Why not! When I started to explore travel in Croatia, I realized we could experience ancient history, beautiful nature and Dalmatian culture all in a short trip to Split. The pictures of medieval architecture, waterfalls, and the gorgeous Adriatic coast totally sold me. Dalmatia has become a very popular tourist destination because it’s a filming location for Game of Thrones. Since we haven’t seen a single episode of this show, it obviously wasn’t the draw for us. 😏
The travel was easy — a cheap two hour flight from Rotterdam to Split and a short bus ride into the city. Since it’s the off season, I was able to find a great apartment with an amazing view for €75 a night. The rental guy met us at the bus station with a warm welcome and gave us a quick tour of the neighborhood. After we got settled in, we walked into the old city, through the market area and ended up with a sunset stroll along the waterfront. We had dinner at a restaurant along the Riviera, where we enjoyed octopus salad, sea bass, tuna and Croatian wine.
On Sunday, we did an excursion to Sibenik, Krka National Park and Skradin. It took about an hour to get to Sibenik by van. We travelled with a British couple who were on a two week vacation. The van driver was very chatty and spat out (literally) a lot of statistics and facts about Croatia. In Sibenik, we did a quick, but interesting, tour of the old city. The tour included St. James Cathedral, a 15th century stone church, but we were only able to see the outside since there was a mass in progress. I really liked the narrow alleyways and stonework in this city.The main attraction of this excursion was a tour of Krka National Park where there are hundreds of waterfalls. We were so fortunate to have a warm sunny day there! I thought we would be able to swim in front of the big waterfall (as advertised), but it was prohibited because the water was supposedly too high. So yeah, it didn’t look very high us. Some people tried to get in the water, but I think they eventually got kicked out. Anyway, we had plenty of time to walk through the park, take a ton of pictures and have lunch. The scenery was amazing!From the park, we boarded a ferry which took us to Skradin. We met up with our tour group there and took a short drive to a winery. It’s a family owned winery where they do all the work themselves from planting, harvesting, fermenting to bottling. The wine industry is relatively small in Croatia and it’s only for domestic consumption (no exports). Along with some bread and cheese, we tried three wines and a grappa (small amounts!). Our group, which consisted of four Brits and five Americans, all sat at a big table and chatted while we ate and drank; it was a nice way to end the excursion. We were exhausted by the end of the day and happy to veg at the apartment with a football game and pizza and more wine in hand. Around 3:30, I woke up and thought I smelled smoke. I wasn’t fully awake and thought it was just something outside, since the windows were open. About fifteen minutes later, I woke again and could still smell smoke. I got up and looked out all the windows to see if I could see the smoke. Nothing. I went out onto the balcony and looked down. There were two fire trucks sitting in front of our building! The hoses were lying on the ground and there were no firemen in sight. I woke up Dick and told him what I saw. He went out to the elevator area where you can see down and the guys at the bottom said there had been a small fire and everything was okay. So this was good news, but we immediately wondered why there had been no alarm! I’m pretty sure that would be a code violation in the US. When I lived in an apartment building, an obnoxious alarm would go off through the entire building anytime someone burned toast.
Monday was our chance to see the city sights. We started with a fantastic two hour tour of the Diocletian Palace and old city. We learned so much about Diocletian and the history of Split in such a short time! After lunch, we browsed through the shops and side alleys of the palace, which is actually a huge complex of buildings occupied by businesses and residents. It was built in the fourth century and is one of the most preserved Roman structures in the world. It another warm day with full sun, so we did a quick change and headed to the beach. When I planned this trip, I thought it would be too cold to go to the beach. What a bonus! We haven’t been to a beach in a long time. The water was a bit chilly, but I waded in and Dick did a quick swim. Our plan for the evening was to hike up Marjan hill to see the sunset on the western side (the hill blocks a sunset view from the city). That ‘hike’ was over 300 steps and a couple of slopes to get to a viewpoint at the top. There were viewpoints of the city and the harbor along the way. When we got to the top, we realized that there is still an island to the west so the sun would set over that instead of the water. Oh well, it was still nice with amazing light and it was a good workout to get there. Our day ended with a seafood feast and black risotto at an authentic Croatian family restaurant. The catch of the day was shown to us on a platter before we made our choice. I liked the squid and hake the best. The black risotto is made with cuttlefish ink and chucks of squid. The dark black color and thoughts of eating ink are a little off-putting, but it was delicious!
The next morning we had to get up early to catch the flight back home. There were some tense moments when the bus was late and the line at customs was at a standstill, but we made it to the gate on time. We loved this trip and it was way too short!