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!

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One evening in Unije

Unije is another one of the islands of Northern Adriatic that I have never been to before. Right after visiting Susak, we continued further and decided to stay overnight in Unije. It is a very pretty island with a lovely bay and a small island right in the bay. Unfortunately, the bay is open to western winds but well protected from most of others.

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Unije from the air (Photo by skokpadobranom.com)

Unije is one of the few small islands that has an actual landing strip for small airplanes (since 1996). It is located in the middle of Unije field, one of a very unique features of the island as it is quite rare to find such a flat ground by the sea. Basically 10% of the island is fertile which is very rare among all the islands of the Mediterranean.

We arrived late in the afternoon. Very few boats were at the pier and only two anchoring.

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In the bay
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Unije village

Unije is a tiny village. It has only 88 inhabitants according to the latest census (2011). The island has seen many better days and it was inhabited since the old Stone Age and, according to some reports, it had over 20 000 olive trees during the Roman times! Now, only a few locals are working in the fields…

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Unije is also known for numerous bays on the eastern side and great white cliffs just a bit norther of the village.

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And there is a lovely lighthouse just before entering the bay.

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Vnetak lighthouse (1873.)

This lighthouse is famous for big flocks of sardines (and other similar fish) grouping in the waters before the lighthouse. This is also attracting big tuna fish and, a local story goes, a while back one big tuna dragged a fisherman far away and he was never to be seen again.

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While there, I decided to take a walk through the village and take some photos. Just for keeping the records and memory how it was…

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Very wrong doors…

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Inside of the village is very quiet. I have not seen anyone. The silence was beautiful and sad at the same time.

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Sv. Andrija (St Andrew) – late 18th century

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It was time to have dinner and the offer was quite limited as there were only two restaurants open (out of three). The menu in the one closer to the pier was also limited but octopus salad is always a treat. The night was falling on the island and the sunset was beautiful!

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We were getting ready to go to rest while a flock of mallards was swimming around the boat.

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And a group of young Italians enjoying a glass of wine watching the Adriatic sunset in the distance.

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That’s a proper way to enjoy life!

Unije. A very special place at the very edge of Croatian Adriatic…

 

To learn more – and definitely worth it! – UNIJE is a wonderful site dedicated to this beautiful island: http://otok-unije.com/ Pity it is only in Croatian but offers a wealth of great stories and details about Unije.

 

 

Scedro Island

This past fall I started talking to my guide Sonja and her boyfriend Pavo  about visiting his restaurant on Scedro Island. General idea was to have a special place that will provide superb meal on a unique location and off the beaten path. Scedro is not a mystery but it is not the most popular place on the coast and I was always interested in visiting after I learned of an abandoned monastery.  Few weeks back, the weather was finally on our side and I was able to accept the invitation. Early morning drive to Split harbor, two hour ferry and then through the tunnel to the sunny slopes of southern Hvar. Small harbor of Zavala was beautiful on a gorgeous January morning.

Zavala
Zavala

The ride to Scedro is easy and fairly short on a beautiful day like we had. The monastery bay looks hidden when approaching till the little cove starts opening. It opens fully to a very charming group of fishermen huts. Typical Dalmatia.

Typical Dalmatia - frozen in time
Typical Dalmatia – frozen in time

But my main interest – besides a restaurant, of course, were the ruins of the monastery nearby.

 

Monastery
Monastery

The monastery was abandoned in the 19th century when, according to legend, last monk took down the main doors and sailed across – to Zavala on Hvar Island – on those very doors! I guess he felt lonely since there was no one else left on the island. The oldest remains are from the 11th century and still standing but the main building suffered greatly and the roof does not exist any more. Nevertheless, it is one amazing place!

Interior of the oldest building
Interior of the oldest building

Pavo was showing us the interior and even graffiti done by his ancestors marking when they first came to Scedro! Some of them are 100 years old.  There is no one really living there year round but, in the summer time, they even have guests in their apartments. That must be one wonderful family holiday! Especially in a shallow and safe bay as this one is!

Shallow bay
Shallow bay

While the bread and fish were being prepared, we decided to go to other, more popular bay. There are three restaurants there and the  bay is bigger but the one with a monastery is far more beautiful. In the other bay we met one of the restaurant owners who also told us about mehunja grapes that I never heard before. Now nearly gone, it was once regarded as the finest off all white grapes of Hvar and neighboring region. Hard to believe when drinking bogdanjusa wine but… these guys know better.

Another bay
Another bay

To get from one bay to another takes about 20 minutes. I noticed a very interesting burial mound by the road and there were traces of something that reminded me of roman roads but it just does not make sense to find it on this, god forsaken island off much bigger and important Hvar… And another curiosity is of a much later date: cars. Yes, there are cars on the island.

Hitchhiking on Scedro
Hitchhiking on Scedro

Not too many of them but there are several still active Lada Nivas. The only car rugged enough to survive this terrain. They were brought here by tying together two boats and loading a car on them in Zavala for this short but dangerous ride across to Scedro. Crazy! But it comes very handy when they are cutting wood or some vineyards works.
An then we returned to our secret cove. Hungry and in time for some grilled fish.

Catch of the day
Catch of the day

But the true star of this meal – and everyone’s who ever decided to eat here – was the bread. The Bread!

The Bread!
The Bread!

This bread is one of top 3 I aver had. Ever! In any restaurant or homemade. The special mix of different flours and traditional baking technique, make this a true delicacy! And it is one big bread weighing around 4-5 kilos! Eating superb meal outside, in January, with great friends… I love what I do!
And with the winter sun slowly falling behind the hill, it was time to leave. Excellent bogdanjusa was keeping us warm while watching shores of Hvar getting closer.

Winter sunset in Zavala
Winter sunset in Zavala

Pavo’s father was taking us across and the monotonous sound of the engine was putting us to sleep. Or was it too much bogdanjusa?

Mr. Kordic
Mr. Kordic

Scedro is definitely on our map. The true essence of Secret Dalmatia.

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