Croatia's Fingerprint Island Gets Spring Makeover... and Some International Attention

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May 15, 2018 – Spring cleaning for the renowned little island of Baljenac, criss-crossed with 23 kilometres of handbuilt dry stone walls

You might remember the story of the Croatian Island of Love – Galešnjak, a little parcel of land whose distinctive heart shape made it a globally popular destination for romantic getaways and weddings. If we applied the same logic to other uniquely shaped wonders, what kind of visitors could the Fingerprint Island attract?

Detectives and explorers, of course, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. Baljenac is a small island in the Šibenik archipelago – an islet, to be more precise, measuring only 0.14 km2 in size – that owes its peculiar nickname to a labyrinth of dry stone walls covering its entire surface. Viewed from above, oval-shaped and stamped with a unique pattern, the islet truly does resemble a fingerprint.

Those dry stone walls, in their incredible total length of 23 km, were built by the residents of the neighbouring island Kaprije as demarcation lines. The villagers cultivated the entire surface of the tiny landform, planting vineyards, figs, pears and other crops on individual parcels enveloped by the walls. The crops were abandoned a couple of decades ago, but the island hasn’t been forgotten – in 2016, an initiative was launched to inscribe Baljenac in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and we’re still waiting to see how things will progress on that front. 

We’ve presented this fascinating piece of the Adriatic on several occasion (let us point you to this feature – it’s worth a read). Two things have happened since our last report. First, Science Channel came out with a video filmed on Baljenac and titled ‘Why do scientists think the Fingerprint Island used to be a vineyard?’ A pair of curious minds intent on getting to the bottom of this seemingly mysterious issue, poking around the island as the modern-day Sherlock and Watson, looking for clues that would prove Baljenac indeed used to be a vineyard. ‘Thanks captain obvious!’, says the first comment. ‘God, you could have just asked the locals’ is a decent summary of the rest. Still, the video amassed over 700.000 views since it was published in December 2017, so… thanks for the promo?

And now for the other thing, and a far more important one at that. Residents of Kaprije island and the Šibenik City Museum organised an interesting cleanup action on Baljenac a couple of days ago, aiming to rid the island of a small pine forest that’s been getting out of control lately. Some twenty pine trees – it doesn’t sound like much, but if the wild batch was allowed to continue to thrive, it would soon spread over the entire island. And we can’t let the precious stone lacework to basically get eaten alive; we have a potential UNESCO candidate on our hands here.

According to Slobodna Dalmacija, ethnologist Jadran Kale, PhD said they’re hoping for Baljenac to be inscribed in the list of Croatia’s cultural goods. Once the island gets a protected status, the experts could apply for funding to capture new aerial views with a drone and build a 3-D model of Baljenac we’d definitely love to see. Fingers crossed!

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