Split - Croatia
Reality can sneak up behind you
3rd to 10th October, 2019

The only unfortunate side of finding paradise, is leaving it and returning to the real world. With a thump. In this case, paradise had been Seline. We'd perambulated down to Split from Seline easily enough. Getting away from the highway and along the coast, was actually a great trip. Sibenik was more of an industrial and urban sprawl than anticipated, so we hadn't stopped. A shortage of food pushed us onward and we arrived at our next place road-begrimed and a bit grumpy. The tourist sprawl hadn't helped. Where had all those rows of apartments, tour operators and marinas come from?

We had the impression on Air BnB that our next place was an old stone farmhouse, much like the gorgeous spot we'd just left. The camera never lies. However, it can very easily crop out a broken driveway lined with broken cars that spilled out from the mechanic's workshop, right in front of where we were staying. The islet of Kaštel Gomilica was only a hundred metres away, just along the waterfront. Apparently it had featured in Game of Thrones...

We had earmarked Dragon Eye Lake as a place of note to see, when we were in Split. It turned out that we'd driven right past it on the way from Seline. It was only a short drive back up the cost, and meant we could have a look at the town of Trogir as well.

The Dragon Eye Lake was salty, being fed via underground tunnels or seepage from the nearby Adriatic. I had had the impression that it was secluded but, when we found it, saw it was right next to the village of Rogoznica. As in, if you lived in a house on the edge of town, you could throw your rubbish in. Which several people had done, judging by the floating bottles in it. We walked around a path to get a better view, but only succeeded in finding a lookout of the coastline and the hundreds of really expensive boats tied up in the marina.

Sitting on a small quay in Rogoznica afterwards and paddling our feet in the sea, was nice.

Trogir city gates - not all the visitors were friendly
Over the last few months, we had seen a lot of old towns and cobbled streets. As a result, Trogir made less impression than it might have. At the risk of sounding a snob, I'd say it was a great example of an old fortified town on the Adriatic.

Yep, I'm a snob. I should say that, if old and narrow cobbled streets are your thing, Trogir is worth a visit.

It started off in the 3rd Century BC with the Greeks and had been a prosperous Venetian trading town in the 11th and 12th Centuries. Now it was tourist central. There was a lineup of medium-sized cruise boats at the quay, and we walked right under their bows. We walked around a bit and tried out a couple of Gelatos, but avoided the souvenir shops. Instead, I bought a haircut to be more presentable.

The fort itself was about to close for the day, so we ducked our heads in to see that we wouldn't be missing much more than a view.
GPS units
“Then it lost the signal, just when we wanted to get the hell out. Cursed thing"
Next thing on the list, was Split. A friend of ours had been there before. His impression was that it was the sort of place you went through, on your way to other places. A quick trip there might give us a good impression, we thought. We needed to get some more stuff for our Nepal trip as well, and found the location of an Intersport store. I entered what I hoped was the right address into our GPS, but it took us into Split downtown, miles away from our goal. Then it lost the signal, just when we wanted to get the hell out. Cursed thing.

We agreed with our friend's impression of Split, too. It's a moderately big city, with a lot of industry, shopping malls, and concrete high-rise apartments. One if the industries was a big limestone quarry and concrete mill just down the road from us, so no guesses where all the concrete came from.

Determined to see Split old town, we went back in the next day regardless, and found a parking spot in the labyrinthine streets nearby. Surprisingly, Split old town wasn't really an old town. Certainly not like Trogir, for example. It was quite small, and was originally a palace for the Roman emperor Diocletian. Not much of the original structure was left.

I was a bit loose-endish about the whole thing, until A suggested we get on a walk-around tour. What a waste of time, I grumped. It ended up being well worth it and we learned a whole bunch of things. Including why I shouldn't be so grumpy.

Diocletian reigned about 300AD. He rose from a poor family to become emperor, which was a good effort, but at some point it all went to his head. By the end, he thought he was a divinity. He also loved Egypt, and had columns and statuary imported as part of the build, including a few sphinxes. He probably did a whole bunch of good things too but, as Cesar said (via Shakespeare) "the evil that men do lives after them, whilst the good is oft interred with their bones".

The palace interior had changed so much since his death, that its original form was impossible for us to see. There were a few original things like a small temple to Zeus still intact, but a lot had been modified or brutally destroyed over the millenia. Even many of the five-thousand-year-old sphinxes had been smashed up or beheaded. The cellars below his palace became filled its sewerage and all images of him were destroyed.
The next part of Split's history that I recall was the Venetian era. I had always thought them progressive folk, but it showed how ignorant I was. The Venetians occupied Split for four hundred years. They oppressed the populace and denied them sanitary systems, fresh water and any sort of education. During that time Split suffered thirteen plagues. So, next time your local council is giving you a hard time...

Napoleon came along next and in seven years had installed water, sewerage, and a justice system, as well as educating the people.

In front of one of the gates, was a huge bronze statue of Gregory of Nin, a medieval bishop who introduced the national language into the church. He had very well-polished toes. If you rubbed them and made a wish, it came true.

The Game of Thrones was mentioned a lot. It gave some places in Croatia a huge boost, much like Lord of the Rings did to New Zealand. Not having any interest in the show, it was all wasted on me.

A Big Statue
With very shiny toes
After the tour we had some food, then walked up a hill for a view over the city. The top was covered in big pines, so we saw only glimpses of sea and city between the trunks.
“although the sight of her with it tucked into her belt while she
updated her social status looked a bit out of place."
Back at Kaštel Gomilica the next morning, we had a sudden thought over breakfast that we didn't have any vaccinations for Nepal. By good chance, there was a clinic open in the city, so we headed in and got jabs for Hep A and Typhoid. A shot against rabies would have been great as well, but it needed three doses and we'd either be in the Montenegrin mountains or Nepal when the boosters were due. Fingers crossed we don't meet any wild dogs.

Don’t mess with Me
Social media and a metre-long sword
The last day turned out to be another Game of Thrones pilgrimage, but we didn't know it until we arrived. Klis Fortress was built on top of a spine of rock above Split. The obvious place for defence. It was also an obvious location for Game of Thrones, although I'm sure the fort's builders didn't have that in mind back in 300BC.

A group dressed as Illyrian Dalmatian mercenaries swung their swords and twanged their bows for us.

A woman, also dressed appropriately, had the biggest and ugliest sword of the lot. She seemed quite competent with it, although the sight of her with it tucked into her belt while she updated her social status looked a bit out of place. Despite that, they all looked pretty convincing. More so than the plastic dragons someone had stuck in a room off to one side. Someone had broken the tail off one and the other had taken a nose-dive on the floor.
Our trip south to Dubrovnik was a lot of fun. It was good to be on the road again. We wanted to explore, so took a detour to find some lakes that had been signposted from the motorway. We didn't find them, but did give an old geezer a lift to his village, which was our good deed for the day. The GPS (stupid devices - I still hate them) tried to send us up a donkey track as banjos played a mocking tune, so we did a U-turn and found our way to a view of a different lake. The border with Bosnia and Herzegovina sat just beyond it.

Back on the motorway, we ignored tantalising signs to Mostar and arrived at our place in Dubrovnik for the night, in good time. We had planned to go to Mostar for sure, but that's another story.
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