for the entire world
29.07.2014 - 30.07.2014
As I said, I spent the evening on the bus to Split, Croatia, from Zagreb, Croatia. I mentioned that there was a stop in the middle of nowhere where my passport was stamped twice; I found the photo!
It was a long bus ride. From 6pm to 11 or something like that, I mentioned that in the last post. What I forgot to mention was how breathtaking coastal Croatia is at night. Everytime we passed a city, there would be a multitude of pinpricks of light. Where swaths of blackness lay, rested the mythical waters of the Adriatic. And before that, at sunset, the swirling clouds were like blue ink mixed with a yellow water-colour sky. Breathtaking.
I checked in that night, slept. The next morning I woke up and had a measly (free) breakfast of not-nice cereal. Then, if I'm not wrong, I waited a long time for the Korean girl to be finally ready to head out (an hour or something) and then it turns out we weren't even going the same way. Anyway, we arranged to meet at a restaurant for lunch. Meanwhile, I walked over to the north entrance to Marjan, the big hill on the West side of Split.
The receptionist had recommended me to rent a bike from the small stall at the north entrance rather than the one in the city center. Avoiding tourist traps 101. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up and the sky had turned this really ominous grey. There on the coast of the Adriatic, who knows what kind of havoc a storm could cause? The bicycle renter didn't want to rent me a bike I was really really sad. I tried to persuade him to rent me one for just an hour or something but he gave a firm no and sad me was sad. So, determined to explore Marjan, I set off on a long arduous hike up the hill in SLIPPERS.
The north entrance actually makes you go a big round in a coastal path, which obviously I'd been prepared to do if I'd had a bike. But in slippers and on foot it was terrible, I got a blister really quickly. And it wouldn't have made sense to backtrack and try to enter by the middle gate, so I sucked it up and went.
It was nonetheless a really beautiful walk. Just imagine the Adriatic Sea, vast and blue and glittering brightly below a patchy grey and blue sky. Picture the sun, alternately shining in full glory, and backlighting a line of clouds. Feel the salty breeze rushing past your skin and hear it roaring through the trees. Listen to the innumerable invisible cicadas croaking out their songs. Look longingly at the craggy creamy cliffs and wish you had the time, company, and equipment to get on them! Feel your feet begin to ache, and the sweat on your skin dry into a sticky sheen. Worry about the little droplets that are coming down, but push on for the summit anyway!
It took about 2+ hours to get up top. Along the way, I went down to a little rocky outcrop to dip my feet in the cool water. Later on, I found a little house somewhere up there, built into the rock, and a bit higher up was St Jerome's already. I could have tried to go higher, up to the scientific observatory, but I was so tired, and the rain was still threatening to arrive (it was all bark, no bite, really), and I was running out of time. So I went back down.
Got to Fife, a place most people recommend but warn about the crowds. Korean girl was late, but I met this guy from my hostel there, so I went in first with him. We were seated next to a bunch of English speaking dudes, so in total that was 1 NZ, 1 US, 1 Canada, 1 Brit, 1 SG lol. Korean girl came later. I ordered sea bass and white wine yumz, splurgeee only. Food was alright, but it wasn't fantastic. It was just relatively cheap.
Then we split (hehehehe) and I went to explore the city!
HISTORY LESSON yayyyyy <3
4th century BC
Split exists as a Greek colony.
2nd century BC
Romans go crazy with the conquering, establish the Province of Dalmatia (area along the east coast of the Adriatic). Nearby city of Salona is capital, so obviously it is bigger and more important than Split, which doesn't even really appear in records much after Salona booms.
3rd century AD [the only important bit if you don't like history]
Diocletian came to power. As an emperor he brought about much needed stability through many military and economic reforms. He was also the first emperor to establish a tetrarchy (here, 2 Ps plus 2 VPs). He had lots of wars (as befits a Roman emperor) and pushed for one of the most major Christian persecutions of the Roman period. Towards the end of his life/reign, he built a huge (for that time) palace at Split, displacing lots of people in the process. Many strategic reasons exist for the location (safe, good for escape, near Salona, etc) but a museum in Split puts forward the idea that he just wanted a really pretty place to retire to (amen to that, brother). So he did retire there eventually, being the first Roman emperor to abdicate the throne.
And read this dramatic account from wiki: He lived on for three more years, spending his days in his palace gardens. He saw his tetrarchic system fail, torn by the selfish ambitions of his successors. He heard of Maximian's (ex-co-ruler) third claim to the throne, his forced suicide, his damnatio memoriae. In his own palace, statues and portraits of his former companion emperor were torn down and destroyed. Deep in despair and illness, Diocletian may have committed suicide. He died on 3 December 311.
6th century AD
The coastal region of what we now know as Croatia spent the next few centuries changing hands from the Romans to the Ostrogoths to the Romans to the Goths and finally back to the Romans again.
7th century AD
BUT then the crazy Avars come running down, conquering everything left right center. They settle somewhere nice and a bit further away, but their allies, south Slavs called the Croats (yes, names are starting to make sense now), went right on down to the coast. The Salonitans fled Salona and lived on the islands off the mainland. They were so spunky that they would raid the coast, and the Croats were actually afraid to go to the sea! Eventually they surged back, and took Diocletian's palace (a good fortress), with the eventually-unfulfilled aim of retaking Salona. The Croats obviously tried to attack, but the emperor of the time intervened and forced them to live peacefully together.
8th century AD
The Roman empire had long ago split into the east and west portions, so under Byzantine rule, Split became part of the Duchy of the Croats. A distinct Dalmatian language had formed.
10th to 15th centuries AD
Split was again passed like a hot potato (except that everyone wanted the potato) between mainly Byzantine, Venice, and Hungary.
It started off with Split surrendering to Venice to stop the mad naval stuggle between some crazy Croats and Venice for rule over Split. Rome rules again, so Byzantine got Split for about 65 years (after just 20 years of Venetian rule). Rome kind of crumbles at the turn of the millennium so power returns to the Venetians.
That begins close to 300 years of struggle between Venice and Hungary, ending in 1420. I won't go into the details; let's just say that Hungary had higher possession but still managed to lose the game.
16th to 18th centuries AD
That began 377 years of Venetian flourishing. Split was now a big important port and trading city. Culture and the arts boomed. Nonetheless, apart from the aristocracy, illiteracy was rampant.
19th and 20th centuries
I'm not very interested in modern history. There's a whole bunch of stuff about Napolean, Austria, and Yugoslavia, if you're interested. Political lines are drawn and redrawn so many times during this period, with many grand-sounding names of combined kingdoms.
END OF LESSON
Diocletian's palace was built in a rectangle, with high walls surrounding it. Two perpendicular main roads split the complex into four quadrants, each with its own function. As the city expanded, stuff was built outside the fortress walls. As such, Split now is rather sprawling, but with a clear rectangular section highly visible on any map.
Using my map, I just went around and checked out all the places of interest. I walked down pretty much all of those narrow once-white pathways, the stones so well-trod by emperor's horses, and ancient mariners, and tourists, that it was almost completely flat and smooth. The buildings stretched up several stories above, usually leaving the people below in a cool semi-darkness. It was deathly crowded though, it wasn't easy getting anywhere with crowds in those narrow passageways.
Then I had dinner in this place recommended by TN, Trattoria Bajamonte. Had clam and mussel pasta. Then I went to the Peristil and waited for Korean girl. It's this main square, an entrance to Diocletian's palace apparently. There are steps on all four sides, which turns into seating at night. A bar at one of the sides hosts live music there every night, so people always go down to enjoy. And it was really nice, this guy played some chill music, and a few people got up to dance. Korean girl said the previous night was pretty crazy, like a proper dance floor! Bought some fruits at the closing market on the way back.
The next morning I was up early so I could get to Hvar, one of the islands off Split. Took a pretty expensive boat out. (140 kn) But no choice, that was the only way to get there. Had to go early to get tickets because they sell fast. So after I bought my ticket I sat out in the sun and read for a while (I don't remember what I was reading at the time). Then I freaked out cos I couldn't find the boat, but yeah I did in the end.
Hvar was a cleaner, less gritty version of Split. The flat area near the docks and promenade was wide and filled with sunshine. The same white stone, relieved of the age-old dirt of cramped Split, shone brightly like a warm, tropical Gondor. The middle area had low buildings crowded on the steep upslope, with narrow staircases leading up to the top. And at the top, a castle!
I was feeling very poor at that point. I was saving for a good dinner, so I ended up having only like 50 kuna or something for the day. And I wanted to buy this gorgeous postcard and a stamp too. I walked up and down the docks like 3 or 4 times, looking for the cheapest thing to eat lolol. Ended up with 2 slices of pizza for 15 kuna each. Which is actually expensive, at 3 sgd per slice. And bought my postcard, and now I have a postcard from Hvar itself, not even from Split
So I walked up to the castle, but was too poor to pay the entrance fee lol. Which wasn't even that much. But okay, I sat outside, enjoyed the amazing view for 2 hours or something haha. And read. For the life of me I can't remember what it was. Then was pizza lunch.
And I caught the 3pm boat back.
Spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the more modern area of Split, east of the palace. Walked through residential area, saw the entrance to a naval museum (it was closed). Pretty houses on winding roads. Same white stone and green blinds. I should live here, green is soo my colour haha. Attempted to find the place with 'nice graffiti', according the use-it map. Spent ages, but ended up with a bunch of extremely unimpressive scrawling. Ugh. Lame. Shouldn't have bothered.
Had dinner at that other place. It was more of a family atmosphere. There were cute one-seaters at the bar, which was decorated with gorgeous blue swirls. Ordered mussel risotto, then read and sipped white wine while waiting. (oh, I remember! sea biscuit) It was pretty good, the mussels were great but the risotto was a little undercooked. Had a short chat with the Japanese girl sitting next to me. She was on a similar trip but in the opposite direction. Almost all travellers in eastern Europe were just doing eastern Europe. So everyone has a similar route haha, but with minor changes.
Headed back to the hostel to shower, and read and rest up while waiting for my 10pm bus. By right wasn't supposed to shower there since I'd checked out already, but the receptionist was quite nice haha. Then went to the Peristil again to enjoy the music, with my huge bag and all haha. This night had more lively music, so there were more dancers dancing under those yellow lights.
I got to the bus station a little early. But the bus was late, and everyone was freaking out. Eventually it came, but like 45 min late or something. But we were on our way.
I was quite upset that I'd booked a night bus into Spit and a night bus out haha. I never got to see the beautiful Croatian mountains :/ oh well, I saved a lot of time haha.
Split was amazing. Perfect village life, like something out of a fairytale! So chill, so pretty. Just way. too. many. people. Worst time to go. Spoilt it a bit. But it was still nice.