The Magic of Imotski, Croatia
I could write entire posts on the places we visited and the things we did in Croatia during out trip around the Balkans a few weeks ago, but the internet is already full of tourist guides to cities such as Split and Dubrovnik and my main takeaway from exploring such places a few times now is to always go out of season and stay away from the crowded centre. We particularly love the islands near Split which are all stunning in their own way. Vis especially holds a special place in my heart, though we didn't get there on our most recent trip. This time around when we were in the Split area we based ourselves in Kastel Sucurac, a sleepy little village just north of Split. We spent a few days there wandering around the old defensive fortress, which is still very much lived in and where our cosy airbnb was situated - which was also only a fraction of the price of staying in an apartment in central Split in high season. There was also a small beach just a 5 minute walk away, where we retreated in the late afternoons to cool off.
However the main highlight from our most recent time in Croatia, if not one of the most magical stops of the whole trip - was our time in Imotski, a small town on the Croatian/Bosnian border. We loved it so much I couldn't help myself but to dedicate a whole post to it. I've travelled in Croatia quite a bit and there is no doubt as to the beauty of this country. It has a glorious coastline with such a large number of wonderfully differing islands. It has exciting cities and lush mountains. Yet Imotski had a strange allure about it which surprised me and forever etched it as a special place in my heart.
Imotski is known as the home town of several famous Croatian poets and it's not hard to see why. The large Biokovo mountain prevents Imotski from having a seaview, hence the bus ride inland from Split involved numerous lengthy tunnels (resulting in a very excited toddler). Yet this rugged, karst landscape surrounding Imotski creates the most incredible natural wonders. A wonderful mixture of rocks, caves and deep, like really deep, sinkholes, often filled with water of almost unbelievable colour. The blue lake and the red lake being the most prominent. Mythology abounds in the region as the caves and interesting karst formations are not just wonders of nature but the homes of fairies, famous heroines and other magical creatures. Sat at the blue lake's edge, hearing the sparkling blue water lap gently against the pebbles and staring up at the sharp, vertical backdrop of rock meeting the sky, it was impossible to not feel the magic.
As we treaded down the long, meandering slope towards the Blue lake it almost felt like we were actually walking into the very depths of Earth's hidden secrets. Swimming in the cold lake at the bottom was obviously wonderful but the thought of being near the so called Fairy's Resting Place where, according to local legend, fairies come out to play at dawn and dusk, gave a pretty otherworldly experience.
Back at town-level and looking down over the lake, the Topana Imotski Fortress sits on top of a huge cliff, offering the best views of the lake overall in my opinion. Despite information online suggesting there is a small fee to enter the fortress, we found it pretty derelict when we arrived on our first evening. I think playing in the fortress at twilight, collecting pinecones and watching the sun set on our first view of the lake, is one of my most favourite memories ever.
The town of Imotski is pretty beautiful too. The main square is thoroughly pedestrianised and complete with a statue of Tin Ujevic - one of Croatia's most outstanding poets. A maze of typical Dalmatian stone streets, all interconnected by numerous staircases makes up the rest of the small town. There are cosy cafes and wonderfully scented bakeries aplenty, plus a great kids playground which Roscoe loved after a long day exploring.
Imotski is one of those places I loved so much I've even conducted an entire little storyboard in my head of what our lives might look like if we lived there. So slow, so nurturing, so enchanting. I would love to return one day.
Visiting famous places and big cities can be amazing but it's the places we end up in almost by accident, the ones we've never heard of before, that really bring out the magic of travel. So yes Imotski was wonderful and my head is still spinning from the beauty of it, but my main point is it ignited the wanderlust in me in a way that visiting a well known tourist destination never could.
It seems fitting to finish the post in the words of Tin Ujevic himself. I'm sure the English translation will not touch the eloquence or rhythmatic quality of the Croatian original, yet even after putting it through google translate and modifying parts of it in line with my very basic research surrounding the poem, the haunting, allurance of his words still shine through.
In foreboding, yearning distance, distance;
in heart, in breath mountains, mountains.
Small places in my heart,
memories of Brac, and Imotski.
The flash of glorious goldfinch,
and the scent (the scent) of tansy
There, there to journey,
there, there to mourn;
to listen to those old fable stories,
to dream the milk of a blue fairy tale;
to no longer know myself,
nor smoke in the mists of pain.
Thanks for reading,