European bee-eater in Croatia

There are quite a few lovely birds living year round (or in different seasons) in our region. The most beautiful – and most colorful of all European birds – European bee-eater (Merops Apiaster)  lives in numerous colonies near our coast. One such colony is found in the heart of Ravni Kotari region and is well known for it’s size and importance.

European bee-eater resting

The colony is fairly strong and numbers over 30 couples. The number of bee-eaters grows stronger year after year in Croatia but it is still a protected species with about 900 USD fines for each bird killed… The bee-eaters can do a lot of damage to bee colonies so beekeepers try to keep their beehives away. Apparently, one bee-eater can eat up to 250 bees a day and they first remove the sting by beating the bee against the hard surface. Besides bees, that are usually only 1% of their diet, bee-eaters also feed on wasps, dragonflies and numerous other winged insects. According to some reports, they feed on bees mostly during cloudy days…

Successful hunt

European bee-eaters are a migratory species and spend April to October nesting in Europe and rest of the year they spend in tropical Africa.

Art by Aracana

Their nests are located in the sandy, easy to dig soil. The birds dig a long tunnel, in which they lay 5 -8- white eggs around the beginning of June. Both male and female care for the eggs for about three weeks.


Nests (holes) of bee-eaters

The colony in Ravni kotari has dug hundreds of holes in the sandy soil but most of them are not in use. I still have to return before the end of their summer to see how strong the colony got over the summer. Pčelarica – how the bird is called locally – is one of the most beautiful birds and pure pleasure to photograph.

Birds usually have only one partner during their lives



The wonderful and bucolic settings of Ravni Kotari are a perfect home for this wonderful bird!



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.

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.

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.


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.


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

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).


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


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.


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





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.





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.



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.



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.




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!





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.



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


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.


The climb is easy for all generations.


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.


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.


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!

On birds and history of Pag

The forecast for last weekend was almost summer like and it was no time to stay at home. I had some places  to see on Pag Island for business so we decided to go there for a day trip. Our friends joined us and the first stop was the interesting and picturesque fortica tower on the very tip of Pag island: just across from Pag bridge.

Fortica - Pag island
Fortica – Pag island

I wrote about it a while back: This time we visited as my friend, who is an architect, is in charge of the current restoration works. He gave us a brief overview of what is being done but also of some curiosities they encountered. The fortress will not be restored in full, of course, but it will be quite  presentable once done. We took some aerial shots and then it was time to move on.

To Veliko Blato ornithological reserve.

Some basic details: where to buy a ticket
Some basic details: where to buy a ticket

Not sure why buying a ticket for something like this but I do expect a service when I pay for something. Not a guide or ranger in sight, cafe, parking… So we just took a walk on our own.

Velebit in the distance
Velebit in the distance

And it is a great place to test my new telephoto lens: Canons 70-200 mm f4 IS USM – all the goodies for taking some great photos of wildlife! We did not get  there in the best time for bird-watching. And it was fairly hot in the sun. But, the place was still quite alive from the moment we got there.

Egret in flight
Egret in flight

We also got to see a very rare black winged stilt (vlastelica in Croatian). There are only 50 pairs nesting in Croatia so it is important no to disturb.

Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) – Siva čaplja

We also saw a lovely flock of Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) or Mala prutka in Croatian. This is quite common bird in our marshes.

Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Overall, a pleasant surprise and quite impressive number of birds. I am planning a separate trip one early morning to get the most of it. It was time to continue and we decided to visit tiny Povljana nearby.

On the road to Povljana. Typical motives of Pag island
On the road to Povljana. Typical motives of Pag island

Povljana is tiny. Actually, it was before the 90s when it got completely overrun by apartment buildings. I skip that part of the visit as it is usually either making me sad or completely angry. Or both. Croatians don’t need enemies. We will ruin our coast better than anyone. What better evidence for that then this:


Are there words to describe what kind of a loser you have to be to build something like this??? What kind of a special idiot you have to be to actually give permit for something like this to be built??  What about the “architect” who planned these atrocities? Is he/she f*** blind??? I will stop here as these low lives don’t deserve any other words…

There is also a church of St Nikola right on the beach. It was built from 9-11th century and later restored in the 15th century. The church is built on the earlier Roman villa rustica.

Sv Nikola - Povljana
Sv Nikola – Povljana

There is a beautiful sandy beach in front of the church!

Sandy beach of Povljana
Sandy beach of Povljana

Then it was time to continue to Pag town – the best example how TO build a town.
Medieval Pag was erected near the salt plantations where the abandoned Old Town used to be. According to historical documents, the name Pag was mentioned for the first time in the 10th century. In 1443 the new town was built according to new principles of town-planning. The plans were developed in Venice which ruled the region at the time. The longitudinal and the transversal streets, intersect at a right angle. Something Croatians have not been able to replicate even in 2015…

Street of Pag
Street of Pag

On the main square, Church of the Assumption of Mary is located. It is quite impressive and it is still the heart and soul of this quite lovely town.

Church of the Assumption of Mary
Church of the Assumption of Mary

Pag town is known for the great tradition of lace making and that has been implemented in the very rosette on the main church.

The lace of Pag
The lace of Pag

The whole town is filled with nice historic details and especially impressive was Skrivanat Tower. The only existing of nine towers that defended the town back in the day. It was built in the 15th century and has been preserved in its original form.

Skrivanat Tower
Skrivanat Tower

Pag town offers quite a few interesting details:

—and few strange travelers 🙂

Holding tight!
Holding tight!

Pag is a great little town! Very charming. Lots to offer to a traveler looking for culture and history but also surrounded by very memorable landscapes fro those interested in outdoors activities. The island is famous for its cheese, salt and lamb but we decided to move back to the mainland to have something special for lunch. In our next post…

Croatia Travel