Mljet

Mljet is an elongated island, with an average width of 3 km, 37 km long. It is an Island of great diversity and contrast, and "Mljet" National Park covers his northwestern part with an area of 5.375 ha of protected land and surrounding sea. This area was proclaimed as national park 11 November 1960 and represents the first institutionalized attempt to protect an original ecosystem in the Adriatic.


Mljet National Park has been proclaimed as an area of special interest for the following reasons:
• Its unique panoramic landscape of well intended coastline, cliffs, reefs and numerous islands, as well as the rich topography of the nearby hills, which rise steeply above the sea and hide numerous ancient stone villages. Mljet's outer coastline is exposed to the south sea and is therefore steep and full of "garmas" collapsed caves. The inner coastline faces the mainland and is exposed to the "bura", a strong northeasterly wind, but is less elevated with easier access.
• The salt lakes are a unique geological and oceanographic phenomenon of worldwide importance. They originated approximately 10,000 years ago and, until the Christian era, they were freshwater lakes. Some endemic Dalmatian plants can only be found on the rocky coast of the island. A beautiful endemic plant, named Dubrovačka Zečina is the best representative of them all.
• The Mediterranean karst landscape hides two natural specialties. The first are typical karst underground habitats: half-caves, caves and pits. The other specialty is Mljet's "blatine", which are rare occurrences of brackish lakes, which vanish from time to time. There is life in the lakes, but we know very little about it today apart from the fact that people have caught eels and marsh birds in them for centuries.
• Beautiful, rich forests once covered large areas of the Mediterranean Coast, but they are rarely preserved today as beautifully as they are on Mljet. The woods on Mljet gently descend all the way to thesurface of the lakes, thus creating animage of unspoiled nature.
• The little isle of St. Mary in the Great Lake, with an ancient Benedictine monastery and a church dating from 12th century. The small island is the symbol of the entire island, because of its exceptional aesthetic image and strong cultural and spiritual dimension.
• Polače site, a cultural and historic complex consisting of the remains of a Roman Palace with fortifications and ancient Christian basilica nesting in a sheltered bay.
• An exceptional cultural and historical heritage dating back to the eras of the Illirian tribes, the Roman Empire and the Republic of Dubrovnik. Today, Mljet Island is characterized by stable human settlement living in complete harmony with nature.


The world-renowned Lakes of Mljet consist of the Great Lake, covering an area of 145 ha, with a maximum depth of 46 m. The Small Lake has an area of 24 ha and a maximum depth of 29 m. The natural secrets of both lakes have attracted many scientists over the years, as well as other nature lovers from a wide range of professions and personal interests.
The rich vegetation of the island, especially in the area of the national Park, explains why Mljet is also known as the Green Island. Today, there are five types of forest on Mljet, including the remains of a Mediterranean primeval forest, although the original Holm Oak forest is only found in fragments. The best preserved of these are in the area of the Great Valley. It has been replaced with dense maquis, karst and spacious forests of fast-growing Alpine pines which tend to dominate the vegetation. Besides the forests, there are other areas of biological interest: sand dunes on the coast, high, steep coastal cliffs, as well as cliffs further inland, and, finally, the vegetation on the reefs.


Mljet's fauna is particularly friendly because there are no poisonous snakes (e.g. horned viper) thanks to the introduction of the Indian Mongoose, which wiped them out. Five species of snakes and six species of lizards have been registered on the island to date. Mljet's largest daylight bird predator, the Snake eagle, feeds on snakes and lizards. There are also many song-birds, as well as several species of birds in the forest that do not normally live on the Adriatic islands. The Grey Dormouse can also be found, although its survival is threatened by the Mediterranean Rat. The few cultivated fields are governed by the wild boar, another recent inhabitant of the island. The seas off Mljet are renowned as an oceanologically active area, and were once a favourite abode of the Mediterranean Seal. The National Park Management hopes to re-establish the kind of protected conditions that will enable this seal to return.

It is quite obvious to connoisseurs of history that the area of today's national park has played an important historical role since ancient times, when Illirian tribes lived there in stone villages and left stone graves as landmarks of their culture. During the Roman period, the island was mentioned in a number of written documents. The most valuable remains from that period are of a Roman settlement in Polače from the 1st century, as well as more recent basilicas and fortifications in Polače. There are also several hydro-archaeological sites which demonstrate that the island once enjoyed a very rich economic life.


Since the eight century, the central part of the island has been populated by Croats from the area of the River Neretva. Benedictine priests became the feudal masters of the island in the mid 12th century, building their monastery and the church on the island in the middle of the Great Lake. In the year 1345, the island's inhabitants and monks agreed that the people were no longer required to work in the fields but would, instead, pay an annual tax of 300 Hiperpers to the monastery. Since then, the monastery has been the cultural, religious and political centre of the island. The Benedictine monks allowed people to inhabit the area of today's National Park until as late as the 19th century. This was the period in which Goveđari, an ethnologically and architecturally interesting village, first developed by cattle-breeders (as its name implies - "Govedo" is the Croatian word for cattle). During Napoleons's rule, the Benedictine order was abolished. Towards the end of the 19th century and in the early years if the 20th century, Austria tried to improve life on the island, employing foresters to take better care of the natural environment. Unfortunately, a big forest fire in 1917 destroyed much of the old forest and its subsequent restoration took a long time to achieve.
Today population is mainly live from agriculture growing grapes and olives, and tourism that enabled the development of new villages along the coast. The inhabitants of Mljet Island are the only Croatian islanders to speak the "ijekavian" dialect.
There are country roads from Polače and Pomena to both the Great Lake and the Small Lake. Visitors who come on organized one-day trips must stay with the group and route, while individual visitors may visit the park as they wish - as long as they comply with National Park regulations.



Official Website of Mljet National Park

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