A fingerprint looks like an island – There has been a lot of attention paid lately to this miniature island in the Adriatic Sea. There is a web of dry stone walls covering the entire island, which is located in the Sibenik archipelago off the Dalmatian coast.
There is something unique and mysterious about Baljenac, making it one of the most unique ones. Airborne, Baljenac (also spelled Bavljenac), with its long lines of low walls, looks like a giant fingerprint with ridges and grooves like the skin.
Croatia’s countryside and coastline are often surrounded by dry stone walls, like those found in Ireland, England, and Scotland. Historical boundaries between adjacent agricultural lands were marked by these constructions dating back centuries.
It is not necessary to use mortar to hold the stones together in the walls. Stones are carefully selected and stacked like puzzle pieces rather than being tipped over. Over 105 properties are registered on the island, with most of them belonging to residents of a larger nearby island of Kaprije. Bavljenac does not have any piers or safe harbors.
There are karst topographies along much of Croatia’s coastline, meaning that it’s rocky. In some cases, farmers used rocks excavated from the soil to construct kilometer-long grids surrounding geometric plots, in some cases creating a grid that stretched for miles.
A wall of 23 kilometers stretches across Baljenac, an island just half a kilometer long. UNESCO has recently been urged by the Croatian government to include the island and its dry stone walls on their list of World Heritage Sites.
Apart from defining agricultural boundaries, the walls also prevent strong winds known as “bura” from blowing along the coast, allowing cultivation in exposed areas. Over a thousand kilometers of dry stone walls have been built in Pag, an elongated island with the longest coastline in the Adriatic Sea.
Unfortunately, the Croatian island does not have any vineyards today. Our ancestors made a living through hard work, and only the old stone walls remind us of that. The island is best explored by boat, such as with Archipelago Tours. Due to the lack of piers or harbors on the island, these tours cannot dock on the island.