Karlovac

Tragic road

27 November 2020.

Written by Matija Čaić

In 18. century Croatia was part of Austrian empire. Turkish invasion was still very real threat and fortified city of Karlovac (eng. Carl’s City) was first line of defence and very important logistics center since it is situated in the narrowest part of Croatia between planes in the north and sea in the south. Karlovac is also near capital, Zagreb, so it was already connected with Vienna, the capital of the Empire.

Connecting empire with the seaside

In 18. century Croatia was part of Austrian empire. Turkish invasion was still very real threat and fortified city of Karlovac (eng. Carl’s City) was first line of defence and very important logistics center since it is situated in the narrowest part of Croatia between planes in the north and sea in the south. Karlovac is also near capital, Zagreb, so it was already connected with Vienna, the capital of the Empire.

Austria was also developing two ports on the northern part of Adriatic. Kraljevica (eng. Kingsport), as military port and shipyard and Rijeka (eng. River) as free port. This status was given to Rijeka by emperor Leopold I., the same one that cut off heads of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan, two most prominent Croatian nobles.

In those conditions, the need arose to build the first modern road to connect Karlovac with Rijeka and nearby city Bakar (eng. Copper). Task was given to Austrian military engineer Anton Matthias Weiss.

Main problem that Weiss encountered was low finance, and this was the source of all other tragic events. He was given only 70 000 forints, way too few for this project, and 1500 workers. Road was christened „Via Carolina Augusta“, the road of emperor Carl, or in short Karolina (Caroline), by the son of Leopold I, Carl VI.

In the shortest and cheapest way possible

Construction of Karolina started in 1726. Weiss almost fanatically decided to built it to be as short and as cheap as possible. He built it from one village to another regardless of terrain so Karolina is now filled with uphills, downhills and sharp bends. Records from that time indicate that road was passable from beginning to the end only for light carriages with many horses.

Road like this with many lonely and dark parts was ideal for highwaymen to prey for unwary passengers.

Construction was completed in 1732. Karolina is 105 kilometers long from Karlovac to Bakar and there is another branch 20 kilometers long from Bakar to Rijeka.

Road was opened in 1726, long before it was finished, when Carl VI rode by it and arrived to Rijeka. To commemorate that event a relievo was installed over the City Watch passage. It depicts Leopold I and Carl VI with two-headed eagle that holds decanter in his claws with writing „INDEFICIENTER“ which means „inexhaustible“.

From beginning…

Karolina begins in the oldest part of Karlovac, Dubovac (eng. place-with-many-oaks). After one steep uphill it arrives to the castle of the same name. After Dubovac, road passes through the forest until it reaches another castle, Novigrad (eng. New Town).

Below Novigrad, road passes river Dobra (eng. Good) over bridge that was built in 1726. and still serves its purpose.

You will not beleive when I tell you that next town on Karolina’s route is Vienna. Beside capital of Austria, Vienna is also village in Croatia and so is Rome, which is about 20 kilometers farther.

Third, and once most beautiful castle, on this road is Bosiljevo. It lies in ruins today, but you can still see that once it was something magnificent.

From Bosiljevo to Vrbovsko, Karolina is impassable so you need to take a detour over D3 road, and when you return to it you will see another very pittoresque castle, Stara Sušica (eng. Old Droughty).

Villages that follow are Ravna Gora (eng. Flat Mountain), Stari Laz which is the highest point of the road, Mrkopalj, and Brestova Draga (eng. Elm’s darling).

… to bitter end

After Brestova Draga road goes through thick forest. There you can see original macadam and retaining wall. There is also the most interesting place on the whole road. In the small valley, you can see 10 truncated pyramids 7 meter high and wide. They were carriers of the wooden viaduct that Weiss built to bridge the valley. Road could go around valley, but since Weiss wanted it to be short and cheap, he built viaduct that had rather substantial longitudial slope. Something that is rather unique in the world.

One cold winter night a carriage with passenger tried to pass the viaduct. Since it was below zero, a thick layer of ice formed alongside it. They almost reached the other end when one horse slipped and fell taking other with him. Carriage broke the fence and crumbled down killing everybody.

When Weiss heard about this tragedy, he took his own life.

The end

After Brestova Draga, Karolina passes Sunger, Vrata (eng. Door), very beautiful villages Fužine and Plasa from where you can see Adriatic sea and Kvarner gulf. In the village Meja (eng. Border), Karolina branches in two parts. One for Bakar, and another for Rijeka.

In Rijeka there is a milestone at the end with writing „CAROLINA“.

Background image: www.blog.meteo-info.hr

Battle of the gods

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