As the plane comes into land, small islands come into view. A green archipelago in a clear blue sea. Our Croatia adventure is about to begin, and it’s starting in Split.
A blast of heat when the plane doors opened was exactly what was needed after a cold and wet few weeks in England. Sea on one side of the tarmac, mountains the other; it was all blue skies, and earthy palettes. We rushed through arrivals, desperate to hop on the bus and get to the city. Surrounded by palms and cleverly thought out landscaping, the airport was completely obscured from view as we pulled out and made our way to Split. We passed small farms, veggie plots, olive trees and vineyards with the odd house dotted in between. We spent the forty minute coach trip cooing over the houses and trying to guess what fruit or vegetable might be growing in the next plot – my money’s on the olives!
As we got closer to the city the differences were stark. The sparsely populated landscape gave way to a higher saturation of traditional abodes and a number of high-rises and a shopping mall. This wasn’t quite what we had in mind when we’d decided on Split, but happily the city itself felt much more traditional in its charm, leaving modernity on the outskirts.
It’s a short, waterfront walk from the bus station to the old part of the city; the Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site and our home for the next four days.
We stayed in a little Air BnB within the palace walls, a minute walk from Peristil Square. An alleyway of wooden struts painted with flowers led off a small, courtyard filled with plants and a couple of cats, and washing strung up between buildings drying overhead. A green wooden door with an iron grate that opened onto a hall of peeling paint and a wonky staircase all added to the charm of our second floor studio. The apartment itself was light, bright and surprisingly quiet considering its incredible central location.
We spent a lot of time exploring the old city. Following narrow, winding alleyways, discovering mosaics, pretty pastel coloured buildings with green shutters, and outdoor bars on steps. Hours were spent walking up and down the Riva, a palm lined promenade, with white benches (some with solar panelled charge points) and brightly coloured flowers, only stopping for ice cream and pastries!
Outside of the city walls you’ll find a rich marine harbour jostling with boats all ready to jet off to one of the islands you can see so clearly from the mainland. A walk revealed a few of Split’s beaches, clear waters lapping at stoney shores. As inviting as they looked, we decided to save the beaches for when we headed to Šolta. Instead, we decided to spend the afternoon climbing Marjan Hill.
We walked along the Riva and cut up between houses built onto the rocks and started towards a broad set of white steps to begin the walk up Marjan.
We passed a beautiful looking restaurant surrounded by plants, and arrived at what we thought was the top. A plateau above the tree level, all the red roofs of the city stretching into the distance.
As we turned our backs on the view we noticed another path leading up through more pine trees. Following the pine scented pathways we realised what we thought was the top was actually not even half way. As we continued to climb the path we found a little church, and another path winding up through the trees.
Continuing on up the steps through the trees and succulents, we discovered an amphitheatre, a kids’ play park, and an art sculpture. It was such a beautiful place to explore, and clearly somewhere at the heart of the Split community.
The long walk up Marjan Hill was totally worth it. The Croatian flag celebrates your arrival at the summit and the whole of Split is visible below you. Boats and ferries appear in slow motion with their white wake behind them, mountains rise up like a painted Hollywood backdrop with small white clouds catching along the ridge, and the islands seem to float on the horizon.
We headed back into the city for a much needed drink and ice cream, and explore the narrow cobbled alleys further.
Split, thanks for having us. I can’t wait to come back and explore more.