Primosten in 1971

Primosten, a small town in Croatia, located 28km from Sibenik in direction to Split, is quite recognizable for its stone houses, narrow streets typical for Mediterranean (called ‘kala’), crystal blue sea, beautiful promenade, and vast and beautiful beaches.

In its earliest days, Primosten was known as ‘Capocesto’ ( or ‘naked head’), a small islet close to the mainland. In the beginning, there was only a small church on the hill, Church of St. George, with a graveyard around it. At first, the place was mostly used as a temporary sanctuary from Turkish invaders. But, as attacks grew more and more frequent, the local population finally decided to inhabit the island for good.

Unlike other dalmatian near-the-sea places, which were inhabited first and then later grew into towns, Primosten hinterland was the one that was populated first. Although no more than 10 km away from the coastline, temperatures in Primosten hinterland are lower (this can especially be felt in summer) and the land much more fertile. And that was the reason why villages Prhovo, Krusevo, and Krculj were the first settlements in the Primosten area.

So, as Turkish attacks were growing more frequent by the day (remember, Bosnia was centuries under the Ottoman Empire occupation), stripping locals of those hard-earned fruits of their labour, people eventually gave up and made ‘Capocesto’ their permanent home.

In 1542, with the help of Venice (which was governing Dalmatia at that time), as protective measures, walls and towers with a draw bridge were built around the island. A bit later, when the Turks finally retreated, the draw bridge was replaced by the causeway of stones.

From that moment on, Capocesto was known as ‘Primosten’. Its name is derived from the Croatian verb ‘primostiti’ (or to bridge).

With the fall of Venice, the French became new rulers of Primosten. And they were good, according to people’s stories. They didn’t ask for anything from the people and although they did not stick for long, (1806 – 1814), those eight years were enough to build themselves a road through Dalmatia.

From 1814 for the next 110 years, these territories were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And what did Austria do in those 110 years? The first harbour master’s office was established in1852. Since then, every boat, its country of origin including the flag, its starting port and its destination, the purpose of the voyage, number of crew and cargo was recorded into harbour master’s diary. The diary also included the number of local fishing boats and weather reports. In1866 the first school was built in Primosten with the introduction of the act of compulsory school attendance. In 1895 the first shipping (steamship) line Rogoznica – Primosten – Sibenik started to operate on a regular schedule, in 1905 a seafront (riva) was built, the post office with telephone/telegraph connection was established in 1910.

After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, and with the end of WW1, Italy once again occupied the entire Dalmatian region. It lost it in1921 only to regain it back in1941. It held it until 1943. At first, nothing terrible happened; it was all friendly and nice. Shops were filled with goodies no one ever saw before let alone had. Free trade was established. Groceries like flour, sugar, rice and pasta were shared with the people. School, which was closed from the beginning of the war, was reopened but this time no Croatian word was allowed to be spoken. Everything was and had to be in Italian.

During those several years, many civilians were shot dead or taken prisoners under suspicion of favouring partizans or being in some way related to them. Primosten was not spared from air bombing, twice from Italians and then in, as an attempt of liberation, from the English.

From 1943 Primosten was part of the Republic of Yugoslavia.

Construction of houses in Primosten

After the Second World War, the solemn focus was on building and rebuilding. From 1960s Primosten experienced a sudden economic growth – an Esperanto-camp was built with visitors coming from all over the world, power and water lines were built supplying households with running water, electricity and telephone.Jadranska magistrala, the main dalmatian road was built, opening Primosten to the world. Hotels’ Zora’, ‘Raduca’ and ‘Slava’ on the peninsula Raduca, the hotel ‘Marina Lucica’ and camping site ‘Adriatic’ were opened.In 1983 marina Kremik, one of the most protected marinas in Croatia located in the cove beneath the Bucavac hill (on the tentative list for UNESCO world heritage site), was open for sailors.Tourism was in bloom and Primosten was one of the most beautiful summer locations in the Adriatic coast.But then, regretfully, it was all put to stop. Homeland war took its toll on entire Croatia. Dalmatia was physically cut off from the rest of the country. Over 3000 young men left their Primosten homes to participate in defending their homeland.Primosten was empty of tourists for years…But Primosten folk are tough and hard-working people. There’s no enemy, famine, drought, separation or isolation, no fear or anxiety, that can get their spirit down. Centuries of hard life taught them to adapt and to survive.Slowly and steadily, Primosten has regained its previous glory. And by the looks of it, it surpassed it by far…