Wonders of Rogoznica

The new podcast episode is dedicated to my favorite town on the Croatian coast. It’s Rogoznica. Some call it the heart of Dalmatia.

It’s a rather new nickname to be fair. I started hearing it only recently. However, it’s a nickname that suits it well. The cape Punta Planka in the wider Rogoznica area is the place where the North and South Adriatic meet and clash, sometimes visibly to the naked eye. It’s also a safe harbour and a place of an iconic power, if you ask me, at least. It’s a heart as a center, a heart as a guardian of life, and the life-pumping heart due to all the peculiar energy of the place. Scroll down to continue reading or listen to the episode:

It’s my favorite town because I’ve been spending my summers there since I was a kid. It is there where I first decided that I was going to be a researcher of the paranormal when I grew up. I’m still not quite there yet, but there’s still time. Hey, to become a researcher of the paranormal, not to grow up! It’s too late for that:)

Imagine you are a child and spend your summer days on the coast, at the beach, and every now and then you go for a walk through the village. Then there’s this particular location that is a highlight of your summer because it’s out of reach, and there’s something mysterious about it. It’s a walk to the Dragon’s Lake. That was always quite an adventure. You are going through a tourist village by the coast, pass by a sort of a square, a crossroad by what looks like a bridge, but is actually an embankment that leads to the historical village. Then, the houses become scarce until there aren’t any. Just nature in front of us and a rocky path, partially flooded.

Oh my, should we turn back and try again another evening, when the tide is lower? My dad once really scared me when he joked: “Imagine if we come back and everything is completely flooded because of the tide so we have to spend a night at the lake?”. It was quite a relief to be able to somehow cross the water on the way back.

Zmajevo jezero – Dragon’s Lake in Rogoznica

And then you spot the grey cliffs… You’re almost there, it’s the lake! The crazy secretive dragon’s lake. Zmajevo jezero in Croatian. That’s how we used to call. So far away from the road. The tourists have no clue it’s there. There aren’t that many tourists anyway. I mean, there are, but it’s mostly the people from all over the former Yugoslavia, they weren’t much of foreigners back then and they just came for a well-deserved holiday on the beach, not to explore adventurous sights like this one.

You are almost at the lake, but it’s so hard to reach it through the bushes. You finally step on the cliff and stare at the still black water surrounded by vertical grey rocks that rise above it. You scream to test if the echo is still working. The voice yells back at you. A tiny bug of a question whispers in the back of your mind. What if… you wake up the dragon? Each time, it’s the same set of questions: How deep is this? Let’s throw a rock! How dark can the water get? Oh my, I just threw a rock and it immediately disappeared in the darkness! Do you know that some divers wanted to explore it but got disoriented inside and were never found again? Do you know there are turtles inside? As you grow up to a certain age and start coming there with your friends, the stories get more and more fantastic.

For teenagers, some of the “adulthood” rituals take place here. Oh, how many horror stories about broken bones and injured nerves I heard – about the generations of boys jumping into the lake. Let’s start from a 4-meters rock, then the 7-meters one, then the tallest one! You know how it goes. The ones that can resist the craziest-jump-competitions, test their courage around the witches’ hour. The teenage dares include jumping into the lake alone on a full moons night. Of course, all your friends will hide from you while you try not to make any more noise than you did when you first jumped in. The stillness of the water and the eerie gentle sound of it moving while you’re trying to be unheard, imagining something pulling you down. The exit is a few meters away – a few meters that you might never reach, your imagination whispers.

And then you wake up one day to an article in the newspaper with a big title: Aliens Visited Rogoznica? The article mentions all of the crazy ideas connected to Dragon Lake. While some believe that the dragon is sleeping at the bottom of the lake, others believe that it is a spacecraft that fell and caused the round shape of the lake carved into the rock and it’s still down there at the bottom, occasionally trying to reach its mother planet. Newspaper articles kind of made things more real.

That’s not the only time I read about the lake in the newspaper. Later on, when they started building a marina close to the lake, there was a report of a very rare meteorological phenomenon known as the ball lightning. It appeared above the lake and started floating in the air towards the old village of Rogoznica. All of the sudden, the radios broke, the ladies’ stockings tore because of the electricity, until the ball of lightning crashed into the cross on the top of the church. “The dragon is waking up,” the locals agreed, according to that report.

At the same time, the lake turned swamp-like. The dark, but clear water, turned muddy green and looked greasy. The animals left the lake through an underwater cave that connects the lake with the sea. It caused such a stir! Environmental activists drew attention to the problem and warned about the dangers of the construction of the marina since it was obviously polluting the entrance to the cave on the sea-side.

The entrance to the cave can be seen in the marina in Rogoznica

However, after a while, the lake magically cleared. This didn’t surprise the locals because they claimed that this had happened every few years anyway. It turns out this can also be scientifically explained. It’s easiest to explain it, however, if you imagine a spaceship that tries to start its engines every once in a while, poisoning the water along its way. Or if you imagine a huge sleeping dragon at the bottom that starts waking up every now and then, boiling the water with its fiery breath.

Fast forward to 2021. The marina is there, right by the lake. The lake seems to be fine again, too. There is a road that takes you there and anyone can see it. There are constantly people from all over jumping in, not even thinking about the dragon. They don’t call it Dragon’s Lake anymore, it turns out that the official name is Dragon Eye and that there is a pretty elaborate legend about a fight against the dragon in the skies where the dragon was injured so badly, that its eye fell and burned the hole in the ground in Rogoznica. The other eye did the same somewhere on the island of Mljet. There is an information table just by the now easily accessible lake that glances at the dragon story and gives you a scientific explanation of the blurry water phenomenon.

But something is down there. It is easy to forget the mysticism of a place once it becomes a pretty thing to see just next to a luxury marina, a parking lot, and when you’re in the company of dozens of people who want to experience it as well.

Marina Frapa in Rogoznica

For me, I will always remember, when I was a kid, there was a unique old man who lived in Rogoznica. I could swear that he was almost blind but I can’t tell for sure. Might be just a memory that made him more Homer-like. He exhibited his collection of wonders in what we all called the museum of Rogoznica. His museum doesn’t exist anymore. When he passed on to share his memories with the other world, the location was turned into short-term rentals.

Back then, whenever we passed by, we were completely in awe of his incredible collection. Old steampunkish diving suit, a bunch of mines from the aquatorium, leftovers from WW2, incredible sea shells. Divers still love Rogoznica, and for a reason. You might have trouble finding the mines these days… phew! But you can still explore some sunken ships and the so-called underwater botanical garden, as there is one very near Rogoznica. It’s a place with such a variety of life that is hard to find anywhere else in the Adriatic underwater world.

I wish I could tell you more about the old man, more than the fact that he loved to share his adventures and memories. He told us, with a sort of steadiness in his voice, so many creepy stories about the Dragon Lake. He said that the witches’ laughter can be heard from the direction of the lake on a full moon night. He said that he personally saw a part of a crocodile-like creature, what looked like the spine of it, once emerging from the lake.

That was it! We had to go and do a proper investigation. For days, my friends and I went to the lake writing down observations. We collected all those weird newspaper articles and testimonials. Our observations were weird enough, too, as if the lake tried to keep us entertained and puzzled. On one occasion, we spotted dozens of medusas going up and down and appearing at the surface and they all had regular symbols, similar to the once on playing cards. On another occasion, we noticed a change of skin color when we put our legs in the water. Sounds crazy and I would think that I imagined it if all of this wasn’t written down in my first childhood diary of paranormal investigations 🙂

The lake is still impressive, even if it’s not all alone on a peninsula. There are even some buildings that are part of the marina, right at the edge of the lake which does kill the mystery. All the people who come to check it out do, too. I haven’t heard stories about the witches’ laughter or the dragon sightings for a while now. Only scientific explanations of the lake’s phenomenon. I‘m not even sure anymore if the divers indeed disappeared, as we told each other for years when they tried to explore the huge cave that is deeper than the lake itself. The cave only has a tiny opening that connects it to the lake and another tiny one that connects it to the sea. You can see that other one inside of the area of the marina. They protected it in a sort of a pool. We once tried to check out ourselves how deep it was, by tying a rock to a fishing line and measuring how deep would it go. It went for 15 m before it got stuck in a curve or something! We didn’t get to the bottom.

One of the graves around St Nicholas church in the oldest part of Rogoznica

The lake is not the only mysterious thing about Rogoznica. In the area called Lozica, between a luxury villa, a busy beach, and a very touristy apartment area, there is a tiny little church of St Nicholas, less than 10 m long. At first sight, this part of Rogoznica seems like it was built for tourism purposes. Believe it or not, that’s the oldest part of the village. It used to be called the Old Rogoznica (they used the Italianised name: Vecchia Rogoznica).

St Nicholas church dates to the 14th century at least. It’s a charming medieval monument by itself, but the real thing is the medieval cemetery that surrounds it. The graveyard is full of mystical symbols, including astral simbols, and has been stirring a lot of esoteric theories.

Except for his December role of Santa Claus, St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors. That’s why it’s very common to find St Nicholas churches all around the coast. It’s customary to honk your horn when you pass nearby in a boat.

Despite being overcrowded with tourists in summer this past decade or so, Rogoznica can’t escape its mystery. Just a few years ago, they built a lovely lavender labyrinth at the top of the hill above the island and village of Rogoznica. It’s a bit secluded which makes it even more special. Some of the moments of my deepest connection with nature, were on the island of Rogoznica, around sunset, on the rocks overlooking the open sea, and the islands in the distance. My friend, another Iva, once associated this powerful call of the mysteries of the world that come to you with the smell of the waves, with a famous Croatian story called Halugica. Halugica means Sea Weed, and it’s the name of a fantasy sea creature from the tale.

The colors of sunset in Rogoznica

Sunsets – that’s another thing about Rogoznica. It has glorious sunsets and a lot of viewpoints. You could spend days in Rogoznica just choosing your favorite sundown spot. One of my favorite ones is at the edge of an old rain-water-storage.

And then, there’s Punta Planka near Rogoznica, which I mentioned at the beginning. A place where the winds clash, where you can see different currents with your own eyes! The deadliest sailing point of the Adriatic, they say. They once called it the Charybdis of Dalmatia. It’s Homer again, I’m telling you, the whole area is like a mythical map.

Rocks in front of Punta Planka at dusk. Notice the difference between the waves on the left and a stiller sea on the right.

Back in the early middle ages, a king almost got killed in a shipwreck, when St John of Trogir walked the water to get the crew and miraculously rescued them. A few centuries later, local masons built a stone church on that spot. This old church still exists, arising from the smooth rocks that crawl into the sea, as if it was created there by the nature itself. The church is even smaller than the St Nicholas church, although they resemble and are from a similar period.

As you approach, it makes you wonder. Those people of old must have known something we don’t know. I doubt the legend is completely true, but it must be an allegory for yet another Halugica, a power, a creature, that serves as a link between the soil, and the air, and the skies, and the water, that all meet on this spot, and they often don’t do that quietly. We can sense this might, too, if we stop for a second, face the waves… and put the cameras in our pockets for some time.

Underwater wonders, monsters and mysteries, incredible viewpoints, dragons, medieval graveyards… This is my choice of wonders of Rogoznica. If you add to this map of oddities a century-old lighthouse and all the lanterns, all the curious rituals, such as magical boat processions of the Virgin Mary… Just imagine the map of the wonderous Rogoznica and you will ask yourself: does this place have passages to different dimensions and fantasy worlds? I often think so.

Have you been to Rogoznica by any chance? How did it make you feel? What was your favorite sight, location, or experience?

There is something powerful in that location. If you ever get there, take some time to explore it and get enchanted by the ancient secrets of Rogoznica.

Click here to check out the whole photo gallery of Rogoznica.

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