A walk on the wild side

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MichaelJM on July 11, 2013

When we finally got established in our studio apartment in Split we decided that we’d investigate the nearby Marjam Forest Park. It was literally at the top of the road, a less than ten minute walk away. We made the steady climb up to the entrance, but just before the entrance we stopped off to take some photos of the great view across Split and its immediate environs. The Marjan Forest Park is a public park and entrance is free although I guess many tourists would happily pay a small entrance fee just for the great views across the Adriatic Sea.

I have to confess that I was quite grateful for the fact that there were plenty of seats on route, because the climb to the top is quite steep and it’s not until you’re right at the top that there’s any level ground to walk on. There’s a wide range of cacti and other succulents and it’s clear that these have all been left to grow naturally. Indeed there’s very little sign of active gardening!

Apparently in the 1950s the Federal Government and the local Split authorities started a project to transform the wild Marjam hill into a forest park. Up to this time large sections of the hill were barren and the intensive forestation must have been impressive. Alongside the gardening work the authorities built recreational facilities, the City Zoo, botanical gardens, look out points and a city promenade to Diocletian’s Palace. Now all of that sounds very grand and I guess in its heyday the park was a great place for people to go. Unfortunately, the project seems to have been "let go of" and much has fallen in to disrepair.

Even so we enjoyed our stroll around the rampant gardens and it was still possible to recognise the form and structure of the plantings and how it must have looked in the 1950’s and 60’s. There was a small church in the grounds and although it was closed it looked very typical of the small village churches that we’d see on our tour of Croatia. It was a basic, utilitarian place of worship with very few "trimmings" inside but had a prime place set on a wide promenade and commanding a few across to Split main-town.

As we wandered the grounds we saw a sign which we interpreted as botanical gardens and as the gate was open we thought we’d poke our heads round to investigate. It was deserted and it soon became clear that these also have been sadly neglected. The plantings beds that were once well ordered and free of weeds were now over-grown and leaning towards the wild side of planting. However it was still possible to see the order that once would have been. The grand greenhouses were only partially glazed and were obviously not in use. But then, inexplicably, some part of the garden seemed to be neat and well tended. But the stars of the show were the plethora of butterflies and the vibrant flowers that poked through the overgrown ground cover. They remain a living testament to nature’s persistency.

What was noticeable as we wended our way around the park was the strident smell of the planted pine trees. In some sections it was almost overpowering whilst in others it had a much more subtle impact on our olfactory organs. We passed a crude but effective wooden sundial and it was almost spot on time!

At the summit it looked like things were much more ordered, with well-tended grass, a band-stand and right in the corner the Split Town Zoo. We gave it a quick glance but didn’t venture in. I just suspected that it might be in no better order than the Botanical Gardens. After checking out some of the statues and modern installations (some I think were complex climbing frames) we made our way back down to our apartment on a walk way that would take us back towards the harbour and Split’s famous Diocletian’s Palace (more of that in a separate review).

Now I wouldn’t go out my way to visit the Forest Park but if you’re in walking distance it’s well worth taking a stroll if only for the fantastic views across the Adriatic and Split town.
Marjan Forest Park

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