Archives for category: RUDOLF ABRAHAM photography

Monarch Airlines has announced that it will begin flying to Dubrovnik from London Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester from summer 2012.

The walls of Dubrovnik with a sculpture of the city's patron saint Sveti Vlaho, Croatia


Photo © Rudolf Abraham.

My article on hiking in Croatia in the latest edition of OE magazine.

Hiker on the trail from the coast up to Zavizan, Northern (Sjeverni) Velebit national park, Croatia


Plitvicka jezera (Plitvice lakes) national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Croatia


Images copyright Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

Once were pirates. In search of the Uskoks of Senj
My article on the Uskoks of Senj (and their legacy in the wooded hills of the Zumberak region west of Zagreb) was published in issue 34 of hidden europe on Friday.

Roman Catholic Chapel of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (left) and 'Greek Catholic' church of Sts Peter and Paul (right), in the village of Sosice, Zumberak nature park, Croatia

Never heard of the Uskoks? Rudolf Abraham, a regular contributor to hidden europe, takes us to the Zumberak hills west of Zagreb in search of displaced Adriatic pirates.

Mile Vranesic sits below a shelf laden with religious icons, framed certificates and wooden folk art, mouth slightly open as he pauses mid-sentence, and examines me from beneath brooding eyebrows through a plume of cigarette smoke. Old bottles filled with homemade rakija stand on the heavy wooden table before him, and the dark walls are cluttered with densely-hung pictures — plaques and certificates, local heraldry, and an old, faded photograph which shows an enormous cross being carried uphill by a procession of villagers.

I am sitting in the zupnik’s (parish priest’s) office in the Croatian village of Stojdraga, close by the border with Slovenia. And I listen as Mile Vranesic recounts the history of the Uskoks — uskoci in Croatian. The Adriatic pirates of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they were much celebrated in popular folklore as defenders of Christendom, and the scourge of Ottoman and Venetian shipping in the region. And there is a connection with the inland village of Stojdraga, for it was to these low, wooded hills in the Zumberak region that many Uskoks were outlawed, just a little under 400 years ago. And it is here that one is most likely to find something of their past.

Patrolling the Adriatic

The word Uskok derives from the verb uskociti, which literally translates as ‘to jump in’ (perhaps alluding to their propensity to dive into a fight). As typically recounted, the Uskoks’ story is that, displaced from their homelands further south and east by the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans, they entered the service of Austria as soldiers on the Croatian Military Frontier (Vojna krajina). They were based, among other places, at the strategic fortress of Klis, above Split, and in the port of Senj — the spot on the coast most closely associated with the Uskoks. And it was in Senj that the Uskoks, having repeatedly failed to receive any wages from their Habsburg masters, turned to piracy in order to support themselves.

The reality is of course slightly more complex, and the Uskoks themselves, among them Vlachs and Morlachs (and including Orthodox as well as Catholics in their numbers), had in many cases served as border troops for the Ottomans, and in response to a reduction in privileges were now enlisting for service under Austria. Senj was manned by a garrison of regular troops, who were increasingly joined by Uskoks and other irregulars as the latter were displaced from lands already under, or threatened by, the Ottomans. In particular, following the fall of Klis to the Ottomans in 1537, a large number of its defenders — many of whom were Uskoks — joined those already at Senj.

This is just an excerpt. For the full text of this article see hidden europe 34.

Cast of the tomb of Ivan Lenkovic (from Franciscan church in Novo Mesto, Slovenia), Captain of Senj, in the Nehaj fortress, stronghold of the Uskoks until 1617, Senj, Croatia

Text and images copyright Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

A few images from a very snowy Plitvicka jezera (Plitvice Lakes) national park, Croatia, taken in January this year. I timed this particular visit to arrive after four days of snow and sub-zero temperatures, so that the icicles on the waterfalls didn’t melt. This also meant that the section of the national park I planned to visit was officially closed, so I had to seek special permission to get into that bit (that is, get in with a 3-minute boat trip rather than walking the long way round by road, which would have lost me half the day!). Croatia’s first area to be declared a national park (back in 1949), and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvicka jezera gets incredibly busy in the summer – but in the winter it’s surprisingly quiet, and you get large sections of trail to yourself.

Veliki prstevac, the waterfall I had come to photograph at this time of year, near Gradinsko lake

One of the best-known views in the national park, the trail winding across Kaluderovac lake

The trail between Kaluderovac and Veliki slap (the highest waterfall in the national park)

Gradinsko lake in the ‘closed’ (at the time, anyway) southern section of the national park

All images copyright Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use permitted.

Worth mentioning that as of 18 January this year, tram rides in central Zagreb – which had been free for the previous couple of years following an election promise (and we all know what happens to them sooner or later) – now require a ticket just as anywhere else in the Croatian capital. The system’s still the same though – buy ticket(s) from news kiosk, insert ticket into machine when you board the tram to get it ‘stamped’ with time/date, and use said ticket on multiple journeys (tram/bus) in the same direction over a two hour period. Or you can get a top up card, or buy a ticket by text message.

Tram and snow in Ilica, Zagreb, Croatia

I’m giving a talk on walking in Croatia at the Outdoors Show on Saturday 15th January, at the Excel Centre in London – gave talks on Montenegro and Patagonia today. Hope you can come along.