Učka is a powerful mountain, massive and compact, yet to the one who truly surrenders to it, it dissolves into countless harmonised layers. We have conveyed this wonderful harmony, this vortex of energy that overwhelms and enchants all five senses from the underground world to the heavens, from the sea and continent, as a unique interpretive experience with sounds, images and words in the recently opened Visitor Centre of the Učka Nature Park.
Symbolically and in reality, our interdisciplinary team of creatives climbed the mythical Istrian mountain, devising the most appropriate way of conveying its powerful heritage story. To interweave a network of collaborators, photographers, illustrators, modellers, cameramen and other professionals is a demanding job. However, like the climb to the top of the mountain, it gives us satisfaction and the fulfilment of beauty.
It is no coincidence that this exhibition that celebrates nature is located in a 922-metre high pass with an indicative name – Poklon. It is a pass that connects and separates: the sea and the mountain meet at it, Istria and continental Croatia connect, and different landscapes touch. In this place marked by nature and the human spirit, over 1,200 square metres, the visitor will experience all the gathered experiences of Učka in an interactive way. Along with the help of modern technology, they have finally been merged into the playful, diverse and lively energy of the Centre. In it, Učka flickers like a bat, it resounds with the mating call of yellow-bellied toads, it emanates with the scent of medicinal herbs, with more than 1,000 illustrations, photographs, videos, models and other audiovisual media, the senses are flooded with stories of customs, language, music, culture and much more.
The Centre is located in the renovated building of an old chicken coop – and that’s not without a message. The old purpose of the building testifies to the coexistence of man and the mountain, first of all about the way in which the skilful hands of the people of Učka formed the fertile mountain soil into a source of well-being, which is also the permeating theme of the exhibition.
The layered connection of the mountain, nature and man has also been woven into the set-up of the exhibition. The atmosphere of the set-up is defined by isohypses – the horizontal elliptical lines that connect places of the same altitude on maps. Their trembling and dance are reminiscent not only of the features of the landscape but also of old roads and paths, tree rings, the tectonic movements of the earth and watercourses. Besides the listed symbols, the isohypses in the permanent exhibition in a symbolic way represent “steps” to the visitors by means of which guests are able to get to know Učka and Ćićarija contour by contour.
The thematic layers of the exhibition also follow the idea of the isohypses. The exhibition is divided into six complete units. In the first, called the Tunnel, the underground world of the mountain, the living world of protected underground fauna, is presented. For example, in a multimedia game, the visitor plays the role of a bat in flight and tries to detect flying insects by sound on the dark slopes of the mountain.
In the following unit, we learn more about the people who have made Učka and Ćićarija their home. In documentary films, we get to know the last charcoal burners from Ćićarija, the traditional cattle breeders and drystone wall masters. The recordings of original speakers of the Vlach and Žejane language also testify to Učka as an anthropological treasury. It is a language that is spoken by less than 500 speakers in the Učka area, and the exhibition provides an opportunity for the visitor to learn some common phrases.
Spatially, the most dominant exhibition unit is dedicated to the Mountain, its geological and archaeological phenomena. A spectacular mechanical model of Učka impressively shapes and depicts the events related to the dramatic transformations of Učka from its formation to the present day.
The unit focused on the enchanting appearance and phenomena in the animal and plant world enables an interactive experience of discovering, recognising and preserving nature. It does it so powerfully, as if from the sidelines hidden you watch the secret coexistence of the mountain. In one place, you can peek into the various habitats spread over the mountain for kilometres.
The people for whom Učka was an inspiration are also included in the exhibition. On the wall of fame, there are the legendary caretaker of the Poklon mountain lodge, the writer of the first Croatian mountaineering travelogue, the queen who visited Poklon, the first alpinist of Učka and many more.
The powerful final chord of the exhibition presents a view from the highest peak of Učka in all seasons. Here you can independently direct an unforgettable view of the surrounding valleys and distant mountains of Croatia, Italy and Slovenia. Like a journey through time, the year-round weather conditions at the top of the mountain can be experienced in just a few minutes.
The interpretation spills over even after you leave the exhibition, to other parts of the Centre – in the café, the educational and conference hall. In the café you will be able to drink coffee in the company of old charcoal burners, haymakers, milkmaids, and in the education room, the mountain experience continues through the four seasons. The multimedia applications will teach you how to differentiate animals in the environment, tell baby animals apart or recognise a plant by the structure of its flowers.
On leaving the Poklon Visitor Centre, the story of Učka does not end: step by step, the mountain continues to live in every visitor. We, however, hope that the young and old when leaving the Centre will take away with them the thought that believes every part of the mountain is equal and important for the conservation of nature. Translated into verse, into a language that is easier to remember, it would sound like this:
Bellflowers and edelweiss
Irises and primroses
And many other species
The grey stone hides well,
And the living water guards them.
That’s why you too take care of them
When you tread around.
When you return, let your theme be:
Mighty Učka, the mother of endemics.
Project Commissioned by
Učka Nature Park Public Institution
Employees of the Učka Nature Park Public Institution
Grga Frangeš, Mjesto pod suncem d.o.o.
Marko Pejić, Mjesto pod suncem d.o.o.
Co-Authors of the Permanent Display
Dragana Lucija Ratković Aydemir, Muze d.o.o.
Vedran Kasap, Clinica studio d.o.o.
Marko Šesnić, Šesnić&Turković d.o.o.
Goran Turković, Šesnić&Turković d.o.o.
Vladimir Končar, Revolucija dizajna d.o.o.
Igor Pauška, Kultura d.o.o.
Expert Associates of the Permanent Display
Heritage Interpretation and Content Development
Lea Fujs, Zrinka Zorko, Mirna Draženović, Mateja Kuka, Melita Trbušić, Meri Vesanović, Iva Klarić Vujović
Ozana Ursić, Katarina Perić, Zoran Šunjić
Marinko Murgić, Andrea Sužnjević, Iva Sindik
Ervin Šilić, Zvonimir Rakijašić, Ana Salkić, Josip Šalov, Lucija Gudek, Damir Kralj, Martin Horvatić, Valentino Hrnčir, Pero Klepić, Tomislav Štefan, Goran Marošević, Filip Tušek, Luka Marinković, Marko Andlar, Marko Prpić, Goran Kuprešanin, Davorka Horvat, Gorjan Agačević, Karlo Eldić, Branko Drakulić
Domagoj Janđel, Davor Mekinić, Karlo Jelačić, Edin Karamehmedović, Irena Opsenica, Igor Bauer, Ivica Rožić
Production of the Permanent Display
Heritage Interpretation and Content Development
Clinica studio d.o.o.
Permanent Exhibition Contractors
Ars kopija d.o.o.
Nikola Zelmanović, PSZelmanović