South of Kraljevica, parallel to the coast, runs the 25-kilometer-long Vinodol (Wine Valley), a stretch of land almost untouched by the huge streams of tourists struggling their way south on the coastal Magistrala.

This valley is separated from the sea by an over two-kilometer-wide and 300meter-high range of hills. It was first mentioned in a 12th-century chronicle under the name of Vallis Vinearia. But it is known that in Roman times there was already a road running along this valley connecting Aquileia with Senia, today called Senj.

In the year 1225, the CroatianHungarian king gave the Vinodol to the Frankopans of Krk as a feudal tenure. Towards the end of the 13th century, the new lords had a legal code developed which was supposed to set out the relationship between them and their vassals. This “Vinodol Law,” written in Croatian and in Glagolithic, contains criminal, civil and constitutional clauses, and is the first known legal code of the Croats – indeed, of any of the Slav peoples.

With the arrival of the Turks, the Frankopans lost their unchallenged authority over the area, and the CroatianHungarian House of the Counts Zrinski gained control of Vinodol and later over the Kvarner, too. Reminders of the Frankopans still survive in the form of a few castle ruins. The Zrinskis, meanwhile, have been immortalized in the name given to a very strong brandy which lulls many Croatians into the arms of Morpheus for an evening.

Those who arrive in the valley today will miss the vineyards that gave the name Vinearia to the area. Many of the houses are deserted, the population having found work either abroad or on the coast. A journey here will be a nostalgic foray into earlier, greater times.

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