(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.)
Friday, September 7th.
We depart at around 7:30 a.m. – a much more respectable start than our departure from Korčula a couple of days earlier.
But unlike the ferry to Hvar, the boat bound for Split seems much more packed, plus the boat’s upper deck is blocked off. So for this trip, a number of us are separated.
And the monstrous Adriatic cold that has been waging battle with my immune system is slowly tightening its grip, making me cough and blocking my nostrils.
When we arrive, there’s another major difference.
Until now, we’ve been staying in vacation apartments. In Split, we’re not only in the centre of the action – within the walls of the old city (Diocletian’s Palace) – but we’re in a hotel. It’s supposedly considered “budget” accommodations, but man, it’s pretty nice.
For this last night, sleeping arrangements change, as a bunch of folks are leaving on jet planes first thing in the morning. Jennifer opts for her own room – no issue – while I bunk with Josie, who’s departing for the Greek islands.
We get a 90-minute tour of the old town and the remains of Diocletian’s Palace, courtesy of Daniela, a local tour guide. She’s very sweet and quite informative as we navigate our way down side streets, through the souvenir market, and into the sun, past some old walls eroded by time.
We briefly stop to listen to a group of klapa singers, whose beautiful voices fill the square and seem to float upwards through the dome of one of the gate walls.
Near the end of the tour, we stop at the north (or Golden) gate of the old city wall, and we see the enormous statue of Gregorius of Nin, a medieval Croatian bishop.
It’s said that rubbing his big toe brings good luck, so the group stops just long enough for me to run over and claim my own bit of good luck.
Following the tour, we’re cut loose. Jennifer and I team up for the afternoon, taking a really long walk out of the town centre, to the Ivan Meštrović gallery (also known as the Ivan Meštrović Palace).
This building certainly lives up to the “palace” moniker – it’s ENORMOUS.
As we find out when we arrive onto the expansive gallery grounds, Meštrović was a 20th-century Croatian and Yugoslav sculptor, whose works can be found in other parts of Europe, and the U.S., where he moved in 1946 (including in Chicago – see The Bowman and the Spearman).
Probably just as impressive – if not more so – as his sculptures, is the building itself. It’s not only a gallery, but was a villa Meštrović built for himself and his family. It’s beautiful inside and out.
Sculptures massive and small hang from walls, sit atop pedestals, and dot the grounds around the gallery. The gallery venue faces the water, so the view – with the sun glinting off the water – is just stunning.
After covering the gallery from bottom to top, we go down the road a bit further to Kaštelet-Crikvine – a chapel that Meštrović had restored, complete with courtyard, and a small room that houses wood panels depicting the life of Christ. Those panels took Meštrović some 35 years to complete.
While we’re at Kaštelet-Crikvine, Jennifer goes to snap a picture, and (seemingly) out of nowhere, this guy – a local, and a handsome one at that! – appears out of nowhere, below us. He’s been swimming, and just strikes up a brief conversation with her while he towels off a bit. He even suggests we should take advantage of taking a dip in the area, during our stay.
Following the long, hot walk back to town, we search for lunch and shade. The shade was great. My lunch (a salad) is terrible. But I’m a bit too tired to care.
We then stop in at another art gallery – this time showcasing the works of painter and graphic artist Emanuel Vidović. While the gallery is okay, I’m not wowed by it. (Sorry!)
I take my leave for an ice cream and a brief nap before dinner.
Our group’s last meal together is situated at an establishment a little bit outside Split’s old town walls. The staff is funny and super-nice. And, as it turns out, one of the servers shares the exact same birthday – which happens to be tonight! – with Aussie traveller Jackie. So a bit of momentary bonding.
There is lots of food to be had. The antipasti is fantastic. The dinner – sea bass – well … not so much. I’m expecting more … flavour. But honestly, it’s the company that makes the meal, more than anything else.
Before calling it a night, we go in search of one last drink before our group breaks up for good; Jennifer is our first casualty – bowing out due to exhaustion and that she doesn’t do so well with groups. Bon voyage, Jennifer.
The rest of us are indecisive, waffling and dawdling. There are 10 of us to start, until people drop off to pack or sleep.
The five hold-outs eventually end up at a place literally around the corner from the hotel. It’s rammed with people, which sparks more indecision whether to ride it out. In the end, just three of us – Marian, Sanj and myself – keep going and walk out to the main strip – the riva – for one last drink.
And it’s here our trip ends – not with a bang, but with a bit of a half-whimper, half-stifled-yawn.
One sleep and some six hours to kill before this leg of my journey ends, and a completely different one begins.