Continuing from last week’s post on Zagreb… The last week of my trip before I started heading back home.
I got off the bus at Split and couldn’t find wifi anywhere and PLUS I had no place to stay (as usual) and I was freaking out because just the day before finding a bed in Zagreb had been an ordeal! I had emailed some hostels earlier in the day, and when I did finally find some wifi, ALL of them had responded in the negative, except Diocletian’s Palace hostel. It seemed to be a few minutes’ walk from the bus station, and I crossed my fingers and went there. There were a few people already checking in, and I was basically hyperventilating with the fear that the last bed would go just before my turn came.
I got lucky though, and booked my stay in a 16 bed dorm. I wasn’t sure what my plan for the next day was… Would I stay on in Split or leave… So I decided not to book for more than a night.
And, seriously, the hostel was nice and everything but the location was 10 on 10. It was in Diocletian’s Palace. IN the palace!
After dropping my bags in the dorm (it was a bunch of bunk beds and a couple of single beds, and one of the single ones was free, so I excitedly bagged that one), I went for a walk. Split was BEAUTIFUL!!! All the time that I was wandering around in the Promenade, I couldn’t stop smiling!
The next day I did as I always do (though before that I came back to the hostel and found someone sleeping on my bed and my bag kept in a corner. Grrrr!! Had to make do with a squeaky top bunk!)… I took a free (almost) walking tour. It was a little one that covered only the palace. There were several more doing the city, but I was pretty much saturated (though I regret it now).
Diocletian’s Palace was constructed in the 4th Century AD, and our 1 Kuna Walking Tour guide told us that the plumbing lines set at that time were still in use to this day. Oh the marvels of ancient engineering!
I don’t know if this is an everyday thing or if I just got lucky, but Emperor Diocletian himself and his wife showed up for a few minutes around noon to wave to everyone. If it was a one-off experience that I got to witness… WOHOOO! Sheer luck!!
What I found really fascinating was the fact that people actually live in the palace now! A lot of it is restaurants and cafes, but the rest of it is home for the locals. What an interesting life!
There’s probably a lot to do in Split that I missed because I just stuck to walking around in the centre, but that made me insanely happy. The water is actually the glittering blue you hear about.
There are a lot of shops in the centre, and I really needed to buy a swimsuit. I went from store to store to store and not one had a one piece suit that I could buy. I had searched and failed to find one in Zagreb, but I assumed it’d be easier in Split because it was by the sea. But NO! Bikinis everywhere I wanted to go for a cliff diving tour, but I couldn’t sign up till I found a swimsuit! FINALLY, after going through probably 90% of the market, I found just one shop selling just one style (that fit). THANK YOU, YAMAMAY!!
I ate dinner two nights in a row at Fife. And that’s a big deal for me… I seriously dislike repeating places. So that says a lot about this place. The hostel recommended it, and though I’m usually wary (because some send you to less than wonderful places because they have ‘arrangements’), this place was NICE! The portions were humongous and the prices were really reasonable, especially compared to the quantity.
I’m a sucker for things like ‘Everything Happens For a Reason’. Let’s go over the sequence of events that led me to making this declaration just now.
1. I usually fast on Wednesdays. No real reason. I just like to balance out the excesses I indulge in during the rest of the week 😉 This Wednesday, though, I just gave up out of the utter stress of trying to find a hostel. I hadn’t eaten anything all day, and abandoned the fast just before dinner. So I decided to go to aforementioned Fife.
2. I walked to Fife, saw the huge queue, looked at the menu, decided the menu:queue ratio wasn’t worth it and left. 10 minutes later, I went back anyway.
3. I was waiting outside along with, I don’t know, like, a hundred other people at least. And then this waitress appears and asks if anyone would like a seat inside. Of course, no one did, because the weather was gorgeous and the view was gorgeous-er, and neither did I. Just as the lady was leaving, I was like ah screw it. I volunteered.
4. I was seated on a communal table next to a group of 3 guys, and though I’m normally a humongous snob about talking to strangers, I ended up chatting with these guys (partly because they mentioned India and Yoga and exactly the words I love to hear).
If I had maintained my fast, or eaten at Fife the first time I went, or waited for a table outside, or behaved in my usual khadoos way, I would never have met these people.
Say hello to Matteo, Ugi and Marko (you should TOTALLY check his music out, btw). They were (are) among the nicest people I met, and also by faaaar the most politically incorrect (but that story deserves a post of its own).
I stayed with them the next night (the hostel was great but home is always better!), and they took me to Brac island with them on my last day.
Croatia’s islands are amazing. Even our guide in Split had stressed several times to visit atleast one. I couldn’t stay long (because I had a ferry to Italy that same evening which I couldn’t risk missing) but I got to get into the water. I got to swim in the Adriatic sea, and it was incredible because the last time I had actually ‘swum’ in the sea was in I think, 1999 when I went to Puri, Orissa with my family. More than half a lifetime ago.
Anyway, we went to Bol, which is a little town on the island of Brac. And in Bol, we went to Zlatni Rat, a pebble beach which is unique because this tip shifts with the tide. Here are some more pictures. I don’t think the shifting is clear, though 😦 . Here‘s an image result page of Google.
It was so beautiful there, and I was having a great time, but I needed to make sure I didn’t miss my ferry. So I left after a mere 2 hours. I would have liked to stay longer, but the next bus/ferry back to split would be cutting it REALLY close, and it was not a risk worth taking. And I’m glad I didn’t take that risk, because I almost had a mini heart attack at passport control when they told me I’m not allowed to travel on my visa! (Since Croatia had just joined the EU, I guess their knowledge was still a little rusty. They made a few calls and let me through, but till then, I was just like OhmyGod, I’m going to end up like Viktor Navorski.)
But all worked out fine 🙂 So, I’m sharing some love and luck with this statue of this Merlin/Gandalf/Dumbledore character. This is Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin), and he has a luck-inducing shiny toe (which I rubbed, of course!).
While saying goodbye to Croatia, I was in a weird mood… I was sad because my trip was going to end in 3 days, and yet I was really happy that I was going to go home after almost 8 months away.
Signing off with a Bollywood style picture with hair flying-shying 😉
There are several ferries from Split to Ancona, Italy every day of the week. I took a low cost one with Blueline Ferries which cost me about 30 Euros, but I could have made it for MUCH cheaper if I had just taken deck space instead of an actual seat inside the ship. It wasn’t that cold and I would have probably been just fine, but I didn’t know at that time.
I ended up missing out on the south of Italy that I had originally planned to visit during the last week of my trip- Matera, Naples (and Capri and Pompeii) etc. but I don’t really regret it. So did I make the right decision squeezing Croatia into those days? Or should I have stuck to Italy and its pizzas and piazzas?