Fossils and Lost Lake of Pag Island

Needles to say, Pag is my everlasting fascination. I am still scratching the surface and always learning of new places, historic details, unusual spots… Only recently I took more time to research  Crnike beach. This particular beach is a site of great importance for its 20 milion years old layers from Miocene and it is a location where several fossils have been found.

How old is this? Let’s put it this way: the Dinaric alps and Velebit mountain did not exist at that time!

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So, one October afternoon, we went for a drive. Pag is a miracle from crossing the bridge and especially driving along this quite poor road to Crnike. The location got its name after Crnika oak (Evergreen oak) which are abundant in the nearby protected crnika forest. This is a typical oak of the Mediterranean region of Croatia but very few true forests are left to this day.

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Crnike is not the easiest beach to reach and it consists of several smaller beaches. The coastline is steep but there are several carved trails and steps. But every effort is rewarded by the spectacular shapes!

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The beach was first explored in the 1900s as the Austrian (Croatia was a part of Austro -Hungarian empire at the time) paleontologists and scientists discovered layers of coal that they thought may be worth exploiting. The layers were not abundant but the scientists discovered  lots of various fossils of snails, seashells, plants, leaves… There is enough evidence to prove that this part of Pag was part of a large lake and that there was once a big forest at this very location. The very location that is now quite barren like the rest of the island. According to the scientists, this part of Croatia looked pretty much like Florida today with lots of lush vegetation and marshes.

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The beach is quite pretty when there are no people. The rock formations and various layers are quite visible and, in many parts, spectacular.

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From the nearby hills, numerous streams of fresh water flow to the sea and 23609802498_ec01e5402c_k

I was more interested in real life than past.

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New researches are being conducted at this region and numerous evidences of past life are coming to the sunlight. The remains of ancient boar, elephants, rhinoceros, … are all present at this location and, in 2001, a Chinese paleontologist – as part of a research group – even found a tooth of a crocodile! There are also layers of volcanic ash proving that Adriatic was a region of volcanic activity.

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In general, coal remains of ancient forest can still be seen but, the entire location is truly fascinating. A very different beach destination!

 

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The Sleepy Silba

Many wonderful islands are still “hidden” from the masses of sailing guests enjoying the central Dalmatian archipelago all the way to Dubrovnik. And that is absolutely fine. It is not like these islands don’t get anyone, but that is far from the crowded shores of Hvar, busy bays of Brac or the lines in front of Blue Cave of Biševo.

One of such, less visited pearls is definitely Silba. Beautiful island paradise North West of Zadar and just a short sailing distance from the southern shores of Lošinj.

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(image from TZ Silba web site)

Silba is an island where one can only think of peace and tranquility when mentioned. There are no cars on the island and there are only 290 inhabitants year round. Summer is, of course, more lively but that is a very short period.

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The main pier and ferry harbor

History of the island and its only settlement is quite simple as it was always owned by some of the local noble families from Zadar or Losinj with “independence” bought only in the 1852. The rise of captains and ship owners from Silba started all the way in the 1600s but Napoleon burned down the entire fleet in the early 1800s. The second rise of Silba merchant marine was in the mid 1800s with an impressive fleet of 98 sailing ships. Orebić and Lošinj are more famous as their fleets were larger but the same fate got them all as they did not see the advantages of steamers…

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Silba harbor in the 1970s

Another terrible disaster was the arrival of Phylloxera and the death of all of Silba’s vineyards. The vineyards were never replanted which is a pity as Silba was home to one very special type of vine that would ripe earlier than any other grape variety on the coast: as early as July.

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Typical view of Silba from turn of the century

Today, Silba is best known as an oasis of peace. I had a rare chance to visit this May and enjoyed immensely walking the silent streets, enjoying the genuine tranquility and calmness. Almost a meditation.

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Silba is also known for its best known monument – toreta.

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It was built by a local captain Marinić who built it so his loved one can watch for his ship when returning. In those days, one would sail for years so the young lady could not wait and married another man. When he returned, he realized the sad truth but he also saw a young daughter of his former love and waited for her to grow up and merry her. They lived a happy life and had nine children!

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Before forestation

Silba is also a popular stop for fishermen fishing in this part of the Adriatic for many centuries now.

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With tourism getting to all islands and parts of the coastline, Silba seems to be escaping the faith of southern islands and enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere even in the peak season.

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But spring is the best time to visit. Very different from anything one can see south of Šibenik, Silba should stay a secret!

Secret Beach of Beritnica

Pag island never ceases to surprise me. Its stunning, moon-like landscape, its food, its secrets and mysteries dating back to the dawn of the civilization… The geology of Pag is quite unique and the island is full of unique spots. A while back, there was a talk about a mysterious UFO landing spot, too: https://secretcroatia.blog/2010/12/23/the-pag-triangle-mystery/pagtriangle001

But, while that can only be one of the curiosities, the landscape of Pag offers much more! To me, Beretnica beach is one of the most special places not only on Pag Island but also on the entire coast. Best of all, it is off the beaten path of hordes flocking to see the “holy trinity” of Croatian destinations: Plitvice, Hvar, Dubrovnik.

Pag Island is also a popular destination with best known party beach (Zrče) in the region and generations of loyal visitors from countries like Slovenia, Czech and Slovak republics… Still, many parts of the island are remain untouched.

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Historic Pag Town

Metajna is the closest village to Beritnica beach. It is easy to reach following the main road to Novalja and then following the signs for another 12 kilometers. Metajna is a typical village with most buildings these days just housing apartments for their short tourist season. But this part of the island is simply stunning!

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Metajna in the distance

There are several lovely beaches surrounding Metajna most famous being pebbly Ručice beach which can be easily accessed by a narrow road. There is a spacious parking next to the beach.

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Following the road to Ručice
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Ručice beach in October sun

The parking near Ručice is the perfect spot to start the easy hike to Beritnica. The trail is not really marked but it is still easy to follow and one cannot really get lost. Just follow the path starting from the parking and up a small hill overlooking the Ručice beach. From there, it gets quite interesting with landscape getting crazier and crazier  – no matter what direction you look at!

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The valley near the beach
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Rock formations along the path to Beritnica

This is actually one of the marked climbing directions on the island. It is called Stogaj and it is easy to spot thanks to a very unique “tower”.

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Probably the biggest surprise was the fast that there is so much water here. No one would guess just by seeing the barren landscape that there are several streams flowing all the way to the sea.

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And once one gets deep in the canyon, it gets prettier.

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The canyon is a special place with all sorts of formations and shapes. There is a large colony of wild pigeons in the canon living in the holes and resting on the rocks.

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And then the view opens…

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This part of the trail is not as easy as the first part and some effort is required. That is why most people come here by a boat during summer months.

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The beach is pebbly and great for families with children. The main “attraction” of this beach are three giant rocks that separated from the hill very long time ago.

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And the texture of the rocks looks almost artificial!

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Beritnica is a true wonder and everything about it is unique, unexpected. The trail is an easy hike of some 20 minutes filled with surprises and there is much more of the coast ahead. Looks quite interesting for a boat trip although I think sea kayak is the best way to explore this coast .

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And there are all sorts of fossils in these rocks. On a beach opposite Beretnica, an ancient crocodile tooth has been found and Crnike beach is also known for finds of carbonated ancient wood from Miocene period (23 mil – 5 mil years ago). The fossils of a lake snail Valvata indicate that this was part of a lake in the distant past. Even the remains of Sequoia trees have been confirmed to have been growing around this ancient lake (read more here – in Croatian)

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Full of mysteries and unique places, a trip to Pag is always a marvelous discovery.

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