With the rising of a new day we were headed back to the mainland of Croatia, to the city of Split, which is commonly referred to as a ‘gateway to the Adriatic’ and the second biggest city in Croatia. As soon as our catamaran docked we could understand why, every cruise liner and their pet parrot were birthed in the port and suitcases were a traffic hazzard as people ran riot trying to find the correct boat or ship to board. Joel and I, the ‘clear water snobs’ peered with dismay into the sea, which, although still stunning, did not in any way, shape or form resemble the sparkling Adriatic we had become accustomed to. Lucky I sat in the Port at Hvar and bid the aqua spectacular a fond farewell before arriving in Split or I would have felt most ripped off!
Joel had done his research beforehand, and I followed like a handmaiden in pursuit of his coffee, or ‘the bean’ as it is now referred (“it’s not so much about the skill of the barista, although that is important, but it is essential they use a good bean”). Not being a coffee drinker myself, the backpack suddenly felt like bricks, and the sampsonite wheels lost their spinning glory as I followed his vague directions (at best) to cafe Element just outside the Palace walls. Joel promptly ordered a latte and I waited with my fingers crossed under the table begging it to be good. As twitter banter that followed in that moment with our friends Scotty & Sonja & Josh revealed- I have learnt the success to a good marriage… Get a man his acceptable ‘bean’, and he will fill the rest of your day with smiles. As it was so early in the morning, I was hoping this would come to fruition. I got lucky – the coffee was good. Needless to say, this cafe featured heavily throughout our next two days in Split.
So Split itself, we have decided, is good for a pass through. You wouldn’t have it as a feature of your vacation. The beaches were crowded, not near the centre of town, and whilst still beautiful, doesn’t touch the islands in all their undiluted glory. There is a UNESCO world heritage listed site, the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, which has been restored as much as possible, through the various architecture and periods that followed his rule. It is quite remarkable, it is open air and filled with gorgeous cobbled streets, cafes, bars and shops. However the Croats decide that shopping stops at midday on Saturday, and resumes on Monday mornings, so they were not much use to us. The bars outnumber the restaurants 2 to 1 and as a result there were many tucked away gems that you would need weeks to experience. That’s the thing with traveling, you can’t do it all, but you just choose to embrace what you can do. This is a hard concept for me to swallow as I like to do it all. Joel by nature would do less, or not much – so we are a good balance on the road!
Our accommodation was a cute little Villa about a 10min walk up cobblestone streets which locals attempt to get cars down, but I think it is maddness as all they do is reverse and get stuck. We enjoyed this place because it was in the heart of every-day living for the Croats, from men who sit in the streets smoking and playing cards, to small children riding bikes and playing skipping and elastics. There is always the swirl of other languages encompassing us, it is starting to become a little frustrating, as we are so used to understanding what children are shouting to their friends, or overhearing what your neighbour at the cafe is complaining about to their partner. If an American or Brit walks past we love to hear what they are chatting about, as even the TV is Croatian and we are in fear of losing our language… no not really, but we do feel quite uncultured. Thanks Australia! Every European we have met speaks 3 or so languages. Thank goodness English is so widely used, we have found that so far every Croat we have had to correspond with speaks very well in the English tongue. With the exception of an old man in a pizza place in a back Alley who responded to Joel’s request for the menu with “I do NOT speak English, and I don’t WANT to speak English” with much flapping of the hands. We promptly left.
During our stay in Split we accomplished a few things: 1. I successfully mastered the art of hanging our washing out the window with a pulley system, and felt ever so local doing it 2. Joel got his ‘bean’ fill 3. I figured out why everyone says ‘Dobra’, it means ‘well/good’ so can be used as a greeting or expression 4. We solidified our incompetence on the dance floor whilst watching the most talented sea of latin dancers in the Palace square at night 5. Joel mastered driving a car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
We also found out that the rate of pay for Croats is abysmally low and that all young adults still live at home as a result. We find the food relatively cheap to buy, but when we found out that a good salary is 600 euros a month, we were astounded to see any Croatians shopping at all. It also answered why there are no Croats eating out, particularly in touristed areas. It also justified why there are older ladies walking the streets with signs saying “Sobe” which is Croatian for ‘rooms’, desperate for you to stay at their place. We were quite surprised and offered the young girl renting us our bikes a bed in London if she ever makes it there! Croatians don’t usually travel far due to their currency’s weakness against the euro etc. Hopefully things will improve when they join the EU.
Anyway, that’s all for Split. We can’t wait to update you in our next post about Plitvice Lakes!
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