Senj, Kvarner, Northern Croatia
Nestled close to the Velebit mountains, and the largest town between Rijeka, to the north, and Zadar, to the south, Senj has long enjoyed huge strategic importance and has a chequered history.
The settlement started on the hill more than 3,000 years ago and was an important trading stop. Gradually, as elsewhere in Croatia, development gradually focused closer to the shore.
In Roman times it was one of the most significant ports and cultural centres in the region but was largely destroyed, by the Barbarians, in the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries.
In 1537 the Turkish government made a treaty of non agression with Venice on condition that the Uskoks left Klis. Many Uskoks (literally “fugitives”) came to Senj and helped the Austrian governor with the fight against the Turks. The well preserved Nehaj Castle, overlooking the town, was built in the fifteen fifties and located so as to have a good vantage point for sighting approaching ships.
However when relations improved between the Austrians, the Uskoks took up piracy, threatened the new peace and so were moved inland.
Peace and economic prosperity returned to Senj as it became an important trading post again, particularly for the import of salt, grain and wood. It also became a significant cultural centre again, with many of the country’s great poets coming from Senj and now commemorated by having with their busts placed in Senj’s Poet’s Park.
However, in 1873, the building of the railway line between Rijeka and Karlovac cut Senj off from the progress it brought, and Trieste and Rijeka, with better connections, started to flourish as ports at Senj’s expense. Inhabitants started to leave in the late 19th century, a process which accelerated after the Second World War when the town suffered heavy bombing.
One of Senj’s other claims to fame is that it is the windiest place in Croatia. The Senj Bora (north-east wind) is a weather phenomenon both feared and feted by its inhabitants. The wind builds high up on the Velebit mountains and then blows directly down the Vratnik pass to Senj. The part of the island of Krk directly opposite Senj is bare – nothing can grow there against the onslaught of the Bora.
Apart from generating hurricane force winds every now and then though, the Bora brings some advantages producing exceptionally “clean” air once it has blown through and generally heralding clear skies and sunshine.
Senj is a more traditional kind of town as far as tourism is concerned. Following its isolation resulting from the new railway line, the building of the motorway has also cut it off the main road transit route. However it’s a great place to visit with a good museum in the castle, another one in the town and plenty of shops, banks, restaurants and bars.
And it has one of the best located and best value for money campsites we stayed at in our seven week trip, very close to town and with its own great little beach – for more details go to Croatia Camping Guide - Kamp Škver, Senj
For more information on the town itself, link to Senj Tourist Office