Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Caribbean of Europe - Day 3

Split, Croatia

Trogir                                                                                     Croatia

Monday 24th August 2015

I woke up quite late as I couldn’t hear any church bells ringing in my ears. However, as soon as I got up and opened the shutters, the bells rang. Today I was planning a trip to the city of Split but to get there I would be using a ferry. The ferry was called ‘Buraline’ and there times were frequent and I had a feeling this would be a greater way to get there being out on the sea rather than in a bus or car. So I got changed and packed my essentials ready to take my leave. I set off downstairs and out of the apartment; I did have a quick glance at the ferry times to Split in the hotel entrance and I could see the first ferry would be leaving at 8:15am. So after looking at my watch I could see I had 30 minutes to spare. So I headed north across the small bridge heading to a pastry stall. I caught my eye on a large strudel so I ordered that and was soon leaving with my breakfast.

As I headed towards St Johns square, I looked at my watch and realised I only had 5 minutes to get over to the southern bridge and onto the ferry before it set off. So I walked at a fast pace like a man late for his own wedding and as I got closer to the bridge, I could see the ferry I needed with the crew members helping the last few get on. I walked a bit faster and in no time at all, I was closely approaching the ferry whilst the crew were closing the gates and preparing to untie the mooring lines. One of the crew seen me coming and he opened the gate for me as the ferry began to pull away. It took quite a big step to get on as the crew member grabbed my arm and helped me aboard. I was finally aboard and we set off thinking less than a minute later I would have missed it.

I sat at the back end and it felt amazing sailing to Split. It felt like freedom as I watched the town of Trogir become distant. The water was a beautiful blue with slight ripple and as I looked ahead I could see the light from the sun beaming down causing the water to cause a glittering effect which looked quite magical. We were going along the sea at a good pace with hardly any swaying about which made me enjoy the journey more. It was truly phenomenal feeling the sea air flowing into my face. A long time had passed until we had arrived at our first stop off at a place called Slatine where we would pick up more passengers. We only spent about 5-10 minutes there as we soon set off. The ferry was jam packed with people now so I had to sit down. A bit of time passed and we were approaching Split admiring the views. Another thing I admired was a very young toddler staring at me smiling. I gave her a friendly wave as her mother smiled too.

We were going along a large forest area called Marjan which looked familiar to me and was somewhere I wanted to visit during my time in Split. Speaking of which, we were closing in on the old town and I felt great as we approached the mooring area. I could see a large bell tower within smaller buildings surrounding it as well as the orange glow of rooftops. I was then surprised to see a very peculiar little boat alongside us. It looked like a little red submarine which I thought looked bizarre and didn’t quite understand the idea behind it. Anyway, I eventually stepped off the ferry heading straight for the old area of Split. 
Approaching Split
Bura Line Ferry

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the very strong smell of fish in the air. It was quite off putting but I carried on heading along the quayside. Yet again along the quayside were huge rows of palm trees blowing against the slight wind. I walked to the other side of the quay and then along a smaller pier just in front of the quayside to witness a beautiful view of Split. It made the whole place look better when the sun was bouncing off the cream coloured buildings. I headed back along the palm trees and headed for the tourist information to pick up a map just incase I decided to get lost. I then started making my way to the main attraction; the palace of Diocletian. I walked into a large doorway which brought me into underground tunnels with quite a few stalls selling novelty items and art. Further down the tunnel I came to a set of steps to the east and a narrow looking street. So I headed up arriving at a slightly open area with run down buildings and ruins from the palace. There were also three square holes adjacent to each other to which was another area of the palace below. This area didn’t seem to be really good to take notice of so I continued towards the bell tower.

Bell Tower
Ruins of Palace

In no time at all I had arrived at the very small square right in front of the cathedral of St Domnius bell tower; it looked monstrous and beautiful at the same time. I wasn’t sure if I could go up the bell tower as there were no queues forming and I couldn’t see anyone up the tower so I continued on losing myself in the small narrow streets admiring the shop windows and people going about their day to day life. Along the way I came across a large square called the ‘Trg republike prokurative’ and surrounding it was a very large red palace which looked remarkable. I wasn’t sure if it was a palace a long time ago but these days it was full of restaurants. I headed back along the palm trees looking at all the small stalls showing excursions out to different islands. I walked through the palace again and coming out of it from the east heading left around to the northern side of the Diocletian palace. 

Trg Republike Prokurative

As I turned left to the north of the palace, I came across a small park area with a water fountain at the centre. It all looked beautiful and peaceful even with the pigeons whizzing through the park. I continued west and to my surprise there was the statue of Poljana Gurgura Ninskog. It was huge and it had a black metallic look to it except for a few toes on his right foot which was a bright gold colour. As I got closer I could see people were rubbing the large toe because it was tradition to rub his toe to receive good luck; so when I stood next to the large statue, I immediately rubbed his toe. I thought a great sense of power would surge through my body but nothing happened so I continued on West. Along the way I came across the most bizarre place I had ever seen. It was called ‘Froggyland’ and it was a museum which had stuffed frogs in different positions and scenarios such as playing the violin or a scene from dirty dancing where one frog was lifting the other one in the air. It looked quite funny but I continued on my walk.

Poljana Gurgura Ninskog

I decided to back track and head back along the eastern walls of the palace where I came across the very large lively fruit market. There were large amounts of people there and I was one of them admiring what the merchants had to offer. From what I could see, they were selling huge grapes which were green, purple and absolutely massive watermelons which looked mouth watering. At the edges of the stalls were cheesemongers and butchers trying to grab your attention with samples of their produce. I left the food market area and came across another row of stalls mainly selling novelty items. There were times I passed certain stalls which were selling lavender items which smelt quite pungent but nice. I also came across a church which was the church of St Dominic. I decided to enter it expecting the typical old style church as I was accustom too. However, as I walked in it was the opposite. It was a modern type church but still had a sense of history behind it with old paintings and elegant marble centre pieces. I had a small look around the place and then decided to take a seat enjoying the peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle outside plus it rested my slightly tired legs too.

Time passed and I decided to leave feeling quite relaxed heading North West again around the palace. As I passed the small park area, I noticed a few more market stalls but these were a lot different than the rest. They all sold old antiques and trinkets so I decided to have a look and take my time. There were some interesting things such as old coins, notes, ships wheels, knives, old jewellery, etc. the ones that stood out for me were the old compasses and even a flintlock pistol. I was tempted to get something but I left heading back to the fruit market. While I was there I caught my eye on some blackberries so I decided to have some. I took the first few and put them in my mouth getting ready to feel the sweet taste. However, they tasted quite bland but I still ate them which left my fingertips purple. At this point I was at the harbour area once more and it was time for something else to eat hopefully more satisfying. So I headed along the harbour and up one of the main streets and as I got further in, the stronger the smell of fish was in the air. I immediately realised I had arrived at the fish market area which looked as though they were packing up. There were still a small amount of merchants selling small fish and prawns.

Water Feature at Park Area

I continued on heading east again where I came across a bakery. I had a quick glance and then entered asking for a slab of lovely looking pizza and an egg strudel. I took my things and headed to the park area where I sat down next to the fountain and began to eat my things. They were absolutely beautiful and cheap too which filled me right up. As I had pretty much wandered around the city looking at the sights, I thought it was time to see if I could go up the bell tower. So I headed south from the park and walked through the so called golden gate which was more of a grey stone colour to be honest and arrived in the small square again.

Golden Gate Entrance

As I headed towards the bell tower, I could see a queue forming so I joined it. It took a small amount of time to get moving but as soon as I paid to get in, I was soon on my way up to the top. The first quarter of the tower had the most narrow and steepest steps I had ever taken in my life but I managed them. The next part entered onto a very small outside area with a higher vantage point of the small square looking on at some roman ruins and columns which made the area look historic. Another set of stairs lay ahead but these had people coming down as well as going up so I had to wait for people coming down as did a few others. We eventually got under way climbing more narrow steps until we arrived at an open area inside the bell tower. I stood right next to the bells which were all caged off. I was hoping that the bells wouldn’t start ringing away otherwise I would be coming out deaf.

Halfway Up the Tower

Anyway, the rest of the stairway to the top was all metal so I climbed and climbed admiring the views as I got higher until eventually reaching the top. It was quite tight getting moved around due to the large amount of people but when I found a gap, I was straight in there looking at the wonderful Birdseye view of Split; yet again I was overwhelmed with the sight of the orange rooftops. There was quite a nice view of the sea with islands scattered around in the horizon and as I looked over to the west, I seen the Marjan forest hill in the distance and that was my next destination. So I finally headed down and in no time at all I had arrived at the bottom and back onto the square.

Steep Drop
View of Marjan Hill

I walked straight along the harbour next to the palm trees all the way to the other end and beyond. I consulted with my map for an idea on which specific way to take. I continued on and came across a sign saying ‘Marjan Forest’. I followed the way the sign showed me and immediately came across some steps; so I climbed up them and immediately approached the forest area. It looked beautiful and I was welcomed by the very loud sound of crickets; it was quite deafening but I carried on up. At this point the sun was at its hottest and I could feel it on my face. It didn’t help I was sweating too as I must have looked like a tomato. The first part I came across was a very old small church which looked quite picturesque with the scenery of the sea and islands in the background.

Stairway to the Top
Small Church

The pathway had no steps which were a bit of a relief but still it would have an incline. The views of the blue sea and islands were brilliant as I climbed higher and higher. It also felt peaceful being away from the crowded area of Split as I was just by myself strolling along enjoying the peace. I continued climbing until I came up to a long straight set of steps. It looked as though it was the last set before reaching the top and so I was under way taking one step at a time. Halfway up I could see a huge flag pole at the top with the large Croatian flag flapping in the wind; then I finally arrived at the very top of the hill. My jaw dropped at the most wondrous site of Split below and a mountain range at the distance. It felt amazing having the wind blowing against me looking at the marvellous spectacle in front of me. I spent a long time up at the top also admiring the panoramic view of the beautiful blue sea before finally heading back down the hill.

View of Split
Ocean View

I took a slightly different route and came across a very large white Christian cross at the other side of the top end. I then followed a wide rough track with nobody around me which was great as I started descending down the hill. I arrived at the base of the straight steps and had seen a small pathway veering off towards the south so I followed it. I arrived at a very small open area with a steep drop looking on out to sea; I sat at the edge admiring the view and relaxing. I left a while later and walked towards a park area. As I passed that area I could hear a donkey calling out and I was quite startled when I seen it as it looked like it was on a rampage. I couldn’t believe it and I thought it got loose. However, it was just running to its owner who tied it up later on. I continued passed the donkey and immediately realised I was approaching a zoo. I didn’t realise there was a zoo up in the Marjan forest so I took a closer look. I was tempted to go in hoping to see some exotic animals but I had a feeling it was nothing more than a type of petting zoo for kids. I could see geese and ducks caged up which I thought weren’t pretty exotic. So I left walking back down towards Split.

Marjan Forrest Hill

I came to the end of the forest area and back onto the streets. A short time passed before I arrived back at the harbour area. My legs were a bit tired so I took a slow stroll along the harbour looking at the excursion stalls again. Halfway along I could see the red submarine/boat moored up and as I looked at the poster for it, I had seen that there was a seating area below the hull where there were windows looking under the water. Curiosity got the better of me so I paid up and booked my slot for the 4pm journey. So I had to wait an hour and all I wanted to do was rest and get some shade too. So I headed straight for the park to the north and once I arrived I lay upright against a tree on the grass taking my boots off. My feet smelt bad but I didn’t care as it felt great getting my boots off.

A short time had passed and it was time to get moving back to the harbour. I arrived there in quick succession and waited for the passengers from the previous journey to disembark; some of them looked a bit weary which didn’t really bode well. There were a few others on this trip and a moment later, we were summoned onto the boat. I was the second last one to get on the swaying boat and took my seat at the back. I looked out of the window at the bottom and it was all misty for the moment as we were moored up still. Once everyone was aboard we set off with no idea which direction we were going as we couldn’t see above. The further we were away from the harbour, the more blue the water became but still it was misty and really couldn’t see anything. The only thing I could see was the bubbles forming from the sway of the boat. Speaking of which, the swaying was making us all quite delirious. I tried to focus on the water which kind of helped the nauseous feeling. A long time had passed before the boat slowed right down and at this point the water became clearer and we could all see the bottom of the shore. To be honest it wasn’t anything special as I had seen better displays from a fish tank. As we were stationary for a while the waves of the sea were rocking the boat around vigorously which caused me to sweat and feel a bit dizzy. Finally the boat started moving again and as soon as it did I grabbed my bag and went topside. As soon as I got up with the wind blowing on my face, I felt a lot better knowing where I was instead of feeling claustrophobic like a tinned sardine; everybody else had the same idea and followed. My legs were getting splashed by the waves but I didn’t care as I just thought it added to the experience. It felt like it took a lot longer to get back but as we got close to the harbour, the water became a lot calmer which felt great. It wasn’t as great though as finally stepping off back onto land. I had to sit for a while and pull myself together sometimes nodding off.

Red Submarine

By then it was time for something to eat so I pulled myself together and scanned the restaurants along the harbour; I picked one at random and reluctantly took my seat. The waiter came over with a menu and I had a glance through it. I decided to have spaghetti bolognese for a starter and rump steak with 4 cheese sauce and chips for main. The waiter came back with slices of baguette and a type of cheese butter. I was in two minds to have it but I chose to have it and my god it was delicious. The waiter came back with my starter and forgot how large starters were over this area as the spaghetti filled the whole plate up. I dug right in enjoying every bite loving the flavours. The waiter came back a moment later with my rump steak and chips. I looked at it and didn’t know whether I could eat it because of how large the starter was. I braved it though and started eating it. The rump steak was swimming in the cheese sauce but nevertheless it tasted gorgeous. I could only eat half of my chips as I was absolutely full. I asked the waiter for my bill and whilst he was away getting it, I noticed in the distance the ferry back to Trogir full of people waiting to get on. I was in two minds whether to get on or not but after paying my bill and leaving, I chose to stay in Split because I wanted to see what the area looked like at night.

Diocletian Palace

The sun was setting at this time so I took a slow wander around the city looking at shops and came across old style sweet shops which looked inviting. I headed back to the square in front of the bell tower and sat for a very long time taking it all in watching so many people passing by. Just before I left, there were a bride and groom having their pictures taken by a professional and half the tourists in the area. By then it was dusk so I left heading for the harbour again. I took a slow walk around and at the distance I could see the ferry back to Trogir. So I took a walk over joining the large amount of people boarding the ferry. When I eventually got seen too, I asked the crew member if it was the last ferry to Trogir. He said it was so I paid and climbed aboard. There were no seats available as the boat was jam packed so I stood at the starboard side of the ferry. All of a sudden the ferry began to leave and as it turned around, I had a marvellous view of Split at night glowing in the distance with the water reflecting the light. It became smaller and smaller the further we went on until the Marjan forest blocked the view.

Leaving Split at Night

We were heading for Slatine again and along the way I was admiring the patches of light spread along the coastline with the moon slightly brightening the night sky. A long time had passed until we arrived at Slatine. Half the people on board disembarked leaving more room to move around. I moved further up the side with the bridge of the ferry behind me with the old fashioned wooden steering wheel and throttles. The captain wasn’t there and I was tempted to steer the ferry but I stayed where I was as the captain returned. We soon set off again for the shorter trip back to Trogir. This part of the journey took less time and in the distance was Trogir becoming ever closer. It was lit up with a nice glow to it which looked beautiful as we were beginning to moor up.

I had returned in one piece as I disembarked myself heading over the southern bridge back onto the island. I decided to walk along the harbour to see if there were any yachts moored up. There were some similar vessels from the previous night which looked good but nothing in comparison to one of the largest yachts I had ever seen. It was called ‘Areti’ along with its neighbouring slightly smaller yacht, ‘Areti II’. It was truly breathtaking and even had its own security and cordoned off areas. I wasn’t the only one admiring the yachts as hundreds of others were taking pictures envying the owners who were going from one yacht to the other. It was getting quite late at this point so I finally headed back to my room. I got there in no time at all and then I decided to head out onto the terrace area where I sat staring at the glowing moon above the night sky.

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