Global warming is teasing me right now. How am I in New York, mid-December, hanging in Central Park…jacket-less? It ain’t right.
As I’m obviously soaking in every minute of it, I’m constantly wondering if this means New York will have a mild winter or if we are going to get hit with an incessant snow squall any day now. Either way- I’m already daydreaming of living in the UK again, where I could pick a beachy European city and arrive on the other side of the continent in a couple hours.
It was summer of 2011 & I just finished my finals at London Metropolitan University. I wanted to go somewhere with an island-vibe, lots of clear, blue water, and froo-froo drinks with little umbrellas. You know… Go big or go home, right? And I was NOT ready to go back to America yet.
It was basically one of those “close your eyes and point to a place on the map” situations. But let’s be real, it was only a map of Europe because I was a broke college student who worked in a pub.
And BAM—Split, Croatia. Let’s go.
Split had it all. Hiking, beaches, islands, nightlife, history. It was perfect. So, here are few of my favorite things to do in Split.
DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE. This ancient palace was built by the Roman emperor, Diocletian, intended for him to use after retirement. He ended up only using about half of the palace and the rest was for military garrison. The Romans left, then it was occupied by nearby residents to escape the invading Croats. Now, you can find restaurants and shops, and a few homes, in the palace. When I visited the palace, I went to the basement floors to shop for jewelry and to make a wish in the little stone well down there.
RIVA HARBOR. Grab some dinner and wine at Zinfindel Food & Wine Bar then walk over to Riva Harbor to watch the sky light up during the sunset. The walkway is lined with palm trees and benches and at all times throughout the day, you can find a drunk stumbling through these parts. It’s pretty entertaining to people watch as the boats sail by.
STATUE OF GRGUR NINSKI (Gregory of Nin). Bishop Nin introduced the national language into church services, in turn, making Christianity stronger in the community. Rubbing the big, golden toe of the statue is said to bring you good luck. So, of course I rubbed that big toe real good.
BACVICE BEACH. I won’t say much about this beach, I’ll let the photos do the talking. The water is ridiculously shallow and you can see people playing a game that originated at Bacvice Beach called Picigin. Basically, all you do is keep a small ball from touching the water and people stay entertained doing so all day.
EXPLORE THE ISLANDS. There are over a THOUSAND islands in Croatia. If you’re in Split for more than a few days, I’d suggest doing some island hopping. I was only in Split for the weekend so I went to the ferry building, asked the attendant his opinion on which one I should explore and he told me to go to Hvar. I bought a round-trip ticket and hopped on the ferry, which was called Jadrolinija. In Croatia, their currency is Croatian Kuna (kn). It was around 80kn for a round-trip, which is only about $12.Hvar was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. It was a little less than two hours from Split, passing by a couple other islands along the way. There was food and drinks on-board. I sunbathed on the top deck of the boat while drinking a beer and taking photos of the islands. When I got to Hvar, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the water. It had an crystal-to-deep-blue ombre effect going on and it was so f-ing hot out that all I wanted to do was jump-in. Quick Tip– Walk a little farther into the island and theres a cute, little beach to lay-out and swim in the water. I was too impatient to ask where the beach was, so– being the idiot I am– I just jumped in. Let just say, when you’re floating peacefully in the Adriatic Sea and there’s an unexpected undercurrent that brings you face-to-face with sea urchins and rocks, you get one beat-up, little American. But hey, I swam in the goddamn Adriatic Sea and for a few peaceful moments, it felt like I had it all to myself. 😉 WORTH IT.
Theres so much to do on this island. There’s a good selection of food, lots of places to walk to and explore OR you can just hang out by the water all day. I went to a little cafe called Dordota Varta and got gnocchi pasta, of course. Pasta is Croatia’s specialty and I definitely took advantage of that all weekend.
MARJAN HILL. If you’re in the need to be active, go to Marjan Hill. It’s a gigantic hill filled with a Mediterranean pine forest. It’s surrounded by a beach on one side and the city of Split on the other three sides. There are jogging paths, hiking trails, a zoo and tennis courts- all hid within Marjan Hill. From the top, there’s incredible views of the city, the water and distant islands. Definitely a must to work off all the incredible food from the weekend.
I walked there from Riva Harbor and it wasn’t too far. If you really explore Marjan Hill, it could take you up to two hours from the beginning of the trail. But to get to the highest peak of the mountain took me about 30 minutes or so.
Croatia was definitely a highlight of my time in Europe. Even though it was a weekend trip, I fit so much into those two and a half days. I ate enough pasta to last a lifetime and the people are incredibly fun in Split. Ok, book your ticket now.