Saturday, March 25, 2006

Monday Column - Croatia Destinations 6: Sibenik

Sibenik is probably one of the most under rated towns in Croatia. Like Zadar and Split, it has sprawling and not very attractive industrial suburbs, but the long estuary leads to a charming and atmospheric old town. It’s a busy commercial port but has a town quay and two marinas in the course of development and at least another one planned, so it’s definitely a place to watch. The nearby Krka falls are spectacular and well worth one of the organised boat trips up the estuary.

Historically, Sibenik is unusual as it was founded by the Slavs rather than the Greeks and Romans, though it came under Venetian control in the 15th century. It suffered significantly in the homeland war due to infighting between the indigenous Croats and Serbs and has taken longer to recover than other towns. That being said, its location and natural assets make it ripe for further development. The spectacular cathedral took over a century to build - through lack of funding, disputes on location, plagues and a fire - and is therefore a fascinating mixture of architectural styles. Outside, carved in stone, are the faces of those people who allegedly refused to contribute to the cost of building the cathedral. Inside, the baptistery is intricately carved and the vaulted roof of interlocking stone slabs is considered to be unique. The roof was badly damaged during the war in 1991 and it took a team of international experts to rebuild it.

If you have time, take a trip to St Anne’s fortress for breathtaking views of the old town, the estuary and the islands beyond.

Tourist Office
The tourist office is just by the church of Sv Frane and the ferry pier, Obala Dr Franje Tudmana 5, tel 022 214 411, fax 022 214 266, .It used to be a good walk away, on Fausta Vranjica, so don’t be misled by older guide books. As always, there are plenty of private agencies dotted around the town.

Sibenik is not developed as a tourist centre and accommodation is currently limited in the city centre. There is however a big resort, Solaris,, 7 km south of the city. In the town itself, try Jadran, tel 022 212 644 which is relatively basic but well located.

The first Croatian falconry centre is within 7 kilometres of town, on the road that leads to the village of Dubrava. It’s open to visitors in the summer between 09:00 and 19:00, tel/fax 022 215 169, and there are plenty of excursions to the nearby Krka waterfalls further up the estuary from Sibenik. Through the summer, there are numerous music evenings as well as the renowned international children’s festival. For diving try Neptun-Sub, Draga 4, tel/fax 022 331 444, 098 642 009 or Otok Mladosti, Trg Republike Hrvatske 3a, tel 022 216 089, fax 022 212 551,

Eating Out
To soak up the atmosphere of Sibenik and sample traditional food in style, try Gradska Vijecnica in the old Venetian town hall building in the main square opposite the cathedral. Trg Republike Hrvatske1, tel 022 213 605. One of the most well known restaurants in Sibenik is Uzorita, Bana Josipa Jelacic 50, tel 022 213 660. It’s about half an hour’s walk uphill from the centre, near the football ground, and specialises in seafood in a traditional Dalmatian building, suitably decorated, with courtyard, dating back to 1898.

It’s best to head out of town for beaches, ideally to the pristine waters of the nearby islands of Zlarin or Prvic or in the Hotel Solaris complex.


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