Thursday, 28 June 2012

New Yorker who discovered Sibenik for me

You'll never admire the place where you spent most of you life, no matter how wonderful it may be, as when you take your camera and go sightseeing, while being a host and a tour-guide to a foreign friend. It is the town you live in, the town where you went to school in, where you had so many crazy nights out with your high-school friends, with that hidden street where someone stole your first kiss, with the recently closed cute little shop where you bought that amazing dress which makes you look 5 kg thinner, the square where you finally dated the guy you've been secretly looking at for the last 5 years, right at the moment when the blabbermouth friend of you suspicious mom ran into you. I was a traveler myself, for so many times, wondering the streets of Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Milan, Vienna, Cape Town, always with my out-dated camera (it was never easy to spare some extra money for a new camera when there's the new collection fresh in stores, and when that polyester shirt, which, by the way, will be 80% on sale in a month, would go perfectly with the skirt I managed to dig out on the last year's sales) trying to capture at least a fragment of the surreal atmosphere, thinking sadly '...why wasn't I born here..'
However, thanks to my friend Michelle, a born New Yorker with Croatian roots (I'm not sure if you've noticed, but if we would add the number of people with 'Croatian roots' worldwide, to the 4.5 million Croats, God only knows what the number would be. I just love it how Croatian journalists continuously find new stars who somehow always turn out to have a grandpa who left Croatia long ago...that must be the reason all those stars are so successful) and her desire to walk the paths that her pa and gramps used to cross, I had the opportunity to see my home town from a new perspective.
One day Jere, Michelle and myself, this time with Michelle's super modern camera, started an adventure called 'let's meet the old part of town'. Michelle kept cheering non-stop! She was ecstatic about Gorica, which is, in my opinion, the most picturesque part of town. She tried to touch every stone, wondering what monument could that be, trying to capture the genuine Dalmatian atmosphere by taking pictures of old stone houses, staircases, green wooden window sheds, entrance halls, niches, old house-to-house drying ropes, repeating again and again how amazing it was and how she couldn't believe people actually lived there. My only thought was -
'Hellooo, you live in New York, what's all the fuss about?! ' Just like most tourists, Michelle was surprised by the number of stairs around the old city centre. There's an interesting fact how last year, tourist guides in Šibenik, inspired by continuous tourist questions about the exact number of stairs, decided to count them all up. They came down to 2851 stairs, a number that made Šibenik the city with the biggest number of stair in Mediterranean. However, Dubrovnik tourist guides though it was simply impossible for Šibenik to have more stairs than Dubrovnik, and decided to do the same thing, counting 5423 stairs in the old part of town (the story is a great example of our character, as well). Back to our mission. We walked with Michelle along Jurja Dalmatinca Street and found ourselves in front of 'Četiri bunara' (The Four Wells). There you'll find one of the best restaurants in Šibenik - Pelegrini (my own personal favorite, and judging by the comments on some of the most renown web pages - a large number of tourist's favorite, too). Genuine groceries prepared in an imaginative and innovative way, will definitely be an exciting new touch for your demanding taste buds. Add a glass of supreme wine, sitting 'face-to-face' with St James' Cathedral, being served by hospitable waiters.... mmmm!!
Četiri bunara are also the location where this year's Off Jazz&Blues Festival takes place. Remarkable atmosphere and renown names of jazz and blues scene are surely something you must visit! The festival takes place at the end of July and lasts for 3 days. It's a definite must see!
We finally arrived to St James' Cathedral, which was enlisted on World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO in 2000. You can only start imagining Michelle's facial expressions.
I could write pages and pages about this architectonic beauty, which still leaves me breathless (despite the fact I see it on daily basis) - it simply cannot be ignored, but I'm going to let the experts tell the story. The Cathedral is situated on the Republic of Croatia Square, next to the City Hall, the Duke's and the Bishop's Pallace, and traditionally it has been the stage for the opening of the International Children's Festival for so many years. People in Šibenik have a special bond with the Festival. It must be the fact that most of us personally took part in creating this story through numerous art, drama and music workshops and plays. It also was a perfect excuse for parents, because of Festival's educational function. The Festival starts at the end of June and lasts for two weeks. It's the time when the entire old part of town, including Gorica, Medulić, Dobrić, becomes a big stage for the children from all around the world.
After few hours of sight-seeing we decided to have something to eat, and as true hosts we took our guest to a genuine Dalmatian tavern 'Marenda'. It is not one of those luxury restaurants, it has the interior of a real old tavern, and it's the perfect place to enjoy homemade Dalmatian meals with a glass of good home made wine. You know what they say, when in Rome... Later we walked down Zagrebačka Street (rich in sacral heritage of Šibenik), where you'll find Uspenie Bogomatere Church, which used to be a monastery for Benedictines, but only those from noble families. There was no place for poor girls there. They had to go to St Luca monastery. With the arrival of Napoleon, the monastery was closed, and the church was given to the episcopacy of Serbian Orthodox Church. Just across to the church you'll find Giro espresso caffe bar, with the best coffee in town. At the end of our journey we left Jere to watch a football match enjoying his beer, and decided to finish our adventure with shopping, just like most women would. On Dobrić Square you'll find an amazing boutique, owned by the famous Croatian designer from Šibenik, Loredana Bahorić . After a glass of good wine we needed a good rest, and promised Michelle to take her to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. She wasn't disappointed! The island of Zlarin turned out to be the perfect choice!
That is how my New York friend helped me to realize just how special my home town is, how I would always recommend it to anyone, and how proud I felt for being a small part of this grand story.

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