This was our second trip to Marjan as a family (Daniel has ridden rental bikes all over the park at this point). The first time we did the road loop around the base and checked out all the beaches and alcoves. This time we went to the closed Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, and Telegrin Peak.
I had read that the Botanical Gardens were in disrepair and nothing to see. This has changed in the past several years. They have been fixing it up, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’m going to want to go all the time now that I’ve been once. I love Botanical Gardens. I visit one everywhere we travel and have traveled to certain places specifically for Botanical Gardens.
The Marjan Botanical Gardens is at 85-150 meters above sea level and is full of Dalmatian and Mediterranean plants on the southern slope of Marjan overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The garden originally opened in 1951 and flourished until 1975 when Professor Petar Matković retired and the staff was cut from five gardeners to one. At that point it started slowly deteriorating. When the Garden was at its peak 2,500 plants grew in two sections and there were 5 greenhouses.
Several years ago a new director was appointed, Assistant Professor Mirko Ruščić, PhD. He has initiated a series of activities to revitalize the garden and renew the plant species. They have cleaned, trimmed, built dry walls, and planted vegetation. The gardens are terraced and as of 2021 had 550 plant species. They are renovating the greenhouses as they get funding. On our trip we saw that one had very recently been renovated to what looked like completion.
The Split Zoo on Marjan hill was closed for our visit, but it has a lovely playground and beautiful views. You can find articles online about the Zoo still having local animals, but we saw no signs of that at the Zoo location. The buildings were dilapidated and looked unused.
The zoo originally opened in 1928 and was always a small zoo at only .65 hectares (1.6 acres). It originally held exotic animals from all over the world, including an elephant. In 2006 the Zoo decided to relocate all of its exotic animals and stop accepting new ones after animal welfare protests on the condition of the animals. From 2006 until 2014 the zoo only held local animals. In 2020 talks started about revitalizing the zoo and having local mediterranean animals again. The zoo animals would produce milk, eggs, and honey, along with educating local children about important animals to the history of Croatia and Dalmatia. It sounds like a lovely experience and I hope they can make it happen in a way that's respectful of the animals and locals.
Telegrin Peak is the highest peak in Marjan. It is 178 meters (578.8 feet) above sea level with a giant stone cross and the Croatian flag sitting at the peak. It takes 314 (pi, ha) stairs to reach the peak. When Napoleon's armies controlled Dalmatia they used the peak for a telegraph because it can be seen for miles around and was a perfect spot for that. In 1900 a white stone cross was erected on Telegrin Peak. Towards the end of the First World War in 1917, Austrian armies removed the cross for strategic reasons so that it would not serve as a target for enemy attacks. In 2013 a new large stone cross was erected.
On this hike around Marjan we had over 3 miles and 44 floors of stairs according to our fitness trackers. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the walk. At times (on the way up to Telegrin) it felt very difficult, but overall it was an easy enough walk with slow inclines, lots of places to rest, and so many breathtaking views. We look forward to our next Marjan adventure and exploring new parts of the park. The McFluffington pups loved all the exploring and all the different things to smell and see.