Suspended – Faust Vrančić and Prvić Luka

First you see the church and then a ghostly figure of an expressionless doll suspended between heaven and earth. This is the island of Prvić Luka where the body of Faust Vrančić rests in peace and his spirit treads the ground of his summer vacation spot. The latter is actually in Šepurine, on the other side of the island about a 10-minute walk from Prvić Luka, while the former is buried at his bequest in the aforementioned St. Mary’s Church.

The creepy looking parachute doll - from a design by Faust Vrančić
The creepy looking parachute doll – from a design by Faust Vrančić

Born in 1551, no doubt into a well-heeled family in Šibenik, where your ferry journey begins, this young man had many opportunities in life beginning with an education in Venice and later at Padua University where his majors included mathematics and engineering. And here’s where the eerie doll features. In a book published by himself in Latin, Italian, Spanish, French and German (did I mention he was a polyglot?) called Machinae Novae, sketches of his Homo Volans appear as one of the first attempts at parachute invention. Imagine running free on that pristine island surrounded by waters changing from green to teal to blue to turquoise, where the sky meets the sea and the two are almost indistinguishable? Floating, suspended, flying all come to mind. Vrančić’s daydreaming had no limits. The earliest drawings of bridges hanging from steel cables in many forms and shapes are also in the book as are his mills and wind turbines. A visionary by all accounts. His 17thC inventions proved to be sound and with the advance of technology, many of his discoveries were realised a century later. The eponymous Memorial Centre in his honour, right next to the puppet, documents his story in a delightful way showing his family tree, his ‘machines’ as well as some hands-on games for younger visitors.

Faust Vrančić occupying his rightful place in the delightful Memorial Centre
Faust Vrančić occupying his rightful place in the delightful Memorial Centre
Engineering orchestrated in the 17thC, realised a century later
Engineering orchestrated in the 17thC, realised a century later

With all this heady stuff churning around in your brain, it’s time to test the waters where Faust himself must have cooled down regularly. It’s hot and clear coolness hoodwinks you to take a dip and freshen up your thinking. And what follows is also quite natural – a deep thirst and a hollow feeling in the stomach. Where to satisfy these urges?

The drawing wall at a gallery on Prvić Luka
The drawing wall at a gallery on Prvić Luka
Stone buildings and their quaint occupants
Stone buildings and their quaint occupants

In amongst the stone buildings and their charming occupants, we find Stara Makina and eyeball the newly lit fire in the grill, right on the waterfront. This’ll do nicely, thank you very much. It takes a while to get a menu, island time you know, but when our mixed salad and mixed grill finally arrive, it’s worth the wait. The chicken kebab is succulent, the ćevapi (a type of skinless sausage made of minced meat) nicely spiced, the beefsteak tender and the lamb tasting of island shrubs and herbs. Served with crispy, thinly sliced oven-baked potatoes, it hits the spot together with the local red wine to wash it all down. The professionally presented dishes are served with a smile from both the waitress and the chef slaving away in this heat. To top it all, your stomach does the groaning not your head when the bill arrives.

A hearty, delicious meal at Stara Makina
A hearty, delicious meal at Stara Makina

Another swim in the glitter of diamonds that sparkle around you, and then locally made ice cream finishes off a day of a little bit of culture, a little bit of indulgence and a lot of fine feelings of time well spent. And this, my friends, is how you drift between heaven and earth with reality being put off for a later date.

Surround yourself with diamonds
Surround yourself with diamonds

Links:

Prvić Luka

From Šibenik to Prvić Luka takes 45 minutes on the Jadrolinija ferry

Faust Vrančić

Faust Vrančić Memorial Centre

Konoba Stara Makina (restaurant)

 

 

Nth Reasons to Visit Šibenik

After a month in this pearl of a city, my time here is coming to an end. Leaving without paying tribute would be a crime.

The People

… the factor that makes it possible to live in a strange city for a month and never feel lonely. Whether it’s Luciana and Toni at Niko’s Café and Bar at the open air market, Seida at Argola Restaurant on the seaside promenade, Vanja the local guide and expert on the history past and present or Nino Nimac and Danijela Prpic, duo extraordinaire, their positive demeanour, excellent service, talent and open-heartedness is enough to draw you back.

Beautiful Luciana at Niko's Bar
Sassy Luciana at Niko’s Bar

The Old Town

… is the colour of a pearl, nestled neatly on the hillside overlooking the ageless channel that flows in from the Adriatic. St. James Cathedral is the most important Renaissance architectural monument in the whole of Croatia and the Baptistry will imprint itself on your memory forever for its beauty. St. Nicholas Fortress affords spectacular views over the city and the water. Catch a concert there if you can, the atmosphere is majestic. The Medieval Herb Garden of St. Lawrence maintained by pupils from the local high school is refreshing and fragrant in the summer heat, consisting of both culinary and medicinal plants. Strolling through the narrow, slippery (be careful!) alleys, frankly all you need to do is look up at the mix of Gothic, Romanesque, Medieval and Renaissance styles of the numerous churches and buildings. And if hunger pangs hit you or a thirst develops after climbing those stairs, there are plenty of food and drink spots around every corner.

Herb garden of St. Lawrence
Herb garden of St. Lawrence

The Food

… is local, produced close by and mostly a no-nonsense affair. Tinel in the Old Town uses only organic veg and their octopus salad is tender and juicy. Just out of town there’s an array of choices. The peka lamb is baked for hours under a lid at Torcida Restaurant in Vrpolje (10 minutes by car), the variety of mussels and clams is simmered in a unforgettable white wine sauce at Zlatna Riberica in Brodarica about 20 minutes by bus, and the olive-oil/garlic/parlsey drenched catch of the day is worth the wait at Konoba Kapelica on Krapanj Island, a swim away from Broderica but there is a ferry. Getting back to the city, there’s the real locals place called Buffet Simune on a side street very close to the open air market where the fried sardines and ćevapčići (mixed meat on a skewer) is served up in large portions at laughable prices.

Small portions at Torcida
Small portions at Torcida

The Wine and Other Stuff

While a cold Ožujsko or Karlovačko beer is just the thing after a swim in the sea, a glass of the Dalmatian white blend of Debit and Maraština is herbaceous and even ever so slightly salty and goes extremely well with seafood dishes. Babić is the red varietal of this area and this full, big-bodied wine is a must when eating pršut, the Croatian’s soft, non-stringy answer to Italian proscuitto. And don’t leave without giving rakije a go. It’s firewater but the local herbal blend Travarica is slightly green in colour and palatable. Psst, Vinoplod Winery on the outskirts of town as you enter from Split, has a wine shop at the gate where you can get all of these products except the beer of course, at a discount.

Big Babić
Big Babić

The Bars

So I’ve already mentioned Niko’s where the coffee is creamy and the froth is sprinkled with chocolate (€1,10/8 kuna). Even though there are plenty of bars to choose from down on the shoreline and in the Old Town, the place to be is Bono’s named after the U2 star of course, the owner being a huge fan. This joint is so unique that they’ve declared it a Republic with its own flag and its own mix of great music, none of this canned stuff, all CD’s hand chosen. And there’s live music every Friday.

And on my way home, there’s always Kula Bar  in Baldekin to drop into for a night cap of the famous rakije, called Travarice, a grassy, herbal hooch with a heady blend of 15 herbs.

The Size

…. is navigable, manageable and even at a slow plod you can walk from this side to the other side reaching Banj Beach in 30 minutes. Downtown becomes your town in a matter of less than a day. It’s all there, supermarkets, the open-air market, banks, boutiques, pharmacies and even cobblers in a shoe emergency. It’s got a cosy feel and I do believe this is attributable to its size.

The Proximity

…. to everywhere means that you never need to be bored. Krka National Park is a half an hour away even by bus, the islands are short ferry rides and even the furthest one in the archipelago Žirje is only 1 hour and 40 minutes away. Buses abound and you can get to Split Airport by taking a 1 hour bus ride to Trogir and then another one for around 15 minutes. Easy peasy. Zagreb, Split, Pula, Dubrovnik, you name it they’re all accessible.

Rushing waters at Skradin Buk, Krka National Park
Rushing waters at Skradin Buk, Krka National Park

The Islands and Beaches

… are all within a ferry ride or bike ride or bus ride away. So easy to reach. See my blog for details: Getting In and Around Šibenik.

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Next Bike 

Just ’cause you’re feeling lazy or just for fun, this is an excellent way of getting around the city and works like a charm. Enter your telephone number, credit card details and your personalised pin code and you’re all set. From then on it’s a breeze and at this point I have to say that the motorists are more than considerate. No hooting, no impatience, veering around you to make sure that you don’t damage their cars. Next Bike

The Diving

… impossible to beat for visibility – 25 m and more is what you’ll find in these turquoise waters and besides, the Dive Master is handsome. Mediteraneo operates from Hotel Spongiola on Krapanj Island, 20 minutes by bus to Brodarica and a short ferry ride from there.

Emil's the one on the right
Emil’s the one on the right, mind you the one on the left isn’t bad at all

 

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“Sponge Bob Found” on Krapanj Island

So I think when I’ve seen one, I’ve seen them all and then it dawns on me, I couldn’t be more wrong. Every island is distinctive, has its own little industry and it’s not only tourism. Stepping off the ferry at Krapanj, you leave the worries of the world behind you.

Little stone man-made coves to moor the boat on Krapanj Island
Little stone man-made coves to moor the boat on Krapanj Island

Besides the fact that it has an industry of underwater sponges that scuba divers have to dive for and that have purportedly been used in NASA space shuttles due to its inability to burn, it’s just plain charming. The little museum with the enthusiastic lady behind the counter gives you a chance to bump up your sponge knowledge and perhaps buy one. The little stone harbours surrounding the mooring spot of the boats provide shelter from stormy seas and perhaps even serve as private little swimming pools for kids to play in. Service at family-run Konoba Kapelica is slow but the food is so tasty and prepared with such heart, it really just puts you into the island-time frame of mind. Try the octopus risotto with ink and what seems to be like barley in stead of rice. It’s smoky and creamy. The wine is a heady blend of Debit, Posip and Marastina, a little rough around the edges but so good with the food of the region.

A little sponge number
A little sponge number

And then there’s the Spongiola Hotel, a four-star gem with every bit of luxury and a good dose of friendly service thrown in.

Emil's the one on the right
Emil’s the one on the right

But the real reason I am here is for the diving. I remembered these guys from when I was here in 2013 and had performed a disastrous dive, ok give me a break it was only my 9th dive and under filming pressure at that. I needed to ‘get over it’ as they say and so I got into the gear again and plunged into the Adriatic determined to prove to myself that I can do this! The visibility was 25 to 30 m, the fish weren’t big but small and colourful, the wrecks ghostly. Mediterraneo Dive Centre is situated in the Spongiola Hotel building and charges reasonable rates for the experience (€50 for on, €70 for two dives). Besides, Emil Lemac is patient and professional, not to mention really good looking. Dive instructors, ski instructors, they seem to have this thing in common.

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But even if you’re not diving, here’s an island that’ll slow your step, nourish you soul and stomach well and even gives you a wilder, natural part to explore, just round the back.

Links:

Krapanj Island

Images of the tiny Sponge Museum

Konoba Kapelica – average price around 50 kuna (€6 – €10) for a main, wine and beer – cheap as chips.

Spongiola Hotel – half-board/person (not room!) high season €90.

Mediteraneo Dive Centre – Cost for full gear and dives: €50 for one, €70 for two dives.

How to get there – Bus number 5 from the open air market in Šibenik to Brodarica. Tickets from ticket office. Time: 20 minutes max. Cost: 24 kuna return. Then take the ferry that runs every 30 minutes from in front of the Konzum where the bus stops. Time: 5 minutes max. Cost: 12 kuna (€1,75)

 

 

Getting in and around Šibenik

Spending a month in rented accommodation in any country no matter how cheap, can set you back some hundreds. Looking at car rental prices at Split Airport I decided to plunge for a taxi to get me to my destination in Šibenik at a decent hour in the evening. Jam Transfer charged me €55 one way which is not that bad considering it’s a 60 minute drive.

Banj Beach, Šibenik, voted last year as one of the best city beaches in the world.
Banj Beach, Šibenik, voted last year as one of the best city beaches in the world.

My cheap apartment was not what you might call centrally located. Although only about a 15 minute walk from the heart of town it was a somewhat longer hike to Banj Beach, about 30 minutes or more depending on the heat and coming home involved getting up a slope. Sweating my way back, I happened to notice a bike rail called Next Bike with very clear and easy instructions on how to sign up. You need a credit card, a mobile phone number and a self-created password. Once you’ve signed up with these details, you enter the number of the bike you’d like (granny needs a shopping basket…), you get a code for the lock and off you go. The first 30 minutes daily is free and then it costs you 8 kuna (approx. €1,10) per hour. This ‘bike station’ was located in Baldekin about 100 m from my block. There was another one at Banj Beach and another one on the shoreline where the action is. When you return the bike, you just pop it into a slot, there’s a beep and then another beep to signal that they’ve recorded your return. If there’s no space on the rail, just lock the bike to another one, press Return on the touch pad terminal, enter what they ask for i.e. telephone number and password and answer a few questions with yes or no like “Was there any problem with the bike…” etc. This made life a LOT easier.

Boats to the islands:

Jadrolinija is the ferry serving most Croatian islands. In Šibenik there’s a ticket office sandwiched in between restaurants on the promenade (green wooden door) but there’s also a little booth closer to mooring spot which is to the left as you face the sea passed the bus station closer to the cranes of the port.

Jadrija – See my blog: Magical Moments on Jadrija. the boat leaves from the shoreline at the beginning of the promenade where all the restaurants are. Buy your tickets on board. Time: 20 minutes. Cost: 14 kuna (€2.05).

Zlarin – see my blog: Pristine Zlarin  Time: 30 minutes. Cost: 17 kuna (€2,50) one way. Details: Jadrolinija

Žirje – see my blog: The Island and its Mysteries.  Same as above. Time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Cost: 23 kuna (€3,35). Details: Jadrolinija

Kaprije – on the way to Žirje. Time: 1 hour 10 minutes. Cost: 23 kuna (€3,35) one way. Details: Jadrolinija

Prvić Luka – birthplace of inventor of the parachute and many other innovations Faust Vrancic with a museum worth seeing. Time: 45 minutes. Cost: 17 kuna (€2,50) one way. Details: Jadrolinija

Vodice – not exactly an island but a huge resort with beaches that stretch along for miles. Reachable by boat from Šibenik. Time: 1 hr 15 minutes. Cost: 18 kuna (€2,65) one way. Details: Jadrolinija

Buses:

Krapanj Island – one of my favourites. See my blog ______________ . Take Bus number 5 from the open air market in Šibenik to Brodarica. Tickets from ticket office. Time: 20 minutes max. Cost: 24 kuna return. Then take the ferry that runs every 30 minutes from in front of the Konzum where the bus stops. Time: 5 minutes max. Cost: 12 kuna (€1,75)

Split Airport – Bus from Šibenik bus station to Trogir bus station. Timetable: Every half an hour. Time: 1 hour 15 minutes. Cost: 38 kuna one way. Take Bus no. 37 from Trogir bus station to Split Airport. Timetable: every 20 minutes. Time: 10 – 15 minutes. Cost: 11 kuna (€1,60) one way. Same applies from Split to Šibenik.

Krka National Park – See my blog: Steve and Krka National Park. Bus from Šibenik to Skradin from where you can take a pleasant boat ride to the park included in the entrance fee of the park (110 kuna/€16). Bus fare: 24 kuna (€3,48)/one way. Time: 30 minutes.

Steve and Krka National Park

This passionate Park Ranger at Krka National Park, near Šibenik, Croatia, is part Australian/part Croatian and tells you all you need to know and more about this incredible, ground-breaking part of nature.  Stjepan Gundic, Steve to those of us who know him i.e. everyone, not only has vast knowledge of the delicacy of the area but also instills in one a feeling for it, an emotion that gets you excited about biology and the workings of it. He lovingly makes reference to ‘she’ or ‘her’ and of course the link is to Mother Nature.

Stjepan Gundic or Steve at Skradinski Buk
Stjepan Gundic or Steve at Skradinski Buk

First he takes us for a swim in the fast-rushing waters of the biggest waterfall Skradinski Buk (meaning the noise of Skradin, the nearest town), the largest of 17 waterfalls. He tells us that the groundwater serves the entire region with fresh water and that there has been running water in the town of Šibenik since 1865! That there has been electricity in Šibenik since 1896, a mere year after Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse built their first hydro-electric power plant at Niagara Falls.

Swimming at Skradinski Buk is allowed and keeps the surface free of deposits.
Swimming at Skradinski Buk is allowed and keeps the surface free of deposits.

I’m no biologist but I now understand that in this typical karst landscape, moss, algae and aquatic bacteria form deposits on the limestone which build up with the movement of water over it creating travertine barriers and hence myriad waterfalls. The rangers at Krka allow people to swim at certain places because deposits aren’t able to form on the karstic rock on the bottom, hence ‘preserving’ the waterfall.

Travertine barriers become waterfalls
Travertine barriers become waterfalls

We hear about the unique fauna and flora of this landscape and what grabs my ‘green’ attention most is the best natural pesticide in the world, Tanacetum Cinerariifolium or Pyrethrum by its more common name. It looks like a gentle daisy and can be eaten by insects but when it’s mixed with water, it becomes a powerful poison but thankfully, not harming bees in any way.

Plenty of fish in the clear waters
Plenty of fish in the clear waters

Our walk ends in a rather touristy set-up with mills and ‘washing machines’ created by swirling water in round, constructed bowls. However touristy, you learn something new about old stuff that you never even knew existed and especially from Steve whose grandfather transported his grain by boat and queued up for days to use the mills to grind it.

Could be a natural washing machine?
Could be a natural washing machine?

Spending a few hours in this region is not enough. Unfortunately we were in a rush to get to the airport but the bug had bitten (thankfully virtually only) and we will be back to see Roški Slap, Visovac Island and the practising Franciscan Monastery, medieval fortresses and just that calm that settles over you when you’re in the midst of the wonders of Mother Nature.

Links:

Krka National Park

The picturesque town of Skradin where you can take a boat ride included in the entrance fee (110 Kuna/€15) to the park, but beware, the queues are long. The other entrance Lozovac has a hairy road with tour buses coming to and fro but less queues.

Nikola Tesla, the scientist who affects our lives on a daily basis.

Šibenik

Pristine Zlarin – an island in the Croatian archipelago

Jadrolinja ferry company seems to have the monopoly on transfers from mainland Croatia to the islands and getting to Zlarin is part of their route from Šibenik to Vodice. The ferry is packed and could really do with more seating space since both times I asked whether I could sit where the shopping bag was, I got a ‘who-the-hell-are-you’ look.

The yachts are large and luxurious
The yachts are large and luxurious

First thing I notice upon arrival, after taking in the palatial homes with their immaculate gardens, are the signs for “Garbage”. You really have no excuse, unlike on Jadrija where it’s really hard to find a bin to throw it in. Next observation – no cars, only golf carts and bicycles. Good choice, Zlarin, keep it clean. Why do you need a car on an island stretching 8 square kilometres?

Car-less and clean, the island of Zlarin
Car-less and clean, the island of Zlarin

There seems to be a competition on how beautiful your garden can possibly be. There are colourful bougainvilleas, roses and various other shrubs and flowers to prettify even the more downmarket properties. And then I notice the sign, there is a tour that takes you around the gardens of Zlarin, probably time well spent.

DSC03822
Clear waters make you just want to jump in

 

My choice however, is swimming in the turquoise waters that are so distinctive of this archipelago. I don my goggles and cut through the blue to see very little underneath except karst (or that’s what it looks like), plenty of sea slugs and sea urchins, a few tiny fish here and there but not a lot. Still, it’s quite a sensation just being in such crystal water.

It’s the coral that brought wealth to this island as early as the 15thC and still continues today as an industry besides tourism. In the winter the number of inhabitants count up to 284 but in the summer months, their doors are open wide to incoming tourists and holiday makers pushing the population up to around 1500. Taking a quick look at property prices, they are fairly inexpensive by European standards but I would imagine, Croatians might think differently. See below.

Some palatial homes with immaculate gardens
Some palatial homes with immaculate gardens

The whole package of cleanliness, tidiness and snazzy buildings compared with the other islands I have been to, makes me think that this is upmarket but happily still unspoilt. Everyone knows everyone, waves, smiles, pops in for a chat and takes things at island pace. And if that gets too slow, you can take a 30 minute ferry ride to the mainland.

Links:

Jadrolinja – ferries depart from Šibenik and take 30 minutes, click on the link for the timetable.

Accommodation

Real Estate

 

Žirje, the island and its mysteries

You’ve heard it before, a real one-horse town and here the horse is dead, or is it? One and a half hours by ferry from Šibenik (see below for the timetable), after stopping in at Kaprije, not exactly Capri, but full of friendly faces and expensive boats, you wonder what the fuss is all about.

The island of Kaprije with a wave from the bathers
The island of Kaprije with a wave from the bathers

I have 2 hours to spend here and after a few minutes I’m starting to wonder whether the best option would be the bar. But I push on and take a swim in turquoise water where you don’t even need goggles to see the bottom. Cleaner, purer you would be hard pressed to find. Ok, 30 minutes done.

You don't need goggles to see the bottom
You don’t need goggles to see the bottom

I take a walk. And I notice something really strange, something out of sync with my sensibility when I look at the cars. It doesn’t take much but I challenge you to find the missing link.

Spot the mistake
Spot the mistake

There must be more. I see a map with some Roman ruins or such like to explore but it’s the population of 103 people on the island, the crystal clear water, the furthest point in the archipelago and the peace that is to be found here, that are the draw cards. A big island, lots of olive, fig and cherry trees and plenty of fish in that surrounding sea, that keep the locals busy, if that’s what the pace can possibly be called. But hey, the internet works great.

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Links:

Žirje

Jadrolinja takes you there in 1,40 hours from Šibenik from 29 May – 27 Sept

Mondays to Saturdays 11.30, 16.30; Sundays and public holidays 11.30, 19.10

Returns: Mon – Sat 14.00, 20.00; Sun and public holidays 17.00 and 21.00

Cost: 46 kuna return (€6 approx.);

Tickets from Jadrolinja office on the main drag down at the shoreline or at a little office to the left of the bus station close to the ferry departure point.

Kaprije: Same as above but 1,20 hours

Departures: Mon – Sat 11.30, 16.30; Sun and public holidays 11.30 and 19.10

Returns:  Mon – Sat 14.30, 20.30; Sun and public holidays 17.30 and 21.30

Accommodation: Zirje; Kaprije

 

Magical Moments on Jadrija Island

We leave Šibenik behind us in our ferry that takes a 20-minute ride to the island of Jadrija. Difficult information to find out for some reason but here’s the timetable:

Jadrija ferry timetable
Jadrija ferry timetable

After you’ve paid your 12 kuna (€1,80 approx) you can sit back and enjoy the scenery of the Dalmatian archipelago with its rugged, karstic cliffs, tunnels blasted through rock now closed with mesh, fortresses, houses and castles. When the water gets shallower, blue changes to turquoise and it’s there where your destination lies.

Pine forests on Jadrija Island offer a cool respite from the sun
Pine forests on Jadrija Island offer a cool respite from the sun

Why all these cars? You hardly need them except maybe to get here? Google Maps solves the mystery. There is a bridge that links this island to the mainland. The pine forests lend welcome shade to this sweltering day and the pristine water of the Adriatic (on this side of it, of course) beckons you for a cool down. Not sure whether it’s the effect of my morning meditation or what, but turning down the pace to island time is what automatically happens.

Clean, pretty and tidy, the island of Jadrija
Clean, pretty and tidy, the island of Jadrija

Wandering along the walkways of this picture-postcard setting, I wonder whether it’s a place for the rich and famous since the mostly private holiday homes are large and luxurious, with a few smaller ones tucked in between. No hotels, very few apartments for rent, very few restaurants and a perfect place for families.

Old concrete changing huts line the main beach on Jadrija
Old concrete changing huts line the main beach on Jadrija

After a lengthy swim, what could be better than a chilled glass of wine in a bar called H2O with padded seating and huge umbrellas overlooking the sea. I drink it all in and sip quietly away when the waiter says,

“My boss would like to offer you another glass, on the house of course.”

“I would love another glass.”

I wave at the owner and offer him my best smile.

That’s Dalmatia for you, men that generously offer you drinks with no ulterior motive in mind, or maybe I just escaped in time…

The generous owner of H2O is the one on the left
The generous owner of H2O is the one on the left

At the end of the Soviet-style concrete beach shacks, is another little bar where Jasna, the lady who owns it, serves you with motherly kindness, hanging up your sarong so that it dries and offering you a place to change in her ‘cabin’. Hunger pangs drive you to the only real restaurant which consists of tables and chairs under those huge pine trees. The wine is cold Debit, a little salty, a little herbaceous, a little wet stone, all of which go very well with the most delicious sea bass. The latter and other fish are charged in a unique kind of way, by the kilogram and this one together with the half litre of wine, fries and salad set us back less than €20 for two. It’s a steal.

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Links and info:

Jadrija Island

Jadrija ferry – see timetable above; departs from Šibenik’s main quay in front of all the bars; cost approx. €1,80 one way.

Bar H2O – as you alight from the ferry, turn to the left where the main beach is. This joint’s the best of the lot.

Restaurant ? – couldn’t find a name but as you step off the ferry, turn left and just ask anyone.

Return to Šibenik, Croatia

It’s been a full 24 hours since I arrived yesterday from Split Airport by JAM Taxi which took an hour and could have cost me only €13.75 if there had been 3 more to share it but since I was the only passenger, €55 was what it cost. Fairly cheap at the price if you consider the distance.

And now I start wondering why I chose to come back here after almost two years. The previous time I was wined and dined by the locals for being part of Dhar Media’s Discover Croatia project. Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/mDh0erDSuaA

Today I’m the tourist and seeing this town from a different angle. My apartment is in a real city block amongst ordinary people who live and work here. It’s hot as hell but there is air conditioning which I hesitate to use. My hostess is an absolute sweetheart who can’t share enough knowledge with me and goes out of her way to make my life easier.

Šibenik on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia
Šibenik on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia

I start my day at the open air market where I buy a bunch of veg and fruit for as little as €4,50. I feel proud walking back with my stash, as if I had done something to earn this. The cappuccino tastes like heaven and the €1,20 that sets me back only widens the smile on the waitresses face.

It really looks as if they grow this themselves - fresher you couldn't get.
It really looks as if they grow this themselves – fresher you couldn’t get.

No rental car, no minibus to hop into, just me and my feet hitting the sidewalk and feeling the pulse of Dalmatia. It’s slow, service is slow which means one thing, keep calm and breathe. Take your time, look at the people and remember somewhere in your Finnish life there existed a phenomenon called conversation. And they never run out….

Pebble beaches are good for your feet!
Pebble beaches are good for your feet!

The beach is Banj. The water is clear and cooling, the beer is cold and expensive (for Croatia, that is i.e. €2,55 or so for 0,5 l) and when I point out that the price on the bill is more than the price on the menu, I get a most sincere reply that the menus have not been changed after the price increase. I believe them because they seem genuine in their apologies.

Nothing to beat a cold beer after a salty swim
Nothing to beat a cold beer after a salty swim

I walk home through the Old Town. The marble is slippery transporting residents and tourists since 1066. More of this later.

Children's Festival in Šibenik Old Town
Children’s Festival in Šibenik Old Town

Links:

JAM Transfers

Touristar TV

Banj Beach

Zagreb, Capital of Croatia – in a day

The rollercoaster ride has only just begun and already we’re oohing and aahing about what we’ve seen and heard from our handsome guide Hrvoje Kuček, Harry to us, with his flawless English.

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What? A cemetery as a starting point? You must be kidding until we see Mirogoy and its arcades of tombs in all its splendiferous magnificence.  The arcades house the graves of many a famous Croatian but it’s the massive piece of marble near the entrance with no names on it especially reserved for the grim reaper to take his toll, that make me wonder about the haves and have-nots and whether it is at all possible for ‘normal’ Croatians to rest in peace there. I am told it is but slightly further away. Much adored and much adulated is that of the 28-year-old Dražen Petrović who tragically died in a car crash. Zagreb

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A hanky, a hatchet, false boobs or just a letter is what makes up this museum

Feeding the pigeons in Ban Jelačić Square turns more into an exercise ritual for these fat birds as we see them scattering before our running feet. Chomping at nectarines and plums at the market just behind the square seems like a better idea and we troll around drooling at all kinds of fruit, vegetables and cheese at laughable prices. The upper town takes us over buried rivers, through the Iron Gate with its holy healing powers at the shrine of Mary to the City Museum built on archaeological finds. Down the road there’s a plaque of the renowned Nikola Tesla, inventor and propagator of alternative current electricity, placed on a wall holding gas lamps which I believe are still being manually lit every evening just to show that the Croatians can be stubborn. Irony is too weak a word. The Museum of Broken Relationships holds a bevvy of quirky memorabilia to remind us all, I’m afraid!

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Time for action to get this all down and digested and it’s the Jarun Lake where we’re all geared up to do a spot of rowing. This goes down well and even if Marcio and I cannot keep the boat on track, we love being close to the water and away from the camera crew for a while! Lake side to mountain side and its Medvednica for a climb up the hill and a breath of fresh, green, cool air and vistas over Zagreb to end this exhilarating day.

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