Travel

Hidden Dalmatia: Incredible and Mysterious 10 Rajcica Wells near Klis

By 17 February 2021
10 Rajcica Wells near Klis, off the road from Klis to Drnis
10 Rajcica Wells near Klis, off the road from Klis to Drnis © Ante Mula

February 17, 2021 – One of the most mysterious and beautiful sites in the Dalmatian hinterland behind Split, the incredible 10 Rajcica Wells - off the road between Klis and Drniš - are ripe for discovery by those wanting to escape into nature and they're the perfect place for picnics

The road from Klis to Drniš can sometimes feel like a step back in time. The 20-minute drive from the bustle of coastal city Split up to Klis is one that more and more visitors are wisely choosing to take. Perched in the high foothills of the Dinaric Alps, Klis's spectacular fortress, featured in Game of Thrones, is a captivating visit. The views it offers of the seaside city below will leave you breathless.

klisfortress7gdjkbgfasjkb.jpegThe view of Split from Klis Fortress © Ivan Limić

Pulling out from the suburbs of Split, the sights and sounds of towering apartment blocks, tourist-filled streets and city buses ebb away and the road climb begins. But, after visiting Klis Fortress, if you take the road to Drniš, things change again.

As you head through the village of Prugovo, the tell-tale signs of tourism decrease – perhaps a villa, here or there, maybe some modern buildings. But, between Prugovo's settled areas, a vista of classic inland Dalmatia opens up. A dry and sun-soaked landscape, filled sporadically with the green of trees and bushes and the weathered grey of Dalmatian rock. The edges of fields are marked by traditional dry stone walls. By isolated houses, trellises carry vines – tomatoes, grapes.

Prugovosjadfkjjldas.jpgPrugovo © Općina Klis

Between Prugovo and Gornji Muć, where you'd turn left for Drniš, the buildings are few and far between. A vast expanse of unblemished Dalmatian countryside sits on either side. On the road here, you're as likely to be passed by an agricultural vehicle as you are any car.

But, long before you reach Gornji Muć, there's an almost anonymous turning on the left. A simple road sign preceding announces the names of villages you've likely never heard of. At first sight, the road looks to lead up only to a red and white communications mast. Beyond it, a shallow valley on the right contains houses of the settlement Gizdavac. Otherwise, you're surrounded by slight, rolling hills and the low-lying bushes of an unadulterated wilderness.

Gizdavac-Prugovo_0204_2010_-_panoramio.jpgGizdavac / Prugovo © d.graso

A little further, if you take a right on the road – heading for Brštanovo and Nisko, instead of Lećevica - a gentle incline again but, here, there are no settlements. No sounds. The stone walls that previously edged your travel have gone. Your passage is now bordered only by roadside bushes. And then, as if from nowhere, tall, thin pines shoot up on either side. It's the first shadow seen on the road for quite some time.

150970951_328784161884992_3375819499453421533_n.jpg© Iva Kegalj / Don't miss Klis

The light soon returns, but on the route through Brštanovo and on to Nisko, the trees seem to fight for a place on the landscape – succeeding in some section. In others, it's the agricultural fields of settlers that have reclaimed the wilderness. The land here is a mixture of greens, some indigenous and agrestal, others purposefully placed in neat rows. The landscape is still.

If signposts to Brštanovo and Nisko were thin on the ground, you'd need a sharp eye - or to know exactly where you're going - if you're heading to the incredible secret this area holds. No fanfare heralds the 10 Rajcica Wells. They can't even be reached by car.

88naslovnabunjaies.jpgThe 10 Rajcica Wells near Klis © The Mladichi

To get to this mysterious oasis, you take your car to Nisko,and then keep an eye out for the sign which marks the way to tiny settlement of Čulići (the 10 Rajcica Wells can also be accessed from Lećevica). The short walk required from where you eventually is an enjoyable stroll through all of the landscapes you've just passed – wild countryside with Dalmatian rock erupting between the green or forestland, where you walk beneath the shade of pines. An agricultural road has recently been reconstructed to aid your passage through the forest. That your view is obstructed by these trees grants a thrilling sense of drama when, eventually, the meadow containing the 10 Rajcica Wells is finally revealed.

LRM_EXPORT_521965739794720_20190803_125832736Ante_Mula1.jpg

The 10 Rajcica Wells (Bunari Rajčica) near Klis

Aside from an old stone wall that runs through the meadow, the 10 Rajcica Wells are the only telltale signs that this land has ever been touched by the hands of man. No buildings or telegraph poles are insight. No sounds interrupt the calm of the incredible scenery. If you're not alone at the 10 Rajcica Wells when you visit, it's because this is a popular place for those in-the-know to come for picnics. But, the 10 Rajcica Wells has the effect of calming all who come. The picnics taken here are respectful of the peacefulness, if not overwhelmed by it.

P3000412Limic3.jpgPicnic at the 10 Rajcica Wells (Bunari Rajčica) near Klis © Ivan Limić

When the weather is not quite right for picnics, the 10 Rajcica Wells are visited by an even smaller number of well-informed guests. Walkers and hikers take to the trails and come to gasp at the sight. Although, they too are not likely to be alone.

P3000416Limic2.jpgThe 10 Rajcica Wells (Bunari Rajčica) near Klis in glorious colours of autumn © Ivan Limić

Throughout the year, horses come to drink from the wells, as do a few cows who graze in and around the meadow. They've got used to sharing their dining room with humans. Some are curious and friendly, they might even approach, delighting any younger group members who get up close. Sometimes they might even be too friendly – a picnic sandwich or two has been known to be taken by the meadow's mooing residents. Perhaps they think it's a buffet? Best hold tightly onto your lunch – although there's little danger of the placid cows sneaking up to you. Most wear bells around their necks. Their ring is sometimes the only sound to pierce the silent scene.

IvaKegaljDontmissKlis5.jpg© Iva Kegalj / Don't miss Klis

If you've travelled from Split to discover the 10 Rajcica Wells - and you really should – this is a Dalmatia completely opposite from where your journey began. Just a kilometre or so from the county boundary between Split-Dalmatia and Sibenik-Knin, there's no sea here, no advertising hoardings, no intruding music or enticement. Here, the offer is peaceful nature and the wonder of your imagination.

881Bunjario.jpgRajcica Wells (Bunari Rajčica) near Klis © The Mladichi

Nobody is really sure who built the 10 Rajcica Wells. Some presume it was the Ottomans. But, around the locale, you'll often find people who refer to them as the 'Roman wells' (this would make them over 1000 years old). Others think that they are older still, built by the Illyrian tribes who perhaps also let their animals drink from the 10 Rajcica Wells. Indeed, in a submitted thesis, Croatian student Mate Puljak suggested that the name Rajčice (rather than emanating from a very modern Croatian word for tomato), is actually a name that comes from the surname of the Rajčić (Raichich) family, who he claims pre-date the Romans.

Screenshot_182.pngThe placement of the Rajcica water wells corresponds to the constellation of the Pleiades, claimed Croatian student Mate Puljak, suggesting the wells pre-date the Romans

"These are ritual water wells and their arrangement in space corresponds to a mirror image of the constellation of the Pleiades," he says. Myth from the nearby locale has it that they have never once dried up. In the days before village children could easily take a bus to the beach, the 10 Rajcica Wells were the summertime spot where many learned to swim. Year-round, their parents would visit the wells to draw drinking water for their family's homes.

882Bunjariii.jpgNear the start of David Lean's monumental 1962 film 'Lawrence of Arabia', Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) sets off on a journey of many nights camel ride through the desert accompanied by a Bedouin guide with whom he is newly acquainted. They soon become friends. In one of the movie's most iconic scenes, another Bedouin, Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) arrives from a distance by camel before shooting dead Lawrence's Bedouin guide for drinking from a well that belongs to him. In the ensuing exchange, to an angry and upset Lawrence, Sherif Ali points at the lifeless body and spits “He was nothing! The well is everything!” People of the Dalmatian hinterland are not nearly so protective over their wells. Although, local legend does have it that, in the recent past, each of the 10 Rajcica Wells was 'owned' by 10 different families of the region, 'theirs' being the one exclusively assigned for use by the family and their animals © The Mladichi

The people of the Dalmatian hinterland are rarely selfish. What they have, they'll invite you in to share. And the 10 Rajcica Wells are no exception. To that end, in addition to the recently reconstructed agricultural road, a further access road for the 10 Rajcica Wells will be made, educational nature trails will be appointed around the site and a viewpoint added. The picnic area will be arranged and better signage will open up the 10 Rajcica Wells to visitors. The cows may soon have more guests with whom they share their meadow. Although, they probably won't mind. Residents of the Dalmatian hinterland know that their secrets are too good to keep for themselves.

Screenshot2020-04-07at10.40.52Ante_Mula2.jpgRajcica Wells (Bunari Rajčica) near Klis © Ante Mula

On these links you can read the other features in our Hidden Dalmatia series:

Drniš - Drniški Pršut and Meštrović Roots

Soparnik - 100% Authentic Croatian Food

The Fantastic Food of the Cetina River

Wild Rides on the Cetina River

Total Croatia News would like to express sincere thanks to Ivan Limić, Općina Klis, The Mladichi, Iva Kegalj, Don't miss Klis and Ante Mula for the photography used in this article which, without their assistance, would not have been possible

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