The Dalmatian coast is famed for its endless beaches, pristine waters, numerous idyllic islands and golden sunsets, but did you know that it is also home to quite a different and very valuable gold? The so-called white gold. It is in the form of salt and it was an essential staple over the centuries and the source of a third of the annual income for the Dubrovnik Republic (or Ragusa, as it was known) from one saltpan alone! Salt has played a crucial economic role in the history of the Adriatic coast, and continues to do so today. It is an intriguing story, and just one more additional attraction to investigate when taking a break from the beach.
Ston – a cornerstone
Let’s start off with the most important one – Ston, whose impressive stonewalls were built as a direct consequence of the need to protect this valuable product. The walls are also an excellent vantage point to observe the impressive Ston saltpans today, from which over 500 tons of salt are produced annually. The Ston saltpans are the oldest in Europe, dating back some 4,000 years, and the largest preserved ones on the Mediterranean. A true cornerstone of salt production.
Nin – a museum city
Further up the coast at Nin, home to the world’s smallest cathedral, a similar salt story was taking place, albeit with a different course after the Venetians took control of it and then shut it down. The tradition continued however, and the Nin salt works are surely in one of the world’s healthiest environments, in a lagoon surrounded by no less than five national parks. As with Ston, the salt is harvested by hand after a five-stage process. Hand-picked sea salt has many healthy properties contained therein, including iodine, bromine and potassium. It should be noted that this hand-picked salt is also known as ‘flower of salt’, (also by the French ‘fleur de sel’) because these crystals resemble flower petals. You can admire those and many other interesting salt exibits in the Nin salt museum in between enjoying the stunning town of Nin, which is like a museum for itself.
Pag – an award-winning island
If there is one island which can be associated with salt, it is surely Pag, with the island’s unique climatic conditions and salty air playing its part in the famous Pag cheese, which has won numerous international awards, as well as Pag lamb, which is highly regarded.
Pag’s saltpans date back to at least 999, and the history of the island’s association with this natural white gift can be traced in the small but informative Pag Salt Museum. Along with the cheese, some fleur de sol (cvijet sol in Croatian) makes an excellent souvenir. So take a deep breath of the salty air – you are going to need it when you see all the breathtaking views Pag has to offer.
As with much of the food production in Croatia, the process is natural, the quality is excellent, and one reason perhaps why the Mediterranean diet has been inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage. So don’t miss out on all the gourmet splendors made with this precious seasoning along your journey down the beautiful coast of Croatia!