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Balkan Odyssey Part 21: Split, Croatia
I'm sorry to say but Split, Croatia was my second-least favorite town I visited on this trip (just edging out Shkodra, Albania).
Split is not a horrible place by any means, but it did take a while to warm up to. My girlfriend and I had arrived after a long bus trip from Mostar and were a bit taken back by all the hustle and bustle. Split is a large port town with enormous ferries pulling in and out at all hours. The bus station and train station are right next to the port making transfers easy but congestion a real nightmare.
We escaped as quickly as we could to a fine little hotel about a quarter mile from old town called Villa Ana (Vrh Lucac 16, Tel. 021/482-715) and then rushed off to what turned out to be the best Italian food we had all trip at Restaurant Šperun (Šperun 3, Tel. 021/346-999).
The main attraction in Split is yet another old town completely enclosed by thick stone walls. After visiting Dubrovnik and Kotor, I suppose I got a bit spoiled because Split's old town was a little disappointing. I can't exactly explain why, other than the fact that we visited shortly after seeing two of the best walled cities on this planet. Had we gone to Split first, I'm sure I would have like it a lot more. It just seemed a bit too modern and Disney-like and tourist-friendly.
As the sun started to go down and the tourists thinned out, however, I slowly began to warm up to the old town. The feeling began while we were exploring the underground passages (above) which riddle the foundations of Old Town.
Old Town is actually a palace built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century AD to serve as his retirement home. And what a home it was.
The architecture, however, can be heavy and brutish, although it oddly becomes somewhat endearing as the night arrives.
The more we wandered in the evening, the more cozy little bars and tiny alleyways revealed themselves. This was especially true near the back northern wall where we found an unnamed restaurant in the most perfect little courtyard.
Just down another alleyway, not so far away, tables had sprung up in a small square and a man and woman with guitars were singing to a smartly dressed crowd of mostly locals. The lights were dim and shadows danced on the ancient stone which surrounded us.
Hmm. I guess Split isn't so bad after all.