The Croatian Happy Island Rab
Monuments inside the ancient city centre and all over the island Rab stand as witnesses of more than two thousand years old turbulent history of Felix Arba or ‘the happy island’
Rab was inhabited by Illyrians 350 years ago BC. In the 1.ct.Roman Municipium under the name ‘Felix Arba’ was established. Arba derives from the Illyrian word ‘Arb’ meaning covered by woods, dark, green; Rab ’s landscaping features – more than one third of the island is covered by various sorts of plants – aromatic shrubs on carst hills of Kamenjak, lush pine and oak woods, serving as habitat of wild game like rabbits, pheasants and birds of prey.
Rab is located in Kvarner Bay
Located in the Kvarner Bay, the happy island Rab is surrounded by numerous other islands and islets. Among these are the notorious Goli otok and St.Grgur, which operated as prisons for men, i.e. women during the communist regime, and today play role of a tourist attraction.
Like the Adriatic coast, this 22km long and 11 km wide island, stretches from the north-west towards south-east separated from the mainland by the Velebit Channel.
Rab is well known for its Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters, approximately 2,600 sunny hours a year and only nine cloudy days during the summer – a perfect place for holidays. Rab also has more than three hundred fresh water springs, though development of tourism has caused insufficient and often dry summer seasons, so the island gets water supply from the river Gacka.
This island hosts various sandy, pebbles and rocky beaches. The most attractive ones are sandy beaches. Nevertheless, a rich choice of coves, bays and lagoons providing crystal clear sea and fascinating forests reaching all the way to the sea line, speaks of Rab as a heavenly nature-vacation destination
Famous Rab Fiera
A wide range of historical structures surpasses number of churches located in Kaldanac, the city centre and the oldest part of the island. The tiny town area features ten sacral structures, some of them without any function, some destroyed, indicating the city functioned as a spiritual as well as intellectual centre throughout the history. Rab is also famous for different manifestations, with the most famous Rab Fiera, representing the first and the largest medieval summer festival in Croatia.
Rab Fiera is based on the tradition dating back to the 21st of July 1364, when the Rab town council decided to honour king Ljudevit the Great, who brought freedom to Rab from the Venetian power.
This day is also dedicated to St.Kristof, the patron of the Rab town. Fiera lasted in the past for 14 days, and the island inhabitants honoured the powers of the saint meritorious for saving the city from destruction. Fiera takes the whole city back to the past.
Small craftsmen shops and trade shops present their skills and crafts to the visitors out in the open showing traditional old way of making belts, scents or hair ornaments, bringing the atmosphere of the Middle Ages to the 21st ct. The air is filled with freshly fried šulčići, while the beach hosts entire fisherman’s village built by traditional tools. The streets are vibrating with songs and music; hedonists can have a bite of tuna fish, fritule (sweet fried dough), cheese and wine.
The honour of opening and closing the manifestation goes to the great crossbow shooters. Their tournaments are held every year on the 9th of May, 25th of June, 27th of July and 15th of August at the St.Kristof square in the town of Rab.
The Association of Rab crossbow shooters was founded with aim of keeping alive the medieval knights tournament of the town of Rab, and ever since it was founded in 1995 more than 150 knight tournaments on Rab, abroad and in other Croatian cities have been held.
Traditional Rab cake
The Association gathers today crossbow shooters, drummers, entertainers, flag-bearers, dancers, music players, gunners and nobility. The fraternity town San Marino supported the establishment of the Association. It is believed the founder, St.Marin, originates from Rab and thus fled during the huge prosecution of the Christians towards the Apennine peninsula and built first a church on Monte Titan, and then founded a town. He was followed by St.Leo, the town San Leo testifies of these facts and is located close to San Marino.
Rab is also proud of its delicacies like Rab grota and Rab cake, which can be tasted at Rab restaurants. Fish specialties are a common thing – Rab is an island of fishermen. Rab features also shipbuilding and its representatives are well known across Croatia and Europe. The island of Rab is really a happy island, and its inhabitants privileged and devoted souls.
Text Ivana Matušan
Cover photo Ivo Biočina/HTZ, other photos TZ Rab, TZ Kvarner and Archive Yachts Croatia