Šibenik, steeped in history, lies along the Dalmation coast in Croatia. This beautiful town of stones is personal to us because it is the origins of the Polo family. Marco Polo’s father, Niccolo and his mother, along with his aunts and uncles including Maffeo came from here. And it is the place where our great, great grandfather and his family came from. We were excited to go there.
As we sat on the bus, we soaked in the beautiful Dalmatian coastline and quaint little towns along its shoreline.
Marina and I got on the bus, after being cradled by our family in Slovenia. We felt so loved, so we thought nothing about going to Šibenik without a reservation or at least an idea where we were going to stay. We hugged Tamara goodbye (she drove us to Rijeka, and literally put us on the bus). The long ride was filled with separation anxiety as we looked back on how blessed we had been to be given this opportunity to see our friends and relatives after a lifetime between us.
When we got off the bus, with our large suitcases in Šibenik, we looked at each other as in “oh no” now what. Reality sat in quick. We decided to walk along the promenade at sunset and try the free internet. But it was not working so well. Luckily we stumbled upon the Visitors Centre, where luck would have it, we met the most amazing lady who rents out rooms to tourists. She helped us with the luggage and walked with us to her place. We felt blessed again. We found this really cozy accommodation that was very affordable and in the edge of Old Town. She even bought us coffee and gave us pointers as in what to see and do.
In the morning it was exploring time. The town is absolutely breathtaking with its narrow streets and pathways and its stone buildings. It is built up on a hill, so everything is a climb. It is protected by four fortresses on each side: the Fortress of St. Nicholas, St. Michael, St. John and the Šubićevac Fortress. We visited the cemetery and the fortress of St Michael.
During the time of Niccolo and Maffeo Polo, this was under Venetian rule, and the real Game of Thrones was fought here. Established in the 9th century by the Croats, being a harbor town, which connects to the open sea via St. Anthony Strait, this town was an active trading hub. At the entrance into the Strait stands the mighty fortress of St. Nicholas, the most important fortress on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. There were many wars fought for Šibenik by the Croatians, Byzantines, Venetians, Bosnians, Hercegovinans, and Hungarians. The longest being the Venetian rule, whose imprint clearly permeates this town. It is no wonder they film GAME OF THRONES the TV series here. It doubles as Braavos.
There were many ancient churches and sites to discover and we couldn’t get enough.
One of the oldest churches we discovered was from the St. Krševan (Grisogonus) built in 12th century. That means Marco Polo’s father, mother, uncle and ancestors would have attended here. Built in Romanesque style, this church was in use until World War II.
UNESCO World Heritage Site , Cathedral of St James is a marvel of architecture that was begun by Venetian builders in 1431, then by Dalmatian master-builder, Juraj Dalmatinac who introduced Gothic elements to it. He spent his entire life building it, and finally by Nikola Firentinac , a renaissance sculptor from Florence, Italy. It opened in 1536.
The cathedral is built entirely of stone. It uses structures of stone slabs and ribs, built without using any binding materials. You might recognize it from the TV series Game of Thrones. Its façade was the temple of the God of Many Faces.
As we sat in one of the many seaside restaurants feasting on the local fare, we reflected on its rich history, our place in it, and how over the centuries this town stood proud and tall, protecting its treasures. We felt connected through time.
Here in Šibenik, the same sun warms Adriane’s face that warmed the Polo’s faces over 800 years ago.