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by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
June 25, 2005
Sedate, quiet, and understated, Trogir is a perfect counterpoint to Split. Indeed, it’s amazing that only Kaštela, the collective name given the former rural fortresses of local nobility (and the towns that have superseded them) divides the two. While Venetian rule left a relatively small imprint on Split, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in 16th-century Italy rather than 21st-century Croatia navigating Trogir’s almost exclusively pedestrianized streets. Although apparently overrun by tour groups in summer, I found it tranquil in March and it apparently is also relatively undisturbed on summer nights.
Trogir’s timelessness comes from its layout, essentially unchanged since its foundation by Greek settlers from Vis in the 3rd century BC, and the near-perfect preservation of its buildings, on account of which it is a UNESCO World Heritage sight. Although it takes barely ten minutes to cross on foot, it’s easy to get pleasantly lost in its narrow lanes, whose combination of preservation and almost manicured decay seems somehow fitting. Besides the garish tourist sign at restaurants along the town’s fringes and near the main square, a very attractively positioned football pitch at the town’s edge seemed to me to be the only thing out of place.
Sights, rather than sensuousness, are what draws the crowds, and if you’re in a hurry, there are several buildings you shouldn’t miss. The most famous is the Cathedral, which dominates the main square. Its renown owes to its West Portal, intricately carved with allegorical scenes by the Slav mastermason Radovan in 1240 and cruelly covered by scaffolding at the time of my visit in 2005. Directly opposite the Portal is the Čipiko Palace, the prettiest of the town’s noble residences and the former seat of one of the most powerful families in provincial Dalmatia. The beautiful 15th-century Town Loggia and its clock tower are on the south side of the square. The Lion of St. Mark (symbolizing Venice), which once adorned it, was blown off by anti-Italian activists 1932 in a relatively pointless gesture: they’re ubiquitous throughout Dalmatia. It’s the only thing amiss in the assemblage.
The attractive Riva is rather touristic by day, but at its west end stands the delightful octagonal Kamarlengo Fortress, where the eponymous Venetian official spent his year’s term. Nearby is Marmont’s Gloriette, a small gazebo built during Austrian by locals to honor Marshal Marmont – the much-beloved Napoleonic governor of the Illyrian provinces. It’s perhaps the world’s only monument honoring a wartime occupier!
From journal Split: Fascinating Gateway to Croatia’s Islands
June 30, 2003
Enter Trogir through the impressive Renaissance-era North Gate, topped by the patron St. Ivan Orsini. The central square is bordered by the Cathedral of St. Lawrence (Crkva sv. Lovre) and the town hall. The cathedral (built from 1213 to 1598) is fronted by the famous Romanesque-style Adam and Eve portal by Master Radovan (1240). Note the curious depiction of the Venetian-style lion with bird-like claws, which makes you wonder if the Croatian Master has ever seen an actual lion. Tour groups are herded through the portal, around the three dim interior naves, and into the Renaissance Chapel of St. John of Trogir (1461-1497), credited to architect Nikola Firentinac. Supposedly you can climb up the tower, but there was scaffolding here during our visit.
Wander through the byzantine alleyways of the old town and soak in the local atmosphere. Cross the bridge to Ciovo Island so you can appreciate the fine overall view of the western flank of Trogir. You will think that you are in Venice if you glance this way, an effect enhanced by the gleaming channel of water here. Stare down into the water to see a wealth of fish, which are caught and served at local restaurants fresh not frozen. Take a picture here with the boats, the palm trees and the lovely buildings in the background. There is also a rocky beach along the far edge of Ciovo.
There are quite a few buses that will take you from Split to Trogir. The best buses start from the main bus depot near the harbor. They may cost slightly more than the local buses (usually every 20 minutes) that shuttle between Split and Trogir, but they are more comfortable and still cheap (under 2 US dollars a ride). You will pass within the vicinity of the ruins of Solin and the main airport of Split on your way to Trogir. On the return journey, go to the bus depot on the "mainland" side and wait for a bus that agrees with you.
From journal Bill in Croatia - SPLIT