Pyramid of Dalmatia – the mystery continues?

It has been a while since I last reported on the pyramid “mystery”: https://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/dalmatian-pyramid/ in the meantime, I was contacted by several very interesting people who were trying to locate it and challenge the location I established.
One of them  – Mr. Galic from Mostar – had a very interesting story and most likely the right location of the “pyramid” from the old map.

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Basically, he did a proper research on the toponyms mentioned on the old map and concluded that the “pyramid” cannot be where I put it (the hill of Zvonik) and is further south. He made correct assumptions and found a place that actually has a hilltop ruin named kulina. Yes, that is very close to Colina mentioned on the map! The place is located in Nisko, a tiny hamlet on the southern slope of Moseć mountain. The area suffered greatly during the Turkish wars and occupation and was brought back to life when the Franciscan monks brought new inhabitants from Bosnia back in 1720. so it is likely that those inhabitants had no clue of the region they were brought into and that the fortress was already a ruin.

Today, Nisko is nothing more than a sleepy hamlet…

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Nisko village and Kulina hill above it.
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Very few people live in Nisko…

One winter day, when vegetation wass low and one could actually see most of the structures, I drove to Nisko. The access to the hill is easy but there is not much to see. The hill is full of stone dry walls that don’t make much sense. And, it seems, someone from the village still plants some vegetables (potatoes?) in the only part of the hill that looks fertile.

It is very hard to make any educated guesses so I just took a lot of photos of structures and also studied a lot the aerial photos.

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The structure does not say much nor it indicates that it could be of a pyramidal shape. Mate Matas – one of the explorers of the gradina hilltop fortresses in this area – wrote that this could even be a possible seat of old-Croatian county Zmina. Here is the full text (in Croatian):

Oko 1 km južnije od spomenute Gradine odnosno oko 500 m sjevernije od zaseoka Galići nalazi se Kulina koju prema položaju i nekim drugim obilježjima treba ubrojiti u ilirska gradinska naselju. Naziv Kulina (stara ruševna kula), specifični ostatci (temelji građeni s vezivom) i predaje (u njih treba ubrojiti i usmene izjave stručnjaka arheologa i povjesničara), upućuju na zaključak kako se navedeno gradinsko naselje najduže koristilo. Dužina između temelja bedema Kuline u smjeru I-Z iznosi oko 70 m, a u smjeru sjever jug približno 50 m, što znači da se ona ističe primjernom površinom.
Kulina se ističe i impozantnim širinama i visinom nekadašnjeg bedema. Prema zapadu i sjeverozapadu odakle je i najbolji pristup prema utvrdi širina bedema iznosi oko 12 m, a njihova visine oko 4 m. Prema jugu i strmijem prostoru širina i visina bedema se postupno smanjivala. Prema količini materijala moglo bi se zaključiti da se bedemi prema jugu te istoku i sjeveru bili najniži i najtanji, što se donekle može objašnjavati i strmijim padinama odnosno lakšoj obrani utvrde s tih strana. Međutim, na južnoj i istočnoj strani naziru se tragovi temelja građenih s vezivom. Jesu li u pitanju temelji utvrde ili posebnih stambenih objekata građenih u novijem razdoblju teško je odgovoriti bez detaljnih arheoloških istraživanja lokaliteta.
Takvim bi se istraživanjima pronašao i odgovor na 
pitanje što predstavljaju pravilni kvadratični temelji također građeni s vezivom, a koji se nalaze uz zapadnu stranu već spomenutih dužih temelja građenih s vezivom (možda su u pitanju ostaci spremnika za vodu, zemunica, stambenih prostora i sl.). U zanimljivosti ili posebnosti Kuline treba ubrojiti i jasno izražen unutarnji prostor s naglašeno ravnom podlogom, ograđen suhozidinama. Dužina tog prostora u smjeru I-Z je 12 m, a u smjeru S-J iznosi 10 m. Na tom unutrašnjem prostoru još su vidljivi i veliki kameni blokovi koji su očiti predstavljali okvir vrata okrenutih prema jugu gradine. Postoje i pretpostavke kako je spomenuta gradina mogla biti i sjedište starohrvatske župe Zmina. Tome idu u prilog i pronađeni ostaci starohrvatske bazilike u polju ispod Kuline u blizini crkve sv. Ivana. Dio pronađenih ostataka pohranjen u samostanskoj zbirci u Sinju. Ispred sadašnje crkve sv. Ivana je stećak s ukrasom koji je nekada služio i kao oltar…

Today, nothing more of some indications of walls can be seen.

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Parts of the structure that can be followed in a in a semi-circular shape around the hill
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The fertile field of Nisko

Basically, the mystery stays. No one can prove that this was truly a pyramid but the theory that this was an important stronghold is based on facts.

There was another interesting discovery by Mr. Galic – he connected the Nisko “pyramid” to the ruins of Asseria and Varvaria… Those two important archaeology sites were connected by “lay lines” in another blog post I wrote 3 years ago: https://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/ley-lines-in-croatia-secret-dalmatia/

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From Nisko to Nin

The blog is just the discussion on whether all these important “temples” (structures) were found on a single line just by coincidence or it was done on purpose. I still believe it is pure coincidence but…

So, here are the exact locations of the line going through previously established locations of Visovac, Bribirska Glavica, Asseria and Nin (Temple of Jupiter – the largest Roman Temple on the Adriatic coast we know of)

The line continues north to Brijuni as described in that blog on the Lay line.

Now, calling it a Lay line may be completely wrong as this may be something very different. It is also VERY strange that all these important historic places are on the same line but let’s still say it is a pure coincidence due to the orientation of our coastline.

There is another curiosity connected to this “pyramid of Nisko”: Nisko – in Croatian – means “low”. The alleged “Bosnian pyramid” is in Visoko. Which translates “high”…

Another interesting coincidence! Or not?

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Fortress of Sonkovic

Winter is always the best time to explore. The weather, when sunny, is ideal for hikes and walks.

And there is always something cool and new to see.
Recently I found out about a fortress in Sonković village near Skradin. It is only a short drive away and just about 10 minutes off the highway. The fortress looked interesting in Google Earth but checking it for real is what it is all about.

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Sonkovic Fortress from air

The fortress is located on a sharp rock overlooking a stream that never goes dry. This stream was one of the reasons why this area was settled long ago in the antiquity. The area was inhabited long ago but the very village of Sonkovic originates probably from the Middle ages when the fortress was also built. Sonkovic was the last name of the noble Croatian family Sonković who owned these lands and, eventually, gave the name to the village.

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Olive trees

Sonković is now typical village of Northern Dalmatia located on the foothills overlooking the fertile land. I am still upset when I see people building houses right in the fertile fields as that was never our custom. There are numerous olive groves along the roads and, while most trees are old, there are quite a few younger groves. The life continues… Despite the occupation in the Homeland war. Sonković was liberated again only in 1995.

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Overlooking the fields

Not too many people returned now so the census of 2004 notes less than 300 inhabitants (both Croats and Serbs). The most common last names of this part of Skradin hinterland are: Matić,  Palinić (Čulin), Kartelo, Roško, Lovrić, Sladić, Guberina, Babić, Jurić, Keran, Vranić  and Vuković.

We entered Guberine hamlet looking for the fortress.

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Guberine

Only barking of few dogs were heard…

And soon we reached the fortress.

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Sonković Fortress

It is a typical medieval fortress of the region: round tower with construction of the larger building surrounding. Till today, just half of the tower still stands and some remains of the main buildings are visible.

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Part of the wall

The tower was probably in service well into the times of Turkish occupation (started in 1528) and abandoned after the region was liberated in the late 1600s.

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The tower

The location was perfect for defense and the fortress is even now a bit hard to reach let alone in the time of guards, crossbows and swords. The rocks are sharp and some parts are inaccessible but, in general, it can be reached and seen easily. The stones from the main building were probably “recycled” by the locals when the fortress was abandoned but what is left of the tower gives an insight in the structure.

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Interior of the tower

The stream below is especially active in the winter months while, in the summer, the spring always gives fresh water but not enough to keep the stream alive all the way to Guduča river nearby.

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Sonković stream

The canyon where the stream flows is quite pretty and we wanted to explore some more but then we saw the mine field danger signs… And we did not go any further. We also could not see any locals to give us more details as some of these signs are put at generous distances from real threat. We did not want to risk anything so we returned to the car.

It is a pity that such a gorgeous location is out of reach but I hope the region will be truly liberated soon.

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In the sunset…

The winter night was falling quickly and the air got cooler. We did a bit of off roading through vineyards and fields and left the tower and the village to dream of some better and more lively times…

Exploring Pašman and Ugljan Islands

Often not considered by travelers, both Pašman and Ugljan are actually one of the best kept secrets of Dalmatia. The islands used to be one big island back in the distant past but, with the rise of sea level, they got separated in, where is today, Ždrelac village. The canal to enable safe sailing between the islands was dug out in 1883. and  bridge was erected in 1979. The bridge was reconstructed in 20010 due to heavy traffic from nearby marinas to Kornati Islands National Park.

The forecast was great and sunny for January Sunday so we hopped in our Hilux and headed to Biograd ferry harbor for a short, 20 minute crossing to town of Tkon on Pašman island.

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The view of Čokovac monastery and the Pašman channel

The idea was to drive the coastal route all the way to the end of Ugljan, Muline village, find a place for grill and lunch before heading back the scenic but offroad route of the “other” coast of Pašman island starting from Ždrelac.

Of course, there were stops along the route and the first one was Čokovac monastery overlooking the most beautiful channel of Dalmatian coast – Pašman channel with its 12 islands and rocks. Snow-capped Velebit mountain was shining in the distance.

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The walls of Čokovac

The history of Čokovac Benedictine Monastery is quite a turbulent one. Back in 1125. Biograd was completely destroyed by the Venetians. They also destroyed, once famous, Benedictine monastery of St. John the Evangelist in very Biograd after which the monks first took shelter in Šibenik, and later came back to the island of Pašman. The Chapel of St. Cosmas and Damian was already on the hill of Čokovac, so the monks built a Romanic church and a fortified monastery. The Venetians destroyed it in 1345 and imprisoned the monks. The mosnatery was reconstructed only in 1418. For its exceptional contribution (which is a bit vague), the monastery gained some sort of autonomy confirmed by several popes. It is believed that the monks accepted the invitation of the Czech King Charles IV to preach Glagolitic and Slavic language. Also, there are assumptions that the monastery was in possesion of the first form of Glagolitic scripts in liturgical texts, as numerous old Glagolitic scripts from the 13th century have been preserved. Today, the monastery church holdsa large Gothic style crucifix dating back to the 15th century attributed to a Venetian painter Menegelo. Besides the crucifix, the monastery also holds a precious portrait of the Virgin Mary. These are the only exhibits of this sort conserved after the French government closed the monastery in 1808. Over 150 years later, during socialist Yugoslavia, the Monastery was reopened in 1961. This is the only active Benedictine monastery in Croatia and definitely an important part of our heritage well worth preserving and visiting.

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The monastery church

The monastery  is available to visitors from June 1st to October 31st between 4.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. or by appointment.

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The walls of Čokovac

This is the only active Benedictine monastery in Croatia and definitely an important part of our heritage well worth preserving and visiting.

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The view of the mainland through the cypress trees

And then it was time to continue. Next stop: coffee at Deloro in Pašman tow. It is just sad to see all the newly built apartment buildings all over the island. The island has been loosing population rapidly (as most of our islands have) and the islanders have always been supporting the idea of construction of a bridge to the mainland.

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The view of the mainland over Pašman

We passed all the small villages en route without really going into the historic centers: Kraj, Pašman, Barotul, Neviđane, Banj, Dobropoljana… all tiny villages by the sea. Crossing the bridge we were on Ugljan and what is the visit to Ugljan without stopping at Kali! Kali is a primarily fishermen town and the town with the largest fleet on our coast. For years,they were fishing in the Pacific ocean. Little is known even today that Croats invented pretty much everything worth inventing in fishing in World  20th century: from the power block (Puretich) that was found on EVERY fishing boat in the World to factory boats and even tuna farming.

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Winter morning in Kali

Ante Dundov Kongo from Kali was one of the most important fishermen of the 20th century and he was primarily bringing men from Kali to fish tuna in the Pacific. The story goes that he was once talking to a Japanese fisherman from Osaka who was wondering how many people are in his town and Kongo said 700. The Japanese fisherman could not believe saying that almost every boat in the Pacific he meets was operated by the folks from Kali!

But those days are now gone and Kali is more of a sleepy village remembering its glorious past.

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There is also a story that Kongo’s old mother said to  him that he was taking all the men away and there will be no one to bury her. He was deeply moved by her words and started bringing locals on three month contracts only so they could return and invest money back home.

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We passed other tiny villages like Sutomišćica where I have to go back to eat at their well known Olive Bay restaurant. The next stop was the sleepy village of Muline at the very Northern tip of Ugljan.

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The Adriatic does not get more clear than this!

The village is very sleepy and almost no one on the streets and in the harbor. Just nets drying…

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We also saw sea quite a few sea urchins. All female! All decorated for ball!

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We took the side, dirt road to reach the asylum on the western shore of Ugljan but it was not possible to get there even with our Hilux. So we got back on the main road and drove to the asylum. Just to the left is a narrow dirt road that leads to a very lovely beach.

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The beach is actually very busy in peak season and a place to avoid but, out of July and August, it is quite nice and, in the winter months, simply perfect!

There is a narrow trail leading through the bushes to another beach (even more secluded) and it goes through the abandoned asylum cemetery.

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The asylum cemetary
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Most people have been buried here before the 1970…

The second beach is also cute and with a small island connected by a narrow strip. The island is full of seagulls. And the water is very clear with few rare inhabitants like this noble pen shell.

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Lunch was quick and it was time for a short rest and a second part of the day: an offroad ride along the Pašman’s western coast. It is, basically, a dirt road carved through the bushes to enable firefighters to deal with potential fires that are common here.

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However,  many used the opportunity to build small “Robinson style” huts on these virgin shores. Mostly illegal and mostly ugly. There are few really charming and special but most are just simple devastation. There is nothing “Robinson” about them now as there are dozens of them in each cove…

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The views are just stunning. On both sides of t Pašman!

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Kornati in the distance
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Looking back at the bridge of Ždrelac

And we reached the highest point, Veliki Bokolj with little effort (not for regular cars!)

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Photo-shoot at the top

The view point has been built by the donation of the Norwegian government.

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The view of Mrljane and Barotul with Vransko jezero lake in the distance

The entire route we crossed is about 20 km long and it was one of the prettiest off road routes on the coast with plenty of great spots to see and a possibility to go all the way to the sea for swimming in the warmer months.

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Straža view point.

The roads near Tkon go to several directions but we decided to go back on a 4:20 PM ferry so this will be explored next time. With only 3100 inhabitants and over 60 km2 surface area, Pašman is one of the larger and least inhabited of Croatian islands. Combined with Ugljan, it makes one very special part of the Adriatic that deserves more attention and better future.