Brijuni Islands are one of Croatia's most beautiful national parks and one of the Croatian biggest tourist attractions...
BRIJUNI, a group of islands and a national park (since 1983) in front of the western coast of Istria; separated from the mainland by the Fazana Strait; located 6 km from Pula; area 36 sq km. Brijuni Islands comprise the following islands: Veli Brijun (Big Brijun, 5.6 sq km), Mali Brijun (Small Brijun, 1.1 sq km) and Vanga (0.18 sq km), as well as several islets (Sveti Marko, Gaz, Obiljak, Supin, Galija, Gruni, Pusti, Vrsar, Jerolim, Kote) and reefs Kabula, Crnika and Stine.
Brijuni Islands are one of Croatia's most beautiful national parks and one of the Croatian biggest tourist attractions. The tourist history of the islands began after they had been bought by P. Kupelwieser (1893). In 1900 he invited to Brijuni the famous German scientist and Nobel Prize winner Robert Koch, who sanitized the islands in two years. The new owner soon started with the construction of tourist facilities. On the eastern side of Veli Brijun he had several hotels built: Brijuni, Carmen, Neptune I, Neptune II and Neptune III, with a total of 330 rooms. At the same time other facilities were also constructed: an anchorage with two piers, Saluga public beach with 150 dressing cabins, an indoor swimming pool with heated sea water, as well as sports grounds and up to 80 km long trails, suitable for walking and cycling or coach-riding.
The municipal waterworks were built below the Fazana Strait (2 km), supplying the islands with water from the mainland. Archaeological sites have been marked and maintained for tourist purposes, and the islands are populated with highbred wildlife.
Just before the First World War, a zoo was established, with an acclimatization station for tropical animals. Under Kupelwieser's management Brijuni became an unavoidable tourist attraction, which is also proved by the fact that the German emperor William II in his time visited Brijuni six times! The Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sofia, as well as a number of other European distinguished persons also sojourned on Brijuni. The most popular sports included polo, golf and tennis, rendering the islands of the largest and most renowned centres for these sports. They were played at more than a hundred championships and tournaments by Italian royal and British navy officers. After the Second World War, when Istria was joined with the Republic of Croatia, Brijuni Islands became a presidential summer residence (1947).
In the period of Tito's rule, visitor opportunities on Brijuni were considerably limited. Today, Brijuni Islands are a summer residence of the President of Croatia but, at the same time, one of the most renowned tourist centres in Croatia. No cars are permitted on the islands, and all transportation is done by a small tourist train. At some places, the vegetation has been left to grow spontaneously, but in greater part it has been arranged into parks, lanes, hedges, lines of trees, which are an excellent example of landscape architecture of the 20th century. Along with domestic plant species, the following species have been imported: stone pine, pine, cedar, sequoia, eucalyptus, bamboo. Animals live in autochthonous nature, as well as in the zoo and safari park.
The islands are also one of the most important congress centres in Croatia. Beside the ideal climatic and natural conditions, tourists are also offered all recreational and entertainment opportunities: swimming, sunbathing, horseback riding, golf, tennis, windsurfing, yachting.
Defence walls of ruined towns are located on the hilltops of Veli Brijun as well as on top of Sveti Mikula (St. Nicholas) on Mali Brijun. They were built in the form of concentric circles and were made of large unworked stone blocks in dry construction technique, that is, without any mixture to connect the blocks. The remains of the ancient Roman architectures have been preserved at several locations: in the cove of Sv. Mikula (St. Nicholas) on Mali Brijun, on the island of Krasnica, together with a large castle with farming equipment in the land area of the Byzantine castrum in the cove of Dobrika on the western coast of Veli Brijun.
The remains of a luxurious Roman castle in the cove of Verige on the eastern coast of Veli Brijun are, with their architectural composition, the most important example of ancient rural architecture. The ground-plan arrangement of the castle complex follows, in more than a 1-km long line, the coastline of Verige. The complex comprises a pier and several breakwater structures, as well as harbour protection equipment and a wide coastal belt with closely built structures. In the middle of the inner part of the cove, three temples were erected, dedicated to Venus, Neptune and some unknown deities. Slender grooved columns in the vestibules of the temples, made of white Brijuni stone, with Corinthian capitals, ornamental frieze and richly ornamented gables are a true masterpiece of the 1st-century Roman art. At both sides of the temples are farm buildings, thermae, priest quarters and the castle. The interspaces between individual structures were filled with a circuitous passage with a colonnaded loggia open in the direction of the sea, which connected all the parts of the architectural complex into an integral whole. The floors in the thermae and the castle were covered by mosaic.
The large defence structure in the cove of Dobrika, the so-called Byzantine castrum, is characterized by strong defence walls and a symmetrical ground-plan. The remains of the structures inside the walls reveal the continuity of life from the 4th/5th century to the 16th century. In the surroundings are the remains of the three-nave basilica of St. Mary from the 5th/6th century. In its narthex and around it there was an early Christian cemetery of monolithic sarcophagi, remains of which are found in the nearby plains. Benedictine monks built their abbey next to the basilica at an early time; the remains of the abbey have been preserved until today. The monks abandoned the abbey in 1312 because of the plague outbreak, after which the abbey started to fall in for the first time. It was restored and reconstructed in the 16th century and it was in use until the end of the 17th or 18th century. - About 500 m above the basilica are the remains of the small church of St. Peter from the 6th-7th century. - The quadrangular three-storey defence tower which was used for residential and defence purposes, was built in the 12th-13th century, while the citadel and another profane structure were built in the early 16th century.
In the centre of the modern town of Brijuni is the Gothic church from 1481, with frescoes destroyed in the fire in 1893. Individual buildings in the style of Austrian Art Nouveau were built in the time of the restoration of the islands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, together with a marble bust of the famous bacteriologist R. Koch, who carried out sanitation of the malaric Brijuni, and a bronze memorial tablet of Alojz Cufar, an expert in forestry (a work by the Vien--nese sculptor and painter J. Engelhardt). In the period between the two world wars, several modern-style villas were built, as designed by Italian architects. In the complex of the presidential summer residence are the works of modern artists.
In 1955 a native museum was opened (in the restored building of the citadel and in the tower), consisting of palaeontological, archaeological and cultural-historical exhibits from the islands' past.
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