Čavoglave and Spring of Čikola

Many are the places we learned about from the war years of the 90s. Most of them in Slavonija but many in the hinterland of Dalmatia. One of such places was Čavoglave. cavoglave-006

Best known from the iconic song by Marko Perković “Thompson”, Čavoglave has became a symbol of war in Dalmatia and a popular destination for everyone celebrating the liberation of Croatia on August 5th.

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An old, 90s tank on its resting grounds on the entrance to Čavoglave

But, Čavoglave is also a place where one of the prettiest Dalmatian rivers starts its flwo to Krka river. Čikola is a very special river and has a dramatic canyon starting just south of Drniš. The river is 47,8 Km (cc 30 miles) long and is one of the longer Dalmatian rivers. I was always curious what the spring looks like and one of my goals is to drink from every spring of Dalmatian rivers.

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The river spring is not even in Čavoglave but at the very border of a small village of Mirlović Zagora. Of all Dalmatian rivers, I guess only Cetina has an impressive spring and all others are nowhere near as dramatic as the main flow. Krupa, Zrmanja, Čikola, Krčić… Nothing special.

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The spring is just below this house

The spring of Čikola is actually a small cave that is not easy to reach in Spring as there is quite a bit of water but there is a small path to it from the main, asphalted road.

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It is prettier if you actually go to the big house (former mill) at the water and that is easy to reach but you just ask the owners if they are around. The river flows right through the fields all  the way to Drniš and it is a gentle, easy flow through really beautiful pastures and meadows.

But, it is not good for drinking… The river spring is just below the houses where people actually live or rent them out and the septic system is simply (or most likely) connected to the spring. But, no matter what the spring looks like or the quality of water there, Čikola is still very clean and a very impressive river!

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Spring is coming – Zrmanja and Dobarnica rivers

We have been blessed with very warm winter this year with temperatures rarely (or never) dropping bellow 5 Celsius. We also had rain. A LOT of rain. Ans even that seems like an understatement …
In fact, we had so much rain that most of the rivers and springs were at their all time maximum flow at times. It was beautiful to see dry beds of some small rivers and springs actually with water for the first time.

So, what better to do but to visit some of our beautiful rivers in the hinterland? Zrmanja – being one of the prettiest – was our target and our first stop was Berberov buk waterfall. A very popular destination in the summer but not so much out of main season. Except for locals.

“Berberov buk” waterfall

We decided to move further up the street and to return later to enjoy the waterfalls some more.
Next stop – Dobarnica river that is one of the main tributaries of Zrmanja. It is only 3,5 km long and it is often dry but we got right in time to see it in it’s full beauty!

Dobarnica canyon
Dobarnica canyon

Walk to the very spring is not so easy as the slopes are made up of small rocks that can roll down ..and drag you along or, even worse, start a small rock avalanche. With few large rocks as well.

Slopes of the canyon
Slopes of the canyon

The very spring is hidden bellow the steep slopes and it is usually much, much lower (some 4-5 meters). But these days, it is overflowing in all it’s beauty!

The spring of Dobarnica
The spring of Dobarnica

The winter in Dalmatia is not a colorful season and some sights look like having very few colors…

Winter grays
Winter grays

Walking over a small bridge, one can see all the power (and beauty) of this small river.

Dobarnica...for the next few days or weeks.
Dobarnica…for the next few days or weeks.

Since there are some abandoned houses near by, we decided to see what is on the other side of the canyon. These houses look like they have been abandoned in the past war some 20-25 years ago. It is fairly messy around them although this, if restored, can be a perfect little getaway. The houses are still in good shape and the interiors have been cleaned. Someone is obviously visiting…

Still in good shape
Still in good shape

And some remnants of traditional architecture.

Old storage
Old storage

And some long forgotten antiques. This is to Croatians what Campbell soup is to Americans.

Classic...
Classic…Podravka beef goulash

Leaving the village, we went to see another little tributary that woke up this winter. It has no name (at least not marked) as the sights like these are probably quite rare.

Water everywhere
Water everywhere

And then we went back to Berberov buk. It was truly spectacular!

Berberov buk
Berberov buk

It is still a bit chilly after the sunset so we headed home. But not before we enjoyed great views of snow covered Sveto Brdo (Holly Mountain). This second highest peak of Velebit Mountain is quite spectacular at any season.

Through the pine trees
Through the pine trees
Sveto brdo
Sveto brdo

But still watching our step for these massive bauxite pits…

Bauxite pits near Obrovac
Bauxite pits near Obrovac

Just another grand afternoon of adventure, beauty and stress relief Dalmatian way with spring just around the corner!

Almond tree in bloom
Almond tree in bloom

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Vrljika River spring

The forecast was for a gorgeous weekend so our small team of amateur-explorers/historians decided to head to Imotski region to meet with my friend Domagoj and learn more on mysteries of Imotski region and the lakes. The spring is here and staying at home is not an option any longer.

Almonds in bloom
Almonds in bloom

Imotski is always beautiful and even more so when all these almonds are in bloom. We started from Topana fortress and, while the rest of our big group listened to Domagoj, I was enjoying beautiful views of snow cowered peaks of Biokovo in the distance. Blue Lake was not so blue due to water level rising and underground streams bringing dirt after the lake was empty for record long period… But the view was breathtaking.

View from Topana
View from Topana

Our next stop was Red Lake but we just stopped at the panorama point and enjoyed the view without actually taking the tour.

Red Lake of Imotski
Red Lake of Imotski

And then we headed to Proložac donji where we enjoyed picnic in the park. Just a splendid atmosphere, great food and wines!

I also took some time to take photos of nearby Green Cathedral which is a very popular place of worship for Velika Gospa (Assumption Feast) holiday on August 15th. The cathedral is just a set of building sections making it quite unique in Croatia. This small park is also popular with locals as we saw several families and children with their dogs chasing ducks.

The Greeen Cathedral
The Green Cathedral
Quiet Saturday afternoon
Idyllic Saturday afternoon

After our lunch, we went to find the actual spring of Vrljika. The spring is called Two Eyes as it it is made up of springs next to each other. This is one of 5 springs of Vrljika that, in all 70 Km of it’s flow, often goes underground and appearing 5 times under different names. Just another miracle of karst! And that’s not it.

River Vrljika at it's start
River Vrljika at it's start

The most interesting part is that Two Eyes are very different. Upper lake, further away from the stream, is cooler and the one from which the actual river starts is warmer and never freezes! Two eyes are connected by a narrow stream and it appears that they will merge soon making it one spring. But, since the waters are coming from two different sources, it is going to be a funny mix!

Two Eyes
Two Eyes

Imotski region continues with exhibiting it’s dualistic side: Blue and Red lake, warm and cool spring of the same river… Even the church of St. Michael in the nearby Proložac talks about ancient traditions of  “good and evil” and continuing fight. Also, the lakes are very calming and felt like meditating. Those who know me know that staying still for too long is quite unlikely for me so.. there must be something here!
Although I decided a while back to taste waters from all the springs of Dalmatian rivers, the farming lands just next to these two springs made me think twice as you never know what goes into land these days (and straight to the streams). So I passed.

View of Proložac blato
View of Proložac blato

And then we headed north for view of more lakes! The panorama over Galipovac lake is stunning. Unfortunatelly, the long drought left the lake of Proložac pretty dry so just a small patch was visible. The wooded hill becomes an island in “normal” winters and it was known as a place of refuge for monks during the Turkish rule of the region. Several other lakes and deep dry pits can be seen from this place.

Galipovac lake
Galipovac lake

Few of us decided to go down to get a better view of Galipovac. The slopes are very steep so it is best to stop at one point and just enjoy the view. It seems quite impossible to go all the way to the lake without serious climbing equipment and we did not want to end such a great trip with a 112 call…

Imotski region proves again to be a spectacular destination and it is sad that lot of guests who come to Split don’t even know that such a spectacular region is only an hour away. We will start introducing few more day trips for our clients when traveling to Croatia with us.