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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!

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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.

Marjan

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Then we split (hehehehe) and I went to explore the city!

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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

The City

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.

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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.

Hvar

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!

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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.

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Goodbye Split

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Posted by seaskimmer 18:23 Archived in Croatia Tagged history croatia split Comments (0)

An afternoon in Zagreb

Okay, so I stopped at Budapest. When I woke up at 5am to catch my train to Zagreb. I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I went down the previous day with Oz girl to buy tickets. All this because for some reason the bus company doesn't do online ticketing. Even though they say they do. Anyway, I had a heart attack because I couldn't find the right train at first, but later got on and sat near 2 bunches of really loud annoying Americans.

It was a really old train, a little gross, but it got me to my destination. Really cool that we stopped somewhere near the border of Hungary and Croatia, where my passport got stamped twice, first by Hungarian officials and then Croatian. You can check my passport, although there was half an hour between stamping, they put different days! Outgoing was the same day, while incoming the next. Word.

I got to Zagreb before lunch. Found an ATM (everyone was queuing up for the one in plain sight, but there was one right around the corner that no one saw) and withdrew money (then regretted drawing so much), thought about storing my bag in a locker (I didn't have small change, so the cheapskate in me told me just to take my bag around) but didn't. Found the info counter in the station to get a map, and then planned my route. The map I got had two walking paths marked out, Old Town and New Town. Which is what my research told me as well. So I had lunch at a nice place that I'd googled beforehand (I only remember the awesome cabbage-wrapped meat) and then set off on my walk around. I'd tried to get a walking tour, but they don't have big ones in Zagreb. The tour group that I contacted was only having one later in the evening, when of course I'd already be on the bus headed south.

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The newer side of Zagreb is situated on flat ground, while the old side is on a hilly portion. I set out on my combined old-new walk so see as many things as possible. Lots of grandish buildings near the train station (flat side), then as you wind your way up it gets a different sort of grandish? I dunno man. But I did see this REALLY COOL cafe that was Tolkien theme. I sneaked a peek (and a picture) at the menu, see for yourself what they have :) And they were even playing Norah Jones. A+ in my book.

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There's a weird/cool little plaza high up. It's weird because it's still kind of on a incline, so at some points the floor of the plaza is a bit higher than the buildings around it. Kind of feels like being on a floating platform. Lots of touristy but really relaxed bars/pubs/eateries with outdoor seating.

There's also this strange shrine to Mary, supposedly a gate. But basically the road just does a 90 degree turn, the corner is covered by a building with an arch (passageway through the building). On both sides of the passageway, on the pavement, is a built-in shrine, complete with a few pews for people to pray at! And, you know, candles and all that Catholic stuff.

In my wandering around, I happened upon a road under renovation. It was one of the parallel roads running directly up/down the big hill. So standing at the top of it, I could see all the way down. It was so cool, because the other streets were filled with tourists. But no one was here, on this 'ugly' road. So I strolled down it, even down the portions that were obviously only half-finished, had a marvelous time! There were some buildings which normally would have been tourist attractions, like there was a museum there, but I guess they've been sort of put out of business by the renovation.

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Was on my way back to the bus station, and I figured I was slightly ahead of schedule, so I sat down at an ice cream shop and got another hazelnut and pistachio eis :) Slow walk to the bus station initially, but as I realised that the bus station was further than it looked, I obviously had to walk a lot faster. I had time to take a few quick shots of the graffiti on the way to the station, reminded me a bit of the East Berlin Wall. Honestly, very few things are unique in this world, it's just what is better or has been marketed better.

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My bus was an evening bus. It was only when I got there that I realised I'd forgotten to buy dinner. Gahhh. Nonetheless I knew the bus would stop at some point, and then I would get to buy something. I couldn't find the bus, actually. So I went to ask the left luggage guy, because I couldn't read anything so I thought it would be him? But no it wasn't. Anyway I'd already met him the day before because I was trying to find a ticket counter I think. So this time he told me at which stop my bus would be, and then gave me a cup of coffee (the normal small cup from machine kind) that he'd obviously just bought! Haha. I was a bit suspicious, but he'd bought it before I came up to him so ehhh should be fine. What fun things happen along the way!

Waited for my bus with the coffee drained, then when I got on I slept for quite a few hours haha. I think I'm immune. And it was an espresso! I was very sad by the way, because it was already dark when we entered the mountainous regions of Croatia, and my bus heading out of Split would be a night bus :( SADDED.

Anyway, I needed to pee (maybe not immune to other effects of coffee), and tried multiple times to to open the bus toilet door. Each time locked, I guessed that someone was in it. Eventually, I got so desperate that I asked the bus driver if it was actually locked or not. And he said yeah, locked. Then told me to wait a while more. And then I endured the embarrassment of running out to pee while everyone else waited! But whatever right, I was so desperate by then haha.

Bus stopped for dinner. Thought about getting an actual meal, but expensive plus not sure if I had the time. So I just got a sandwich lol. And waited for quite a long time. It was really cold outside, so kept running out to check and then run back in again to the warmth. Remember that at this point I was in shorts, tank, and jacket.

Anyway, I got to Split that night, at maybe 11 plus 12? From the bus station I walked down the beach, where the yachts/boats were pounding out loud music, and people were milling everywhere. Loved the atmosphere! So much of Europe's normal places (not the clubbing places, then again maybe the pier was a clubbing area) are dead past 7pm. I had a hard time finding my hostel, but eventually did manage to find it. Met a Korean girl who was exchanging in Ulm and knew P! Lol. And 2 really nice German girls. And then I was tired and then I slept.

Posted by seaskimmer 18:50 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia zagreb undiscovered Comments (0)

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