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krisek Split - A travel report by Krys
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Split,  Croatia - flag Croatia -  Splitsko-Dalmatinska Zupanija
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krisek's travel reports

One of Dalmatia's precious gems. Split.

  6 votes
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Dalmatia has a few magnificent spots with truly remarkable monuments remaining from the times when city-states ruled the Adriatic. But few are as significant as Split. And yet, should this UNESCO-listed city have a little more to offer?


Split's southern seafront seen from the fishing harbour.
Split's southern seafront seen from the fishing harbour.
People come to Split to see mainly one thing - the site of Diocletian's Palace's remains. An incredible marketing trick made Split a massive tourism destination, 'a big destination' a local travel agent told me. But one should not allow themselves to be fooled. The remains of the palace are not that spectacular and in fact they are rather sad. The vast majority of the former palace have been, over several centuries, built over with less than attractive residential buildings. Many of them are interesting and indeed a couple are pretty. But for the shear size of the former palace this is not enough, in my opinion. Some of the walls remain but one has to stretch their imagination really badly to try to figure out what the palace must have been. This is why the city authorities have displayed a number of posters everywhere depicting how the palace might have looked like. And this helps to appreciate the site. To a traveller, who might have seen some immensely spectacular sites around the world Split's main sight would seem bleak. One of the reasons for this feeling could be the apparent lack of respect for it. Petty markets and people selling useless souvenirs obstructing he remaining fragments of the structure, including somewhat better preserved gates, are allowed there with their litter and ambiance pollution.

Split is a big city. In fact, it is Croatia's second largest. This brings all the disadvantages and advantages of a populous settlement. There is an airport, plenty of variety in terms of places to shop, eat, drink, socialise, party, etc. Luckily for Split, there are indeed a few interesting sights and museums, and of course two types of beaches - the sandy ones and the rocky ones. Split is also a good spot to kick off a boat or ferry trip to a few islands of the Dalmatia, and even beyond. And the city keeps improving. Well, it seemed to have improved since my last visit in 1998, but then it was just a couple of years after the nasty Balkan war.

Favourite spots:
Narodni Trg in Split.
Narodni Trg in Split.
Narodni Trg with Moorish, Venetian, Rococo, Classical and Romanic facades was one of my favourite spots in the city. It was almost hidden from the main throughfares. But it was of a considerable size and the collection of the facades surrounding the piazza gave much food for thought. The spectrum was wide and very intriguing.

Trg Republike, an open-ended square with a gap in the south overlooking the sea, was my other favourite place in Split. It was very picturesqye and complete with two parallel majestic arched (alcoves) sides of a large u-shape building, whose bottom halves were painted white, while top halves, above the alcoves, were red, and the windows, shutters and doors were green. The head of the building once housed a cinema, and the sign 'Kino Marjan' was still there, when I visited. Overall, it was very Italianate and it looked particularly pretty in the morning and from the sea, as the vessels approached either the fishing harbour of passenger port.

What's really great:
Split's seafront, southern wall of the Diocletian's Palace and the bell tower of the cathedral.
Split's seafront, southern wall of the Diocletian's Palace and the bell tower of the cathedral.
What's not great about Split was a complete lack of value accommodation. A lousy guesthouse with shared bathroom asked €40 on average. Hotels and rooms (sobe) with en suite facilities started from €50 per night. Okay, so some of the prices were for twin rooms being used by a single person, and therefore it would be cheaper for a couple of travellers. But overall, Split was very expensive in terms of accommodation. Actually, I shoud have said 'overpriced'. What one got for their money was a scandal.

Now, on a positive note, the overall atmosphere of Split was very pleasant. The smell of the sea travelled well inside the narrow alleys of the old town, and the cafe culture of the seafront created an ambiance of a great holiday place that offers chilled out atmosphere, plenty of cocktails and cakes. In fact, the old town and the seafront could pass for an small little seaside place offering some significant monuments. The vastness of the city could not be seen from there at all.

Sights:
The view of sunset over the old part of Split seen from the bell tower of the cathedral.
The view of sunset over the old part of Split seen from the bell tower of the cathedral.
Apart from the obvious and somewhat disappointing, the remains of the Diocletian's Palace, Split had a few prominent sights. One of them, sticking out right from the heart of the Palace, was the bell tower of the Cathedral of Duje. It was possible to climb it. It did not require any level of fitness to do so, but people with the fear of heights, could have a problem. The tower is simply an empty shell for most of its height with the bell platform on the top. The views of the city were great from there, particularly at sunset. The tower has become the city's symbol.

Another great sight was the National Theatre, built in 1893 with its interesting yellow facade and large windows. In fact, a few other buildings around the older part of the city sported a myriad of different facades representing various architectural styles.

For the soul, Split offered an interesting Archaeological Museum, and a separate museums on the Croatian Archaeological Monuments, and Etnography.

Accommodations:
Garden's Apartments & Cottages, economy twin room.
Garden's Apartments & Cottages, economy twin room.
I found this place on the hostels.com, and I was rather unimpressed with the fact that one could not pay with a credit card. With high prices of approximately 50 euro per night, visitors were required to carry considerable amount of cash. In fact, I wanted to cancel my reservation after I realised that I was not going to be able to pay with my card, but it was too late, and I would be charged a cancellation fee.

Overall, the Garden's Apartments and Cottages, right in the very centre of Split, was not a bad place. It was difficult to spot, as there was no sign on the metal garden door. It was basically a private villa with a few cottages set at an intersting and quiet garden. The owner was very friendly, and offered free welcome drink - local wine. Later, he also brought plenty of grapes from the garden - also for free.

I would not consider the balace of comfort and price at good value, though. But as I said before, this was hard to find in Split anyway.

Nightlife:
Cafe Inc.'s sofas and tables in the street at Kralja Tomislava Street.
Cafe Inc.'s sofas and tables in the street at Kralja Tomislava Street.
St Riva Cocktail Bar - at the seafront promenade with a terrace was one of the more popular spots for drinking and chatting. The very narrow staircase to the terrace from the street level was very tricky and should not be underestimated after drinking.

Cafe Bar Mignon, Cafe Bar Paradiso and Cafe Inc. - a trio of bars at the north-western corner of the Diocletian Palace at Kralja Tomislava Street was a great spot for a night cap. And the Inc. charged reasonable HRK16 for a pint of Karlovačko lager, compared with HRK20 and HRK25 in other places, particularly those closer to the harbour. It seemed to me that the trio was among the spots in Split, where it was good to be seen. Actually, their funky and trendy seats (armchairs, chairs, sofas) - right on the pavement under the stars, were very comfortable, and the service was swift and polite.

Hangouts:
Teraca Bamba's view of the harbour of Split in the evening.
Teraca Bamba's view of the harbour of Split in the evening.
The locals liked to hung out at the fishing pier either looking south into the sea or north-east looking at the city's seafront and drinking lager. From bottles they acquired at the nearby supermarket.

I liked a few places to sit down, relax and watch the world go by. For example, the cafe Teraca Bamba had a good view of the harbour and the south-eastern corner of the Diocletian Palace, or rather what remains of it. The best thing about the cafe were their prices. A pint of local lager was just HRK13!

Many tourists however (and the locals as well, I guess), liked the southern wall of the palace's remains and the string of cafes and bars there, along the heavily upgraded seafront promenade. There must have been over a dozen cafes/bars one next to another, on a stretch of about 300 yards.

Restaurants:
Broccoli and carrots on a pizza at the La Luna Restaurant.
Broccoli and carrots on a pizza at the La Luna Restaurant.
The F Restaurant & Pizzeria had my first custom. I dropped in there for lunch before my coach trip to Jajce in Bosnia. Their menu was extensive and had a range of meat dishes, vegetarian options, seafood and a good selection of pizzas. I went for the house speciality, Pizza F (HRK60); with scampi, cheese and garlic - a perfect combination. "How hard would it be to get it wrong?", I thought. Well, I sat down at the terrace by the southeastern tower of the Diocletian Palace and ordered a pint of Karlovačko točeno (HRK18), and watched the people squinting their eyes in the harsh sun, trying to figure out where the actual palace might actually be... Before I finished typing this sentence, the pizza arrived! Now, that was efficiency! The pizza was not bad, but it could do nicely with more garlic.

Next time, I tried Restaurant La Luna and had their vegetarian pizza (HRK35), which came complete with carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. I'd never had those on a pizza before. It was not too bad.

Other recommendations:
Split's fishing harbour at night, a couple of ferries leave from the same waterfront.
Split's fishing harbour at night, a couple of ferries leave from the same waterfront.
Split has been a seasonal destination of several airlines for a few years. Now, it seems that Wizzair added this route from their London Luton (LTN) base as a permanent one. The flight takes approximately 2h15'.

Jadrolinija is the largest ferry operator from Split connecting the city with the islands of: Brač (16 a day, HRK33 ow), Šolta (5 a day), Hvar (8 a day, HRH47 ow), Korčula (3 a day), Lastovo (3 a day).

There is a convenient small boat connecting Split with Trogir four times a day (09:44, 13:00, 16:00, 19:00, HRK20 ow) run by Bura Line. It is better than the public bus #37 (it goes via the Split airport), which costs the same, takes longer and can get very hot and crowded.

Published on Tuesday November 30th, 2010


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Sat, Dec 04 2010 - 01:22 PM rating by mistybleu

Krys, a really nice read, with honest opinions.

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