Europe 2022: Split, Croatia
Our next stop was Split and getting there was quite an experience! Our flight out of Ibiza was delayed about 30 minutes and we already had a very tight connection in Barcelona (55 minutes). The flight from Barcelona to Split was the only one to Barcelona that day, so we needed to make the connection! Once we arrived at Barcelona, we had to sprint to the front of the airport, clear passport control (even though Croatia is also in the EU, we were traveling to a different country), and sprint to our gate. All in all, it took about 20 minutes to to from one gate to the other and was just over a kilometer. Ironically, the gate we boarded our plane at was right next to the gate we had just deplaned on!
We eventually made it to Split, but our travel troubles were not yet over as the bag of our traveling companions never made it to Split! We aren’t sure how one of our bags made it and the other didn’t, but we filed a lost baggage report with the airline to get them to find the bag and send it to our hostel.
After we had done all we could do related to the lost bag in the airport, we called an Uber and headed to our hostel. Split is one of those old cities where cars are unable to navigate all the streets, so we were dropped off about a few minute walk from Hostel Dvor. We were pleasantly surprised by the hostel – we booked a private room, but it was a much larger room than I anticipated and the shower was fantastic! The only thing was it felt more like a hotel instead of a hostel as there wasn’t a very large common area, so those moments of connection with other travelers did not happen.
Once we were checked in to the hostel, we headed to a grocery store to grab a few waters and snacks for the next few days before heading out for a quick lunch before meeting our tour guide for an afternoon walking tour, which focused more on Diocletian’s Palace than anything else. I visited Split about 10 years ago when I studied abroad, but didn’t really remember much of it as the city’s tourist industry has grown tremendously over the past decade. Also, the actual city of Split is not the main attraction for tourists – it is actually the natural elements just outside of the city.
Our walking tour was okay – it was actually cheaper to have a private walking tour instead of joining a group one (€80 for the 4 of us)! The tour guide took us below the city into areas that were used for programs, storage, and other things like olive oil making! I had not done this previously, so it was very cool (it was also literally very cool as it was about 10 degrees less than it was outside)!
Unfortunately, a lot of the underground aspects of the city were destroyed when the city converted to Catholicism and the pagan elements like a sphinx were removed. After that, we went back up to the street level and learned that Diocletian was a Roman Emperor who built the palace as he felt it was a strategic location in Split (each Emperor built their own palace and it didn’t need to be in Rome). Diocletian was the first Emperor to split his empire into 4 quadrants, each run by one of his deputies, which enabled him to focus on the macro picture. He also was the only Emperor that retired and, when asked to return to power, declined as he wanted to focus on “his cabbage garden”! The street level was a small walled city where we visited various elements like the town square before the tour wrapped up. Overall, our tour guide wasn’t the best as he didn’t really answer the questions we had. It was like he had his script and didn’t deviate from it.
We then spent some time walking around the city (something that kept me on edge as the bricks were very slippery and I didn’t change my crutch tips to fresh ones before I left). Since the airline lost my friend’s clothes, we spent a lot of time trying to find bathing suits and other staples like socks and underwear for them so they could join tours over the next few days. This was actually more challenging than it sounded as the city was so touristy that those staples proved difficult to find, even at Zara! We eventually got enough to get them to the next day before heading to dinner. Ironically, the main menu item at most Croatian restaurants was pizza! After dinner, we grabbed a fantastic gelato before heading back to the hostel. It was a long day, so we were happy to get to bed at a reasonable hour and get some much needed sleep!
The following day, we had a tour about an hour outside of the city – Kraka Waterfall Park, swimming at a nearby beach and a wine tasting! The waterfall park was beautiful – it was about a kilometer walk around an elevated platform in the middle of a forest. It reminded me of similar walks I had done in Australia and Peru. At the very end of the walk, we made it to the waterfall which was stunning!
We got to the meeting point about 45 minutes early, so we grabbed some water and milkshakes before meeting up with our group and heading to a ferry to take us to a town along the river where we could grab lunch or go to the beach. We had preordered a charcuterie plate at the wine tasting later that afternoon, so we decided to go to the beach. I wasn’t feeling like swimming, so I stayed in the back part of the beach, ordered a cider at the bar and watched my friend’s stuff.
After 45 minutes, we boarded a bus for the final stop of the day – a wine tasting! We went to a local vineyard and tried 5 different wines while munching on a charcuterie platter – we sat across from two groups or people from the UK and had a fun discussion.
After the tasting, we headed back to the town and, upon finding out that the bag had still not been delivered to the hostel, decided to head to a local mall to buy more substantial clothes for my friends. We went to a H&M and Zara and were able to piece together clothes for the next few days (the airline or Chase reimburse us for clothes and toiletries if the bag is lost).
We then headed to dinner at local Italian restaurant near our hostel, Ciri Bella, which was amazing – the best meal of the trip thus far! It was a great, intimate space in a courtyard. We ordered a delicious flatbread and a few other things and headed right back to our hostel after we finished.
The following morning, we headed to the pier for a boat tour to a few swimming spots including the famous Blue Lagoon! Our first stop was a shipwreck, but I elected to stay on the boat as the boat anchored there instead of going to a dock which meant I would need to climb an 8′ ladder to get back on! While everyone was swimming, I called Vueling Airlines to change the shipping address to our next city (Dubrovnik) as the bag still had not arrived at our hostel.
Our next stop on the tour was the Blue Lagoon which was amazing! The water was crystal clear and I also learned that I prefer rock beaches over sandy beaches as their is no sand to cling to my feet. I was able to sit on the side of a pier, go into the water for about 15 minutes, and get out easily! When we got out, it was lunch time with one of the most beautiful views of the water ever. The highlight of the meal was the coleslaw (potentially using descendants of the cabbage that Diocletian grew himself)!
Due to high winds, we were given an extra hour and a half on the island instead of making our last and final stop. We elected to have a drink at the beach side bar instead of going back in the water while we waited for the boat to leave. I loved taking in the view!
It was then time to head back to Split! We immediately went to our hostel upon arriving and grabbed our bags to meet our driver who would take us to our next stop, Dubrovnik!