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Zirje

I hadn’t done any research on this island so was keen to learn more on the journey out, an hours boat ride from Sibenik. It was here I got to talk to Lea and Manuela and their team as well as the other bloggers. What an interesting team.

I hadn’t done any research on this island so was keen to learn more on the journey out, an hours boat ride from Sibenik. It was here I got to talk to Lea and Manuela and their team as well as the other bloggers. What an interesting team. On the way out I talked to Stephen, with his in depth knowledge of fortifications. Without him, I would not have understood the submarine ‘drive’. A curved tunnel cut into the rock with two exits. Ivo never considered whether submarines have trouble reversing, but it appears it’s easier to drive straight in and out again. A defensive position par excellence, the nipped in bit of channel between two islands whose orientation completely hides the old town of Sibenik behind. The further we got from the town the more remote the islands were, until we arrived at Žirje. Remote, clearly unreached by any kind of enforcement, so here we found incongruous buildings and unregistered cars. The wild western edge of Croatia. We were met at the quay by a local representative who led us to a dive school on one side of the island and a place to have lunch on the opposite side, but only about 15 minutes away. A fine lunch. I am particularly fond of the dish of the day idea. This is what there is, … enjoy. Any menu demonstrates an element of waste. Having enough fresh food ready to continue to offer a choice probably means some will have to be thrown away.

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We moved on to be shown our first legend here, a story of pirates. While the actors prepared themselves I talked to the son of our host, and he showed me the contents of the van- some sacks of herbs, with a spicy, curry aroma, and a 10litre plastic paint bucket containing the pieces of amphora. Old meets new. Items that anywhere else might be in a purpose built padded box, lie here amongst the herbs and fishing nets.

The cars on this island remind me of a low budget Cuba, where instead of cadillacs there is an ancient VW beetle and a collection of Ladas and Fiats.

It was one of these ancient Vehicles that formed a highlight of my trip to Zirje. The afternoon visit was to the roman fortress on the top of the island. We drove in the vans to the end of the tarmac road… then took the road less travelled. Another mile or so on dirt track with the vans, and we had to walk the last bit. A footpath that may once have been a vehicle track but was now much overgrown and reduces to a clear but narrow footpath. This was not enough to deter Jacob. His 47 year old vehicle was going to take on this challenge.

The fortress we were visiting ‘Gradina’ is impressive unadorned. It has a commanding position at the outermost edge of the archipelago. Next stop is Italy. For our visit however it was adorned. 8 young men with flowing red capes brought to life the greys and greens of the rock and herbs. Marco, the aptly roman-named commander looked the part, but knew little of the history. Dragan however was the expert. He was able to tell us the dates, the purpose, and lead us to the features still clearly visible within the compound.

Sometimes there is a value to linguistic miscommunication, and here was one. I asked Jacob if I could drive his truck down, having witnessed the astonishing feat of him getting it up along the footpath. I’m sure he understood “ may I come down in the truck with you”, but what I really meant was “ May I drive” as a result of this misunderstanding , I took the wheel, and had to explain again what I meant. After a quick safety briefing ( keep the revs up, if it stalls we will never get it started again, and let me drive where the road is steep, the brakes are a little unreliable ) I was away. I’m still smiling at the memory.

Joanna

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