Maskovica Han in Vrana – The curious history of the latest heritage hotel in Croatia

Ever since I was a kid, the unfinished remains of Maškovića Han were one of the most fascinating monuments I have seen. The original idea of Yusuf Mašković was to build a final retreat for his retirement days in the region he originated from. The retreat was to include the area for his own personal use but also (free of charge) rooms for travelers passing through the region.

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Vrana (and Zemunik) – Coroneli, 1687

Story of Jusuf Mašković is a strange one. At the time of his birth, Vrana was already under the Turkish rule (since 1538). It has about 500 houses, two mosques, school for Muslim children…

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Vrana – Kupferstich Mortier, 1704

Yusuf was born (cc 1604) in a Christian family (Maškov it is believed to be the family last name) but, according to the Venetian records of the time, it was a very poor family. The legend says that a local old lady from Nadin gave him leather slippers (opanci) seeing him barefoot. It is assumed that it was then that he decided to convert to Islam and he started the service for local Beširagić bey of Nadin. The later events took him to Sarajevo and then all the way to Istanbul where he rose to the position of the gardener of the palace.

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Palace Seven Towers Istanbul – Mallet, 1718

Now things started changing – while being a gardener, Yusuf became friends with brother of the Sultan Murat IV. Sultan was getting rid of all possible usurpers of the throne but spared his brother by locking him in the area of saray. In the year of 1640, Murat died and Ibrahim becomes a new Sultan not forgetting his old friend so Jusuf Mašković gets to a much higher – this time military – position. Next step was – only 4 years later – to become a chief admiral of Turkish fleet.

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Turkish galley of the 17th century

At that time, in 1644, Maltese corsairs seized a ship carrying high-status pilgrims to Mecca. Since the pirates had docked in Crete, Kapudan Yusuf Pasha encouraged Ibrahim to invade the island. This began a long war with Venice that lasted 24 years—Crete would not completely fall under Ottoman domination until 1669. In spite of the decline of La Serenissima, Venetian ships won victories throughout the Aegean, capturing Tenedos (1646) and blockading the Dardanelles. Kapudan Yusuf enjoyed temporary success in conquering Canea, starting a jealous rivalry with the Grand Vizier that led to his execution (January 1646) and the Grand Vizier’s deposition (December 1645).

In our, local stories, Yusuf disobeyed an order from the Sultan and acted chivalrously sparing some Christians and was executed for that. That seems unlikely as he was not executed right after the events. Also, When Yusuf Pasha returned to Constantinople in 1645, he married Fatma Sultan, the three-year-old daughter of Sultan Ibrahim I. He was also given the Ibrahim Pasha Palace as a residence. However, one year later in 1646, he was executed by the Sultan at the persuasion of Grand Vizier.

And the construction on his han in Vrana stopped ever since…

Until 2009 when EU agreed to give 75% of the 2,9 mil Euros for the completion of the han.

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Han before the restaurantion

It took 6 years before it was completed and only now, in 2017, the local authorities have enough funds to put the entire building into the use as a heritage hotel/events venue/museum and also an information center for this part of the county.

Maškovića han was restored with help of Turkish historians as it was important to complete it as close to the original idea from 1644 as possible! And the results are impressive!

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This area was to be for family only. Now, these are also rooms for travelers

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The aerial view

There is also a museum with collection from the entire Pakoštane region.

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And the originally planned mosque became a very unique restaurant that will serve a mix of Dalmatian classics and oriental dishes.

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Still in the works…

The entire property should open by summer of 2017.

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Inside on of the rooms. Furniture is coming soon.

Yusuf was a very special person. Raising from rags to riches but never forgetting his original home. Legend goes that he even sent 500 gold coins to the lady who gave him the leather shoes in Nadin! He never got to return but the local authorities managed to complete his dream 370 years later. It is never too late, I guess. The westernmost example of Turkish civil architecture shines as a wonderful example of preservation and care for our heritage.


Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibrahim_of_the_Ottoman_Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silahdar_Yusuf_Pasha
http://www.zadarskilist.hr/clanci/13052008/pakostanac-na-celu-turske-flote

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Aman Sveti Stefan

For the past few months we have been very, very busy and almost no time for blogging. Not that I don’t have to blog about! Au contraire! I have dozens and dozens of most fabulous stories! But almost no time to write  😦 One of the highlights was definitely a fam trip to Montenegro coast last month. Besides Kotor, we also visited Sveti Stefan. But before that, we were mesmerized by the coast of Montenegro!

Budva and Sv Nikola Island
Budva and Sv Nikola Island

So, I chose one of my new favorite places to write about and this Aman Sveti Stefan resort in Montenegro is just that. The place where I could move to! I have been reading and seeing some images about it but that is nothing compared to the first time one actually steps in front of this place.  Yes, it does look pretty from the panorama point in front of the actual island and it is pretty from the air but I was always allured by it’s “silence”, some magical quietness as I never saw people there…

Aman Sveti Stefan
Aman Sveti Stefan

It was strange to me, even as I was a kid, that this island was empty and that I never saw images of old people dressed in black, donkeys, boats… It was always just Sv Stefan – the ultimate in Yugoslav tourism.
And then, war came and Sv Stefan is now in Montenegro. Some smart folks decided to invest in restoring it’s original grandeur and Sveti Stefan became again the most prestigious resort on this side of the Adriatic. This time under the brand of Aman  – the ultimate in luxury stay.

Aman Sveti Stefan
Aman Sveti Stefan

What’s so special about Sveti Stefan? It would be easier to answer what is not! From the meticulously maintained Mediterranean gardens, typical stone cottages restored to offer the ultimate in luxury, privacy, scents and sounds of Adriatic pounding the cliffs bellow the village…to the perfectly trained staff and 6 restaurants for only 59 accommodation units!

Bathroom
Bathroom

The interiors of the cottages and suites are done in a tastefully rustic way with emphasis on clean lines, warm materials and lighting. Very inviting in every aspect! Every cottage is decorated differently but the traditional aspect is preserved by keeping traditional windows and doors as well as wood and stone materials throughout.

Seating area
Seating area

The very village fo Sveti Stefan dates back to the 15th century when people were looking for prefect defense points from the Turks and eventually became a pirates nest. The church of Sveti Stefan is on the highest point of the island and it was built to celebrate a victory over a Turkish fleet near the island of Sveti Nikola. Money taken from Turks came handy! In it’s heyday, it used to be a home for about 400 people but, with Turkish threat diminishing from Montenegro in 1800s, island was slowly abandoned.

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Typical Sveti Stefan Cottage

There is something sad about a former village where children used to laugh and play, donkeys and goats lived in stables bellow the living area, men and women used to laugh and cry… being turned into an exclusive resort. Closed to public, Sveti Stefan is reserved only for the richest. It offers the ultimate in luxury and that is seen from the moment you step on that narrow path connecting it to the mainland over pink sands (pebbles), to the service and beautifully designed relaxing areas across the resort.

Pool area ... one of them
Pool area … one of them

With terraces overlooking the Adriatic and enjoying nice breeze, one can really enjoy a proper holiday. Book in one hand, something cold in another, and there you have a perfectly relaxing holiday! And if you get hungry, any of the superb restaurants can fix something great.

One of the restaurants
One of the restaurants

We had few hours at the island inspecting and discussing different possibilities. There is something so magical and unique about it that it keeps me wanting to go back.
…and to send some great clients who will know how to appreciate this unique place! No mater if you are looking for an amazing honeymoon spot or just a quiet and relaxing stay away from the World, Aman Sveti Stefan is one of those very special hotels in the world that really make a difference.

Just sea and rock... in the shade of a pine tree
Just sea and rock… in the shade of a pine tree

Both famous for their beauty and historic places, Croatian and Montenegrin coast holiday are truly top destinations in the Mediterranean! We offer now some great travel packages combining both destinations.

 

Best B&B in Croatia! – Trpanj, Pelješac peninsula

The beauty of my job is that I got to meet some awesome folks over the years. Not only clients but also guides, owners of small businesses… and, most recently owners of most charming B&B in Croatia located in the sleepy village of Trpanj. It all started few weeks back when the owner, Morana, sent an email to see if I would be interested in offering their B&B to my clients. Once I saw the photos, I called her up and we scheduled the meeting. No time to waste and it was never hard for me to go anywhere to see something exceptional!

On the ferry from Ploce to Trpanj
On the ferry from Ploce to Trpanj

This past Saturday, I was on a 9:30 ferry from Ploče to Trpanj enjoying the cool breeze and stunning views of magnificent Peljesac peninsula. The ferry ride is about 40 minutes and it is not the most popular ferry connection out of the main season so there were no crowds. This is also a great connection if you are going to Korcula as you skip quite a bit of driving. Once I reached Trpanj, Morana was waiting for me in the harbor to show me the way to her place. Set on a hill, the house offers some of the nicest views of Trpanj!

The view of Trpanj
The view of Trpanj

The house itself is magnificently restored and it is one of the best examples how to use our heritage! Forget about  apartment owners who know only how to build cheap and ugly monsters that are destroying our coastline (and I will NEVER work with them!), this is a true gem where every detail was carefully planned and designed making it truly one of the finest properties I have ever seen in Croatia!

The house was built in 1830s and, after WW2 served as some sort of a summer house for kids from Belgrade. Unfortunately, in all those years, no one invested anything in the property and once Morana and her family bought it, it was just a wreck… But with LOTS of love and passion, this is where you enter this whole another dimension:

Morana at the doors
Morana at the doors

The house features 5 bedrooms and it is a B&B type of a property with Morana and her family living there. The returned from the US after 40 years working on Florida and invested their life savings into this project. To cut the long story short, it was not until Morana personally overtook the works and made the house into what it is now. Her artistic skills (she is a very talented artist) came really handy!

One of the bedrooms
One of the bedrooms
One of the rooms in the attick
One of the rooms in the attic

They also designed the most charming wine cellar!

The wine cellar!
The wine cellar!

And then the kitchen! At every step there is something new and exciting!

The soul of the house
The soul of the house

What is great about this place is that there is no kitsch. It would be so easy to cross that fine line but everything is done with so much care and taste: all the details, all the colors…
Of course, the house is nothing without the people so I got to meet Morana’s mom Lenka and father Josip who worked hard all their lives to work even harder now in their Trpanj providing the superb service.

Morana and her mom Lenka
Morana and her mom Lenka

And I was also invited for a lunch! Enjoyed a rather international mix of local zeje (or rastika as it is known elsewhere in Dalmatia) and spicy pork ribs! Loved it! All accompanied by the great local plavac red wine from nearby Kuna village.

Great lunch!
Great lunch!

Since the whole family lived in US running a deli, they are not only cooking local specialties but know how to make great mixes between different cuisines(can’t wait till I go there next time!). Morana’s boyfriend Vale also joined us and we planned our afternoon visiting several other locations (that will be subject of other posts) but we went to the hill above the house to visit small chapel built be the owner of the house back in 19th century which is also a popular panorama point for all visitors of Trpanj.

Chapel on the hill
Chapel on the hill

The views of Peljesac channel and the hills and mountains across are just amazing! Same views were a popular theme of local artist Celestin Medović – one of Croatia’s greatest landscape painters – and his spirit still seems to linger in the air. Felt like dusting off my old oil paint set and sit on the hill for hours… soaking the beauty of a spring afternoon and getting those gentle blues, of the mountains in the distance, just right.

Adriatic landscape
Adriatic landscape

We moved on to see Viganj and abandoned Nakovane but also returned to Trpanj to see another house that is Morana currently restoring and creating another masterpiece. Morana and Vale really know their stuff when it comes to great restoration of old properties and they do a great job so, anyone interested in restoring an old house should definitely hire them!

This is a property we will definitely recommend to our clients being so exceptional and we are also developing several programs with Morana to make their stay even more interesting and special. Anybody looking for a great retreat, this is the place to go!