We were so pleased to be visiting Croatia again, especially as the area we were now visiting was not one we had been to before.
Croatia is a beautiful country with lovely, friendly people. We were fortunate to have visited the country in 2014 but we did not visit Šibinek, the oldest city on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. It is at the mouth of the Krka River which flows into the Adriatic Sea about 80km north of the city of Split where Diocletian had built a palace. We had sailed NNW from Bari in Italy across the Adriatic to Šibinek and through the narrow St Anthony’s Channel into the harbour. On entering the harbour was the St Nicholas fortress, a large fortress which never needed to be used for protection of the city. Šibinek, which currently has about 35 000 inhabitants, is the oldest and 3rd largest city on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia and is known to be an important city for tourism, politics, education and transport.
Although we, ourselves, had not been to Šibinek, we chose to visit Lake Vrana on Cres Island, where there is an abundance of permanent and migratory bird life. We started our tour of the lake walking along a beautifully constructed boardwalk with a few bird-watching hides along the way. At each of these were posters giving details of the various birds found there. These included Coots, Ducks, Mergansers and Coots who lived permanently on the Lake and Curlews and Godwits who migrate long distances each year and use the Lake as a stopover on their journey. One of the biggest groups of Lake full-time residents are the Gulls. We didn’t see many of the birds but there were plenty for us to enjoy. Lake Vrana is the largest lake in Croatia and a protected nature park where there is a lot of research and work being done to rebuild the reed beds and wetlands around the lake. Many of these were destroyed when one end of the Lake was opened to the sea by the creation of a canal in the 19th Century. The original plan was to have one at each end of the Lake, but as the first one took 18 years to build, the building of the second one was abandoned.
From the Lake we drove to the top of Mt Kamenjak in Zadar for a wonderful view over the Lake and surrounding areas. On the way we passed a small village which has an annual Good Friday, or Big Friday as it is called in Croatia, pilgrimage to the top, some people doing so on their knees! On the way up we passed 14 crosses standing in stone bases which represented the Stations of the Cross and the pilgrims stop at each one for prayer and reflection. On Mt Kamenjak is a Chapel where they have a short service. Inside the Chapel is a deep hole into which dissidents of the 1990s war were thrown to their deaths. Their remains have been removed and properly buried. On the walls are photos of the excavations and the skeletal remains. There is also a restaurant at the site but there did not appear to be any customers at the time.
Our third and last stop was at a heritage hotel, the Maškovića Han*, which was formerly a Turkish monumental building from the 17th Century. There was a museum of Turkish artefacts which we visited and were shown the remains of the Turkish Baths. Thereafter, we went to the small restaurant and were treated to a light lunch. The hotel is set in well-maintained gardens within a courtyard with a time machine near the entrance. The walls of the fortress were made of the white stone which is found all over Croatia.
On our way back to the ship we saw a few groups of ruins up on the hills and some oyster farms in a part of the harbour.
Six hours after leaving in the morning we arrived back on board ready to sail to Venice in the evening.
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