A Winter Trip to the Krk Island

Across the Bridge We Go

Krk island is connected to the mainland via The Krk bridge (Krčki most) one can access just a little bit south of Rijeka, the coastal town in Kvarner bay. If you’re reaching Rijeka by plane, you’ll set your feet on the Krk island first, as this is where Rijeka’s airport is, making the entire Krk island almost as a satellite suburban area to the coastal town. Krk island, with its 405 m2 of land area and 19+ thousand inhabitants living in towns and villages is, alongside Cres, one of the two biggest islands in the Adriatic sea.  

The Krk bridge is not some ordinary bridge. It is 1430 meters long and it used to hold a world record for the longer of its two arches that is 416 meters long. Now, it’s only the second bridge with such a long concrete arch in the world, with the longer one existing in China; Wangxian Yangtze Bridge, 425 meters long. With voices stating that these two bridges weren’t built the same way and some would argue whether that earned the Chinese bridge the spot of being the longest, it’s best to leave that dilemma to the specialists. It took only 4 years to complete the Krk Bridge, the and it premiered in 1980, changing the lives of local inhabitants for ever. The fact that it’s there alleviates Krk island as one the easiest accessible islands in Croatia right now. Except when the strong wind bura blows, above 140 km an hour, and the Krk bridge closes for safety reasons.

The bridge is multi-practical, as its inbuilt tube system is used to transport water from the mainland. There are also other specialised pipes that run along the bridge, those that transport oil to and from Omisalj, a strategic point en route of JANAFs transnational oil pipe system. A widely known but often forgotten fact is that the old oil pipeline system connecting several central and south-eastern european countries, connecting Croatia with Hungary, Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic and Slovakia was built in the 1970’s, in only five years (1974-1979), just a year before the bridge opened to the public. Today, Omisalj on Krk island still operates as one of the stations for receipt, storage and delivery of crude oil and petroleum products, and it’s all done safely and responsibly. Despite what one might think, the nature on Krk island is preserved, and there are several beaches that are marked with blue flags, an internationally recognised standard of beach cleanliness, including one such beach in Omisalj.

One should also note though, that the island self-supplies with enough water sources to cover 85% of its current expenditure. These springs are found in sinkholes of limestone heaven typical for the kras areas. These sights are for the acquired tastes and curious eyes, as the karst visages delight with the intensity of dynamics between water and rock. A game written in time, in which something immovable and something that otherwise takes whichever shape it can, exchange roles if we look at the grand picture. Water carves its way through stone, leaving the dramatic remains of their relentless game drawn onto paysages. And there’s almost always, the wind that also, blows.  

What To See and Do

The Old Nobles

For the native Croatian speakers, Krk island is known as the home of one of the most famous noble families in the Croatian medieval history: the Frankopans. The Frankopan family have an interesting history that ends in the Magnate conspiracy against the Habsburgs in the 17 ct, I can perhaps tell you about it another time.

Their rise to prominence as nobility was greatly based on the fact that one of their ancestors was given a vassal status by the Republic of Venice in the 12th ct. At the time, Krk island was their main home. These medieval noblemen made their way into the shared European history by being wise about marriages, choosing allegiances and wars, at the end, perhaps not so wisely. Today we’re aware of the many estates they’ve left, by reading glagolitic scripture carved into stones of castles, churches, tombs, and city walls scattered across Krk island.

If you’re into medieval history and castle ruins, it’s quite inspiring to walk around Krk searching for clues of these past times.  If you wish to know more on the Frankopan family, this website offers neatly organised information: http://frankopani.eu/en/.   

Vrbnik and the Treats: Žlahtina and Cheese

One does not return from Krk island with empty stomachs or dry mouths, that is just not done.

The one product Vrbnik is widely known for is its autochthonic wine sort Žlahtina that is grown in the very fertile Vrbnik fields nearby. In Vrbnik, you will find the narrowest street in the world among other quite narrow streets, and find your way towards a konoba that offers the autochthonic wine sort Žlahtina, gold coloured, mildly scented, reminding one of almonds and apples. They will serve the wine with some locally made pršut (prosciutto) and, especially if one is a vegetarian, with some locally made sheep cheese, Krčki sir. The Krk cheese has been made in this area since prehistory, and the knowledge of how to make it has been passed on from generation to generation. Some other narrow streets will lead you to breathtaking views towards the mainland and the Velebit mountains behind it, as Vrbnik is situated on the top of a steep limestone rock.

Košljun: an Island within an Island.

Tiny, tiny island of Košljun is only 300 meter wide and it can be reached from the town Punat via a short boat ride. The only inhabitants there now are the Franciscan friars who have the continuity of living on the island since the 15th century. Before them there were the Benedictins from the 12th ct, and before them there were the Romans, who’ve left traces of a Roman villa rustica on the island. The Romans chose the best places to live at. Mind you, during the Roman times and definitely before it, the island of Košljun wasn’t even an island. As proof, we have the leftovers of suhozid (suhozid, eng. dry stone walling, registered by UNESCO as protected intangible heritage method of building walls as of 2018), tracing under the sea. These dry stone walls could have been built by an even older groupation of people who used to live here, the Illyrians, specifically the Liburnians. We presume that the Liburnians knew the technique well. There’s also a legend of how the island came to be an island, but for that story you will have to visit this area and hear it live.

Today, one goes to the island of Košljun to explore the ethnographic collection as well as the permanent exhibition of church artefacts, but also, one can simply enjoy the lovely flora on this tiny island and the serenity surrounding the monastery and the small graveyard nearby. There are 540 different species of plants registered on this island, out of which there are 151 types of funghi. Diversity of flora and fauna is specifically higher on the northern Adriatic islands, due to the specifics of the karst area and limestone soil when it mixes with both saltwater and freshwater.

What Else?

Plenty else, a week wouldn’t be enough to explore and exhaust this island. One can go horse-riding in Njivice, bike or hike on the forest trails, watch the skies for sights of the griffon vultures that live on the high cliffs above the sea. Explore the beaches marked with a blue flag, visit bigger centres such as the city of Krk, the administrative and economical centre of Krk that approximately 5400 people call their home, Omisalj, Malinska. Visit aquariums in Baška, wakeboard or ski lift and zip line across the treetops. Why not visit a cave, Biserujka, and see the very game between the water and the rock in the underground and the stalactites and stalagmites that come as a result.

But what is the most fascinating here I believe, besides the breathtaking views and all the benefits that come with spending time by the Adriatic sea, is the diversity of people who have been living here over the times. Ever since the Romans, we mark continuous living in the island and jurisdiction by the following peoples: Illyrians: Curictas, Liburnians, Romans, Avars, Slavic people (as of the 7th ct), Venetians (1480-1797), Napoleon’s The Illyrian Provinces briefly (1806.-1813.), the Austrians within the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1813.-1918) and briefly Italian D’Anunzio’s (1918 – 1920), then the Yugoslav era in several different states, The Kingdom of SHS, The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, briefly occupied by the Italians in the 2nd World War 1941-1943, briefly occupied by the Germans from 1943-1945, and then again Yugoslavia from 1945, and lastly, Croatia as of 1991. These comings and goings have shaped a unique blend of cultures that’s possible to trace even today, by watching for signs on buildings, city walls and none the least, the talks around town.

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