by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
June 25, 2005
The Marjan’s most challenging trail begins at its eastern edge (itself a tough uphill walk from the Old Town along Senjska). There’s a small café to catch your breath here, which (along with a free lookout) offers the Peninsula’s best view of the Old Town. Beyond this point, the trail bifurcates. The path to the left offers more attractive views but is completely exposed to the sun (making it unpleasant, even in mid-March!), while the path to the right (which cuts across the spine of the rugged peninsula) is cooler but less scenic and steeper. Personally, I’d recommend walking along the left path as far as the 13th-century St. Nicholas’ Church, beyond which is the last point at which you can cross between the two before heading uphill.
The reward for this climb is the panoramic view from the 175m-high Telegrin, encompassing Split and several offshore islands. The gigantic Croatian flag atop it hints at its historical significance. Despite its status as the highest point near Split, the city’s Venetian rulers left it undefended at their own peril in 1657, allowing the Ottoman Turks to take it and threaten the city itself (hastily improvised reinforcements from nearby islands saved Split). It’s interesting to consider how different Balkan history might have been had this skirmish turned out differently (Especially considering the Turks ruled Bosnia and Hercegovina)!
As if to emphasize Catholic Venice’s victory, continuing farther along either path (the two join about a kilometer beyond Telegrin) presents you with the ramshackle medieval St. Hieronymus’ Chapel, as well as several amazingly well-preserved hermit caves along the sheer rock face. Ironically, the recreation area at Bene Bay, which contains a beach, picnic tables, and some enjoyable woodland trails, is the primary draw for most people passing these ascetic abodes! This area is also served by local bus no. 12, which runs along the road that circles the island close to sea.
The bus passes the Meštrović Gallery en route. Although not well-known abroad, Meštrović (1883-1962) was regarded both during his life (and posthumously) as Yugoslavia’ greatest sculptor. Fittingly, the finest work in this intermittently interesting collection of his work is the stunning "Job," which the deeply religious sculptor also intended to symbolize the country’s suffering (and division) during World War II, which would lay the seeds for its dissolution half a century later. Politics and art aside, the gallery’s greatest charm is its stunningly beautiful location and the view of the sea from its balcony.
From journal Split: Fascinating Gateway to Croatia’s Islands