Split puns are flying high as our flight from Venice comes in to land in Split.
We’ve booked an Airbnb just hours ago – which seems to be how far ahead we are able to plan these days. We are on the top floor of a 17th century waterfront castle (in reality a nice sturdy stone building) with a bar / coffee shop underneath in the sleepy fishing village of Kastela Stari halfway between the historically (and touristically) famous cities of Trogir and Split on either ends of the bay.
After the usual squabble over beds and bedrooms between Evan and Vivian, for the third time this trip we have that Sand Island feeling of exhaling and relaxing and enjoying the beautiful view.
Jo and I start with a drink outside and then we left the kids to their homework and electronic device and walked down the waterfront for sunset and enjoyed our time together without the brats. Then we retrieved them (after some debate) and walked over to a restaurant and sat a couple of feet from the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic and tasted grilled Croatian food for the first time. Wow. The eggplant and zucchini were so delicious that I could have skipped the meat. And we learned our two words of Croat (bog – hi, and hvala – thanks) from our waiter.
We didn’t do much. One afternoon Jo, Evan, and I rented bicycles and rode along the promenade over to a couple of other neighboring towns (there are seven castle towns on the coast next to each other). Another time Jo and the kids walked over to our beach a stone’s throw away and spent the afternoon at the beach with speedo-clad old men and families. We bought ice cream in tubs from the local Tommy mini market and a bag of pre-crushed Oreos (they sold Cabernet and Merlot in 2 and 3 liter bottles for about five bucks). We ate grilled meats, fish, and vegetables at the nearby restaurants. There was a bakery a couple of doors away that made good croissants. The bar downstairs always had cold Ozujsko on tap for me, an iced Somerset cider for Jo, and a table at the edge of the water. And I guess we spent some time there because one day Vivian commented rather unsubtly “Aren’t you guys drinking a lot?”
We were supposed to be visiting the amazing Croatians islands starting with Brac right outside the bay, home to the famous celebrity studded party town of Hvar. But we were happy doing nothing in our castle-village by the sea.
We dragged ourselves up and called an Uber and finally went to Split. On the longish drive over we learned that our driver was in the Yugoslav army. He talked about how he had Serbian friends before the homeland war. But today, even a soccer game between the Split home team, Hajduk, and visiting Serbian teams could be dangerous. Interestingly, he missed the days of Broz Tito. “Everybody was taken care of. Now you see homeless people”, he complained.
My dad used to visit the old Yugoslavia on business when I was in high school. Tito was nearing the end of his reign and his life. Back then I remember my dad saying that if it wasn’t for Tito who was forcing the different Balkan people to live in relative peace together, they’d be at each other’s throats.
We spent a lovely evening in the Diocletian Palace. The Palace was built by a Roman emperor about 1700 years ago as his retirement home and Old Split has slowly occupied it over the years. And when it was time to go home I was going to call the Uber driver who had given me his number. But a young cab driver had started chatting with Jo and was angling for our business. When I told him I’d rather Uber because it was cheaper, he pointed to his BMW cab and said “But Uber is shit car”. It wasn’t exactly true but it was getting late and Vivian needed to use the bathroom. So we went back to Kastela Stari in the cab with the kids giggling and muttering “Uber is shit car”.