From Split to Sibenik
Updated: Jun 11
We wrapped up in Dubrovnik and took a shuttle back to Split for a final night together. Our folks would depart from there, and we’d continue our Croatian journey, traveling from Split to Sibenik, another Dalmatian Coast city.
Dinner with Diocletian and Saying Goodbyes
After taking ferries south down the coast, we opted for the quicker road option on the way north, hiring a shuttle to take the six of us back to Split. While lacking the fresh air of the nautical route, driving north along the Dalmatian Coast does have one neat perk - a trip through Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Neum Corridor, which splits Croatia’s coastline, includes Bosnia’s only stretch along the Adriatic. So, when you drive to or from Dubrovnik from the rest of Croatia, you pass through another country - cool experience seeing the architecture and signage change for a portion of our drive.
Of note, Croatia is in the process of building a bridge from its Pelješac Peninsula to the mainland, bypassing Neum and negating the need to traverse Bosnia while driving the Dalmatian Coast. Though this may ease traffic burdens, it’ll still be worth the detour through Neum for a delicious Bosnian meal on your way north!
Back in Split, we had a final night with our folks. For convenience, we rented the same AirBnB from our previous stay - made the check-in process far easier. And, in some sense, returning to this place had a sensation of coming home.
On our last night, Sergii and Iryna generously took us all to dinner. To embrace the city’s historic look and feel, we found a courtyard restaurant in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, that incredible testament to Roman grandeur.
Over delicious seafood and plenty of wine, we made toasts, reminisced about the trip, and already started talking about the next time we could get everyone together. We’d see Jeanne and Moe in a couple weeks on our return to the States, but we hadn’t settled on a date for our next trip to Ukraine to see Jenna’s parents.
In an unfortunate reminder to seize every moment with loved ones that you possibly can, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has thrown future travel plans in flux. We’ll get back there - hopefully sooner rather than later. But, the war should reinforce the value of time spent with family and friends. Never take these opportunities for granted.
Off to Sibenik and the Goofiness of Pricing Algorithms
After dropping our parents off at the airport, we had to do one nonsensical thing before continuing to Sibenik. When we first rented our car in Zagreb a month-ish prior, we knew we’d ultimately need to return it there, as the two of us had tickets from Zagreb’s airport.
For some odd 0s and 1s, pricing algorithm reason, dropping off the car where we initially rented it was stupid expensive. But, if we “returned” the car in Split then immediately re-rented it for the return to Zagreb, it cut the total cost in half. Even the guy at the desk couldn’t wrap his head around the odd rationale, and he didn’t even take the keys back from Chipp - just had him sign another rental agreement, and we were back on the road.
Located on the shores of a protected bay at the mouth of the Krka River, Sibenik is one of the larger towns on the Dalmatian Coast. Midway between Zadar to the north and Split to the south, we’d wanted to swing by on our way from the former to the latter but ran tight on time.
Initially, the impetus for a visit came during our time in Zagreb touring the Drazen Petrovic museum. Petrovic, near (or at) the pinnacle of Croatia’s basketball pantheon, played for the city’s famous club, KK Sibenik.
With its Byzantine, Venetian, and Hungarian past, we’d quickly realize - famous basketball club or not - that Sibenik’s architectural and cultural beauty more than justifies a visit.
Peka in Sibenik
Sibenik doesn’t actually sit on the Adriatic. The city’s located on a protected bay, and a narrow canal connects this body of water to the open sea. This geography gives the city’s waterfront promenade more of a lakefront feel, something you’d see in New York’s Adirondacks or Finger Lakes.
Parking along the water, we strolled down the promenade and back, checking out the restaurants and cafes dotting this prime real estate. We were famished and, still in “vacation mode,” certainly ready for a drink, too! Peaking at menus as we strolled, we found a spot that offered the one Dalmatian dish we’d yet to try - peka.
Meaning “bell” in Croatian, peka also represents a traditional cooking technique in the area. Rather than roast lamb, beef, or other meats on an open flame, the peka technique calls for slow-cooking them underneath a heavy, bell-shaped lid.
Local connoisseurs of this technique will load marinated meats and vegetables into a pan, place it on hot coals, then cover it with the “bell.” This heavy lid is then liberally topped with coals, as well, creating a 360-degree heat source while still allowing for a hefty amount of smoke infusion.
The results? Mouthwatering deliciousness. Unfortunately, we would’ve had to pre-order lamb peka the day prior, but our restaurant happened to have some veal due to someone else’s canceled order. Not a bad alternative! The peka technique creates a crispy outside and soft, moist inside - all the while letting these tasty meat juices saturate the potatoes, onions, and carrots in the same dish. Amazing.
While the peka absolutely lived up to its hype, one of the more entertaining parts of our Sibenik visit came courtesy the American parents with three little kids at the adjacent table. Clearly frazzled and fed up with their little terrorists, the mom looked like all she wanted in the world was a glass of wine and some silence.
Waiter asks what they want to drink.
Little boy: “I want lemonade, but I don’t want those little things floating in it (i.e. pulp).”
Mom, snapping: “Then you don’t want lemonade! He’ll have water.”
Patience, gone. We felt for her.
Strolling through Sibenik and Relative Modifiers
With full stomachs and quenched thirsts, we bid our American neighbors goodbye (and good luck…). Regrettably, we didn’t have a night planned in Sibenik - just an afternoon exploring - so we got to it.
From our point on the waterfront promenade, the narrow alleys and stairways of the city’s old town steeply make their way to a hilltop. Sitting on the summit, St. Michael’s fortress dominates the seaward and landward approaches to the city.
In addition to its former protective role, St. Michael’s serves as a good don’t-wander-entirely-aimlessly destination when exploring the town. So, we slowly meandered our way up there, stopping along the way at significant buildings highlighted on a local tourist map while also stumbling upon tons of nook-and-cranny courtyards and terraced gardens.
After taking in the stunning views from the St. Michael’s peak, we started our descent to the southeast, roughly parallel to the water. The more direct route we took up from the water’s edge is fairly steep (somewhat winded after our peka- and wine-filled lunch…). The way down, on the other hand, took us the long way through Sibenik’s old town at a far more gradual incline.
What a cool city. It seemed like every courtyard or square held some sort of cafe or restaurant, and modern murals and sculptures popped up all over the place - neat juxtaposition with the centuries-old buildings. And, related to older buildings, it turns out historical is a fairly relative term. Locals began construction on Sibenik’s “New Church” in 1508… When the hell was the old church built!?
We only had two critiques of our time in Sibenik. One, we would’ve loved to spend at least a night there. Two, a few days later, when we were back in Zagreb, Chipp noticed a piece of paper jammed under our car’s windshield wipers. Apparently, we’d been given a parking ticket in Sibenik and hadn’t noticed it driving halfway across the country… Well worth it!