Despite the recent events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we made it safe and sound to Croatia. The coastal city of Split, the country’s 2nd largest city, was the next victim in our itinerary. This town, which is often referred to as the Mediterranean Flower, has been called the world’s most beautiful city. I don’t know the veracity of that statement, but I do assure you that it is indeed one of the pearls of the Adriatic Sea!
Camping Split Stobrec
Before heading to the city center, we had to make a stop at Camping Stobrec Split to set up our tent. We were going to spend the next three nights there and we were trying out my new summer tent. If you’re a camping enthusiast and you happen to be driving, I strongly recommend this campground. The staff is very nice, the location is pretty good and the facilities are way better than the average. Located within walking distance you can find the beach, several cafes and bars, an open sea diving center and the harbor. You can also get to Split city center in just a few minutes by car, or you can take the local bus.
I was starving at the time we got to Split. Before doing anything else we grabbed something to eat at some fast food restaurant downtown and only then we walked on to discover the city at night. The streets were crowded, and we could hear the music beats as we walked towards the sea. I instantly fell in love with the city’s nightlife as soon as we reached the Riviera’s promenade. People, pubs, clubs, palm trees and the sea… “We’re in Algarve!”. That’s what came to my mind. But, there was something more about Split… The ruins in the background added a special touch, and the fact that I hadn’t seen the sea since 2016, made this moment even better.
The Summer was on its way, the night was both warm and calm. Live music was being played at Peristyle, the central square of Diocletian’s Palace. A moment of chill before heading back to the camping pitch. Surrounding us, there was the St. Domnius Bell Tower and the palace walls, that we had planned on visiting, the very next day.
Riviera, food and souvenirs
Waking up early is always the best key to get to know a city. Parking the car however, that can be a challenge. It was the only day during our entire Balkan Road Trip in which we didn’t manage to avoid paid parking. We started by visiting the places where we had been the last night, but this time, with the company of our camera. The clean sky and the blue water was the perfect scenario for shooting some perfect photos. A large number of boats and yachts could be seen all over Marina Split, the Adriatic’s oldest marina, and far away the large Jadrolinija ferryboats, responsible for linking the mainland and the islands.
We stopped for a late breakfast at Luka Ice Cream & Cakes. We didn’t know what to expect from the place, it had just opened. The owner was very nice, he helped us by sending a text message on our behalf to pay for our parking and in the end, to compensate us for waiting so long he gave us some desert on the house. I told him I’d write a review on this new place, but I never did. Now, 6 months later, I send my regards.
The old bazaar was home to our souvenir hunt. Plenty of options, but of course, what we really wanted was a fridge magnet, to add to our collection. That collection grew large the last months, nowadays we’re even thinking of alternative ways to display our magnets. The souvenirs, just like everything else, were far more expensive in Croatia than in both Belgrade and Sarajevo. I bought myself a t-shirt, a few souvenirs for friends and family, and that was it.
It was time to visit the Diocletian’s Palace, built in the fouth century AD. Peristyle Square was once again crowded, and a group of men was singing regional dalmatian music beneath the sky, in the Mozaik Podrum. Make sure you buy the 45 Kuna (6€) combined ticket, which includes the Cathedral and its Treasury, the Crypt, the St. Domnius Bell Tower and the Temple of Jupiter.
With no doubt my favorite attraction was the tower. You’ll have to climb a few steel steps to reach the top. The view from upstairs is amazing, the higher you climb the better the view gets. A spectacular view of the entire city and its surroundings, including Mount Mosor on the Dinaric Alps. If you look south you’ll see the the islands of Šolta and Brač on the horizon and if you look west you’ll see Park Marjan.
The interior of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius is also a must-visit. Just a few minutes are enough to witness the beauty of its golden interior and to visit its treasury. The crypt on the other hand, is nothing but an empty space. You won’t need more than 5 minutes to go in and out of it.
Similar to the crypt, the Temple of Jupiter won’t steal much from your time either. Despite the interesting architecture, there isn’t much to see. The most interesting piece is probably the headless sphinx on the entrance, one of the twelve sphinxes brought from Egypt by Diocletian. On the inside, the ceiling is rather different, and there’s a statue of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.
What Else to See?
Split isn’t only about the Riviera and Diocletian’s Palace. There is a lot more to see, whether you’re just looking for picturesque streets or museums and galleries. The Republic Square and the Franjo Tuđman Square are two of the places to bear in mind when visiting the city. They’re located practically at the same place, and I wouldn’t know we were speaking of two distinct squares if there weren’t any signs stating it. Here you can find the cultural center of Split and many places to sit down and enjoy a drink outside.
Our choice was the Fabrique Pub, right next to the Church and Monastery of St. Frane. A quiet place during the day, with a nice decoration, and a long menu of drinks.
Not far from here, there is a peculiar museum named Froggyland and that was where we headed to afterwards. I had read on Tripadvisor about this museum and people seemed to like it. The exhibition, just like the name says, is a collection of 507 stuffed frogs depicting everyday situations, such as, going to school, playing pool or visiting the dentist. The entrance ticket costs 35 Kuna (5€), but you’re not allowed to take photos, which is kind of a bummer.
Marjan Park was the last place we visited that day. Located on the peninsula of the city of Split and far from the city center, it is the perfect place to watch the sunset. We parked, we grabbed a towel and we sat down on a rocky beach for a while, while listening to the sound of the sea. Hiking our way to the top was our next challenge. Marjan hill is 178 meters high and it offers an amazing view, but it was getting dark so we ended up not climbing all the way to the top, we must have been just a few meters below the highest point. We could barely see the sun between so many trees, yet the light was perfect.
That was it. We drove back to the campsite, we had a shower and we went out for dinner in Stobreč. We couldn’t wait for exploring Krka National Park the next day!
Stay tuned for the next part of The Ultimate Balkan Road Trip