Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I went to Split in Croatia last week in what proved to be a successful attempt to extend the summer vibe. The weather was great – consistently up to 30 degrees, sunny, clear and with just light winds. There was enough to in the vicinity of Split to occupy us for four days without exertion and with plenty of time in between sight-seeing for lolling rather sleepily in cafes and bars. The only low point was when LSW went up to order drinks and a barman asked her if she was with the ‘old man’!
The self-contained apartment we stayed in, which ultimately I had chosen, was, to my relief, satisfactory. LSW’s verdict was the four C’s: comfortable, clean, central but claustrophobic. I understood the complaint about constrained space as I bashed my head of the sloping ceiling for the fourth time in as many days.
When I booked the accommodation, I liked the idea of being able to cook basic meals in the apartment but misjudged that in a number of ways. The lack of a balcony overlooking anything of interest, the lack of basic ingredients (salt, pepper, oil etc.) in the apartment kitchen and, frankly, a lack of local markets with fresh vegetables and fruit, all meant that cooking for ourselves was more unattractive than it had been on some previous holidays. Also, the late summer timing of our visit meant that the multitude of restaurants catering for the peak of the tourist season had plenty of space for us. So, we ate out and we did so increasingly well as the holiday progressed.
Split itself is notable for the remains of a huge Roman palace around and among which the town has developed its core with various layers of history and architectural styles. The palace walls, the busy, substantial harbour and the palm-lined esplanade looked particularly attractive at dusk as the sunset blossomed gently behind the headland, the city lights came on and the tourist shop gore became less distinct.
Split has a couple of recently renovated, spacious – and almost deserted – art galleries. The artists were unfamiliar to me but the Gallery of Fine Arts provided an interesting hour while LSW went shopping. The permanent exhibition of Croatian art was in strict chronological order from medieval gold leaf triptychs up to the modern day. What became apparent was that for about a century until about 1930, the majority of top artists represented used very dark palettes, followed gloomy themes and produced rather unforgiving portraits. There were several brighter, later pieces but I have never seen a collection of such melancholic work.
On the streets, tourists like us were still out in force despite the end of the school holidays. The narrow streets of Split and Trogir were packed from mid-morning especially with what I called ‘arranged walking group clog’. However, it was always easy to avoid the crowds by making an early start to our wanderings and by straying off the main drags. In any case, as LSW said at the time, the advantage of being in such a tourist area is that the logistics are geared up for numbers and all our plans and logistics worked out comfortably with few queues.
We extended our exploits by bus and ferry to nearby towns and islands of Trogir, Supetar and Hvar.
Supetar was little more than a transit point for people travelling to other parts of the island of Brac, but all three had an attractive medieval core. These were filled with limestone churches and houses glowing in the sun. In each town, there was both detail (like iron work) to admire and wonderfully wide sea views. Hvar, in particular, was very picturesque (and most clearly wealthy with its big, shiny yachts). Its splendid castle looked imposing high above the town, the walk up to it was a lovely diversion through cicada-laden pine trees, and it provided great views from its walls.
At each new location, LSW became increasingly proficient with the panorama function on her phone – often from the tops of cathedral bell towers that were open in a way that Health and Safety would have rendered impossible in the UK. As I sat in bars sipping the dark beer and sinking into the sofas, I tried to cull the myriad of photos I taken and replaced several of mine with better efforts from LSW. A few examples are below.
Now we are back (so nice not to be coming back to work!), and we are starting to plan our next trip – probably a visit to a north European Christmas Market. There are a lot of options….. any advice is welcome.