I truly admire people who have just arrived at an empty plot of land, and built themselves a shelter out of scratch, using available natural local materials. These places are inspiring relics of what man can do alone. In my case, starting at that scale would be a road to a certain failure. I was essentially a city girl who grew up on central heating. With grandparents in the countryside, I was however far from the American kids from the Jamie Oliver’s show, who were unable to make a mental connection between the French fries and a potato. The only reasonable approach was thus to follow the path of moderation, starting this journey at feasible ground. After family’s approval last Christmas Eve, I decided to settle down in a house built by my grand-grand father (mum’s side) at the foot of mountain Velebit. It had the needed preconditions to be reasonably secluded, with some land to plant a small garden. On the top of that, it had some history and meaning.
When my grandma was a child, they used to live high up in the mountain, fully off the land. They were one of many families living in this manner, as Velebit has once been quite densely populated. If you hike today in this region, you can run into the remains of that life. People nowadays are ready to pay massive amounts of dollars, pounds or euros for scenic view rooms, but these people had it all just for themselves, and for free. Due to the changed conditions related to the Second World War, they have been forced to leave, but in the late sixties, eventually returned to the area and built this place more down on the coast as a family vacation house. For decades, the house was happily used during the summer, but as all four sisters have children and grandchildren, at some point it got too hard to coordinate managing and using the place. The logical move was to put it on the market.
On the other side, my father, as an experienced solo mountain walker, madly passionate about Velebit, and only Velebit, was pleased when his parents (my other grandparents) decided to buy this house, in exchange for a small stone one they owned on one Croatian island. In an atypical line of events, I now live in a place of double history, covering in the evening with a blanket once used by my one grand-grand father, in the house of the other.
The house itself was in a quite bad shape, as during the last 10 years since my father’s side has owned the place it was only partially repaired. My grandfather died that very year, and my grandma alone could not do much. But as it was solely used during the summer, when you shower outside and generally just enjoy the sunshine, it was doable. Regardless of its condition, I have always had sympathy for the place. After almost 20 years, I still vividly remember the first time I got here, when we were welcomed by an incredible smell coming from a huge pot with dozens of stuffed peppers, which my grandma’s sister left to cool down in front of the house.
Besides the church, there is pretty much no infrastructure around, so I am not sure if I can even call this place a village. Without a shop, and if you do not have a car (as in my case), your only option are little delivery vans which come on a weekly basis. As the other houses around, it has a rainwater harvesting system and a cesspool, which luckily did not make any trouble so far. There is electricity in the house, but relying on it is not to be fully trusted, as due to the very strong mountain wind Bura, electricity cuts are very common, especially during the winter. Last year, there were 12 consecutive days without electricity, accompanied by a fully closed road. I do not have a TV, phone, dish or washing machine, only a laptop and 2GB Internet per month over my cell phone.