Wednesday, 11 June 2014

falling in love with split

I have always been a firm believer in “If there is a will, there is a way”. I am super stubborn and if I can figure out a way for something to work I will do it. If I can’t it will drive me crazy!

Overlooking Split, Croatia

So when a friend I met on my Turkey tour messaged me and told me that if I could make it to Croatia in 2 weeks time I could join her Sail Croatia trip for free, my first thought was that there could be something to stop me like flight expense or leave from work, but that I had to try. At first glance I was right and it was over £400 return, definitely not in my budget! But then somehow I managed to stumble across an affordable date, get the approval from my boss after she had already left for the day and confirm a place with Sail Croatia.

Cue panic.

Had I missed something vital? Could it really be that easy?!

The only downside was that it was over a weekend where I was supposed to be doing the Edinburgh Half Marathon, a goal I’ve had for a long time. It didn’t take much for me to blow that off for a week of cruising the Dalmatian Coast...

Dalmatian Coast - super clear waters

Looking back at Split

I arrived in Split two days before we were setting sail, so I booked myself into Hostel Apinelo and set about my exploration of the city using the excellent map and information given to me at check in. I love exploring a new city on my  own, just wandering aimlessly soaking it in. Sometimes even when I have been on a trip with other people I will have to have a wander around on my own for a bit or it makes me feel antsy! Split is one of those places where I fell in love with it straight away the more I walked around.

Split is mostly centred around the Diocletian Palace, and my hostel was about a 5 minute walk from there. Diocletian was a Roman Emperor at the turn of the 4th century and had the palace built at Split as his retirement home. It is a “living museum” in the sense that people have built their homes and businesses within the Palace walls.

After a quick trip to see the beaches – clear water but not much sand – I sorted my priorities and got a delicious icecream before getting lost in the tiny streets and nooks within those walls.

Outside Diocletian's Palace

Delicious cheap gelato

Entering the Palace

Tiny streets inside

My best discovery was made when I was completely lost, and happened to hear from 1940s war time style music coming from a bar. I decided to take a look and did something I don’t normally do, sit at the bar and have a pint by myself! I usually have no problem having coffee by myself, but have never been one to go into a bar alone. The bar, Marcvs Marvlvs Spalatensis, turned out to be the brain child of Augustine, or Tine, an expat Argentinean, and I got talking to him about Split and Croatia. He said there are a lot of Kiwi expats there which was interesting. The bar is the birth place of Marcus Marulus, described to me as the “Shakespeare of Croatia” and it has been transformed into a literary pub. Your receipt is given to you in a book, and you can easily go there by yourself and hang out. I want to say it’s the best bar in town, which might be a tad unfair since I didn’t go to any others...

One of the old entrances to the Palace

Cute little streets with out of the way restaurants

Peoples houses within the walls

A pint at the best bar!
After that I went and met a guy from my hostel that I had spoken to earlier and we went to dinner at a place recommended by the hostel and had some fairly good seafood.

First of many beautiful sunsets in Croatia

Mmm calamari
The next day I had decided to do the One Penny Walking Tour. Normally they are free, but it cost 1 euro as the Croatian Government won’t let them offer a free service. My guide was Doris and she was really great. She knew her stuff for sure and the tour took us all over the Palace in about 90 minutes. It was definitely worth it because I wouldn't have known half of what I was looking at otherwise and it really helped me get more of an idea of the place.

More streets inside

The tower added later

Old houses and the tower

Original tiling from Diocletian's time

Standing inside the palace dining room

The marriage area. Perfect acoustics for traditional Dalmatian singing

Houses I would love to live in

Garden overtop one of the gates

Outside the walls
Afterwards I climbed the Tower now built into the Palace and then luck was on my side because I FINALLY found hair ties after two days of searching (note: if you think your hair tie might break get more BEFORE you go, some things are harder to find than you think!) and then I ran into Tine in the street. He took me on another little walking tour up to the gardens overlooking Split and then for delicious food at one of the places the locals eat. It was awesome.

Standing in the  public square

View from the top of the tower

Looking back over Split

After a nap and relaxing on my blog I headed out to walk around the Palace as the sun went down. I ended up back at the same bar, and spent the evening chatting with various patrons as they came in, soaking in the atmosphere and good music before I decided I better head home to get some rest before what would surely be a crazy week!

Musicians playing in the square

The square as the sun went down

Back at the pub!
Split was my favourite place in Croatia, maybe because I really got to spend a bit more time there exploring and discovering some great things about the place. Regardless I would definitely go back!

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