Following Celtic Ways

Ramblings and reviews by John Willmott as he travels the Celtic Ways and Waterways visiting hidden ancient Celtic temples, sacred wells, and provoking legends .... plus music and theatre along the way

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Croatia: Day 3 - Brijuni

by John Willmott of Celtic Ways

Next day was a short sail to this surprising island, once the home of President Tito for six months of the year. This island, well group of islands, is quite a paradise with quite a history. I arrived knowing nothing about it ahead yet was cloak with a feeling that I could describe as spiritual welcoming and protection. Historically, it seems these islands were quite a sanctuary before Christ and during the early Roman Christian years.

There are remains ranging from a wedge tomb I found in the woods to Illyrian ruins and the remains of a quite an expansive and involved Roman settlement, called Kastrum on the west coast, complete with what looks like a sweat house in the middle. Unfortunately, we missed another Roman settlement, with tall standing pillars, called Verige on the east coast. The 5th century built St. Mary's church is quaint, peaceful and very unique with its stone carvings and symbolic paintings.

We spent the whole day touring the main island on bicycles and the sense of paradise was with us continually. The coastline was continually pure white and the sea incredibly blue and clear. The flora was green lush and flowering and it almost seemed as if the ark had landed due to the range of wildlife. Apparently President Tito collected animals and now they are fairly free residents on the island such as zebras, gazelles, antelope, lammas, and lots and lots of elegant deer. Peacocks too.

We spent quite a time bathing in the water, 80 degrees F. in the water and 90 plus outside. Later we are told that only three weeks previous it was cold with snow on the hills. The warm water was very soothing, healing and even somewhat passionate.

There's a description in English on the local guide that reads ..........

"This is a very special country, in the form of a peninsula, which lies at the point where the first southern parts of Europe already begin. Harsh and rough, full of hard rocks but sunny and warm, green and lovely on the western edges, surrounded by the blue sea this is Istria.

An ancient Istrian legend tells us the story of its origins. The Almighty wanted to create a piece of Paradise on earth, but the devil weakened his malice and turned all the splendour of the country into stone. But the good angel came and cast a sad look at the devil's act of destruction. In spite of the devil's work, there are still beautiful parts of that ancient magical land left among the ruins and wasteland. With great care, the good angels carried over to the coast what was left of Paradise and surrounded it with protective blue waves.

This is how the Isterian islands came to be. They lie just in front of the mainland where its most prominent part stretches out to sea and the biggest island among them is called "Brijuni".

And what we are told by the legend about the island being a "small Paradise" is borne by reality. It is not easy to say in a few words what really makes Brijuni so extraordinarily beautiful. One would have to be extremely adept with words to be able to describe all its charms, the shape and relief of the landscape, the hundreds of nuances and ambiences as well as the beauty of the Adriatic sea, in the infinity of which these magic islands are situated".

One surprise is we hardly saw anybody on our travels around. Locals tend to take day trip ferries and linger close to the ferry harbour. Our solitude added to the peace and perfection or the day.

Our day here was the definition of a perfect holiday. Its a day I'll never forget. A rare day when God does expose you to what paradise, and even God, really is.

..... then not long after I wrote the above and listening to The Doors, Roadhouse Blues, at the lyric "roll baby roll" the stillness of the day was terminated with a sudden extreme storm force 12 wind, hurricane force, thunder and unrelenting lightening. Boats instantly released themselves from the exposed harbour and set forth against the wind to prevent harbour and rocks damage. We stayed put and survived without a scratch to the hull.. We all was settled I did take some stunning still sunrise photos as we left. Paradise had returned, after its warning.

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