Day 4 | Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

The next destination on our list was the town of Šibenik. Šibenik is one of the places that you are likely to fall in love with once you see it. So far I have not met any person who has been there that did not like it. This town has a long history and might not be that big but hides many interesting things regarding culture, architecture and life.

After having a nice time on the island the day before and aftewards swimming in Vodice again we decided to see Madoka the oldest town built by the Croats on our shore. The night earlier we checked at the bus station the timetable and picked one in the morning to not have to wake up too early but still have a day. You can also check the timetable online on the official pages of the town of Vodice.

We packed our stuff after having some breakfast, brought a few bottles of water (it is always a good idea in summer, you get thirsty pretty soon and if there is no shop around or public fountains, you will not like the situation much) and other things. I had my analog camera packed in the backpack, the loyal companion that has been following me on the several of the last trips around the world. While waiting for the bus at the station there was already a lot of tourists. As I mentioned before, Vodice are pretty popular last years and are an important connection not only between the local towns but between the whole coast too and even to the north; an important corridor. Thus there are buses all day long, every few minutes, but they are not always on time.

The bus rides are always interesting. Watch out for the moustache guys.

'Interesting' is a very interesting word here as I do not know how else to describe our buses in the south. They can be sometimes pretty late and then you do not know (including the stuff in the ticketing office) which line is coming, which is not going to show up etc. And what I despise are particularly the local buses within one county or between them... but more precisely - the local Dalmatian buses. In 90% of the cases you are going to have a fun time with the ride. What do I mean? Well, firstly, the bus drivers are a bit crazy. If you speak Croatian (or Serbian, Bosnian... ) you will understand perfectly what I mean. If not, they you might consider yourself lucky as well. The bus drivers are mostly older guys followed by some younger adult who is mostly there to check the tickets and have a conversation with the main guy. The older guys mostly do not speak English or even if they try it you will ear broken English in every 10th word they pronounce, the rest is the mixture of Croatian with some German or Italian words. And they will consider it as you understood everything.

For example this sentance "Just a second... One ticket is 16 kuna, please, take a seat there" when translated into 'the bus drivers' English' sounds like 'Uno momento... Jedan tiket je 16 kuna, molim, eno tamo jedan sic, jes'. I never know if they are talking to the foreign tourists if the tourits are lost and need help so I could jump in... or they simply get everything, just nod with their heads and seat somewhere after giving the bus driver 20 or more kuna as they did not understand anything. For the most of the time my sister and I are listening carefully to the conversation of the bus drivers (I think the whole bus as well if they are loud) and have lots of fun. But they can be pretty arrogant and rude, not rarely is the situation that some just have to keep quiet if want to avoid the conflicts with them. Luckily, never happened to me. What do I mean?

Well, we saw and heard one guy who wanted to enter the bus at Šibenik main bus terminal (when we were just passing by as our destination was Split, more soon)... the guy from the continental part of Croatia thought that you can buy the ticket in the bus (as it is common somewhere in the north). But the bus driver just sharply cut him down 'Don't you see there is TICKETS right there? - Yes, but the waiting line is too long, I would not make it even if I went there to get on the bus. - Well that is not my problem. - I am sorry, I am not from here, did not know... - Your fault, I don't give a damn. ' and then closed the doors of the bus and drove away. Everyone felt a bit uncomfortable and felt pity for that man on the station.

There are lot of these situation every day and I think it would be nice to record all the funny moments (or not that funny) that happen on the road. To be honest, using the bus as the vehicle to get somewhere is also an unique adventure and without them it would be kind of boring. One more funny thing from the crazy bus drivers was when one tourists (a Croat) asked the bus driver how long would it take from Split to Vodice, how many hours... and the driver replied 'Who knows. ' And in general... if you see an older bus driver with moustache... you're likely gonn have a bad time. haha

I will describe one funny ride on our way back from Split to Vodice in the next article.

And the last thing. Once we entered the bus for Šibenik, that came from the west, it was so crowded that several passengers had to stand. My sister and I along with 5-6 more people were among them. Of course, we quickly put Madoka to seat somewhere (right behind the crazy bus drivers) and we were holding ourselves for the baggage carriers. I didn't mind this but found fun since it reminded me of a tram ride in Zagreb where I mostly choose to stand. Luckily, this was also just 20 minutes, standing during a longer trip would be difficult. Now you ask yourselves - you bought the ticket yet no place? Yes, you're right. Everything is possible in Dalmatia. Welcome once more!

The bridge of Šibenik (Šibenski most)

It took us around 20 minutes to get to Šibenik. On our way there, the bus might have stopped at Srima to pick up some passengers and then it took us 10 or more minutes to get to the main station. There Madoka saw the typical landscape of the central Dalmatia (or stereotypical one) - plains and hills, lots of bushes, some burned areas, rock, blue sky and because of the heat the horizon is always a bit blurry or appears to be 'liquid'. It is especially fun when you are on the bike alone and going somewhere on the road 'in the middle of nowhere'... you just feel the hot sun burning you, maybe the crickets and their sound and the horizon that is moving. Anway, one of the breathtaking scenes you are going to see when going to Šibenik from Vodice is surely the Šibenski most. It is around 350 meters long and the hight is about 40m. But it feels much more. Once you reach the bridge you see the canyon of the river Krka and how it blends into the sea next to Šibenik, further more there are the islands of Zlarin and double smaller Prvić. The fortress of St Niccholas is hiding a bit behind the corner so you cannot see it. Again, far away behind Šibenik in the direction of SE you might recognize other towns and islands. This bridge is also popular as there is a base for the bungee jumping. Next to the bridge there is a restaurant house and the parking lot where people also stop to make a brake or just watch with children the bungee jumpers.

Once we crossed the river we de facto came to 'town of Šibenik' but still have to go around. This part with the roads here is a bit tricky and Šibenik itself is built not just by the sea but on the hills and in the valleys on the other side. After mostly going down in circles we came to the main station. Time to leave the crowded bus and see some cool things!

Welcome to Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town with rich history and culture

Okay, the bus station is right next to the sea, the riviera. And there is also a public well with fresh water in case you are thirsty or just want to fill up the bottles. There's more of them in the town. We decided to go to walk along the pedestiran road (or riva) by the sea and it took us around 10 minutes to one of the historic and pretty old centers. On our way there we were observing the old traditional houses built on the hills with lots of stairs everywhere. On the top of the hill is the Fortress of St Micheal (Mihovil) which could have been seen as well from the road from the bus. Unfortunately, it was closed during one period of the day just when we came there to check it so I cannot tell you the stories from inside but I think it was that important anyway (and you shouldn't care much too). Now while passing by many cafes and restaurants in the shadows of the palm trees we were approaching this historic core and the center of the Renaissance Šibenik. On our way there we passed by many posters with photographs of Croatia taken by the journalist from National Geographic. Photographs taken from above. Very interesting! You can also find text next to it. I would like to have some of them in my room on the wall. We passed by the Museum of Šibenik which has two cannons in the yard so we could not miss the opportunity to take some photographs sitting on them. And finally reached the historic center from the seaside - the infamous Renaissance Cathedral of St Jacob.

Thus welcome to the oldest town on the shore built by the Croats (unlike Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik whose original settlers were other ethnicities such as the Romans and the Greeks). It was mentioned for the first around 1 000 years ago. It also served as the capital and the throne of the King Petar Krešimir IV in the second half of the 11th century. Actually, let me give you a few interesting information including the buildings we were going to see.

Population, geography and history

There are around 45 000 citizens living in Šibenik which makes it a bit more than 4x bigger in population than our Vodice. It had been built on the eastern bank of river Krka but also at the very same spot where the river and the Adriatic sea meet. I heard but did not dare to try the water at Šibenik is maybe still sweet on the beach as the river is stronger... but a few hundreds meter further it is the salty sea.

Šibenik is naturally situated in the center of Central Dalmatia and the administrative center of its county (Šibensko-Kninska) being the largest town in the area followed by Knin and then Vodice. It's next to the canyon or river Krka and close to the National Park Krka. There is no need to mention the good connectivity to other places in Croatia. This includes the buses and also train service. Šibenik also has its relatively big or small port and one shipyard with a long tradition. I wrote before that Šibenik got its city beach just recently, the Banj beach. Before that happened people used to go on the other side to Jadrija.

During its long history Šibenik has been under different rulers, kingdoms and empires. These include 'the eternal rivals' the Venetians, the Byzantine Empire, the Hungarians, later Austro-Hungarian Empire and during the WW2 shortly occupied by the fascist forces. During the Independence war in 90s it was damaged, including some UNESCO sights, but everything was repaired and restored.

The Cathedral of St James

This cathedral is probably the most important work of architecture during the Renaissance period in 15th and 16th century. The construction durated for about more than 2 centuries and there are two notable architects to be mentioned - Juraj (George) the Dalmatian and Niccholas of Florence. If you love art, architecture and the Renaissance I think you cannot avoid this. The entrance is 10 kuna but sometimes they let you go for free (and the entrance for the children is free too).

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

For Madoka it was something totally new and her second time inside a Christian (Roman Catholic) church. Since both my sister and I are students of design we tried to tell a few things such as the type of the architecture - it is a triple-nave basillica with also three rows or ships of apses. On top there is a dome. We were climbing up the streets later next to the cathedral to see the dome and the roof too. A said, the Church has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2000.

Oh, be careful how you enter the churches, especially in Dalmatia they are more religious than the rest and very sensitive to the behaviour. Don't weat the hat on your head, don't enter with a swimming suit of course, don't have a towel on your shoulder or hands (put it in the backpack) and they will mostly complain if you want to take pictures with camera. But if you do not use the flashlight (which is generally stupid) they should not complain.

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

After walking around the hall there is a passage down the stairs that leads to the baptistery. Personally, I have seen them so many times and am not so impressed... rather find it boring, maybe when I remember the stories from the elementary school when noone wanted to pay attention to it but rather fall asleep. There are then two way to get out of the baptistery - you can go back upstairs the same way and leave through the main entrance into the church. I got lost there with Madoka and my sister as I did not notice they were not following me back so we had to catch each other around the cathedral. The other way goes from the baptistery directly out and leads you straight towards the Museum of town of Šibenik... or around to one streets that binds this yard with the main square where the city hall is.

However, there is one cool thing you might have noticed there but do not know the story behind it. There are 72 unique stone heads around the coronel on the facade of the basillica. Made by Juraj Dalmatinac. These are apparently the merchants who helped support the construction by donations.

Cafe, bar and club Azimut

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

Close to the cathedral is a popular cool bar Azimut that is going to cath your eye for sure. It was opened several years ago and proved to be a huge success among not only the youth but the rest of citizens. Its only opponent there was actually the very same cathedral 50m away as they complained about the loud music. The rest - the citizens stood and defended the club as it was something refreshing in the town and finally a good place to go out and enjoy the good music and everything. We have been twice there and saw the interior, looks awesome and modern. It follows the popular trends in interior design of the cafe with lots of artefacts on the walls and using the alternative equipment as chairs and so on. You can find lots of Mediterranean motives on the walls including the fishermens' nets, the wet clothing on the ropes haning from the walls, the sleeping bags, wooden tables, the barrels serving as the tables and so on. It is very comfortable to be there and it's very colorful too, not just by colours but when looking at all the diversity of the material they have been using there.

I highly recommend you to have a break and stop by Azimut to have a drink with your friends. I am sure you will enjoy it!

Climbing up and down through the maze

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

We now left the basillica and went to this square - the Square of Republic of Croatia. There on the opposite of the cathedral is the city hall which looks pretty different from the ones you will find in the north. It looks like a palace and maybe it used to be one back in the history of some noble family. Now the main problem in Šibenik - which street should we take?

There are several paths and narrow streets at every corner and often do we have to think which one to choose and where are we going to end up. We followed our intuition and went to the left of the City Hall where we found some stairs that climbed up. We lef the souvenir shops and the stone heads behind and started climbing. Another obvious problem in summer is that you get tired easily as it is horribly hot on the sun and you just feel like laying down in the shadow, drinking cold drink and then sleep. If that would be possible I would be the first to do it... but not that day, we had a tour to do.

Actually, we wanted to go up the hill to show Madoka the fortress of St Michael and also the gardens. Yes! Being used to life and greenness of Zagreb with lots of parks and the whole Northern/Central Croatia in general, that is the first thing I miss when spending time in Vodice (has only one park close to the center... and the second bigger green surface is the grass in front of the hospital... ) Similar is in Šibenik though not exactly the same. The two bigger greener surfaces (bigger than 1m square) within the old town along the coast are the city's cemetary... and the medieval monestary garden of St Laurence (Sv Lovro). Now that is a beautiful place which serves as a botanical garden. There is a small restaurant or bar where you can order something to drink or eat an ice cream. There are a few benches in the garden but mostly taken. However though, youc an sit on the stones in the shadows. The garden is pretty colorful with the green dominating. And a thing that cannot be not seen is the belfry, the tower. If I remember properly there is also a well in the middle so you can fill your bottles or wash and refres your face.

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

But to get there we had to get kind of lost. We knew that we have to keep climbing up. Luckily, there are at least some navigation tables and signs showing us the way. Now the part where you have to go through the narrow streets up and down to explore the town is one of the reasons why it is worth visiting and gives you pleasure. You're walking on the centuries, if not a millenium old stones and tiles, stairs... you can see the old stone houses, feel the cool shadows (and it's almost all the time)... You will also find lots of cats in the streets that appear and disappear. What I like again is to walk among the streets enjoying the simplicity of life there, you can see often doors or windows opened...not to mention that the windows and doors are mostly green... then the ropes and the clothes drying on the sun.... without all those details Dalmatia and the coast from Istria to Dubrovnik would not have been the same. The only noise you hear are the tourists. While being there I was also asked by one local woman if I could help her get the fridge out of the apartment. So I did of course.

After roaming up and down on the sun for an hour and more you get hungry. We decided to take a little break before going back to the fortress (which was on the other side of the garden btw) and we knew the perfect place where to have lunch. And we were lucky to be there at the specific time. You will see why. Our trip on the following day depended a lot on it.

Pizza at Pizzeria Toni

Somehow we managed to find some way down to the cathedral as our orientating point in the town. And on our way there we found one more public well and filled our bottles with fresh cold water. Now being back at the cathedral we did not think of anything else except for going to eat and rest for an hour.

Our choice was Pizzeria Toni (yes, the same one is in Vodice! ) which was hidden in the passage Zlarinski prolaz 1. It is also a brewery so you can get more types of drinks. Nevertheless, it was almost full of people but we luckily found exactly the same spot we choose every summer we go there (2013 was with another Japanese student, 2014 was with my friend from Serbia who I met on Lyon and now with Madoka). The great thing is that this passage is mostly in the shadows during the day and there are also beach umbrellas if needed, thus it's cooler but not cold to be there...especially when the meal is served. We took 2-3 pizzas for each other and some drink. The best feeling! And then someone touched my shoulder.

I was first totally shocked, came unexpectedly and quickly turned to see what now the beggars want. But it was not some beggar. I got surrounded with two of my best University colleagues, Mladen and Elizabeta, including Elizabeta's boyfriend. We had no idea they were in Šibenik. The same goes for them. But they recognized me from the back and confirmed their doubts when seeing Madoka. They were going back to Split and said we can join them in the following days, they would be our tour guides there. And so that happend and you will read more about it.

Back up and down the streets to the beach

After having a break at the pizzeria Toni we decided to walk along the riviera and check the beach Banj. It takes not more than around 20 minutes to reach the beach after leaving the bus station. We took a walk on the promenade 'Obala Dr. Franje Tuđmana' and 'Obala palih boraca' which goes along the sea. However, Madoka was still curious of the town's streets so we left it on half of the way and started climbing up the streets again from the cathedral and Azimut.

All these narrow streets and passages hide many restaurants and bars. What you will see on the coast for the restaurant is the name konoba which can refer to any restaurant or a place where you can eat or drink... or to those places that are in the basement. Again, we saw some cats lying on the windows and enjoying the sun rays. I haven't mentioned that it was maybe around 15h o'clock and the last thing before going back to Vodice was the beach and going to swimm if we feel so.

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

We found some street that led down towards the riviera so we decided to continue until the end and found out some hole in a wall with stairs leading us straight to the riviera. Now we are back on the sea level. There are again several cafes around and you can see lots of boats in the marine. We continued and enjoyed the traditional stone houses with the colored windows and ropes for the clothes. Now you will reach a small bay where we make a half circle and slowly leaving the traditional and old Šibenik. You can notice that there are more of the modern houses and apartments that had not used stone as a material. This is, as said, an overall problem on the coast when the modern and the traditional collide with each other. It is though worse when these apartments look not so much visually appealing and kitchy. Vodice have become full of them so it looks a bit ugly. The islands too started with them but still preserved most of the unique old traditional houses which gives them the original and for some exotic look.

One of the best views of Šibenik

Day 4 Visiting Šibenik - the oldest Croatian town on the shore

Now when you get to the other side of this small bay and pass by the Diving School Šibenik (and close is the Elementary school of Juraj Dalmatinac) you start slowly climbing up towards the corner on a platform where you have a nice look on Šibenik - the old part. This is probably one of the best places to take photos of Šibenik and if you are in groups probably some selfies or group photographs. Once you turn to the other side you can see the beach Banj.

Now we go down the wooden stairs and join the hundreds of citizens swimming there. The beach does not look anything spectactular and I cannot say it looks pretty too but for the purpose of swimming it is I guess enough. We usually stick to the beginining of the beach so I do not know how long it is actually and have never seen or been at its end. There are some restaurants and the bars as well as the places to change your clothes (some kind of dressing rooms) and the sun umbrellas. You can also get the white easy chair (though probably need to pay for it too). Further more there is a playground for volleyball or football. Above the beach there is the car road so you can also come by using cars or some other vehicle.

What is great with this beach though is that you have a nice view over Šibenik. So you just simply lay down on your towel after swimming and turn to the south - there is the old town with the fortress above and hundreds of stone houses beneath.

You're still going to swim in the river here actually as the sea is more to the south at the river's mouth. But that should not stop you or make you feel strange. There is a bit difference between swiming in the sweet water than in the denser salty sea water but nothing terrifying, especially if you need to refresh yourself. The beach is encircled with the buoys. There is no other danger unlike on the other beaches on the sea where you have to be careful of crossing the zones marked by the buoys and get overrun by the speedboat or something.

Back to the bus terminal

We decided not to go swimming now as we would have problems with the wet clothes and have to wait for the later buses. Thus, the best would be to go back to Vodice, maybe rest a bit and then go to the beach before the sunset. So we did. It took us around 20 minutes to the bus terminal. On our way back we passed through some streets between the blocks just to experience agin the tall houses with the windows several meters above the ground level. Now we saw more or less the most important things in Šibenik. Of course, there are much more that we had to miss and will have to wait for another opportunity.

Upon arriving to the bus terminal we went to check for the timetable and found out we have around 40 minutes until the next bus goes in direction of Vodice. We were thinking what to do not to waste much time and were also tired from walking the whole days... so we ended up sitting at the bus terminal. We brought some playing cards with us to play the 'Šnaps'. That's our traditional game in the family and we do it every summer. How to explain? It is not summer if we do not play it. Somehow only in Dalmatian, always forget in Zagreb. Anyway, we sat next to one of the public wells I mentioned. We already ran out of the water so we fileld all of them and I was so thirsty to drink one more again and then again every few minutes a bit. Knowing that those wells exist is of use and have it on your mind!

There is one more thing you might find interesting about this town. And it is about:

Game of Thrones set in Šibenik

Yes, you read it. When mentioning Game of Thrones in Croatia most of the fans will first think of Dubrovnik as the base for the fictive King's Landing. Some also know it was being filmed in Split too in Diocletians palace (more about it in article for Split).

Now, I had found out about Game of Thrones in Šibenik a week or two later.. or even that the crew was filming there several days after our trip there! You can bet how we felt since we missed to be the part of this famous TV series. But next time.

And I think you can guess where they wanted some scenes. That's right - around the cathedral. Unfortunately, I do not know much about it except for what I saw in the news.

Back to Vodice

Another thing you have to be careful at the bus terminals there is that you might miss the bus. Two summers ago also with another Japanese guest we missed one bus and had to spend an hour more in Šibenik (and it happend in the evening so it was much worse! ) whereas we went back and sat in Azimut for 40 minutes. They have naturally the loud speakers but sometimes it is not clear where the bus is coming and you have to pay attention and start following the bus once you hear it is arriving. Because they will likely stop at the platform that has not been taken... that could be platform 1.. or platform 13 on the other side. So pay attention!

We got into ours now without problems. It was around 16h so we were about to get out in Vodice around 16. 20-16. 30 if it stoppes in Srima too. And we could also seat, it is a nice feeling after a whole day walking around. The part until we reach the bridge is more or less boring. Then going over it is always exciting to see how big the height is and now being on the right side and looking towards the north you can see far away the Dinarides and somewhere behind the hills is the National Park Krka hiding its oasis of flora and fauna.

Well, so long Šibenik! Until next summer maybe. Oh, that means probably in 5-6 months. Time flies.

The bus stopped in Srima and then quickly arrived to bus terminal in Vodice. We ran home to leave the stuff, take a litle break and then prepare to go to the beach.

Going to the 'locals beach' and bringing pets

We ended up again going to the eastern beaches. But to avoid the crowds this time we stopped at the beginning and the first beach which looks like a dock but built from stones and concrete. As I mentioned, they add more concrete every year and now they flattened the surface. It is around 40-50 meters long and during the day (unfortunately for us) full of people who mostly just sunbathe.

We found one spot in the middle and luckily since the sun was getting low many tourits have already gone home. Soon accompanied us my parents with our pet. Our dog, she, is having her 5-10 minutes of a swim once there is no one at the end of the breakwater. The water there is around 3 meters deep, around the breakwater, but just the first meter and half are much less so that the tall guys can stand. You also have the ladders which helps a lot to climb back (you can also stand on the rocks upon which the breakwater was built).

At this point many enjoy jumping into the sea, especially children and me. And it is also the place where our dog goes for a short swim alone or being hold in our hands and than just paddling with her feet.

So you can bring your own pet also there. The locals will not complain if you come later when there are no more people. Or if you know them and they know you (everything works through connections, right? ). If you want the shallow part just stop by the beginning which was also now renovated sort of.

If you want to swimm and train your stamina, this is also a perfect place for you! There is another dock or a breakwater around 180m from this one. Now you have a route. And this place is not that crowded, even if there are hundreds of people they will keep close to the shore and you can swim between the breakwaters without being interrupted more or less. And you will be around 30m from the shore yet on the safe distance from the boats. Sometimes they do not respect the rule of being 300 m from the shore (and sometimes accidents do happen unfortunately) but you alway pay attention to the place you're going to swim in. The best would be to come early in the morning, before 8h it is more or less empty and you can enjoy the clear water without the noise of the tourits of the clubs.

After having a bath in the sea we came back home to take a rest. Prepared some fruits and shakes and went to sleep a bit earlier.

Next on our list is the city of Split. Coming soon!

Thanks for reading.

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