Dilapidated and delightful Senj

Having packed Bertha up for a second time we nearly didn’t leave the island again due to a country-wide internet connection issue, “computer says no” at every Bankomat and counter. For the morning at least, Croatia dealt only in hard cash. We found this out when trying to buy a ticket for the passage back to the mainland.

A hasty search in pockets, purses and the glove compartment yielded 140 Kunas, 10 Euros and some shrapnel, which the ferry captain accepted in lieu of the necessary 226 Kunas and cheerfully pocketed our small change.

The twisting scenic road alongside Croatia’s coastline was a treat to wind slowly along in the bright morning sunshine. High above rocky coves we picked out tiny harbours and fishing boats, boutique hotels and restaurants. The sea was a beautiful dark blue.

The steep forested slopes of the Velabit National Park towered over us inland. We drove the length of Pag and Rab islands then pulled off as we saw the southern end of Krk island to stay in the small coastal town of Senj.

The scenic D8 coastal road

The scenic D8 coastal road

Senj is dilapidated and delightful. It is famous for its vast stone fortress that squats on a rocky outcrop and was built in the 16th century as a defence against the Venetians and Ottomans by the warrior residents of Senj, the ‘Uskoks’.

The town sits around a pretty fishing harbour and is a maze of winding alleys and piazzas, all of them oozing an atmosphere of historical importance but all seemingly in desperate need of renovation.

We meandered around the cool, cobbled streets squeezing through narrow passage ways and spotting decaying palatial facades, Romanesque windows, squat watch towers, grand Habsburg entrances, stone icons, fountains and porticoes.
We both fell in love with the place and its romantically faded appeal.

Proud of its Croatian history

Proud of its Croatian history

It seemed evident that private investment is lacking in the town and restoration work is focussed on public buildings such as the Romanesque cathedral, town hall and the Nehaj fortress. EU money is funding some of the improvements and also building a new sports stadium.

Over a boule of the cheapest ice cream of the trip we wondered whether the state financing would attract property developers. Two smart and competing supermarkets have opened side by side outside the walls of the old town.

The town’s position on the Rijeka to Split coastal highway means tour buses regularly stop, and the fabulous harbour side aire was full of more than 40 vans on the day we stayed. There are certainly some tempting ‘projects’ to consider!

Senj is also known for the power of its ‘bora’, a mistral-type wind which blows fiercely down the coast funnelled by the offshore islands and blasts the town so violently that it is said it literally takes your breath away.

Our daily budget doesn’t normally allow for eating out, but we chose to spend some money in the town at dinner time and tucked into fresh squid and fries over a chilled glass of Graševina wine to toast a lovely discovery and to wish Senj a bright future.