THE VALLEY OF GACKA
We have singled out everything you can visit during your stay in the Gacka Valley. From the mill, where you can experience the unique centuries-old peace, to the famous fish farm-pond 'Gacka', a place where fish have been farmed for 3 decades and where you can see the famous California brown trout. In addition to all of that, you also have to visit the Ličko lešće Cave, which is rich in the Iyapodic culture. There is also the Sanctuary of the pagan god Mithras, a remnant of the ancient sanctuary known for the fact that this particular religion was reserved for men only. Further on, we have the Gacka Park, a beautiful and cultural-historical sight which takes you back through time all the way to the formation of the Early Croatian State, and the Duke Borna in the early 9th century. We also single out the Fortica fortress, one of the last two remaining triangular fortresses in Croatia. And, last but not least, if you want to see live bears, then the “Velebit” bear cub orphanage is the place to do it.
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The springs of the Gacka River, Vrila Gacke, Majerovo vrilo
During the 20th century about sixty water mills were operating on the Gacka river and its tributaries. Today only a few water mills at the river springs in Sinac are still used for grinding grain in the traditional way using the river’s water power. Continuing in harmony and collusion between man and nature, as objects signifying their accord and cooperation, the water mills safeguard the memory of old, extinct trades.
The millstones on the Sinac scaffolds were grinding away incessantly, day and night, throughout the year, accompanied by the roar and murmur of water. In times of big floods or low water levels of the river Lika, people would travel for hours from the remote parts of the Krbava and Lika regions to grind their grains during the peak period from threshing season to late autumn. Grain was transported on oxcarts or packsaddles, or on sledges in winter, horse-drawn carts still being a rarity. The place was bustling with movement, with life and people; on some days as many as twenty cart-loads were brought, with villagers waiting in a queue for their turn to mill the grain. It is hard to imagine that this dying village was ones a prosperous milling community. The centuries-old tradition of milling has been preserved not only as an important commercial activity, but also as a way to exchange knowledge and experience, to make important bonds and friendships and converse with others with plenty of jokes and laughter.
As they had to wait for their turn, the peasants brought food and hay for the cattle. Sometimes they had to wait two or three days until it was their turn in the milling queue, in which case the miller provided them with food and accommodation as well as hay for the cattle. The mill owner had to make sure that enough bread was baked each day. Besides, he had to take care of his reputation, secure the grain and make sure the grain is always finely ground. On the other hand, some millers were only interested in the millstone turning and in the milling being finished quickly so as increase the profits from their service. The milling trade was therefore considered an easy way to earn money and a secure source of income. However, the millstones required maintenance. They had to be removed every couple of days, depending on the amount of grain processed, and had to be sharpened. Only the most skilled millers knew how to chisel the stone, place it in circular wood forms and cover it with resin, and after the resin had hardened, nail it with brass rings.
A single water mill had more than one owner with each of them entitled to use a single millstone according to apredefined schedule. They were "holders of the line", a right acquired by inheritance, donation or acquisition of shares. Even women were entitled to it through dowry.
Today, at the beginning of a new century, the water mills at the springs of Gacka are still standing as monuments of traditional architecture, with the clatter of millstones.
Visit us and experience the centennial peace of old water mills, either on your own or in a group. For sightseeing tours and demonstration of the grain milling process, cloth fulling and wool rug weaving, please announce your visit directly to:
Jure Majer, the Miller
Phone: +385 92-105-1466
Jure Kolaković, the Miller
Phone: +385 99-571-6940
Pizzeria Ruspante, Sinac 135, 053-787-787, https://web.facebook.com/ruspantesinac/
Fish farm Gacka
The fishpond working hours are from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. on workdays, retailing of fish from own production.
Fishpond-fish farm “Gacka” in Sinac works under the company Leko d.o.o. It was established as a full-system closed-end type fishpond with its own production of young stock of the domesticated rainbow trout and the indigenous brown trout and the production of mentioned fish species in all age categories, intended for restocking natural watercourses and sports and recreational facilities, including the production of fish for consumption.
The tradition of producing fish has been around at this fish farm for three decades in continuity. There is also a plant for fish processing and the production of a wide range of prepared and processed fish products. From our range, we can highlight the rainbow trout, indigenous and salmon-like brown trout for consumption, fillets of the previously mentioned trout, cold-smoked fillet of the Gacka trout and caviar and pate as delicacies, also made from the Gacka trout.
Croatian Centre for Indigenous Karst Water Fish and Crawfish Species
The Croatian Centre for Indigenous Karst Water Fish and Crawfish Species was set up in Otočac in 2006. The founders are the Town of Otočac, the Croatian Chamber of Economy, the Ruđer Bošković Institute and the company Gacka d.o.o. The Centre operates as an independent association of legal entities.
- Scientific research of indigenous karst water fish and crawfish species, with emphasis on their genetic profile and spawning
- breeding fry for karst water restocking
- development of projects and programmes for commercial breeding of indigenous karst water fish and crawfish species
Pećina (Cave) in Ličko Lešće
In a historical and cultural sense, the region of Gacka is most famous for the Iapodic culture. It was a grand, impressive, rich culture which lasted over a thousand years in continuity. It is considered that it spanned the period from 11 th century BC and that it continued to function during the Roman rule, in parallel with the culture of the Roman conquerors, until a century or so AD.
Even though the Iapodic culture, which is increasingly being divided from the Illyrian culture by modern science, and which considers the Iapods as a separate entity and ethnicity, belongs to prehistory, something must have existed earlier. Because it is not expected that such a culture originates by itself, out of thin air. That period before, which is also prehistoric because there are no written clues, preceded the Bronze Age and was part of the Neolithic period of the Stone Age. Between the earlier and later Stone Age there was a transitional period, the so-called Mesolithic. In the area of the Gacka region today, the Mesolithic spanned the period from around 10.000 BC to 6.500 BC. It was a time when man was still a wild animal hunter.
But what is the evidence that this is correct in the Gacka region? Pećina. This is not a generic name for every cavernous area, but rather the name of the cave near the spring Pećina in Lešće, therefore, near the source of Kostelka, the tributary of the river Gacka. Besides, that part of Lešće bears the same name.
The Lešće Pećina (Cave) is truly impressive, the aperture is large, and its floor gently slopes into the depths.
Certain archaeological excavations have documented traces of carbonised wild animal bones (hunter) from the Mesolithic period and the bones have visible traces of tools, but allegedly, traces of the culture from the later, Iapodic period have also been found. That is Pećina’s testimony of its use in a very large time period, some of it in continuity, some of it with interruptions.
For visitors, this archaeological site is basically in the palm of their hands. One only needs to gently ascend some hundred meters from the spring Pećina, i.e., the Croatian Centre for Indigenous Species of Fish and Crayfish in Karstic Waters and descend to the other side to the cave, use his/her imagination and try and return a few thousand years in the past to feel the scents of the past. There is a rock shelter here, the forest is right there, the water and the entire prehistoric comfort. Hence, Pećina (Cave) is a first-rate tourist site.
The Shrine of the god Mithras
A remnant of the antique shrine. Not far from the airport at Špilnik, around 2 kilometres from the road towards Gospić, there is a shrine from 2 nd and 3 rd century AD where the followers of the god Mithras made offerings and performed cult pagan ceremonies.
The Gacka region is the second Croatian destination according to the number of Mithras’ shrines, right after Salona near Split. Besides this shrine, a second one can be found in Rajanovgrič in Čović, a third one on the slope of Godača in Sinac, while one relief plaque ended up in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, at one time having been found in the stone fence of the vicarage in Sinac. Apart from the abovementioned, several more stone inscriptions have been found mentioning the pagan god Mithras because, according to the belief, Mithras was born from stone.
In the Late antiquity, Mithraism was also popular in the Gacka region, brought by Roman slaves, traders, and craftsmen. The Mithras shrine in Kraljevstolac was carved into stone, while the relief depicts the most important event of the Mithras cult - tauroctony, i.e., the moment when Mithras slays a bull. Mithras is depicted as a young man in a Phrygian garment, kneeling on the bull, holding it by its nostrils, while slaying it with the other hand. Rituals were performed in front of the Mithras’ shrine, but not much is known about them today because they were a tightly guarded secret. This religion was reserved only for men and the cult members were connected as brothers.
The followers of the cult went through seven degrees of initiation and they ate bread with wine to commemorate the Mithras and Sol Invictus banquet after sacrificing the bull.
Gacka Park of Croatian Memory
In the centre of Otočac there is the Church of the Holy Trinity, the rectory and a smaller green surface.
For arrangement of the church surroundings the Designers anticipated placement of stone cubes in order to decompound the space. On the cubes they shaped important persons, events or cultural facts from Gacka and Otočac region. Chakavian Parliament of Gacka region suggested giving sculptor content to those stone blocks by making each block one of the glagolitic letters. Following that thought, 30 sculptures were created, which tells a story in stone, from the beginning of the 9th century, ending with the 21st century.
A well know sculptor from Pula, Šime Vidulin, who was given complete freedom when choosing the artists, set a goal to make the colonies international, and to bring new (other) artists every year.
Fortress Fortica in Otočac
Fortica, a fortress in Otočac, is a true rarity because it is one of the only two remaining regular triangular forts in Croatia, while there are only several of them in Europe. Fifteen Stations of the Way of the Cross, placed on Fortica’s slope, are a contribution not only to the religious content in this town but also represent a distinctive artistic experience for every visitor.
The sculptural Calvary of Otočac begins at the foot of Fortica with the Most Holy Trinity piece. It continues with fifteen stone steles which are placed from the foot of Fortica to the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, located almost at the top of the hill, enriching the existing view of the area and returning an already somewhat forgotten memory of the Calvary, the other name of the hill used by the Christian faithful.
The fortress Fortica was built by people of Senj with the local population in 1619, fortifying the town of Otočac on the eponymous hill, located on an island in the middle of the river Gacka, but also Senj which was defending itself in the Gacka region from Ottoman incursions.
It was a fortress with three towers, the biggest on the east side and two smaller ones on the west side, interconnected by walls with a thickness of 1.80 - 2 m. It was built in haste with smaller stones, evidently, there was no time or money to carve stone blocks. The inside courtyard was very narrow and included tanks which were used to collect water. Fortica was used as a permanent residence for soldiers, storage for ammunition and gunpowder and as a storage for food with kitchens and dormitories.
Archaeological research discovered the walls of each of these towers and interconnecting walls, but it also discovered the entrance door threshold. Fortica’s entrance was on the south side, towards Otočac. The entrance door was high above the ground, so in the time of its construction, Fortica could only be entered by using a ladder, while later, a porch with stairs was built. During its military use, the Fortica hill was stark for defence purposes, with no trees. Fortica’s first commander was Andrija Kolaković. Fortica was abandoned in the second half of the 19 th century when Otočac started to systematically develop as an urban environment. All important military buildings of the Otočac regiment were located beneath Fortica. The fortress began to lose its significance at the start of the 19 th century, as can be seen from the fact that it was adapted into a gunpowder magazine in 1804. In 1882, a strong wind raised the roof of the widest tower and dropped it on the ground, so not only did neglect but also the weather contributed to Fortica’s deterioration.
At the start of the 20 century, Fortica was being afforested. Pharmacist Častek ordered Czech pine trees to be planted on the hill’s private property. The new forest was growing nicely until World War II. In 1941, the Italians that came to Otočac ordered the trees to be cut and placed their battery there. An interesting fact to mention is that the fortress Fortica, in its restored and preserved state, is now the only renaissance remnant in the Otočac area. In fact, before the Renaissance, rectangular forts were built and the triangular ones were much rarer, while in the Renaissance, the forts and castles were fortified with round towers.
Velebit Bear Orphanage
The village of Kuterevo is situated at the north-east slope of the Mount Velebit along the border of the Velebit Nature Park. Apart from forestry, the people of Kuterevo are still engaged in the old craft of woodworking.
Kuterevo lies in the proximity of the Senj - Otočac – Plitvice road, with the Otočac - Krasno - Sv. Juraj road running along the west fringes of the Kuterevo valley.
Owing to its geographic location in North Velebit in the vicinity of an area densely populated by bear habitats, Kuterevo has become home to the first Bear Orphanage in Croatia, providing shelter to young, abandoned bears.
The bear orphanage project (popularly known as: The Velebit Bear) has been initiated by the Croatian Centre "Knowledge for Environment" and is implemented on site by the Velebit association Kuterevo – VUK. The project is aimed to build and establish the first bear orphanage in Croatia in order to help efficiently protect the brown bear species and to contribute, through education of the local population and visitors, to a better awareness of the valuable biodiversity in the Velebit Nature Park area and the need for its preservation.
The Kuterevo Orphanage is run by a team of nature lovers composed of biology and environmental protection experts and layman volunteers who are motivated by their great love of bears. They all selflessly care for the bear inhabitants of Kuterevo and are anxious to provide the young animals with a safer future and the living conditions as similar as possible to their original habitat.
The Velebit Bear Orphanage in Kuterevo will serve as part of the visitor centre as well as being an attractive site for the promotion of the Velebit Nature Park.
The first inhabitants of the Orphanage: the bear couple Mrnjo Brundo and Janja Zora.
To visit the Orphanage, please make an appointment at:
Fax: +385 53 799 600
Phone. +385 53 799 222
Mobile: + 385 91 583 54 12