On birds and history of Pag

The forecast for last weekend was almost summer like and it was no time to stay at home. I had some places  to see on Pag Island for business so we decided to go there for a day trip. Our friends joined us and the first stop was the interesting and picturesque fortica tower on the very tip of Pag island: just across from Pag bridge.

Fortica - Pag island

Fortica – Pag island

I wrote about it a while back: https://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/fortica-at-pag-bridge/ This time we visited as my friend, who is an architect, is in charge of the current restoration works. He gave us a brief overview of what is being done but also of some curiosities they encountered. The fortress will not be restored in full, of course, but it will be quite  presentable once done. We took some aerial shots and then it was time to move on.

To Veliko Blato ornithological reserve.

Some basic details: where to buy a ticket

Some basic details: where to buy a ticket

Not sure why buying a ticket for something like this but I do expect a service when I pay for something. Not a guide or ranger in sight, cafe, parking… So we just took a walk on our own.

Velebit in the distance

Velebit in the distance

And it is a great place to test my new telephoto lens: Canons 70-200 mm f4 IS USM – all the goodies for taking some great photos of wildlife! We did not get  there in the best time for bird-watching. And it was fairly hot in the sun. But, the place was still quite alive from the moment we got there.

Egret in flight

Egret in flight

We also got to see a very rare black winged stilt (vlastelica in Croatian). There are only 50 pairs nesting in Croatia so it is important no to disturb.

Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) – Siva čaplja

We also saw a lovely flock of Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) or Mala prutka in Croatian. This is quite common bird in our marshes.

Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Overall, a pleasant surprise and quite impressive number of birds. I am planning a separate trip one early morning to get the most of it. It was time to continue and we decided to visit tiny Povljana nearby.

On the road to Povljana. Typical motives of Pag island

On the road to Povljana. Typical motives of Pag island

Povljana is tiny. Actually, it was before the 90s when it got completely overrun by apartment buildings. I skip that part of the visit as it is usually either making me sad or completely angry. Or both. Croatians don’t need enemies. We will ruin our coast better than anyone. What better evidence for that then this:

???

???

Are there words to describe what kind of a loser you have to be to build something like this??? What kind of a special idiot you have to be to actually give permit for something like this to be built??  What about the “architect” who planned these atrocities? Is he/she f*** blind??? I will stop here as these low lives don’t deserve any other words…

There is also a church of St Nikola right on the beach. It was built from 9-11th century and later restored in the 15th century. The church is built on the earlier Roman villa rustica.

Sv Nikola - Povljana

Sv Nikola – Povljana

There is a beautiful sandy beach in front of the church!

Sandy beach of Povljana

Sandy beach of Povljana

Then it was time to continue to Pag town – the best example how TO build a town.
Medieval Pag was erected near the salt plantations where the abandoned Old Town used to be. According to historical documents, the name Pag was mentioned for the first time in the 10th century. In 1443 the new town was built according to new principles of town-planning. The plans were developed in Venice which ruled the region at the time. The longitudinal and the transversal streets, intersect at a right angle. Something Croatians have not been able to replicate even in 2015…

Street of Pag

Street of Pag

On the main square, Church of the Assumption of Mary is located. It is quite impressive and it is still the heart and soul of this quite lovely town.

Church of the Assumption of Mary

Church of the Assumption of Mary

Pag town is known for the great tradition of lace making and that has been implemented in the very rosette on the main church.

The lace of Pag

The lace of Pag

The whole town is filled with nice historic details and especially impressive was Skrivanat Tower. The only existing of nine towers that defended the town back in the day. It was built in the 15th century and has been preserved in its original form.

Skrivanat Tower

Skrivanat Tower

Pag town offers quite a few interesting details:

—and few strange travelers :)

Holding tight!

Holding tight!

Pag is a great little town! Very charming. Lots to offer to a traveler looking for culture and history but also surrounded by very memorable landscapes fro those interested in outdoors activities. The island is famous for its cheese, salt and lamb but we decided to move back to the mainland to have something special for lunch. In our next post…

Croatia Travel

Saints Hills Vinaria

Peljesac peninsula is one of those regions that is considered to be  one of the “wine countries” of Croatia just like it is Istria or Plješivica… Famous for it’s rich bodied plavac from Dingač and Postup appellations, this region is simply a must for any serious wine lover. In 1961 Dingač became Croatia’s first recognized appellation with “Protected Geographical Origin”. It was followed in 1967 by a neighboring area, Postup.
The wines coming from the peninsula had their ups and downs and the quality is not exactly consistent. However, there are several great producers but also several new stories developing in the region.

One of the latest great enterprises is definitely magical Vinaria of Saints Hills.

Vinaria from the air

Vinaria from the air

Founded by Mr. Ernest Toljthe Saints Hills winery produces some unique wines from a number of different localities. Some of their most popular wines include Nevina, a blend of Malvazija and Chardonnay that originates from Saints Hills vineyards at Radovani in Istria. Saints Hills’ quite interesting Dingač is aged in barrels for 18-24 months while their Sveti Roko plavac is made with grapes from vineyards at Komarna. Mr. Tolj wanted to get the best out of his wines so he formed a special oenological team led by World known French specialist Michel Rolland.

Entering the cellar

Entering the cellar

The property at Oskorušno is nothing short of impressive. The traditional old house was transformed to state-of-the-art cellar and tasting facility. From the moment one sees the property from the road, it is already clear that there is some serious love (and money) invested. No expense was spared in making this at par with similar properties around the world. From the equipment of the cellar to the design, Vinaria is simply breathtaking!

French oak barrels

French oak barrels

And the architecture of the typical Peljesac property has been respected to the maximum without any silly, tasteless interventions.

Behind the main building

Behind the main building

The main building

The main building

There are few apartments for guests to stay over as well.

The apartment at Vinaria

The apartment at Vinaria

And then there is the main tasting room.

Tasting room

Tasting room

Besides great wines, Saints hills offers a superb tasting menu as well! The young chef masterfully prepares some Dalmatian classics mixed with various influences. Of course, all the dishes are perfectly paired with Saints Hills wines.

When on Peljesac... Ston oysters with lemon granita

When on Peljesac… Ston oysters with lemon granita

Escargot a la Peljesac

Escargot a la Peljesac

Shrimp risotto with edible 24 karat gold

Shrimp risotto with edible 24 karat gold

The five course tasting menu ends with one of the best chocolate souffles I’ve ever had!

chocolate souffle

Chocolate souffle

In general, Saints Hills Vinaria is one of the finest properties on the coast. Offering the highest standards in both food and wine, it is a perfect getaway for any foodie! And there was something that took me right away when I got there: it is a product of love. You can clearly see that this belongs to a person (family) that lives with their wines and wants only the best for both their wines and guests. Highly recommended stop if in the region.

Curious “gallery” on Šolta Island

In Croatia, although small, there are hundreds of really cool spots that I still have to visit. One, visited recently, easily makes the top 10 list of the strangest and coolest places I have seen in a while! It is nothing particularly exceptional, it is not something breathtakingly beautiful but it is just a very cool and unusual place. It is a mysterious exhibition in an abandoned military tunnel on the island of Šolta.

Magical coast of Šolta

Magical coast of Šolta

I have stumbled upon the information on one local forum and ever since wanted to visit personally. It took me several months to finally find time to go to Šolta and once there, we drove to the small inlet on the western side of the island where the remains of a former Yugoslav military base can still be seen.

Remains of a former military base

Remains of a former military base

One can also see where former canons were placed. Now gone, I am not sure if they were taken down by our military after the war or by the scrap metal collectors operating (devastating) numerous places on the coast.

Former canon outposts

Former canon outposts

Military tunnels are no mystery to me as we have visited several over the years and one this past summer on Vis Island: https://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/military-tunnels-of-vis-island/

But this one is different. Completely!

Instead of holding the remains of former army life, traces of the times that passed by, this particular tunnel on Šolta someone turned into a gallery….

Entering....

Entering….

Someone has made large prints of photos of famous people from the mid 20th century and placed them on the walls of several rooms inside the tunnels.

Che Guevara

Che Guevara

Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Dr. Albert Schweitzer

There are also some giant fuzzy spiders hanging from the ceilings!

Spiders! (from Mars?)

The main “gallery room” is the most impressive although I could not recognize several faces…

Main room

Main room

And there is also a guest in one of the rooms that could not find his way out :)

Left behind

Left behind

I could not find any details on this tunnel. No details who created this, what is the message behind this “installation”… Maybe to remind us of that crazy part of the 20th century (60s and 70s) when these tunnels were built?

But the place is just great and well worth visiting! And preserving the exhibition as is! Please note that abandoned military tunnels are not 100% safe so do not visit unless with a local.

There is one exit to a small cove. Although there is plenty of air in the tunnels, fresh sea breeze coming from this exit seemed to bring all the famous rosemary and myrtle scents of Šolta.

The light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel

Visiting these tunnels was a very different experience. One does not expect something this unique and different to be found in a completely abandoned place. Just faces of once important people in tunnels long abandoned. And that eternal scented breeze of Šolta finding its way through the darkness.