The famous Hasanaginica folk ballad, which has been translated into more than 50 world languages, has been given a theme park in the town of Imotski in the Dalmatian hinterland.
Unique in the world, the park is located between the area's two famous lakes, the Blue Lake and the Red Lake. According to legend, this is site of the tomb of Hasan-aga Arapović's wife, Fatima Pintorović, who is the heroine of the Hasanaginica ballad.
The ballad was handed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition, until it was transcribed by Italian travel writer and ethnographer Alberto Fortis in 1774. The ballad was first published in his book "The Road to Dalmatia," which was followed by translations into various world languages.
Ivana Ćapin of the Imotski Tourist Board says Imotski natives are convinced that the location between the two lakes, and its dedication to Hasanaginica is unique in the world:
"There are four interpretive panels made of tempered glass in Hasanaginica Theme Park. They bear the text of the famous ballad in several languages. Hasanaginica is a well-known Croatian folk ballad that has enchanted the greatest names of 19th-century international literature, such as Goethe, Herder, Scott, Pushkin and many others. This lyrical tragedy occurred in the spring of 1647 during the Cretan War, within a Bey, or family of standing, from the Imotski Krajina, more precisely Imotski Qadi, which was then part of the Bosnian Pasaluk. It was sung by an unknown author in the Imotski ‘ikavica’ dialect. Due to the ballad's sensual nature it is widely believed to have been sung by a woman."
According to the legend, the grave of Hasan-aga Arapović's wife, Fatima Pintorović, the heroine of the ballad Hasanaginica, whose heart is broken from sadness and injustice, is located on the site of the theme park. Hasanaginica is one of the most beautiful folk ballads, and Hasan-aga's wife Fatima remains one of the most remarkable heroines in world literature. The story of Hasanaginica is a simple yet painful one. It describes the sad fate of a woman who dies of grief after being soullessly driven away from her home and her five children by her husband.
The construction of a theme park in Imotski was initiated by historian and researcher Mijo Milas, who has been dealing with the Hasanaginica phenomenon since the 1970's. The idea was then supported by the local Tourist Board. Ćapin explains that while it is a folk song, the historical facts that researchers have been able to confirm leave no doubt that the tale originates from the Imotski Krajina area. And it is precisely because of the fact that one of the most outstanding heroines of international literature is more famous abroad than in the area from which she originated, that her rightful place in Imotski has been secured.
The theme park is located between the blue and red lakes of Imotska Krajina, where numerous legends and fairy tales have emerged and become a valuable part of the region's ethnological heritage:
"Blue Lake is a huge sinkhole on the outskirts of the city, 804 meters long, while its width ranges from 250 to 400 meters. It is interesting to note that throughout the year the lake's depth varies, in fact it is not uncommon for the lake to dry up entirely in the fall, when it is used as a football pitch. The first football game was played at the bottom of the lake in 1943, and this tradition has been maintained to this very day, with one rule, the result must always be a tie. Towards the end of the 19th century, ten serpentines, 1100 m long, which lead down to the water, were built using the drywall building technique. Blue Lake is also a favorite summer resort for locals, but also a growing number of tourists," Ćapin says.
The Red Lake's natural karst phenomenon never ceases to amaze locals and international experts alike. For centuries the lake puzzled locals, who viewed the lake with reverence and created many a legend about it, believing it to be the home of fairies and werewolves. Recently, scientists have brought to light new data, which has somewhat faded the mystery of Red Lake.
Frenchman Frederic Swerczynski was the first man to touch the bottom of Red Lake, the third deepest karst pit in the world. As part of the expedition that included naturalists, biologists and zoologists, a new species of algae was found in Red Lake, becoming the 14th genus Gomphosphenia in the world. According to Ćapin, this was the first new species discovered in the lake in 175 years, following the discovery of the ‘Gaovica’ fish species.
"Red Lake was named after the reddish color of the rocks that surround it. The reddish stone gives the lake a somewhat daunting appearance and leaves no visitor indifferent. The lake has many secrets. One is the fact that the bottom of the lake continues into a deeper underwater cave and that bottom of the lake lies six meters below sea level. There are also two endemic species of fish in the lake: the Imotski Gaovica and the Basaka. Two species of bats were also discovered in its caves, a large Horseshoe Bat and Bent-wing Bat."
There is yet another historical attraction near the lake - The Topana, a fortress whose name is derived from the Turkish words 'top' meaning house, and 'hana' meaning arms. This was the throne of the Imotski Qadi, whose ruler Hasanaginica was due to marry.
"In the early Middle Ages, this mighty fortress was built on a cliff above Blue Lake. It had a strategic significance. From 1493, when the Turks conquered Imotski, Topana served as the center of Turkish rule. This lasted until 1717 when it came under Venetian rule. As the city was liberated from the Turks on the Day of Our Lady of the Angels, on August 2nd, that day is now celebrated as the day of Imotski," Ćapin notes.
An old historic town, Imotski is first mentioned in the 10th century. It was built on the foundations of the old Croatian parish of Emothe, as the center of the wider region called Imotska Krajina, which covers an area of 626 square kilometers. Artifacts from prehistoric times to the present are stored in the City Museum and in the collection of the Franciscan Monastery. They testify to the region's long and turbulent past, which has always been caught in the winds of historic turmoil. The center of the old town is built from carved stone, for this reason Ćapin states, many consider it to be one of the most beautiful Dalmatian cities.
"The famous Imotski Skalini, are 18th century steps that connect the oldest part of the city to the newer settlements. At the foot of the stairs is a monument to one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Tin Ujević. He was born in Vrgorac, but expressed a great love for Imotski in the lyrics of his song titled 'Departure' where he attended elementary school."
In 'Departure' he revealed that wherever in the world he found himself, he always carried his hometown with him in his heart.