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The island of Zlarin is the closest to Šibenik of all islands of the Šibenik archipelago. Because it's not well-known in the world, although it's famous upon its corals, this site would try to approach this beautiful, quiet, strange and boring (?!) island to foreign visitors.
Zlarin is, with an area of 8.19 km2, the third largest island of the Šibenik archipelago. It is situated a bit more than 2km far from the mainland. In the administrative and territorial partition of the Republic of Croatia, Zlarin belongs to the Šibenik-Knin county, precisely, to the city of Šibenik. The island is connected to the mainland cities of Sibenik and Vodice by ship that comes about 10 times a day. It's interesting to say that Zlarin is one of rare islands of the Adriatic sea to which is not allowed access for cars.
Climate is typically Mediterranean. The most frequent wind is scirocco. Because the mainland is close, the climate characteristics are transitive. The average year temperature is about 15 degrees Centigrade. Zlarin has about 2700 sun hours per year, what makes it one of the sunniest islands of the Adriatic. The average year rainfall quantity is about 700 mm.
Flora is typically Dalmatian (holm oak, juniper-tree, olive, fig, oleander, different kinds of artificially planted palm-trees). Outside of the village we can find low forest and macchia, especially in the inner parts of the island.
Fauna is weakened by the influence of a man, so nowadays on the island we can find some hedgehogs, rabbits and a bit denser population of field mice. Until about 15 years ago foxes could have been found on the island. The main bird species are seagulls; the reptiles lizard, blind-worm, horned viper and different specimens of unpoisonous snakes; the amphibians frogs; while the fish population is extremely rich, with all typical middle-Adriatic fish. Of invertebrates, on the island the most frequent are arthropods (insects and spiders), while in the surrounding waters the most frequent are oligomeria and mollusks (shells, octopods, jellyfish, cuttlefish, etc.).
The experts are still unsure about the origin of the name of the island. The main problem is that we don't know any data about the time when the name has been created. It's sure that the island has the name upon its main settlement, what is quite frequent on the Mediterranean. However, we don't know what came first: the name of the island, or the name of the settlement. According to some experts the name comes from the Latin sintagm "Insula auri" or "Insula aurea" (the island of gold or the golden island). Another theory claims that the name can't be of Romance origin, but Old-Slavic. Some even mention the connection to Phoenician word "zarim" that means "archipelago".
Somehow or other, the name "Zlarin" has been found in written documents for the very first time in 1298.
Zlarin has been inhabited in two main migration waves. First of them happened in the 13th century, when the inner parts of the island were mostly inhabited. The second one happened in the 16th and 17th century, during the Turks' invasion. At that time the village of Zlarin has been formed. Zlarin was also a rescue place for the groups of Šibenicians who were escaping from the plague epidemy. The population was increasing until 1910 when there were more than 1800 inhabitants. At that time, Zlarin was the main island centre of the Šibenik archipelago. Unfortunately, a strong emigration started, following the economy crisis in the 1920-30s, philoxera that completely destroyed vineyards, First and Second World War and many other troubles.
Zlarin emigrants in the beggining have been doing hard physical jobs in foreign ports (they have even been working at the construction of the Suez Canal in 1859). Later generations were in much better position, so today Zlarinians hold some important positions in their firms, administration and other jobs they are doing. One of the best examples is Anthony Maglica, the owner of the famous "Maglite" corp., specialized for the flashlight production (they are supplying even US Army and FBI).
The cities that are the main centers of Zlarin emigrants are, for example: Buenos Aires, New York, San Pedro, Punta Arenas... However, the emigrants haven't forgotten their native island, what they proved by giving donations for bringing the electricity and water to the island.
The whole emigration brought to the situation that nowadays Zlarin has an average population age between 60 and 65 years. Children are being born every 2 or 3 years. The result is that the whole island has about 150 inhabitants. Because of that, in the year 1972 Society for improvement of Zlarin has been established. Its main goal is to return Zlarin the normal coastal town life, if it's impossible to reach what Zlarin once was.
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Apart from losing population, the inhabitants are mostly weakly educated. The elementary school is organized on system: all pupils in one classroom. The older inhabitants have mostly elementary school education, while the younger ones have some specialized secondary school education.
The Zlarinians have been, as most islanders, mainly concentrated on agriculture and fishing. The traditional Mediterranean olive culture has been cultivated. But the most specific thing to mention is the coral industry, that has been specific only for Zlarin and some other areas of the Adriatic coast, but survived only on Zlarin. The first mentioning of coral diving on Zlarin is dated at the beggining of the 15th century, when Zlarinians have just been diving for corals and then selling them raw in Naples, Venice or at the Sicily. The first license for making the coral products Zlarinians got in 1808. At the times of economical peak of Zlarin, the coral industry had its best results. At the end of the 19th century it was nearly destroyed by the low prices of the raw corals. During the First World War and between the two wars, the coral industry was hardly covering the costs. After the Second World War it approached to earlier success, but lost its battle against different artificial jewellery making materials.
Another important branch of Zlarin economy is tourism. In the times of the economical peak of Zlarin, two hotels, as well as many pension villas, existed on the island. After the creation of Yugoslavia, the tourism plans were abandoned. The first efforts of renovating started in 1973, when hotel "Koralj" (the coral) was opened. The hotel is still not star-classified, but, according to some standards it would have about two and a half stars.
Apart from hotel, there are also two camps on the island. One of them is owned by the "Velebit" mountaineering organization from Zagreb, and the another is the closed type scout camp. Also, in 1986, one of the villas from the beggining of the century was made the rest centre for the workers of the "Eterna" industry from Kula, Yugoslavia. By the beggining of Croatian war for independence, the rest centre was closed, and the building was used for the accommodation of refugees. Today, it's empty, waiting for better days to come.
Besides the lack of beds and appropriate accommodation for yachters (the marina is being built for over ten years), one of the main problems in development of tourism are unsolved communal problems. Namely, Zlarin still hasn't a trash depot. However, the new garbage incinerating plant, the gift of Anthony Maglica to his native island, hass been built, but because of bureaucratical problems it still hasn't begun working. Also, the sewage system is not developed, but based on the system of septic pits. According to this, the construction of the sewage system is one of the urgent problems of the island.
One of the most famous and most beautiful Zlarin monuments is definitively the women's folk costume. The men's costume has been lost during the years, so today there are different speculations about how did it look like, because the look is quite uncertain.
The most important buildings to mention are mostly sacral buildings as well as the village cemetery.
The oldest church is the Church of the Lady of Raselj (the name of the locality where it's situated) situated in the inner part of the island, behind the village. Many votive pictures of the sailors can be found there. The next church is the Church of The Lady's Assumption, the Zlarin parish church. It has been built in baroque style from 1735-40 on the place of the older church. In the church there is an altar built in 1805 by the famous Italian altar builder Domenico Focazzi from Ancona. Also, in the church the relics of St. Fortunate, the martyr from the Crusade wars can be found. They were brought to Zlarin by Napoleon's soldiers during the time of Illyrical provinces.
Except this two bigger churches, there are also two smaller churches. One of them, the Church of St. Simon, is today the small Zlarin museum. The another one, the one of St. Rocco is situated by the cemetery, as a small cemetery chapel. Today, it's ruined.
There are also some votive chapels on the island. One of them is situated on the square of Fingac in the centre of the village. The other two are situated at the capes Marin and Vela Ostrica and are the votive chapels of some ship-wreckers rescued on that places. There's one more chapel, at the Bucina bay, today ruined, in which once there was one picture from the Tizian's painting school.
Of non-sacral objects, the public clock-tower should be mentioned. It has been built in 1839, and is popularly called "Leroj", that comes from Italian word "orologio" (the clock).
On the cape of Vela Ostrica there is a summer residence of Sibenik nobles, built in the first half of the 17th century, today used as a residential object.
If you pass through the village, you can hardly miss the building popularly called "Fabrika", today in the ruined state, although it has never been finished. It was planned to be the marine school, then the factory of conserved fish (fabrika actually means factory) but neither of this ideas has been realized. If you have time, stop by to enjoy some blackberries whose plants are growing inside the walls.
There are three more "monuments" that will stay on the island for a long time. One of them is the system of the bunkers on the cape Marin, where once were the barracks of Yugoslavian Navy. The second and the third one are the bunkers on the peak of Klepac and the cape Rat, made during the Second World War.
On the island the traces of life from neolite were found and also the Illyres from the Liburnes tribe used to live on the island.
During the rule of Venice Zlarin was the siege of the military crew defending sailors from the pirates, uskoks and Turks.
At the end of 19th and the beggining of 20th century Zlarin reaches its peak of the economical development.
During the Second World War the inhabitants of Zlarin were resisting the Fascist occupation and having connections with the main partisan H.Q. in that area, on the peninsula of Srima near Sibenik. After the war, many Zlarinians have reached high positions in the Yugoslav Army and Navy. During the war, Zlarin was bombed several times.
After the Second World War the Yugoslav Navy builds its barracks on the cape Marin.
What we found of the curiosities is here:
The Zlarin highest peak, the Klepac, is 169 m high.
Zlarin has the longest pier of all Adriatic islands. The length is 127,5 m.
The Zlarin parish church has been built on a place that is a little bit far away from the centre of the village. Some experts are explaining this position by a source which seems to be found under the main altar. This is not strange, because many churches were built on such places, following the depressive and repentant mood that is caused by the flows of subterranean waters.
The legend about the building the church of the Lady of Raselj says that the church was planned to be built on the hill of Klepac. However, some people found the picture of the Lady on a tree near the today's location of the church. They moved a picture to Klepac, but next day it disappeared and was re-discovered on the same place. So, they decided to build the church there.
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