Way back when when my mother was about my age and lived in Hungary, some of her first trips without parents were to Croatia because your options were a bit limited in Eastern Europe at the time. And my mom loved it so much that she speaks nothing but the fondest things about Croatia- the coastline, the mountains, the Mediterranean feel to the place that was unlike anything else she’d seen before. With such an endorsement it seemed a shame to not check out the place after being so close, and I am happy to inform my mother that Croatia is still as magical a place as she remembers it.
My first stop in the country was Split on the Dalmatian coast, which as you could guess from the name is filled with postcards and t-shirts of our favorite spotted canine friends. And because you still need to take a break sometimes even while traveling, my first day was devoted to the beach-
The Adriatic at this time of year is still a bit too cold for swimming, but it didn’t stop some enterprising Croatian guys from hanging out in the water. It was even warm enough for a swimsuit a few hours of the day! I basically spent most of my time happily reading and eating some stuffed olives I bought at the supermarket, when not admiring the scenery in the distance-
Here’s the funny thing about the Dalmatian Coast- most of it doesn’t feel like true ocean at all because there are so many islands off in the distance. In fact it almost felt more like being on a lake, New Hampshire coming to my mind.
Oh yeah, and there are palm trees in Croatia! Yay! Though I found it entertaining that snapdragons were doing growing at the top of this one.
When you’ve had enough of the beach, wandering around Split itself is pretty cool as it is the best example I can think of of actions having consequences far beyond what you initially think. This is because Split is built around the Diocletian Palace built by a Roman emperor of that name in the 4th century A.D., and 200 years later a bunch of refugees took residence in the then-abandoned palace. They then turned the place into a town, which is how an old emperor’s retirement place became the second largest city in Croatia today. The whole thing is remarkably well-preserved still, except you keep noticing that there are now apartments around the old entry vestibule and things like that.
Typical street view in the old part of Split. It’s one of those places that is pretty easy to navigate (keep going until you hit a wall and such) but is hopeless when it comes to finding a specific location again because of all the alleyways and tunnels you continually traverse. I spent many happy hours going around in various states of being lost.
One of the most touristy places in town is this statue, of the tenth century bishop Gregory of Nin. If you look carefully at the bottom of this photo you will notice his toe is shiny, as rubbing it is supposed to bring good luck. Why? Because there was a milkmaid awhile back who discovered she sold all her milk at the market when she rubbed the toe, so this is obviously true. I mean why would it possibly not be true?
And last but not least because we’d known each other for about two weeks by this point and everyone knows two weeks is forever in traveler-time, meet Andrea from Brazil. We first met at the hostel in Pecs and have been traveling along a similar route ever since- sometimes one of us would reach a place earlier, sometimes the other person, but somehow we always ran into each other even if we hadn’t compared details beforehand. And when that someone happens to be an electrical engineer from Brazil who you know you can carry a never-ending conversation with, life on the traveler trail is good.
That is a cheese and olive plate in front of Andrea by the way to go with our wine, the cheese andwine costing us about 100 Croatian kuna (5.5 kuna to 1 USD at this point). Croatia is definitely more expensive than Bosnia was but still not close to Western Europe expensive- if anything, you keep discovering that prices are similar to what you’d expect to pay in the United States. I am sure this will change in a few more years to take a larger toll on the wallet, but for now it is a great place to go to.