Culture in Croatia

Zadar Glass layout

Once they let you in its all quite interesting…………

Pula Croatia let us in.JPG
But first we have to clear customs, health, police check and pay lots of kuna. Only the ‘captain’ was allowed to go to the harbourmasters’ office, the crew had to remain with the boat. To be fair this wasn’t nearly such a protracted process as last year in Dubrovnik.
I am experiencing a definable and curious clash of ancient and modern.

Pula Amphitheatre.JPG
If you look carefully you can see Selkie Dancer through the columns of the majestic 1st Century amphitheatre in Pula.  I swear I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my insides dissolve as I walked the route a gladiator might walk from the depths up into the sunlight of the massive arena to the roar of the 22,000 strong crowd baying for blood. Fast forward 2,000 years and I am taken by surprise by the spectacle of the Lighting Giants. The huge cranes in the shipyard silent and grey by day patiently wait for the night, biding their time, until dusk falls when they put on their party garb and display themselves in brash luminous pinks, purples, greens and reds. It is quite a sight. One minute they are circus horses, the next sea creatures; sometimes monochrome and at others a rainbow of colours.

Cranes by Day

Cranes by Night.jpg

Rab town although undeniably pretty, felt sterile, a little like a film set.

Rab Jinti Backdrop.JPG
Rab panorama.JPG
However from here we went on a boat trip. The dramatic Velebit mountain range is also the cause of some extremely violent winds that come with a reputation. We wanted to see this canal without the risk.  It was a very enjoyable day out.

Rab Gorge.JPG

They took us to a dramatic inlet where we looked down into  clear water upon a wreck bombed by the Allies in WW2 – a bit of a theme here! Also we were told that this location was used in some scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean and another film about a Native American Indian called Winetou.  I will have to watch these now.
Goli & Grgur.JPG
We went on to the islands of Goli and Grgur where problematic, i.e. the ‘wrong’ sort of communists or critics of Tito, were sent. The men to the former, the women to the latter and although the distance from the mainland or other islands is not great, the currents are such and security tight that few escaped and if they did probably perished in the attempt. These were sad places left to decay where nature and tourists were taking over in equal measure.
Osor sunset and canal.jpg
Osor is at the narrowest point between the islands of Cres and Losinj. In fact it would still be one island if it hadn’t been for the Liburnians, an Illyrian tribe, who it is believed dug the canal here something like 3000 years ago. It is a tiny place edged by woodland where tents and camper vans cluster in the shade of the trees. Pretty and quiet, ancient remains, the old walls still bearing the Venetian lion, a campanile and even a cathedral. Now it hosts a summer music festival. In the café people were speaking both Italian and Croatian; the graves in the churchyard were full of Giovannis and Giulias. Of course this part of Croatia has been Italian twice in the last millennium whether Venetian or modern Italian. I found that in this part of Croatia Italian was the language I could be most understood in. We waited until the morning when the bridge was hand cranked open and we were allowed through.
Susak, a very small offshore island is a dusty graffitied place where overnight, when the wind got up, we lost the mooring buoy we were attached to – good job we had secured our rope to the ‘riser’ rather than the buoy itself! As we had paid for the privilege of being, so we thought secure for the night, we thought it might be droll to hold it as ransom and sell it back to the guy after we had retrieved it from the rocks. We couldn’t find him but met a very friendly harbour master who encouraged us to come into the harbour next time. We enjoyed a good circular walk up to the high village and on around the ridge to the lighthouse and back, it rained, we steamed and dried.
Mali Losinj museum leaflet.JPG
In Mali Losinj is THE most amazing museum I think I’ve ever been in. Creative and clever, oh so clever; setting the scene, leading you in, drawing you literally upwards, making you wait, anticipation building until you get a glimpse………………………through a porthole

Mali Losinj Apoxyomenos first view
Further up we go and stop in front of a closed door. The ‘guard’ says ‘I can let you have five minutes’ …… the door is opened and we step into a dazzlingly white space and there stands the Apoxyomenos magnificent in his nudity.
Mali Losinj Apoxyomenos
I found the whole story incredibly moving as if he had been a real person. Apoxyomenos is the name given to a statue depicting an athlete in the act of cleaning his strigil. A strigil is a scraper that is used after exercise to scrape off the oil and dust that clings to the body. The matter collected from successful athletes could then be bottled and sold! I suppose to bring health and success to the purchaser. This statue wasn’t the ‘original’; he was a copy, early mass production! Possibly on his way to a rich Roman senators’ villa, when, the supposition is, the anchor of the ship he was being transported in broke and he toppled over to be held firmly between two rocks before being pulled from the deep with 2,000 years of growth on him. The story of his painstaking restoration and the incidental discoveries along the way, such as a small field mouse’s nest in his arm revealing the diet and habitat of the little rodent, were all totally absorbing.

I’m very glad we visited Zadar. A nice marina – these are always judged by me by the toilet and shower facilities Andy goes for a good chandlery and yes, there was one! On the first evening we crossed the river in the equivalent of a gondola. The ferryman, keeps fit, catches fish and earns a tidy kuna. We walked on the sea front to experience the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun. Sadly we totally missed the point of the latter not having done our homework properly but I loved the sea organ where the holes, tubes and hollow places are open to the rush of air caused by the movement of the waves and constantly emit the strangest eerie fluting tones. We climbed the 180 steps to the top of the campanile and then into the cool of the cavernous interior of St Donatus’ Church (largest Byzantine building in Croatia). Coincidentally inside there was a contemporary take on the Apoxyomenos statue, I far preferred the ancient.
The Archaeological museum was yet another example of displays with flair and imagination. In the Museum of Gold and Silver we were tailed by silent watchful nuns; a bizarre collection of church paraphernalia where macabre reliquaries in the shape of shoulder blades and other bits of saints are encased in intricately worked precious metals, studded with jewels and avidly guarded by the aforementioned ladies to make sure we didn’t make off with a bit of a saint– a sacred digit perhaps – weird.

 


In the Museum of Ancient Glass, beautiful glassware floated airily on shelves. Much has been found here in grave pits, some had been fired twice having been cremated with their owners.  I couldn’t believe how old these delicate and finely crafted objects were and how they could have survived.

 


The display boards around the town talked archly of the ‘rebellious Serbian population in Croatia’ in the time of the homeland war and more diplomatically of the ‘unfortunate circumstances’ referring to Allied bombing in WW2 that rendered 2/3 of Zadar to pulp. No wonder it is a real mish mash; a grim communist era block towers over a small ancient Greek church, a pretty Venetian façade appears next to a soulless shopping centre, vistas open up ever narrowing streets paved with highly polished Istrian marble slabs.
Oh Yes! And there was some sailing, very good sailing; the distances between anchorages being so small that we could afford to tack and trim sails and be happy to move at an average speed of 3 knots. Recently though, coming down through the Telascica and Kornati National Parks we have been making more like 5 knots. The Bora – a very strong northerly wind – has been blowing while we have been in this area. Our favourite was definitely Dugi Otok (island). Not all of it is in the park. We found a bay, protected at the entrance by two small islands and dropped our anchor just outside yet another Eboat pen.
Dugi Otok Eboat pen.JPG
It was delightful, only two small houses with one occupant and a shady place on the point being enjoyed by a family picnicking and swimming for a day out. Swimming is great right now with the water temperature around 24C however I always find swimming into these pens a bit scary. Once inside the park we went right up to the head of a long inlet which reminded us of Turkey and the area around Gocek; a rich green backdrop, small islands, busy bird song and peace. On the island near our anchorage we caught sight of the heralded Dalmatian donkey – would it be white with black spots? Sadly not, they were either black or dun coloured but did have a white bit around their muzzle – they made a great noise. Here there was also the added bonus of an Ice cream boat and a bread, fruit and veg boat, another reminder of Turkey.

Dugi Otok iceceream.JPG
Where some of the islands off this coast have green fertile parts the Kornatis as you can see are plentiful and bleak.

Kornati bleak

Kornati big.JPGKornati film set.JPG

Sheep were kept here, movies are made here, the sailing is pretty brilliant although gusty and the wifi signal rubbish. We had an interesting day having found a ‘spot’ that received a signal and marked it on our phones that we had to return to repeatedly while I attended to ‘business’ goings on in Burntisland that needed immediate response. It was funny.

From the fort above Sibenik, sorry I’ll miss Brian Ferry playing here in September!

Sibenik Fort.JPG

We visited Sibenik last year but really only had time to pick up Mary and Phil and move on up the river to the Krka falls. I wanted to explore it more. There is a Children’s Festival every year and the narrow grey stone streets are strung with their art work and there are activities. The square outside the cathedral was set up with raked seating and there was some theatre going on and I came across a small group of children drawing and painting. We visited the cathedral and the fort and came across a tranquil medieval herb garden edged with neat box hedges, full of healing plants, a little fountain in the centre, tinkling water and the singing and organ from a church nearby. After visiting the Fort we stopped for a Campari Spritz. Nobody does them like the Italians and you don’t get a nice bowl of crisps or a few olives to go with it.
I learned a salutary lesson in the busy market at Sibenik. I think we must have been being watched and after we had finished shopping and were loaded down with bags, Andy put my wallet and purse in the outer zipped pocket of my rucksack. Suddenly we were alerted by a sharp shout as simultaneously one woman moved swiftly past us and another came rushing up saying my zip was open! AH! Quick check and luckily nothing had gone but someone had succeeded in opening the zip without me knowing and from now on I’ll never have my wallet, phone etc in there but take a separate bag that I can keep close to my body. We were very lucky.
River days (2).JPG
River days have been lovely. We stayed for three nights. It is sheltered, an ideal place to start the morning with a wild swim from bank to bank, thought I might catch sight of Ratty or Mole.

River fender socks.JPG

We’ve done lots of useful things here, the loo needed sorting – AGAIN! Actually that’s the first time this year. The fenders have some smart new ‘socks’, the safety netting is in place to protect our precious grandchildren when they come in August and a revolutionary new stain remover in the form of toilet gel!! Who would have thunk it! has made our hull a blotch free gleaming white zone which will now have to be polished but we are in Vinisce and will stay here a few days before ‘lift out’ in Agana Marina and home for about six weeks.

 

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