Continued from Zadar
The Boutique Hostel Forum folks had arranged for a cab to drop us at the bus station. Now is a good time to note that toilets in bus stations are pay and use, carry change – usually 3 kunas. The trip to Split took us close to 3.5 hours. The only irritation was that since the luggage compartment was full, the bags had to be kept inside the bus. Thankfully, there were enough vacant seats so it didn’t bother us much. The tourism quotient at Split was markedly higher. Our stay was at Diocletian Palace Experience, and they had said they could pick us up from the bus station if we called them once we had reached. Unfortunately, the only pay phone we could find wasn’t working, but the hotel was only a 10 minute walk away, so we decided to do just that. We were a couple of hours early for a check in (3 PM) but they obliged. Another place without an elevator, but we were on the first floor. In the room, we saw brochures with tours of all kinds, including food and wine tours. We wondered whether we should have planned the next day in a different way.
Our lunch plan was at Bajamonti, a short walk away. Must say that Google Maps is a boon! Rose wine, risotto and veal with a view of the promenade. Life was good.
In the evening, we had arranged a GoT tour with Kristina, whom we had found on TourHQ. We had arranged a meeting spot and got there on time. She had her own car and we drove first to the Klis fortress – Meereen in Game of Thrones. The hill offered a breathtaking view of Split. It was as we walked around the fortress that we figured the amount of CGI that had gone into the show! Kristina was excellent in her work – gave us not only the historical context of the fort, but also shared with us the experiences when the GoT shoot was happening in the city. The fortress also housed a church, which had been converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, and then back into a church later. The fortress was famous for holding its enemies at bay during sieges. Lots of planning had gone in to keep it secure as it was a key location for access to the Adriatic sea.
From Klis, we went to the Water Mills, where a scene with Grey Worm and Missandei had been shot. This was a perfect picnic spot, tranquil and literally cool. We even found a Buddha.
We drove back to the city, and the palace that Diocletian had built for his retirement days. My admiration for the Romans only increased as Kristina explained the different aspects of the planning and architecture. Meanwhile, the basement was also Daenerys’ throne room and where she kept the dragons. Other parts of the town too had filming spots, mostly featuring the battles between the Unsullied and the Sons of the Harpy.
Kristina also gave us tips on the best places to drink and eat at the end of the tour. She also conducts tours in other parts of Croatia, and I’d recommend her highly.
Marjan Hill, which offered an excellent view of Split, was something we had planned for the next day, but since we were unsure of how our day plan would work out the next day, we decide to walk up the same day. The ‘walk up’ begins at one end of the promenade and is quite a task, but the view is completely worth it, especially if you’re around there at sunset.
Kristina had suggested that we try out one of the places on the same road that took us up, and after checking out a few menus and table availability, we finally settled on Libar, which also gave us a view of the promenade. We were one of the few guests, and we wondered why, especially since other restaurants further along were packed. The prices were only a tad higher, and the food was decent. Karlovačka, a popular Croatian beer, clams and pasta later, we slowly walked back to the hotel along the lovely Riva promenade, completing the ice cream ritual on the way.
A day trip to the island of Hvar was the highlight of the next day. We had booked our tickets online much earlier. Our hotel had a few arrangements for breakfast – a take away box before 8, a nearby restaurant for 8 – 9, and a Dalmatian brunch after 9. Our boat was at 9.15 and we chose the second. The restaurant was a 5 minute walk away with very friendly staff. We were dropped off at the ferry (same place as where the bus station was) and began our trip right on time. A little over an hour later, we were in Hvar. After stopping by the Franciscan Monastery and the St.Stephens Cathedral, we began our climb to the Hvar fortress.
The good part about the climb is that it isn’t steep. It takes half an hour and you can walk leisurely enjoying the fantastic views. But it’s the fort itself that offers the best ‘postcard’ views every time you turn your head! D also managed to do some shopping before we headed down.
Our original plan was a place called Divino near the ferry, but D had seen an ad of a restaurant named Faria on the ferry. We decided to try that out, and weren’t disappointed at all. D got herself an excellent fish stew and I had a Dalmatian lamb dish. My only grouse was that their version of mashed potato was pretty much the bhaji that we get with puri! But we had a really relaxing time, helped by the house rose wine. We walked down to the ferry to catch the last boat, just after 2.30.
After we got back to Split, we did some shopping and then slept until a respectable dinner time. Fabrique was the chosen dinner spot, based on Kristina’s suggestion. That turned out to be a craft beer bonanza, we were spoilt for choice! We tried local Croatian beer, in fact Barba was ‘Made in Split’. Chicken ( which we hadn’t had in a long time!) and baby octopus (that plating was fantastic) later, we sat on the promenade, got some amount of live concert experience thanks to some local acts, and watched darkness fall.
Split was definitely more touristy than Zagreb and Zadar, and in that sense, a little less tranquil. Hvar, as it turned out, was a good idea on that count, as well as for the place itself.