The Golden Oldie goes to Split

London to Split May 2 2013

And so the morning for the trip to Split arrived. First noticeable thing? The seats on Easy Jet are wider,  Yay! No bruises.

Arrived in Split airport about 9.30am and caught the bus into the town. I can’t say that the scenery was very spectacular on the way. Split itself  though is a lovely town, clean and reasonably organised so you can actually orientate yourself and find your way around.  I say reasonably’ because of course there is the ‘old town’ which is full of alleys  that can only be manoeuvred on scooters or on foot. We were staying at a place called Elena Rooms  on a street called Radunica #16. Not knowing where exactly this was we thought we’d take a cab as dragging all our luggage was a bit daunting.  So off the bus and head towards a cab, the driver’s response was ‘no it close, Radunica closed to cars’ or words to that effect. So, with question marks in our heads, map in hand and two sons to orientate us we set off on foot. OK so it was closer than any cabbie would be prepared to drive in any country but a bit of a hike for someone like me, and then there was the alley and steps. Between us though we managed all the luggage and I made it, unfit as I am, and my back didn’t complain too much.

So tip #1 for this section: If you are going to a place like Split, which has a large area of ‘old town’ with little alleys and steps, forget the romance of staying in the old part, go for a more modern place with a lift (elevator), located on a bigger street where taxis can go, unless of course you are terrifically fit and are happy to drag your luggage up and down steps. Had I not had my kids with me it would have been a struggle to even find the rooms, let alone drag the luggage.

We had 2 rooms there, actually 3, it’s sort of an apartment for a larger group, one apartment has 2 rooms (one with a double bed the other with 2 single beds) the other room has 2 single beds.  Each has it’s own bathroom. I’m not sure how it would work if unrelated people were staying in the rooms as the hot water governor is in the 2 roomed apartment as is the modem which required rebooting relatively often. The rooms were lovely and spacious, we could have really done with just the 2 roomed apartment though as it ended up being 4 of us not 5 as originally planned, not to worry we had heaps of space to spread out.

I would highly recommend those rooms for spaciousness. Elena herself is a lovely lady  and all transactions were honest and friendly. The rooms are not far from the greenmarkets so it’s all very convenient. They are a reasonable walk away from the port but then that’s like everywhere else, it all depends on what you want to be close to. If you have difficulty walking or climbing steps then (as mentioned in my tip above) you’d be better off in something else but then almost all the apartments in the old town are similar, located in alleys. You would need to do more research to find something more modern where a cab could pull up at your front door.

The markets were great and we had a lot of fun foraging for fresh fruit.

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Grapes the size of small plums, Strawberries so large and sweet that one or 2 were enough for a little while. The place is very colourful and the choices are

remarkable. If you plan to stay for a little while, get accommodation with a kitchen and you can live very cheaply and healthily while you explore the area.

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The old town is built within the crumbled walls of Diocletians Palace and in some cases parts of the palace form parts of apartments.  One of the things I’d heard about and really wanted to see was an international flower show that is held in the substructures of the palace. No-one seemed to know anything about it so I was on a mission to find it. The first challenge was to find the entrance to the substructures. We had wandered around quite a bit and had many theories few of which were helpful, but then found directions. The palace has four gates called Silver, Bronze, Gold and Iron. It is built in a square , the southern gate facing the water is the bronze gate and the entrance to the substructures, but it’s not very obvious so you have to keep your eyes open.

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We found the entrance to the substructure and wandered down, there is an entrance fee of course , which I was happy to pay, seriously, how many times do you get to do this? And off we all trotted to check out how this place was built. I suspect I was the most excited , it’s interesting  travelling with the 20 and 30 somethings who have a totally different travel focus. I have to say, it is very well worth while, no matter your age, to wander through these sites if you have any interest in history and archeology and are amazed at what could be built in the days before digital technology, then it is a must, along with all the other archeological sites of the world.

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After going through the substructures and oohing and aahing at the construction I still wanted to know where the flower show was. Finally found a lady selling tickets who spoke English and what was the answer? Wouldn’t you know it! This year, for some unknown reason, the flower show wasn’t happening.

So,  tip #2  and I’m not sure how you resolve this, but if there is something you really want to see (especially if you are going to a place specifically to see something in particular) find a way of contacting the organisers and find out if it is really on. Luckily we were going to Split anyway so it wasn’t a major deal but I would have been massively unhappy if I’d gone there just for the flower show.

I wandered through the cathedral, the kids opted out. Everything costs money, even to see various parts of the cathedral cost extra money, so be prepared to constantly shell out money, if you haven’t budgeted for it then choose what is essential and leave the rest, in Europe there are very few free museums or galleries but there are a lot of them, so you really need to know what you want to see otherwise you could easily get carried away with the choices and not only blow your budget but also wear yourself out.

Always look up
Always look up

 

We wended our way on to the Golden gate, where a statue of Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) is located. ‘Gregory was the bishop of Nin and as such was under strong protection of King Tomislav. At the Synod in 925, held in Split, Gregory lost to the Archbishop of Split, he was offered the Sisak Bishopric, but he refused. After the conclusions of the first Synod Gregory complained again in 927/8 but was rejected and his Nin Bishopric was abolished, Gregory himself being sent off to the Skradin Bishopric, after which he disappears from the annals of history.’ Extract from Wikipedia. It is said that if you rub his big toe your wishes come true – well what did we find? Good ol’ Grgur was all boarded up for renovations  and inaccessible, darn it! Does that mean some of my wishes won’t happen now? Nah! I guess that as it was still off season I should have expected that some of the tourist attractions would not yet be available.

Friday 3 May 2013

Birthday boy!

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Along came the 3rd of May Grisha’s (Ginski’s) 35th birthday. What to do to celebrate? We decided to go to the island of Hvar , so off on the ferry we went. You’ll need to check on current prices but it only cost us 47 HRK (that’s less than AUD10.00) each for the return trip. The islands along the Dalmatian coast are well worth visiting, they are beautiful with lots of walking and of course that lovely clear water, still too cold for me in May to bother getting in the water but Nick and Kirra did, braver souls than I. Be prepared though, these are not the Australian sandy beaches, mostly they are pebbly so walking along the beach is a challenge, but fortunately there are excellent footpaths to follow.

As we were in Hvar in early May the season hadn’t kicked in yet. The party atmosphere that the boys talked about (which was their experience on their first trip to Hvar in 2006) wasn’t there yet. However that meant that we weren’t dealing with massive crowds and you could saunter along at your own pace and even be served in a restaurant pretty quickly.

We found an awesome restaurant for lunch (Dalmatino) The waiter kept bringing out samples of drinks for us to try. We had the best stew thing with prunes for lunch it was so yummy, we all loved it, and the subject of the stew was mentioned  for days afterwards. We were happy to have followed the waiter’s advice. So be prepared to take a gamble on the food, you just might discover something really wonderful. I just wish I had written down the name of the dish to share with you all.

    Hvar from across the bay

Hvar from across the bay

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After another walk around,  panting my way up a few inclines in the residential area, photographing some of the beautiful old buildings, and being told by a policeman that lying on the ground in the square was not OK we  caught the bus to catch the last ferry back to the mainland. To make your stay more enjoyable, it would be a good idea to stay on the island for at least one night, but we just did the day trip.

We spent the evening with more foraging for dinner, I do believe we ended up with Burek again! Seriously worth trying. I grew up with those flavours and style of food as did my kids, but if you haven’t tried it before and you are in Croatia, go get some. Very cheap street food, you won’t find it in any restaurant. Basically it is layers of filo pastry with either a meat or cheese filling (sometimes vegetables) and baked, a bit on the greasy side for some people because of the olive oil used to keep the sheets of filo soft, but it’s just wonderful.

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Above is one of the street food places where we found Burek late at night. While I’m on the subject of restaurants in Croatia, you won’t find any Turkish’ coffee in any cafe or restaurant here either. Apparently it is only drunk in the homes, no-one would make me one in a cafe! Perhaps if you can find a place away from the tourist areas you may be lucky, I wasn’t. An evening of playing cards and drinking lots of cheap beer followed by a good nights sleep and we were ready to do it all again.

The next day we hired scooters. Kirra and I were pillions. That was a lot of fun Went up the hill and found a  park with a restaurant and ice cream seller so of course ice cream was a must, then back down the hill and further down the coast to a couple of beaches. All great fun. Beautiful water, places to sit and chat. The Dalmatian coast is a little different to the rest of Europe in that they are OK with providing some seating after all it is a pretty social type of culture so sitting around chatting is a good thing. Split lends itself beautifully to riding around on scooters (if you re OK with operating one) the coastline is lovely and well worth tripping up and down. The boys dropped us off at our rooms and then returned the bikes. This was followed by another walk for dinner then more cards and sleep. We are getting through heaps of beer too and lots of Burek, well you just have to balance out all that beautiful healthy fruit w eat in the mornings and on our walks.

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Sunday 5 May

The day we came here for, to take Mum’s ashes to Omis. She was born in Split but the harbour wasn’t an appropriate place and the village up the coast where they were taken as children for school holidays appears to have an oil refinery close by, according to Google Earth, so also inappropriate. Instead we took our luggage and hopped on the bus to Omis. It’s a good bus service and really cheap too so you could easily make that another day trip, just not on a Sunday, almost everything is closed in Omis.

It was all a bit weird when we got there. I’d booked an apartment with a woman, but I had to call her mother who turned up with a friend to pick us up from the bus stop. They could only fit 2 of us in at a time. So  we ladies went first with most of the luggage and then the boys. I figured out why the mother suggested we girls go separately, apparently on the way to the apartment with the boys she offered them female company! Anything to make a buck. Then we found out that the ferry we wanted to catch to Ancona on Monday night wasn’t running so we either had to go today or wait till Tuesday, which wouldn’t have worked with our bookings in Bari, so, as we didn’t really like the apartment anyway and I wasn’t comfortable with that owner we decided that we would do our river trip and the little ceremony with Mum’s ashes then leave, and forfeit the money so we could catch the ferry that night.

Tip #2 Do as much research as possible on your accommodation. Of course the research is only as good as the information on the net, so sometimes as in this case things can go awry, no matter what you do. It’s all part of travelling and being aware that sometimes you may have to change your plans suddenly. So always be prepared for the unexpected, it will always happen no matter what form your travel takes.

Nick and I had gone for a walk and found an old couple that hired out boats. What we found out when we went back to get it was that we got the old gentleman as captain as well. As it turned out that was a good thing as the river had shallow parts and submerged rocks, so we would have had a problem on our own. His name turned out to be Orlando Orlandini, Italian father who migrated to Croatia. Cool guy, great name.

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He took us up the river for an hour to where there is a restaurant  for the hikers and people riding the rapids. All the way up there we were trying to figure out how to do mum’s ashes without upsetting Orlando. As it happened he didn’t care. We didn’t want to stay  at the restaurant (he thought we’d stay and have lunch but time was against us) so we got him to take us back and on the way we picked a pretty spot for mum. Nick with his much better Serbian (which is so very similar to Croatian) asked Orlando to shut down the engine and we just quietly put about half of mum’s ashes in the river and took photos of the spot. It’s exactly 20 mins up river from the boat rental house with beautiful trees on the bank. We discovered that Orlando spoke Russian and German as well so between us all we managed to explain everything. Having some languages is very helpful but you can get by pretty much everywhere with English and good body/sign language.

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Omis is a lovely little town to visit and the trip up the river is a must. The town is on the coast backed by massive grey cliffs. The river flows through a stunning gorge of cliffs with stone buildings from the pirate days, and beautiful forests as you go further upriver. The view of the town as you drive in is enough to take your breathe away. Go there, seriously, and if you are a photographer go up the river, if a walker, also go up the river. There is quite a history to the place and apparently the cliff buildings were also used by both Germans and Italians during the war.

That done, we went back to the apartment, packed up and headed for the bus and back to Split to get on the ferry.

We had a sleeper on the ferry so the night passed quickly, after we stopped wandering around the ferry taking photos of course.

What did I learn from this part of the trip? Pretty much the same thing I learned when training to be a staff trainer – Rule #1 – Always expect the unexpected! I also thoroughly enjoyed being with the young ones and cherished every moment as I knew it wasn’t going to last long.

And so I’ll end this part of the saga here. The Italian experience deserves a section of it’s own – if only for clarity of places.

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Till next we meet, when the Goldenoldie goes to Italy.

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