Europe | Croatia | Split – Two Ferrys: Split in the Middle.
It was early morning as the ferry pulled out of Dubrovnik, bound for Split. A mist hung in the air. I procured a bench on a high deck and settled down to watch Dalmatia sail by.
The mist soon cleared and the Adriatic glistened in the sunlight. It’s like someone flooded the Alps. With bare, sheer cliffs on our right we glided inexorably on through pointy or wooded islands. We docked a while at Korcula and Hvar, both of which looked worth a visit. But it was not to be.
As we neared Split my feet began to shuffle. AS there was no hostel, I was going to have to face the sobe women. As the hatch went up I steadied myself. I fought off the first wave and stealthily picked out an ancient looking woman in black with a mousetache who didn’t look so fearsome. I’d planned on haggling but I was struck dumb. 150 kuna (20 euros) a night. Ouch.
When we got to the house there was an almighty row. The old woman and her sixty year old son started laying into each other. Verbally. Obviously I wasn’t good enough. I dumped my stuff in my room (small but comfy) and slipped out to explore.
Easily the highlight of Split is Diocletian’s Palace right slap bang
in the middle of the seafront. It’s been continuously lived in since about 300AD when Roman emperor Diocletian built his summer house here. Probably not with his own hands. Some of it has understandably been built over since, but there’s still lots of Roman bits left standing and they’ve excavated the dungeons. You can sit and sip coffee or a beer in the open square (Peristyle), admire the vestibule, mausoleum and colonnade, and try to work out which is which.
Noted Christian persecutor Diocletian is probably not too happy that his mausoleum is now a heavily accessorised, statue laden cathedral. And I wouldn’t say he’s too impressed with the cheap jewellery, corny prints and cheesy sea shells for sale in his palace either. But in fairness to the present day Christian tenants, one has to earn a crust, and he’s been dead this seventeen hundred odd years.
Apart from the palace there’s not that much to see. Jupiter has a temple here. Ivan Mestrovic’s giant statue of old monk Gregorius of Nin is impressive. There’s a healthy climb and decent view up Marjan Hill. The newer than the palace, but still pretty old streets are a pleasant stroll. Similar to Dubrovnik with their white walls, marble floors and tendency to go nowhere, but not quite the same. Dubrovnik was magical, Split is lived in. And I’ve always preferred magic to real life.
Then on Saturday afternoon around two all the shops closed, the market emptied and everyone went home. Leaving me on my own with nowt to do. I went looking for the internet cafe, but it was shut too. Time to catch up on my reading.
I reckoned if Saturday afternoon was this quiet, Sunday in Split wouldn’t be much fun either. So I decided to risk life and limb in a breakneck charge through the fearsome Dinaric Alps over the murderous rapids of the river Cervina. Or so I hoped.
Unfortunately it didn’t turn out so scary. It seems someone built HEP dams further up the river and that, along with the seasonal drought, meant it was more like rowing than rafting. My arm got sore, while my neck was safe. Still the scenery was magnificent. And our skipper tried to make it as exciting as possible. Which was a bit.
The next day’s ferry to Rijeka wasn’t until 19:15, and I didn’t fancy hanging around Split all day, so I got the bus to Trogir, an island a little down the coast. Trogir is another white walled, red roofed, marble floored seaside town. There’s only so much one traveller can take. I walked around for about half an hour and got back on the bus.
Solin was more interesting. The Romans were here even before Split. These days it’s right in the city’s belching industrial suburbs. And tough to find from the local bus-stop. They should invest in some sign posts. The old Roman towns been deserted this fifteen hundred years, so there’s not much left. But with a bit of imagination you can make out the basilica, baths and amphitheatre. If you block out the quarries and smoking towers in the background.
It’s not that I didn’t like Split, anywhere was going to be a come-down after Dubrovnik. And Split is not as geared to the visitor. For example the market not only sells sunglasses and ‘My friend went to Split and all he got me was this crummy T-shirt’ T-shirts, it’s also got fake Man Utd jerseys, dodgy car stereos and slight seconds gold watches. It’s a real place. Not that I bought anything though.
The sobe house was ok. Only 10 mins walk from the palace, although the area was a bit shady at night. It was tough communicating with the old woman. She shouted a lot and insisted, almost to the point of physical force, that I eat 5 big chunks of hard bread every morning. But we got on ok. Once I saw her smile. She’s very old.
As I was getting on the ferry I saw her again. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, was too busy scavenging to stop and chat. It reminded me of On the Waterfront where Marlon Brando and all the other dockers had to line up each morning and hope they got picked for a day’s work. If they didn’t get picked, they went hungry.
Split to Rijeka is an overnight trip. I wasn’t sure whether to nab a seat in the bar by the TV or to stretch out on deck, especially as BA still have my sleeping bag. It was cold but worth it. The sun went down red and came back up the same, only whiter. Then we were in Rijeka. I didn’t stay long, but that’s another story.