I can honestly say I welcomed the rising sun this morning. Waking up being surrounded by glass in total privacy the warm sun lit up the sea view with Primosten in the distance. Waking up this morning was no chore.
With another day of scorching sun forecast I took the opportunity to get up for 8am and jog the couple of kilometres down to Primosten. Even at this time the sun was sweltering, but offset by a stiff, yet warm sea breeze. The path to Primosten cut into the cliff face made the run incredibly pretty . With no sounds other than the gravel beneath my feet and the sea lapping on the shore it was bliss. The trees framed fishermen getting ready to leave and early morning swimmers taking advantage of the peace. Stepping off the track into Primosten harbour was equally stunning. The church and its surrounding buildings cascaded upwards and into the distance. If it were possible to create the idyllic postcard town, then I’m sure it’d be modelled on Primosten. Exploring the town itself would have to wait for another day, but I welcomed the scenic run back, if only for the cold shower at the end.
I’m now sat here writing as the sun sets down over Primosten with a bottle of Croatian beer. Despite describing itself as majestic, it does in fact taste like pond water.
Today we took advantage of the sun to head to the Krka National Park, specifically Skradinski Buk. Much less advertised than the Plitvice National Park, we were expecting a small, intimate and beautiful place without the large crowds Plitvice drew.
We headed on the scenic drive to Skradin weaving through the mountains. As we arrived in Skradin I was immediately underwhelmed. All I could see was flip-flop toting tourists walking in the middle of the road as locals tried to con cars into their overpriced back garden car parks. Lining the marina were American fast food bars with swarms of sock-and-sandal wearing or bandana and backpack ‘worldies’ crowding around them.
We turned around and headed back to the serene mountains and found somewhere quiet (and free) to park. After walking back to the bustling din on Skradin’s marina we purchased our National Park tickets and boarded a giant three hundred person yacht.
The journey down the river was nice, if a little spoilt by noisy American’s and smelly French sat uncomfortably close.
Twenty minutes later, after disembarking and fighting through a crowd elbowing each other to get on the boat of which we’d just disembarked my heart sank. We’d left the tourist frying pan and jumped straight into the tourist fire. We were greeted by the sight that had obviously made Krka so popular. The cascading falls loomed, elegant and powerful. However in their way lay ice-cream and drink vendors with a crowd jostling to get to the front of the queue and the falls pool full of people. The start of the trail was so busy we couldn’t even step onto the bridge for all the people.
As we walked along the two kilometre trail backwards, I feel almost ungrateful to say it wasn’t enjoyable. All the foliage had been left in tact, obscuring every view, yet the huge wooden walkway meant it was impossible to poke your head around to see what was beyond. It was also teeming with people. All I really saw on that walk was women pouring out of bikinis and men in shorts hiding absolutely nothing. Okay, they’re both things I wouldn’t have seen back home in the UK, but it wasn’t quite as magical as I’d imagined. I think Krka would have been absolutely beautiful at one point and the main falls still were. But overcrowding had stripped it of enjoyment and serenity. I’m certainly glad I went, but I have no desire to return.
As I swam around the lower pools I did reclaim some of the adventure I felt I deserved at Krka. Swimming through schools of fish and feeling the spray of the waterfall. Whilst that did redeem it somewhat the overall experience still wasn’t as I expected. I do feel spoilt and ungrateful for saying it. After all, it isn’t my national park to decide who I do and don’t share it with, but I left Krka’s waterfalls feeling disappointed and empty.
When we arrived back in Skradin I was tired and ready to go home. But for whatever reason, both Alex and I decided to head into the village itself up a small back alley. This turned out to be the best decision of the day. As I maintain, as soon as you head off the beaten track, the childish sense of unknown and adventure we all crave returns. This is the reason we travel, the escapism from modern life and as we stepped from the modern marina into the Roman settlement of Skradin, that sense of escapism rushed over us like a wave.
We meandered through the streets, a mix of abandoned houses and small shops, the afternoon sun gently bathing them in its golden light. From the main square we stepped into an open church, still with bullet holes in the wall and the air felt thick inside. Perhaps it was just the damp coolness that the cavernous space provided, but both Alex and I agreed the air felt haunted, for want of a better word. It felt oppressive and depressive, as if the entire weight of the church was pressing down on you. It was only after leaving that we noticed the bullet holes in the wall. Whilst I know nothing of the history of Skradin I can’t help but think something must’ve happened here. [It turns out Skradin was one of the Ottoman empires most significant religious sites]. Maybe it was psychosomatic, but I’m not the superstitious type and as I stood in the doorway it was like something I have never known. I dared not step in, but retracted into the warmth of the sun-bathed courtyard.
Finally before leaving Skradin we saw a sign to a Roman fort, followed by a long steep set of steps. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt on our travels, its that the generally the more inaccessible and miserable the journey, the more tranquil, beautiful and special a place the destination is. We were eventually greeted with a fort perched on the hill with a breath-taking vista. The entire lake, town and surrounding mountains were on show. Only 15 minutes off the well trodden tourist polluted trail we’d found our own scenic, tranquil spot of Croatian paradise.
We left Skradin satisfied and content, ready to relax in our apartment watching the sun disappear over the horizon before drifting off to sleep ready for another day of exploring, hopefully without a crowd to swim through.