‘Oh wow, don’t get the train. It’s not good here.’
Lesson one: listen to what the locals tell you. My journey to Split from Zagreb was an early start, with a 7.35am train to catch. I’m not such a fan of travelling by bus/coach, I’m traveling alone so don’t have someone to share driving with – not that I have ever driven on the European side before – and so my only other option was the train. I’ve travelled by train a lot across Europe and thought it was just the prospect of a 6-hour journey that had led to the warning. While the majority of the journey was comfortable with stunning views of the Croatian countryside, for some unknown reason the air conditioning was turned off for about an hour. We also kept randomly stopping in the middle of nowhere, presumably to just hang out in a field for a while. This was really not appreciated in crazy hot temperatures, and it was actually unbearable to sit on the train like that when there were no windows to open.
Stepping out of the train in Split, I was so happy to be off the train that I didn’t care that we were an hour later than anticipated. I chucked my backpack on and made the short but sweaty walk into the city centre to check in to my apartment. After a well needed shower to freshen up, I was straight out into the charming stone paved streets to explore this tiny, historical city.
Through the narrow streets, slipping over the smooth stone and finding it a little less charming, I chose a direction and just walked. Within minutes I’d passed through a small square and popped out in the harbour. The welcome breeze came straight off the sea, and I walked along Riva, the lively boardwalk filled with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Trying to get an idea of the city, I wandered around and got my bearings, occasionally finding myself outside the old city walls, in markets, finding an impressive square that I later found out was Peristil courtyard, and just generally had a walk around the city stopping occasionally for ice cream and dinner before heading in for the night.
After a well needed rest, the next morning I was up and out no so early. First stop of the day – Stari Pazar. The main market area of Stari Pazar was still buzzing with people when I arrived, and after looking around the many stalls of food, fruit, clothes and souvenirs, it was on to the church.
A slight detour through the back streets of the city, I then joined the short queue of two people before being given a super attractive smock to wear over my clothes. It was already very hot, and while not wanting to get hot and sweaty in the smock, I also couldn’t stop thinking who else had already worn it and been sweaty. Don’t think about it…don’t think about it...
Saint Domnius Cathedral is thankfully quite small in cathedral terms, so after a short walk around I was able to return the delightful smock and let my body breathe again. A quick lapse in judgement found me queuing to climb the bell tower, desperate to get some panoramic views of the city. As the heat pressed down, a rumour came down the queue that it might be closed. I was far too quick to accept that, and dashed off with the intention to head back to the seafront to grab a drink and cool down.
As per usual, I was being nosy and spotted a doorway in Mozaik Podrum, and after paying the modest entrance fee found myself climbing stairs and ending up on the rooftop. It really was too hot for this kind of thing, but the rooftop views of Split were totally worth it. For a short time. Heading back down to find some shade and cooler temperatures, I ventured into Diocletian’s Cellars.
The old cellars of the palace have been converted into a market place, and were even used as a filming place for Game of Thrones. I had no idea until after I’ve been there, so just had a look around the market before heading back to the apartment for a bite to eat.
Come evening, I made my way back to Peristil and took a seat in the open-air courtyard where live music was underway. Although the drinks are at a premium price there, it’s worth it to sit in the warm summer evening air, surrounded by people also enjoying the smooth live music. As the evening drew on, people got up and danced, and eventually the heat of the day got to me and I made my way back to the apartment.
My last full day in Split, I wasn’t really sure what else there was to see in the city. I’d seen most of the charming streets the day before, mostly from getting repeatedly lost in the rabbit run of back streets, and had seen what I thought were the main sights of the city. There was only one thing for it – beach day!
Thankfully the beach is just a short walk from the city centre, and after stopping by the ferry terminal in the port to grab a ferry ticket for the next day, I tentatively followed some other people hoping we were all going to the same place – foolproof plan right? – and actually did make it to Bačvice beach. The sandy beach area is small, and the sunbeds on the surrounding concrete were relatively expensive for Croatia prices. I decided that I’d save the money and instead laid my towel alongside many others on the concrete, looking out over the large bay.
After so many days on the go in the heat, I was so happy to enjoy a day sunbathing, reading my book and enjoying the beachy vibes. The bay is shallow for a quite a distance, and people were spread out across the whole way, most up to just waist height. As the heat got to me, I even ventured in for a quick dip, keeping an eye on my bag and worrying the whole time someone would pinch it!
Eventually calling it a day, I sluggishly walked back to the apartment. A quick bite for dinner and shower, I took one last walk along the Riva before heading back to pack, ready for an early morning boat to Dubrovnik the next day.