Strolling Through Šibenik, Croatia

 

A bit of a diamond in the rough, Šibenik is a city that quietly invited us to stroll in a pleasantly-aimless fashion. Situated near Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast and Krka National Park, we didn’t find an abundance of things to do in Šibenik, but that just added to its charm. Instead, our afternoon was filled mingling with locals and a friendly feline, and people-watching moments from the window of a cozy café. Children skipped by with a red balloon in hand, or played on the centuries-old lions that guard the town’s famous cathedral which acted as the backdrop for the action. Šibenik is the oldest Croatian town on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, whereas other cities along the coast were founded by the Romans, Greeks and Illyrians.

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Delicious History: Zinfandel Wine & Octopus Peka in Kaštela, Croatia

As our friend’s car propelled us up the jagged slopes of Kozjak Mountain in Croatia’s Dalmatia region, we struggled to steady our cameras enough to document the increasingly-magnificent view. Simultaneously fearing for the health of my friend’s tires which risked being ruptured on the rocky dirt road, I marveled at the panorama along this stretch of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. In the late-afternoon sunlight, the Adriatic Sea twinkled, and despite technically being wintertime, it called us to take a plunge. The limestone hills overlooking seaside Split and Kaštela wore a blend of foliage. Some trees sported withering, rust-colored leaves from the past season, and others prematurely exhibited pastel blooms and berries. As our Croatian friends had been telling us for weeks, the winter had been unusually warm, raising concern that the flora would be adversely impacted should another cold snap roll in. Given that so many locals dabble in the Mediterranean tradition of winemaking and olive oil production, this did not come as a surprise.

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Shades of Blue: Krka National Park, Skradin & Primošten, Croatia

During a journey along Croatia’s twinkling Adriatic Coast one winter afternoon, I concurred with astronauts who’ve professed Croatia to be the bluest place on earth.

Along with our friend, Damir, we’d left our home away from home within Diocletian’s Palace in seaside Split, and headed northwest on a day trip. We had plans to stop at Krka National Park, the risotto and yachting town of Skradin, and finally the island village, Primošten.

By day’s end, I’d add a postscript to the astronauts’ claim: Croatia’s coastline and rivers aren’t simply brilliantly blue, rather they’re a magnificent blend of teal, turquoise, and aquamarine hues.

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A Journey Through the Millennia: The Split Archaeological Museum in Croatia

As we perused the holdings at the Split Archaeological Museum along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, I found myself most drawn to the stone headstones bearing family portraits of citizens from the Roman Empire – some more than 2,000 years-old. Though the subjects’ faces were often weathered and lacking facial extremities, I enjoyed pondering how the family’s likenesses came to be carved out of stone. Had they sat for the sculptor for hours? Had they worn their best apparel, or had the sculptor depicted them in an idealized fashion? Could they ever guess that visitors would size them up thousands of years later?

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Krolo Winery: Slow Food & Wine in the Croatian Countryside

In a cozy country winery near the town of Trilj, where Croatia’s Continental and Mediterranean climates meet, winemaker Dražan Krolo is making magic with Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel grapes.

Together, with our friend, Srđan of the Art of Wine, we journeyed to the Krolo’s country home in the Dalmatian hinterland not far from coastal Split, to meet the Krolo family, taste their wonderful wine, Pašticada & Gnocchi (recipe below), fresh cheese, and catch a glimpse of life in the Croatian countryside.

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Silver Legacies: The Making of Croatian Filigree Jewelry

 

Master filigree jeweler Viktor Čivljak has a gentle and humble manner despite regularly wielding blow torches and hammers in his making of Old World jewelry. It turns out that the 73-year-old Split, Croatia jeweler also has a penchant for survival, something that we would learn while spending a Saturday afternoon with him, watching step-by-step how to make a pair of intricate filigree silver earrings.

Viktor and his wife, Flora, along with son Lorenc, who is working to become the family’s fourth-generation jeweler, sell their tiny traditional silver treasures in an intimate shop, Filigran Split, located just outside of the 1,700-year-old walls of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace.

Croatia has no trade school for learning the art of making filigree jewelry and in order to become a filigree artist, one must apprentice. Typically family members carry on the jewelry-making tradition, or one approaches a master to request that he take him on as a student. Viktor’s grandfather, Josip, was the first in the family to learn the art, then came father Lorenc, and then Viktor, who began shadowing with his father at the age of 13.

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Klis Fortress & a Game of Thrones Tour in Split, Croatia

For two thousand years, Croatia’s Klis Fortress has held a coveted position among Central Dalmatia‘s craggy landscape. Having been one of the filming locations for Season 4 of a Game of Thrones, as well as host to dramatic events over the millennia, the Klis Fortress appeals to Game of Thrones fans and history enthusiasts looking for things to do in Split.

Admittedly, I’ve never seen an episode of the popular television series, but during our three months in coastal Split, Croatia, we couldn’t escape the hype surrounding Game of Thrones filming locations in and around the area. From “my brother was an extra and met Daenerys” to “our friend acted as a slave girl” to “they filmed a scene on the cobbled street in front of our office” residents were excited and speculative about which Split scenes would make it into the upcoming episodes. Trailers helped them exercise their detective skills and pinpoint some Game of Thrones filming locations even before Season 4 debuted.

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The Art of Making Croatian Filigree Jewelry – Split Croatia

Croatian Filigree Jewelry Split Croatia

When he was just 13 years old, Split jeweler Viktor Čivljak started learning the fine art of making filigree jewelry from his father, a second-generation jeweler.

Today, the 73-year-old master jeweler incorporates breathtaking designs into entirely-handmade brooches, bracelets, earrings, hair pins, pendants and rings. Seemingly spun out of delicate silver thread, Viktor also creates cuff-links, decorative spoons for newborns, and souvenir spoons of Split bearing the city’s cathedral bell-tower.

We recently had the great pleasure of spending the day with Viktor and his wife, Flora, watching as Viktor showed us the painstaking process of making one pair of stunning filigree earrings.

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