Island of Korcula

Island of Korcula

GENERAL INFORMATION

The island of Korcula is one of the biggest and most populated island of Dalmatia, the Mediterranean region situated in the Adriatic sea. It is the southernmost island of the Adriatic Middle-Dalmatian islands, and as so is the whole region part of the State territory of the Republic of Croatia.

The majority of inhabitants live off tourism and agriculture (vines, olive-trees, vegetables ?). A minor part makes a living by sailing around the seas of the world (maritime and shipbuilding are traditions of the whole region and by other activites). The Island of Korcula is one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic sea. Like most of the Croatian islands, the Greeks, who gave it the name Korkyra Melaina or "Black Corfu" for its dark and densely wooded appearance, first settled Korcula It is also one of the most popular travel destinations in this part of Croatia.

Island of Korcula is a very pleasant to have a marvelous walks around. There are numerous routes around the island yet unexplored, as well as some well known routes to follow. Korcula can be enjoyed by walking and hiking enthusiasts and active adventure travelers as well as complete beginners and Sunday walkers too. Korcula is perfectly suited for walkers, and there are numerous interesting walks to be had. The island itself is rich in art and culture, as well as beautiful nature such as numerous tiny and secluded beaches and bays, small and uninhabited islands and breathtaking views. The main town on the island is also named Korcula. It is a typical medieval walled Dalmatian city, with its round defensive towers and cluster of red-roofed houses.

Come and travel with us around this fairy-tale island visited by Aeneas and the Argonauts, mythical heroes, while Poseidon himself , the God of the Sea, chose Korcula to be the home of Aesop's daughter Kerkyre.

GEOGRAPHICAL  POSITION

The central-Dalmatian island of Korcula stretches parallel with the nearby mainland in the west-cast direction. It is 46.8 km long, its average width is 5.3 to 7.8 km, it covers an area of 270 km2, and is the sixth largest Adriatic island. The Peljesac Channel, which separates it from Peljesac peninsula, is 1,270 m wide at its narrowest point.


Korcula is built of limestone and impermeable dolomite, and in places it retains rainwater in pools. The lime, stone areas are crisscrossed with chasms, pits and sinkholes. Karstic poljes (plains enclosed by steep walls) and small dry valleys with shallow fertile red soil (term rossa) stretch down the middle of the island. In places there is sand (Lumbarda) or sandy clay (Blatsko polje). The relief supports the composition of the soil: about 90 percent of the island is hilly, but the hills do not exceed the height of several hundred metres. The highest peak Klupica (568 m) lies almost in the centre of the island between Pupnat and Cara villages. Next come Gradina (554 m), Kom (510 m), and Hum (377 m).


The island shoreline is 182 km long, and the shorelines of the nearby islets another 54 km. Korcula is very indented with a large number of bays and coves. Its north shore is rather low and easily accessible with several natural harbours sheltered from the jugo and easterly winds: Korcula, Banja, Raciste, Vrbovica, Babina, Prigradica. The south shore is more indented but steep in places, with cliffs rising up to 30 m out of the sea in places. There are many anchorages and bays sheltered from the bura but open to the jugo: Zavalatica, Rasohatica, Orlanduga, Pavja luka, Pupnatska luka, Prizba, Karbuni, Grscica etc., and Brna is sheltered from both the bura and the jugo. The largest, best protected bay is Vela Luka in the furthest west of the island.

PLANTS AND ANIMALS

The island vegetation is Mediterranean, rich and varied. Korcula is one of the most forested Adriatic islands, as much as 61 per cent of its surface is covered with woods and macchia thickets. Conifers grow everywhere: Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), stone pine (Pinus pinea), Dalmatian black pine (Pinus nigra), cypress (Cypressus), and other species. The island has thick indigenous forests of holm oak (Quercus ilex), wild olive, carob, and bay. Heather, arbutus, prickly juniper, vetch and other plants grow in the low undergrowth called macchia.

Indigenous herbs and aromatic plants also grow on the island: sage, rosemary, lavender, irnmortelle, mint, marjoram etc. The forests and macchia support a variety of climbing plants and vines. A large number of grasses and greens that are very good to eat grow in neglected vineyards; there are olive groves, and several species of mushrooms.


The plants and trees make a splendid green backdrop for this island, which is why the Greeks named it Corcyra Melaina - Black Korcula. The rocks and earth can hardly be made out through the lush vegetation that grows right down to the seashore everywhere.


Various kinds of decorative trees, shrubs and other plants can also be found on Korcula, some of them brought from tropical areas and well adjusted here. These include several species of palm, eucalyptus, wistaria, bougainvillea, oleander, many kinds of cacti.

The island animal world boasts the otherwise rare jackal (Canis aureaus Dalmatics) and mongoose (Mungus mungo), and a large number of birds and song birds. There are also various species of game: hare, pheasant, mallard, wild boar, and more recently deer have been introduce to the islet of Badija. The sea around the island is rich in all kinds of fish, about 200 species live in the Adriatic, and crabs, shellfish, sea urchins The oldest island settlements were in the interior beside the poljes and the many caves.

Slav settlements, Zrnovo, Pupnat, Cara, Smokvica and Blato, later developed on the sites of Greek and Roman settlements, and near them: only the city of Korcula grew on the sea shore. Lumbarda developed rather late, because a provision from the 14th century Korcula Statute explicitly prohibited the settlement of that area. Nevertheless, from the end of the 15th century people of Korcula built their summer houses and worked the land there, and a village gradually formed around them. Raciste dates from the 17th century, founded by refugees from the Turks on the mainland, mostly from Herzegovina, while Vela Luka developed at the beginning of the 19th century. 

POPULATION

The island population often changed considerably in number because of political and economic conditions, and frequent epidemics of contagious diseases. The present inhabitants are Slavs, and the original Roman population that the Croats found when they came here in the 7th century was completely assimilated by the beginning of the 14th century. A mid -14th century census shows that about 5,000 people lived on the island and about half of them in the city of Korcula. At the end of that century, however, after several epidemics of the plague and the Turkish siege of 15 7 1, the number of islanders fell to only 2,500, and of that number 1,000 lived in the city.

Since then the number of islanders has slowly increased, but the population of the city of Korcula remained almost the same until the beginning of the 1 9 h century when it, too, began to increase. Economic hardship made many craftsmen, especially shipbuilders and stone-masons disperse throughout the Mediterranean. In the first decades of the 20th century many people left the island for South and North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Most people left the island in 1925, when 3,500 people left Blato and Vela Luka.


In the second half of the 20th century, especially after the Second World War, the number of islanders has constantly been growing, and has today reached about 20,000.

HISTORY

The island of Korcula was inhabited in prehistory and traces of ancient life were discovered in many places. The oldest are finds of Neolithic stone knives on the islet of Badija near Korcula. The Neolithic site of Vela Spilja (Great Cave) in Vela Luka is the richest and best researched. Several strata of prehistoric life were explored here with fire places, pottery shards and graves (from 5000-3000 B.C.). Many Neolithic tumuli, cult sites and graves are scattered over the whole island. In the 6th century B.C. the Greeks settled the island, first near Vela Luka, and named the island Coreyra Melaina (Black Korcula).

Somewhat later Greeks from the island of Vis (Issa) settled the other end of the island, the area of today's Lumbarda, where they founded an important settlement mentioned in a 3rd century B.C. inscription (Pshysm) discovered at the end of the 19th century. Greek graves from that period were found in Lumbarda with contributions of gnathia vases. It is certain that systematic archaeological excavations would reveal not only a complete Greek necropolis, but other traces of their settlement, as well.

In the 1st century A.D. the Romans conquered the island and the whole of Dalmatia region I. In the 7th century the Slavs Croats came to the Adriatic coast and soon founded their own state, which was first a principality, and after 925, when the first King Tomislav was crowned, a kingdom. Korcula was part of that state. Fleeing from the onslaught of the Slavs the Roman population of Salona (today's Solin near Split) came to the islands of Brac, Hvar and Korcula. After things died down most of them returned to their old habitation, and the rest were assimilated by the native population.


In 1000 Peter II Orseolo, Doge of Venice, conquered the Dalmatian towns and islands, and Korcula came under the Venetians. It was here, on the nearby islet of Majsan, that the Doge struck camp as he conducted his campaign against Korcula and Lastovo, which resisted in vain.
After that Korcula often changed masters: Venice was replaced by the counts of Hum, kings of Croatian-Hungary, Venice again, from 1413-1420 the Dubrovnik Republic, from 1420-1797 Venice. When Napoleon overthrew the Venctian Republic, Dalmatia was for a short time ruled by Austria, but soon the French came. In the  

1804-1805 period Korcula changed French and Russian masters, from 1807-1813 the French ruled, then the English until 1815 when the Vienna Congress mapped new European borders. Dalmatia came under Austrian administration that lasted until the end of the First World War (1918), but it was not joined to the newly-formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Yugoslavia, until 192 1. After multi-party elections in 1990, the population of Croatia opted at a referendum to leave Yugoslavia and an independent state, the Republic of Croatia.

CUSTOMES AND FOLKLORE

Although the islander's way of life and work changed considerably and thoroughly through time, especially in the second half of the 20th century, many old customs connected to church holidays and other community and family events have been preserved. Until recently most of the people lived in villages. Their clothes were similar because they wore national costumes that changed negligibly throughout the centuries. Everyday wear was simple and dark-coloured, and for holidays they dressed in finer clothes of a richer cut and decoration.

These costumes have been preserved in most of the island villages and are used by folklore societies which cultivate folk traditions, songs and dances. Women's costumes consisted of along dark brown, blue or black gathered skirt with an attached waistcoat, a wide white cotton shirt with embroidery or lace, a colourful woven or silk waistband (tkanica), old gold jewellery, and several layers of coral beads that were very popular among the girls and women. Men's costumes have changed more: men used to wear gathered pants down to the knees, a silk collared waistcoat and a silk waistband, a white shirt and a red cap with a tassel, but today this costume has been preserved only in the folk dances Kumpanija and Mostra. In other folk performances men wear simple long, black, woollen trousers, a single-coloured waistcoat, a white richly gathered shirt, a wide waistband, and sometimes a straw hat with a wide brim. That is the more modern costume, more similar to town clothes, but accepted everywhere.

At the end of the 19th century village women adopted a new pattern which followed current town wear: a rich gathered skirt and a jacket with wide sleeves in the same dark material - brown, black, green etc., made of brocade or thin wool, and with that they wore rich, gold jewellery. Various customs have been preserved on Korcula, too: koledanjal festivities and well-wishing connected with various holidays and the feast days of saints: St Martin's - 11 November, St Catherine's - 25 November, Christmas, New Year etc. On those occasions groups of children and young people go around the village, to neighbours, friends or houses in which festivities are being held, singing customary old songs. In return the hosts treat them to dry fruit, oranges, sweets or money. Ancient folk dances and customs were part of celebrations for local patron saints. The Kumpanija used to be performed in Blato on St Vicenca's day on 28 April, the Moreska in Korcula on St Theodor's on 29 July, the Mostra in Zrnovo, in Postrana hamlet, on St Roch's on 16 August.

Now these dances are performed in the summer on various occasions, even every week for tourists. In the city of Korcula a number of traditions and celebrations have been preserved mostly connected to religious holidays. Especially picturesque are the church processions held several times a year. The largest and most ceremonious of all is on Good Friday. The procession goes around the old city in the evening; as many as 400 members of local brotherhoods participate in it dressed in tonnages, carrying large candles and other processional decorations. During Holy Week there are also other ceremonies when old medieval songs and hymns are sung. Similar processions are held on Pentecost, Corpus Christi, St Mark's, and St Theodor's. In all the island towns carnival celebrations are customary (in the period from mid January to Ash Wednesday which, according to the church calendar, falls  on a different date every year, by the end of February to the latest). In this period masked balls, maskare, are held every week in Korcula. Besides individual masks, there are also funny groups with little shows, and masked performances for children.

Festivities reach a peak on Shrove Tuesday, when Krnoval is placed on trail because he is to blame for all the misfortunes that happened in the town during the past year. It all ends in his punishment - he is burnt and the people celebrate with traditional local food and drinks. Dalmatian folk songs are a special kind of folk art. Like in days of old, they are usually sung by klape, harmony-singing groups of six to nine men who meet in the evening somewhere in the town, on the seashore and sing for their own pleasure. Today most customs live on the island as a part of local life. They are also preserved and cultivated by culture and performing societies which exist in all the villages and give performances several times a year, usually in summer, not only in their own village but also in other places, for the numerous tourists are the church processions held several times a year.

The largest and most ceremonious of all is on Good Friday. The procession goes around the old city in the evening; as many as 400 members of local brotherhoods participate in it dressed in tonigas, carrying large candles and other processional decorations. During Holy Week there are also other ceremonies when old medieval songs and hymns are sung. Similar processions are held on Pentecost, Corpus Christi, St Mark's, St Theodor's. In all the island towns carnival celebrations are customary (in the period from mid-January to Ash Wednesday which, according to the church calendar, falls on a different date every year, by the end of February to the latest). In this period masked balls, maskare, are held every week in Korcula. Besides individual masks, there are also funny groups with little shows, and masked performances for children. Festivities reach a peak on Shrove Tuesday, when Krnoval is placed on trail because he is to blame for all the misfortunes that happened in the town during the past year.

It all ends in his punishment - he is burnt and the people celebrate with traditional local food and drinks. Dalmatian folk songs are a special kind of folk art. Like in days of old, they are usually sung by klape, harmony-singing groups of six to nine men who meet in the evening somewhere in the town, on the seashore and sing for their own pleasure. Today most customs live on the island as a part of local life. They are also preserved and cultivated by culture and performing societies which exist in all the villages and give performances several times a year, usually in summer, not only in their own village but also in other places, for the numerous tourists.

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otok Korcula Croatia
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