Balkan Trip 2: A Night in Split

“Here is Marko Marulić, the inventor of iPad,” said the girl who guided us in a free walking tour while grinning. She chuckled, inviting me to chuckle along her joke.

For those who wonder whether Marulić really invented the iPad, you can see that the statue of his does seem like he’s holding a tablet:

Earlier that day, after an uphill walk to the apartment we rent, Juan and I got to take some rest in the morning after the looooo~ng journey from Budapest to Zagreb to Split (read Balkan Trip 1: Aboard The Budapest-Split Train to know what I’m talking about). Feeling refreshed after taking a shower and getting rid of the sticky sweat accumulated in the previous day, we were set to go to the Old Town to do a walking tour. “I couldn’t do it yesterday because with Sudish I only drank some beers and took some random walks,” Georgi said.

We went to Riva, the promenade by the sea shore, and tried to find the metal miniature of the Old Town, the meeting point of the tour. Initially we couldn’t find it and people that we asked were not that helpful (or it was just pure business competition because we asked a girl in a paid-tour booth). But after a while, we found the guide girl, standing next to the miniature with her friend, another girl with tanned skin who happened to speak Spanish, to Juan’s surprise.

Georgi, Juan, and I were the only tourists in that sun-scorched day who joined her tip-based walking tour. I felt kinda sorry for her because although she was quite witty and bouncy, leading us around the small Old Town, she wouldn’t earn much from the tips. She’s kind but too bad that I can not remember her name now (damn I can not boast my name-memorizing ability any longer to Sudish).

Anyway. Split is inseparable with its Diocletian Palace, which was built between the late 3rd and the early 4th centuries AD. The whole Old Town is actually the palace itself. As the namesake suggests, the palace was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He then spent his later years in the enormous palace that he made near his birthplace, Aspalthos, in Dalmatia. He wanted to have his retirement palace there in Split because of its sulphuric thermal spring. (“If you smell something bad around here, it’s not rotten egg or pollution from the boats on the shore, it’s the sulphur from the spring,” said the guide girl while pointing at the thermal bath around the corner near the fish market.)

Behind the alfresco cafes is the wall of the Palace, a.k.a. the Old Town of Split.
Peristil, the intersection of the two main streets, cardo and decumanus, which split the palace into four quarters.
Souvenir stalls in the basement of the palace.
The clock on the clock tower.
Trg Republike (Republic Square), “a mini version of Venice’s San Marco square,” said the guide. I think it is.
Strolling on the sand-less shore.
Acting as the Romans.

While walking through the vestibule, we came across a group of men doing klapa, acapella Dalmatian-style. The acoustic of the place made their voices sounded even better.

The guide told us several ironies of the Old Town. Diocletian hated Christians and was known to persecute them. Just a few decades after his death, Constantine made Christianity as the official religion of the empire, and churches were built in Split, including in Diocletian’s personal quarter. Another irony is that the Old Town has been ghettoized — richer citizens live outside the Old Town, in the newer parts of the city; the poorer ones filled the Old Town instead.

From palace to ghetto.
Love/hate. Complicated.
Recycling the old town: over centuries, citizens have been recycling the building materials. This Roman pillar was turned into a high table for a bar (it was closed when I took the picture).

At the end of the tour, before giving her our tips, we asked for a good and affordable place to eat. She recommended Buffet Fife and we found out that it was pretty good! I had not eaten proper seafood for a while and I was happy to eat some fishes again. The portions are generous, so beware if you’re planning to go there. A “mixed fish plate” turned out to be filled with three different kinds of fish (I have no idea about their names).

Yaaaaay good seafood!

Satisfied with the lunch, we followed Georgi’s plan to try to catch a ferry to Supetar in Brac, the nearest island in Southern Dalmatia. We took a 50-minutes Jadrolinija ferry to Supetar. The ride cost us 33 kuna (around 4.4 euro) one-way. So far it was the best ferry boat I’ve ever been, it was very spacious with comfortable seats and plenty of wide windows to watch the sea goes by. I had a short nap on our way to the island 😀

We didn’t get to see much of the island, though, as we didn’t have that much time (Joro had a train to catch in the afternoon); so we bought some yummy gelato, found a spot near the beach, and let Georgi played with the water. Unfortunately neither me nor Juan brought our swimming suits so we chose to lay down and… have another nap. The beach itself was not spectacular, it had no sand and I found the gravels to be annoying — the gravels were not the rounded ones but were pointy and hurt my feet. That was perhaps why most people in the beach chose to wear not even sandals but water shoes to reduce the probability of getting hurt by the gravels.

Inside the boat.
Approaching Supetar.
No sand, just gravels.

We went back to Split in the afternoon. After seeing Georgi got on the train back to Zagreb (where he would continue with another train to Budapest), Juan and I walked back to the apartment through the Old Town, which seemed pretty different and much nicer at night. The Peristil was filled with people, who watched the live music from the Luxor Cafe. We sat on the steps for a while, free-riding, enjoying the music. Occasionally waiters from the cafe asked us whether we wanted to order something — being budget travellers, we answered no, thank you.

Peristil at night.
The Aurum (Gold) gate.

In the morning, we packed our things, checked out of the apartment, and went to the bus station to catch a bus to our next destination. Good bye, Split!

The bus took us to Dubrovnik…
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