Expedition to Klis Fortress

My time in Croatia is coming to an end.  I fly home to San Francisco tomorrow, only to begin a new adventure in the Southern Hemisphere next week.

I spent my final week here revisiting a few of my favorite towns.

I began the week in Zadar, a town that offers a little bit of everything – historic buildings, outdoor cafes, seaside promenade, and energetic nightlife.   I stayed again at Apartments Donat, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting. 

In fact, I spent a lot of time in my apartment because the rain continued this week.   It’s definitely been a wet October, the locals say.

I snuck out for a few walks between the storms, enjoyed a glorious sunset while listening to the famous “sea organ,” and splurged on two fancy dinners at top-rated restaurants (Restaurant Bruschetta and Pet Bunara). 

On Tuesday, October 18, I braved the 20-minute walk in the rain to the bus station.  I took a bus to Trogir, about three hours south.  Ivan, and my sail bag, greeted me at the Palace Central Apartments.  I would use this apartment as my home base for my final few days.

The rain had continued all day and on into the evening.  I could only muster enough energy to dash across the narrow cobblestone street into Restaurant Marjia for a plate of spaghetti and salad. 

On Wednesday, the sun finally emerged.  After a morning of shopping and laundry, I decided that I had better take advantage of the weather and knock off another bucket list item:  Klis Fortress (of Game of Thrones fame).  The forecast for the rest of the week was more rain; so this might be my only chance to see the famous fortress.  

Well, what seemed to be a simple excursion turned into quite an expedition.

First, it was a race against time.  I left my apartment at 12:00pm, not knowing whether the fortress closed at 4:00pm or 7:00pm.  I had found conflicting information on the internet.  

Second, I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there.  I could have (and should have) just taken a taxi, especially given my possible time constraint.  But, I like a challenge – and I like saving money – so I decided to take the bus.  I figured I could always get off and take a taxi.

So I hopped on a bus to Split, from where I would then take a second bus to the fortress.  Ugh, the bus I got on was a local bus.  It was SO slow; it seemed to stop on every other block to pick up or drop off people.  At this rate, we would cover the 20 kilometers in 2 hours, not 30 minutes as I had hoped. 

After about an hour, I noticed we were actually passing the road up the mountain to the Klis Fortress.  Maybe I didn’t need to go all the way into Split?  I weighed my options for a few minutes and then hopped off the bus.

I figured I’d find a taxi, or maybe even just walk the 6 km up the hill.  It was now 1:30pm.  Even if it took me 2 hours to walk, I’d still get there by 3:30pm with plenty of light before sunset.  If the Fortress closed at 4:00pm, though, I’d be bummed with my visit cut short.

I started walking. There weren’t any taxis to be seen.  I walked on.

I came to the town of Solina, which marked the beginning of the road to the Klis Fortress.  I found a bus stop and asked a woman which bus would take me up the hill.  “#35,” she said.  A second woman said, “No, no, it’s #36.” 

When bus #36 came, I asked the bus driver.  He said “No. Next bus.” 

Frustrated and confused, I then asked a woman in a snack kiosk.  She actually pulled out a schedule and said, “#22, in about 10 minutes.”  I went back to the bus stop and talked to someone else.  “Yes, #22.  Might be 10 minutes but could be 20 minutes, or an hour.” 

Great, I thought.  After such good luck with buses in Croatia, I couldn’t figure out why this particular trip was so difficult.  If I knew the Fortress closed at 7:00pm, I would have been a lot more patient.  But I didn’t want to come this far, and then get to the Fortress just as it closed, if it closed at 4:00pm.

Just then, I spotted a taxi.  I whistled and waved, and he stopped.  For 100 Kuna (about $15), he took me up the hill to the Fortress.  I took his card in case I needed to call him for a ride back down.

So finally, at 3:00pm, I walked through the giant doors of the Klis Fortress.  (I quickly found out that it closed at 7:00pm, not 4:00pm, thankfully.)  I could finally relax!  I spent nearly 3 hours wandering around the giant structure, exploring every nook and cranny, reading every placard of historical facts.  I enjoyed the view, took a lot of pictures, and sat for a while just to soak it all in. 

As the sun began to set, I started my descent down the 6 km of windy road … on foot.  I could have taken the bus (which was #22 by the way) or called the taxi.  But I thought the walk would be fun and good exercise.   Halfway down, though, I realized that walking down a curvy road with no shoulders, in the dark, was probably not such a good choice.  As cars approached, I would step aside into the drainage ditch to ensure my safety.

I finally got down to Solina, where I got back on the local bus back to Trogir.  I was exhausted.  And starving.  I realized I did the entire day fueled on a coffee and an apple strudel that I had about 10 hours earlier.

The next day, the rain came again.  I didn’t mind.  It justified my long adventure yesterday, and I had a lot to do online anyway to get ready for San Francisco and, ultimately, Fiji and New Zealand.

On Friday, I packed a small bag and took the bus down to Split.  (Not the local bus this time, but a proper ‘coach’ bus that only makes 1 stop, not 100 stops.)  For some reason, I felt compelled to return to Split, where my adventure had begun nearly 10 weeks ago.  I guess it gave me some sense of completion.  

I booked a room at the Grgur Ninski Apartments.  The owner met me there and he was very nice.  The rooms were also very nice.  Brand new.  Again, it was this unique combination of modern rooms outfitted in an 800-year old stone house.  Amazing work.

After walking around town – in particular Diocletian’s Palace - I had a nice dinner at Zinfandel Restaurant, while listening to live music.  The weather was still pretty bad.  Just sprinkling enough to warrant a jacket and to keep crowds away.

The next morning was gloriously sunny though.  I enjoyed a coffee on the famous Riva promenade.  By 12:30pm, I reluctantly made my way to the bus station and headed back to Trogir.

Saying goodbye to Split was a sign that my trip was over.  When I got back to Trogir, it was all about business – packing my bag, checking into my flight, getting a good night’s sleep.

See you soon, San Francisco! 

Exploring inside the walls of the Klis Fortress.

Exploring inside the walls of the Klis Fortress.

Hiking up the series of 3 walls.

Hiking up the series of 3 walls.

I made it!

I made it!

Enjoying the view at sunset.

Enjoying the view at sunset.

The Klis Fortress.

The Klis Fortress.