Another early morning for me. As much before seven as I can make it out the door, which isn’t usually very much! There is no other sign of life at the hostel when I leave. I wander along the Riva promenade before cutting back into the old town via the very impressive Narodni Trg (people’s square).
The smells of a city dragging itself awake after a very late night are an affront to my senses – pungent fish from the market, freshly ground coffee beans from an empty cafe, cannabis from a lonely straggler left over from the night before.
There is a highly organised army of street cleaners at work – people sweeping and putting rubbish into bags, guys on electric carts collecting the bags, jet washers leaving the stone walkways even more shiny than usual.
There are a few early morning market shoppers, some early departing tourists rattling their cases over the stones, pigeons cooing, gulls screaming, builders banging. The old city is a maze of narrow lanes with many arches and horizontal supports overhead. I stumble across the fruit and vegetable market. Most the the stalls are only offerring in-season produce and I guess they are small-holders who have brought what grows from their own plots.
I have the city pretty much to myself for a couple of hours which is really lovely, and I manage to find many beautiful spots before the hordes arrive. I visit the cathedral (it has to be one of the smallest cathedrals in existence), the entry ticket (25 kuna) includes entry to the crypt and the Temple of Jupiter baptistery. But the highlight was a hike up the bell tower (30 kuna). I asked the ticket guy how many steps I should expect and he said just 160. He actually shortchanged me – there were 163, but the first 60 original stone steps should each have counted as two as most of them were 50+ cm high. Luckily after that there were scaffolding steps, not so pretty but a lot kinder on the legs. I reached the top with hardly a quickening of breath – Dubrovnik had prepared me well for for this. The views over the city were, as you would expect, stunning in every direction.
Back with my feet on the ground I found the open dome of the Temple of Venus – a quite magnificent structure where a group of traditional Croatian Capella singers were gathering to entertain the crowds when they turned up.
I’m so glad I was out and about early to experience the ambience of this beautiful walled city because at around 09:00 someone pushed the tourist switch and suddenly there were the same interminable groups of follow-the-leader-people-trains that were so abundant in Dubrovnik.
Of course I don’t think of myself as being the same class of tourist! Individuals like me do not get in your space and entirely take over an area with their presence. (I’m not doing too well in the non-judgemental department!)
Those early hours are very special, both for the morning light and for the peace and quiet.
I pop back to the hostel to get changed and eat some biscuits from my supply. When I arrived yesterday I asked for a lower bunk but there wasn’t one available in the four-bed dorm I had reserved, but I was offered one in an eight-bed dorm and I could change over today. I had a very creaky bed with the worst pillow I have ever experienced in a room full of angst-ridden young men and women, one of whom had the most unpleasant whiny voice and who didn’t draw breath for what seemed like hours. Luckily I have an eye mask with integral ear phones that connects by Bluetooth to my phone for such occasions and so I was able to drown her out with my soothing playlist and managed to get off to sleep without too much trouble. Hopefully tonight will be more peaceful.
Other than the pillows, the Downtown hostel is rather nice with kitchen facilities and plenty of wc’s and showers to go round and even a nice little roof terrace. It is situated right in the heart of the old town and therefore there was the sound of live music and passing voices drifting through the open window, but once that died down, all was very quiet.
I ate at a very nice, very small, vegan restaurant last night – Marta’s Veggie Fusion – and returned there this morning for my first hot drink of this vacation (other than hot water at the accommodation). I enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate with almond milk, and then set off to find the bus station for my trip to the airport in the morning. It is opposite where my ferry docked yesterday, and I purchased a ticket for the 08:00 airport shuttle (34 kuna). I like to check out where I need to be and how long it will take to get there when I am relying on public transport.
Then I took a stroll all the way along the quayside and stopped a couple of times to enjoy the sun shining from a perfectly blue sky. Split has an abundance of public seating, unlike Dubrovnik where it was conspicuous by its total absence. There are so many sailing boats here – from huge great catamarans to little dinghies. Hundreds, probably thousands, of them, all bobing about in the marina.
I found a park above the marina, called Sustipan. A lovely place to while away a couple of hours. I was very well entertained by a party taking wedding photos, bride and groom, bridesmaid and best man and a team of photographers, even employing a drone. That should be a nice wedding video!
I decided a glass of wine was more important than staying in the park long enough to witness my last Croatian sunset over the Adriatic (I had already been there for about two hours). And would you believe it? Just as I was leaving the park I spied a beach bar down below at sea level where happy people were drinking and swimming and sunbathing in exactly the best situation to view that last sunset (Jadran Beach Bar). Judging by the clientele I would guess that this place is a local secret. It was obviously meant to be. And the wine is a very reasonable 25 kuna. Cheers! The perfect end to a perfect stay. (And thank you Eli for pointing me in this direction!)
Something else I’ve noticed in all the places I’ve visited is the copious amount of ice cream everyone (except me) eats. There are parlours everywhere and no matter the time of day or night you will always see countless people devouring a cornet piled high with delicious looking desserts. I must try a sorbet before I go home, but to be honest ice cream without the cream is not much fun. One of the many things I miss on my diet.
I’ve really enjoyed my stay in Croatia. My length of stay was ruled by the available flights, and so it was six days or nothing. To be honest, I think my ideal time for a city break would be from 2-4 days, but considering that I have had four different locations I think I did quite well. With hindsight I wouldn’t have visited Vela Luka but maybe spent one night in Korčula and then moved to a different island for a day before my final stop in Split.
As is my nature and my available budget, I have kept spending to a minimum just in case anyone is interested, this is what the trip cost…
Flights to and from Bristol were £99 (EasyJet)
Bus fare in UK £11
Six nights accommodation £111
Transport- bus and ferry in Croatia £38
Food and drink (in restaurants/bars) £120
Snack shopping £16
Touristy things (entrance fees, etc) £42.50
Mementos (cd/magnet) £8.75
Total cost of trip £446.25
According to the health app on my iPhone
Distance walked 56.7 km
Flights climbed 219 floors