I arrived in Split refreshed from my overnight on the train in my own compartment. It was a short walk from the train station to the old part of town, the Diocletian Palace. In Split, I saw my first group of pension touts. People were holding up signs advertising rooms for $10-15 Euros. I had already booked my hostel room and located it on the map. To get there, I walked through part of the market and then entered the palace zone through the Silver Gate. I immediately was popped back in time as I slid over the smooth worn marble pathways. I deliberately skidded my feet to feel how smooth they were.
I found my hostel in a narrow back alley and walked up the four flights of marble stairs. I was able to check in early as my bed was available. I used the wifi to catch up on mail and do some research on the area. Adam from the hotel gave me a map and orientation and I set out to explore. I walked right into a walking tour for two. Our guide was very enthusiastic and pointed out where parts of the palace have been rebuilt overtime. In some buildings you can see windows from Roman, renaisance and gothic periods, all in a row, one on top the other. What was amazing to me was the oldest windows were on top and the newer ones on the bottom.
So who was Diocletian? A roman emperor, who actually governed well for 20 years and then retired from office….instead of being assasinated. He built the palace that is Split as his retirement home. The palace has been ruined and rebuilt and has been continuouslu occupied since the 4th century.
The old part of town is full of narrow twisting alleys. One alley is so narrow that two people can’t pass each other, so the name of the street is “Let me Pass”.
So I really liked my hostel. They introduced guest to each other and organized dinner out. Aside from Prague, this was the only place that really seemed geared to individual travelers. I got to know several of them and was able to exchange reviews and recommendations. The owner was a lot of fun and spoke English excellently. She has traveled herself and knew what travelers like. On my second afternoon, Adam gave us a short walking tour pointing out good places to eat and drink. He also pointed out the big bronze wizard just outside the north, Gold Gate of the palace. We all rubbed his big toe for luck. His toe is shiny gold while the rest of him is a deep vertigri green. What was unexpected was the nail polish on the rest of his toe nails. Kids!!!
Split is kind of small and I was able to see most of it in about a day and a half. I visited the ethnographic museum and the Vestibul where the Klappa signers were performing. Klappa is Dalmation folk singing, sort of an acapella harmonizing. I got their CD on one pass through. The next day I stopped by and there was a school group there of 9-10 year old and they were signing along with the group. Very touching. Because the palace area is small, I had plenty of time to sit in the old square and the sea promenade to people watch. It was very relaxing. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze to keep it from being too hot.
The second night I was there happened to be the second anniversary of the hostel’s opening so a group of us went out for dinner and then drinks at their local pub. It had been since Prague that I had as much socializing and intelligent conversation. At the pub, I got to meet Baca, a huge chocolate brown lab mix. He had to be the mellowest dog ever. Someone had tied a balloon around his tail and he wasn’t bothered a bit. Of course all the beer he was drinking might have had something to do with it.
One of the guys in my room had just come from Italy on the ferry and after quizzing him, I decided that instead of backtracking to Zagreb, I would take the night ferry across to Ancona and then the train to Rome. I picked up my tickets and then scoped out the ferry building so I would know how long it took to get to the embarcation spot. I also induldged by getting my laundry done for me. Instead of sweating in the laundry. I got to people watch and throw bread crumbs to the pigeons and sparrows, always a relaxing thing to do.
So, Croatia makes my list for a reurn visit, maybe next time, I will take a week to cruise the islands like some of the other guests. Now, I need to keep moving so I can see Rome and Munich and then get back to London for my flight home. I am on the down side of this trip and now counting the days left. About seven before my flight home.
Next installment will be Rome. Spoiler alert…it will be a short visit.