Noisy waterfalls, turquoise lakes, white limestone cliffs - this is the landscape where Karl-May fans are in full swing. Against this backdrop, the West German film company Rialto shot almost two dozen Karl May films, one of the most successful series of German cinema in the 1960s.
Today we know that the wild west was almost around the corner: film producer Horst Wendtland had moved the prairie of America into communist Yugoslavia. Thanks to the ideal natural backdrop, the country was at that time a popular location for historical adventure and Indian films from all over the world. The Wild West in the East - what better suits Karl May - the Saxonian Fantasts, who himself had written his novels about Winnetou and Old Shatterhand without having been in America and knew Indians only from hearing.
The Silbersee is called Kaluderovac
In the summer of 1962, the first and most successful Karl-May film "Der Schatz im Silbersee" was shot. More than three million citizens saw the film alone until 1964 in the cinema. And even when the Winnetou films were running on the GDR television in the early 1980s, they triggered an enthusiasm. One of the main motifs of the films was the lake and waterfall landscape of the Plitvice Lakes in the national park of the same name. The Silbersee is actually called Kaluderovac and the big waterfall, where Fred Engel (Götz George) was almost hanged in the film, roars at Lake Galova. The so called "land of falling lakes" - with its 16 terraced lakes, connected by innumerable waterfalls and rapids - is still well known today by the German Karl May films, but have always been a popular excursion destination Croatia. As early as 1949, the National Park was established to protect the unique landscape. In the almost untouched nature of the approximately 300,000 ha park there are many rare plants, bears and wolves live in the forests of the park.
Caution, Danger to Life!
Between 1991 and 1995, however, it was very dangerous to enter the park. Because in the spring of 1991, in the spring of 1991, the Serbian insurgents and the Croatian special units were arrested in the national park in response to the independence declaration of Croatia from Yugoslavia. The unique water terraces were then mined and were thus threatened by blasting. After the war, the Plitvice lakes were cleared as the first area of mines, but today there are isolated places where there is a warning of mines.......
Since the beginning of 2000, Winnetou fans have also returned to the Croatian national parks Plitvice Lakes and Paklenica, where the chief of the Apache and his blood brother Old Shatterhand fought before the film camera for justice, and want to change to Winnetou's tracks. Sandro Florit from Cologne, Germany, met in September 2000, when he and his family traveled to the "Silbersee". "I've fallen in love with the filming locations, I'm infected, and there is no antidote," he says. Every year, he travels to Croatia with his friends Ulrich Wirsing and Gerhard Binder and looks up the original turning points. "We have Sreenshots from the Karl-May films and then try to reconstruct the exact camera settings at the filming locations. Somehow you have to spend your holidays so," he says. Together with his friend Ulrich Wirsing, he also began to portray scenes with costumes. On one occasion, they even rode through the Croatian "Prairie" as Winnetou and Old Shatterhand on horses. In the summer of 2012 the two with two other "hardcore" fans have organized a celebration for the anniversary 50 years "Der Schatz im Silbersee" for all Winnetou friends. More than 120 fans from eleven nations came, also because of Winnetou performer Pierre Brice. This year they celebrated Winnetou's sister Nscho-chi, the 74-year-old actress Marie Versini, "50 years of Winnetou I".
And also the Croatian tourism industry discovers the Winnetou lovers as a target group. There are jeeptures or horse riding holidays on Winnetou trails through Croatia. And so many boarding houses with Karl May's heroes. At the Hotel Alan in Starigrad Paklenica on the Croatian Adriatic, where the Filmcrew was housed during the filming of the last Winnetou film, there is a small Winnetou Museum with some original repertoires and many photos of film scenes from the various Karl May films.
"Winnetou East" meets "Winnetou West"
In three of the West German versions of Karl May, the Yugoslavian Gojko Mitic, the later "Winnetou of the East", also took part. Yugoslav sports students were then popular extras for mass events. Mitic fell to the directors, not only because he looked good, but also stayed in the saddle, while others were already leaving.
The great success of the West German Karl-May films was a thorn in the GDR's eyes. In order to compete with the Winnetou films, the DEFA began shooting Indian films in the 1960s as well. It was intended to counteract the sentimentalism of the Karl-May films, which was far removed from reality, with a historico-materialistic ideology. The "Winnetou of the East" became the young Serbian Gojko Mitic, although he never played the character of Winnetous in the film. In 1966, he became a chief chap, Tokei-itoh, in "The Sons of the Great Bear".
Gojko Mitic, as well as Pierre Brice, became a cult figure for the many Indian women in the GDR. Like Brice, Mitic barely managed to get rid of his Indian image. He appeared as a singer, wrote a book, and worked as a director and a presenter ("A Kesselbuntes"), but everyone always wanted the Indians. And because "not the worst drawer" is, as Mitic thinks, he moved the moccasins again after the Wende and finally played the Winnetou - not in the film, but on the Freilichtbühne in Bad Segeberg. He took over the role of "real" Winnetou Pierre Brice in 1992 and played it until 2006. In 2013, the then 73-year-old again appeared on stage at Bad Segeberg - this time as Winnetou's father Intschu-tschuna. "Once Indians - always Indians".