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.

sbz11
(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.

26844569731_0146e1971a_k
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…

silba002
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.

silba001
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.

26818546382_5de0be2cbd_k26639200310_ac00b10eb9_k26639235450_f4627a2c1c_k26844504821_538d1f4f1b_k

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

26878807666_b89e4b0f2a_k

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!

silba004
Before forestation

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

silba003

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.

26844567131_adca12a369_k

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

Advertisements

European Green Lizard

The general opinion is that Europe has no exotic fauna nor exciting wildlife but that is only partially true. Wherever a true lover of nature looks, he or she can find exciting animals. In Mediterranean countries, besides sea life,  the coastal landscape hides several interesting animals and one of the most beautiful ones is definitely European green lizard (Lacerta viridis). There are three very similar species living in Croatia and all three are protected: Lacerta bilineata (Daudin, 1802), Lacerta trilineata (Bedriaga), 1886) and Lacerta viridis (Laurenti,1768)

zelembac001

The local name is zelembać. This beautiful lizard is easily recognized and cannot be mistaken for a different lizard in this area as it looks almost fluorescent!  It is easy to differentiate Balkan green lizard and European green lizard – European green lizard has blue throats while the Balkan one has yellow. Biggest differences are noticeable when the animals are young as all the various colors and stripes are visible at that stage of their lives.

zelembac985
Young Balkan green lizard

Zelembać is a large lizard that can grow up to 16 cm (cc 6,3 ”) but the tail can be twice as long! It is usually seen enjoying sunshine on rocks or lawns, or hiding in the bushes. Or running across the road. It is not a very shy lizard but it does usually stay hidden and will not allow one to approach it too close. Natural predators are birds of pray but also cats. Zelembać is very useful in the fields feeding on snails, bugs, small lizards but also mice.

zelembac005

The females nest about 6 – 20 eggs in really humid and hot places and the lizards mature at the age of two. There can be up to 200 lizards living on one hectare!
The males are easily differentiated from females for the vivid blue color of their throats but they are also bigger and with bigger heads.

zelembac003zelembac002

Although not critically endangered, all three species are protected – the fine is 400 Euros for killing one. There is no real reason for doing so as this is a very useful animal in all habitats.

Old Road to Tulove Grede and over Velebit Mountain

This past spring we finally managed to take the famous old road Majstorska cesta leading from Dalmatia to Lika and passing beautiful Tulove grede rock formation.

27120211711_33bc566996_k
This is where the adventure begins

Tulove grede are one of the most scenic parts of Velebit mountain and, if you ever took the highway from the coast inland, it is the formation just above the Sv Rock Tunnel. But, to get there, one has to take the old road and that is possible just from outside Obrovac town.

The road is wide and, for some part, asphalted but the true adventure starts once you leave the paved road. The macadam part of the road is in very good shape and can be easily traveled with normal cars.

27189025315_df43fa53a0_k
Highway just before the Sv Rok tunnel. Tulove grede formation in the distance

This 41 km long road has been constructed in two phases between 1825 and 1832 to shorten the traveling time between the center of the Monarchy (Wiena) and, then regional capital of Dalmatia, Zadar. This very demanding task was trusted to Josip Kajetan Knežić of Petrinja who was a major in Austrian army and a self taught engineer. Knežić was a fascinating character and left a lasting mark on Croatian architecture and ingeneering with numerous roads, architectural monuments and irrigation works through the region.

vm-josip-knezic

I have one bridge to visit and then will write more about him but if you have ever traveled the road from Senj inwards, you have witnessed another Knežić masterpiece and you definitely remember the chapel of Sv Mihovil in Majorija.

majorija_carsko_vrilo_kapela_sv_mihovila_27112012_4_roberta_f

Back on the road, we had a lovely ascent from the start of macadam and the beautiful views of Zadar hinterland and islands opened!

26584132413_665ea74ee1_k
Canyon of Zrmanja and Novigradsko more bay

The road is simply great and kept in great condition. It is also proclaimed a National heritage so someone will be taking care of it (I hope).

26914190740_757ae3ff5a_k

Probably one of the most favorite stops on this road is the church of Sv. Franjo or (St Frances).

26914261730_a1e33bdbc5_z

The church is now locked and not sure who has the keys as I would really like to get inside some day. Just across the street are the remains of several buildings that served for guards and maintenance back while the road was still in use. Near the church are two monuments and one is dedicated to Francesco Farcasso who died here in 1851 battling 22 bandits. The newer one is from 1862 and dedicated to Ivan Zagorac who froze to death.

27120228491_24d5f8e6de_k

The entire area is quite lovely and makes a great stop.

27120220141_40fb74377f_k

26914252720_51fd069e48_k

26584140723_78cfada9b8_k

26914224920_b6f9f76803_k

But these are not the only monuments on this road…

This was also a very important communication during the Homeland war in the 90s. Many traces of past combats and still visible and parts of the area were under land mines till 2014. The saddest monument is to one of true heroes of our war.

27188952915_2fd556c60c_k

26584064953_5bf1d548b2_k

26582693604_9c96635d85_k

26584105703_044b10c0be_k

Velebit was one of the harshest and worst battlefields of our war in the 90s and tombstones of many heroes keep reminding us of their sacrifices.

And few minutes later, we reached the foothill of Tulove grede where there is plenty of space to park cars and start the ascent.

26582636074_8c98953b0c_k

26584077263_fe64defcd4_k

The ascent is easy and the trails are nicely marked. This is a very popular destination for all nature lovers and, especially during weekends, there will be at least a dozen of people.

There are two trails leading to the peak of Tulove Grede. Both are fine and both take you around the HUGE hole in the ground that is, apparently, a cave that collapsed long ago.

26582866714_2cae34c129_k

26584030143_8656011c00_k

Apparently, there is a small water spring at the very bottom of the hole but one needs some 10 meters of rope to reach it.

Our friends took the route above the hole.

26914175720_d70a15354e_k

26584077623_40c87f2b59_k

27120182171_eafa675f9a_k

Once we were at the peak, because of the kids, we did not go all the way to the top of the rocks but that is another cc 20 minutes along the marked trail and some climbing is required. The rock formation near the peak are fascinating!

 

27155385206_326f88b517_k

26914047710_c7f7a29839_k

27093470762_e51af3cf7f_k27155477796_bc8502d317_k

26913959500_4b827d694e_k
Bunker form the past war

And after a short break, we went downhill for a picnic lunch and to continue our adventure all the way to Lika.

27093456772_6ef2d10eed_k

26583933053_da1f327404_k

This area is known among birdwatchers as home to Alpine cough (Kavka in Croatian; Pyrrhocorax graculus) colony and we saw them flying above us.

26584068583_eaedb8d3f9_k26914048130_f302276dfd_h

They are easily recognized for red legs and longish yellow beak.

On the road to Lika, we saw few motorcycles as well but no cyclists which was surprising as this is one of their favorite routes.

26913931500_e812a9e393_k

The climb is easy for all generations.

27188761615_604e3b744e_k27188743265_cec9b10868_k

And then it was time to follow the road all the way to beautiful Lika region. As soon as we crossed the “border”, the scenery changed and we drove mostly through the forest.

26582956694_4c85721a7e_k26913898170_283b83a383_k

Once in Lika, you can either turn back to take the same road again or take the highway. Under the watching eye of a Common buzzard we left home.

27155355766_f4e98bc6b3_h

Majstorska cesta is one of great adventures in Croatia no matter how you want to cross it. It would even be fun walking it and camping overnight somewhere in the wilderness.

So many great adventures!