The bus carried us down the coast to our next destination, Split. A gorgeous city and the home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, it was a very historical and beautiful city protected by a string of islands off it’s long coast that we could not wait to explore.
We arrived in Split hungry and ahead of our check-in time at our Air B&B, so we found a restaurant near us to sit down for lunch. We came across a local place where we filled up on tuna brodetto with gnocchi. After filling up on the fresh seafood, we were picked up by our host and taken to our new home for upcoming week (and then-some). Our host family was so nice and catered to all of our needs. They showed us around our small but cozy apartment, had the fridge stocked with some snacks, juices, and even a couple types of home-made lemon and walnut brandies. We settled into our place and took a quick nap to get us ready for our first night in Split.
We went out for dinner at a restaurant recommended by our hosts called Fife. It was a great local restaurant right off of the Adriatic. We could tell it was a Split favorite by the line of people waiting when we arrived. After a short wait, we certainly found out why it was a favorite and it quickly became one of ours as well. The food was great and the prices were even better. I had a veal stew with peas and onions with a side of mashed potatoes and Abby scarfed down a barbequed pork steak with an amazing sweet and smokey sauce. The portions were huge and we found ourselves too full to finish our plates, even after sampling each others and trying to help out the best we could while washing it down with some good Croatian beers.
Filled up and refueled, we set out downtown to explore one of the treasures of Split: Diocletian’s Palace. Most of the downtown area is encompassed by the palace and the beauty of it all is hard to explain in words. The palace stretches on for many blocks in all directions and the modern city of Split was built right into it. It is the area where you will spend all of your time in Split, whether you are looking for food, drinks, shopping or entertainment. We grabbed some road beers and sat down in the heart of the palace to take in the sight of the columns, towers and beauty while also listening to some live music. It was an area we would frequent the days to come.
Emily broke the news to us that she would be heading home soon and decided to spend four days in Split before going to Germany to visit family one last time. Since it was her last few days in a coastal paradise, we spent every day on the water, soaking in the rays and having drinks on the beach near our place. We found ourselves in a routine those last few days; wake up, beach, refresh, drinks, Diocletian’s Palace, stumble home, repeat. We tried out a few restaurants that our hosts recommended and they certainly were worth the try. One night we ate at Dir and filled up on local dishes. Abby and I both had some seafood (sea bass and tuna) while Emily had a veal steak with loaded baked potatoes. Another night we went to a local Croatian barbeque place close to our apartment called the Macedonian Kitchen where we filled up on smoked meats, steaks, and numerous other types of carnivorous dishes.
The days passed by and Emily’s Thursday departure arrived. We walked her to the bus station, said our goodbyes, gave some hugs and she was off on a 20 hour ride to Germany. Abby and I began the new part of our trip by taking a stroll back to Fife for some dinner (you just can’t beat the price and portions there, let alone the delicious food!). Abby tried another new fish, gilthead bream, while I had some fried squid. After dinner, we grabbed a couple drinks and explored the Marjan Peninsula. We walked the coast, took in the sights, and came upon a cat sanctuary. Seriously! It was a small stretch of beach where people put out food for the stray cats. With the use of our handy cell phone flashlights, we counted about 15 of them near us and could hear and see even more back in the trees. As darkness fell and we had to use our flashlights to stay on the path, we walked back to where? You guessed it, Diocletian’s Palace. We ended our night with a couple drinks in the center and then made our quick 20 minute walk home.
We made plans to do some more exploring on Friday. We bought our tickets and began a tour of the palace’s main locations. We wandered through St. Domnius, an octagonal Roman temple built in the 3rd century. We then stepped outside the front door of the cathedral to climb the bell tower built by the Venetians in the 15th century. Abby and I aren’t afraid of heights, but this one made both of our knees a little shaky. The tower is very wide open and the path up is pretty narrow. Feeling the wind blowing through the columned windows and the openness made this tower very unique while also making it the most exciting one we’ve climbed. After looking around and soaking in the panoramas of Split, we slowly made our way down and went below St. Domnius Cathedral to view Diocletian’s crypt. His tomb has since been removed, but like most Roman temples, has been converted to a Catholic shrine. The crypt now holds the remains of St. Lucy, one of the many patron saints of Croatia. We ended our tour by walking a short distance to the Temple of Jupiter. The temple is a one room shrine, but the ceiling is one of the best preserved authentic Roman pieces of architecture in the world. The hand carved stone and individual pieces placed in the ceiling are definitely something worth marveling at. After being a tourist, we rewarded ourselves with some gelato and made our way home to make some dinner. Abby and I were off to Makarska the following day, but we would be back to Split five days later for our exciting departure back to the Schengen.