Saturday, May 14, 2011

Split Personality

Sorry, couldn’t resist. You’ve just got to make a pun when faced with a city named Split.

Split probably has more than two personalities. The two we saw – the old and the new – are so interwoven as to be inseparable. The houses, shops and restaurants are literally built to incorporate both. As our guide Rada said, the law in Split was, that you mustn’t destroy, you may only add on. And that’s what they did in the Old City of Split. It’s quite fascinating, really, to see a modern bank with bits of an ancient wall, ancient flower-shaped drain and other ancient pieces among the spanking new furniture and modern-day equipment. Not to mention that the outer walls of the first floors are of glass – ordained so by law – so as not to deprive citizens of the right to see their antiques on a daily basis.

As in Ljubljana, here too, the Old City with its tourist traps is not the whole story. It is but one aspect, one personality out of several. True, it has a delightful market that serves all; and a promenade – called the Riva – where, we are assured, ordinary Croatian folk like to stroll; these are not reserved for tourists alone. But I daresay most of the city’s daily life does not necessarily revolve around this section of town.

Of course, I may be half or totally wrong, for the simple reason that Croatia’s economy relies heavily on tourism. So, especially as soon as spring begins and the tourists start arriving, it is totally possible that many citizens do flock to this part of town as part of their daily-bread-earning routine.

Arriving at Split around noon on Wednesday, we headed straight for Josip’s travel agency, Travel49. Though “straight” is a bit misleading, considering how we wove our way in the maze of narrow lanes, like many other confused tourists carrying map in hand and wearing a hat and a puzzled expression. The moment Josip heard we wanted wi-fi, he said only one place would do – the Diocletian Palace Apartments, in a 500-year old building. So we have a long and narrow apartment all to ourselves: A 10-meter dark-tiled corridor with three rooms to the right: our bedroom; another bedroom probably meant for the younger generation; a bathroom that even has a washing machine (highly desirable contraption); and at the end of the corridor a fully equipped kitchen. Most of this is rather wasted on us. Still, it’s nice to have spacious, comfortable accommodations right in the center of the Old City. And for a reasonable price, too.

The down side is that there’s no parking anywhere in sight… Josip helpfully marked on the map for us the nearest section of town where parking is free anywhere along the street. Of course, we were not the only ones directed there, so finding a free spot was easier said than done. And once we parked, we had to drag our luggage all the way back to our palatial apartment, I’d say about a kilometer. Downhill, luckily. Which means we’ll be hauling it uphill when we leave… Moral of the story: If you have a choice, don’t bother coming to Split by car.

For anyone truly interested in history and archeology, Split is fascinating. For anyone interested in shopping, I can’t really vouch whether there are any good bargains to be had. Some of the stuff in the market stalls looked the same as you could get locally (i.e., in Israel, in the Carmel market, along Allenby St. in Tel Aviv, and in posh shops anywhere.) For anyone interested in sitting in an outdoor café and passing the time of day lounging and watching – it is excellent. Though I am a bit mystified about these so-called cafes. All anyone seems to drink there is beer, wine, and coffee. What about something to nibble? To help soak the alcohol or accompany the coffee? Nothing. Nada. Niente. You want food? That’s a different story: go to the nearest bakery or pizza place (of which there are plenty.) We did see some people eating baked goods which they brought with… Something we wouldn’t dream of doing “back home”. I really should ask: Is it the done thing? Can I buy a croissant, say, at the bakery, bring it with me to the café and enjoy it with my kava bijela?

-- Time to go and see some more of Split. TTFN.

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