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.

Advertisements

Hilltop Fortress of Orlić and true abandoned Croatia

Every year, before the holidays, my last post is on one of the forgotten and, for most people, completely lost hilltop fortresses. Not only that winter is the best period for exploring but it is also a time when most of us think of our past year, accomplishments, failures, desires and wishes. It feels natural to visit places where people no longer live. Places that sit abandoned for millenia.

One of those places is Orlić hilltop fortress (or Gradina how it is called locally). These sites are generally atributed to local Liburnian or, commonly known, Illyrian tribes that inhabited these regions before the Roman arrival but also mixed with all later settlers.

orlic001

Gradina Orlić is located just off the old road from Krupa village to Ervenik. Strange thing is that it was not mentioned in any of the numerous books and scripts I had a chance to read. That was a reason more to go to the actual place and see what it is all about.

orlic006

The road is mostly in a good shape until one reaches the path that goes to the foothill of the Orlić Hill. That path is for serious off-road vehicles and for those who don’t mind their cars getting scratched as it is a demanding and slow rocky goat path…

The landscape is rugged but fascinating. The very edge of Dalmatia offers a mixture rocky hillside and desert looking plane filled with small patches of woods and interesting stone walls so characteristic for the region.

orlic002

orlic005

One can see the remains of a large family estate in the foothill called Macure.

The unusual stone walls usually just mark the fertile lands so the plants would not get eaten by goats. Now these shapes are just filled by oak trees and bushes… The hinterland of Zadar and Šibenik, as well as Split, are filled with these unusual shapes even reminding of ancient symbols or some mysterious civilization. With the way our progress and migration to the cities these will become mysterious and unknown “signs” quite soon.

The hilltop fortress is in a lovely position overlooking this impressive valley and having all control of the hillside in the back – towards modern day Knin.

orlic001
Orlić fortress on satelite image

orlic004

The climb is not difficult but it is somewhat demanding due to really rocky terrain. One can easily break a foot or leg in this landscape!

orlic-13

The winter colors are mostly yellow and brown mixed with gray. It is a dramatic change from the lush greens of our spring and summer…

orlic-8

orlic-4

orlic-5
The fallen oak

There is nothing much to see once on the top. The fortress – probably just a refuge, not even a settlement – is now just a pile of rocks.

orlic-12
Both stone walls seen from below

But the place is perfect for listening to the winds of Velebit and enjoying great views. The place is perfect to enjoy solitude.

orlic-10
Great view of hilltop fortress of Trebačnik in the distance
orlic-9
Velebit in the distance

I try never to go back the same way so I continued towards Ervenik. Traces of past war visible at every step…

orlic-20orlic-19orlic-18orlic-16orlic-15

True abandoned Croatia.

This part of the country will probably never be inhabited again. Just like former settlers abandoned Orlić fortress, past villagers left their stone villages after centuries living there just to look for better life somewhere else.

orlic

I usually have at least one more person coming along as it is better to travel in these remote areas with someone who can call for help in case of a need. This time, no one was able to join me so I decided to go on my own. Sometimes, the urge is hard to resist.

orlic-3

orlic-2

One of my goals is to travel every old road in the region. The journey continues!

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.

30104879903_9e2c5fc882_k
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!

30108123804_ab4233cb37_k
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.

30740311505_98a37e9c10_k
Following the road to Ručice
30652165211_359e175f02_k
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!

30703464756_3eaa036b32_k
The valley near the beach
30703489456_2b53f1b992_k
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”.

30439818690_44f2771f17_k

30439871200_c798dffee6_k.jpg

30104923723_231bc30789_k

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.

30439883900_f2b387416a_k

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

30703570246_fb615fd667_k

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.

30108216704_dc2e17d669_h

And then the view opens…

30703510126_cd3f0912d5_k

30703574056_c6cbf00086_k

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.

30108137144_b020e2e99e_k

30108194164_6d9d0fbcc2_k

30652232631_9acdd0db69_k

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.

30740310005_db1b446695_k

30703450316_46c062e186_k

30703619786_29fec6358e_k

30740381445_426c4eeb34_k

And the texture of the rocks looks almost artificial!

30104949463_a8d9838289_k

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 .

30652222711_f57f8e412f_k

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)

30108146514_621751755b_k

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

30108107444_6d5ac24284_k