A small city somewhere at the Croatian coast. Small and untouched. Signals of the history mark Sibenik. I find wells, artworks, churches that have been built throughout centuries and long, small streets. Hundreds of long, small streets. Sibenik is an unexpected surprise for me. A small moment of happiness gets me when I walk into the city. High walls, high stairs and silence. An intense silence. I wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.
It’s hard for me to write about Sibenik. For me this feels like a small gem of Croatia. For hours I walk around without seeing many people. Hours I’m walking around listening to the silence of the city. Hours I’m walking around without seeing tourists. I sincerely hope this city will never know mass tourism. A small, pure city like this needs to stay small and pure.
Built under the regime of the Venetian Republic you’ll quickly find yourself in a small piece of Italy. The buildings, the windows with their wooden window frames, the colored doors and the stairs quickly remind me of Venice itself. I quickly noticed Sibenik looks a lot like Italy, even long before finding out this wasn’t even such a crazy thought.
I walk through the city and take in all the streets I find. Bliss. While they all look quite alike they all have their own charms. The streets all go up to the citadel that watches over the city. Over and over I find myself in a different part of the city. Some paths bring me to hidden gardens, some paths bring me higher up in the city and some paths take me to squares and blind alleys. I keep thinking I’m getting lost, which looks like an easy task, but someone tells me this is pretty much impossible as every staircase brings you back to the ocean – a small detail of the design of the city.
I find my hotel in the middle of the city, at one of the bigger squares of Sibenik. When I open the doors to my room I’m having another moment of happiness. The windows of my room provide me with a view over the square, and my bed literally looks like heaven. The receptionist of my hotel tells me about the history of the hotel and the building, about which I ask seeing the name of the hotel (Heritage Hotel Life Palace). She points out some of the details to me. Details like old mural paintings and wooden, decorated beams and tells me about the history of the palace. Her hospitality is similar to the hospitality of every other Croat I’ve talked to so far. They are all equally happy to help you and to tell you about ‘their Croatia’.
When I walk out of the old town of Sibenik I find myself back at a beach, close to the city. A beach from out where I have the most iconic view over Sibenik. I can now clearly see the city wall that surrounds the old part of the city, the stairs that lead from the citadel back to the ocean and I can see the harbor. The beach on which I find myself is ‘built’ to give a little something extra to the city. It worked. Around me I see residents of the city walking their dogs, I see women pushing their strollers through the loose sand and I see young and older Croatians laugh and enjoying the weather at a terrace.
I join them on the terrace, put on my sunglasses for one of the first times this year and order a drink. Sibenik lies next to me, the glistering sea in front of me. For hours I look around me and enjoy the small beach, even while it is still too cold to swim myself.
When the sun sets I walk back to the old town of Sibenik. I can’t remember which streets I’ve seen already and which not, so I walk through them all again. Somewhere in the city I drink a wine on a terrace, somewhere else I order an ice-cream and somewhere else I take place on a bench, from which I do what I love to do most: taking in my surroundings.