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The quiet charm of Cres

Posted: 2008-07-13 10:50:40, Categories: Travel, Croatia, 651 words (permalink)

Lubenice viewed from the hiking path. On the island of Cres in Croatia the traveler can still spot sheep hopping across the rocks without shepherd, looking as they were lost. In the traditional way of sheep herding there are no fences, the animals can come and go freely. Occasionally one of them might get hurt and die, but vultures make sure that nothing is wasted. Both vultures and people practising the hundreds of years old trade are currently under a threat to become extinct. But the island still maintains its charm.

Cres has been the highlight of my 12-day trip with my mother and two brothers. We flew to Venice, took a train to Trieste and continued by bus across the border to Slovenia. After two nights in the cute historical town of Piran we rented a car and drove around in Croatia for one week. We started by a short tour around the Istrian peninsula and then took a ferry to Cres.

The first night on the island we stayed in Beli, a small village behind a curvy mountain road. There was an eco center which was maintaining a network of nature trails, cleaning ponds, taking care of injured griffon vultures, hosting an exhibition about wildlife on Cres and generally raising awareness about ecological issues. I wasn't too convinced with the vulture rescue program, which apparently had already resulted in some of the birds becoming too tame. The cages behind the center gave me a feeling of a zoo. Otherwise, the activities of the center seemed to fit the place rather well.

From Beli we drove along more narrow roads to Lubenice, which was like a fairy tale village on top of a hill. By chance we happened to get accommodation in one of the few places offering it, and had an apartment in the first house of the village for one night. Unlike some other villages and towns on the coast, Lubenice didn't show any signs of conversion to a seaside holiday resort. Perhaps being 378 meters above sea level was enough to prevent that. My CouchSurfing friend Slaven told us that there were only 12 permanent inhabitants left. Some more came to stay during the summer, and tourists were strolling along the alleys during the afternoon, but after sunset and in the early morning it was a quiet place.

A hiking path went down to the seashore, ending at a beach by the Blue Cave. The entrance of the cave was in the water about 20 meters swim away from the beach. There were a few chambers, some so deep that swimming was the only way to go, some low enough that I could reach the bottom with my feet. At the end of the last chamber the water was glowing in bright blue. A dive into the light, some meters underwater, then up ... and I was in the open air again. A truly spectacular place.

Another nature sight worth mentioning was the Plitvicka Jezera national park on Croatian mainland. I've never seen so many waterfalls in one day. Even better than the waterfalls were the views to the lakes showing all their best colors in the sunlight. Fish and vegetation could be clearly seen through the crystal clear waters. The visit to Plitvicka was far from a lonely and quiet experience — at least during the peak summer season the park is full of tourist groups. Still, it's special enough to be seen, even if having to queue in the line. Try to wake up early (we didn't) because the waterfalls are in the sunlight only until early afternoon.

I'm posting this in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'll still go to Venice together with my mother and brothers but there our ways will separate. They have a return flight to Finland but I'll continue to explore the Balkans. Perhaps I'll find some nice sites to pitch my tent which I've been now just carrying from hotel to hotel.

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