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FLAS Notes from the Field: Ancient Practices in Modern Croatia

Zadar Narodni Trg

August 22, 2016

By Arna Elezovic

UW History Ph.D. candidate Arna Elezovic is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) at the University of Zadar in Croatia. Arna is also exploring the country’s spectacular Dalmatian coast and its hinterland, where she discovered that Croatian sea salt is still produced in an ancient way:

Harvesting salt in the fields of Nin

Harvesting salt in the fields of Nin

“Croatia is one of the newer members of the European Union, having joined the EU only in 2013, but already in the few short weeks here as a FLAS fellow, I have seen many examples of how ancient history dominates the Dalmatian coast. The ancient Roman presence is particularly notable in both in architecture of cities and even some industries. One example is the Nin Salt Works, or Nin Solana, along the central northern Dalmatian coast, which harvests salt in much the same way that the Romans did. CroatiaMap of CroatiaLocated at the shallow lagoon of the Nin bay near the town of Zadar, Nin Solana covers about 55 hectares. The salt works are also classified as an environmental preserve because 280 species of migratory birds stop at the salt works during their annual migrations. Salt is collected in open fields, which in the spring are filled with seawater. One of the ancient Roman water gates remains in a field. Then over summer the water evaporates going through five stages, where the most of the sea salt stays at the bottom, when it finally is manually “harvested” in crystallized form in the autumn. There is one type of salt that is harvested from the surface of the water with a wooden sieve.

Birds in Nin

Migratory birds of the Nin Solana

It is nice to see the country rebounding from the war in the 1990s. The salt works are a family owned business operating on government owned land, and the business seems to straddle the fence between tourism and ecologically minded industry. Finally, for me (a FLAS fellow and historian), it is good to observe that some traditional practices continue even in the 21st century.”

Arna’s participation in this Croatian language program has been made possible by a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS), which pays tuition and a stipend for travel and living. Qualified graduate and undergraduate students of every major are eligible for FLAS fellowships to study abroad and also at UW. Learn more about the FLAS program and how to apply here.