Splitting your sides...don't laugh too hard!

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Beach Hostel

Flag of Croatia  ,
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I left for Split on the 10am bus on another beautiful sunny winter day, I have really been blessed with great weather in Croatia, the only cloudy day was the walk around the wall in Dubrovnik, as you could see from the photos. Wiled away the time on the bus taking pics, got a lovely one of a small island that I missed on the trip to Trsteno. Usually I’m either very good or just plain lucky when it comes to knowing when to get off my bus or train, except
for a 3am aberration in Indian, that an Indian saved me from, but that is another story. So when everyone started getting off the bus in this rather large town and there was a sign for the Hotel Park pointing to the left, the landmark for the hostel directions, I confidently got off the bus. There was a café at the bus station, of course, so I used the loo and had a drink and checked my directions to the hostel. All fitted, except I did think that Split would be bigger…Followed the directions, they fitted as well as any other hostel directions, left at the street 50m after the Hotel Park, sea on the left, no name on the street and no sign of the hostel. Asked a guy who had just pulled into an apartment block if this was Viska St, he looked at me strangely (lost
in translation?) so I pulled out the book I write the addresses in to show him. The heading was Split, then the name of the hostel and Viska St. “Its in Split? He asked “mmm yes”  “This is Makarsa, Split is 60kms further up” He laughed. “Its not funny” I laughed, realizing that actually it was very funny. Slept all the way to Split, which looked much more like a city
than Makarsa, ( but very strangely the directions for the hostel fitted better in the other town and I had to ask several people for the street, such is life.

It was nightfall instead of 4pm when I arrived and went for a sunset walk along the promenade that goes for kilometers. Next day the lady in the hostel directed me the wrong way into the old town, but I had another very nice walk along the sea anyway, before I made it into town. Old town Split is completely different from Dubrovnik, it is more like the poor cousin, nowhere near as polished to within an inch of its life and it has Roman ruins! The atmosphere of the place is rather spoiled, I felt, by ‘visual pollution.’ The advertising for the shops is rampant, cheap and nasty. While a lot of the shops are just as expensive as Dubrovnik,
they do not have the same flair or style of presentation, but Split definitely has personality. I went to the main square for a coffee and the only other person brave enough to sit outside in the afternoon chill was a guy drawing. It wasn’t really a ploy to start a conversation with him, I have been drawing and going to art galleries, which always makes me feel creative, so I asked him where there was an art shop, I was sick of using my Artline pen and wanted some pencils and a charcoal…we talked art for the next hour or so, he is from Argentina. Your original, young, struggling artist travelling the world. People sometimes say they envy my life, but how much I wish I’d done what he is doing when I was his age….but envy is pathetic! We talked about art, money and how he is just starting to make some through selling his work in the public market and the difficulties he faced when he first came to Europe. I wandered off for my tourist look around, but it was getting cold and late so I went home via the nice little café on the beach and the supermarket for dinner.

The next day it was time to do some serious exploring of the old town and go to the brand new Split gallery. The building didn’t have the personality of the one in Dubrovnik, but it had many more international artists (George Grosz drawings, a Druer etching and was this where I saw the Hans Fabre, the Dutch artist who does crazy things with beetle wings??) the contemporary work, what little there was of it, was of a much higher quality, but nothing remotely challenging. Of course the same 19thC Croatian artists were well presented. Interesting that several were on loan to a major gallery in Amsterdam (I think it was Amsterdam, maybe I should start taking notes!) perhaps these Croatian artists are better respected in Europe than in the antipodes, no surprise there I guess. For a new gallery it
was disappointingly crowded, there seemed to be a lot of under utilised space,
but perhaps that will improve.

The next day I decided on a totally unplanned mission to Hvar, the main island off Split, no guide book, no idea of what was there or even the names of the towns. I had picked up a ferry timetable, but it was in Croatian and I completely misread it, so turned up at the wharf for a 8.15am ferry that did not exist. It was a mission, but with the help of a friendly local and some very good luck I did end up on a ferry at 9am. It was a 2 and a half hour journey, but of course
there was a café on board, the scenery was nice, if not special, but it was bitterly cold on deck. Arrived at the island and saw all the locals heading for a bus, picked the middle destination on the list on the windscreen, got there and realized it was not where I wanted to be and jumped back on the bus. I did get a nice little ride around the island though! It is wall to wall olive groves, vineyards and scrub, with low mountains in the background. The driver seemed to understand, obviously no tourist in their right mind would want to go to Jellsa (or whatever it was called) and took me back to Stari Grad, the place the local had mentioned earlier and pointed out that it was a 20min walk back to the ferry. A very pretty little harbour town it was too. Wandered around from café to cafe, via a few churches and some ruins I couldn't find and took some photos. Had a Croatian stewed vine leaf rolls and mashed spuds for dinner and then had a mad dash to the ferry because dinner took much longer to arrive than I thought it  would. Shame, it would have been a lovely walk, but if I missed the boat I would’ve missed the train to Zagreb and I’d already bought the ticket for that night.

I had a compartment to myself and slept all the way, even if the ticket inspector did say there was no sleeping allowed, or did I lose something in translation there??? I’m sure that’s what he was saying, what else could he have meant by closing his eyes and dropping his head and saying no?? But thankfully there were no sleep police and it wasn’t a bad trip at all.

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