On location in Split, Croatia
My journey to Split began like a scene out of a Bridget Jones film running to my gate bum cheeks most probably flashing hundreds of fellow passengers as my chambray jumpsuit not so eloquently rode up. Still I luckily made it to my gate with a flurry of worried expletives, what turned out to be 15 minutes to spare, time for a coffee and the purchase of some crisps. Needless to say it was exactly the kind of start that created an icebreaker for getting to know fellow down to earth travellers. It was almost like I planned it.
Half an hour later, sleep deprived from waking at a ridiculous 4am, I boarded and shortly after my grumpy 'I need to sleep face' automatically turned to an ear to ear smile as I felt the wheels leave the runway. I was off on my next adventure. Split was to become a new milestone now, my 14th country visited and another of my long line of bucket list destinations ticked off.
As I flew into Split I knew this destination wasn't going to disappoint. From the air it was exactly like Pinterest and Google images had promised- picturesque. To get from the airport to Split city I took the shuttle bus which cost all of 30 kunas or about 4 euros. It was a huge difference to the 230 kuna cab charge. On the bus trip I met a Scottish lady who made Croatia her home 7 years ago in a bid to buy her 1st property 'of a decent size'. I knew exactly what she meant, as an Australian living in London backyards leave much to be desired, as does the mortgage that warrants them. Needless to say this Scottish-Croat gave me some insider tips from the start to direct my trip well.
The rest of my first day proceeded with a meandering, self tour of the old town (of Split), cocktails on the pier and a walk to the highest point of the city to get amazing views of Split. The highlight probably was falling sleep on the sunbed that I purchased for the afternoon for 40 kunas; about 5 euros. The sun had heat in it and I was actually capable of reading my book with no distractions. It was the best relaxing I'd done in a while. To end the first day I went to Feral (they don't pronounce it like the English do- so don't stress on the quality of food) and attempted to devour a spaghetti carbonara of epic proportions...and failed. It was a tasty way to end a highly memorable first day.
On day two I enjoyed a tour I had booked previously with Spiltilicious tours, which I can highly recommend. The tour was to Sibenik and Krka National Park and it didn't disappoint and neither did the company (which is the cheapest in Split). My tour guide was extremely personable, friendly, funny and accommodating but most of all he made the tour a relaxing time. The tour lasted for 8hours whereby Peter, the guide, provided lots of local knowledge about the history of the town, how Split came to get it's name (from a beautiful yellow flower), the interactions between Croatians and people from many countries throughout history from 4AD onwards and interesting, hilarious facts including the illegal building trade that makes Croatia famous. As we toured the coastline what made me so pleasantly happy the most was that I finally got to see those boats moored in the sea that look like they are floating in air. For years I had been looking at them on advertising campaigns and saying...one day I'll see that. The water in and around Split is indescribable, it is so incredibly blue and clear, it leaves you with a constant wow factor.
Then when you think you have the wow taken all out of you, you arrive at Krka National Park via a Croatian cruise and you stand at the base of Krka Waterfalls. That is something else. In seconds you understand why this waterfalls is UNESCO World Heritage listed and also 1 of 35 of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. At a cool 8 degrees I still had to get in that water and be surrounded by its loveliness. When I left, shivering yet happy I walked up the mountain taking pictures along the way, with a convenient, newly purchased DSLR. Each stop was more majestic. The amount of individual waterfalls that spill into this one massive waterfall is crazy and the range of iridescent blue and green hues mixed with sheer water power is something that has to be seen. Of course for lunch I had to indulge in a buffet restaurant that was surrounded by none other than 3 waterfalls. I'm laughing now even thinking about that experience again. It's the kind of thing you would write in a story not that you would ever dream of witnessing with your own eyes. The national park was bustling but time seemed slower, everything more peaceful and people were relaxed. I loved it.
On the drive back to Split from Krka we stopped off a Primosten, now that is a town after my own heart. A beautiful little island surrounded by beautiful beaches, classic Dalmatian houses with green shutters and history that packs a punch. Primosten is a little island that stands on its own and demands attention, and when you witness it you'll want to keep staring. A short stop on the trip but a lovely one before I returned to Split to enjoy a Dalmatian delacy, cuttlefish risotto and a local white wine. When you travel here I implore you to get amongst these traditional tastes and dishes, yes I sat there unknowingly covered in black ink lips but I haven't had a tasty risotto like that in ages. After dinner, I took a walk along the boardwalk and enjoyed witnessing the Croatian nightlife before having a traditional takeaway dessert and walking back up the narrow, stone streets packed with character to my idyllic 5 star quality hotel, Fabio Residence, whereby I felt incredibly at home. If you are going to Split you really must stay here. Maya is a fantastic host (and now my friend as well) who looks after you above and beyond any host I have encountered yet. She will bring you whatever you need at whatever time, provide her personal contact number for any queries whilst you are out and about, give you tips about how much you should and shouldn't spend on things so you are aware of typical tourist traps and advise on places to go and see that will give you the best authentic Croatian experience. Staying at Fabio Residence with Maya as the host really made my first Croatian experience special. I knew I wasn't going to be on the end of any selling gimmicks or ploys for her to make more money and I could tell she was simply passionate about her hometown and people falling in love with her country. I admired that. What's even more, for a 5 star place (or rated 9/10 on booking.com) her accommodation was inexpensive which meant that Split could be more thoroughly enjoyed. There is no doubt that I will return to Split sometime soon and stay with her again- when you meet great people when you travel they really do deserve your custom and Split really isn't the worst place to go back to!
In any case, whilst it wasn't my initial plan to come here (as you know Norway was the plan at first, until I left booking my trip till last minute and prices were...well last minute prices!) I think, as I always do, that reality turned out far more perfect than it could have ever been. My rest and recharge holiday worked. I am relaxed, have written a lot of work, in fact I'm half way through a new book that I'm hoping to launch online by the end of the month, and I've got sunshine on my body and in my face to prove it!
So till next time, enjoy your travels (no matter how big or small) and where they will take you...for me travel did what it always proves to do...inspired me.