Temple of Cheese

Croatia has a nice variety of cheeses. Nowhere near as France or Italy but the ones we have are of superb quality. No matter if it is award winning Gligora sheep’s milk cheese or “sir iz mišine”, we have some great cheeses. But, it is not easy to find them. There are supermarkets and some delicacies stores but there are also ladies selling their own cheeses on green markets.
And then there is a kiosk owned by Mrs. Ljubica in Zadar. A category of it’s own.

Paški sir kiosk

Paški sir kiosk

This is a true temple of local cheeses and a must for every local and foodie in Zadar! The humble kiosk is located just to the right from the main entrance to the fish market in Zadar and it is just in the corner. Often overlooked… The main “theme” is, of course, home made cheese from Pag or “paški sir”, a delicacy that is finally getting the recognition outside of our borders where it has been known for ages as the “best cheese in the world”. You can find here several different paški cheeses and of different maturity. Really a superb selection!

Paški sir rounds

Paški sir rounds

All the cheeses here are from local producers no matter if they are from Pag Island or Lika region. Unfortunately, the hinterland of Zadar has suffered greatly in the past war and very few local cheeses are available in general. Some rare cheeses like the very superb cheese of Tkon, Pašman Island, is now gone. Many swear that it was much better than the cheese of Pag. Now it just remains a legend…

But, there are others to enjoy: goat’s milk cheese, famous “škripavac”, cow’s milk cheese from Lika…

The selection

The selection

And there is skuta or pujina. This is a very special cottage cheese and the best is, by far, from the island of Pag. It hits the market in January (depends on the season) and, as soon as it is available, it is on our table. We usually enjoy it with olive oil but it can be served as dessert when served with honey or, the old school way, sprinkled with sugar.
Among other delicacies one can get here, are local beans, sausages, bacon and “pečenica” – all home made and all superb!

In any case, no visit to Zadar’s green market is complete without visiting this temple of cheeses and local delicacies!

Food travel in Croatia

 

Dalmatian pyramid

No, this is not a new discovery in line with “Bosnian pyramids”. This is just a possible explanation of a mysterious pyramid first drawn on a 1570 map that was based on an older map by Šibenik native Martin Kolunic Rota.

Pyramid in Zagora

Pyramid in Zagora

I heard about it a while back. About the time when Bosnian pyramids were still making the news back in mid 2000s. A friend of mine – a legendary collector of all sorts of antiques, Ivica Ćurković  - told me that there is an image of a pyramid on an old map. Hmm… I saw it and there was no doubt that it was a real piece of late 1500s cartography. I personally bought a later version as the image was much more clear and all other details were pretty much the same. My map is this later one, by Merian from 1652. Simply a stunning piece!

Martin Kolunić Rota (c. 1520–1583)

Martin Kolunić Rota  (c. 1520–1583)

Martin Rota was born in about 1520 in Šibenik. Little is known of Rota’s early life or where he trained as an engraver, but most of his documented career was spent working in Venice, Rome, and Vienna.
Rota has been described as one of the most significant graphic artists of the second half of the 16th century, though few if any of his prints were original compositions. You can learn more on Rota here.

So, it was puzzling why would anyone draw a pyramid on a map… Legend? Folk stories? Something so ancient that no one remembers any more?
I was thinking about a location near Vrlika, foothill of Dinara. Or something closer to Bosnia?
Recently I was discovering more and more on a very historic area of Nevest and Cera in the very heart of Zagora. The region has gone through dramatic changes through the history and holds some of the most interesting historic sites in the country. What particularly got my attention was the village Ostrogašica that was named after (allegedly) the Ostrogoths that once ruled the area. And then, studying maps, I saw it…

Zvonik hill near Ostrogašica

Zvonik hill near Ostrogašica

A topographic maps shows a very steep hill. It is called Zvonik (Bell Tower) and the only written piece on that was also found on that Neves and Cera web site discussing a medieval fortress on top of the hill. The pieces of the puzzle are now shaping into a story. What else but a field trip!

Zvonik

Zvonik

The hill stands steep but not as steep as I expected. Actually, this is the easiest “looking” side and it looks much steeper from other direction. But, this is not an easy climb! This is a very demanding hill with really steep slopes and lots of thorn trees and rocks. Of course, it is not a pyramid. It is a natural hill that, from the Šibenik side, looks like a pyramid. Still not enough evidence to prove this is the “Pyramid” on the old maps. Some 20 minutes later, we were on the top.

The walls

The walls

There are clear evidences of the structure on top of the hill: nicely carved blocks still showing the size of the structure. Most of them either taken away or simply rolled down after the fortress was destroyed. There is a pit on top of the hill probably dug out as some sort of a cistern for water in case of a siege.

A pit on top of the hill

A pit on top of the hill

Cross on top of the hill

Cross on top of the hill

Someone put up a big cross on top of the hill. Probably after the war as this area was also quite affected by the war in the 90s. What was more interesting to me were the outer walls of the fortress. They are typical medieval walls on an angle. Closing in towards the top. Just like on pyramids.

The walls

The walls

The walls

The walls

A lot of broken roof tiles shows that at least one of the buildings had a roof. Combined together – hill and fortress with a roof – one can get a pretty decent pyramid shaped hill looking from the distance.
And that was the only way to look at the hill back in the late 1500s as the Turks captured the region in 1522… So, I guess the “mystery” is solved.
I was also quite impressed by the steps carved in the rock!

Steps in the stone

Steps in the stone

Steps in stone

Steps in the stone

There is also a door on the image. At the very bottom of that “pyramid”. It can be explained probably by some sort of the gates. I saw a basic stone wall going around the foot of the hill and there was some sort of the entrance to the area. Probably marking the easiest access to the top as it was easy to guard and close. Not visible now and it is quite hard to figure out the easiest path because of all the trees and bushes.
We managed to go down the hill – not easy – to see one small pond.

Pond next to Zvonik hill

Pond next to Zvonik hill

There were some local girls with dogs next to it. The pond is now much bigger than usually as it was quite rainy last month.

Dogs having fun

Dogs having fun

The spring is definitely here!

So, is this the pyramid from the old maps? Maybe. I would leave some space for different interpretations but from all the evidences on actual maps, history, remains of the fortress… I think it is. After hours spent on aerial shots and reading different sources, this makes the most sense.

The pyramid

The pyramid

So, of course it is not a pyramid, but a historic hill with remains of a fortress that, at one point, looked like a “pyramid” from the distance. And a great place to visit any time ;)

Travel in Croatia

 

Villa Ruza Restaurant – Kolocep Island, Dubrovnik

Villa Ruža has been on the list of top Dubrovnik area restaurants for some time now. It is located on the island of Koločep and not easy to get to unless you are chartering a boat or having a private motor boat transfer to the island. But, it is a stunning place worth visiting and eating at!

Villa Ruža - from the sea

Villa Ruža – from the sea

The location is superb for romantic dinner or events like weddings or private parties. If your group is not too big, then you can only book “glorijet” with great views. Especially at sunset!

Glorijet

Glorijet

The rest of the tables are either under the pine trees or overlooking the water. Pretty spacious place!

Seating by the sea

Seating by the sea

Villa Ruza was built in 1930 by a rich merchant from Dubrovnik. The villa was dedicated as a symbol of love to his wife. The property is located a the very entrance of  Donje Celo bay. With the most beautiful terrace in the Dubrovnik area, the Villa is certainly one of the most romantic places on the Adriatic Coast.
We visited out of main season so it was very quiet. Which was perfect: just a maestral breeze and the sounds of nature with us.

Since this was our first time, we opted for chef’s recommendations. The manager/chef – Rudjer – is a great guy who really knows how to please his guests and we had some of the most demanding clients loving the experience at the Villa Ruza. Rudjer recommended to go with several appetizers: mix of seafood and vegetables.

Carpaccio

Carpaccio

But for the main, chef usually recommends any of the traditional classics: great fish or steak for meat lovers. We opted for fish and we did not choose bad: a freshly caught kernja (grouper) was superbly grilled for us! And great combination with Senjković Bosso

Grilled grouper

Grilled grouper

We always leave room for dessert. And, at Villa Ruza, that is simply a must! A collection of great desserts is served for those who have hard time deciding what to have.

Desserts

Desserts

And the time flies when you are having a great time with great people over a superb dinner. Villa Ruza is still one of the best places in the region for exceptional settings and meals.

The night is falling---

The night is falling—

Until we return…

Croatia Travel