It was three weeks out before our return trip to Europe and we still had no plans outside of visiting our beloved Paris, and spending a day in Champagne. At this point, we had planned a trip based on a cheap flight we scored direct to Paris and we had 10 days for our adventure. Since I’m not someone who goes to Europe and only visits one country at a time (ain’t nobody got time for that!), we plotted our course. We’ll spend the weekend in Paris with a day trip to Reims, fly to Bourdeaux and spend three days there, rent a car and drive to Barcelona, and make our way back to Paris to catch our flight a few days later. This plan was all well and good until the Catalan Referendum happened and there were protests in the streets of Barcelona. Three weeks out from our grand adventure, it was time to change course.
I jump on Google flights to see what I can find and after a few alterations with dates, I found a very reasonable flight from Paris to Split, Croatia. Croatia had been on our list for a while, but it hadn’t even crossed our minds this trip. We did the math and it all made sense… we were going to Split!
Our flight was direct from Paris on Croatian Airlines. Being the nervous flyer I am, I gulped my complimentary red wine as we hit some turbulence over the Alps. I couldn’t wait to land. Upon arrival, the earlier turbulence was nothing… the Bora winds had come in strong and our landing was one hell of a roller coaster ride. When we were finally on the ground, the guy next to B crossed himself, leaned over and said “This is a dangerous airport.”
We board the bus that takes you to the port of the city, it was cheap and easy to catch – they line up just outside of the exit. The historical centre of Split is spread out along the waterfront and our hotel wasn’t too far from the port (about a 10 minute walk). After ending up at the wrong version of the hotel (there were two by the same name), one of the staff found us and gave us a lift in their laundry buggy to where we were actually supposed to be. My first observation of Croatia, besides the insane winds, was that the people were super helpful. To the point, but very, very friendly.
Much of Split’s historic downtown is made up of the Diocletian’s Palace, and the other half is tiny pedestrian streets that you can easy find yourself lost in. There are little shops selling olive oils, sea salt, and truffles around every corner but the best part is the tiny restaurants and cafes tucked into these narrow alleyways. On our second night in Split, we stumbled upon a resto-bar called Torito. It was 7 p.m. and it was quiet. We weren’t completely sure of it since there was only one other table seated but we were already there. We ordered the cheese plate and drinks. No word of a lie, of all of the cheese plates in all of the cheese countries I’ve been in, this was quite possibly my favourite. Accompanied with warmed homemade bread, plum jelly, and this homemade hazelnut chutney that I then spent three days wandering Split to try and track down (it turns out that it’s something that’s unique to the restaurant). The wine was amazing and we knew we’d be back before leaving Split. In fact, we returned twice…
I didn’t know what to expect from Croatia. The only thing I really knew about the country was Yacht Week and sailing, oh and that Game of Thrones was filmed there – but I’ve never seen an episode so nothing really excited me about that. What I came to quickly learn was that Croatia is a foodie’s paradise. On top of the amazing cheese, Croatia produces some equally amazing olive oil, wine, and sea salt – in addition to being home of the infamous truffle. While we were there, we partook in an olive oil tasting – my first ever! The “instructor” walked us through the traditional and modern ways to produce olive oil, and taught us how to taste the oil like judges do in competitions. The tasting consisted of three types of olive oil, each from a different year and region of the country, and was accompanied with bread, vinegar, and sea salt. Paired with a lovely glass of Croatian Plavac, it made for a pretty unforgettable experience.
Split isn’t all food and yachting though, it also has a beautiful park within walking distance from the old town called Park Marjan. The park is quite large so you can easily spend a whole afternoon there – which we did. There are a number of ways to enter into the park, but we entered the park off of the city street – Senjska. From there we began the climb to the top. At the top of the first part of our climb, we came across a restaurant with the most spectacular views of the city. We stopped for a rest and a beer before continuing on. Along the way, we came across one of the many churches in the park, this one for St. Nicholas the Traveler.
The hike through the park can be a long one, so I recommend taking water. We didn’t, and regretted it almost immediately, but it was too late for us to turn back, and we also didn’t know how much longer the walk would be. While there’s a lot of trees, depending on the time of the day, they provide little reprieve from the blistering sun. If you plan your day out well, be sure to bring along a towel and your swimsuit, as there are a number of beaches that you can visit for a cool off.
While Croatia wasn’t top of mind when planning this trip, I’m sure glad to stumbled upon the flight. The food, people, and beauty in Split gave me only a glimpse into what the rest of the country has to offer and I can’t wait to go back!