Shooting hoops with Drazen Petrovic and Slaying Dragons in Knin

There are some words and phrases which are seemingly difficult to translate from one language to the other and which cause confusion between speakers of the two langauages.

There are some words and phrases which are seemingly difficult to translate from one language to the other and which cause confusion between speakers of the two langauages. This fact was something I was contemplating as I was crawling on my hands and knees over rocks, trying not to look down or thnk about my fear of heights, as we headed towards the first authentic legend of the day on top of a hill outside Sibenik.

“It is just a short hike.” It was anything but.

It was one thing getting to the top to hear the legend, it was quite another to imagine how in the world I was going to get down. This fear could have been a partial explanation of the legend (although it could also have been rakija-induced once again), as a boy looking after a flock of sheep was panicking after losing his sheep, when suddenly there was an apparition of a lady in white carrying a small child, who subsequently disappeared.

I was hoping for a miracle of my own, and it appeared in the form of Jozo, my new hero, who pronounced that he knew of an alternative descent, easier for those with a fear of heights, but still a challenge, and the vertigo party followed his every step with gratitude.

The alternative descent also gave us the best views of the motorway near Sibenik, not that I think this will become a tourist attraction.

It was reasurring to find that the next legend was at sea level, and took place in the very impressive Fortress of St Nicholas in Sibenik, one of several fortresses guarding the town. The fortress is very loosely connected by a rocky causeway.

It is a beautiful and very isolated spot, just the sort of place you might want to stand in the sea and clean mussels, as these two chaps below were doing.

As for the legend, it was our first encounter with witches:

Dobra was married to Jurko who had a mistress, but she was not innocent either, so she seduced a nobleman who fell head over heels in love with her. The talk of the town was that Mrna, her mother and Dobra were scheming with the devil to cast a spell on this nobleman.

They were to be punished for this mischief and subjected to an inquisition from Church for which friar John of Trogir was summoned. The mother and her daughter managed to flee from the dungeon and have been untraceable ever since.

There was some great acting in the dungeons of the fortress, and my favourite part was the punishment meted out to the mother – she had to ride around the town sitting backwards on a donkey and holding its tail. Not that I would like to have seen…

And after days of ancient mythical legends, it was time for a real, modern one. I am not a basketball fan at all and had never been to Sibenik before, but I knew that one could not leave the city without paying tribute to Drazen Petrovic, a true legend of Croatian and world basketball, whose life was tragically cut short in a car accident.

Out guide was about 3 metres tall and with the firmest handshake ever. He also played alongside Petrovic in the Sibenik youth team, and it soon became apparent how much influence and respect the presence of Petrovic continues to have on the club to this day. I like this about Croatia – youth sports have a way of commanding respect and organisation from the younger generation. It is something I first noticed in the devotion children showed who are members of the Jelsa rowing club.

We were allowed to come to the hallowed basketball court where Petrovic made his early name before moving to the States, and there were even a few minutes to ‘shoot some hoops’ as I understand Americans refer to the practice of throwing a basketball into a hoop. My American colleague Mike looked the clear favourite to shoot the most hoops, but it transpired that his major skill was restricted to his ability to spin a ball on one finger. No mean feat, I should add. Star performer from the Touristar team was none other than Miss Ashley Colburn, whose exploits put the rest of us to shame.

An excellent lunch in Sibenik was accompanied with the legend of Sibenik Casanova Johnny, who seemed to spend his life conning women out of their money, and I decided have a siesta rather than take part in the subsequent hike to the canyon at Cikola, as I heard the magical words which sent terror down my spine:

“It is a short hike.”

My colleagues emerged a couple of hours later with tales of vertigo induction which vindicated my decision. A little rest also prepared me for the final event of the day, the legend of the mighty Knin Fortress, the second largest in all Europe, and one I had last visited two weeks ago for Days of Zvonimir.

Zvonimir was king of Croatia back in the 11th Century when Knin was the capital of the kindgom. Two weeks ago Zvonimir had a brunette for a wife, but it seemed he had traded her in for a blonde.

This blonde was quickly cast aside when Ashley turned up…

The setting of Knin Fortress was truly magnificent, the most spectacular setting yet, and with the sun starting to set, the colours were fabulous. As was the acting from the large cast of a legend which involved a fairy, a dragon and a beautiful lady. There was some excellent dragon slaying, and the dragon continues to lie beneath the fortress itself.

And how better to finish a busy day of legends than with a banquest inside Europe’s largest fortress? It truly is a pearl of Croatian tourism, and a great resource which should be better exploited. The banquet itself was excellent and included the most unusual edible plates – made of bread.

A day of vertigo, shooting hoops and slaying dragons – just a regular day filming Legends of Croatia. In the next edition, the final episode in Sibenik country, with highlights including the Dragon’s Eye, the shipwrecking of St John of Trogir, and a farewell pirate party.