This passionate Park Ranger at Krka National Park, near Šibenik, Croatia, is part Australian/part Croatian and tells you all you need to know and more about this incredible, ground-breaking part of nature. Stjepan Gundic, Steve to those of us who know him i.e. everyone, not only has vast knowledge of the delicacy of the area but also instills in one a feeling for it, an emotion that gets you excited about biology and the workings of it. He lovingly makes reference to ‘she’ or ‘her’ and of course the link is to Mother Nature.
First he takes us for a swim in the fast-rushing waters of the biggest waterfall Skradinski Buk (meaning the noise of Skradin, the nearest town), the largest of 17 waterfalls. He tells us that the groundwater serves the entire region with fresh water and that there has been running water in the town of Šibenik since 1865! That there has been electricity in Šibenik since 1896, a mere year after Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse built their first hydro-electric power plant at Niagara Falls.
I’m no biologist but I now understand that in this typical karst landscape, moss, algae and aquatic bacteria form deposits on the limestone which build up with the movement of water over it creating travertine barriers and hence myriad waterfalls. The rangers at Krka allow people to swim at certain places because deposits aren’t able to form on the karstic rock on the bottom, hence ‘preserving’ the waterfall.
We hear about the unique fauna and flora of this landscape and what grabs my ‘green’ attention most is the best natural pesticide in the world, Tanacetum Cinerariifolium or Pyrethrum by its more common name. It looks like a gentle daisy and can be eaten by insects but when it’s mixed with water, it becomes a powerful poison but thankfully, not harming bees in any way.
Our walk ends in a rather touristy set-up with mills and ‘washing machines’ created by swirling water in round, constructed bowls. However touristy, you learn something new about old stuff that you never even knew existed and especially from Steve whose grandfather transported his grain by boat and queued up for days to use the mills to grind it.
Spending a few hours in this region is not enough. Unfortunately we were in a rush to get to the airport but the bug had bitten (thankfully virtually only) and we will be back to see Roški Slap, Visovac Island and the practising Franciscan Monastery, medieval fortresses and just that calm that settles over you when you’re in the midst of the wonders of Mother Nature.
The picturesque town of Skradin where you can take a boat ride included in the entrance fee (110 Kuna/€15) to the park, but beware, the queues are long. The other entrance Lozovac has a hairy road with tour buses coming to and fro but less queues.
Nikola Tesla, the scientist who affects our lives on a daily basis.