Split meets the expectations of emperors and tourists alike.
Thunder and lightening awakend us as we neared Split on our train ride from Zagreb. It was six in the morning when the car rocked with a clap of thunder. The rain began to pour and we knew our seven o'clock arrival was in jeopardy as the train slowed with wet tracks.We were prepared to stay on a 45 foot wooden yacht that was available via AirBnB and Cedo, the owner was to pick us up at the station.
We found out we were going to be about an hour late and texted Cedo. As we neared Split the downpour continued to get heavier and heavier. Finally, the train arrived and it was worse than expected, it was pouring so hard, we did our best Carl Lewis and Bruce Jenner impersonations, dashing accross the tracks, hurdling the railroad ties and dividers before a long jump over a puddle onto the platform on the other side. In the distance we see the finish line, Cedo is waiting with an umbrella and his Renault. By the time we reach his car we are drenched and half of the Adriatic is in our shoes, we toss our bags into his vehicle and jump in to the dry confines.
We have done it we think, until Cedo tells us he doesn't know what to do, as the boat isn't safe in the storm and so, we can go to the University of Split with him until 4 p.m. when the storm pehaps will weaken. He informs us these kinds of storms are very unusual this time of year.
Cedo drives us to the university and shows us his department, he is a mechanical engineer and is proud of the machines in his shop. We proceed to find a coffee shop where the lights flicker continuously as the storm strikes the area with thunder and lightning. It is at this point we decide to forgo the boat and get a hotel for a hot shower and dry clothes to wait out the storm Thanks Hotels.com for making it simple and easy. We then went to find Cedo and break the news, he had offered us a refund, be we insisted he keep the money, the $40 we had paid to stay on the boat was a small price to pay for the taxi services Cedo had provided.
Cedo took us to the beautiful Hotel Park, and told us that a bottle of wine would be chilled and a spaghetti dinner would be waitiing for us at 5 p.m., if we wanted. Oh that hot shower felt delightful after the train journey the day before and our track and field event earlier.
After regrouping there was a break in the storm and we headed out for lunch on a terraace, and than into old town and Diocletian's palace to be awed by the incredible palace dating back to 200 AD. After entering through the basement, our jaws dropped as we reached the peristyle. This ancient palace was everything you could imagine and more.
We toured the palace and make the climp to the top of the bell tower. This narrow climb was slowed by the wait for two-way traffic on a one-way stair set. Often pressing against those going the opposite direction, we got to know people from all different countries quite well. As the steps got narrower, we passed the bells and finally reached a metal set of stairs. The last of the climb was on these and as we reached the top, a strikingly beautiful view of the Adriatic, Old Town, the brownish-white cliffs, and all the surrounding areas awaited us. Another "Wow!' moment.
After an afternoon in Diocletian's palace filled with fascinating sights and tours, we headed back to our hotel and what is called the best beach in Split, where we decided to swim in the Adriatic Sea. The water, although not warm, was pleasant with pockets of warmth here and there. Many people were swimming, sunning, and playing games at the beach and in the water. We enjoyed the beach until about 7 p.m., it was a wonderful break from the storm, but more was expected that night.
From here it was back to the old town and dinner at Konobo Korta, where we feasted on fresh fish from the sea, local salads and olives, a wonderful cold carrob soufle, and more. Eating in the town invoked thoughts of dining in Roman times with the sights and sounds around us. During dinner the bells tolled and the drums beat as Diocletian came out to see his subjects, it was vey fitting for the atmosphere.
We strolled through the city as another day was finished and all expectations were met, no disappointment could be found.
Tuesday morning arrived and after feasting on a hotel buffet breakfast, a big change from our breakfasts so far, we were ready to head back to town and enjoy the day before leaving on a 10 p.m., night train for Zagreb and then Plitvice Lakes.
Stashing our bags in a train station locker, we went to find the fish market and see the fresh product we had indulged upon the night before. The aroma of fish and seafood met our nostriles and the market was abuzz with chef's choosing their fish for the day and vendors calling out the excellence of their product.
Seeing the fish market gave insight into the commerce of the city and the importance of the tourist trade to the local residents.
After the market it was down to the Riva where we had strolled the night before, but now had the opportunity to experience it in the daylight. We decided to take a boat ride from one of the locals and he took four of us out on his boat. A grandmother and her teenage grandaughter from Bentonville, Arkansas, joined us for the boat trip. We toured up and down the Split coastline, seeing the homes along the water, the institute of oceanography, a nude beach, and the Celebrity cruise ship that was docked there for the day. We viewed the islands off the coast and the passages that led to Italy to the west and to the south Greece and Portugul. It was beautiful on the water with a breeze blowing and deep blue colors of the water shimmering as the sunlight radiated off the sea.
When we returned to the town, we decided to have an early dinner and try the local beef that is so highly thought of. The cafe in old town we chose provided us with a vantage point for people watching that was second to none. We were treated to a rich selection of Croatian olive oils and salts to enjoy our bread with. The heartiness and flavor of the oils danced on the pallet. The beef was exceptional, however at both meals in Split the grilled vegetables were to die for.
We finished off our time in Split with some shopping and relaxed along the water as we readied for our night train to Zagreb. Good-bye Split, you will be remembered fondly.