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Published: October 1st 2019
Five hours on a comfortable bus took us from Zagreb to Split, through surprisingly diverse landscapes and few towns. The bus had wifi, and stopped for a break at a highway rest station, where we bought freshly made crepes, and coffees..
Split is the second largest city in Croatia, and has a population of 350,000. The transportation hub is on the waterfront: ferries, buses, and a pathetic train station are all clustered there, so it's easy to get around. Split has been settled/controlled by: Greeks, Romans, Venetians, the Byzantines, Napoleon, the Hapsburgs, Austrian Empire, Italy, Germany, and Yugoslavia!
We found our new place fairly easily, but had to haul suitcases up hill from the harbor and back down to the beach area where we are staying for 10 days. Our apartment is on the ground floor, but really is between the ground and first floor...lots of greenery out the windows, and we have a balcony with windows that slide open. We can walk to the beach in five minutes, and the historic center, buses and ferries in fifteen minutes. The area is fairly quiet, considering how close it is to the beach/bar area. It is about half the price
of some of the others we were looking at...a great value!
We spent our first afternoon here shopping for groceries, and then sitting in a cafe by the beach and swimming (Lynn). We went into the center on Saturday, and found it jammed with people, since there was a giant cruise ship in harbor. We spent more time in the water and at cafes, and then headed for the island Hvar on Sunday via ferry. (I will do a later blog on the islands.)
The water here is pristine...amazing for beaches right in a large city. I actually checked on the water quality out of curiosity! There are few sand beaches, but that's fine as I've come to prefer the concrete ones with ladders into deep water.
The waitstaff in almost every restaurant have been charming and friendly, not what you usually expect in such heavily touristed areas. The waiter in our favorite waterfront cafe/bar was working his last shift on Monday; university classes start tomorrow and he's studying economics. We had a long chat about Chinese tourism with the waiter in the excellent restaurant down the block from us.
An enjoyable part of traveling is
chatting with people as we meet: most recently a couples from Northern England on a long cruise and a couple from near Byron Bay in Australia who are driving to Dubrovnik and then flying to Bangkok before returning home, and a older woman from Kona, Hawaii who was married to a Croatian (now deceased) and lived on Hvar until recently.
On Monday, we found the beach area to be much quieter, but the historic center was still jammed with tour groups, making it close to impossible to walk around, so we stayed on the outside edges. Another cruise ship is in harbor. Because we were walking around the edges, we found the Republic Square with nice cafes and restaurants and a cool breeze.
We also ran into the Croatian woman who was hitch-hiking from Milna yesterday (we also got a ride from the Swedish couple who stopped to pick her up). She was going to get a haircut, and we tagged along, since we both needed a salon visit: Bill for a haircut and Lynn for a color touch-up. The stylist didn't speak much English, but we took a risk and set up an appointment for an hour
later. It worked out well as the photos attest! The salon was on a tiny side street in the medieval part of Split right outside the palace walls, with mostly locals living and working there. The decor in the one chair salon was minimal: a no smoking sign, escape route poster, a few chairs and lots of fashion magazines. But there was a collage on the wall, made of photos cut from magazines, and creating the face of a woman. To one side was a photo of Melania Trump...I commented on it, and only got a "yes, Melania" as a response.
We plan on visiting another island on Tuesday, and then going to museums and visiting the Palace area in depth on Wednesday and Thursday, since it will be rainy and there will no cruise ships in harbor!
I will also post a separate blog on the Palace, since the history is interesting, but complicated.
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