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November 29th 2019
Published: November 6th 2019
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After spending our last marks on breakfast, some drinks and scarves we hopped in the car and departed Mostar. A little over an hour into the drive we reached the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the final country we’d visit during this trip, Croatia. We had expected the border to be a little busy given there are quite a lot of day trips from Mostar to Split and vice versa, but we were pleasantly surprised when we discovered there was hardly a queue.

From the border crossing we opted to take the slightly longer route via the coast. The first part of our drive in Croatia was through lovely mountainous scenery; the autumn leaves were stunning.

The scenery changed dramatically after we drove through an almost 3km long tunnel through the mountain and out to the coastal road. After we got our first glimpse of the Croatian coastline we understood why it’s such a popular cruise destination; it’s gorgeous. It reminded us a lot of Turkey with steep fairly bare mountains leading directly into the bright blue sea and islands off the coast.

Because of the scenery the drive along the coast was really enjoyable. The road was good but unfortunately there weren’t many safe places to stop outside of towns to take a photo.

A little over three hours after we left Mostar we entered Split. We navigated to our hotel which was near the Diocletian Palace, parked the car and headed to our hotel.

We had a couple of hotels during this trip which didn’t have full time staffed receptions, or any reception, which we haven’t really encountered elsewhere so found a little odd. With the other hotels we’d been asked for our approximate arrival time so they could organise for someone to meet us, but not for this hotel in Split so we assumed it had a reception.

However, when we arrived at the hotel we realised our assumption was wrong; there was no reception. We had a few confusing moments where we weren’t really sure how we were going to get in or contact someone to let us in (given we hadn’t purchased a sim card yet). Fortunately the owner of the hotel appeared not long after we arrived and let us in.

After a brief introduction about the area from the hotel owner we headed back to our car...and the parking fine we’d received as we didn’t have any Croatian kunas to feed the meter when we parked. Turns out the parking inspectors are very aggressive as we’d only been away from the car for about 15 minutes. Fortunately it was only about 16 AUD though.

Once we were back in the car we set off for the airport to return our hire car. We stopped at a bakery near the airport to buy some lunch (byrek, our last one for the trip though we didn’t realise it at the time), before heading into the airport.

The signage about hire car returns wasn’t the best so we ended up in a parking area where the staff member was trying to tell us where to park while we were trying to ask him for directions to the hire car place. Eventually we managed to communicate our message and he stopped aggressively pointing at a car park…

The Europcar booth wasn’t staffed at the time we arrived so we dropped the keys in the key return and then headed out in search of a bus back to Split. There is a shuttle bus which runs every hour but we’d missed that so we headed out to the public bus stop. Fortunately a bus pulled up after we’d waited only a few minutes.

The bus ride back to Split was uneventful and we arrived at the depot after about half an hour. We then had a 10 minute walk from the depot to our hotel, our home for the next four nights.

Split, with a population of approximately 240,000, is the second largest city in Croatia. The city was founded as the Greek colony Aspálathos in the second or third century BC. Eventually the city was taken over by the Romans and, after Salona was abandoned, became its capital in Dalmatia.

Later Split fell to the Byzantines and then came under the rule of the Republic of Venice. It was a heavily fortified autonomous city-state surrounded by Ottoman territory.

In 1797, when Venice fell to Napoleon, the city was passed to the Hapsburg Monarchy. In 1805 it was added to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and in 1806 it was included in the French Empire. It fell back into Hapsburg hands after 1813.

In 1918 after the fall of the Austo-Hungarian empire, the city joined Yugoslavia. During World War II the city was annexed by Italy, then re-occupied by Germany before being liberated in 1944. Following the war it joined Yugoslavia once more and remained a member until 1991 when Croatia seceded in the Croatian War of Independence.

Nowadays Split is a popular stop on the Croatian tourist trail / cruise ship routes. Its popularity as a tourist destination is largely due to the Diocletian Palace and surrounding old town.

After we made it back to our hotel we decided to head out for a walk. We wandered through the old town streets towards the waterfront. The waterfront is really lovely with wide footpaths, lots of restaurants and a nice atmosphere. After walking along the waterfront we headed into Diocletian’s Palace.

Diocletian’s Palace was built for the Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD. It was intended as a retirement residence for Diocletian so is called a palace, however it is more similar to a large fortress than a palace as it not only includes Diocletian’s residence but housing for military. The palace makes up about half of Split’s old town.

The palace is beautiful; the narrow cobble stone streets, central square and four grand gates are very impressive. It reminded us a little of Kotor, possibly because of the similar-ish architecture and shiny cobblestones. The palace was packed with tourists; with multiple tour groups following along behind guides holding a sign / umbrella / water bottle.

We wandered around the streets of the palace for a while before heading into the old town. The old town wasn’t dramatically different from the palace though wasn’t quite as grand and had more squares.

After walking around for a while longer we headed back to the hotel.

At about 5pm we headed to a bar to have a drink. The wine was really nice; much tastier than most of the wine we’d had in Bosnia though not as good as Slovenian wine.

After we finished our drives we set off on the 2.6km walk to a Chinese restaurant in the suburbs of Split. The walk was quite pleasant; there were quite a lot of locals out walking.

The restaurant was huge and empty when we arrived, however that changed pretty quickly after a few tour buses turned up. We ordered two chicken dishes and a broccoli dish as well as some rice.

The food wasn’t as good as the Chinese we’d had in Sarajevo, but was tasty enough. It was nice to have some different flavours (well, flavour full stop). Unsurprisingly we didn’t manage to finish everything as we’d over ordered, but we did our best.

We waddled back to our hotel feeling rather full. The walk probably did us good because by the time we got back to the hotel we weren’t feeling like such pigs.

The following day we had a quiet morning as I wasn’t feeling great. I improved during the morning and after a quick visit to the doctor (where there was no reception and didn’t appear to be any appointment system) and a trip to the pharmacy we headed out for lunch.

Lunch was at a burger place by the water. I ordered a vegetarian burger and Scott had a regular burger in a black bun. We both ordered chips as well. The burgers were really nice; they even had some chilli sauce we could put on them which was nice.

After lunch we both felt really full, but decided to go for a walk through the historical parts of the town again. After strolling around for a while we headed back to the hotel to read our books.

For dinner we decided to continue our search for flavourful food. We tried out a south east Asian restaurant in the old town. Scott ordered a Thai red curry and I ordered pad Thai. Our meals were nice but didn’t have the intensity of flavour usually associated with Thai food. I certainly didn’t regret adding all the chilli on my plate before tasting it to see how hot it was!

The following morning we headed out early to take some photos of the old town and Diocletian’s Palace before the tour groups arrived. The old town was extra lovely at that time of the day as it was nice and quiet.

After exploring the old town we headed to breakfast and then returned to our hotel to read our books for a while.

A little later in the morning we set off for a walk to the Split Marina. It took us about half an hour to reach the centre of the marina. The walk along the waterfront was really nice.

The marina wasn’t as impressive as the one we visited at Tivat, but there were some rather large yachts which are leased for cruises around Croatia. We would nearly have to mortgage our house to afford to rent one for a week!

The marina had lovely views towards Split old town, so after checking out the boats we found a place to sit with a view and relaxed there for a while.

On the way back to the old town from the marina we stopped to lie down on the sun beds which have been installed on the waterfront. I only realised after we got back to the hotel later in the afternoon that I’d been carrying our books around; if only I’d realised it while we were lying on the sun beds!

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon at our hotel reading our books as it was rather rainy. We popped out briefly when there was a bit of a break in the rain to grab some ice cream from an artisan place just across the square from our hotel.

The rain cleared in the evening fortunately. We headed out in search of a Mexican place for dinner which was unfortunately closed as the peak tourist season had ended. Instead we ended up at a lovely restaurant serving Dalmatian style food. We both ordered truffle pasta (Scott’s came with some air dried meat on the side) and shared a salad. We also both ordered a glass of wine. The food was delicious, though the pasta wasn’t very photogenic!

The following morning after breakfast we headed to the bus stop to catch the bus to Klis Fortress. The bus timetable was a little confusing; we realised that the 10:00 shown on the schedule was actually the time it departed the depot. There was a note underneath which we’re fairly sure stated the travel time from the depot to the bus stop we were at. For our route this was half an hour.

The bus turned up at about 10:35. The ride to Klis Fortress took about half an hour.

Klis Fortress is a medieval fortress on the outskirts of Split. It was built by the ancient Illyrian tribe in around the 3rd century BC. It was a stronghold of the Illyrian tribe and then the Romans until 537 AD. It then fell to the Byzantine Empire and later to the Slavs and then the Croats in 620 AD.

In 835 AD it became a royal castle for the Duchy of Croatia and later then Kingdom of Croatia. After the collapse of the Croatian royal family of Trpimirović in the 12th century, the castle was governed by Croatian nobles under the Kingdom of Hungary.

In March 1242 the Tartars, of the Mongol Empire, believed Béla IV of Hungary, the king of Hungary and Croatai, was at Klis Castle so began to attack it. However, due to the natural defences the Tartars had limited success with arrows and spears from horseback. Many were killed when they tried to attack the city by creeping up on foot as the inhabitants pushed large stones onto them. They continued to attack houses surrounding the castle but failed to capture the castle itself.

Because of Klis Fortress’ location, it was an important location for the Ottomans. Because of this there were several attempts to take the fortress, including a siege which was eventually successful.

The Ottomans retained the fortress until 1669 when, after many years of fighting, the Venetians won the fortress. It remained under the Venetian hands until Napoleon extinguished the Venetian republic in 1797. The fortress was later taken by the Austrians and eventually used by the Axis powers during World War II.

In more recent times the fort has been used as a set for Game of Thrones.

After hopping off the bus we walked up the hill to the fortress, paid our entrance fees and ventured in. Much of the fortress is in quite good condition and the view over the countryside below and our to see was lovely.

We wandered around the fortress taking photos for about a bit over an hour before heading back down the hill to wait for the bus. The fortress was well worth the visit; given the vicinity to Split it’s surprising it doesn’t get more visitors but it seems that the government don’t do a great job of advertising all the attractions around Split, I get the impression they’re more focused on the tourists who spend one day in the city checking out Diocletian’s Palace and surrounds.

After about a half hour wait for the bus it arrived and we headed back to Split. We stopped off on the way at a shopping mall just to see what it was like.

Thanks to advertising along the way, we discovered the mall had a Chinese restaurant which we decided to try for lunch. Scott ordered a beef stir fry while I opted for vegetable noodles. Both dishes were actually quite tasty. Certainly made the stop at the mall worthwhile, other than that the mall itself didn’t have much to offer.

From the mall we walked to the maritime museum which took about 20 minutes. The maritime museum wasn’t huge, but had some interesting exhibits. The largest exhibit was on the development of the torpedo, which was partially a Croatian development (a fact they are very proud of!).

After an hour or so at the maritime museum we headed back towards Diocletian’s Palace and the old town in search of a magnet for our collection. We wandered around for quite a while before we finally found one we liked. Many of them were fairly tacky or ugly.

After we bought our magnet we headed back to our hotel to pack our stuff ready for the trip home. We popped out briefly to take a look at some jackets in a nearby shop. We then returned to the shop on the way to dinner and purchased a jacket each.

For dinner we headed to a restaurant in the old town. Scott ordered agnolotti with prawns, cherry tomatoes and cranberries while I opted for ravioli with burnt fig puree, sage butter, pine nuts and vegetables. We shared a salad and each ordered a glass of wine. The food was delicious and while we ate we put together a list of favourites and least favourites from the trip.

We paid for dinner partly with our leftover cash and paid the rest on card; something we felt a little cheeky doing but the waitress assured us it’s really common which left us wondering why we haven’t always done this when trying to get rid of the last of the currency we don’t want to take with us!

The following morning we woke up before 5am so that we could catch a taxi to the airport. Our taxi driver was really friendly; he used to be a civil engineer but decided it was too stressful so became a taxi driver “earning 10% less for 90% less stress”.

We arrived at the airport at about 6am and were checked into our flight by a rather grumpy staff member. After checking in we found the VAT refund office, got our forms stamped and posted them.

The flights home were far less painful than on the way to Europe. No cancelled flights and everything was on time.

We landed in Melbourne at about 6:30pm, cleared immigration, grabbed our bags, cleared quarantine and then caught a taxi to our apartment.

We were welcomed home by two very friendly cats; possibly because they missed us or (more likely) because it was their dinner time!

We had a fantastic trip. We really enjoyed exploring the Balkan region. The scenery was stunning and we really enjoyed the flexibility of having a car as it allowed us to visit areas which would have been very difficult / near impossible to get to without it.

Now it’s time to plan the next trip!



Overall favourite country: Slovenia
Place we'd skip: Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Favourite city: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Least favourite city: Shkoder, Albania (which wasn't that bad!)
Favourite attraction: Kotor Old Town, Montenegro
Attractions we'd skip: Bled Castle, Blagaj, Kravice Falls
Worst part of the trip: getting stranded in Munich
Unexpected good part: train ride from Germany to Slovenia
Funniest moment: realising we were in a 4WD with our neighbours (who we hadn't met in Australia)
Best hotel: Kotor apartment / Split hotel
Worst hotel: smelly room in Kranjska Gora / Jajce / Durmitor National Park

Best food overall: Albania (special mention for Slovenian bread)
Worst food overall: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Best meal: truffle pasta from food tour in Slovenia
Worst meal: Bianca: first dinner in Mostar (plain grilled vegetables), Scott: first dinner in Sarajevo (bland stuffed vegetables)
Best wine: Slovenia
Ingredients we'd like to have in Australia: truffles (reasonably priced)
Ingredient we'll be sad to leave behind: nothing

Best walk: Theth to Valbonë hike
Most steps in a day: 32639 (Theth to Valbonë hike)
Least steps in a day: 4425 (day after Theth to Valbonë hike)
Prettiest drive: Durmitor National Park / all of Slovenia
Scariest drive: the 4WD to Theth, Albania (which wasn't that scary)


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10th November 2019
Diocletian's Palace

Split
We were wondering when another blog would pop up. A nice trip continues.

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