Lergina Gradina – Secret Dalmatia donation 2017

As our readers know, each year we donate funds to archaeology digs and last year, to a caving action saving bones of ancient bear and deer (https://secretcroatia.blog/2018/01/04/rescuing-the-bones-of-prehistoric-bear-and-deer/)
and our past funding made some serious discoveries few years back: https://secretcroatia.blog/2014/07/11/underwater-archaeology-in-croatia-with-secret-dalmatia/
This discovery is now fully supported by Ministry of Culture and local municipality but we still provide logistics support. It was time to move on and open some new stories.

So, when we asked where next, our friends recommended Lergina gradina near Slivnica: a tiny village just few miles from Posedarje in North Dalmatia.

The fortress defense ring still visible

Why this hilltop and note some other? There are several hundred of hilltop towns in Croatia but this was convenient enough to Archaeology department of Zadar University we work with and it is also known that it has very little or almost no Roman traces on top of Liburnian settlement. A rare find!

Velebit is just across the narrow channel

The gradina or hilltop fort, was a settlement or a refuge during the pre-roman period and some of them date back 4000 years. Most of the interesting ones are much younger and have been built by an ancient Liburinan tribe that lived in this area before Romans. After the Roman conquest, most of them were abandoned as people moved to towns during Pax Romana. Liburninas are still a mystery to us as very little is known about them. Very little written records, limited archaeology materials… so every excavation counts!


The winter was very mild this past year so digging outdoors was simply a lot of fun. But also a lot of serious work. Students had a great practice in the field and abundance of great finds!


Lergina gradina is a nicely preserved fortress of about 3,5 hectares in size and it had one section of really finely done carved rock wall. The wall was abandoned soon after it was started. Probably they all left for the city…

Fine work on stone blocks for the wall
The abandoned fine wall and later rough addition with some thorn branches to keep the sheep inside

The archaeologists excavated two ancient houses – better say remains – and found a plethora of really special finds:

The seal on one of the amphora
Carthage coin

There is a great number of coins from Carthage found on these shores of North Dalmatia and that is still a curiosity. Carthage always had horses on one side of their coins and there is a theory they got here through trade during Hanibal’s Second Punic War campaigns on Italian soil.

In general, lots of great finds and details on artifacts that will help give some answers but also give a lot of new questions!

I got there just in time of the first break and the sheep were calmly eating grass among the students. Perfect harmony in a classical Dalmatian landscape.

So, this year we will repeat our donation for the same location as it seems that the archaeologists have found the chieftain’s home so it would be a pity not to explore it and see what stories newly dug artifacts will be telling us.


Hercules of Brac – in search of ancient quarries

Few weeks back, a friend of mine organized a group to go to Brac Island and learn more on the Roman quarries of Brac. The group was led by an authority on Roman quarries, Dr. Mate Parica who is THE person to go to if interested in ancient quarries. Not only that he has seen the most of the quarries in the region, he also did a lot of research on rock quarrying and ancient techniques. Brač is still the best place for getting quality stone and the tradition is ancient. Only a short ferry ride away, Brac  makes a great place for historic research and what better place to start from but the Museum of Brac at Skrip village.

The Museum of Brac at Skrip
The Museum of Brac in Skrip

We started at the museum as it has a lovely collection of Hercules reliefs – something very closely connected to ancient stone masons and quarry workers.

The thumb of mother of Constantine the Great.. at least a theory
The thumb of mother of Constantine the Great.. at least a theory

The workers  – usually slaves and prisoners of war – working at the quarries had to be tough and strong: just like Hercules. Thus so many representations and altars dedicated to this ancient hero.


Skrip Museum is a lovely place telling the story of the most ancient times on the island. There is also a megalithic construction behind the actual building. Probably an ancient fortress. All those unique layers, make Skrip simply a must see for everyone visiting!

And then we moved on in search of actual quarries and more Hercules statues…

The quarry of Rasohe
The quarry of Rasohe

The quarry of Rasohe was particularly impressive and it was interesting to see that local community made an effort to actually clan everything and put signs to it. This is the place where stone for Diocletian’s Palace was actually taken from. Hundreds of slaves must have worked at this place and quarries were probably the worse places to work at back in those days… I could think of few worse ones (like mines and underground aqueducts) but this was very difficult and demanding work. The Rasohe quarry is quite impressive but Mate told us of a quarry on Vrnik island near Korčula being much bigger and far more impressive than this one! A place to visit!

Mate Parica explaining basic techniques for excavating stone
Mate Parica explaining basic techniques for excavating stone

Mate also explained a lot on how the stone was taken out and transported to the sea and on the vessels to modern day Split. We were also explained the techniques and methods of getting the best stone. Quite fascinating as Roman engineers did not take any chances and were using only the best stone for the most important buildings. But we were not alone! Beautiful  four-lined snake (Kravosas in Croatian) was hiding and waiting for us to go away.

Europe's largest nonvenomous colubrid species
Europe’s largest nonvenomous colubrid species

Before we left, we had to see  Hercules of Rasohe Quarry. The image does not give a proper feeling of the beauty of this great relief and it simply has to be seen in real life to be appreciated. The art work is not the greatest and it is generally considered that this was done by one of the slaves, with basic tools and not too much time. . But the Hercules also suffered from the weather in all this 1700+ years it has been out there…

The Hercules of Rasohe
The Hercules of Rasohe

Our next stop was at beautiful Lovrečina bay. Not just another of many beautiful bays and inlets of Brač Island.

Lovrečina bay
Lovrečina bay

The remains of an early christian church (5. or 6th ct)  in this bay are one of the most interesting in the country for it’s baptistery and nicely preserved wall paintings. Nothing fancy – just a simple color pattern – but still a valuable evidence of original traditions. Brač is also known for numerous ancient churches and chapels scattered all over this beautiful island but we are leaving those for another visit.

Remains of an ancient church
Remains of an ancient church

Brač is a great destination for both culture and nature lovers. It is like a small continent with amazing wealth of all sorts of sites dating back to the first inhabitants of our Adriatic coast and continuing with Romans, medieval settlements, villages hidden deep in the interior hiding from the pirates and danger. It is also a place of great culinary traditions so we stopped at quite popular Kopačina restaurant, before getting back on a ferry, for some traditional food and great local wine.

Kopačina Restaurant
Kopačina Restaurant

Only 50 minutes back. Enough for a nap. The ferries connect Split and Supetar many times a day year round.

Ferry back to Split
Ferry back to Split

Another great visit to this beautiful island…

Travel in Croatia






Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria

I love maritime museums. A year ago I was in Pula and had some time on my own so I decided to visit their maritime museum. Pula was the most important military naval base of Austro-Hungary and that is my favorite part of naval history: late 19th century and WWI. Since 1961,  founded as the Museum of the Revolution on December 31, 1955, Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria is housed in the restored Venetian fortification on the highest peak in Pula.

Museum guarded by canons
Museum guarded by canons

Museum is “guarded” by an impressive collection of canons.

Habsburg coat of arms
Habsburg coat of arms
Over the former drawbridge...
Over the former drawbridge…


Now this is official list of their exhibits:

The Museum has several departments – Department of the history of Pula, Department of medieval Istrian history and the Department of modern Istrian history with adjoining collections (Cultural-historic collection of urban life, Collection of old postcards and photographs, Collection of maritime history and shipbuilding, Collection of economic development, Cultural-historical collection of suburban life, Collection of insignia, diplomas, seals and coats-of-arms, Coin collection, Collection of arms, uniforms and military equipment, Collection of film and video recordings, Collection of memoirs and phonographic recordings, Collection of significant persons and the recently established Collection of old maps. In the rich museum holdings (over 40,000 artifacts), particularly important is the collection of old postcards, maps and the collection of arms, uniforms, military and maritime equipment.

But, the museum collection is not attractively presented and the interiors are quite dated.

Old farmacy- K. u. K. Marinespital Apotheke
Old pharmacy – K. u. K. Marinespital Apotheke

The most impressive is – on permanent display – naval military pharmacy: K. u. K. Marinespital Apotheke. It was established in 1861. in a local hospital but only in 1990. it was transferred to the museum building and in 2005. it was opened to public. The pharmacy and all the artifacts on display are quite impressive!

My favorite part is, as mentioned,  the part that deals with maritime history.

Old figurehead
Old figurehead

The collection consists of numerous objects on display dating from the oldest time of Istria’s maritime history. The home port of the Austro-Hungarian Navy was the Seearsenal (naval base) at Pula where it was moved from Venice. Supplementary bases included  Trieste and Kotor in Montenegro.  Both Trieste and Pula had major shipbuilding facilities. One of the largest dry docks in the Mediterranean of that time was located in Pula as well. The city of Pula was also the site of the central church of the navy “Stella Maris” (k.u.k. Marinekirche “Stella Maris”), of the Austro-Hungarian Naval Observatory and the empire’s naval cemetery or k.u.k. Marinefriedhof).

Times long gone...
Times long gone…

Austrian rule in Croatia was not ideal but after them the Italians came also imposing their customs, language… The interventions to the museum building – which was still a fortress back then – were done by the fascist Italy.
A walk around the walls is quite nice!

Walk on the fortress walls
Walk on the fortress walls

Overall, the museum is well worth visiting if you are interested in history and like a casual walk in a historic setting. Heart of Pula is quite charming although I don’t hear many people saying so and everyone only talks about the arena or the temple.

A watchdog
A watchdog

Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria has a website with more information but the web site is in Croatian and Italian only.

Address: Gradinski uspon 6, 52 100 Pula
Tel: 052/211-566, 052/211-740
Fax: 052/211-566
E-mail: pmi(at)pmi.hr
URL: www.pmi.hr

Winter (1. October– 31. March): 09:00 – 17:00
Summer (1. April– 30. September): 08:00 – 21:00

Entrance ticket is 10 kn (1,5 E) for adults and half that for children.

Croatia travel
Croatia tours