When we finally got to Split it was about 5:30am local time (an hour earlier than Greece time). We were exhausted and feeling sick so we sprung for an Uber instead of taking the bus to the Airbnb. Once we got there we slept straight through the day until about 8pm that night. By then I was getting hungry so I went for a short walk though the old town and not only did I start to feel better but I was instantly hooked on the city. The old town is the remains of a massive and ancient (c. 300 AD) palace that was built by a retired Roman Emperor on the water. It’s surrounded by tons of cool shops and restaurants and many are within the former walls of the palace and built into the remains. I was so tired I just walked around a bit and got an apple strudel from a bakery that was delicious and only cost 8 Kuna or about $1.30. I got back and ate some dinner that Tanner made. I told Tanner how cool it was and we decided to at least get out a bit to get something out of the day. We walked through the old town and actually had a lot of fun since it was the last few days of some festival and there was live music everywhere. We still got home early and completely passed out until the following morning.
The next day I was feeling more rested but also a little more sick. We decided to move to a hostel next door to our Airbnb that had great ratings. Hostel Hotspot was run by Marjan and his wife Borka and they were incredibly friendly and helpful. Marjan gave us some great food tips and also encouraged us to do a walking tour of the city which we had been on the fence about. Borka gave us some nightlife suggestions although she cautioned us that it was the end of the season so it would likely be a little quiet. We took Marjan up on his first suggestion which was the “Americano dish” at a cafe situated at the bottom of a hill towards the end of the peninsula. It was a huge circular bread thing filled with chicken and fried egg and with a little bit of hot sauce it was just what the doctor ordered. Then we walked up the hill which had a nice restaurant with a terrace towards the top that we passed and continued into a public park at the top. There was a path that continued uphill overlooking the beach and the town and the view was just awesome. I felt like I was really growing to like this city. It has a unique feel being right on the ocean and home to thousands of years of history. We hung out for a bit in the park then went back down to chill at the hostel before going out walking tour later that afternoon.
Our tour began at 6pm and was so worth it. Our guide was an incredibly knowledgeable local who explained the history of the city as we walked through it while also adding some genuine humor and pointing out where Game of Thrones scenes were filmed. He took us though the old town and showed which sections were part of the original 3000 year old palace and which others were added later throughout the centuries. He showed us where people lived in the palace and continued to live to this day, which is the main reason so much of it is so well preserved. I’m not sure the tour is something I would’ve appreciated when I was younger but it was perfect for what I wanted now. After a little over 2 hours I felt such a understanding of how the current city came to exist over the years that I think I’ll try to do tours like this in the other major cities I end up visiting.
That night we tried to get dinner at a place called Fife that Marjan recommended but it was a huge wait and we were starving so we went to a hole in the wall that Marjan also recommended called Paulina and ordered “Cevapi”, which is a minced meat rolled up in cabbage and served in a large bread roll. It’s apparently a type of Croatian fast food and Paulina has been doing it for like 100 years. It was pretty good and a big portion but kind of expensive and one thing that has been annoying about Croatia is that seemingly no one accepts credit card so we’ve had to take out cash constantly. It’s not a huge deal but obviously I’d prefer the convienence and security of a credit card (also the points).
That night we had the intention of going out but it was a Monday so it already felt a bit slow and we ended up just chilling in the hostel. Through some booking mistake I ended up sharing a room with a Croatian girl who at first was (understandably) wary of me but we ended up bonding and just talking for a while that night. She was about to move to Germany to be with her boyfriend (she made sure to drop that real quick) but had a lot of reservations about leaving her job behind. I spoke to her about my experiences quitting my job and how to this point I’d had no regrets and it seemed to reassure her. We talked for a bit longer about traveling and how it’s all we want to do and how she dreams of going to New York City as she’d never been to the US. I have to say as much as I was speaking to reassure her I ended up really making myself feel good about my decision too. I haven’t had any doubt up to this point but hearing her speak so wistfully about traveling for a long period of time made me appreciate what I was doing, especially since I’m just starting out and have a lot more to go. I did get some anxiety about what I’m going to do for a job whenever I do finish but whatever that’s future Danny’s problem.
The next day we took a short walk to one of the beaches here. All the waterfront in the area closest to us is just marina or sea walls so we thought it’d be cool to walk down to check out a different area. When we got there it was packed and kind of dirty. Our tour guide had mentioned that they had recently had a problem with sewage running out into the water so we didn’t get in, although it was unique in that the water stayed shallow really far out. There were people 100 yards out that were still standing with the water just up to their torso. But we have been horribly spoiled by the beaches in the Greek islands. We explored a little while longer then decided we’d had enough sun and went back to the hostel to chill. We were resting in our room when we heard a loud noise that sounded like a window crash. I cautiously walked out to the common area to see what caused the commotion and smelt a burning smell on top of it. Not good. I followed the smell into the kitchen and discovered the grisly source: Marjan had left some eggs boiling and forgotten about them to the point that the water had all evaporated and one of the eggs had exploded everywhere. We called out his name and eventually he came in – he had been outside studying and thought the noise was a car crash. He apologized profusely even though neither of us cared that much and just thought it was funny.
That night we went tried to get dinner at Fife again and this time it had a much shorter wait. We both followed Marjan’s recommendation and ordered the “Pasticada” which is a minced meat dish that is left to marinate overnight then served on top of gnocchi. It wasn’t the best meal I’d ever had but it was still really good and super filling. Of course they only took cash there too. After dinner we went out to a local backpacker bar that had a good crowd. We met a few people there but everyone seemed to know each other already. We stuck around for a few drinks then took a short Uber ride to a popular club. It looked like it had a decent crowd at first but once we got in we realized it was mostly older men and younger girls and just felt too creepy. We chalked it up to being a Tuesday at the end of the summer season and took a car back to our hostel and called it a night.
The following day we took a bus out to Plitvice Lakes National Park, the oldest and biggest national park in Croatia. The bus ride was about 4 hours Northeast towards the center of the country. Upon getting to the park we realized we had made a crucial mistake. Instead of just booking a room at one of the hotels in the park (which would be super convienent) we had used Airbnb and had a room a little over a mile away. Fortunately we were able to check our backpacks at the entrance to the park rather than either walk or take a bus to and from our Airbnb.
The park itself was beautiful. I’d never seen freshwater lakes that were such a pleasant turquoise color and the whole area was incredibly quiet and peaceful, despite there being a good amount of tourists there. There were ferries to take you from one side of the largest lake to the other but we opted to avoid the crowds and took a path which looped around the perimeter of the lake. It took longer and every five minutes I wanted to stop and take more pictures since it was so beautiful. I put an album on here but they really don’t do the place justice. Once we got to the other side we took a path leading away from the lake and followed it alongside a stream that broke off into a few waterfalls before it culminated in a set of a few bigger falls. It was cool to see but all the crowds kind of took away from it and made it feel more like Disneyland than a natural park.
After a few more hours of walking the day was winding down so we grabbed our packs and went outside the park to the bus stop to grab a ride back to our Airbnb. We waited about 30 minutes before accepting that no bus was coming and we were either going to have to hitchhike or just hoof it to our Airbnb. Hitching, while probably doable and safe since it was such a short ride, felt too unnecessary of a risk so we set out to walking. It was also unsafe since we had to walk down a winding road that had a lot of blind curves and no sidewalk but we managed fine and eventually got to our Airbnb. It was in a tiny town with only one restaurant where we got dinner then got back home and passed out. The next morning it was raining so we tried to get a lift from the Airbnb owner but he was busy. So we had to hike all the way back to the bus stop next to the park in the rain which was almost fun because it was so unpleasant. Of course once we got on our bus we saw that it also stopped right across the street from our Airbnb…
The bus was taking us to Zadar which was where we decided to spend a night before getting back to Split the next day. We explored the city for a while and it reminded me of a smaller Split. Like Split, it was based around an old coastal town made of centuries-old ruins. We explored and went up in a bell tower that had been built higher and higher over hundreds of years which was pretty cool to see the difference in materials as you got higher up. It also had some newer gimmicks including a solar powered dance floor that charged during the day and lit up at night. Next to the dance floor was the “Sea Harmonica” which was carved into the steps facing the water and played “music” from the wind coming off the ocean. Both were built in the last decade and were pretty underwhelming. The dance floor was just random and didn’t light up in any sort of pattern while the Harmonica sounded eerie and off-putting.
Back at our hostel we met a group of students that had traveled together from a university in Zurich. They originally were from Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Germany and we joined up with them to go out for dinner and drinks. We had a great time bouncing around the city with them and they were very friendly and bought us a few rounds and refused when we tried to get them back until we insisted. The highlight of the night was stripping down and jumping off the sea wall into the Adriatic. The next day I got a stern reminder that I’m too old to keep pace though since they were up at like 9am getting breakfast and we barely made our 11:30am bus back to Split.
Back in Split we were still worn out from the night before so we crashed at the same hostel we stayed at previously. After waking from a nap we noticed a familiar burning smell and saw 2 eggs in a pot of boiling water in the kitchen. They were already overcooked and the water had nearly all evaporated. Tanner texted Marjan to ask if was cooking eggs again and he simply replied “Please turn it off”. It’s hard to explain how funny it was to see it happen again and when he got back with his wife Borka she could not stop laughing and making fun of him for doing it twice. We didn’t really go out that night despite it being Friday since we were both still feeling it from the night before. There wasn’t much FOMO though since we were starting our yacht week the next day and it was nice to just take it easy. The next day we said our goodbyes to Marjan and took our packs over to the marina to drop them off at the boat. We still had nothing to do all day since we didn’t technically have to board until 6pm. We took the time to reminisce on our trip so far since it’s already been 2 weeks together. It’s pretty hard for me to believe that I’ve been gone for almost a month including my time in Israel. My only concern these days is that I’m spending a little (a lot) more than I should and that I’m doing so many fun things every day that I’m worried about forgetting or overlooking them. Fortunately I’ve been keeping this journal so really I need to say thanks to all you readers for helping me genuinely enjoy and appreciate this trip more than I would have if I wasn’t stopping to take it all in and reflect every few days.