The walking paths “Towards the Castle” is around 1,600 m long, of easy to medium difficulty for which you will need 20 minutes of light walking in order to reach the finish. The start of the walk is at around 300 m above sea level and the finish within the remains of the Hreljin Castle at around 310 m, whilst the lowest point of the walk is at a height of around 272 m. The walk leads to the Hreljin Castle, where today we can find the ruins of the medieval town of Hreljin located on the most western part of Vinodol and which proudly rises on the steep cliffs over Bakarac. In the Middle Age, the old town of Hreljin was an eminent residential, commercial, defence and administrative centre. Up until today, amongst the visible remains and what is left of the town walls and a variety of other objects, two ecclesiastical facilities have also been conserved: St. George’s church bell tower together with ruins of the church itself and also the church of the Holy Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Snow).
On the way to the Castle you can enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and view over Bakar Bay. After a 15 minute walk you will encounter three old water depositories, the so called “kalci” or “lokve”. One of them, with a diameter of 10 m, was once used for cattle breeding whilst the other two, deeper but smaller in diameter, were used exclusively for the needs of people. At the end you will see the ruins of the old town of Hreljin from which an unforgettable view over the entire Kvarner Bay extends.
On the north-eastern slopes of the town of Bakar, the area that Hreljin citizens call “Zagrad,” the three large water depositories known for their popular names as “kalci” or “lokve” (puddles) can be found. Allegedly, they were built after the danger of Turkish invasion had passed, during the rule of Petar Zrinski. One of the depositories, with a 10 m diameter, was used for cattle drinking needs while the other two, that were deeper, but smaller in diameter were used exclusively for people’s needs. All three depositories, constructed deeply in the terrain, were encased in stone blocks and charged with loam, were easily accessible so water could simply be taken from them. They were filled from the water inflow during the periods of high precipitations. They still exist today in their original form, are well conserved, and full of fresh water. Hreljin inhabitants used them for their own personal needs, as well as for the cattle drinking needs, until special reservoirs known as “šterne” were built at the beginning of the 19th century. It wasn’t uncommon to hear from elderly women how they used to carry water on their backs as young women, in the periods between the two World Waes, in specially made 50-litter wooden canisters called “lodrice.”
The “lokvine”(water depository) and “šterne”(water reservoirs) were the main structural facilities in the town built for its purpose, so that life in the town, as an administrative and defence centre could proceed according to the requests of that period and former feudal social structure. In the same way other Frankopan and Zrinski towns were built in the Vinodol area.
THE CASTLE OF HRELJIN
The Hreljin’s old town (the Castle) represents the ruins of the medieval city of Hreljin built on the most western part of Vinodol, above Bakarac, the former port of Hreljin, on the pyramid-like hill and on steep slopes, 321 m above the sea level. In the Middle Age, the old town of Hreljin was an important residential, trade, defence and governing centre located on the crossing area from the mountains towards the sea and for the above stated reasons, it can be said that Hreljin was once a large medieval feudal town. The first mention of the medieval town of Hreljin dates back to 1225, when the Croatian and Hungarian king Andrija II, donated the Vinodol principality, along with Hreljin, to two Krk’s noblemen, later known as the Frankopans. Furthermore, one of the first mentions of Hreljin is the one dating back to 1288 during the creation of the Vinodol Law whose signatory is also the town of Hreljin. During the period between 1225 and 1550, Hreljin was under the rule of the feudal Frankopan family, from 1550 until 1671 it was under the Zrinski family and after the execution of these two noble Croatian families, in 1671 it came under the rule of the Austrian State Chamber. Precisely in the previously mentioned period began the gradual decline, that is, the abandonment of the old medieval town of Hreljin. The abandonment of the old town occurred during changes in the economic life and for the most part after 1728 when the Karolinska road from Karlovac to Bakar and Rijeka was built. The last inhabitants of old Hreljin were the three priests who finally and definitively left the area of the old town in 1790 and went to live in the new town, that is today’s Hreljin. Since then, the old Hreljin has been abandoned and left to itself and now a famous ghost of the past reigns over the town. Up until today, amongst the visible remains and what is left of the town walls and a variety of other objects, two ecclesiastical facilities have also been conserved: St. George’s church bell tower together with ruins of the church itself and also the church of the Holy Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Snow) It is not known when the construction of the tower and St. George’s Church began, but in regard to the importance of the former town of Hreljin, we can suppose that it occurred during the 13th century.
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY
The small church (chapel) of the Holy Virgin Mary is the best preserved facility of the old town of Hreljin. It is presumed with great reliability that it was built in 1699 on the site of the former Frankopan church, as it was sanctified in 1701. This is pointed out by the Latin inscription in the registry of the baptized during that period. From the given inscription, it can be seen that the chapel was sanctified by the Senj-Modruš bishop, Martin Brajković in the period when the Pastor Pavle Tebaldi Tremanini reigned. According to the note in the Hreljin’s church memorial in 1825, the church was completely reconstructed and given the name of Chapel of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin Mary. Up until the end of the 19th century, it had leaning roof covered with tiles and then at the beginning of the 20th century it was covered with a plain concrete roof. The town of Bakar completely reconstructed the chapel in 2008 under the surveillance of the Department of Ancient Monuments in Rijeka and with that the chapel once again gained its original form. This chapel was very important for the inhabitants of new Hreljin with regard to its history as the only preserved facility from the old Hreljin. Also the importance of the chapel is related to religion due to tradition in which each 5th August is celebrated as a holiday of Our Lady of Snow with mass celebration.