Tina Vickov

Unwrapping Gifts

Or Something Special Around Every Corner 

Have you ever walked a celestial labyrinth?  Up until last week I hadn’t either.  Then, on a beautiful winter day here in Sibenik, Croatia, I was invited to walk the Labyrinth of Wisdom built by famed labyrinth maker Adrian Predrag Kezele and donated to the people of Croatia by Marina Baranovic.

Mike with our hostess, Marina Baranovic.

Mike with our hostess Marina Baranovic. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are many styles of labyrinths and they have been around for centuries.  There are nine celestial labyrinths; The labyrinth of life and death – Saturn labyrinth; Rahu Labyrinth – the labyrinth of transformation; The labyrinth of freedom – Ketu labyrinth; Sun labyrinth – the labyrinth of power; Moon labyrinth – the labyrinth of feelings; Mars labyrinth – the labyrinth of energy; Mercury labyrinth – the labyrinth of connection; The labyrinth of wisdom – Jupiter labyrinth; The labyrinth of love and creation – Venus labyrinth.

On the outskirts of Sibenik, away from the crowds of the city center, is a parcel of land which once belonged to Marina Baranovic’s parents, who farmed this land.  Marina’s family still uses the land to grow olives and other food items but Marina wanted to do more with the land and she wanted to leave a legacy to her town that would stand the test of time.  She felt that building two labyrinths was a good use for the land, and a good gift to the people of Croatia.

There are two labyrinths here. The first is the Labyrinth of Wisdom which reduces dishonesty and wrong judgment; removes ignorance, prejudices and possessiveness; reveals the purpose of life and gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.

The labyrinths were designed by Adrian Predrag Kezele.

The labyrinths were designed by Adrian Predrag Kezele. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The second is the Labyrinth of Contact which reveals the hidden abilities; makes visible what was invisible; connects what was separated and enables us to understand the secrets of the Universe.

The Labyrinth of Contact - walk them both to boost their power.

The Labyrinth of Contact – walk them both to boost their power. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Putting the two labyrinths in the same area boosts their power (as per Ganesha: Lord of Success).  One simply begins at the beginning and walks the labyrinths while contemplating and asking for enlightenment or fulfillment.  Once you reach the middle you return the way you came.  These two labyrinths have a beginning, middle and an end.  They are free to see and open to the public year round.  This is a very special gift to the people of not only Sibenik, to the people of Croatia, but also to the world.

Our day continued.  Driving though town and out into the countryside we drove up a hill lined with the Stations of the Cross.  At the top of the hill stands the remnant of the medieval town of Vrana.  The views of Vrana Lake from this vantage point are unmatched and even on a cloudy day the vista that unfolded before us was breathtaking.  From as early as 1070 Vrana had become one of the most important centers of political life in Croatia.  The land was given by the church to the Knights Templar in the 12th Century (one of three religious orders to be given the land over time) and it was rumored that they buried their treasure somewhere on the land.  Today there are remnants of past buildings on site; a rebuilt small chapel and picnic tables so that families can come and spend the day exploring and learning more about this interesting part of Croatian history.

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The views from the top of the hill are unmatched. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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There are picnic tables here for families to come and spend some time exploring and enjoying the view. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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Our crazy friends were enjoying the view from the edge of the cliff. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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Any excuse to take a photo of us we take it! © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Our last gift to be unwrapped came at Vransko Jezero or Black Crow Lake located on Lake Vrana, the largest natural lake in Croatia.  This is one of the protected areas of Croatia and the dominant feature of the park is the ornithological reserve, an almost untouched natural habitat for birds; a rare wetland system full of biodiversity. The lake provides an ample amount of fish for fishermen (pike, tench, carp).  Here locals and bird watching enthusiasts from around the world spend hours enjoying not only the beauty of the area but also in seeing some of the unique birds that inhabit this area.  We were there during winter so the water table was higher than in summer when the water comes up and around the walkway but the water was shallow and in some places only inches deep.  This natural lake is even more amazing when one realizes that it is 3 miles long and only 15 feet deep which makes every part of this lake accessible as a feeding ground.

Local bird watching expert Leonardo Grubelic led our tour.  In addition to enjoying bird watching, Leo spends approximately 10 days every summer here on the lake finding new species of birds and categorizing them for future research and bird watchers.  He imparted that the best time to bird watch is actually in winter so we were there during the best time of year.  It was quiet and the day was beautiful and only one other person came to enjoy the view.  Vrana Lake (Vransko Jezero) is also an important migratory location for birds.  Not only does it offer a lush environment for the birds but it is a good resting point for them as they travel both north and south.  Leo reported that 150 species of birds use this area for migration but more than 250 bird species have been seen here.

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Reeds grow on a gently sloping terrain in shallow water. Conditions such as these are excellent for many species of birds which use the reeds as protection from other predators. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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Our local bird watching expert Leonardo Grubelic gave us some insight into the world of bird watchers. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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The walkway out to the main bid watching site is over a mile long. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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One of the main bird watching stations. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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This area is protected as a Park of Nature. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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We were quiet as possible since this area is home to over 150 species of birds but over 250 species use this area on their migration paths from north to south and back again. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

As our sightseeing, hiking and bird watching tour of Vrana Lake and its surroundings ended one thought stood out for me.  If I hadn’t been with a local guide I would never have enjoyed my exploration as much.  There is so much more to Sibenik than St. James Cathedral and old town Sibenik, and on this day we got to see more of what makes this area special and why we chose to live in it if even for a short time.  From walking the Labyrinth of Wisdom, to exploring the cliffs overlooking Vrana Lake to the experience of visiting the bird watching sanctuary with an expert we learned more about this region than many people take the time to learn.  And we made some new friends along the way, which to me was the best gift of all.

Florence Lince

www.6monthers.com

 

Author’s Note: This special day was arranged by Tina Vickov, Owner of Sibenik Plus Tourist Agency and Biljana Lambasa, Owner of Personal Insider Tours (Zagreb, Croatia).  Click on their names to learn more about them and to book directly with them.  Bird watching tours with Leonardo Grubelic can be arranged via Tina Vickov.

 

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The Secrets of Sibenik

Or If These Walls Could Talk

Anyone can get a guide book and a map and walk around a strange city.  The problem with this approach is that you are bound to miss something truly amazing and those guide books are only as good as the person who wrote them and how well they did their research.  Sometimes it is best to hire a guide to learn the secrets of a place that only a local would know.

On a beautiful winter day recently we did just this walking around the city of Sibenik with Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourism Agency and Tina Bilus (a licensed guide for Sibenik County) who gave us some of the inside scoop on the city we have been calling home.  What we found out was that even after being here for several months we had more to learn.

The most famous landmark of Sibenik is the Cathedral of St. James (Sr. Jakov) that sits at the top of a staircase and affords a spectacular view of the waterfront.  On a bright and sunny day this view cannot be beat.  One of the greatest lies told about the Cathedral by tour guides who do not really know this city is that the bell tower where you hear the bells chiming from can no longer be seen.  In actuality there never was a bell tower and the bells you hear ringing on the hour are from a CD that plays over a loud speaker.

The patron saint of Sibenik is St. Michael who is one of the three statues at the top of the Cathedral dome.  He stands with St. Philip and St. Nicholas.

The patron saint of Sibenik is St. Michael who is one of the three statues at the top of the Cathedral dome. He stands with St. Philip and St. Nicholas. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

What is true however is that the Cathedral made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage site because of two special factors.  One is in its construction.  There is not one nail, stud or other device holding the structure together.  There is also no plaster or glue or cement used to hold the cathedral together.  The stones used were carved by artisans in Split and then assembled here.  These pieces are interlocking and so tight that you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between the blocks.  It is an amazing architectural achievement considering the Cathedral was built in the early 14th Century.

There are hidden treasures all over the outside of this Cathedral.  You need to spend as much time exploring the outside as the inside.

There are hidden treasures all over the outside of this Cathedral. You need to spend as much time exploring the outside as the inside. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The other unique feature of this church is found on the outside.  There are 75 ‘faces’ along the back arch.  What makes these faces unique is that they are carvings of local citizens of the town of Sibenik from that time period and not royalty or wealthy patrons of the arts.  It was the first example of sculptures of ordinary citizens.  What is also unique is that not one of the statues looks at one another, every one is made so that they are looking sideways or ahead or up but never at the looker or at another face on the wall.  It is an interesting portrait of what the locals looked like back in the 14th Century.

Some of the 'faces' that adorn the outside of the Cathedral.

Some of the ‘faces’ that adorn the outside of the Cathedral. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In the same square as the Cathedral is a building with three columns.  The middle column is known as the Column of Shame.  It was attached to this column that those that broke the law would be bound so that the entire village could see their shame.  There are no markings or posters to this affect near the square.

The middle one is the Column of Shame

The middle one is the Column of Shame. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The city of Sibenik was under Roman rule for over 400 years.  Wandering the streets you come upon this jut out in the wall of one building with the moniker, Amor De Cani (for the love of dogs) and yes, it is a well filled with water for the dogs that run around the city.  We have never seen it dry.

For The Love of Dogs

For The Love of Dogs © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Other Special Secrets of Sibenik

Always look up. These columns can be found on some of the buildings in Old Town Sibenik.  At the top of the columns sometimes you can find shields engraved.  This column tells you that the family who used to own the building were of nobility.

Always look up. These columns can be found on some of the buildings in Old Town Sibenik. At the top of the columns sometimes you can find shields engraved. This column tells you that the family who used to own the building were of nobility. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of Sibenik most famous artists is Ali Guberina.  He has had 39 exhibitions around the world and had been presented to Pope John Paul II after doing a sculpture of the Pope.

One of Sibenik most famous artists is Ali Guberina. He has had 39 exhibitions around the world and had been presented to Pope John Paul II after doing a sculpture of the Pope. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are 17 church's within the streets of the Old City of Sibenik. This one was given to the Orthodox Church by Napoleon.  It is only open during the summer for the tourists coming from Russia.

There are 17 church’s within the streets of the Old City of Sibenik. This one was given to the Orthodox Church by Napoleon. It is only open during the summer for the tourists coming from Russia. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This was the first city water pipe in Sibenik. There used to be six of them scattered around the city.  This one still works.

This was the first city water pipe in Sibenik. There used to be six of them scattered around the city. This one still works. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

If you ask a local where "Greasy Street" is located they will know exactly where you are talking.  This street is where all of the butcher shops were located and where street vendors made food.  Today it is lined with clothing stores and cafes.  The stone walkway is really shiny however.

If you ask a local where “Greasy Street” is located they will know exactly where you are talking. This street is where all of the butcher shops were located and where street vendors made food. Today it is lined with clothing stores and cafes. The stone walkway is really shiny however. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This appetizing little array consists of a bottle of liquor made with Maraska Cherries.  How famous are these local cherries?  This liquor was served on the Titanic.

This appetizing little array consists of a bottle of liquor made with Maraska Cherries. How famous are these local cherries? This liquor was served on the Titanic. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Not everyone has the luxury of time that we have to spend countless hours learning more about a place and walking the same streets over and over again only to discover something new every time we do so.  I get that.  But what good is a secret if you don’t tell anyone that secret!  I know these are no longer secrets now, which means we’ll just keep walking until we find more secrets…to share.

Florence Lince

www.6monthers.com