Flower- shaped Dry Stone Walls called Mrgari

Photo by Valter Stojšić / Baška Tourist Board 

Have you ever travelled through Croatia and noticed dry stone walls? They are definitely a huge part of Croatia’s landscape, like olive trees or rocky coastline. These walls, called suhozid or gromače, are centuries old and they were built for agricultural purposes , to divide territory or to corral sheep.

One of these dry stone wall types is Mrgar which is also called “flower made of stones” because it looks like a  stone flower with petals.

Mrgars are dry stone walls used for segregating sheep into groups. The sheep of various owners mix when they are freely grazing in the mountains. A few times a year, the shepherds herd them to the mrgar, where they are collected in the central area called sala. The mrgar stone wall has only one entrance into the sala with numerous exits, as many as there are sheep owners. Afterwords, the sheep are divided into the smaller rooms, called mrgarić according to who their owner is. Their owner waits here, looks them over, marks them, cuts their wool and lets them out through the exit, to return to the open pasture.
At this moment, right before letting them out, when shepherds are separating their own flock into small mrgariće, that’s when it looks like petals.

Dry stone walls Mrgar

Photo by Valter Stojšić / Baška Tourist Board 

See also: 5 very best beaches of the island of Krk

Mrgari are normally over ten metres long and the largest one can hold up to 1500 sheep at once.

These gorgeous examples of traditional, local architecture can only be found on the southern most point of the Island of Krk, and the uninhabited neighbouring Island of Prvić. The plateaus around Baška have a total of ten of these structures, of which seven are still used, while Prvić Island is home to five more.

There are only two other places in Europe where similar constructions can be found – Great Britain (Wales) and Iceland.

The Wisdom of Elders

Sometimes, young people want to one-up their ancestors with their great endeavours. On the island of Krk, building standards were created in accordance with millennia of experience and practice. Exaggerating inevitably leads to problems, of course. 🙂

These hard working people of Jurandvor built the largest mrgar in the world in the 1940s. Proud of themselves they herded their sheep towards the mrgar… as the sheep entered the sala they had too much room to run around! Because of the large sala it was difficult to catch them. Ancient wisdom says that the sala must be adequate to the number of sheep, so that they are packed tightly in the space. Something had to be done, and it had to be done quickly! Some of the shepherds held hands and made a human chain over half of the sala and kept the sheep together while the other were building a new wall making the sala smaller.

They did not speak a lot about this endeavour, however a stone remnant of the mrgarić they took down is still visible from the air.

Dry stone walls baska island krkPhoto by Baška Tourist Board 

So, when your vacation comes to an end and you board a plane to fly back home, try to get a window seat for a quick peek at this fascinating dry stone wall constructions!


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