Photo 1. A network of small watercourses, tributaries of Čednja Creek , have cut deep gullies into the non-porous “black rock” in the “Črni kaman” region near the hamlet of Rasohe not far from Skrad. Special types of beech forests grow in this geological substrate (http://www.ju-priroda.hr/zanimljivosti.asp?iddb=41 ) (Photo by Marko Randić)
The theme of International Mountain Day 2016: Mountain Cultures: Celebrating Diversity and Strengthening Identity
People in Gorski Kotar, a mostly mountainous region, have endured centuries of living in more or less harsh conditions, compelling them to develop many survival skills, knowledge and “strategies”. For example, they developed special ways of cultivating the soil after forest clearance to avoid excessive erosion, especially on steep terrain, and accumulated extensive knowledge (sadly, now mostly forgotten) about how to grow, care for and exploit forests, mineral riches, water, animals, plants and other natural resources.
Individual regions developed and nurtured their own dialects, consisting of numerous names and toponyms which the indigenous people used to describe their native region and their lives within it. These dialects differ considerably from village to village in some parts of Gorski Kotar. Some are difficult to understand and even seem exotic (especially to one of the authors of this report, who has an untrained ear, unaccustomed to that speech). But if we look more closely at these dialects we discover a huge treasure and come to realize that they are deeply connected to life in the forest, on the soil and in the wilderness of Gorski Kotar.
Dialects are a rich heritage, providing an “identity network”, but today they are threatened with extinction. While working on the project Overlooks in the Kupa River Basin we “discovered” that even the names of some groups of villages and hamlets and people living in a certain area could be linked to the geological substrate of that area. For example, a person living in a village located on the silicate, non-porous rock in the basins of the rivers Kupa or Dobra is said to be “from Črni kaman (the black rock)”. If you were to ask a person living in a village on the porous carbonate rock (limestone or dolomite geological substrate) where they were from, they would probably tell you “from Beli kaman (the white rock)” (photo 2).
The exploitation of water, as well as forests, is linked to the geological substrate. For example, there is a broad hydrological network (Photo 1) in the Črni kaman region with numerous springs that are used, or were used until recently, in water supply, while water has always been scarce in the Beli kaman area, compelling people to build ponds or collect water from distant springs that never or rarely dried up. One such spring was Obrh Spring near the overlook of the same name, not far from the hamlet of Zavrh in the Brod Moravice region, which we also visited and talk about in our new brochure about overlooks (http://www.ju-priroda.hr/novosti.asp?iddb=195 ).
Photo 2. A drystone wall made of limestone in the Beli kaman region stretches along a slope at the edge of the Kupa River canyon between the overlooks of Kavranac and Medveja Stena (Photo by Ivana Rogić)
The hydronym obrh refers to a special type of karst spring, where water emerges on the surface of steep carbonate slopes or from underneath the carbonate rock in a canyon (Photo 3). In the broader Kupa River basin on both the Croatian and the Slovenian sides, there are several of these springs, all with the same name Obrh.
According to tradition and experience, the quality of the so-called white beech that grows on special types of rock in the forest is much better than the quality of the same type of tree growing on a different geological substrate. There are many more examples of this “inherited identity”, one of them being overlooks.
It should be noted that overlooks have always been a part of the cultural identity of Gorski Kotar and continue to be so today. They were (and still are) important spots in the landscape which the people of Gorski Kotar visit regularly. Once they served as natural lookouts that provided the best view of everything happening or moving over a broad area. They were used for observing wild game, monitoring the movements of enemies (and friends) and even occasionally for staging wars of conquest (from the overlooks strategically located along the edge of the Kupa canyon).
Many overlooks, somewhat neglected in the past, began to regain their functions with the development of tourism, day-tripping and hiking. The tradition of taking day-trips to overlooks emerged in the region of Skrad in the 1930s, and the “infrastructure” at the Orlove Stijene Overlook at the village of Razdrto was built in the 1950s. Today the more important overlooks are more or less regularly maintained, together with the signage that leads to them, and the tradition of day-trips continues in Skrad, the Brod Moravice region and to the overlooks above the source of the Kupa River in Risnjak National Park. Some overlooks are still “dormant”, overgrown in vegetation and partially forgotten. Nevertheless, this will not stop true nature lovers from finding their way to many of these attractive spots in the landscape of Gorski Kotar.
Marko Randić, MSc and Emil Crnković, MSc