‘Oh crap, we have to check out in 30 minutes.’ I say, barely awake. Amanda mumbles something back, unintelligible. Our AirBnB has a 10am checkout. A quick text confirms they can’t extend our time. We like AirBnBs a lot – but hotels will normally have 11 or even later if you ask.
The Creekmore’s shift to ultra-fast mode today, and within 45 minutes we have checked out and cleaned the place. We can’t even keep the parking space, so there isn’t much to do but leave Sibenik and move on.
This turns out for the better anyway, as our activity today is better at low tide. St. Nicholas Fort is a 15th century Venetian fort built to protect the Krka river entrance and Sibenik from Turks and other marauders of the Adriatic.
It was built on a small island that once housed a monastery named after St. Nicholas. The fort was named the same but the monastery was demolished.
St. Nicholas is mostly of bricks and a stone foundation it never saw real action, perhaps because of it’s imposing appearance and prominent placement. 32 cannon lined the walls.
Technically it was still in use by the Yugoslavian military until 1979, although for what exactly it was used in modern times is unclear.
Today the fortress is a UNESCO site, and a national park. It’s official status is ‘undergoing renovation’ but for the last several years little work has been done and it’s effectively abandoned. It’s technically not open to the public but is easily accessible with a little effort.
The reason I’m glad we left early is low tide was at 10am and to get to the Fort you have to make a short crossing to the small island of Ljuljevac on which the fort lies. I don’t know if it ever becomes impassable, but I’m glad to keep my boots dry. There are some reports on trip advisor of people wading to get to the fort.
The fort has an entrance for boats on the ocean side but from land the only way to get in the fort from land is to climb into a window 15 feet above the ground. Fortunately (and not accidentally) there is a solid 10″ plank on which one can get most of the way up. The last few feet require hoisting yourself up a bit, slightly scary but not really hard.
Emma, Lily, Amanda and I get up easily and are rewarded with a glorious view of the ocean, the Dalmation archipelago, Sibenik and of course the fort itself.
St Nicholas is in disrepair, but doesn’t look very dangerous. A few areas are covered with grates but it’s generally solid. We don’t feel unsafe but I do mention to the girls to be careful.
The girls are excited and run off taking pictures of each other. Amanda smiles broadly and lets her hair down, blowing in the sea air.
It’s a gorgeous day. We are up here alone exploring a fort built over half a millennium ago. Amanda and I hold hands and stroll about the top level of the fort.
It gets a little spooky below. Water drips everywhere, the limestone acts like a sponge and releases rain slowly causing the floors to be wet. There are even stalagmites everywhere like white pimples on the stone floor.
Some of Game of Thrones Season 5 was filmed here and one could see why – it’s so well preserved and unusual. Emma and LIly hang out in a porthole which would have been for one of the 32 cannons. Amanda and I explore some parts that are too dark to enter without a real flashlights.
We only spend about an hour here but we love every minute of it. The walk back is still bright and a little windy. We pass a few people taking a stroll, none of whom seem to be heading to the fort.
I wonder how busy it gets on a summer day. Amanda and I both hope they restore it soon and make it more accessible. It deserves that.
There are Trumpeter swans here and the bottom of this shallow bay is covered in mussels. Unlike so many parts of the Mediterranean it seems alive. It’s also worth mentioning that we saw very little trash at the fort. Many other places with an ‘abandoned’ status are covered in trash – beer bottles, condoms etc… But for a bit here and there, St. Nicholas was clean.
The girls hang out on swings for a bit. It really wasn’t that long ago that they were 6 and 4, playing on swings in Paris on our first big trip.
It’s hard to believe this is Emma’s last spring journey with us for a while, maybe forever? We’ll still travel, but this phase is coming to a close in the next few years.
We slowly drive down the coast and every town is completely deserted. Shops are gated and closed. Little markets are open and we find occasional bakeries and cafes with a local or two drinking coffee and smoking.
The gorgeous town of Primosten is probably packed in summer but there are just a handful now. We park right on the beach and walk to a waterfront restaurant that had the exact same menu as everywhere else (Pizza, Pasta, Meat) but did a better than usual job of it. As (mostly) vegetarians we are not in Croatia for the food.
This part of Europe is so meat-based. There was a 1 michelin star restaurant in Sibenik that had nothing on the menu without meat. In fact there were few dishes that only had one kind of meat! (Monkfish and tripe, Cow tongue with sausage etc…)
We drift down the coast slowly, with the ocean to our right the whole time, listening to our songs on the radio. It’s peaceful. Next stop is Trogir.