Thursday, September 30, 2010

Split: not just a port town

We weren’t particularly sure why we were going to Split, other than to catch a ferry to some of the islands, but we had connected with a couch surfer (Paula) living locally and our three night stay turned out to be a treat! We stayed in the heart of the Old Town, otherwise known as the Diocletian’s Palace with its labyrinth of stone alleyways and courtyards, originating from ancient times. Although we arrived in the pouring rain, Paula was kind enough to show us to her friend’s apartment where we were staying and by the next day, we woke to hear the bustle of morning activity….local produce and fish markets, children playing as they headed off to school, friends laughing as they met for morning coffee and locals greeting each other as they passed by. We were instantly captivated by the atmosphere inside these enchanting ancient walls and spent much of our time in Split exploring within them, including the rooms built underground.

We heard live acoustic music, while sitting on the steps of a sunken courtyard surrounded by stone pillars and other masonry, displaying intricate detail and enough light shining in exactly the right places to set the romantic mood. We watched as an older couple began dancing on their own without a care in the world and as if noone was watching. This got us talking with Paula about the spontaneity of Croatian culture and how this was something we all loved about it. People here really know how to seize every moment and live completely to the full, seemingly without many cares….or at least they hide them well and exhibit their joy to greater measures. Paula shared the flip side to this moment to moment living which I guess is pretty obvious….apparently, people here are not very good at planning for or making decisions about the future, which is reflected not only in people’s every-day lives, but at the government level as well. Still, it made us reflect on the importance of joy, pleasure and spontaneity, which can only come from living in the moment. Maybe sometimes, it is ok to be a bit less concerned about the future, or at least to balance the scales a little more evenly.

We visited the open air market, where locals buy their fresh produce and were instantly in our element as we were surrounded by so much edible colour and texture. Almost every fruit and vegetable you can think of, lay on the tables exuding their freshness and proudly sold by local farmers. I have completely fallen in love with Croatian figs and knowing they were about to go out of season, I bought some from a beautiful old lady, who gladly handed over some additional freebies. In these moments, I imagined the joy it would bring me to venture out to the market like this every day to buy fresh, organic produce directly from local growers.

We ate out a few times, but began to realise that despite a myriad of ingredients available, restaurant menus were very similar in this part of Croatia and reading them wasn’t helping our choice of where or what to eat. Paula came to our rescue and recommended a tiny restaurant hidden away and run by a husband (waiter) & wife (cook) team where we ate authentic grilled chicken with mushroom sauce, a traditional beef dish marinated in wine, called Pasticada and for dessert, palacinke – traditional Croatian crepes. Mmmmm!

Paula gladly shared a whole heap of recommendations of where and what to include for the remainder of our time in Croatia. This included a must-visit to Vis Island, Croatia’s most remote of it’s 47 inhabited islands, with it’s preserved beauty and limited development. We decided to exclude the island of Hvar, with it’s mass development, high rises and ‘touristy’ feel and go to Vis instead.

The sunken courtyard where we listened to live music

The outside palace walls



Buying figs at the market


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