2 June – 3 June, 2014
After feeling sick and out of it for a few days, I started off the morning of my departure from Zagreb by buying strawberries from a local woman and having the waiter at the hostel lounge make me a smoothie. I also bought some nutritious snacks from the market for my five-hour bus to Split, vowing to start treating my body better from this point on. Little did I know that once in Split I would royally fail.
The bus ride wasn’t particularly remarkable. Inland, Croatia has some lovely hills and mountains but it’s at the coast where the beauty of the country really shines. Once in Split, I marched past the hoards of hustlers with rooms for rent and taxis – and in the completely wrong direction. I ended up having a much longer walk about the hilly outskirts of Split, and finally asked some guys for directions a half-hour later.
My hostel was within the gates of Diocletian’s Palace, the architectural highlight of Split. Back in the 4th century, the Roman emperor Diocletian built a retirement villa here. In the 7th century, after it had been abandoned for a few hundred years, people started living and having businesses within the walls of the palace, which continues to this day. It feels like Venice but way, way older. It’s easy to get lost within the palace walls, which I did several times during my stay. I enjoyed aimlessly wandering the tiny lanes crammed with shops with houses above, the old fish market, the smooth, worn tile floors. Once you find your way out of the labyrinth of the palace, you find yourself on the Rila, a stunning Mediterranean boardwalk with boats in the harbor and the brilliant Adriatic Sea beyond.
I finally found my hostel, The Booze ‘n’ Snooze, and got settled quickly for a group dinner at 7. At the appointed time, I wandered out on the terrace to find 2 Aussies, a Brit, a Canuck, and a Croatian, all male, all talking about drinking and partying. Yes, that’s why it’s called The Booze ‘n’ Snooze. It was my first “party hostel” and I don’t think I’ll be staying in one again. For me it was just too much. All I saw in Split was the bar and the beach, although to be fair there’s not much else there, and barely had a substantial conversation with anyone. Pretty soon, we were joined by 3 Canadian girls, and Alex, the Croatian who was basically employed by the hostel to take people around and show them a good time, took us to Fifi, a traditional Croatian restaurant with affordable food, big portions and ocean views. That meal was amazing, I had traditional bell peppers stuffed with ground beef with fluffy mashed potatoes and a light Croatian white wine, accompanied by a view of the setting sun over the boats in the harbor.
After dinner, that night gets kind of fuzzy. I stopped at a liquor store with some of the guys, who had drafted me into the “alpha team” for the night in lieu of their buddy who was absent. We went back to the hostel terrace, now raging with guests and revelers, and I had a great time talking with Tessa, a 21-year-old Australian flower child who’d been on the road for 2 1/2 years. The night gets foggier when the group headed to Charlie’s Backpacker Bar, which was bumping at 10 on a Monday night. At some point we headed to the beach club, but I only made it as far as the beach.
My second day in Split began with a massive hangover and the discovery that I had banged up both of my knees on one of the iron benches on the Rila and had a small piece of glass in my foot from the beach. That’s what I get for trying to be “one of the lads” and drinking with young guys. Lesson sorely learned.
I had some breakfast, and spent a very long time slowly making my way through the labyrinth of the palace area, along the Rila, and up the shore to the beach where Alex had taken the Canadian girls and some of the Australians for the day. The beach was drop-dead gorgeous, all pebbly with bright, clear water. I sunned for a bit, and then discovered the world’s best hangover cure: swimming in the Adriatic. It was pure heaven. I spent a long time there, alternating between sunning on the shore and swimming in the water. Late in the afternoon, I meandered back to the hostel.
My second night in Split was pretty similar to the first: cheap Croatian food, drinking games on the hostel terrace, a trip to Charlie’s Backpacker Bar, although I watched myself and drank a Normal Person amount and not a Crazy Person amount. There were no new injuries. Which was a good thing, as I had a lot more of Croatia still to see.
Good Luck and Happy Travels,