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Mljet National Park

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Mljet National Park is located on the north west side of Mljet. It's best known for its two lakes – Great and Small – a unique geographical phenomenon  in the Mediterranean. However, today these are no longer fresh water lakes as they sunk and are now connected with the sea and contain salt water.

 

An even greater attraction is the island of St Mary on the Great Lake - only 120 x 200 metres big- an island on an island! On this little island, the Benedictines built a monastery in the 12th Century and later a church and fort. A good section of the National Park, all the way to the Second World War, was the property of the Church. Following the Partisan and Marshall Tito’s victory, everything was nationalised, the Church was left with no property and the monastery on the island of St. Mary becomes a hotel.

 

The lakes are connected with the sea at a place called the Great Bridge. And indeed, there was once a bridge there but it was demolished by Tito in order for his yacht to be able to sail into the Great Lake. The water here is just half a metre deep so larger vessels can’t pass through. At the time of the Benedictines, it was even narrower than it is today. Here, they built a mill powered by the currents which was used for salt (sol in Croatian) production, hence the area’s name – Soline. The current in the Small Lake is much weaker and is only 29 metres at its deepest (the Great Lake is 46).

 

 

There are never any waves in the lake and beacuse of this, thick forest stretches all teh way to the water. Mljet is Croatia's most forested island and it's one of the best preserved in the entire Mediterranean. The Mediterranean was once a wooded area, but frequent fores destroyed most of the forests. Many Mljet plants are endemic, such as Centaurea ragusina, Anthyllis barba-jovis or Euphorbia dendroides

 

As for as animal species are concerned, it is interesting to mention that Mljet was full of poisonous snakes (viper species) until the 20th Century, the native population often being killed by them (according to the legend of the snakes on Mljet, St. Paul was injured by them). In the early 20th century, a small Indian mongoose was brought to the island, which completely wiped out the snakes. With less wild space on the island today, the mongoose now attack chickens. In terms of wild animals on Mljet you will come across wild boars, deer, musk ox and rabbits.

 

The sea around the island of Mljet is rich in fish and the National Park was previously a habitat of the Mediterranean monk seal which today is extremely rare.

 

The Mljet National Park has quite a few settlements of which Polače and Pomena are worth mentioning. Located on the north side of the island in large sheltered bays, this is why the ancient Romans settled here with the famous Roman palace that has been preserved until the present day.

 

The palace in Polače is the third best preserved Roman monument on the Croatian Adriatic coast, after the Arena in Pula and Diocletian's Palace in Split. Other than the palace, hot springs were found at this location where the Romans bathed and spent their free time rubbing themselves in the excellent olive oil from the island. If you go scuba diving, don't be surprised if you come across some Roman amforas.

 

It's unbelievable that the one road that goes towards the west of the island passes through the Roman palace. Sometimes buses have a big problem getting through the doors of the palace and on one occasion, a lorry knocked down a big part of the walls. During the time of Yugoslavia, the idea that the palace should be reconstructed and contain a large museum, but the money that had been allocated ended up going to Dubrovnik and Kotor following a great earthquake.

 

You can reach Mljet by ferry or catamaran from Dubrovnik, or by ferry from Prapratno on Pelješac.

 

Given the departure times of the ferry often change, it's best to check the Jadrolinija website for uptodate information. You can find out more about Mljet National Park here.

 



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