Hercules of Brac – in search of ancient quarries

Few weeks back, a friend of mine organized a group to go to Brac Island and learn more on the Roman quarries of Brac. The group was led by an authority on Roman quarries, Dr. Mate Parica who is THE person to go to if interested in ancient quarries. Not only that he has seen the most of the quarries in the region, he also did a lot of research on rock quarrying and ancient techniques. Brač is still the best place for getting quality stone and the tradition is ancient. Only a short ferry ride away, Brac  makes a great place for historic research and what better place to start from but the Museum of Brac at Skrip village.

The Museum of Brac at Skrip

The Museum of Brac in Skrip

We started at the museum as it has a lovely collection of Hercules reliefs – something very closely connected to ancient stone masons and quarry workers.

The thumb of mother of Constantine the Great.. at least a theory

The thumb of mother of Constantine the Great.. at least a theory

The workers  - usually slaves and prisoners of war – working at the quarries had to be tough and strong: just like Hercules. Thus so many representations and altars dedicated to this ancient hero.

Hercules

Hercules

Skrip Museum is a lovely place telling the story of the most ancient times on the island. There is also a megalithic construction behind the actual building. Probably an ancient fortress. All those unique layers, make Skrip simply a must see for everyone visiting!

And then we moved on in search of actual quarries and more Hercules statues…

The quarry of Rasohe

The quarry of Rasohe

The quarry of Rasohe was particularly impressive and it was interesting to see that local community made an effort to actually clan everything and put signs to it. This is the place where stone for Diocletian’s Palace was actually taken from. Hundreds of slaves must have worked at this place and quarries were probably the worse places to work at back in those days… I could think of few worse ones (like mines and underground aqueducts) but this was very difficult and demanding work. The Rasohe quarry is quite impressive but Mate told us of a quarry on Vrnik island near Korčula being much bigger and far more impressive than this one! A place to visit!

Mate Parica explaining basic techniques for excavating stone

Mate Parica explaining basic techniques for excavating stone

Mate also explained a lot on how the stone was taken out and transported to the sea and on the vessels to modern day Split. We were also explained the techniques and methods of getting the best stone. Quite fascinating as Roman engineers did not take any chances and were using only the best stone for the most important buildings. But we were not alone! Beautiful  four-lined snake (Kravosas in Croatian) was hiding and waiting for us to go away.

Europe's largest nonvenomous colubrid species

Europe’s largest nonvenomous colubrid species

Before we left, we had to see  Hercules of Rasohe Quarry. The image does not give a proper feeling of the beauty of this great relief and it simply has to be seen in real life to be appreciated. The art work is not the greatest and it is generally considered that this was done by one of the slaves, with basic tools and not too much time. . But the Hercules also suffered from the weather in all this 1700+ years it has been out there…

The Hercules of Rasohe

The Hercules of Rasohe

Our next stop was at beautiful Lovrečina bay. Not just another of many beautiful bays and inlets of Brač Island.

Lovrečina bay

Lovrečina bay

The remains of an early christian church (5. or 6th ct)  in this bay are one of the most interesting in the country for it’s baptistery and nicely preserved wall paintings. Nothing fancy – just a simple color pattern – but still a valuable evidence of original traditions. Brač is also known for numerous ancient churches and chapels scattered all over this beautiful island but we are leaving those for another visit.

Remains of an ancient church

Remains of an ancient church

Brač is a great destination for both culture and nature lovers. It is like a small continent with amazing wealth of all sorts of sites dating back to the first inhabitants of our Adriatic coast and continuing with Romans, medieval settlements, villages hidden deep in the interior hiding from the pirates and danger. It is also a place of great culinary traditions so we stopped at quite popular Kopačina restaurant, before getting back on a ferry, for some traditional food and great local wine.

Kopačina Restaurant

Kopačina Restaurant

Only 50 minutes back. Enough for a nap. The ferries connect Split and Supetar many times a day year round.

Ferry back to Split

Ferry back to Split

Another great visit to this beautiful island…

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