Five Islands of Dalmatia

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Introduction

In this edition I have decided to concentrate on the eastern part of the Adriatic Sea. Most of this coast from Croatia to Albania is known as Dalmatia. Sort of. The Dalmatian Coast doesn't quite extend as far north as Croatia does, and stops short of Albania, but I think a little geographic licence is allowed. If it isn't, then shucks, suck it up Buttercup, it's my blog and my rules. ....Sorry, I appear to be getting cranky in my old age (Sort of like the old grandad of JetPunk as MG would call me 😉😂)

Considering that Croatia has many islands I have picked three from there, plus one each from Montenegro and Albania. I haven't included Bosnia because, although they have a short coastline they only have two islands, Veliki Skolj and Mali Skolj both uninhabited and minute. In fact the smaller island Mali Skolj is underwater at high tide. There is also a disagreement with Croatia over who actually owns the islands.

So, time to stop babbling on, (Interesting that the word babble meaning to "talk and talk without stopping" sounds similar to the Tower of Babel and it's many languages. Also the name of the translator fish in "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy", the Babel Fish. Stop babbling toowise and get on with it !) and move on to the blog.........

Goli Otok (Croatia)

The name of this island translates into English as "Barren Island" due to the almost complete lack of vegetation. It's temperatures range from around 40oC in summer to freezing in the winter with the addition of the Bora wind chill.

Goli Otok

The island was uninhabited for much of it's existence, save for visiting shepherds and their flocks, the first settlers only arriving in the early 20th century.

Abandoned prison buildings

During World War One, Austria-Hungary sent Russian Prisoners of War from the Eastern Front to the island for incarceration.

Then in 1949, the whole island was made into a secure and top secret prison by the Yugoslavian government led by Josip Tito. It was used to hold political prisoners, dissidents and anyone opposed to the regime.

The nearby island of Sveti Grgur was similarly fortified for female prisoners of the state.

Some non-political criminals were also sentenced to the island and were subjected to hard labour in the quarry and pottery industries. It is thought that up to 4000 prisoners were executed on the island over the years that it was in operation. It ceased to be a prison in 1988.

The island is now a tourist attraction and is populated occasionaly by shepherds from the island of Rab. 

Getting there in summer is relatively easy, regular boats ply their trade between the island and the neighbouring islands of Rab and Krk. Winter time is obviously more difficult and a boat will probably need to be chartered.

The Dark Tourism website has an excellent report of a visit to Goli Otok, along with a fair amount of photos.

Biševo (Croatia)

Biševo is a small inhabited island east of Split. the current population is around 15 permanent residents, although this is significantly increased during the summer tourist season.

Biševo from the air.

In 1050, a Benedictine monastry was established on the island , however two centuries later it was abandoned due to the danger from pirates. A chuch is now situated close to the ruins of the monastery.

Monk Seal Cave
Blue Cave

The island is famous for it's caves, attracting many visitors. The Blue Cave pictured above was only accesible by diving until an artificial entrance was built in 1884. The blue light is a reflection of sunlight from under the water outside the cave shining in through a submerged entrance. In addition to this and the Monk Seal cave there is also a Green Grotto cave on the island. These are the most famous of the 27 caves on this small island.

Getting to Biševo is by boat. This runs year round from the nearby island of Vis. Other tourist boats depart from various islands and the mainland during the summer months.

The Visit Croatia website has more information and some stunning photographs.

Vis (Croatia)

Vis is situated out in the Adriatic and as such is the farthest inhabited island from the mainland. The island has a permanent population of around 3500 people. The highest point, Mount Hum, is off limits to civilians due to a military radar station.

Mount Hum

There have been residents on the island since Neolithic Times, in the 4th century the Greeks established a colony on the island. Their own money was minted and the island's inhabitants even set up their own colonies on the mainland. The most famous of these is the present day city of Split.

The island was under the control of the Republic of Venice until almost the end of the 18th century, and Venetian influence can still be seen in some of the architecture.

It then passed to Italy, then Austria and back to Italy until it was ceded to Yugoslavia in the 1920's.

The town and bay of Vis.
Yugoslav Partisan planes at Vis airfield WW2

During the Second World War the island was the headquarters of Marshall Josip Tito, leader of the Yugoslav Partisan resistance movement. They fought against the German occupation of Yugoslavia. After coming again under Italian control, it reverted back to Yugoslavia after the war.

The island was then used by the Yugoslav People's Army until it was abandoned in 1989. When Croatia declared independance in 1991, it's navy did not return to the island. Instead most of the former military buildings have been converted for tourist use, including tunnels, bunkers and a secret submarine base.

The movie Mamma Mia, Here we go again!, the sequel to Mamma Mia, was filmed on the island in 2017.

Stiniva Bay

Getting to the island is by car ferry or high speed catarmaran operated by Jadrolinija from Split.


The Vis Tourist Association has an excellent website describing everything to do on the island.

Sveti Stefan (Montenegro)

Sveti Stefan, or Saint Stephen to it's friends, is an imposter in this blog series. It isn't actually an island anymore due to being connected to the mainland by a tombolo. A tombolo is a narrow isthmus built up by tidal action and usually made of sand.

Sveti Stefan

The earliest record of the island is from the 12th century when it was the capital of the Paštrovići tribe and region. It came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century as the local inhabitants feared invasion by the Turks. The island paid no taxes to Venice in return for not looting Venetian vessels. However, the village soon became a haven for pirates.

In the early 20th century the population declined due to emigration overseas and people joining the armed forces. By 1954 only 20 persons remained. The Yugoslav government relocated the population and converted the whole island into a hotel for the Communist Party elite and celebrities. One church was converted to a casino.

Following the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990's, the government of Montenegro sold the resort to a hotel chain in 2007 on a 30 year lease. The hotel has yet to reopen following the Covid pandemic.

The private beach and island.

Obviously getting to the island requires a hotel booking since it is now privately owned. The area of the mainland closest to the island is also part of the resort.

The hotel chain's website entry for the hotel has many pictures of the island.

Sazan Island (Albania)

Sazan is located off the end of the Karaburun Peninsula, an area with which it shares it's National Park status. Part of the island is also a military exclusion zone, meaning that section cannot be visited. An Italian-Albanian navy base monitors the movement of vessels in the area to prevent smuggling.

Sazan Island from the port of Vlores.

The island was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, it was part of the Roman Empire. It has changed ownership many times over the centuries, being passed from one empire to another. It has been under the control of Venice, the Ottomans, Naples, Greece and even Britain.

Finally being ceded to Albania after the Second World War, but then coming under Soviet control during the Cold War. The USSR built a submarine base and a chemical or biological weapons factory on the island. After the break up of the Soviet Union it was abandoned, although many pieces of equipment remain scattered around the island.

In 2010 the island, the adjacent peninsula and the surrounding waters were declared a National Marine Park by the Albanian government.

European Green Toad
Blue Throated Keeled Lizard
Hermann's Tortoise
Sopran Pipistrelle Bat

Some of the known 155 species of fauna found on the island are pictured above. It has been suggested that this is an under estimated number. There are also thought to be around 435 species of plant on the island.

The island can only be accessed by small boat, day trips are available from the port of Vlores for a fee.

This blog about a visit to the island has several photos and a video link.

Summary

There ya go my friends. Another five islands to add to the rest.

We've almost done in Europe now, my next one I think will be Greece. So many islands, so much history. The research may take a while to find some that are relatively unknown, but I am hopeful that I will succeed. And that then should, I think, be Europe covered, unless I decide to write an episode about some of the inland islands of, for example, Austria and Switzerland. But I may just leave them for later and do a mega-blog about the islands in lakes around the world.

Looking towards the rest of the world, I think I will be consolidating a lot more countries into one episode. Perhaps general regions. For example, split Africa into four, North, South, East and West ?

Who knows? Certainly not me. I'm making this up as I go along.

Anyways I'm babbling again, so thats it.

In the words of Douglas Adams, "So Long, and thanks for all the fish"


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Level 43
May 22, 2022
Grandpa strikes again! tell me if you don’t like of that

When the islands of Brunei!?!? :(

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Level 75
May 22, 2022
It could be a lot worse to be honest, and I am actually a grandpa. My son and his wife have a 5 year old boy and another "on the way".

Brunei...mmm... could be a while, be patient. I may go the other way from Europe. I haven't decided yet.

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Level 43
May 22, 2022
Feel free to say if you don't want to be called like that.

So... Belgium? don't tell Quizmaster about this

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Level 75
May 22, 2022
I haven't any problem with the name. And Belgium ? mmm. I don't know
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Level 75
May 24, 2022
For a second I was about to make a list of links to all the Blogs then I realised. Well played Sir !
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Level 56
May 22, 2022
Very interesting! My favorite part was the fact that Montenegro sold Sveti Stefan to a hotel chain 😂. Also, I am very excited for Greece! I absolutely love Greek history. I should really write a Blast to the Past blog on that...
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Level 75
May 22, 2022
I thought that too, although it is only a 30 year lease.

look forward to seeing your blog !

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Level 56
May 22, 2022
One hard thing to decide is what part of Greek history to do? Trojan War, Alexander the Great, The Peloponnesian Wars, etc...
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Level 75
May 22, 2022
Simple answer is to do a series of blogs.
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Level 56
May 22, 2022
Very good point.
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Level 66
May 22, 2022
Did my blog inspire you to write about Dalmatian islands? The entire coastline and islands are indeed very interesting! So many croatian islands that looks so different from one another, for example the south of Pag almost looks like a desert in the middle of Europe. I didn't know about the blue cave, which looks really cool. At one point in my life, I might go back there and spend some time to explore the croatian islands.
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Level 75
May 23, 2022
This edition of my blog was on my list, however I did bring it forward to tie in with yours. So yes I think I was influenced by yours.

You're right about the Croatian islands too, they are worth a trip just on their own.

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Level 54
May 23, 2022
Nice! Is it a snake near the tortoise?
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Level 75
May 23, 2022
Looks like a twig to me when I enlarged the picture, Thanks btw.
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Level 75
May 24, 2022
Those pictures are just a example of the type of fauna on the island. And yeah definately a stick !