Archives for posts with tag: travel

My reply to a review on (follow this link to original posting).

Dear Mr XXX,
Sorry you didn’t find the book more useful. As the author of this guide I wouldn’t usually comment on my own book, however it has been suggested that in this case I probably should, since one of the comments here is perhaps somewhat misleading: ‘Yes Biokovo, Mosor and the northern Velebit are fine mountains, but the real focus of this stretch of coast should be the southern Velebit’s Paklenica National Park, which is just infinitely better equipped with paths and huts, not to mention being scenecially [sic] superior: it’s not a National Park for nothing.’
As a regular visitor to Croatia, I’m sure you are aware that northern Velebit is also a national park…? As for huts, it is just as well equipped as Paklenica (including one of the best huts in Croatia, Zavizan, which unlike most is open all year), and its paths are just as clear and well signposted. (Also, unlike Paklenica and southern Velebit it doesn’t have areas still considered unsafe due to landmines from the war in the 1990s – for which reason, much as I like Piers Letcher’s Mountain Walks and Historic Sites, a book predating the early 1990s should not be used in this particular area. Use Piers’ excellent Bradt Croatia guide instead, the last two editions of which I’ve updated.) As for scenically superior, well that’s a personal/subjective choice of course, but I’d actually pick northern Velebit, as would several other hikers I know – Rozanski kukovi for example is a specially protected area, with some of the most impressive and easily accessible karst scenery anywhere in Croatia.
The guide focuses on longer walks/treks because (at least at the time of writing the first edition) there was much less information on these in English than day walks on the coast, and, in many cases, these longer treks offer the finest hiking anywhere in the country. Nevertheless some of the longer walks include sections which can be walked as day walks using a hut as a base, such as Zavizan (which you can even get to by road if you want) in northern Velebit, as (I hope) the book makes clear.
I’m afraid I’m a little perplexed at the references to ‘peak bagging’. Yes there are optional routes/side trips to peaks and other features of interest off the main trails, as many would consider it a great shame to walk past an excellent viewpoint that was only an additional 10 minutes easy walk away. And yes I include several less well-known mountain areas (eg Mosor and Biokovo) which I consider worth visiting (one of the purposes of a guidebook, I think), rather than just Paklenica – though there are also plenty of others which I don’t include, if I don’t think they’re as interesting/attractive/accessible or whatever.
As for the walk from Bast, I’m sorry you got lost there – I agree it’s frustrating when guides don’t help you find the start of a route, which is why I included a long paragraph on finding it (though perhaps I’ll need to revise this for the next edition if it’s considered unclear?). I can only think that, from your description, you attempted to continue up the scree too far, whereas the correct route should ‘veer to the right, leading off the scree and… onto more stable ground’. Proper hiking boots are of course strongly recommended for this and any other routes in the introduction.
Best wishes, Rudolf Abraham (author)

The walk to Zmajeva špilja on Brač (Walk 23 in the 2nd edition of Walking in Croatia) is no longer recommended as described in the book – unfortunately the new asphalt road to Murvica, combined with the effect of a forest fire on the slopes above, and the complete lack of any useful signposting after the village of Murvica itself should you choose to start from that end of the route instead, all combine to make it extremely difficult to find the correct path.

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.

Posavina. Croatia’s Lonjsko polje and Turopolje
Article in hidden europe issue 32

Rudolf Abraham is the perfect guide to the wetlands of north-east Croatia, as we join him on a tour of the Lonjsko polje region with its distinctive wooden architecture and storks’ nests.

The villages of Lonjsko polje — Cigoc, Krapje, Lonja and others — stretch along the left bank of the Sava as it sweeps east towards its distant rendezvous with the Danube below the fortress of Kalemegdan in Belgrade. A narrow winding road separates the river from the neat rows of wooden houses, some of them over two hundred years old and representative of a style of architecture now lost in much of Croatia.

Occasionally an oxbow lake, long severed from the river’s course and now a place of motionless reed beds and chirping frogs, makes the road swing away from the river briefly, before inevitably drifting back to follow its course again. Livestock can be glimpsed in fields and among the wooden barns and other outbuildings, including the narrow, open-air feed stores, filled with multicoloured cobs of corn. Tall crops of corn stand yellowing in the alluvial rich soil of the surrounding fields, and sunflowers, blackened at the end of the season, hang their charred heads. Passing through Kratecko, a slash in the riverbank leads down to a traditional ferry, which drifts over to the opposite shore, providing the only crossing point along this stretch of the Sava between Sisak, to the northwest, and Jasenovac, far away to the south-east on Croatia’s border with Bosnia.

Lonjsko polje

Lonjsko polje constitutes the largest wetland area in Croatia, and is protected as a nature park (park prirode) as well as being inscribed on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. Covering an area of more than fifty thousand hectares, this vast flood plain is home to numerous species of plants, birds and animals, and is the site of Croatia’s first ornithological reserve, created at Krapje Dol in 1963.

The wooden houses in the villages along this stretch of the Sava are built at right angles to the river, stretching back much further than their narrow facades would initially suggest. The corners clearly show the distinctive traditional joinery, the horizontal planks meeting in something which looks rather like a large dove-tail — or a vuglec, to give it its proper name. The earlier houses actually originally had square joints — and if the houses’ regular plank construction looks rather like they could all just be packed down and reassembled, that’s because they actually were. Families would simply disassemble their home and move it according to the whims of the river Sava, which like all rivers had a habit of flooding dramatically or gradually changing its course.

The houses were made by locals rather than trained builders or craftsmen (though they are nevertheless beautifully made), and the more simple joinery also reflects this. The roofs were originally thatched, but this was later replaced by tiles, and the more simple joins (Hrvatski vuglec) superseded by the more complex (and more permanent) dovetail variety (Njemški vuglec) — the latter through the influence of more highly skilled German craftsmen.

This is just an excerpt. For the full text of this article see hidden europe 32.

Istria feature in November edition of CNN Traveller. Truffles, festivals and frescoes – a most enjoyable piece to research…. ;~)

The pic shows the central Istrian hill town of Draguc – used as a film set in numerous Croatian and several international films