This is the place where sea, sun and sand romance the old tales of kings and queens, fairies and magical journeys. Make it part of your own.
Nin might seem like just a small town with a population of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants, but with 3,000 years of history it is no less than a city. It is actually Croatia’s oldest royal city. Its history started with the Liburni people who founded their settlement on a small island within a shallow lagoon. It became a Roman municipium on the turn of the eras more than 2,000 years ago, and was then destroyed at the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire to return as the capital of the emerging new, Croatian state in the 9th century. The date of June 7th is celebrated as the Day of City of Nin as well as the Day of Croatian Diplomacy, as on this date in 879 Pope John VIII sent three letters to Nin acknowledging the Croatian Duke Branimir as the rightful ruler of the Croatian people. As Croatia become a kingdom, local legend says that no less than seven Croatian Kings were crowned here. No wonder one of the sandy beaches is called Queen’s Beach – for what is a man without his ‘better half’?
The Tourist Board Nin, esspecially its Manager, Marija Dejanović, is very proud of the rich local heritage and has been working very hard to present and interpret this heritage, both natural and cultural, for visitors as well as members of local communities. They organise many festivals and events to engage people directly with the culture and local customs.
Unfortunately, most of the historical city was ruined in 1646 but remnants of its walls are still quite visible, unlike the sand castles built on the beach during the summer ‘Festival of Sand – Magic that occurs and disappears’; they last only few days and – if you are not here to see them, or perhaps even build them – they are quickly gone, but it is thrilling for people to be a king or queen of their castle for a few hours.
A local notary, Petar Zoranić, wrote in 1536 Croatia’s very first novel, ‘Planine’ (The Mountains), inspired by the views from Nin. It is a tale of adventure through the mountains of Dalmatia, across the rivers, and along the North Dalmatian coast where the main character gets his broken heart healed by fairies, only to task him with registering the language, culture and history of his people. The novel is the author’s physical but also spiritual journey through the natural and cultural wonders around the wider Nin area, which today includes two national parks, a nature park, and two cities with monuments on UNESCO lists). Perhaps this novel also even helped Nin to be elected among Europe’s most romantic destinations in 2015. The Tourist Board Nin offers free-of-charge living history experiences a couple of times each year in which visitors have a chance to explore Nin accommpanied by no other than Petar Zoranić himself (aka me!) and/or by a fairy that incited him to write.
The heritage of Nin has been steadily explored and appreciated since the 19th century when the first archaeological collection was displayed in the unique church of the Holy Cross. The church, dubbed ‘The World’s smallest cathedral’ by Thomas Graham Jackson, was never a cathedral but is still today a wonder, shedding light on the architecture of the 9th century. The ‘Festival of Light’ helps visitors to discover the centuries-old secrets held within these church walls.
The artefacts found in Nin are on display in the Museum of Nin Antiquities and also in the Archaeological Museum in Zadar, but some have been lost a long time ago to foreign private collections. If you are reading this with a grain of salt, visit Nin and think no more of it – Nin will offer you the Flower of Salt from its saltpans that harvest the salt from the sea using methods unchanged for the past 3,000 years. All the efforts of the Tourist Board Nin have inspired others to get involved and now the saltpans offer several free-of-charge interpretational tours that include flora, fauna and of couse production/ harvesting of salt. The free tours are showcase the possibilities of local heritage and also aim to promote these experiences and draw more paid participants and thus support the local communites. Local tourist guides besides the living history tours mentioned (Petar Zoranić, fairies, Roman Soldier) also offer a ‘Treasure Hunt through Nin’ where you follow in the footsteps of kings and queens to learn more about Nin.
Nin will welcome you whether you are a single traveller, a couple, a family with children or part of a larger party – because it has a thousand stories to tell and a magical journey like the one described by Petar Zoranić awaits you.
Ivica Škriljevečki is a licensed tourist guide in Zadar, Croatia. He has recently become a member of Interpret Europe with an affinity to work as a live interpreter. You can get in touch with him at: [email protected].
To cite this article: Škriljevečki, Ivica (2021) ‘Nin – A city with a thousand stories to tell’ in Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2021, 30-31.