Guide to Croatia

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Few words about herbs

There are some quintessential plants and herbs in "popular medicine". Many of them can be found on Velebit. Some grow and thrive on mountain sides, lower slopes , meadows , and others all the way down to the sea line.
All in all they form something what can be called nobility in floral circles. Because of particular climates depending on height and latitude, winds, scorching summers and freezing winters, mineral consistence of local terrains and many other unique conditions this particular herbs are IT.
If you pick up some purple flowers from the low growing mountain heather( in the summer, in the afternoon, be careful not to pick up white blossoms of the same kind-all tips I got from locals and although its impossible for me to explain reasoning behind hints....they work in practice) it will make nice, divinely smelling tea. Fortified with some mountain honey ( it is important that bees diet consists of the same) it does miracles in the winter....before or after common cold, or flue. Your respiratory system has to appreciate it.
My favorite is SAGE/salvia officinalis/.When sold commercially as a spice for mutton, fish, other kinds of meat-including game it can often be found under name Dalmatian sage. It is not for nothing. Dalmatian sage is strong in taste and often on very bitter side if you chew on it for some reason(there are reasons to do exactly that). Dalmatian variety and mountain variety differ a lot from each other.. They differ even more when compared to the kinds from British isles and other field sages .
Sage can cut on your perspiration. Some people claim it can cut it for 50% and all that because of very special oils .Recognizing sage as a drying agent for the body has been proven by several studies. It contains some very important antioxidants, too.(carnosic acid and some others as well). It is an excellent digestive remedy and helps enzymes to move nad flow. In one word sage in proper dosage can do very good things for your stomach.
Some women like effect sage has on their menopausal problems ( from hot flashes and night sweats....connected again with that nice drying ability).
According to personal experience I know it works for the gums. It has some particular kind of tannins to help sore or bleeding gums. Sage can make the difference after paradonthological or any dental procedures.
This sage review sound very "medical". It is very good and potent herb and it should be discussed in some recipes ( culinary stuff, not remedies). So...sage deserves to be reconsidered and reevaluated these days because it is unjustly neglected. Croatian sage in particular.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Premuzic Path II

My last description of the Premuzic path starts with a serious error. Path does not begin with Veliki Alan. For me it does because that is the section I know and am really familiar with. It is some 50 km long in whole and its northern part is as unknown to me as it is to next person. I sincerely apologize for confusion it caused. Somehow we all limit things around us according to our reality, and is a shrinking global village but so far knowledge is not expanding with same vigor or proportion.
In its full glory Premuzic path was conceived in 1930's. It took 3 years to "complete" it and path was named after Ante Premuzic. Name is rightful and justified.It takes you from Veliki Zavizan to Veliki Alan. Only place I visited and revisited there is Botanical garden-Velebit. It is not real part of the path but close enough to its start. Location of the garden is Modric dolac( Modric is local family name and dolac stands for valley). Surrounding peaks are high and impressive with dazzling view at the coast and islands from Vucjak.
Botanical garden itself belongs to so called "open type". Some plants or groups of plants are properly marked(unfortunately-not enough of them), there is a spring / taste of the spring water on Velebit is experience for itself, I actually believe or at least my palate does that some of them are more sweet or more "herbal" than others
....nothing else to do about it but to taste yourself/and wooden shack or cottage intended for people who are willing to stay for a longer period of time and observe.
I never did it. I stayed in Krasno. Word "krasan, krasno" describes something beautiful. In short with its location, unbelievable woods, mountain road and everything it is a place of amazing serenity and loveliness.
Back to the Botanical garden Velebit. Selection of this particular spot for botanical garden is not random and has scientific leverage. Climate and surroundings on average make it possible for enormous diversity of floral communities from all over the mountain chain to be represented. When Fran Kusan/university prof./ worked on this project with his colleagues in late 60's plan was reasonable, clear and logical. Unfortunately with passage of time and lack of money and/or interest and primarily with death of prof. Kusan idea was somewhat neglected.
Botanical expedition on Velebit started early in XIX ct. Kitaibel(Hungarian botanist), Saxon king Friedrich August are probably between the first and most important visitors who left their notes about floral abundance. Before WWII Arpad Degen published his masterpiece "Flora Velebitica" and in early 1990's Forenbacher "Velebit i njegov biljni svijet"/ Velebit and its flora/ with excellent selection of photographies.
Somebody who is more serious and into more detailed research will find more details in studies and publications from University of Agriculture-Zagreb, University of Forestry-Zagreb and other individual studies and sources.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Velebit-Premuziceva staza /Premuzic Path/

This smartly positioned path starts with Veliki Alan. If you are really interested print out a map and enlarge it...makes sense. In the mid section of Velebit it passes few lovely karst fields. Some hours of walk (entirely depends on your ritham) will bring you to Mliniste. It used to be one of my favorite places and still is in terms of beauty, familiarity and sentiments. Mliniste was summer grazing spot and it made it bursting with life....once-before. In that prospective it is dead now. Sounds final but it is worthed wisiting for all things named above and more. How , where and when it came to have that name I cannot tell. Mlin is Croatian word for "mill". Story behind the name can be either magical or just plane one-unfortunately I do not know at present time. Keep on walking and walking and in direction of Dabarski kukovi you will come to another field of similar structure-Radlovac. It is bigger, softer, somewhat of more tamed nature. Inhabitants of Ceasrica used to have their summer homes there(for grazing purposes, again). There is a chapel of St Roko/lat. Rochus/ there.Hi is common and beloved saint in southern parts of Croatia. He lived in France in XIV century and his story is connected with plague and miracles, somehow his body ended up in Venice, Croatian coast was governed by Venice, Franciscans were always busy and how one thing lead to another here we go. He became loved, common and natural as a name and as a picture of person with loyal dog.
If you leave Premuzic Path to see that field and chapel and contemplate about what ever you wish have in mind that returning back on the Path is not easy and is not so much fun. That is more of a challenge.
Radlovac is in the approximate middle of the Premuzic Path.
Another lovely section is Bacic Kosa(Bacic is family name, Kosa stands for slope)
It leads through the woods and open section with breathtaking views of islands and the coastal part. Further it goes towards Baske Ostarije.
Dabarski kukovi are in that last section. I would say that they are a must. Kiza is proclaimed to be the most interesting between them all. Honestly I cannot tell. They make really stunning composition.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Part III about Velebit

Seaboard side of the mountain slopes down in many different steps with as many different appearances.
On the altitude range between 500-1000m some of the loveliest and sincerely beautiful fields and meadows can be found.
I'm familiar with Konjsko, Javorovac, and Stap. They are like touches of softness in the middle of all these rocks and peeks. They do carry a memory of times long gone and pristine nature. Catch is that if one clings to that romantic vision it is easy to forget that what nature really offers there is a modest pasture(miles and miles of it) and gentle cover of soil over rocks.
For people who survived in these harsh condition for generations only potatoes , cabbage, barley , rye , and maybe something else here and there where resilient enough to " make it".
Another survivor is LICKA BUSA. Smallest cow to exist. That lovely animal with short horns and doe like head is really tiny. But it could feed itself, climb, ruminate and rest in condition devastating for other bovine breeds. Numbers of these indigenous cattle today are dangerously low. There are some dozen of them in Lika proper and its been years since I saw any on the Velebit. It seems funny to start romancing about the cow ( but bear in mind how smart, useful and good looking they are....when old Greeks complimented goddess Hera with cow like eyes they had in mind something really beautiful not "the stupid cow" from commonly exchanged pleasantries)
Talking about endangered domestic animals in Croatia is a serious issue and has to be addressed properly. I cannot do it now...unfortunately.
Going back to these same fields, pastures, meadows and valleys there is such an abundance and diversity in the world of vegetation.
Do not forget that endemic plant DEGENIA VELEBITICA grows only and only on Velebit.
There is this great book Forenbacher wrote about flora on Velebit.Although it is printed in Croatian it has numerous excellent photos and glossary with all plants named in Latin of course.For anybody who is seriously and less seriously curious about the subject this book is a must.
To make a connection with the previous article and Baske Ostarije(because-there is one).
One can make a nice scenic drive from Baske Ostarije to let's say Konjsko and hike down the sea side of the mountain to Porat.Or it can be more ambitious -all walking tour-. Porat is a gem. My paternal great grandmother is from there and it makes it even more dear to me(that part is personal).However it is a tiny fisherman village
located in natural bay, hiding behind the cape used to catch tuna and situated comfortably under the mountain.It is amazing how you can physically feel this "under" part.
I would strongly recommend any route from Baske Ostarije in direction of either Cesarica,Porat , and/or even Devcic draga. They all have some enchanting stuff to offer and you will not be sorry.