Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Baške Oštarije is located in the neighbourhood of the most beautiful Velebit peaks, on the only road leading from Gospić to Karlobag. Our hosts tell us that this is a division between the mountainous region of Lika and Podgorje – a thin strip of coast on foot of Croatia’s most beloved mountain Velebit. Once upon a time there was a Venetian merchant caravan on this important Velebit passage, and the place was known as the Oštarije. They are situated at 924 meters above sea level and are surrounded by beautiful Dabri and Dabar peaks. It's not only a name for beaver in Croatia (there are none here), but about the special Velebit valleys with the flat bottom. The mountain routes connect Crni dabar, Ravni dabar, Došen dabar, Bačić duliba, and from there paths climb up to the rocky peaks of Kiza, Bačić kuk and Ljubičko brdo that can all be seen from Baške Oštarije.
It is no wonder, therefore, that nature lovers, mountaineers, and mushroom hunters stop in Baške Oštarije. To all of them, this is a small paradise on earth, surrounded by a couple of remaining cottages and abandoned huts. The descendants of the former inhabitants are coming here on pilgrimages (a visit to the Church of Holy Elizabeth is a must), and there are more and more cottages enclosed by the edge of the field. The morning birds’ singing can change in the winter with the sound of horse sledge. Namely, in the Vegium Recreation Centre one can go horseback riding, and the beautiful horses also serve as a engine for romantic sledge ride in Baške Oštarije. Certainly, this place is intended for the glorious development of tourism throughout the year, although it will not and must not be massive.
You do not have to worry about sleeping. Hostel Baške Oštarije is open year-round and is an ideal place for rest, recreation and health preservation. Next to the hostel there is a possibility for skiing on an excellently prepared track 1.3 km long; recreational riding; cycling trails; hiking, and children's school is also prepared in nature where they can find out about domestic animals and the life in the village. Perhaps some adults should also be sent to re-education, as many have lost the concept of fresh air outside the city. Of course, there's also a restaurant here. Guess where our team was!
In good hands of Anka Jurković, Delfa Bačić and Fabijan Kolak, who are sovereign rulers of the kitchen at Baškim Oštarijama, we have tried a combination of Lika’s gastronomic culture and Oštarije’s natural environment. Of course, we began by drinking a Velebit herb brandy made of Velebit medicinal herbs. We enjoyed the pleasant flavour of travarica on a pebble terrace, blessed with sun-warm and cared by the wind, in the company of humble kittens who are just learning how to steal a tasty snack from the guests. We spent the rest of the time in the wooden ambience of the restaurant, as the wind started to increase. Here the time changes in a very short time, but do not worry! On the walls of the restaurant, kožun - a sheepskin robe warming the generations of Lika men – is proudly presented. Since Vedran, the president of our association, originally comes from Lika, it was just a matter of second when he would put Lika’s hat on his head, and Matija and Edvard soon followed him in dressing up the coat. We found among the guests one guy with dangubica or samica, beloved Lika’ instrument, and the famous song of Lika’s hawk started.
Perhaps as a gratitude for the end of singing, the hosts invited us to the table. First, we admired the dairy products of the neighbouring cheese manufactory, before we passed on the beautifully prepared dishes with a Oštarije inspiration. In the centre of the offer, we found homemade pork sausages with potatoes and sauerkraut, and some of the best sausages somehow came to us almost as a dessert. Namely, we could not resist the taste of nettle soup from Oštarije. Slightly spicy and creamy green soup was an introduction to nettle stew, with pieces of meat in it. And it really tastes good with homemade bread!
In the clay pot we were tempted with a buša stew. Buša, this beautiful small beef has for centuries fed Lika's people. This tiny cow is very well adapted to the Lika’s harsh climate, and in old times it was fed on pasturelands in the warmer months, and with hey and corn in the winter. Buša has modest nutritional requirements, it is extremely vigorous, resistant and has a good fertility. It can be seen on steep and small pastures, so Lika people liked it. Unfortunately, over time it has almost been brought to the edge of the extinction, which is why the Buša Breeders Association has been operating since 2005 in Gospić. Recovered buša has also become a gastronomic offer in the Lika-Senj County, and the buša stew we have tried in Baške Oštarije asks for more! For irreplaceable lovers of veal and lamb on the spit or under the baking lid may also be prepared with prior announcement. When the weather cools down, guests can warm up with various brandies as well as wine and unavoidable Lika’s beer.
Baške Oštarije remain inextricably linked to mountain tourism. Until recently, Hotel Velebno has been operating here, almost a legend of Lika’s tourism. Oštarije is easy to reach from Gospić, but it is worth trying and arrive or leave over Karlobag. From these steep curves you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Adriatic, the island of Pag and the Velebit Channel, and if the weather is nice then it is best to climb the stairs to Kubus. This large stone cube was set up here in 1846 as a memorial to the construction of a new road. The more enthusiastic ones might go from Baške Oštarije through Terezijana Trail. It follows the old road of Terezijana, built by Habsburg car Joseph II in 1786 and called in memory of his mother, the empress Maria Theresia. The educational trail goes down to the village of Konjsko and requires a three hour walk. For those who do not feel shaky in their knees, the hiking routes lead to Karlobag.