Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Brijuni National Park

The trip to Brujuni National Park was one of the very few disappointments I've found in Croatia.  I believe I was disappointed because my understanding of what a national park should be is completely different from the Croatian concept.  National parks in the United States tend to be a celebration of nature.  Great effort is expended to protect and even reinstate the natural ecosystems of the area.  Exotic plant and animal life are not welcome.  Above all, the emphasis is on keeping things as "natural" as possible.  I know there are surely exceptions to this rule, but for the most part this is what I have come to believe a national park should represent.

In all fairness, the park is made up of 14 islands.  We only saw one of them.  Naturally, it is the one most exploited, most tourist driven.  The other islands may in fact be in a much more natural state, but the island I saw is not a celebration of nature.
The trip started off well enough.  Pedro, our expedition facilitator was on hand to tell us good-bye.
We drove off with Tommy who had been to a wedding the day before.  Hence, the beribboned side mirror.
A ferry whisked us from Fazana to the island in about 15 minutes.
We met Alexandra, our guide.
and off we went in our little white train.
The waters are protected so there is a healthy marine population
and they are very proud of the many and varied species of birds that make the island their home.  I didn't see very many of those birds, but I'm sure they are there.

One of the first stories you hear from the guide is the cleansing of the island of malaria.   Malaria was so prominent due to the karst landscape.  The sinkholes provided excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  The remedy?  Fill in all the sinkholes.  The mosquito population was decimated.
The doctor who thought up the idea was lauded as a hero and the landscape was changed forever, along with the ecosystem it had supported.

Villas were built.  The island became a favorite summer vacation spot for Yugoslavian government big-wigs.
Then came the resort hotels
along with their golf courses.
Thank goodness for the imported deer.  They manage to keep all that golf course grass under control.

Perhaps the greatest insult was the zoo.

Assorted sheep and goats
 Of which this was the most splendid example.  None of that was too bad . . .well, maybe the zebras, but even they looked fairly content.
But I had to draw the line at the elephant.  Almost all the animals in the "Safari Park" were given to Tito by different world leaders.  This elephant and her mate were a gift from India.  Her mate died several years ago and she has led a lonely widow's life ever since.  It was just too sad for words.

Supposedly many dinosaur tracks have been found on the islands including the island we were on, and our guide pointed to them as we sped by.  We were not allowed to look.
We did see an ancient olive tree supposedly more than 1500 years old, but we sped by so quickly there was no time for more than an olive colored blur.

I had better luck with the Roman ruins, but again, there was no opportunity for exploration.  In fact, we did not stop.  Pictures were made on the fly.
We even sped by the statue erected to honor the fallen male elephant from India.

I was very glad when we returned to the main entrance and got off the little train.
I enjoyed the walk through the quarry.
And our brief visit to Sacred Herman's Church
with the wonderful paintings.  Then we were told the originals were tucked away in a museum.  These were copies.
I am sure the museum dedicated to Marshall Tito is of extreme interest to many people, but not so much for me.  As pictured above, Tito was a big hunter/fisherman.  The entire ground floor was used for displaying the stuffed remains of his expeditions.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be little effort in arranging the specimens in any logical format.

On the walls of the second floor, we saw picture after picture after picture of Tito with various celebrities and world leaders of his time.
In the minds of many he was and still is a legend.  However, we made short work of the museum and got on with the very best part of the trip.
We found a comfortable rock, and watched the ocean for about half an hour before the boat came to pick us up.

From the island, we could see a church tower on the mainland.  Our guide told us that it was the highest of all the church towers in Istria.
On our way back to Rovinj, I asked Tommy about it.  He stopped for me to get a photo.  Now, I need to find out exactly where I was.  Not as easy as it might seem. So many tiny villages . . . and every one of them has a church with a tall, tall tower.