A May 2003 trip
to Split by billmoy
Quote: Split is the largest Croatian city of the Dalmatian coast along the Adriatic Sea, and one of its most historic.
Split is a transportation hub for many of the mainland and island destinations along the Dalmatian coast. The schedules for the ferries and buses can vary wildly between the high and low seasons, so try to inquire direct at the ticket offices.
The bus ride between Split and Dubrovnik is about 100 miles, but it is quite a slow ride because of the many twists and turns along the way. Of course, this means that the journey (about 4-5 hours in duration) is a dramatically scenic thrill ride, with a pit stop in the Bosnian resort of Neum. An even slower but perhaps more relaxing way to travel between Split and Dubrovnik is the slow ferry (about 9 hours) in the blue Adriatic.
After reading about SPLIT, take a look at my sections on DUBROVNIK and ZAGREB.
The main tourism information center is centrally located in a cute little pavilion within the Palace of Diocletian. Unfortunately, the interior looked more like an official souvenir and bookstore than an info center. There are a few free brochures, but I suggest that you go to the specific source (ferry or bus terminal for up-to-date schedules) for the most accurate information. Another tourism bureau, located near the center of the street along the waterfront, is more informative and can help you with private accommodations as well as hotels.
Sobe is the Croatian word for "room". The sobe ladies are part of the landscape in Split and other Croatian cities, partly because of a lack of available hotel rooms. They will meet you at the stations and try to rent a private room to you. Private accommodations can also be booked with a local travel agency if you want a bit more quality control with your choices.
The main bus, train and ferry stations are clustered on Obala Kneza Domagoja, just south of the old city center. Note that train service is concentrated on a run from Split to Zagreb, with no service south of Split. Bus services have the most frequencies, and therefore offer the most flexibility.
The main airport in Split is about 10 miles west of the city center. If you are going to Trogir, you will pass within the vicinity of the airport. Croatian Airlines runs buses between the airport and the Riva, very close to the bus/train/ferry terminals.
I would like to say "hvala" (thank you) to Chicago architect Marius Ronnett for some of these magnificent images taken during our trip to Split in 2003.
Initially, the old town will seem like a maze, but it will soon be very manageable once you stay at the Slavija for a day or two (assuming you find it first!). It is easiest to locate if you are coming from the south gate, as it is tucked away on a side street east of Vocni Trg (Vocni Square), up a staircase which serves as an outdoor patio for the popular bar. Our room actually had a view of the octagonal 15th-Century Venetian castle tower in this square, but it is unfortunately under wraps for repair work.
The Slavija has the feel more of a dormitory than of a hotel, as some of the 32 guest rooms have private bathrooms while some (like our room) has the good ol' bathroom down the hall. If you want to save a few kuna, book a room with the shared bathroom, which is serviceable if not sparkling (remember to bring the roll of toilet paper and small bar of soap from your room). At least our hall had a window with a pleasant view onto one of the quaint local paths of old town. Each of the room numbers is painted on the doors in huge red numerals. Our reasonably spacious but dated room had two lumpy twin beds, a sink, closet, and a window with a hip (and noisy) view of old town. There is a crowded bar-disco below the hotel, so bring earplugs if you want to sleep at night. There is no elevator, but our room on the second floor was an easy climb up the stairs.
The small and cozy lobby has a small television and the walls are decorated with inspiring images of Split. The people at the front desk speak limited English (you may have a bit more luck if you speak German). The breakfast is served in an equally small and cozy room. The very light breakfast, which is basically bread and jam with coffee/tea and diluted juice, is included with your room rate. It appears that Croatians do not put much emphasis on breakfast, and this is living proof. But did you come to Split to have a great breakfast, or to stay in a great location in the atmospheric old town?
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 27, 2003
It was a bit surprising to see a menu in several languages, including English. One of the lunch specials was "teletina ispod peka", which is basically a traditional plate of juicy roast pork with beans and cabbage. It is a very typical entree on the Balkan menu, although it may go under different names depending on the country. The gulas is basically a local version of the more-famous Hungarian goulash. It is a rich stew of fatty meats served with boiled potatoes in brown gravy. These hearty dishes were preceded by a basket of bread. There is a small charge for the bread, so I would assume that if you refused it, your tab would be a few kuna cheaper. As it is, the meals are good and reasonably priced here.
The menu is fairly extensive if you like meaty dishes, veal and beef and pork. Vegetarians may be stuck with the spaghetti or a salad.
The menu lists 21 choices of topping combinations (such as ham, mushrooms, tuna, shrimp, etc.), but most people just line up and order from the pizzas that are popping out of the oven. Now the frenzy begins, with an atmosphere that is akin to a day at the New York Stock Exchange. Well perhaps it is not as crazy as that, but there can be a crush of locals looking for that special slice of pizza to hit the spot. All of the employees are earning their money here, as there is seemingly an assembly line of pizzas being created, baked, and sliced in the kitchen, while the young ladies at the registers do a good job of attempting to take orders in the correct order while slinging out the goods.
The pizza is very inexpensive, with a typical slice going for about one US dollar. For the most part, the thin-crust pizza is fresh and hot, with constant turnover helping this overall trend. The people in line are typically ordering the pizzas that are popping out of the oven, and they stay in line if they do not mind waiting for a few minutes. For those with less time, they can usually pick a slice from whatever is left over behind the glass counter. I would advise having one or two slices as a snack, as the novelty of hot but so-so pizza wears out after awhile. Besides, save some room for a cone at an ice cream parlor.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 27, 2003
Pizza Cut Planet
This restaurant is initially hard to spot, but you have to walk past Trogir and up the front thoroughfare of Ciovo before you spot the large sign on top of the establishment. There is an indoor dining room as well as the outdoor patio, which is covered by awnings.
I ordered the Zagreb-style veal as a tasty and filling lunch. In case you were wondering what the heck this is, it is very similar in style to chicken cordon bleu. A good-sized portion of veal is smothered in ham and cheese, and then fried into a breaded cutlet. A spot of spinach, a dash of tangy red sauce akin to a shrimp cocktail sauce, and a wedge of lemon round out this typically hearty meal. I also ordered a side of sliced potatoes, which was strongly recommended by our waitress. I really did not need it because my meal was large enough as it was, but the potatoes were a good compliment to the veal. My friend ate an equally enjoyable steak. A basket of deliciously chewy pita-like bread accompanied the meal, but it appeared as a small add-on charge on the final bill.
Bistro Lucica (Trogir)
Enter Trogir through the impressive Renaissance-era North Gate, topped by the patron St. Ivan Orsini. The central square is bordered by the Cathedral of St. Lawrence (Crkva sv. Lovre) and the town hall. The cathedral (built from 1213 to 1598) is fronted by the famous Romanesque-style Adam and Eve portal by Master Radovan (1240). Note the curious depiction of the Venetian-style lion with bird-like claws, which makes you wonder if the Croatian Master has ever seen an actual lion. Tour groups are herded through the portal, around the three dim interior naves, and into the Renaissance Chapel of St. John of Trogir (1461-1497), credited to architect Nikola Firentinac. Supposedly you can climb up the tower, but there was scaffolding here during our visit.
Wander through the byzantine alleyways of the old town and soak in the local atmosphere. Cross the bridge to Ciovo Island so you can appreciate the fine overall view of the western flank of Trogir. You will think that you are in Venice if you glance this way, an effect enhanced by the gleaming channel of water here. Stare down into the water to see a wealth of fish, which are caught and served at local restaurants fresh not frozen. Take a picture here with the boats, the palm trees and the lovely buildings in the background. There is also a rocky beach along the far edge of Ciovo.
There are quite a few buses that will take you from Split to Trogir. The best buses start from the main bus depot near the harbor. They may cost slightly more than the local buses (usually every 20 minutes) that shuttle between Split and Trogir, but they are more comfortable and still cheap (under 2 US dollars a ride). You will pass within the vicinity of the ruins of Solin and the main airport of Split on your way to Trogir. On the return journey, go to the bus depot on the "mainland" side and wait for a bus that agrees with you.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 30, 2003
Trogir (town 20 km west of Split)
There is a main gateway on the four sides (Iron Gate to the west, Golden Gate to the north, Silver Gate to the east, Bronze Gate on the south), each in a different sort of condition. The Bronze Gate once was adjacent to the Adriatic Sea, long before the appearance of the waterfront promenade. If you are in town long enough, you will go through each of these gates at least once. If you are coming from the Riva, you will stroll through dark vaulted basement cellars, which served as cool apartments for the emperor. These are now lined with vendors selling artworks, postcards, books, and assorted crafts. This is a good place to hide from the heat or from any sudden downpours.
Emerging from the steps of the cellars, you arrive at a round vestibule that has lost its dome but otherwise gives you an idea of the grandness of the scale. The colonnaded Peristyle, once the central courtyard of the palace, is nowadays filled with tourists sitting at cafes or snapping photos of the surrounding buildings. The straightforward classicism of the temple facade gives the square a historical authority that makes you feel like you are part of the Roman Empire. The Mausoleum of Diocletian (now the Split Cathedral) and the attractive Bell Tower of St. Domnius is on the eastern edge of the Peristyle. Buildings that have modified but have not destroyed the integrity of the original arched colonnades have filled up the west wall. The ruins have been recycled to become a part of the city fabric that is Split.
An alley across from the cathedral leads to the Temple of Jupiter. This temple, fronted by another sphinx and hemmed in by various constructions over the years, is now a baptistery. Meander amongst the amazing maze of a town and you will eventually find it.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 27, 2003
Palace of Diocletian
Old Town Split
The Cathedral and the Bell Tower are the centerpieces of old Split, along with the great space of the Peristyle adjacent to them. The octagonal Cathedral is surrounded by a now-imperfect colonnade of Corinthian columns and is flanked by a pair of small black granite sphinxes from about 15 BC. Andrija Buvina carved the solid wood main doorway, embellished by scenes from the life of Christ, in 1214. If you are used to enormous cathedrals, the domed interior will seem physically and aesthetically claustrophobic. A Romanesque pulpit, Corinthian columns, decorative friezes and stonework, and the Altar of St. Anastasius (created by local artist Juraj Dalmatinac in 1448) are featured in the interior. If you enjoy seeing gaudy and historical religious relics, visit the treasury for a nominal fee.
The Bell Tower of St. Domnius (Zvonik Sv. Duje) is adjacent to the Cathedral. Nowadays topped by the Croatian flag, this milky Romanesque-style campanile was started in the 13th Century. Masters named Nikola Firentinac and Andrija Alesi contributed to the design, though construction of the tower lasted over 300 years. The bell tower, reaching 60 meters in height, was restored from 1890 to 1906. Pay 5 kuna (less than a US dollar) for the privilege to climb up a set of stairs that is more rugged than you would expect, and save the glossy color ticket card. The lower portion has very steep stone steps with heights frequently greater than the widths. The upper portion of the tower has a metal stair that is not designed for those squeamish about heights. The panoramic views of Split from the top of the tower are literally breathtaking in all directions.
Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius
Attraction | "Other sights in old Split"
The old Town Hall, dating from the 15th century, bears a striking resemblance to many buildings found in Venice. Its pointed Venetian-style arcade helps it become the graceful landmark of the Narodni Trg, which is the main square or "pjaca". Today the old Town Hall houses the Ethnographic Museum with various historic artifacts. The marble-paved square itself is very pleasant, surrounded by an assortment of shops, cafes and ice cream stands. If you are lucky, you may encounter a group of fun-loving locals singing drinking songs that will make you think you are watching a Croatian version of "Cheers". In nearby Vocni Trg (Vocni Square), there is an octagonal 15th-century Venetian castle tower, but it is shrouded due to construction.
The City Museum of Split is housed in a 15th century palace designed by Croatian architect Juraj Dalmatinac. The interiors are fine, and the front courtyard has an ornate balcony and other artifacts even if you do not enter the museum. If you do go, note that the museum has rather erratic hours.
Just outside of the Golden Gate on the north side of the Palace of Diocletian is a larger than life bronze statue by the great Croatian artist Ivan Mestrovic. It depicts Grgur Ninski, a bishop from the 10th century credited with advancing the Croatian language. Passersby rub the large toe of the sculpture as a good-luck gesture. The flank of walls on the north side of the Palace of Diocletian seems particularly thick.
Old Split Sights & Attractions
Throughout Old Split
Attraction | "Marjan Park"
The park is a very popular place with local joggers and nature hikers, who are probably used to the stunning vistas from these lofty levels. For the lazier crowd, the edges of the hill have a few rocky local beaches. There is also a local zoo on the peninsula.
Along the lower southern edges of the peninsula, you can visit the Mestrovic Gallery and the Kastellet. The Gallery was the home to Ivan Mestrovic, the most noted Croatian artist-sculptor of the 20th Century. The Gallery and the Kastellet (Mestrovic's former workshop) house a fine collection of his creations. Located at Setaliste Ivana Mestrovica 46, the complex is reachable by bus or after a long but pleasant walk along the waterfront of Split.
Marjan Park Hiking