DUBROVNIK DIGEST >> Natural sights
Natural sights >> Mount Sniježnica
Sniježnica is a mountain in Konavle which has several peaks above 1000 metres in height. The highest being Ilija's peak at 1234 metres above sea level. At the top is the Chapel of Sveti Ilija (St.Elijah), built in the 19th Century, this is where the tallest peak gets its name. The mountain got its name – which translates as snowy – as it is often covered in snow.
From Kuna Konavoska all the way up to the top leads a path that dates back to the Austro-Hungarian period, which is not difficult to masterand is well marked. The path was made for strategic reasons, namely because of the cannons at the top. The whole climb takes about three hours. You can reach Kune Konavoski by road, taking a left off the Adriatic highway into Zvekovica village if travelling from Dubrovnik towards the airport.
The view from Sniježnica is unbelievable – you can see the Konavle fields together with the airport. The view also stretches as far as the islands of Koločep, Lopud, Mljet, Šipan, Korčula, Lastovo and the Pelješac peninsula. Other mountains visible from the top are Čvrsnica, Prenj, Velež Zelengora in Hercegovina, Durmitor, Orjen, Subra and Lovćen u Montenegro.
The very rare mandragora plant grows on Sniježnica, which is protected by law. It was named after a Greek word that translates as "dangerous for the cattle". Mandragora is poisonous, especially while growing but was harvested and processed for many years to be used for medicinal purposes, mostly anesthesia. Its root has aphrodisiac properties - prolongs the sex and increasing potency .
Some substances in the plant cause hallucinations and was used by the Dubrovnik Republic for espionage purposes. They would drug a person using Mandragora and then question them. In the Middle Ages, possession of the plant was made illegal. People caught with mandragora were usually accused of witchcraft. Both Shakeaspeare and Macchiavelli mention the plant in their works.
There is another interesting fact about Sniježnica, which dates back to the time of the Republic. Given that there was no electricity or refrigerators at that time, keeping liquids and foods chilled and fresh during the hot summer months was a problem for the citizens of Dubrovnik.
Therefore, they organised a service that prepared ice supplied from Snježnica. They would dig spaces deep into the mountain called lednice, there they would place the ice on lop off trees and straw in order to keep it frozen for as long as possible. The ice would be brought to Cavtat by horses at night, where the ships would then bring it to Dubrovnik.
Believ it or not but the ice would then be sold. It was mostly used by the upper classes and it is recorded that during summer months they would use up to 170kg a day.
When foreign officialsin the highest positions visited Dubrovnik, they were gifted pieces of icewhicht was considered a sign of exceptional respect.