After a visit to Roski Slap, another series of waterfalls in the Krka NP, we drove back towards the coast. The road meandered through a slightly hilly, brown and gloomy landscape. Destroyed homes, abandoned unfinished houses and buildings still in use that had evidently seen better days were scattered along both sides of the road. Bullet holes in several of them – especially those on street corners – serve as silent reminders of dark days of the past. A defeated tank is used as a memorial of the Croatian war of independence, that was fought here about thirty years ago. I’m old enough to remember the war being in the news a lot at the time. I’m also young enough that my parents protected my young eyes from seeing too much of it.
Although almost three decades have passed, it seems like has mostly stood still here. There’s not much to draw people in either, except the stories and imaginations of those terrible times. Between Krka NP and the coast, there seems to be little else. Tourism is largely undeveloped. Economically, it doesn’t seem to thrive here either. Perhaps that’s just my mind wandering back to the past and seeing all the doom.
The weather didn’t help much either. A nasty drizzle followed us all the way, but the air was surprisingly mild. As a positive, in this often dry and unforgiving landscape, rain is a welcome gift. In a few weeks, the valleys and hills will color green, pushing out the gloomy brown tones. Spring changes everything.
Besides, the god-awful weather brought out some beauty in this landscape as well!
About halfway to the coast, I spot something sitting in the middle of my lane. It’s far away, and at first I don’t recognize it. Could be a snake. It doesn’t move as I get closer. Is it dead? Was it even an animal? But then I recognize the bright yellow spots amongst the black skin color. A fire salamander! It’s too late to safely stop before it, so I hope it stays where it is, right in the middle, and I hit the breaks. I park the car on the roadside in a safe spot, and run back, to help this little guy off the road. Fire salamanders have a wide distribution across large parts of Europe. However, many populations are in steep decline, mostly due to diseases and loss of habitat. In the Netherlands, there are none left, as the remaining individuals have been saved for a breeding program to help save them from the disease that wiped out most of this small population. These wonderful, harmless and stunning little creatures are also often victim of traffic, as they like the warmth of the tarmac, especially when it rains, or at night. I couldn’t let this one sit on the road and turn into a road pizza.
As I walked back, the salamander was walking through one of the tracks in the tarmac, created by the weight of trucks and other heavy vehicles. I picked it up just in time before a tour bus passed, and saved it from a certain death. I showed my family this beautiful creature, and placed it a safe distance from the road on the side it was heading towards, where it hopefully will find a mate and thrive for a few years more. Let them bring more beauty to this landscape!