Exploring the Dalmatian coast – Maškovića han revisited

It’s been seven years since we first visited Lake Vrana and explored the area around it. At that time, we saw the Maškovića Han from the outside, a 17th century project for a retirement home with guest rooms attached that was never completed. Over time, some of the more easily portable materials were snaffled to be reused elsewhere, but the overall walls and structure remained. There was a notice on the door about an EU-funded restoration under way to develop it into a traveller’s inn, in the form of a Turkish han. We had looked forward to staying in it one day!

So this year, as we planned a road trip up the Croatian coast, Maškovića Han was high on our wish list to visit. This time, as we walked round from the car park, the big front gates were open, and a welcome sign bade us enter. The Han may never have become the planned retirement home, but it is now a beautiful, and very special place to stay for travellers. The renovations have stayed true to the original Turkish architecture, and there’s a feeling of timelessness and simplicity to the buildings. Don’t get me wrong, all the modern comforts are in your room, including USB sockets for charging your iPhones, but there’s a lack of fussiness that’s so often confused with luxury. The bedrooms are around the back courtyard, very peaceful and extremely comfortable for a good nights rest! Each room has a tall chimney, a ventilator to let out the heat. The walls are thick and the ceilings high, to keep you cool in summer.

The Han includes a museum and a view of the original Turkish bath house, which is still unfinished. The restaurant is in a lovely building with arched wooden roof that was originally planned as the mosque. The food is excellent, although I have to say the vegetarian options on the menu were minimal, and they’ve missed a trick in not having any Middle Eastern items except for the baklava. However, when I asked what they had for vegetarians, I was offered an extremely tasty dish of grilled veggies and soya chunks on a bed of creamy whipped potatoes – very yummy!

Sadly we didn’t get to try the new spa and hot tub, as it apparently needs to be reserved in advance. Well, maybe next time!

The han was originally built for Jusuf Mašković, a local boy from Vrana, who made a good career for himself at the court of the Ottoman empire in Constantinople. Born in 1604, he became a silahdar to the Sultan, a principal page/arms carrier who wielded considerable influence in who could have access to his master. He was known in Turkish as Siladhar Yusuf Pasha, and rose to be a Vezir and Grand Admiral of the Turkish Fleet. So, an important person then, with a decent salary to put towards building his own house. In 1644 he started sending funds to Vrana for the construction of a large han – partly to accommodate travellers, and partly as his own residence.

Mašković was in charge of the successful attack on the Venetians in Chania on Crete in 1645. When he returned to Constantinople, he married Fatma Sultan, the three year old daughter of Sultan Abrahim, and was given the Ibrahim Pasha Palace as a residence. But only one year later he was executed by the same Sultan for showing too much mercy to his Venetian captives. So much for the retirement plan! The unfinished Maškovića Han just sat there for several centuries, until a recent grant from the EU enabled work to restart.

We really enjoyed the style of the han, little details such as the trellis-work with the Islamic patterns, the tall ventilators in the bedrooms and the pointed archways. We spent a very peaceful night here, and will definitely come again! Here are the pages from my sketchbook…

After Lake Vrana, we continued north up the Jadranska Magistrala – Croatia’s beautiful coastal route avoiding all motorways. Next stop, Mala Paklenica canyon…