Two kilometers south-east of Rogoznica, near the village of Ražanj, Cape Planka (or Punta Planke as locally known) is located. This very unique spot is also known to be a a geographical and climate divider of the north and south Adriatic. It is a place of strong collision of north and south winds and sea currents.
Some of the biggest waves of the Adriatic crash there and it is really a great experience to see all those waves crash over the tiny warning sea light and spraying the salty sea dust over the chapel located there.
It was jugo (wind blowing from the South – ESE to SSE) in the forecast just around New Years when I headed from Split to visit and take some photos. One should just drive to Ražanj and head in the direction of this point to find a trail that will eventually end next to the chapel.
The Chapel of St. John is a protected site of national heritage. This is a very basic little chapel with no decorations mixing pre-Romanesque tradition with Romanesque and Gothic features. It is oriented East-West and is rectangular in shape with a semicircular apse. The interior is also very basic and is typical to our coast. It also served as a good shelter while I was there shooting 🙂
One of the miracles attributed to the Christian saint John, the bishop of Trogir from the 11th century is related to Cape Planka. According to a local legend, after the shipwreck by Cape Planka he walked on the waves and saved the lives of King Koloman and all the sailors. In memory of him and his miracles, a votive chapel was built back in 1324.
In the distance, beautiful lighthouse Mulo can be seen enduring massive waves.
It was built in 1873 and it was continuously inhabited till most recent days when it was completely automatized. Generations of lighthouse keepers and their families lived at this very unique spot. Today, there is no one to listen to massive waves slamming against the walls…
Cape Planka is also called Diomede’s Cape as it was first mentioned in the oldest preserved descriptions of the eastern Adriatic coast. Homer, in his work ‘Iliad’ reveals that after the Trojan war Diomedes himself, who was one of the greatest Greek heroes of the Trojan war, sailed around it. A Greek historian Timaeus, as early as in 4th century BC described the unusual weather circumstances that surround this cape. This specific description of weather conditions over the Diomede’s Cape belongs to the oldest descriptions of a meteorology phenomena in all of Europe.
Diomede’s Cape was also mentioned by Greek scholar Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC as well as Pliny the Elder in his ‘Naturalis Historia’, which was envisioned as a book about the whole natural world.
Interesting history and a beautiful spot, Punta Planke is definitely worth visiting!
Dalmatian landscape is made up of mostly limestone. Karst, as it is a scientific name for it, is by a definition a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.
So there are A LOT of caves in Croatia! Many known for millenia and explored but still hundreds all over the country that have not been discovered.
We had a great opportunity last month to visit two very special caves in Dalmatian hinterland. One, Velika Ćulumova pećina, is near Kijevo and Vrlika and is well known for its massive bat colony.
This cave is easy to visit – with permits! – as it does not have drops and serious differences in heights. The initial descent is some 7 meters difference from the entrance and then it is fairly flat all 360 meters of its length. But it is also very decorated and considered to be one of the most beautiful caves in this part of the country.
The colony of bats inside is several thousand strong and the sound of them squeaking above your head may not be the most pleasant sound you ever heard. We tried not to disturb them and I even turned off my strong helmet light. I have a custom helmet light that makes all of modern helmet lights shamefully weak so I turned it off in the big hall with bats. Bats are not blind, contrary to general opinion. We also kept as quiet as possible.
All over the cave, mud like leyer of bat dung is found. The guano does not smell nice and there is a LOT of it! Some places even knee deep so we all had boots on. It is that black matter on the ground.
We continued exploring and finally reached the last hall. Evidence of human devastation is very present as many of the ornaments have been broken and taken away… There are even graffiti from 1930s in the last hall. Sad.
I do think the entrance should be closed by some sort of iron gates like on other protected caves in order to preserve the cave and its bats. Not everyone is responsible and loves nature…
Next stop was a very special treat!
There are caves and pits that have been used as places of worship, shelters and even storage facilities but very few as wells. One of them – and it is simply a marvel of traditional architecture – is cave near Kistanje in Bukovica region of Dalmatia.
One can reach it by taking a main trail though the fields near the village of Bezbradice.
This traditional dirt road is work of perfection with all these flat rocks making up a massive wall leading to the actual well and deeper in the fields.
It was about 34 Celsius (93 F) and there was no place to hide from the hot sun. But then we reached the well. It is basically a combination of a man made structure and a cave that, long time ago, someone thought to be an excellent source of fresh water for most of the year.
In order to get to the water, locals build a structure with several steps all the way down to the actual well. The water can get awfully high as seen from the marks it left on much higher level of the well.
The water is so still that I thought there was nothing there till we threw a small rock. We did not have any vessel to get water from below as it was quite lower than the last step but I will return.
According to local legends, the water from this cave is part of a large, underground river Marica. This water has healing powers and healed fertility issues with one local girl long time ago. Just legends or…? In any case, this is one of most wonderful spots I have seen in a while! It looks almost as entrance to the underworld. Maybe it is…
Wonderful world of Dalmatian karst does not stop to surprise!
It is always a pleasure to go across the border to Hercegovina- a region full of amazing places and sites. Especially when friends organize it and we have Mr. Ante Vujnović as a guide. Ante is a director of Radimlja archaeological park near Stolac and the best person to show us around. He is very dedicated to preserving historical heritage of the region. Hercegovina, although being part of Bosnia and Hercegovina, culturally and historically cannot be separated from Dalmatia despite the borders set by Austrians in the 19th century.
Stolac, due to its troubled past – both recent and distant – offers a variety of unique sites to explore and visit. From the very unique necropolis of Radimlja to the fascinating walls of Daorson and the Stolac fortress.
Our first stop and the meeting point is usually Radimlja necropolis. Numerous pages have been written on the stečci monuments and this particular site and you can read more on Radimlja and other historic sites of Stolac region on the official UNESCO web site: http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5282/UNESCO
This past year, stećak monuments have been listed with UNESCO as the World Heritage and that includes all the monuments in the region of Balkans – over 70 000 known monuments!
Bosnia and Hercegovina today holds the most of these unique monuments with Radimlja and Boljuni near Stolac being the most decorated ones.
The necropolis did not change much although the Austrian built road going to Stolac split Radimlja in two parts and destroying about 15 – 20 monuments. The landscape has changed significantly and, today, there are several modern buildings and warehouses a bit too close to the necropolis…
The monuments have been cleaned some years ago loosing that historic patina seen on old photos. Of course, it will form again with time.
Monuments have various decorations but Radimlja has the greatest number of human figures. Hunting, dancing, fighting… life as it was back in the days when they were carved. Most of the monuments have been carved between 1200s and early 1500s when the Turkish conquest completely changed the life in this part of the world. There is a controversy as some people consider these monuments to be much older but there is no evidence for that and, especially the ones at Radimlja, have been well documented and connected to the local, medieval noble family.
The next stop for our small group was the mysterious Daorson. Actually, quite a bit is known of this place but there is a lot to be discovered as only limited archaeology research was done in a single campaign almost 50 years ago.
This impressive hill fort was built on a prehistoric fortified settlement which was dated to the early 17/16th century BC and existed to the end of the late Bronze Age: 9/8th century BC. The final destruction of Daorson is dated to mid or second half of the 1st century AD and we know this from the details of the Roman wars against the Delmati tribe that lived here at that time.
Today, Daorson is still very impressive with its unique megalithic walls surrounding what is believed to be the religious center/refuge.
Besides Ante as a local authority, we had some proper archaeologists with us so we learned a LOT! And learned a lot about the hard-to-see defense structures in front of these massive walls, numerous graves and bases of ancient houses…
Basically, this is what the plan of Daorson looks like:
Daorson was built from the rocks from the nearby quarry and we took a short walk north to see what it looks like today.
I also found a small piece of pottery just lying on the side looking completely unimportant:
But, with us, we had Mr. Miro Katić (of Trogir conservation department) who has a PhD on Hellenistic pottery and immediately attributed this small piece to Pharos colony – a Greek colony from Hvar Island that existed at the same time as Daorson and, obviously, had a strong connections with this area. Connections were numerous and Daorson was a very prosperous community at its heyday.
Next stop: Boljuni
The necropolis in Boljuni numbers 274 stećak tombstones, 92 of which are decorated and 9 of which have epitaphs, making it one of the most interesting necropolis in the area.
This group of monuments is quite well preserved and with several unique decorations. One of the monuments even depicts some strange monsters/dragons:
But most have simpler decorations and ornaments.
Boljuni is a very fascinating place well worth visiting when in the area!
And then it was time to finally visit Stolac. This very historic town is known for the impressive fortress on the hill over Bregava river shown below on numerous historic images.
Fortress is a bit of a climb but well worth it as the views are stunning and the fortress itself is impressive example of medieval fortifications in this part of the country. The earliest reference to Vidoški fort – as it is called – is in a charter dated 1444, followed by a series of charters up to 1454, as the possession of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. Stolac became part of the Ottoman sultanate following the Ottoman conquest in 1465. And that changed everything as the introduction of a new religion divided people and that division continues till modern days…
Inside the fortress, there is still quite a bot of work but, generally, it is in good shape and the effort to preserve is quite visible. This is also a location where Stolačka Tarča is taking place – a medieval fair with emphasis on education and traditions of the region. This event takes place in May.
Best description of Stolac today would be: “a sleepy town by Bregava”. It looks very lovely from the Vidoški grad fortress:
But the walk through the town reveals all the tragedy of the recent war in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Many houses have not been restored and many more, due to emigration from the area, are collapsing. Today, the peace is just on the surface as both Croats and Bosniaks are trying to patch the wounds from the war of the 90s. The scars are still quite deep. Visiting the Podgradska mosque, we were approached by an elderly Bosniak telling us few things about the mosque and the local Muslim traditions.
Stolac is a lovely place. Layers upon layers of fascinating history and stunning nature. It should definitely be included when visiting the region as it offers quite a bit for travelers looking for unique and off the beaten path experiences. No matter if it is just a stop en route to inner Bosnia or even en route to Dubrovnik, this is a great stop.
And we will return. Many more historic places to see and explore deep in beautiful Hercegovina!