Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Krste Jovic has lived in Jovici (Croatia) for almost a century. Regular hidden europe contributor, Rudolf Abraham, introduces us to Krste's home village. Wars, struggle and strife sear the history of a coastal region now known mainly for its sun, sea and sand.

article summary —

The Croatian village of Jovici sits above the western shore of the Velebit Channel - that long natural waterway which separates the Dalmatian islands of Krk, Rab and Pag from the nearby mainland. Jovici is about twenty kilometres as the crow flies northeast of the city of Zadar, on a finger of the mainland that pokes up towards the island of Pag. Holidaymakers and delivery vans speed north towards Pag, and Jovici hardly catches the eye: a single shop, a small church, a scattering of houses among fields of shattered rock, with a sublime view over the water to the mountains of southern Velebit beyond. Yet scratch beneath the surface and, like so many places on the map, this small village and its surroundings are found to hold many hidden histories.

Like much of the surrounding area of Ravni Kotari - as Zadar's hinterland is called - the village of Jovici has seen its fair share of change. At one time or another over the past hundred years it has variously been part of six different polities: the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; the Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska (Independent State of Croatia); Mussolini's Italy; the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; and now modern day Croatia. And that is without delving further back into its past - when as well as having been part of the shortlived mediaeval Kingdom of Croatia, it had spells under Venetian, Napoleonic, and Roman rule, while both the Mongols and the armies of the infamous Fourth Crusade laid siege to the nearby city of Zadar.

Krste Jovic

Krste Jovic was born in 1910 and, with only one brief exception, has lived in the village throughout his life. There are many Jovics in the village, but he is the oldest. At ninety-nine years of age he still counts the beads on the rosary as he says his prayers, and walks slowly to the table outside, in the shade of an enormous tree, to join other family members for lunch. This tree is a Jovici landmark, a fine specimen of Celtis australis, not unlike the elm, known as kostela in Croatian and found widely across the Balkans. The lotus tree of the Ancients, some say.

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Rudolf Abraham is an award-winning travel writer and photographer specialising in Croatia and Eastern Europe. He is the author of several books including Walking in Croatia, The Mountains of Montenegro, Torres del Paine and St Oswald's Way, all published by Cicerone, National Geographic Traveller Croatia, and is co-author of Istria - The Bradt Travel Guide. He has also updated the Bradt guides to Croatia and Transylvania, and his work has been published widely in magazines and online.

In 2012 his article on the 16th-century pirates of the Croatian Adriatic, the Uskoks, published in hidden europe 34, secured an award for best travel feature from the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, of which Rudolf is a member. He is also a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Current projects include Croatian Miscellany, an ongoing and deeply personal portrait of this southeast European country, as well as new guidebooks to Croatia's islands, Arctic Norway, the Faroes and the mountains of eastern Turkey.

He lives in London. Find out more about Rudolf's work on www.rudolfabraham.co.uk or visit his blog at rudolfabraham.wordpress.com.

This article was published in hidden europe 26.