CROATIA WEEKLY Zagreb, February 18, 2000

A VOTIVE RETURN TO RAB

Rab is separated from, or — truth be told — connected to the mainland by the Velebit Channel, so that a stay on this emerald-green island, which rarely if ever experiences below-freezing weather, will be enhanced by a view of Velebit’s snowy peaks

A myth and legend or reality and a vow? Here, at the fountain of St. Christopher’s Square in the town of Rab on the island of the same name, many vows have been made. They relate the legend of the virtuous Draga and the passionate Kalifront. Draga, who pledged herself to the service of a

goddess, could not return his love, so the goddess turned her into stone to save her from her would-be lover. Every time I go there in the summer, the whispering voices make me think of present-day vows which grew from the old myths and legends. Each era has its stories to tell. Only St. Christopher’s Square has remained the same, beautiful, discrete and silent. For people, tastes and loves change, but Rab always stays the same. Rab is separated from, or — truth be told — connected to the mainland by the Velebit Channel, so that a stay on this emerald-green island, which rarely if ever experiences below-freezing weather, will be enhanced by a view of Velebit’s snowy peaks. The mild climate owes much to Mt. Kamenjak on the eastern side of the island, which protects it from the cold bora winds that blow from the mainland. Sheltered by Kamenjak, the island has indeed become a green paradise, making it one of the most thickly forested Adriatic islands. It has over three hundred sources of water. It is no wonder that the island is a living exhibition of all manner of vegetation.

When you say Rab, anyone who’s been there at least once will think of its four Romanesque belfries, its churches and palaces. The town of Rab is encircled by the medieval fortified walls, concealing the ancient facades and streets made of stone inside. In summer, its streets and squares turn into a huge gallery. Many famed and somewhat lesser known painters exhibit their works. There are those who call themselves great artists and those who will truly change the streets of Rab into famous galleries. Here in the hectic summer days, everybody is looking for somebody. However, if you want, you can get away from it all and go to a solitary beach. Or a garden. Or to your own little world where you’ll remember the time when you were one with this romantic town.

Rab also has a tourist tale, an interesting one and not exclusively its own. In mid-1889 the municipal council declared Rab a seaside and health resort and established a board to maintain the paths, beaches and rooms to accommodate guests. The ever hospitable people of Rab thus began to plan their future way back then. A new and an extremely important incentive to tourism in Rab was provided by King Edward VIII of Great Britain. He stayed here with his sweetheart, controversial American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson, and those who remember say he swam “au naturel.” After this, the first nudist beaches were established. Even so, later guests were a little less royal than this first one.

The people of Rab have long been environmentally conscious, which is reflected in the Komrcar forest park on the southwestern section of the island, next to a town of the same name. In addition to thick Mediterranean vegetation and exotic trees and other plants, a centennial Aleppo pine forest is particularly beautiful. It is to no surprise that many hikers come here for a rest and to enjoy the beauty. This is undoubtedly the most beautiful forest park on the Adriatic coast, which is also connected to the center of the town. You will find yourself coming back to Rab every summer because of a vow made on St. Christopher’s Square long ago. Perhaps it is indeed a superstition that skipping a summer may change something, but there is more to it than just a superstition. The four Romanesque belfries of Rab are the most beautiful and the longest-lasting fascination that will ever overtake you.

(Silvana Jakuš, Croatia, the Croatia Airlines travel magazine)


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