Split: The Difference

Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
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Trip End Aug 03, 2011


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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Split, Croatia, is a gorgeous place.

Moving from Reykjavik (latitude 64) down to Copenhagen (latitude 55) to Split (latitude 43) makes this final leg of my journey all the more shocking to the senses. Here, I am in a place much closer to home in terms of placement on the planet (Kansas City is 39; Milwaukee would be at 43 as I am here).

But, with Split, a peninsula, sitting on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, 200 miles east of the Italian coast, the weather here is temperate with hot, relatively dry summers and mild, wet winters. On the average day in summer it is 85 degrees; in winter, fifty degrees. Today is, well, average; and beautiful

The city is 1,700 years old and named for the "Split" plant, a shrub that grows here. In common with almost everywhere else I have been on this tour, this place was invaded by the Nazis during World War II. Stay with me here: After World War II, Split became a part of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, itself a constituent sovereign republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Split is now a major tourist destination. It is easy to see why as I sit on the giant deck of my hotel, the Radisson Blu, looking down on the Adriatic. The serenity is marred only by a one man band crooner sort of fellow who should probably stick to instrumental entertainment. He's doing Nancy Sinatras’ rendition of “Then I Go And Spoil It All By Saying Something Stupid Like I Love You” but in a strange accent.

My flight from Copenhagen was late getting in last night due to a late arriving airplane (from Rome). The Split International Airport is the first place in the world where I have stood, not in line but in mob, for passport inspection by immigration officials. Seriously, there was no line. Just a bunch of people all together, inching forward. I stood behind a particularly effective incher and facilitated my clearance nicely, thank you.

One cleared through customs, I continued my preference of traveling as do the locals so rather than take an $85 cab ride from the airport to the hotel, I took, along with 41 other tourists—all much younger (in years) than I—the $6 bus to Split’s town center. From there, I walked to the Radisson Blu which was much, much farther than I had thought.

The guy is singing Frank Sinatra’s Somewhere Beyond The Sea,” which is more appropriate to the setting at least.

When I arrived here, the bar was open but the restaurant and bar kitchen was closed. I had a jumbo Karlovacko, the local beer and then retreated to my ultra modern room to order room service at about midnight. I was entertained by a beachside rave which I could see from my balcony that attracted, I am told, ten thousand music fans. It was quite a sight (and sound). The entertainment was scheduled to run from 10:00pm until 5:00am. Fortunately, I had my earplugs and sleep came easily.

Up, as I am, with the sun, I threw on my walking clothes and scampered down to the beach and headed out. Four miles was easy as I could watch early arrivers at the beach, sail and power boats, ferries and, or course, the beautiful sea. Back to the hotel, I grabbed breakfast and went back to the beach to begin my explorations. I walked to town and then up the hill (way up) to the top of Park Suma Marjan, about 600 feet above sea level. On the way, I encountered what may be my favorite church of this trip, the ultra tiny church of Sv. Nicholas which dates from 1291. A wedding had recently been held there.

The musician is trying to do Louis Armstrong now.

On the way back down, I stopped for a beverage about halfway. Then, on into Split itself. The center of the city is dominated by the Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. People live, work, dine and otherwise occupy these ruins as if they were built yesterday. The new mixes with the very, very old and enchants the visitor.

I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe on the edge of the palace grounds and enjoyed myself completely. Here, as with everywhere I have been, gigantic umbrellas shield the tables. In Scandinavia, the thing shielded was rain; here, it is the sun. People watching is one of my favorite things to do in spots like this. My perch is perfect for that as a parade of humanity passes by that is both eclectic and familiar. Families, couples, babies in strollers, some behaving badly and embarrassing their parents, remind me that it is the same the world over. Languages and settings change but people are people.

Then, I walked back to the hotel along the seaside, detouring once because high waves (you could not see them coming until they broke) drenched the path I was to take. I waited and waited to pass but these sneaky breakers kept coming so I climbed the hill even though, with calmer waters, I could have stayed on the flat. Literally thousands of bathers occupied the crystal clear waters along my way...about four miles I'd reckon.

Bodies both superb and unsettling clad in next to nothing (for men, the obligatory Mediterranean Speedo which leaves nothing to the imagination). The men are pretty hairy, more so I would say than at the Sulgrave Regency pool. Topless doesn’t cut it here but I don’t see why. It seems to me that everyone in town is here. Young, old, very young, very old; everyone. The beach isn't sand. It is pebbles. And, it is not deep; that is to say that the water line and the shore line are compressed upon each other leaving not nearly enough room for all those who wish to sun bathe. So, they lay their towels on the pebbles, on the sidewalk, on the rock wall, on the dirt beneath the trees, everywhere. The surfaces would, to me, appear to be universally uncomfortable. However, to these folks, it all seems to be a bed of roses. The water is warm and very clear and everyone seems to be in and out. Bordering the walkway are coffee shops, cafes and restaurants. Ice cream vendors dot the walkway. Boats, large and small, under sail and motoring, ply the water. I am struck by the absence of loud engine noises.

The musician is now performing Guantanamera. That’s Cuban, right? But, at least we’re staying with a nautical theme.

The major language of the world least spoken here is English. When I handed over my passport when checking in last night, the friendly clerk said, “Oh, an American.” Menus are mostly not in English but some are. By now, pasta and wine or beer is my nearly universal order when I have no idea what the menu says. It’s working fine.

The Entertainer is taking a break. So, then, shall I.

You would like it here.
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Comments

Chalise on

You are right, I'd like it there. It sounds like one of your most interesting haunts. Grand. Thanks. Chalise

Linda on

Would we be happy for the duration? Or is one day and night enough. Looks like we should go there.

Linda on

New Blog picture of Paul...a line from a great new broadway show comes to mind...."I am....."

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