It has always been said that the left bank of the river Kupa is in Europe, and the right bank is in the Balkans.
The journey starts from today\\\'s modern European Union, following the river Kupa from Slovenian border all the way to the Glina River, the border with Bosnia, the territory of former Military Frontier.
Croatian military history is rich and Croatian soldiers were feared victors of many battles against much superior invading armies. With the arrival of the Slavs and Croatian tribes in the area of the Roman province of Dalmatia and Pannonia together with colonization of the Illyrian tribes on this territory wars were inevitable. Continuous conflicts and wars with the Avars, Byzantines, Venetians, Franks, Bulgarians and Hungarians shaped Croatian mindset that is hard to find in developed world.
According to some legends, Mongol invasion was stopped in this region in the 13th century. Two centuries later the invasions and conquests of the Ottomans came as new disasters from the east.
Short break in wars with the Turks dispersed Croatian soldiers across European battlefields during the Thirty Year War where they made a mark on an entire generation of army, the light cavalry.
French Napoleonic wars weakened to the end the Croatian Krajina force defending the Habsburg crown.
The first and second World War leaves a big footprint in the region as an ominous prelude to the last war fought in Europe, the Croatian Homeland War.
After neglected and overgrown, often impassable paths our journey with offroad vehicles begins at a medieval castle Ribnik, and continues across the river Dobra with the city of Novigrad, and Dubovac fort.
Upgraded Austro-Hungarian barracks in Karlovac and its surrounding Yugoslavian Army became an important garrison city. Today, several barracks were adapted to universities and countless abandoned military bases and underground facilities still exist. These locations are interesting not only to military history enthusiasts and adventurers but the sight and feel of them leaves person contemplating those times and soldiers that used them.
After the confluence of the Korana and Mrežnica rivers path leads us to the Museum of the Homeland War, the history termed bulwark of Christianity, and the sparsely populated area to the ruins of ancient cities Sjeničak, Klokoč, Krstinja Perna and even the inevitable visit to the ruins of the Pauline monastery in Petrovac. We then proceed to the top of Petrova Gora in which proximity is the King\\\'s grave. But this is not the end of our adventure.
After the green sea of Petrova Gora the view guides us to glittering falls of village Rastoka. An unique village known for its mills at the mouth of the Koran and Slunjčica. Locals are not concerned only with their daily activities, but also produce handicrafts, and a well-known, handed down through generations and perfected with each one, the distillation of strong alcoholic beverage known localy as Rakija.
Plitvice, the most famed Croatian national park, emerges from the fog as we proceed. It is a holiday for the eyes and soul, as the spirit of the landscape is actually palpable there.
A taste of the local cow and sheep, smoked cheese can only be experienced on the top of Pljesevica, a lookout point on the border with Bosnia and location of yet another abandoned military base.
There are many legends about the battle on the Krbava field. We can visualize all the force of arms and armor in the vast field begging the question of the power of Croatian warriors that ambushed and defeated 10,000 Turkish horsemen led by the Bosnian Sandzak Hadum Jakub Pasha. This lead to freeing of all people enslaved by Ottoman devastation over Carinthia and Styria.
In Lovinac, close to the first slopes of Velebit, after a stop in the abandoned village of stone houses, whose layout is reminiscent of huge amphitheaters, we are not aware that climbing the mountain rugged dirt road soon with height and by clearing of storm clouds can make out the the Adriatic Sea. That big blue that started all the troubles for the first Croatian tribes.
Through the centuries, invaders lusted for that view and built a road. It was built in the early 19th century, then called Master of roads has become one of the first link of that part of Lika with Dalmatia. When wind parts the clouds along the road bunkers on the surrounding peaks still stand as a testament of the guards and the recent conquest of the enemy from the east. They stand as silent witnesses to the latest generation of Croatian warriors, winners in defending secular dream of freedom and independence.
Next to Tulove Grede, through Libinje, a herd of wild horses, whose ancestors were the only means of transport over this rugged terrain during the Homeland War, roam free and undisturbed.
Descending the Adriatic Highway, we find the canyon of Mala and Velika Paklenica, the destination of climbers and mountaineers from around the world.
Here we can stock up on local products, fruit, cheese, ham, homemade wine, brandy and inevitable Loza. Loza, the product of remains from ripe grapes after harvest which is distilled.
A winding road at the foot of the coastal town of Karlobag takes us on to the old Karolinska Road built during the reign of Charles III in the first half of the 18th century. That road takes us back in the wastelands of the Middle Velebit. Nearby, Baške Oštarije, an old Austro-Hungarian road with its stone retaining walls and constant cornering poses a question whether it was, in this harsh area, created by hands of peaceful builders or is it a carving of prisoners of war under the vigilant watch of guards?
The jagged peaks of Kiza and Bačića Kuk still do not give us any answers. Only there in Crna Duliba, where smells of old stumps and conifers remind us that we leave the Mediterranean climate may stop to think whether a Roman general sent his legions to break the way toward some gentle regions.
Kugina house provides us shelter on the way to Klepina Duliba, a rainforest where trees remain where they fall. Only bird song disturbs the tranquility of the forest. Occasional sound of branches breaking indicates a presence of bears or wild boars. Passing under Kozjak over Begovača reveals the valley of Mali Lom as a harbinger of even greater valley of the Veliki Lom. The valley is trapped between peaks Rajinac and Hajdučki Kukovi.
Another hut, a shelter in the Veliki Lom and stone barn nearby reminiscent of the time when the timber was transported by horses, and goods had to be safe from attack of bears and wolves. Here we are in the realm of chamois, with a sharp cry of a raven, which acknowledges that all is closely watched.
There is no cellphone signal here, nothing to distract you from the view and the history of this remote place. Even rock is food here, one for the soul.
Winding forest road just before the turning to Premužić trail on Vukušić Snježnica, a place of eternal ice and snow gives an excuse to stop and cool down some beer.
A valuable engineer Ante Premužić, enthusiast and visionary, built the track in just four years, starting in 1930, thus enabling access to the wildest and most beautiful parts of Velebit until then known only to a small number of residents from villages under Velebit. With over 300 protected plant species, Velebit Botanical Garden is a jewel at the foot of Zavižan. Established in 1967, it boasts the title of a place with a biggest number of plant species than in the entire United Kingdom, and its only 50 hectares.
As a reward shortly before the end, the mountain lodge at the foot of Vučjak Weather Station is the humble home of quiet and self-denying uncle Ante Vukušić. With the help of diligent hands of his wife Mary over 40 years of working and living on Velebit joyfully welcomed hikers, adventurers, travelers and all the people of good will around the clock in all weather conditions. In winter times you will be knocking at their door, a window on second floor, as snow is that high. p
And do not forget, with renowned brandy Uncle Ante enriched with medicinal plants, our journey may not end here, because our views are open to the Gorski Kotar and back to Karlovac, the intersection of historical military roads. Who knows, the best adventures are the ones you don\\\'t plan in detail. Join us on this journey.
client\\\'s 4x4 vehicles
National park Velebit.
Open fire cooking
Experienced guides provided with 4x4 vehicles.