Upper Adriatic water-colours (...continued)
Next to appear on our voyage south are the islands of Cres and Losinj. One island or two? They used to be connected, but now they are separated by a channel dug by the Romans. The northern part of Cres protrudes deeply into the bay of Rijeka and is exposed to strong gusts of northerly wind. In winter the peaks are often white. Snow on a Mediterranean island! The southern part is protected from the wind so the climate there is Mediterranean. Mali Losinj is among those places with the most sunny days per year in Europe. The woods of Losinj provide precious shelter from the blazing sun. One of the special attractions is a very unusual natural phenomenon: the fresh-water lake of Vrana (Vransko jezero) on the island of Cres (5.75 sq. km). The surface level of this lake is above sea level, and its bottom is 74 metres below. This is one of the last habitats of a very rare bird, the whitehearled vulture.
The old town of Cres in the centre of the island, can be entered through three gates. Its past is visible wherever you go. Monuments bear witness to the local industries, and family coats of arms carved in stone over doorways show tools of blacksmith or carpenter or the ratch of fishermen. The repetitive rise and fall of Osor, once a small town, today but a village, is tied to its maritime tradition. When ships grew too large for its narrow canal, its importance diminished. Each summer, the walls, churches, inscriptions, sculptures, cathedral and other trappings of its rich and turbulent history are revitalised in "The Evenings of Osor" (Osorske veceri) pageant. The narrow streets and houses are adorned with many-coloured, fragrant flowers and briefly the village becomes a capital of culture.
One of the first habitations on Cres was Lubenice, built on a rock 387 m above the sea. This fairy-tale village with a square, spire and Gothic church of St. Anthony, dating from the fifteenth century, braves the lightning, thunder and clouds which tear at its rooftops. More and more people are moving away. In contrast, the town of Beli is among the protected relics of the island, with unique and well preserved architecture from centuries past.
The climate of Losinj is very mild, due to its forests among other things, so it has developed into a health resort. Many of Europe's crowned heads came here in search of health and vitality, among them the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph, Prince Rudolph, and the Austrian heir-apparent Franz Ferdinand. So the building of summer residences started as early as the last century. There are many reminders of the island's rich maritime past: strange vegetation brought from overseas, museums of sailing ships in Mali and Veli Losinj and rich island houses adorned with souvenirs of distant journeys.
The oldest and most attractive tourist destination on Losinj is Cikat. Modern hotels stand in the shade of hundred-year-old pines, but there are also villas reminiscent of Monte Carlo built along classical lines by the last representatives of European aristocracy.
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