stunning views

stunning views

Next to Italy, on the eastern end of the northern Mediterranean, there used to be a country called Yugoslavia. This part of the coast has been fought over by various armies over the years, but peace has descended so Split has now become something of a coastal party resort.

After an internal war the area is now divided into various countries, but Croatia got the best part of the deal as far as the coast is concerned. Cruise ships call in at major resorts, we have just returned from visiting various destinations, which included the enchanting Split.

fascinating alleys

fascinating alleys

It’s the second largest Croatian city, and the largest in the region of Dalmatia. We have never visited this region previously, and were really surprised by its natural almost unspoilt beauty. This is despite hoards of tourists who go further south to Dubrovnik, which has so much history, but encourages as many cruise ships to visit in a day, so it is possible to have an influx of 20,000 camera-wielding day-trippers completely changing the atmosphere from sunny indolence to frenetic impetus to see as much in as short a time.

Split is not like that. We docked at 1pm, staying for a scheduled eight hours, being the only ship in port. Split is a strange dichotomy, it is a party town, attracting youngsters from all over Europe to the night-life, but during the day they must be asleep because the plentiful cafes were full of mature locals, young families, cruise ship passengers in the minority.

in the Dotto shadow

in the Dotto shadow

The natural harbour attracts hotel boats as well, visiting various ports along the coast for a day/night at a time. There is one large company that has many such boats, a four night cruise less than E400. We didn’t bother with lunch on the ship, were one of the first to go ashore as we were intrigued with the atmosphere. The ten minute walk alongside the moored vessels was interesting in itself, there are two frequent car ferries to adjacent islands, then we selected our lunch café.

The waiting staff all speak English to a high standard, no language confusion, but the snack choices are not necessarily correlated to expected reality. I asked for a ham and cheese croissant, but the local conception of this French delicacy is a wedge of white roll, with sparse thin tasteless cheese and processed ham. My wife’s panini was more thick roll, with vinegary flavoured coleslaw overpowering the tasteless cheese. Our fault for mis-ordering, but beware confusing anticipation and reality.

lovely square where we had coffee

lovely square where we had coffee

As well as the preponderance of cafes, as far as shops were concerned by far in the ascendancy were those retailing jewellery. The ubiquitous souvenir shops abound, but local jewellery is very popular. Pam looked at some of the prices, they seemed quite reasonable.

The currency takes some getting used to. As Croatia are part of the EU, we thought that the euro would be main money. No, the local Croatian kuna is first, then the euro. You may get 7 kuna to the euro, elsewhere 9, because some of the cafes will take both.

nice apartment block no graffiti

nice apartment block no graffiti

Split and the surrounding area has a population of 180,000, but it doesn’t have the feel of a place that size. The harbour area is easy to wander around, there was a street market on the day we visited that seems to be permanent, and it has an affluent feel to it, as it has become an increasingly popular tourism destination.

We decided to take the dotto train to the highest point overlooking the town. This is a natural park for ramblers, cyclists, anyone who appreciates lovely views. It was only ten euros each, powered by a land train. That was because electric would never have made it up the very steep hills. We were out for an hour, with quite a drive around Split as well, so we could see the suburban areas that tourists would not normally drive through.

Oceana in the harbour

Oceana in the harbour

The way up was via a main road, passing affluent houses. The train travelled at a fair old lick, as it was going uphill all the way with a full complement of two carriages and passengers. The scenery was stunning, we could see over hedges and fences to the properties. A lot were in up to half an acre of land, but the properties were not really imposing. A lot were on one level, at most three bedrooms apart from the grandiose ones that stood way out as being exceptional. It wasn’t possible to ascertain prices, as our poor old brains struggled with currency conversions, but going online I have discovered contrasting choices from a studio apartment with one bedroom and a bathroom – nothing else – for 115,000 euros, to out of town rural living for considerably less. If you want population then it’s going to cost you a lot more.

Graffiti is prolific in some areas, non-existent in others. On the way down was via side residential roads, quite fascinating to see.

The walk back to the ship was longer, we just ambled, taking in the atmosphere of this quaint historic tourist port we would be delighted to return to for a longer visit of a few days. We liked it.