I’m skipping right over Rome (not that it wasn’t fabulous, I had a great time) and going straight to writing about Split. I loved it here and full disclosure: more than once I considered missing my flight and staying here forever.
For the first time in all of my travels, I really felt like I was on holiday. I suppose I mean holiday (or vacation) in the most cliché sense of the word, the sense that conjures up images of palm trees, Panama hats, and white sand beaches disappearing into the turquoise sea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to all of those things – I did live in the Caribbean for a spell – but there was just something luxurious about Split.
The city sits on the coast of the Adriatic Sea around the UNESCO Heritage Site called known as Diocletian’s Palace. The fortified city was built in the 4th century by Roman conqueror Diocletian and had up to 9000 inhabitants. Within the Palace walls you’ll walk on original Roman floors and see how much thought went into the original palace, from the grandest Egyptian red granite columns to the smallest basketweave motif around the doors (a design eventually adopted by Christianity and replicated on churches and basilicas).
I stayed at the Silver Gate Hostel on the corner of the main shopping promenade. Every morning I left the hostel, I was immediately greeted by the sea and harbour lined with boats, ferries, and huge yachts. What made the place seem so lavish was all of the white: white tiles on the ground, whitewashed walls with multi-coloured shutters, white granite and limestone, pillars. It all just made it seem like the sun was shining brighter, the Adriatic was even bluer, and the terracotta tiles were… even more terracotta-coloured.
That brings me to the beaches… Oh, the beaches! I’ve written before about why I prefer going to rivers and waterfalls instead of the beach, but Split made me forget about all of that. On my second to last day, I took the bus over to Bene beach (Bus #12, 18 kuna for a return) and I had no idea what to expect. This beach doesn’t have any sand – it’s lined with strongly scented pine trees where cicadas buzz all day long. Even though Bene was a bit farther out than Sustipan, I preferred the latter. For two days, I just lay my pareo down on the rocks under the shade of the trees and dove into the clear, blue sea when I got too hot.
Of course, I have to talk about the food. After eating my way around Barcelona with Tom and joining the Eating Italy Food Tour in Rome, I didn’t need to have a foodie experience in Split. The fact that I enjoyed eating so much was just icing on an already delectable cake. Croatian food is an interesting medley of a variety of cuisines: I noted a lot of pasta, meat stews, and seafood.
The first restaurant I ate at was Trattoria Tinel and it was a great introduction to the seafood side of Croatian cuisine. I had a black cuttlefish risotto – a rich dish with fresh seafood. There, I had a two-course meal in a quiet covered patio with wine (yes!) and a coffee for 120 kuna (£12) – hello!
Next up, a few people had recommended Buffet Fife because they serve local food at good prices. After a walking tour, I joined two girls from the group for dinner. The tour guide recommended the traditional Dalmatian dish pašticada – stewed beef served with gnocchi on the side. While the gnocchi made it a bit heavy, the sauce paired well with it and the beef was so tender it fell apart. I shared the pašticada with one girl (it was more than enough) and added a glass of wine. Total for this meal served on the patio overlooking the harbour? 45 kuna (£4.50).
The Bottom Line
I loved Split. I raved to everyone who would listen about how utterly fabulous it is. I was expecting Jay Z and Beyonce to show up on a yacht at some point. Despite the fact that it’s quite touristy (with a combination of backpackers, festival goers, families, and couples) I didn’t feel that irritating, large-scale desperation to get tourist money that I always get in places like Rome, Paris, and Barcelona.
People were friendly and welcoming, and I had no problems communicating in English (this isn’t a requirement for me to like a place – I do try to learn a few phrases wherever I go) and it was a surprise after the struggles I had in Rome.
The only thing I can say is that I wish Tom had joined me on this leg of the trip instead – Split is a surprisingly romantic city!