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How the lakes of Imotski came to be - or why you should be nice to strangers

Updated: May 15, 2020

Red Lake near Imotski is the deepest karst sinkhole in Europe
The Abyss of the Red Lake near Imotski - the deepest karst sinkhole in Europe

Every kid in Imotski knows the tale of Gavan and his horrible wife Gavanuša. They were the most terrifying people in all of the land. They were incredibly rich, and even more arrogant. They were afraid of no god, and despised others. They lived in a huge mansion on top of a hill near the town, and had a lot of children, each one worse than the other.

The family kept to themselves, and were very careful about who was worthy of their company. Those who proved as wealthy and as decadent as they were, would be invited to these notoriously lavish parties they held at the mansion.

One night, right around midnight, when one of those parties was at its height, there was a knock on the door. The lady of the house, Gavanuša, opened the door. In front of her, stood a stranger. A beggar, non the less, with seven children behind his back.

She was immediately appalled by the looks of the man, who only had an old rag for a robe on him, and was barefoot, with a stick in his hand. "What do you want?" - Gavanuša asked. "Your're interrupting my party, my guests are waiting!" "Nothing but a bit of bread, my lady." - said the beggar, pointing at the children behind his back - "I've been walking around with my children, for a very long time. It's the middle of the night, we have no place to go, and the storm it's on its way. But the bread is not even for me - it's for my children."

Having been pregnant herself, lady Gavanuša took pity on the children. She went into the house and got a small chunk of bread for them to share. "Here - eat this!" - she said looking down to them, and then turned to shut the doors into their faces. The beggar and the children started to thank her, saying: "Thank you very much, dear lady Gavanuša! Our Lord and Saviour will bless you and your entire family for generations and generations to come!" Lady Gavanuša turned to them once more and said: "Ha! Your Lord will bless me?! I don't need his blessings, as long as my Lord Gavan stands next to me!" The beggar could take no more of this blasphemy. He threw the robe he had on, beautiful white wings grew out of his back, as he and his children turned into angels. The Angel then took the stick he had, and put it straight into the ground. The skies opened up, lightning and thunder came upon them, heavenly bells started ringing and rain pouring from every which way. The ground then started to shake and crumble under their feet, opening up a huge hole straight below. An enormous hole opened up, and water started to come in, filling it up and forming what we today know as the Red lake. The house, the guests, everyone started gliding into the abyss. Gavan and Gavanuša picked up their children, started running west, and wherever they laid their foot on the ground - another lake cracked open, taking another victim.

From arrogance and dirty souls, came something pure and divine - the lakes of Imotski.

Now, it is a gruesome story, but we find similar legends everywhere in Croatia. Some include lakes, some waterfalls, and some even include entire sunken cities that disappeared into a spectacular bay at the shores of the Adriatic sea - like the tale of sunken city of Pelegrin near Brela in Makarska Riviera.

Of course, the lakes in Imotski are nowadays a tourists' gem.