I started my stay in Croatia in Šibenik, which took a good 3 trains and a bus to get to from my Slovenian farm stay. The bus was supposed to be a train, and I’m not really sure why that short leg was replaced by a bus. If it had something to do with the refugees and border closings I’m not sure. But as soon as we got on and crossed about 2 minutes later, the police got on and asked for my passport. Now when you just got on a bus and don’t even realize how close you are to the border, that isn’t exactly the most comforting. But within a few minutes they brought our passports back (there were about 4 of us on the bus…) and we were on our way.
I got into Šibenik late at night, and when I got to the hostel the owner, a woman in her 40s or 50s, looked so relieved to see me, ready to close up for the night. She was very nice in broken English, though, and got me a seat in the back of her son’s car to go to Krka National Park the next day, the main reason I’d come. I chatted with some other travelers for a while and then called it a night when it started to rain.
The next day, 5 of us (an older French couple and 2 French girls) piled into the van and off we went to Krka. And by piled I mean I was sitting on a beach chair in the back of a van. Bumpy ride. Krka, by the way, is a fascinating park full of waterfalls, lakes, greenery, fish, and swimming. Yep, I didn’t go to Plitvice, but I can say already I may prefer Krka because you can swim right under the waterfalls. It’s the first time I’d gotten in water so far this trip, so it was an especially welcome experience. And swimming into clear water with waterfalls and mountains within 40 feet, as touristy as it is, is always awesome. I was a bit overwhelmed with the number of tourists, though, but I guess I understand why.
I also took a small boat out to a Franciscan monastery on an island called Visovac while in the National Park. The boat was manned by a guy who spent most of the time smoking a cigarette with no hands, holding up his tiny old school cell with one hand, and barely steering with the other. Oh, Europe. The ride each way took about 45 minutes, and we spent about 30 minutes on the island, but it was a gorgeous little place with fruit groves and chickens and roosters running around, clucking and calling, and I can only imagine what life at the monastery used to be like, out here on this little island surrounded by water and greenery with such a peaceful setting.
It was a relief to get back to Šibenik that night and explore around the old town. I didn’t realize that all the little streets really are just cobblestone alleyways, and every time you turn, you head up steps or down an angled street and end up somewhere new. It amazes me that people find their way here, but of course it is quite small. It was fun to see supermarkets and post offices just squeezed into these small, winding streets and see that they’ve preserved it and just worked around it.
The sunset along the water was mind-blowing, with all the boats and even a playground just perched there for great pictures and views. At one point, I also followed curiosity up a winding street and ended up on the back side of St Michaels fortress, one of 4 in Sibenik. There were catering trucks delivering food through a gate, and I got some great views and pictures from the top overlooking the city, which of course looks way different from above.
I went to dinner at a little place I’d read about, and I can hands-down say it was one of the best meals I’ve had so far. The waiter was so friendly, unusual sometimes when you don’t speak a word of the language and sounds perfectly American, and recommended a cheese to start. It was done of the best cheese I’ve had, served with an amazing, thick fig jam. Next I had shark, the first time I ever remember trying this. It’s blue shark and apparently from the Adriatic Sea. Instead of being bitter, it’s cooked in water first and then Dalmatian oil, so it’s soft and melts in your mouth. All of this was served with hot, toasted, buttery bread so leave t to say I was in heaven. The whole thing came to 110 kuna with a beer, under $20. Can I eat here every night?
Sibenik is one of those places that you think has nothing to offer, and then surprises you, and then, looking back, where you wish you had spent longer. It was mostly free of tourists, at least the hoards of them, and walking the old streets was relaxing and always uncovered something new. At one point across from the chapel, I heard some singing coming from a top floor building. From listening to Rick Steves’ podcast on Croatia (yes his was basically my only preparation to Croatia), I had heard that all over Croatia you can come across a capella groups performing and singing in high up rooms. I was tempted to peek in the door, hoping to be invited in, but instead just sat outside and watched a group of high school aged kids stream in with instruments and listened to the pretty singing. I’m definitely glad I caught some of this while in Croatia though.