas of Dalmatia as people are leaving villages for the cities.
The forest is also a great home for many bird species and nearby plane is a home to Montagu’s harrier – Eja livadarka (Circus pygargus) but there are quite a few interesting mushrooms growing in the shade of the beautiful trees like these highly valued Caesar’s mushroom.
This beautiful forest is just one of those special, hidden gems off the beaten path. Great for late summer walks and mushroom hunting in the Fall!