Attacked by Old Ladies...

Trip Start Aug 14, 2001
Trip End Nov 07, 2002

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Monday, October 1, 2001

The night train from Keszthely, Hungary to Split, Croatia was a cheap form of accommodation but we weren't exactly well rested when we arrived. We didn't splurge for a 'sleeper' and ended up on a very busy train with other passengers not as intent on snoozing. It wasn't a direct train either, so we stopped an awful lot and we even had to switch trains twice! (Once in the capital city, Zagreb and previous to that, at the Hungarian border.) We also had a hard time sleeping because we were unsure of our arrival time and in fact, were also unsure as to what local time was! We were afraid of missing our stop... It turned out to be 8am when, exhausted, we rolled into Split, Croatia's big coastal city. Bleary-eyed, I stuck my head out the window and saw a tall, glowing ivory-tower, back-dropped by a black sky full of violent promises. The sunrise had this tower looking as though it were made of radiant gold. I was wondering if this was indeed Split and muttering to myself I turned around to find our train car under attack.

That's right, ATTACK! The crazy 'Soba/Zimmer-ladies' of Croatia hit us hard that morning and we've had lots more experiences with them since. For those of you unaware, 'Soba', means 'Room' and these ladies who rent out the rooms in their homes to make money are absolutely brutal. It might be worse now because there are less travelers in the fall months but that first morning in Split, one lady came after us, right onto the train and into our car in hopes that we would rent a room with her! Other travelers have told stories of some ladies fighting over them! ('I saw him first!') We've been caught in literal seas of them. The gates from one ferry-boat ride opened and we had to 'swim' for our lives, everyone of them hollering, 'You need room?' Or, 'SOBA! SOBA!' The funny thing is how they all seem to look the same. I call them 'The Golden Girls...'

Anyways, we lived and even learned. One lady payed us the highest compliment after we finished a 15 minute price-negotiation-session. Handing us the keys to our private flat, she said,'You people, Mafia!' We often use the, 'We students' plea and Katrinka starts to walk out the door if they don't bring down the price some. It seems to work.

Split was hit with a string of thundershowers that first morning but we explored and found an old city within ancient walls containing strange ruins and buildings like we had never seen before. The ivory tower turned out to be the center of it all in Dioletian's Palace where everything seemed quite 'Roman' compared to anything we'd seen in the north. Perhaps most striking to us were the very narrow streets paved with shiny smooth white marble. In the evenings, local young people hang out in the main square which is just littered with broken sections of the ruins.

One day we took a bus out to see some nearby places including Solin and Trogir. Solin, the capital of Dalmatia in the time of Julius Caesar is now a strange contrast to behold. Smack in the middle of urban-sprawl and ugly industrial developments are the neatly kept ruins of Solin, a once important booming fortress. Spread out over a large area, yet completely surrounded by modern life, are found crumbling city walls, remains of ancient cathedrals, public baths, aqueducts and a massive amphitheater. Apparently the hideout of early Christians, before it was 'legal' to practice Christianity, there are also many graves of those martyred in those days. One city gate, 'Porta Ceaserea' dated from the 1st century, still shows deep grooves worn in it's stone road from Roman chariots.
Trogir, was a narrow island full of more marble and narrow roads. Probably most refreshing to us both was the sight of the great-blue-sea, as we hadn't seen or smelled salt water for a couple of months...
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