Day 5 of Legends of Croatia brought us back to the coast and the chance to explore a little more of the Adriatic towns which are the pearls of Dalmatian tourism.
Day 5 of Legends of Croatia brought us back to the coast and the chance to explore a little more of the Adriatic towns which are the pearls of Dalmatian tourism. First up was Rogoznica, home to one of the finest marinas in the region, and home to its fair share of legends.
Away from the beach but filled with sea water was the almost unique attraction of the Dragon’s Eye lake, whose natural phenomenon is only found in two other known places in the world – Finland and China. Every 15-30 years, the dragon below breathes emitting poisonous sulpher and killing all the fish and other marine life in the lake. As there are no natural predators in the lake, the fish can grow up to 30kg.
It is a place of outstanding natural beauty, and it owes its name to the legend of three brothers, one blind, who came into a piece of land. The two able-sighted brothers had a plan to cheat their blind brother out of his share, and the latter told them he would put a curse on the land if he cheated them, which of course they did.
A pleasant stroll along the glitzy Rogoznica waterfront – temporary home to some of the larger boats in Europe this summer – ends on the tip of the bay and two small but pretty churches hidden among the trees. Croatia seems to have reserved its very best views for churches and graveyards, and here was no exception.
A lone fisherman made a miraculous discovery one day at that very spot, finding a painting of the Virgin Mary in the water. He took it straight to the local priest, who locked it in a box for safe-keeping. The next day it had disappeared, only to reappear at its original location the following day. The painting was taken as a sign that Rogoznica was being blessed from above, and an annual procession commemorating the fact takes place today, although the original painting was destroyed by fire some time ago.
Staying with the picturesque waterfront church theme, a short hike to Cape Planka brings one to an unusual place on the Dalmatian coast – the point where the northern and southern Adriatic meet. It is said that it is possible to walk between the two, but it was a place of misfortune in the 12th Century when John of Trogir was shipwrecked here with a bishop. Several drowned, but John rescued the bishop, and a church was built in gratitude.
From Rogoznica to Primosten, one of the undoubted jewels of the Adriatic coast, with its supremely preserved old town jutting out in a cute peninsula into the sea. There are fewer finer stone jewels in coastal Dalmatia and, accompanied by the islands dotted in front, Primosten makes for one of Croatia’s most picturesque holidays. And there is a legend…
Queen Neda, the daughter of Petar Krešimir the 4th, who ruled in the 11th century, was a danger for all plotters who schemed and fought for the future king of Croatia, Zvonimir. To place him upon the throne, Neda had to be imprisoned in a dungeon cell. Jelena, the wife of Zvonimir, took her in secrecy to the island of Maslinovik from which she managed to escape once but was caught and again imprisoned in the tower of the castle in Bihać. At that time, Zvonimir became king.
At the end of the 19th century, people from Primošten went to the island of Maslinovik to collect grass for the cattle. Grass was scarce as vineyards and olive groves were clear-cut. One day, an old woman named Old Bene was collecting grass. She dug out gold coins for which it is believed that they belonged to Queen Neda. Secretly, she filled a bag with coins and left the island to see a fortune-teller who told her that if she went back to Maslinovik, she would again find gold coins but she would not live very long after that. Old Bene chose life and she never set foot in Maslinovik again. Local people, who heard what happened, ran off to the island to find gold coins but no one except for Old Bene ever succeeded in finding them.
As we headed back to the excellent Solaris resort in Sibenik, our base for four of the six nights of this initial leg of the trip, there was plenty to reflect on – both the wealth of legends and the spectacular beauty of the Sibenik region, both natural and man-made. But one could not reflect for long, as there was one last appointment before we headed south to investigate the legends of Dubrovnik County.
The pirate party
Intended as a thank you for the various partners from Sibenik, a pirate ship had been hired to take the group on a sunset sailing tour of Sibenik bay, complete with pirate games. After such an exhausting schedule (and plenty more to come), the last thing I felt like doing was shouting ‘Ahoy’ at passing yachts, but the excellent pirate staff from Solaris soon had us in good cheer, complete with our pirate tattoos, and divided into two very competitive teams.
Games included individual pirate duels, drinking a shot of rum then blowing up and sitting on a balloon, and catching a falling stick. It was all good fun, and I was delighted to be in the winning team, earning a certficate of best pirate in the process. The last time I won anything was in 1979 when I won a chess tournament at the age of nine…
Games and jolly onboard atmosphere apart, the tour of Sibenik and its attractive archipelago was spectacular, match only by the helpfulness and knowledge of the Solaris pirate crew. It was a fitting end to an amazing introduction to the Sibenik region, with its islands, history, heritage and legends. I will be back.
A word on the Solaris resort in Sibenik. I have not stayed in many family resorts in recent years, but the hotel was a pleasant experience at every stage, with comfortable rooms, decent food, friendly staff and plenty of activities and facilities to compliment its excellent waterfront location. A great base from which to explore this exceptional region.