On the first weekend of 2019 we decided to visit Lika, more precisely Krasno. The original plan was to settle in Krasno and hike to Veliki Alan and to the top of Zečjak. However, due to unforeseen (objective) circumstances we soon had to give that plan up.
Around 9 a.m. we leave for Lika. Silvija picked me up, I put my things in the car and we set off. The first news, you might say bad one is that Silvija forgot her hiking journals. The second even worse news is that only that morning, after several phone calls and inquiries, we found out that the Northern Velebit national park is closed until further notice. We learn from our mistakes, so next time we’ll check it out in time. Disappointed and somewhat nervous we put fuel in our car and bought coffee, and at no cost do we give up on our weekend, although it was obviously not going according to plan. We went back to collect the journals and started the trip.
Finally, we’re on our way. We decided to take the old road. After the first few kilometres – new problems – we ran out of windshield washer. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so important if it hadn’t been for a couple more troubles. We stopped at the pump in Tušilović, I went to buy the washer, and a moment later, Silvija came out of the car. The saleswoman told me to bu the washer at the pump across the road, but first I went to the car to see what was happening. And then I see – a car full of coffee, like it exploded! Leaving Silvija to clean it up, although it was very funny, and I left to get the washer. We managed to pour only a tiny bit into the car. We were surprised, but we continued. Problems continued over the next few kilometres. The road is wet and dirty, so the windshield got dirty soon after we set off. We had to stop again. We stopped, cleaned the frozen jets and continued towards Rastoke. Soon, the jets are frozen again, and we concluded that the washer itself was frozen. We poured more washer, and we embarked on a tour of Rastoke, a small picturesque village near Slunj, extremely interesting for tourists because of the numerous waterfalls, rapids and lakes. At the very entrance, we are fascinated by the slacklines. It’s the first time we’ve seen anything like that, so we took a few photos and continued our walk. We were strolling through Rastoke, taking pictures and before continuing the trip decided to warm up a bit and drink something. We enter the tavern “Kum”, rest a little and went on with the trip.
We continued to Otočac. Our next goal was to see a small airport near Otočac. As we got closer to Lika, the temperature was lower and lower, so at one point it reached -9, which made windshield washing completely impossible. Soon we arrived in Otočac and the airport itself was easy to find. It is located on the entrance to Otočac from the direction of Korenica. On the roundabout we turned towards Čovići and on the left we found the airport, which in itself may not be such an attraction, but there is a plane Douglas DC-3, exposed at the entrance. It is a transport aircraft of the Yugoslav Air Force, which was manufactured in 1944. At this airport it landed in 1977. Thanks to the members of Aeroclub “The Wings of Gacka,” this plane was rescued from devastation and was restored. It’s nice to see that at least there’s some kind of preservation of historical treasure, even something from former Yugoslavia. There are also two planes Republic F-84 Thunderjet transported from Željava. These three planes make up a small aviation museum, which can be seen only by appointment. Maybe even better, given the planes would easily be targeted by those who only see them as trash.
After that we already felt hungry, and we headed towards the Bistro “Ribić”, which is located on the river Gacka itself. We ordered two Velebit beers and a Lika pizza, I can say – better than Italian (no offense to Italians). As we waited for our order, we planned to see what’s next, and we decided for Vrila Gacke. After lunch, we moved on. It should be noted that we are really delighted with the friendly staff and the location of the restaurant
The trip, which was not well planned became better and better, we continued towards Vrilo Gacke. We went to Ličko Lešće and through the village Tonkovići we soon arrived to this magical place. It is a small fairytale-like place, where you can see several mills and buy home-made flour as a souvenir. It’s very interesting and picturesque. It was getting dark, and we decided to leave for Krasno. There, with a warm welcome, we settle in the previously booked room at Apartmani Manjan. These apartments are located in the heart of the village and are ideal for enjoying the mountain magic. In a nice and warm room we planned the next day, and we found advertising flyers, one of which is for the Velebit house (Kuća Velebita), which immediately became one of the destinations for tomorrow. We were already a little tired, so we get well deserved rest.
Day two – Saturday
We woke up, went for coffee at the Bistro Manjan and got ready to visit the Velebit house. We still didn’t give up on hiking to Alan. We packed our backpacks and headed towards the Velebit house, which is located only a few hundred meters from our accommodation. At the entrance of the lady briefly explained the concept of the center. The Velebit house is a centre for visitors to the Northern Velebit NP and is located in Krasno. There are several thematic units, which depict life on Velebit, climate, cultural heritage, underground and flora and fauna. Especially interesting is the elevator, which is designed to make you feel like you are in a cave. Conceptually, the center resembles Aquatika, an aquarium in our Karlovac. The interesting thing is that the entire content of the centre is interactive and it introduced Velebit to you – pictures and videos (from which VR goggles should be highlighted), and the scents of Velebit packed in small boxes, which we obsessively opened and smelled the velebit forests and meadows. After the visual and sound experience of the descent into the Luka pit, we return to the beginning. The receptionist presented us with a small gift, various brochures, flyers and booklets about the park, the House and Velebit. During the conversation we chose souvenirs and hiking tickets so that we can better prepare for a visit to this beautiful area. Instead of visiting Veliki Alan, the receptionist suggested a visit to the cheese shop, the Shrine of Our Lady of Krasno, and Kuterevo. There is a bear sanctuary in Kuterevo, but we initially gave up on this visit thinking that bears were asleep, given the season. Fortunately, information from other visitors came to us through the receptionist, so we found out that the three bears are active and can be seen.
We went to Kuterevo. It’s a little place where everything is in complete harmony with the bears, which frankly fascinated us. In the sanctuary itself a group of nice volunteers showed us the way, which we continued alone, photographing all the bears. They were so calm, it almost seemed like they posed for a photo. We were glad that we could see them in this time of year. We went back to the car discussing what to do next. The decision was made and we headed for the Shrine. We left the car at the parking and continued on foot. It was really cold, the wind was very strong and carried snow everywhere. Someone might think–two crazies–but to us it really was a pleasure. After all, we came with the intent of mountaineering and being in nature, even if it was only two miles. We ascended to the top of thehill, where there is the Shrine. We enjoyed peace and silence. From the top there is an impressive view of the valley of Krasno. We took photographs and descended towards the car, observing various traces of animals in the snow, and we encountered a joyous mouse, which did not show much fear.
We descended to the car and tried to find out where the cheese shop is located, Having seen that it closed in 15 minutes, we hurried and arrived a few minutes before closing. The kind gentleman from the Runolist cheese shop opened the door and we apologized for being so late. As recommended, we bought original cheese and got homemade whey. Satisfied with the day at nightfall we came to the room and already a little hungry we ate bacon, cheese and bread, just like real hikers. Before bedtime, we summarized events, published on Instagram, planned the future, and after that showered and rested. We also planned the route towards Karlovac. Unanimous decision was not to return the same way, so we chose the road through Velebit towards Sveti Juraj and Senj. The freeway, of course, is out of the question.
Day Third – Sunday
Early in the morning we left for coffee and payed for accommodatio. On the way to Sveti Juraj we passed a mountaineers ‘ hut on and we were slowly descending towards the sea, with a beautiful view. We were coming out of the snowy zone, and the temperature on the thermometer was slightly rising. The sun appeared and the snow disappeared. We slowly arrived on the Adriatic highway.
Sunny and warm weather with a little wind followed us to Senj, where we took a break and visited the symbol of the city, the Nehaj fortress. This fortress was built in 1558. from the materials of demolished houses, monasteries and churches, initially located outside the city walls. It is 18 meters tall and is oriented according the compass points. We got a little warmer, visited the fortress, and nearby we encountered a bunker similar to that in Zorkovac, previously published. Slowly, we continued our way back to the snowy zone, over the Vratnik Pass, where there is an abandoned motel. We couldn’t resist, so we went to have a little urban exploration of the motel. The conclusion was that it is a great pity that such a building in such a top position was left to fall apart, while the wind beats him from all sides. On the opposite side of the road we noticed another bunker, so we visited it and completeed our collection of bunker photos. Satisfied with what we saw and already slightly cold from the Bura, we continued our journey towards Brinje, convinced that Vratnik was our last stop before Karlovac.
However, when entering Brinje, we noticed the castle that rises on the highest hill. It is the old town of Sokolac. We climbed to the ruins of the castle and the chapel of St. Trinity, which is one of the best preserved monuments of this type from the Middle Ages. The castle dates back to the 15th century. Nikola IV Frankopan was credited for its construction. The castle was the seat of many generations of Frankopans. It served as the first line of defense against the Turks. After the danger of the Ottomans stopped and the fort was abandoned in the 19th century, there was a massive and uncontrolled taking of stone from the entire place, with the exception of the Chapel of St Trinity, which was spared as the oldest church building in the area.
Finally, after the tour of the old town we continued towards Karlovac. Slowly, we came home and full of impressions, which have not yet settled, we share the experiences with our families. We were already tired. So, a meal, a shower and sleep.