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Maraton lađa: Croatia’s iconic traditional race which has been honoured with special stamp

maraton lada stamp

(Croatian Post)

ZAGREB, 4 July 2024 – Croatian Post will release a new commemorative stamp on 8 July, themed around sports in Mediterranean countries.

The Croatian stamp features the Neretva boatmen during the traditional Maraton lađa race.

This special stamp was designed by Zagreb designer Dean Roksandić, based on a photograph by Zvonko Kežić from Metković.

The stamp, printed in sheets of 16 and with a circulation of 25,000 copies, is valued at €1.80. Croatia Post has also issued a first-day cover (FDC).

maraton lada stamp

(Croatian Post)

Each year, members of the Mediterranean Postal Union, which includes Croatia Post, issue PUMed commemorative stamps on themes characteristic of the Mediterranean region.

Maraton lađa is an amateur sporting event featuring traditional Neretva boats. The first race took place on 13 September 1998.

With around 35 teams of 18 members each, the Maraton lađa is one of the largest competitions in Croatia, involving over 600 participants annually. You can find the new commemorative stamp at post offices or at https://epostshop.hr/.

maraton lada stamp

(Croatian Post)

The accompanying leaflet for the special postal block was written by the Neretva Boatmen Association.

Maraton lađa is an amateur sporting event involving traditional Neretva boats. The inaugural marathon was held on 13 September 1998 as part of the seventh anniversary celebrations of the Croatian Army’s operation Green Board – Little Pond.

At the time, no one anticipated that the first Maraton lađa would become one of Croatia’s most significant cultural, sporting, and tourist events. This initial marathon laid the foundation for a traditional event held annually on the Neretva River.

Eighteen teams from the Neretva region participated in the first marathon. Motivated by great enthusiasm, the teams restored boats, sourced or made oars, rudders, and drums.

Despite the physical demands, they proudly rowed from the start under the bridge in Metković to the finish in Ploče, connecting the three towns along the Neretva Valley.

maraton lada stamp

(Croatian Post)

In subsequent years, it was decided that the marathon would always take place on the second Saturday in August, a tradition that continues today.

With around 35 teams of 18 members each, over 600 participants compete annually. The event is one of the largest and most-watched in Croatia, attracting tens of thousands of spectators along the route, both onshore and on boats. The live broadcast on HRT has further increased its popularity, promoting the region’s cultural heritage and sporting tradition.

The Maraton lađa was created to preserve an important aspect of Neretva’s history. As such, it is not only a sporting or tourist event but also a significant cultural occasion. From early on, the historical figure “Duke Domagoj” has been involved in the opening, the race, and the closing ceremonies.

The main prize for the winners is the Duke Domagoj’s transitional shield, weighing 37 kilograms, along with a smaller shield for permanent possession and a monetary award. Second and third-place teams receive medals, small shields for permanent possession, and cash prizes.

Exceptionally, a team winning three consecutive marathons retains the large shield permanently.

Starting positions are determined by time trials held on the Wednesday before the marathon in Opuzen on the Little Neretva. All teams row in the same boat with identical oars and rudder. Rookies go first, followed by teams from the previous marathon in reverse order of their last year’s ranking.

things to do in neretva

Lađa (Photo credit: MaGa/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The fastest team picks their starting position first, and so on. The most dramatic moment is the start in Metković, where teams, amidst the drumming, race towards the finish line in Ploče.

The route is 22.5 kilometres long, starting under the Metković Harbour Bridge and continuing downstream through various towns to Ploče.

Due to attempts to make boats faster through modifications, the Neretva Boatmen Association decided to build standardized boats meeting marathon regulations based on historical designs.

The boats must have a wooden hull of specific thickness, traditional wooden oars, and a rudder of at least 3.8 metres. Each boat has a 3.5-metre mast displaying team, sponsor, and start number flags. These 33 boats, owned by the Neretva Boatmen Association, are exclusively for marathon use and cannot be altered.

A boat’s crew consists of ten rowers, a drummer, and a helmsman. Up to six new rowers can substitute in Opuzen, allowing for a team size of 12 to 18 members. If no substitutions are made, the boat must pass through a designated corridor.

24th maraton lada held in neretva

(Photo credit: MaGa/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Rowers sit along the boat’s edges, ensuring no foot crosses the boat’s edge. Substitutions occur at a designated spot on the Opuzen waterfront.

The drummer, positioned at the bow or centre, can replace any rower as needed. Male participants must be at least 15 years old. Initially limited to those born in the Neretva Valley and their descendants, the race has been open to all since 2005.

The Neretva boat and trupa have become intangible cultural assets of Croatia. The Maraton lađa, now a significant event attracting attention beyond Croatia, showcases the blend of tradition, sport, and tourism that captivates all who experience it.


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